As she walked through the entrance hall of her Chelsea apartment house, she glanced at herself in the mirror. This was an old movie trick, she realised, and one she cherished: the female lead, whose deeper motives would not become clear until much later in the story, needed to check in with herself, and the viewer needed to check in with her – not through one of those full-face-all-wrinkles-and-pores shots of the head, but instead by following her discreetly, as she, with the same degree of discreetness, glanced at herself in the mirror.
She liked what she saw and she didn’t like it at once: a pale face looked at her framed by a black thing frazzled at the temples – this was her hair; the nose seemed to peek out of the dough-white mass like a periscope (perhaps there were little grey-uniformed men hidden behind it, who followed her around); the eyes, green marble-like eyes, were shadowed by too much mascara as if they were looking for an excuse not to shine. She held her head like a bird, slightly forward from the shoulders, at an odd angle, as if she was threatened by extinction. Maybe she was.
She felt intensely Napoleonic at this moment, and the mirror with its brown, chiselled mahogany frame and its glass, which had a foreboding of its coming blindness, underlined that sentiment from which it was only a tiny step towards Hestia’s secretly held, but strongly and boldly defended view that she might be the reincarnated counter draft to Jane Austen; Jane Austen without the talent for writing, but with the soul of that most sinister sister of all women writers. That Austen had been sinister was the only rational conclusion that could be drawn from her novels: hadn’t she encouraged the females of her time to rebel against social injustice and relinquish a position that women had occupied for hundreds of years?
Hestia saw herself as the keeper of the flame, the calm center of the household, the place to which the man, the hunter, could return when the elements, in general, and his drive in particular, were beginning to overpower him. She viewed man as the crown of creation and herself as a willing helper and bearer of children, a heroine more like Goethe’s Lotte than Austen’s Lizzy or Emma. She moved on, past the historic magical mirror and, walking upstairs instead of taking the elevator, felt her barrenness constrict her like a tight, unadorned belt. She dreaded the emptiness of her apartment, and she wished she could stay home instead and await the arrival of her prince, no, her king, ready to bring him his slippers, take him by the hand, lead him to a set table and receive, in return, the praise and the adoration befitting a goddess of the hearth.