It began in a Woman's Club in London on a February afternoon--an
uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon--when Mrs. Wilkins, who
had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took
up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her
listless eye down the Agony Column saw this:
To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian
Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the
month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.
That was its conception; yet, as in the case of many another, the
conceiver was unaware of it at the moment.
So entirely unaware was Mrs. Wilkins that her April for that year
had then and there been settled for her that she dropped the newspaper
with a gesture that was both irritated and resigned, and went over to
the window and stared drearily out at the dripping street.
Not for her were mediaeval castles, even those that are specially
described as small. Not for her the shores in April of the
Mediterranean, and the wisteria and sunshine. Such delights were only
for the rich. Yet the advertisement had been addressed to persons who
appreciate these things, so that it had been, anyhow addressed too to
her, for she certainly appreciated them; more than anybody knew; more
than she had ever told. But she was poor. In the whole world she
possessed of her very own only ninety pounds, saved from year to year,
put by carefully pound by pound, out of her dress allowance. She had
scraped this sum together at the suggestion of her husband as a shield
and refuge against a rainy day. Her dress allowance, given her by her
father, was £100 a year, so that Mrs. Wilkins's clothes were what her
husband, urging her to save, called modest and becoming, and her
acquaintance to each other, when they spoke of her at all, which was
seldom for she was very negligible, called a perfect sight.