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The Widow Of The Balcony
by [?]


They stood at the window of her boudoir in the new house which Stephen Cheswardine had recently bought at Sneyd. The stars were pursuing their orbits overhead in a clear dark velvet sky, except to the north, where the industrial fires and smoke of the Five Towns had completely put them out. But even these distant signs of rude labour had a romantic aspect, and did not impair the general romance of the scene. Charlie had loved her; he loved her still; and she gave him odd minutes of herself when she could, just to keep him alive. Moreover, there was the log fire richly crackling in the well-grate of the boudoir; there was the feminineness of the boudoir (dimly lit), and the soft splendour of her gown, and behind all that, pervading the house, the gay rumour of the party. And in front of them the window-panes, and beyond the window-panes the stars in their orbits. Doubtless it was such influences which, despite several degrees of frost outside, gave to Charlie Woodruff’s thoughts an Italian, or Spanish, turn. He said:

“Stephen ought to have this window turned into a French window, and build you a balcony. It could easily be done. Just the view for a balcony. You can see Sneyd Lake from here.” (You could. People were skating on it.)

He did not add that you could see the Sneyd Golf Links from there, and vice versa. I doubt if the idea occurred to him, but as he was an active member of the Sneyd Golf Club it would certainly have presented itself to him in due season.

“What a lovely scheme!” Vera exclaimed enthusiastically.

It appealed to her. It appealed to all that was romantic in her bird-like soul. She did not see the links; she did not see the lake; she just saw herself in exquisite frocks, lightly lounging on the balcony in high summer, and dreaming of her own beauty.

“And have a striped awning,” she said.

“Yes,” he said. “Make Stephen do it.”

“I will,” she said.

At that moment Stephen came in, with his bald head and his forty years.

“I say!” he demanded. “What are you up to?”

“We were just watching the skaters,” said Vera.

“And the wonders of the night,” said Charlie, chuckling characteristically. He always laughed at himself. He was a philosopher. He and Stephen had been fast friends from infancy.

“Well, you’d just better skate downstairs,” said Stephen. (No romance in Stephen! He was netting a couple of thousand a year out of the manufacture of toilet-sets, in all that smoke to the north. How could you expect him to be romantic?)

“Charlie was saying how nice it would be for me to have a French window here, and a marble balcony,” Vera remarked. It had not taken her long to think of marble. “You must do it for me, Steve.”

“Bosh!” said Stephen. “That’s just like you, Charlie. What an ass you are!”

“Oh, but you must!” said Vera, in that tone which meant business, and which also meant trouble for Stephen.

She’s come,” Stephen announced curtly, determined to put trouble off.

“Oh, has she?” cried Vera. “I thought you said she wouldn’t.”

“She hesitated, because she was afraid. But she’s come after all,” Stephen answered.

“What fun!” Vera murmured.

And ran off downstairs back again into the midst of the black coats and the white toilettes and the holly-clad electricity of her Christmas gathering.


The news that she had come was all over the noisy house in a minute, and it had the astonishing effect of producing what might roughly be described as a silence. It stopped the reckless waltzing of the piano in the drawing-room; it stopped the cackle incident to cork-pool in the billiard-room; it even stopped a good deal of the whispering under the Chinese lanterns beneath the stairs and in the alcove at the top of the stairs. What it did not stop was the consumption of mince-pies and claret-cup in the small breakfast-room; people mumbled about her between munches.