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PAGE 3

Mrs. Manstey’s View
by [?]

“The what, Mrs. Manstey?” inquired the landlady, glancing about the room as if to find there the explanation of Mrs. Manstey’s statement.

“The magnolia in the next yard–in Mrs. Black’s yard,” Mrs. Manstey repeated.

“Is it, indeed? I didn’t know there was a magnolia there,” said Mrs. Sampson, carelessly. Mrs. Manstey looked at her; she did not know that there was a magnolia in the next yard!

“By the way,” Mrs. Sampson continued, “speaking of Mrs. Black reminds me that the work on the extension is to begin next week.”

“The what?” it was Mrs. Manstey’s turn to ask.

“The extension,” said Mrs. Sampson, nodding her head in the direction of the ignored magnolia. “You knew, of course, that Mrs. Black was going to build an extension to her house? Yes, ma’am. I hear it is to run right back to the end of the yard. How she can afford to build an extension in these hard times I don’t see; but she always was crazy about building. She used to keep a boarding-house in Seventeenth Street, and she nearly ruined herself then by sticking out bow-windows and what not; I should have thought that would have cured her of building, but I guess it’s a disease, like drink. Anyhow, the work is to begin on Monday.”

Mrs. Manstey had grown pale. She always spoke slowly, so the landlady did not heed the long pause which followed. At last Mrs. Manstey said: “Do you know how high the extension will be?”

“That’s the most absurd part of it. The extension is to be built right up to the roof of the main building; now, did you ever?”

“Mrs. Manstey paused again. “Won’t it be a great annoyance to you, Mrs. Sampson?” she asked.

“I should say it would. But there’s no help for it; if people have got a mind to build extensions there’s no law to prevent ’em, that I’m aware of.” Mrs. Manstey, knowing this, was silent. “There is no help for it,” Mrs. Sampson repeated, “but if I AM a church member, I wouldn’t be so sorry if it ruined Eliza Black. Well, good-day, Mrs. Manstey; I’m glad to find you so comfortable.”

So comfortable–so comfortable! Left to herself the old woman turned once more to the window. How lovely the view was that day! The blue sky with its round clouds shed a brightness over everything; the ailanthus had put on a tinge of yellow-green, the hyacinths were budding, the magnolia flowers looked more than ever like rosettes carved in alabaster. Soon the wistaria would bloom, then the horse-chestnut; but not for her. Between her eyes and them a barrier of brick and mortar would swiftly rise; presently even the spire would disappear, and all her radiant world be blotted out. Mrs. Manstey sent away untouched the dinner-tray brought to her that evening. She lingered in the window until the windy sunset died in bat-colored dusk; then, going to bed, she lay sleepless all night.

Early the next day she was up and at the window. It was raining, but even through the slanting gray gauze the scene had its charm– and then the rain was so good for the trees. She had noticed the day before that the ailanthus was growing dusty.

“Of course I might move,” said Mrs. Manstey aloud, and turning from the window she looked about her room. She might move, of course; so might she be flayed alive; but she was not likely to survive either operation. The room, though far less important to her happiness than the view, was as much a part of her existence. She had lived in it seventeen years. She knew every stain on the wall-paper, every rent in the carpet; the light fell in a certain way on her engravings, her books had grown shabby on their shelves, her bulbs and ivy were used to their window and knew which way to lean to the sun. “We are all too old to move,” she said.