Published in Six Common Things, November 1893
(First read 06/08/2014)
A faintly voyeuristic EFB talks about three old sisters who live in his neighbourhood. He's never met them and never exchanges a word of conversation with them: he merely observes their comings and goings in the street and local shops, is amused by their purple petticoats, etc. One by one ~ for this is E. F. Benson, and E. F. Benson in Six Common Things mode to boot ~ the sisters die off until only the middle one is left, at which point
I longed to tell her that she was not so much alone as she thought; that I wanted to carry her basket for her, to sit and read to her in the evening [...]. But it was impossible; it would not do. I could not have explained what I felt, and if I had, she would not have understood me.Like so much of the material in this volume of stories and sketches, The Three Old Ladies is exquisitely melancholy ... and Benson (or 'the narrator', as you prefer) comes across as lonely and somewhat ineffectual.
It can be read online here.