The Enchanted Cottage

1
"God be thanked,
 the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides,
 one to face the world with
One to show a woman
 when he loves her!"

		Robert Browning.

2
In the Great War, Oliver
Bashforth, like many of 
his comrades, had found
heroism a daily commonplace
- - but after, came the
real struggle - to fit a
helpless body into a cruelly
normal world.

3
Surrounded by trophies
 of happier days,
 Oliver allowed no mirror
 to remind him of his
 changed appearance.

4
His mother and step-father
 were kindly people according
 to their lights but were
 lacking in sensitiveness
 and imagination.

5
His sister, Ethel, was
 endured by horses and
 dogs, but human beings
 wilted before her over-
 whelming personality.

6
From childhood Beatrice
had always felt that
she was destined to 
become Oliver's wife.

7
"I shall see to it
 that Beatrice sets
 the date for her
 wedding -- people
 are beginning to talk!"

8
Oliver clung to the
 quiet of his own
 rooms to escape the
 solicitations of his
 nerve-shattering family.

9
"Not even fit for the
 Old Man's Game
 now!"

10
"Beatrice, how can you
 waste your glorious
 womanhood on a
 broken chap like
 Oliver when you
 know you love me?"

11
"I couldn't tell Oliver
 I love you --
 I couldn't -- I'm
 all the war has
 left him!"

12
"Ethel, perhaps Beatrice
 can persuade Oliver
 to come out - he
 simply must make
 more of an effort."

13
"You are well suited
 to each other --
 I hope you will
 be happy."

14
Soul and body awry,
 Oliver sought out
 the pain of his
 own reflection.

15
"No wonder they 
 can't bear the 
 sight of you -"

16
"You misshapen wreck
 - get away - hide
 yourself -"

17
After months of solitary
 wanderings, Oliver
 hides himself away
 from the world.

18
Never in all it's three
 hundred years had the
 cottage an occupant
 so bitterly alone.

19
Mrs. Minnett, Oliver's
 housekeeper, possessed
 the uncanny intution
 sometimes found in
 simple folk.

20
If you were to ask
 about Laura Pennington,
 you would hear: "She's
 hopelessly plain, poor
 dear, but so dependable."

21
Major Hillgrove, blinded by
 the War, had found a
 clearer vision within.

22
"Poor Mr. Bashforth
 is always in pain -
 and he seems to be
 so friendless."

23
"Forgive us for
 disturbing you, Mr.
 Bashforth, but we
 didn't know that
 Honeymoon Cottage
 was occupied."

24
"Do they call this
 place Honeymoon
 Cottage?"

25
"It was once part of
 the Dower House and
 for centuries it has
 been the custom to 
 lend it to newly
 married couples."

26
"There are some charming
 people who would be
 glad to call. It
 would keep you from
 being lonely."

27
"I came here for the
 purpose of being
 lonely. The less I
 see of people the
 better it will suit 
 me!"

28
"I'm a selfish beast -
 forgive my bad
 manners, please?"

29
"We'll play that I'm the
 Fairy Princess - and Miss
 Pennington will be the
 Ugly Old Witch."

30
"Calling our Miss
 Pennington ugly!
 Only a girl would
 be mean enough to
 say that."

31
"You didn't mean to
 be unkind, my dear,
 but don't forget that
 the plain women are
 the bricks of the 
 world."

32
"But I say, Major
 Hillgrove, how can
 you tell that Miss
 Pennington isn't pretty?"

33
"We blind have our
 compensations - we
 sense what other
 people see."

34
"I know a remedy
 for that headache.
 I'll get it at once."

35
"That's Miss Pennington -
 she's frightfully poor
 and alone in the world,
 and yet she's always
 so kind to everyone."

36
"Oliver Bashforth -
 Flying Corps - fine
 record. We used to
 swap yarns in the
 hospital - I must
 look him up."

37
"Good Heavens --
 you look perfectly
 awful!"

38
"Always hugging the
 fire! Stop coddling
 yourself."

39
"This place is a mess!
 Where is your house-
 keeper?"

40
"Look here Ethel -
 you mean well -
 but I'm better off
 alone."

41
"Alone? Don't be
 silly! I'm coming
 down and look
 after you."

42
"You know we always
 fight like cat and
 dog - I'm worse
 than ever. Please
 don't sacrifice your-
 self for me."

43
"If you have not
 learned to control
 your temper, I have!"

44
"Well, I must go.
 I only came to tell
 you that I'll be
 down. The family
 agree that I can
 make it lively for
 you."

45
"I'll have to leave
 this cottage - - hide
 myself somewhere - -
 anywhere!"

46
"My sister, Ethel, is
 coming here to
 squat - - to dig her-
 self in - - forever!"

47
"Won't that be
 nice for you?"

48
"Nice! Yes, if you care
     for cyclones."

49
"Please don't think me
 presuming, Mr. Bashforth,
 but do give your family's
 plan a trial. Its too
 depressing to be so
 alone."

50
"It's dreadful in the
 long evenings to have
 no one to read to
 you...."

51
"... Or play cards with
 you.... fill your pipe
 .... or chat over the
 news in the paper ...."

52
"One needs companion-
 ship when the wind
 is moaning down
 the chimney and the
 fire hissing at the
 rain .... I know."

53
"Fancy you thinking of me
 like that - you are a
 kind little woman."

54
"You're right, I am
 desperately wretched at
 times - you can't be
 much happier. We're
 both jolly well in the
 same boat."

55
"Don't be startled at -
 at what I'm going to
 propose to you - but
 will you give up your
 lodgings and move over 
 here? We'd be married
 first of course."

56
"That would keep my
 shrill sister away -
 It's a great idea."

57
"If it's only to keep
 your family away -
 why not marry
 someone you know -
 some pretty girl?"

58
"A hideous casualty
 for the rest of my
 life - a nice husband
 for a pretty girl!"

59
"I understand - you want
 a wife - any wife, to
 keep your family from
 worrying you, but 
 she must possess the
 special qualification
 of being ugly."

60
"Please - please, don't mis-
 understand me! What I
 meant was, you wouldn't
 get on a fellows nerves -
 we could be good friends,
 you and I -"

61
"I know there would be
 no romance about it,
 but I thought you
 might bring yourself
 to take pity on me."

62
"Of course I know I'm
 ugly. I know exactly
 what you mean, but 
 it was a shock to be
 told of it so bluntly."

63
"You see Mr. Bashforth,
 even ill-favored women
 have their dreams -"

64
"Foolish happy dreams
 in which they are
 lovely and desirable.
 One should spare them 
 too sudden an awakening."

65
"If you won't stay for
 tea, will you see me
 again if I walk into
 the village?"

66
"I won't have tea,
 Minnett - I'm going
 for a walk."

67
On the day Ethel
 planned to descend
 upon her brother -

68
"Don't feel you must
 hurry back, Ethel - 
 if your brother needs
 you."

69
"Poor boy, caught by a
 penniless nobody - no
 looks - no money! What
 will people say!"

70
"That explains it."

71
Romance lived again in
 the happy spirit lovers
 of the past, but, within
 the cottage was a newly-
 wedded couple --
 forlornly wondering.

72
"It was here that the
 brides and grooms of
 bygone days left
 the record of their
 happiness."

73
"Ralph and Eleanor -
 1640 - sword and
 curls, I suppose."

74
"All beautiful and
 gallant - I wonder
 what they would
 think of us?"

75
"What a sad specimen
       I am."

76
"You must not say
   such things!"

77
"To the bride -"

78
"It is foolishness, of course
 but this cottage seems
 haunted by the - lovely
 - women who have
 lived here."

79
"This may not be easy
 at first - but I'll
 keep out of your
 way when I have bad
 days - I'll try not
 to bother you -"

80
"No, no, you musn't
 do that; I want to
 help you at all
 times - always."

81
When the fire had
   burned low.

82
It was not part of 
 their bargain that this
 unattractive woman
 should love Oliver --
 and yet she loved 
 him.

83
"Try to forgive me - I 
 didn't realize it would
 be so impossible."

84
"It's not that - It's
 myself - I'm so ugly I
 mock the memories that
 linger here."

85
"- - all I see, Laura,
 is your unselfishness -
 your tenderness - -"

86
"- how blind I've been -
 you are beautiful!"

87
"Beautiful - and tied
 to a wreck like me."

88
"Hush, dear, I could
 not think you that,
 you are wonderful -
 to me!"

89
"Suppose, suppose you
 only - think - I've
 changed."

90
Scarcely able to believe
 their happiness, they
 ventured out only at
 night - thinking to
 conceal themselve even
 from Mrs. Minnett.

91
"It frightens me to
 leave the cottage -
 to face anyone but
 you - to test this
 change in us, even
 with Major Hillgrove."

92
To make a game of one's
 misfortune requires
 courage - and Major
 Hillgrove plays the
 game.

93
"Riggs - I'll wager you
 that this volume is
 Stevenson's 'Treasure
 Island!'"

94
"My fingers are seeing
   better every day."

95
"But why should Oliver
 send for us so suddenly?
 I know there is a scandal
 connected with his
 marriage, I know it!"

96
"Don't be so shirty,
 Mother! We'll have to
 make the best of it
 and meet the bride."

97
Their extraordinary story
 told and retold, Oliver
 and Laura wait breath-
 lessly. Had the Major
 been convinced?

98
"My dear, dear children -
 take the gift and enjoy
 it without fearing to be
 robbed of it."

99
"Accept it as a heaven
 sent Miracle and thank
 God for it on your 
 bended knees."

100
"Why, Major! Do you
   believe - -"

101
"I know - I know!
 I, too, am waiting."

102
"The family is coming 
 tomorrow to meet my
 wife - we don't want to
 be seen until then."

103
"Riggs, never give up 
 trusting that the Miracle
 we chaps hope for - -
 will come to pass."

104
"You have eyes in your
 head, Minnett. You have 
 noticed the - - er - -
 the transformation in
 our young friends?"

105
"They hide themselves --
  even from me, Sir."

106
"If they had only
 been content - - just
 with each other!"

107
"After you have explained
 everything to the family -
 whack that gong and
 we'll come down -
 whack it for all you are
 worth!"

108
"Jolly nice of you, old
 chap - leaving me to
 face the music!"

109
"Major Hillgrove, Ma'am.
 A dear friend of Mr.
 and Mrs. Bashforth."

110
The Major's recital of the
 astonishing transformation
 proved most upsetting
 to this conventional 
 family.

111
"You mean Oliver is as
 strong as he ever was?
 And that his wife has
 become suddenly beautiful?"

112
"Please ring - they are
 waiting so anxiously."

113
"I do trust the dear
 Major is exaggerating.
 I couldn't bear the 
 thought of a Miracle
 in my family."

114
"You gave the signal,
 why do they keep
 us waiting?"

115
"Don't be absurd, Mother.
 Nothing could make me
 believe this ridiculous
 story."

116
"Rum business, this great
 change, eh, Ethel? No
 wonder you are bowled 
 over."

117
"Of course, you can't
 appreciate the alteration
 in my wife, but in
 me! Never think I'd
 been badly crocked,
 would you?"

118
"You are mad, Ollie,
     quite mad."

119
"If you were a raving
 maniac I'd love
 you just the same,
 Ollie-boy."

120
"Mad! What do they
 mean? What in God's 
 name do they mean?"

121
"Poor children, we
 have been under an
 illusion - - only an
 illusion."

122
"Leave her alone
   for awhile."

123
"It only means we
 must 'carry on' - -
 a little longer."

124
"Dear God, let me
 keep enough beauty
 to make Oliver go on
 loving me, I can't
 give him up - -
 I can't."

125
"What do we care what
 other people think they
 see - - you'll always
 be beautiful to me."

126
"And you'll always be
 straight and strong and
 wonderful - - to me."

127
"If there's a child - -
 there's a chance it
 will be beautiful,
 isn't there?"

128
"If it's a girl, she'll
 be the loveliest thing 
 in creation - -"

129
"And if it is a boy - -
 the blessedest that
 ever breathed."

130
"Happy?"

The End

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