So, there’s this book, Miss Cayley’s Adventures. It’s by Grant Allen. I’ve read it a couple of times now. I’ve read the first few stories more than that.
The reason I haven’t written about it here before is that I was planning on creating an ebook of it myself. But Project Gutenberg has done the work for me, with all the illustrations and everything.
It’s really a wonderful book. Here, read this:
A faint red spot rose quaintly in the centre of the Cantankerous Old Lady’s sallow cheek. ‘My dear,’ she murmured, ‘my name is the one thing on earth I’m really ashamed of. My parents chose to inflict upon me the most odious label that human ingenuity ever devised for a Christian soul; and I’ve not had courage enough to burst out and change it.’
A gleam of intuition flashed across me, ‘You don’t mean to say,’ I exclaimed, ‘that you’re called Georgina?’
The Cantankerous Old Lady gripped my arm hard. ‘What an unusually intelligent girl!’ she broke in. ‘How on earth did you guess? It is Georgina.’
‘Fellow-feeling,’ I answered. ‘So is mine.’
But she goes by Lois. Lois Cayley is a self-described adventuress, a recent graduate of Girton (the first women’s college at Cambridge) whose financial assets, at the beginning of the book, consist of twopence. But she’s the kind of person who always lands on her feet, so she has no trouble getting herself a job — and then another, and another, and another. My favorite chapter is the one where she becomes a bicycle advertisement.
Basically, she’s always smarter and more enterprising than anyone around her, but without being irritating. She goes from England to Germany to Italy to India finding more interesting and exciting things to do at each step, and making numerous conquests among Lady Georgina’s relatives, the Ashursts. (“I was fatal to Ashursts,” she says at one point).
The book bogs down a little toward the end, but it’s totally worth it. Also, the illustrations are wonderful, and I think there must be seventy or eighty of them.