The Lady from the Basement Flat

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The scene opens with the marriage of one of a pair of sisters, and her departure for North America. The other sister is left feeling very much at a loss, but she hits on the idea of renting a small London flat in a poor area, making herself look like a very elderly woman, and finding acts of kindness to do for her neighbours. She takes the name of Miss Harding.

However the married sister's marriage founders, and she comes back to England. Both the sisters rent a nice place in the country and spend a lot of effort in decorating it. So Miss Harding has occasional spells of living as her original young self with her sister, before returning to her basement flat. As usual with this author, with her fascination with illness, a child of one of the neighbours, Billie, becomes very ill and needs roound-the-clock nursing. Miss Harding plays a big part in his nursing. But one day a chance remark by another of the tenants in the block of flats makes it clear that the reason why the married sister's marriage had foundered was no more than a misunderstanding, in fact a malicious letter had been planted by one of the husband's acquaintances. So Miss Harding is able to fix her sister's problems, and Miss Harding herself finds a husband, in her true and original identity, and so ends her parallel existence as Miss Harding.

Jessie Bell, later Mrs. Henry Mansergh, and then Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey, was born in Liverpool, in 1857, into a family of seven children--she had four brothers and two sisters. In 1883, she married Henry Mansergh. Their only daughter, Gwyneth Alice, was born in 1886. The Manserghs moved several times, but always remained in the vicinity of Liverpool. Henry Mansergh seems to have been either an alcoholic or addicted to drugs. In either case, he died of kidney disease in May, 1894.

At about the time of her first husband's death, her short stories began to appear in magazines in 1894. Her daughter, Gwyneth, then about twelve, found an unpublished manuscript of her mother's in a drawer and sent it in to a short story competition. Jessie won the contest, whose prize was a Mediterranean cruise. Jessie met George de Horne Vaizey on that cruise. She married him in 1898 and they moved to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. Their son, George de Horne Vaizey the younger, who was later to become a writer himself, was born in 1900.

Early in the century, she contracted typhoid, and then developed rheumatoid arthritis. The latter condition left her permanently crippled, in a wheelchair, for the rest of her life. In spite of her affliction, she continued to write. She died in Hampstead after an operation for appendicitis.

Jessie wrote thirty-three books, and many short stories and magazine articles. She often used her own varied experiences in her books. She used situations from her early life in a large family, her first husband's addiction and death, and her own illnesses in her novels.

A PDF of scans and an HTML version of this book are provided. We also provide a plain TEXT version and full instructions for using this to make your own audiobook. To find these click on the PDF, HTML or TXT links on the left.

These transcriptions of books by various nineteenth century authors of instructive books for teenagers, were made during the period 1997 to the present day by Athelstane e-Books. Most of the books are concerned with the sea, but in any case all will give a good idea of life in the nineteenth century, and sometimes earlier than that. This of course includes attitudes prevalent at the time, but frowned upon nowadays.

We used a Hewlett-Packard scanner, a Plustek OpticBook 3600 scanner or a Nikkon Coolpix 5700 camera to scan the pages. We then made a pdf which we used to assist with editing the OCRed text.

To make a text version we used TextBridge Pro 98 or ABBYY Finereader 7 or 8 to produce a first draft of the text, and Athelstane software to find misreads and improve the text. We proof-read the chapters, and then made a CD with the book read aloud by either Fonix ISpeak or TextAloud MP3. The last step enables us to hear and correct most of the errors that may have been missed by the other steps, as well as entertaining us during the work of transcription.

The resulting text can be read either here at the Internet Archive or at

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