Victorian Short Stories: Courtship HTML version

Angela - An Inverted Love Story
By William Schwenk Gilbert
(The Century Magazine, September 1890)
I am a poor paralysed fellow who, for many years past, has been confined to a bed or a
sofa. For the last six years I have occupied a small room, giving on to one of the side
canals of Venice, and having no one about me but a deaf old woman, who makes my bed
and attends to my food; and there I eke out a poor income of about thirty pounds a year
by making water-colour drawings of flowers and fruit (they are the cheapest models in
Venice), and these I send to a friend in London, who sells them to a dealer for small
sums. But, on the whole, I am happy and content.
It is necessary that I should describe the position of my room rather minutely. Its only
window is about five feet above the water of the canal, and above it the house projects
some six feet, and overhangs the water, the projecting portion being supported by stout
piles driven into the bed of the canal. This arrangement has the disadvantage (among
others) of so limiting my upward view that I am unable to see more than about ten feet of
the height of the house immediately opposite to me, although, by reaching as far out of
the window as my infirmity will permit, I can see for a considerable distance up and
down the canal, which does not exceed fifteen feet in width. But, although I can see but
little of the material house opposite, I can see its reflection upside down in the canal, and
I take a good deal of inverted interest in such of its inhabitants as show themselves from
time to time (always upside down) on its balconies and at its windows.
When I first occupied my room, about six years ago, my attention was directed to the
reflection of a little girl of thirteen or so (as nearly as I could judge), who passed every
day on a balcony just above the upward range of my limited field of view. She had a
glass of flowers and a crucifix on a little table by her side; and as she sat there, in fine
weather, from early morning until dark, working assiduously all the time, I concluded
that she earned her living by needle-work. She was certainly an industrious little girl, and,
as far as I could judge by her upside-down reflection, neat in her dress and pretty. She
had an old mother, an invalid, who, on warm days, would sit on the balcony with her, and
it interested me to see the little maid wrap the old lady in shawls, and bring pillows for
her chair, and a stool for her feet, and every now and again lay down her work and kiss
and fondle the old lady for half a minute, and then take up her work again.
Time went by, and as the little maid grew up, her reflection grew down, and at last she
was quite a little woman of, I suppose, sixteen or seventeen. I can only work for a couple
of hours or so in the brightest part of the day, so I had plenty of time on my hands in
which to watch her movements, and sufficient imagination to weave a little romance
about her, and to endow her with a beauty which, to a great extent, I had to take for
granted. I saw--or fancied that I could see--that she began to take an interest in my
reflection (which, of course, she could see as I could see hers); and one day, when it