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Mansfield's Short Stories

Miss Brill
Although it was so brilliantly fine--the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of
light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques-- Miss Brill was glad that she
had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there
was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and
again a leaf came drifting--from nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and
touched her fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its
box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the
life back into the dim little eyes. "What has been happening to me?" said the sad little
eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown!...But
the nose, which was of some black composition, wasn't at all firm. It must have had a
knock, somehow. Never mind--a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came--
when it was absolutely necessary...Little rogue! Yes, she really felt like that about it.
Little rogue biting its tail just by her left ear. She could have taken it off and laid it on her
lap and stroked it. She felt a tingling in her hands and arms, but that came from walking,
she supposed. And when she breathed, something light and sad--no, not sad, exactly--
something gentle seemed to move in her bosom.
There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday. And the
band sounded louder and gayer. That was because the Season had begun. For although
the band played all the year round on Sundays, out of season it was never the same. It
was like some one playing with only the family to listen; it didn't care how it played if
there weren't any strangers present. Wasn't the conductor wearing a new coat, too? She
was sure it was new. He scraped with his foot and flapped his arms like a rooster about to
crow, and the bandsmen sitting in the green rotunda blew out their cheeks and glared at
the music. Now there came a little "flutey" bit--very pretty!--a little chain of bright drops.
She was sure it would be repeated. It was; she lifted her head and smiled.
Only two people shared her "special" seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands
clasped over a huge carved walking-stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a
roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did not speak. This was disappointing,
for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite
expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn't listen, at sitting in other people's
lives just for a minute while they talked round her.
She glanced, sideways, at the old couple. Perhaps they would go soon. Last Sunday, too,
hadn't been as interesting as usual. An Englishman and his wife, he wearing a dreadful
Panama hat and she button boots. And she'd gone on the whole time about how she ought
to wear spectacles; she knew she needed them; but that it was no good getting any; they'd
be sure to break and they'd never keep on. And he'd been so patient. He'd suggested
everything--gold rims, the kind that curved round your ears, little pads inside the bridge.
No, nothing would please her. "They'll always be sliding down my nose!" Miss Brill had
wanted to shake her.
 
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