The Best British Short Stories of 1922
The Looking Glass
By J.D. BERESFORD
(From The Cornhill Magazine)
This was the first communication that had come from her aunt in Rachel's lifetime.
"I think your aunt has forgiven me, at last," her father said as he passed the letter across
Rachel looked first at the signature. It seemed strange to see her own name there. It was
as if her individuality, her very identity, was impugned by the fact that there should be
two Rachel Deanes. Moreover there was a likeness between her aunt's autograph and her
own, a characteristic turn in the looping of the letters, a hint of the same decisiveness and
precision. If Rachel had been educated fifty years earlier, she might have written her
name in just that manner.
"You're very like her in some ways," her father said, as she still stared at the signature.
Rachel's eyelids drooped and her expression indicated a faint, suppressed intolerance of
her father's remark. He said the same things so often, and in so precisely the same tone,
that she had formed a habit of automatically rejecting the truth of certain of his
statements. He had always appeared to her as senile. He had been over fifty when she was
born, and ever since she could remember she had doubted the correctness of his
information. She was, she had often told herself, "a born sceptic; an ultra-modern." She
had a certain veneration for the more distant past, but none for her father's period.
"Victorianism" was to her a term of abuse. She had long since condemned alike the ethic
and the aesthetic of the nineteenth century as represented by her father's opinions; so,
that, even now, when his familiar comment coincided so queerly with her own thought,
she instinctively disbelieved him. Yet, as always, she was gentle in her answer. She
condescended from the heights of her youth and vigour to pity him.
"I should think you must almost have forgotten what Aunt Rachel was like, dear," she
said. "How many years is it since you've seen her?"
"More than forty; more than forty," her father said, ruminating profoundly. "We
disagreed, we invariably disagreed. Rachel always prided herself on being so modern.
She read Huxley and Darwin and things like that. Altogether beyond me, I admit. Still, it
seems to me that the old truths have endured, and will--in spite of all--in spite of all."
Rachel straightened her shoulders and lifted her head; there was disdain in her face, but
none in her voice as she replied:
"And so it seems that she wants to see me."