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The Transfiguration Of Miss Philura
by [?]


Miss Philura Rice tied her faded bonnet-strings under her faded chin with hands that trembled a little; then she leaned forward and gazed anxiously at the reflection which confronted her. A somewhat pinched and wistful face it was, with large, light-lashed blue eyes, arched over with a mere pretense at eyebrows. More than once in her twenties Miss Philura had ventured to eke out this scanty provision of Nature with a modicum of burned match stealthily applied in the privacy of her virgin chamber. But the twenties, with their attendant dreams and follies, were definitely past; just how long past no one knew exactly–Miss Philura never informed the curious on this point.

As for the insufficient eyebrows, they symbolized, as it were, a meagre and restricted life, vaguely acknowledged as the dispensation of an obscurely hostile but consistent Providence; a Providence far too awful and exalted–as well as hostile–to interest itself benignantly in so small and neutral a personality as stared back at her from the large, dim mirror of Cousin Maria Van Deuser’s third-story back bedroom. Not that Miss Philura ever admitted such dubious thoughts to the select circle of her conscious reflections; more years ago than she cared to count she had grappled with her discontent, had thrust it resolutely out of sight, and on the top of it she had planted a big stone marked Resignation. Nevertheless, at times the stone heaved and trembled ominously.

* * * * *

At sound of a brisk tap at her chamber door the lady turned with a guilty start to find the fresh-colored, impertinent face of the French maid obtruding itself into the room.

“Ze madame waits,” announced this individual, and with a coldly comprehensive eye swept the small figure from head to foot.

“Yes, yes, my dear, I am quite ready–I am coming at once!” faltered Miss Philura, with a propitiatory smile, and more than ever painfully aware that the skirt of her best black gown was irremediably short and scant, that her waist was too flat, her shoulders too sloping, her complexion faded, her forehead wrinkled, and her bonnet unbecoming.

As she stepped uncertainly down the dark, narrow stairway she rebuked herself severely for these vain and worldly thoughts. “To be a church member, in good and regular standing, and a useful member of society,” she assured herself strenuously, “should be and is sufficient for me.”

Ten minutes later, Miss Philura, looking smaller and more insignificant than usual, was seated in the carriage opposite Mrs. J. Mortimer Van Deuser–a large, heavily upholstered lady of majestic deportment, paying diligent heed to the words of wisdom which fell from the lips of her hostess and kinswoman.

“During your short stay in Boston,” that lady was remarking impressively, “you will, of course, wish to avail yourself of those means of culture and advancement so sadly lacking in your own environment. This, my dear Philura, is pre-eminently the era of progressive thought. We can have at best, I fear, but a faint conception of the degree to which mankind will be able, in the years of the coming century, to shake off the gross and material limitations of sense.”

Mrs. Van Deuser paused to settle her sables preliminary to recognizing with an expansive smile an acquaintance who flashed by them in a victoria; after which she adjusted the diamonds in her large, pink ears, and proceeded with unctuous tranquillity. “On this occasion, my dear Philura, you will have the pleasure of listening to an address by Mrs. B. Isabelle Smart, one of our most advanced thinkers along this line. You will, I trust, be able to derive from her words aliment which will influence the entire trend of your individual experience.”