It began in a Woman's Club in London on a February afternoon--an uncomfortable club, and a miserable
afternoon--when Mrs. Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her
club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her listless eye down the
Agony Column saw this:
To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the
Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The
That was its conception; yet, as in the case of many another, the conceiver was unaware of it at the
So entirely unaware was Mrs. Wilkins that her April for that year had then and there been settled for her
that she dropped the newspaper with a gesture that was both irritated and resigned, and went over to
the window and stared drearily out at the dripping street.
Not for her were mediaeval castles, even those that are specially described as small. Not for her the
shores in April of the Mediterranean, and the wisteria and sunshine . Such delights were only for the
rich. Yet the advertisement had been addressed to persons who appreciate these things, so that it had
been, anyhow addressed too to her, for she certainly appreciated them; more than anybody knew; more
than she had ever told. But she was poor. In the whole world she possessed of her very own only
ninety pounds, saved from year to year, put by carefully pound by pound, out of her dress allowance.
She had scraped this sum together at the suggestion of her husband as a shield and refuge against a
rainy day. Her dress allowance, given her by her father, was Â£100 a year, so that Mrs. Wilkins's clothes
were what her husband, urging her to save, called modest and becoming, and her acquaintance to each
other, when they spoke of her at all, which was seldom for she was very negligible, called a perfect sight.
Mr. Wilkins, a solicitor, encouraged thrift, except that branch of it which got into his food. He did not
call that thrift, he called it bad housekeeping. But for the thrift which, like moth, penetrated into Mrs.
Wilkins's clothes and spoilt them, he had much praise. "You never know," he said, "when there will be a
rainy day, and you may be very glad to find you have a nest-egg. Indeed we both may."
Looking out of the club window into Shaftesbury Avenue--hers was an economical club, but convenient
for Hampstead, where she lived, and for Shoolbred's, where she shopped --Mrs. Wilkins, having stood
there some time very drearily, her mind's eye on the Mediterranean in April, and the wisteria, and the
enviable opportunities of the rich, while her bodily eye watched the really extremely horrible sooty rain
falling steadily on the hurrying umbrellas and splashing omnibuses, suddenly wondered whether
perhaps this was not the rainy day Mellersh--Mellersh was Mr. Wilkins--had so often encouraged her to
prepare for, and whether to get out of such a climate and into the small mediaeval castle wasn't
perhaps what Providence had all along intended her to do with her savings. Part of h er savings, of
course; perhaps quite a small part. The castle, being mediaeval, might also be dilapidated, and
dilapidations were surely cheap. She wouldn't in the least mind a few of them, because you didn't pay
for dilapidations which were already there, on the contrary--by reducing the price you had to pay they
really paid you. But what nonsense to think of it . . .
She turned away from the window with the same gesture of mingled irritation and resignation with
which she had laid down The Times, and crossed the room towards the door with the intention of
getting her mackintosh and umbrella and fighting her way into one of the overcrowded omnibuses and