The Garden Party, and other stories. Katherine Mansfield. This web edition published by [email protected] Last updated Wednesday, December 17, at. Free site book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. PDF version of The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield. With the exception of the first four stories, all were written within a period of ten.
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BY KATHERINE MANSFIELD BLISS and Other Stories THE GARDEN PARTY and Other Stories POEMS (February ) THE DOVE'S NEST and Other Stories. At the bayThe garden partyThe daughters of the late colonelMr. and Mrs. DoveThe young girlLife of Ma ParkerMarriage à la modeThe voyage. soeprolrendiele.gq for downloading it from there; the download is very cheap Biology Questions and A.
What had she done now? She had only dug a river down the middle of her porridge, filled it, and was eating the banks away. But she did that every single morning, and no one had said a word up till now. Only babies play with their food. Run in to your mother, Isabel, and ask her where my bowler hat's been put. Wait a minute—have you children been playing with my stick? Now, who's had it?
There's no time to lose. Look sharp! The stick's got to be found. I can't keep a single possession to myself. They've made away with my stick, now! What stick? Would nobody sympathize with him? Coach, Stanley! Stanley waved his arm to Linda. And he meant that as a punishment to her. He snatched his bowler hat, dashed out of the house, and swung down the garden path.
Yes, the coach was there waiting, and Beryl, leaning over the open gate, was laughing up at somebody or other just as if nothing had happened.
The way they took it for granted it was your job to slave away for them while they didn't even take the trouble to see that your walking-stick wasn't lost. Kelly trailed his whip across the horses. It was easy enough to say good-bye! And there she stood, idle, shading her eyes with her hand.
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The worst of it was Stanley had to shout good-bye too, for the sake of appearances. Then he saw her turn, give a little skip and run back to the house. She was glad to be rid of him! Yes, she was thankful. Into the living-room she ran and called "He's gone!
Has Stanley gone? Fairfield appeared, carrying the boy in his little flannel coatee. Their very voices were changed as they called to one another; they sounded warm and loving and as if they shared a secret. Beryl went over to the table.
It's still hot. There was no man to disturb them; the whole perfect day was theirs. The little girls ran into the paddock like chickens let out of a coop. Even Alice, the servant-girl, washing up the dishes in the kitchen, caught the infection and used the precious tank water in a perfectly reckless fashion.
IV "Wait for me, Isa-bel! Kezia, wait for me! When she stood on the first step her knees began to wobble; she grasped the post. Then you had to put one leg over.
Mansfield Katherine. The Garden Party and other stories. Book
But which leg? She never could decide. And when she did finally put one leg over with a sort of stamp of despair—then the feeling was awful. She was half in the paddock still and half in the tussock grass. She clutched the post desperately and lifted up her voice.
She's always making a fuss. Come on! She ran back to her. By this time Lottie was very red in the face and breathing heavily. She managed it at last, and once it was over she shook herself and began to beam. The pink and the blue sunbonnet followed Isabel's bright red sunbonnet up that sliding, slipping hill. At the top they paused to decide where to go and to have a good stare at who was there already. Seen from behind, standing against the skyline, gesticulating largely with their spades, they looked like minute puzzled explorers.
The Samuel Josephs never played by themselves or managed their own game. If they did, it ended in the boys pouring water down the girls' necks or the girls trying to put little black crabs into the boys' pockets.
So Mrs. Everything began with a piercing blast of the lady-help's whistle and ended with another. There were even prizes—large, rather dirty paper parcels which the lady-help with a sour little smile drew out of a bulging string kit.
The Samuel Josephs fought fearfully for the prizes and cheated and pinched one another's arms—they were all expert pinchers. The only time the Burnell children ever played with them Kezia had got a prize, and when she undid three bits of paper she found a very small rusty button-hook.
She couldn't understand why they made such a fuss. But they never played with the Samuel Josephs now or even went to their parties. The Samuel Josephs were always giving children's parties at the Bay and there was always the same food. A big washhand basin of very brown fruit-salad, buns cut into four and a washhand jug full of something the lady-help called "Limonadear.
They were too awful. On the other side of the beach, close down to the water, two little boys, their knickers rolled up, twinkled like spiders. One was digging, the other pattered in and out of the water, filling a small bucket.
They were the Trout boys, Pip and Rags. But Pip was so busy digging and Rags was so busy helping that they didn't see their little cousins until they were quite close. The three little girls stared. All the same. Why—you might find—" "But why does Rags have to keep on pouring water in? Keep it up, Rags. Pip took something out of his pocket, rubbed it a long time on the front of his jersey, then breathed on it and rubbed it again. They turned round. Keep still!
The lovely green thing seemed to dance in Pip's fingers. Aunt Beryl had a nemeral in a ring, but it was a very small one. This one was as big as a star and far more beautiful. V As the morning lengthened whole parties appeared over the sand-hills and came down on the beach to bathe. It was understood that at eleven o'clock the women and children of the summer colony had the sea to themselves.
The beach was strewn with little heaps of clothes and shoes; the big summer hats, with stones on them to keep them from blowing away, looked like immense shells. It was strange that even the sea seemed to sound differently when all those leaping, laughing figures ran into the waves. Old Mrs. Fairfield, in a lilac cotton dress and a black hat tied under the chin, gathered her little brood and got them ready.
The little Trout boys whipped their shirts over their heads, and away the five sped, while their grandma sat with one hand in her knitting-bag ready to draw out the ball of wool when she was satisfied they were safely in. The firm compact little girls were not half so brave as the tender, delicate-looking boys.
Pip and Rags, shivering, crouching down, slapping the water, never hesitated. But Isabel, who could swim twelve strokes, and Kezia, who could nearly swim eight, only followed on the strict understanding they were not to be splashed. As for Lottie, she didn't follow at all. She liked to be left to go in her own way, please. And that way was to sit down at the edge of the water, her legs straight, her knees pressed together, and to make vague motions with her arms as if she expected to be wafted out to sea.
But when a bigger wave than usual, an old whiskery one, came lolloping along in her direction, she scrambled to her feet with a face of horror and flew up the beach again. But aren't you going to bathe here? She sounded vague. I'm going to bathe with Mrs. Harry Kember. Fairfield's lips set. She disapproved of Mrs Harry Kember. Beryl knew it. Poor old mother, she smiled, as she skimmed over the stones.
Poor old mother! Oh, what joy, what bliss it was to be young. She sat hunched up on the stones, her arms round her knees, smoking. Harry Kember's voice sounded as though she knew better than that. But then her voice always sounded as though she knew something more about you than you did yourself. She was a long, strange-looking woman with narrow hands and feet. Her face, too, was long and narrow and exhausted-looking; even her fair curled fringe looked burnt out and withered.
When she was not playing bridge—she played bridge every day of her life—she spent her time lying in the full glare of the sun. She could stand any amount of it; she never had enough. All the same, it did not seem to warm her. Parched, withered, cold, she stretched on the stones like a piece of tossed-up driftwood. The women at the Bay thought she was very, very fast.
Her lack of vanity, her slang, the way she treated men as though she was one of them, and the fact that she didn't care twopence about her house and called the servant Gladys "Glad-eyes," was disgraceful. Standing on the veranda steps Mrs. Kember would call in her indifferent, tired voice, "I say, Glad-eyes, you might heave me a handkerchief if I've got one, will you? It was an absolute scandal! True, she had no children, and her husband.
Here the voices were always raised; they became fervent.
How can he have married her? How can he, how can he? It must have been money, of course, but even then! Kember's husband was at least ten years younger than she was, and so incredibly handsome that he looked like a mask or a most perfect illustration in an American novel rather than a man.
Black hair, dark blue eyes, red lips, a slow sleepy smile, a fine tennis player, a perfect dancer, and with it all a mystery. Men couldn't stand him, they couldn't get a word out of the chap; he ignored his wife just as she ignored him.
How did he live? Of course there were stories, but such stories! They simply couldn't be told. The women he's been seen with, the places he'd been seen in. Some of the women at the Bay privately thought he'd commit a murder one day. Yes, even while they talked to Mrs. Kember and took in the awful concoction she was wearing, they saw her, stretched as she lay on the beach; but cold, bloody, and still with a cigarette stuck in the corner of her mouth.
Kember rose, yawned, unsnapped her belt buckle, and tugged at the tape of her blouse. And Beryl stepped out of her skirt and shed her jersey, and stood up in her short white petticoat, and her camisole with ribbon bows on the shoulders. Harry Kember, "what a little beauty you are! Harry Kember, stamping on her own petticoat. Really—her underclothes! A pair of blue cotton knickers and a linen bodice that reminded one somehow of a pillow-case. Then "Never! Kember, unfastening her own. Beryl turned her back and began the complicated movements of someone who is trying to take off her clothes and to pull on her bathing-dress all at one and the same time.
I shan't eat you. I shan't be shocked like those other ninnies. But Beryl was shy. She never undressed in front of anybody. Was that silly? Harry Kember made her feel it was silly, even something to be ashamed of. Why be shy indeed! She glanced quickly at her friend standing so boldly in her torn chemise and lighting a fresh cigarette; and a quick, bold, evil feeling started up in her breast.
Laughing recklessly, she drew on the limp, sandy-feeling bathing-dress that was not quite dry and fastened the twisted buttons. They began to go down the beach together. Somebody's got to tell you some day.
It was that marvellous transparent blue, flecked with silver, but the sand at the bottom looked gold; when you kicked with your toes there rose a little puff of gold-dust. Now the waves just reached her breast. Don't you make a mistake, my dear. Enjoy yourself. Then she flicked round and began swimming back. She was going to say something else. Beryl felt that she was being poisoned by this cold woman, but she longed to hear.
But oh, how strange, how horrible! As Mrs. Harry Kember came up close she looked, in her black waterproof bathing-cap, with her sleepy face lifted above the water, just her chin touching, like a horrible caricature of her husband. VI In a steamer chair, under a manuka tree that grew in the middle of the front grass patch, Linda Burnell dreamed the morning away.
She did nothing. She looked up at the dark, close, dry leaves of the manuka, at the chinks of blue between, and now and again a tiny yellowish flower dropped on her. Pretty—yes, if you held one of those flowers on the palm of your hand and looked at it closely, it was an exquisite small thing. The tiny tongue in the centre gave it the shape of a bell. And when you turned it over the outside was a deep bronze colour. But as soon as they flowered, they fell and were scattered. You brushed them off your frock as you talked; the horrid little things got caught in one's hair.
Why, then, flower at all? Who takes the trouble—or the joy—to make all these things that are wasted, wasted. It was uncanny. On the grass beside her, lying between two pillows, was the boy. Sound asleep he lay, his head turned away from his mother. His fine dark hair looked more like a shadow than like real hair, but his ear was a bright, deep coral.
Linda clasped her hands above her head and crossed her feet. It was very pleasant to know that all these bungalows were empty, that everybody was down on the beach, out of sight, out of hearing.
She had the garden to herself; she was alone. Dazzling white the picotees shone; the golden-eyed marigold glittered; the nasturtiums wreathed the veranda poles in green and gold flame. If only one had time to look at these flowers long enough, time to get over the sense of novelty and strangeness, time to know them!
But as soon as one paused to part the petals, to discover the under-side of the leaf, along came Life and one was swept away. And, lying in her cane chair, Linda felt so light; she felt like a leaf. Oh dear, would it always be so?
Was there no escape? Now she sat on the veranda of their Tasmanian home, leaning against her father's knee. And he promised, "As soon as you and I are old enough, Linny, we'll cut off somewhere, we'll escape. Two boys together. I have a fancy I'd like to sail up a river in China. She saw the yellow hats of the boatmen and she heard their high, thin voices as they called. Linda's father pulled her ear teasingly, in the way he had. And what was more she loved him. Not the Stanley whom everyone saw, not the everyday one; but a timid, sensitive, innocent Stanley who knelt down every night to say his prayers, and who longed to be good.
Stanley was simple. If he believed in people—as he believed in her, for instance—it was with his whole heart. He could not be disloyal; he could not tell a lie. And how terribly he suffered if he thought anyone—she—was not being dead straight, dead sincere with him!
But the trouble was—here Linda felt almost inclined to laugh, though Heaven knows it was no laughing matter—she saw her Stanley so seldom. There were glimpses, moments, breathing spaces of calm, but all the rest of the time it was like living in a house that couldn't be cured of the habit of catching on fire, on a ship that got wrecked every day.
And it was always Stanley who was in the thick of the danger. Her whole time was spent in rescuing him, and restoring him, and calming him down, and listening to his story.
And what was left of her time was spent in the dread of having children. Linda frowned; she sat up quickly in her steamer chair and clasped her ankles. Yes, that was her real grudge against life; that was what she could not understand. That was the question she asked and asked, and listened in vain for the answer. It was all very well to say it was the common lot of women to bear children. It wasn't true. She, for one, could prove that wrong. She was broken, made weak, her courage was gone, through child-bearing.
And what made it doubly hard to bear was, she did not love her children. It was useless pretending. Even if she had had the strength she never would have nursed and played with the little girls. As to the boy—well, thank Heaven, mother had taken him; he was mother's, or Beryl's, or anybody's who wanted him.
She had hardly held him in her arms. She was so indifferent about him that as he lay there. Linda glanced down. The boy had turned over. He lay facing her, and he was no longer asleep. His dark-blue, baby eyes were open; he looked as though he was peeping at his mother. And suddenly his face dimpled; it broke into a wide, toothless smile, a perfect beam, no less.
But she checked herself and said to the boy coldly, "I don't like babies. Linda dropped off her chair on to the grass. He didn't believe a word she said. Ah no, be sincere. That was not what she felt; it was something far different, it was something so new, so.
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The tears danced in her eyes; she breathed in a small whisper to the boy, "Hallo, my funny! He was serious again. Something pink, something soft waved in front of him. He made a grab at it and it immediately disappeared. But when he lay back, another, like the first, appeared. This time he determined to catch it. He made a tremendous effort and rolled right over. VII The tide was out; the beach was deserted; lazily flopped the warm sea.
The sun beat down, beat down hot and fiery on the fine sand, baking the grey and blue and black and white-veined pebbles. It sucked up the little drop of water that lay in the hollow of the curved shells; it bleached the pink convolvulus that threaded through and through the sand-hills. Nothing seemed to move but the small sand-hoppers. They were never still. Over there on the weed-hung rocks that looked at low tide like shaggy beasts come down to the water to drink, the sunlight seemed to spin like a silver coin dropped into each of the small rock pools.
They danced, they quivered, and minute ripples laved the porous shores. Underneath waved the sea-forest—pink thread-like trees, velvet anemones, and orange berry-spotted weeds. Now a stone on the bottom moved, rocked, and there was a glimpse of a black feeler; now a thread-like creature wavered by and was lost. Something was happening to the pink, waving trees; they were changing to a cold moonlight blue.
And now there sounded the faintest "plop. What was going on down there? And how strong, how damp the seaweed smelt in the hot sun. The green blinds were drawn in the bungalows of the summer colony. Over the verandas, prone on the paddock, flung over the fences, there were exhausted-looking bathing-dresses and rough striped towels.
Each back window seemed to have a pair of sand-shoes on the sill and some lumps of rock or a bucket or a collection of pawa shells. The bush quivered in a haze of heat; the sandy road was empty except for the Trouts' dog Snooker, who lay stretched in the very middle of it.
His blue eye was turned up, his legs stuck out stiffly, and he gave an occasional desperate-sounding puff, as much as to say he had decided to make an end of it and was only waiting for some kind cart to come along. The little girl, wearing only her short drawers and her under-bodice, her arms and legs bare, lay on one of the puffed-up pillows of her grandma's bed, and the old woman, in a white ruffled dressing-gown sat in a rocker at the window, with a long piece of pink knitting in her lap.
This room that they shared, like the other rooms of her bungalow, was of light varnished wood and the floor was bare. The furniture was of the shabbiest, the simplest. The dressing-table, for instance, was a packing-case in a sprigged muslin petticoat, and the mirror above was very strange; it was as though a little piece of forked lightning was imprisoned in it.
On the table there stood a jar of sea-pinks, pressed so tightly together they looked more like a velvet pincushion, and a special shell which Kezia had given her grandma for a pin-tray, and another even more special which she had thought would make a very nice place for a watch to curl up in.
The old woman sighed, whipped the wool twice round her thumb, and drew the bone needle through. She was casting on. She had another. Kezia blinked and considered the picture again. It was the old woman's turn to consider. Did it make her sad? To look back, back. To stare down the years, as Kezia had seen her doing. To look after them as a woman does, long after they were out of sight. No, life was like that.
She lifted one bare arm and began to draw things in the air. He wasn't old. Fairfield began counting the stitches in threes.
They felt sandy. She didn't want to die. It meant she would have to leave here, leave everywhere, for ever, leave—leave her grandma.
She rolled over quickly. You couldn't leave me. You couldn't not be there. The old woman went on knitting. Say never! Kezia rolled off her bed; she couldn't bear it any longer, and lightly she leapt on to her grandma's knees, clasped her hand round the old woman's throat and began kissing her, under the chin, behind the ear, and blowing down her neck.
And then she began, very softly and lightly, to tickle her grandma. She swung back in the rocker.
She began to tickle Kezia. That's enough, my wild pony! Fairfield, setting her cap straight. VIII The sun was still full on the garden when the back door of the Burnells' shut with a bang, and a very gay figure walked down the path to the gate.
It was Alice, the servant-girl, dressed for her afternoon out. She wore a white cotton dress with such large red spots on it and so many that they made you shudder, white shoes and a leghorn turned up under the brim with poppies.
Of course she wore gloves, white ones, stained at the fastenings with iron-mould, and in one hand she carried a very dashed-looking sunshade which she referred to as her perishall. Beryl, sitting in the window, fanning her freshly-washed hair, thought she had never seen such a guy. If Alice had only blacked her face with a piece of cork before she started out, the picture would have been complete. And where did a girl like that go to in a place like this?
She supposed Alice had picked up some horrible common larrikin and they'd go off into the bush together. Pity to have made herself so conspicuous; they'd have hard work to hide with Alice in that rig-out. But no, Beryl was unfair. Alice was going to tea with Mrs Stubbs, who'd sent her an "invite" by the little boy who called for orders.
She had taken ever such a liking to Mrs. Stubbs ever since the first time she went to the shop to get something for her mosquitoes. Stubbs had clapped her hand to her side. You might have been attacked by canningbals. Made her feel so queer, having nobody behind her. Made her feel all weak in the spine. She couldn't believe that someone wasn't watching her. And yet it was silly to turn round; it gave you away.
She pulled up her gloves, hummed to herself and said to the distant gum-tree, "Shan't be long now. Stubbs's shop was perched on a little hillock just off the road. It had two big windows for eyes, a broad veranda for a hat, and the sign on the roof, scrawled MRS. Even then it was the rarest thing to find the left that belonged to the right.
So many people had lost patience and gone off with one shoe that fitted and one that was a little too big. Stubbs prided herself on keeping something of everything. The two windows, arranged in the form of precarious pyramids, were crammed so tight, piled so high, that it seemed only a conjurer could prevent them from toppling over.
In the left-hand corner of one window, glued to the pane by four gelatine lozenges, there was—and there had been from time immemorial—a notice. The bell jangled, the red serge curtains parted, and Mrs. Stubbs appeared. With her broad smile and the long bacon knife in her hand, she looked like a friendly brigand. Alice was welcomed so warmly that she found it quite difficult to keep up her "manners.
Tea was laid on the parlour table—ham, sardines, a whole pound of butter, and such a large johnny cake that it looked like an advertisement for somebody's baking-powder. But the Primus stove roared so loudly that it was useless to try to talk above it. Alice sat down on the edge of a basket-chair while Mrs.
Stubbs pumped the stove still higher. Suddenly Mrs. Stubbs whipped the cushion off a chair and disclosed a large brown-paper parcel. How many there were! There were three dozzing at least. And she held it up to the light.
Stubbs sat in an arm-chair, leaning very much to one side. There was a look of mild astonishment on her large face. For though the arm-chair stood on a carpet, to the left of it, miraculously skirting the carpet-border, there was a dashing water-fall.
On her right stood a Grecian pillar with a giant fern-tree on either side of it, and in the background towered a gaunt mountain, pale with snow. Stubbs, beginning to pour out. I'm having an enlargemint. All very well for Christmas cards, but I never was the one for small photers myself. You get no comfort out of them.
To say the truth, I find them dis'eartening. That was what my poor dear husband was always saying. He couldn't stand anything small. Gave him the creeps. And, strange as it may seem my dear"—here Mrs. Stubbs creaked and seemed to expand herself at the memory—"it was dropsy that carried him off at the larst.
Many's the time they drawn one and a half pints from 'im at the 'ospital. It seemed like a judgemint. She ventured, "I suppose it was water. Stubbs fixed Alice with her eyes and replied meaningly, "It was liquid, my dear. Alice jumped away from the word like a cat and came back to it, nosing and wary. Just below, in silver letters on a red cardboard ground, were the words, "Be not afraid, it is I.
The pale-blue bow on the top of Mrs. Stubbs's fair frizzy hair quivered. She arched her plump neck. What a neck she had! It was bright pink where it began and then it changed to warm apricot, and that faded to the colour of a brown egg and then to a deep creamy.
Stubbs again. Alice gave a loud, silly little titter. She felt awkward. Her mind flew back to her own kitching. Ever so queer! She wanted to be back in it again. IX A strange company assembled in the Burnells' washhouse after tea. Round the table there sat a bull, a rooster, a donkey that kept forgetting it was a donkey, a sheep and a bee.
The washhouse was the perfect place for such a meeting because they could make as much noise as they liked, and nobody ever interrupted. Against the wall there was a deep trough and in the corner a copper with a basket of clothes-pegs on top of it. The little window, spun over with cobwebs, had a piece of candle and a mouse-trap on the dusty sill.
There were clothes-lines criss-crossed overhead and, hanging from a peg on the wall, a very big, a huge, rusty horseshoe. The table was in the middle with a form at either side. A bee's not an animal. It's a ninseck. A tiny bee, all yellow-furry, with striped legs. She drew her legs up under her and leaned over the table. She felt she was a bee. It's not like a fish. And he gave such a tremendous bellow—how did he make that noise? With her red cheeks and bright eyes she looked like a rooster.
It had to be an easy one. You can't forget that. It was he who had the cards. He waved them round his head. All listen! Now, if you put that card in the middle and somebody else has one with two spots as well, you say 'Hee-haw,' and the card's yours.
Just for the game, see? Just while we're playing. Lottie looked at both of them. Then she hung her head; her lip quivered.
The others glanced at one another like conspirators. All of them knew what that meant. She would go away and be discovered somewhere standing with her pinny thrown over her head, in a corner, or against a wall, or even behind a chair.
It's quite easy," said Kezia. I'll give you the first one. It's mine, really, but I'll give it to you. Here you are. Lottie revived at that. But now she was in another difficulty. Don't undo it. I've got a little starfish inside I'm going to try and tame.
You've got to keep your hands under the table till I say 'Go. They tried with all their might to see, but Pip was too quick for them. It was very exciting, sitting there in the washhouse; it was all they could do not to burst into a little chorus of animals before Pip had finished dealing.
You mustn't look first. You must turn it the other way over. The game proceeded. The bull was terrible. He charged over the table and seemed to eat the cards up. Isabel stood up in her excitement and moved her elbows like wings. She had hardly any cards left. Be a dog instead! That's much easier. But when she and Kezia both had a one Kezia waited on purpose. The others made signs to Lottie and pointed. Lottie turned very red; she looked bewildered, and at last she said, "Hee-haw!
Wait a minute! What's that noise? What do you mean? Shut up!
No answer. The bee gave a shudder. Oh, why, why had they shut the door? While they were playing, the day had faded; the gorgeous sunset had blazed and died. And now the quick dark came racing over the sea, over the sand-hills, up the paddock.
You were frightened to look in the corners of the washhouse, and yet you had to look with all your might. And somewhere, far away, grandma was lighting a lamp. The blinds were being pulled down; the kitchen fire leapt in the tins on the mantelpiece.
Our Min told us she'd seen a spider as big as a saucer, with long hairs on it like a gooseberry. Oh, those grown-ups, laughing and snug, sitting in the lamp-light, drinking out of cups! They'd forgotten about them. No, not really forgotten. They had decided to leave them there all by themselves. Suddenly Lottie gave such a piercing scream that all of them jumped off the forms, all of them screamed too.
It was true, it was real. Pressed against the window was a pale face, black eyes, a black beard. He had come to take the little boys home. X He had meant to be there before, but in the front garden he had come upon Linda walking up and down the grass, stopping to pick off a dead pink or give a top-heavy carnation something to lean against, or to take a deep breath of something, and then walking on again, with her little air of remoteness.
Over her white frock she wore a yellow, pink-fringed shawl from the Chinaman's shop. And Jonathan whipped off his shabby panama, pressed it against his breast, dropped on one knee, and kissed Linda's hand.
Greeting, my Celestial Peach Blossom! Have you come to borrow something? But Jonathan only answered, "A little love, a little kindness;" and he walked by his sister-in-law's side. Linda dropped into Beryl's hammock under the manuka tree, and Jonathan stretched himself on the grass beside her, pulled a long stalk and began chewing it.
They knew each other well. The voices of children cried from the other gardens. A fisherman's light cart shook along the sandy road, and from far away they heard a dog barking; it was muffled as though the dog had its head in a sack.
If you listened you could just hear the soft swish of the sea at full tide sweeping the pebbles. The sun was sinking. Linda swung a little.
Would ye have me weep?
One gets used to anything. It was strange to think that he was only an ordinary clerk, that Stanley earned twice as much money as he. What was the matter with Jonathan? He had no ambition; she supposed that was it. And yet one felt he was gifted, exceptional. He was passionately fond of music; every spare penny he had went on books. He was always full of new ideas, schemes, plans.
But nothing came of it all. The new fire blazed in Jonathan; you almost heard it roaring softly as he explained, described and dilated on the new thing; but a moment later it had fallen in and there was nothing but ashes, and Jonathan went about with a look like hunger in his black eyes.
At these times he exaggerated his absurd manner of speaking, and he sang in church—he was the leader of the choir—with such fearful dramatic intensity that the meanest hymn put on an unholy splendour. It's a queer use to make of one's. Or do I fondly dream? The only difference I can see is that I put myself in jail and nobody's ever going to let me out.
That's a more intolerable situation than the other. For if I'd been—pushed in, against my will—kicking, even—once the door was locked, or at any rate in five years or so, I might have accepted the fact and begun to take an interest in the flight of flies or counting the warder's steps along the passage with particular attention to variations of tread and so on. But as it is, I'm like an insect that's flown into a room of its own accord.
I dash against the walls, dash against the windows, flop against the ceiling, do everything on God's earth, in fact, except fly out again. And all the while I'm thinking, like that moth, or that butterfly, or whatever it is, 'The shortness of life!
The shortness of life! And that "ah! Why indeed? There's the maddening, mysterious question. Why don't I fly out again? A Dream - a Wa-kening. Sheridan dreamily. And the children knew by her face that she hadn't got them. Sadie went. I've got the names somewhere on the back of an envelope.
The Garden Party And Other Stories
You'll have to write them out for me. Meg, go upstairs this minute and take that wet thing off your head. Jose, run and finish dressing this instant. Do you hear me, children, or shall I have to tell your father when he comes home to-night?
And - and, Jose, pacify cook if you do go into the kitchen, will you? I'm terrified of her this morning. Sheridan could not imagine. Have you done that? Sheridan held the envelope away from her. It can't be mice, can it? What a horrible combination it sounds.
Egg and olive. She found Jose there pacifying the cook, who did not look at all terrifying. She had seen the man pass the window. That meant the cream puffs had come. Godber's were famous for their cream puffs. Nobody ever thought of making them at home.
Sadie brought them in and went back to the door. Of course Laura and Jose were far too grown-up to really care about such things. All the same, they couldn't help agreeing that the puffs looked very attractive. Cook began arranging them, shaking off the extra icing sugar. Fancy cream puffs so soon after breakfast.
The very idea made one shudder. All the same, two minutes later Jose and Laura were licking their fingers with that absorbed inward look that only comes from whipped cream. They're such awfully nice men. Something had happened. Sadie had her hand clapped to her cheek as though she had toothache.
Hans's face was screwed up in the effort to understand. Only Godber's man seemed to be enjoying himself; it was his story. What's happened? Of course, she knew them. His horse shied at a traction-engine, corner of Hawke Street this morning, and he was thrown out on the back of his head. There she paused and leaned against it. But Jose was still more amazed. My dear Laura, don't be so absurd. Of course we can't do anything of the kind.
Nobody expects us to. Don't be so extravagant. A broad road ran between. True, they were far too near.
They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans.
The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys.
Washerwomen lived in the lane and sweeps and a cobbler, and a man whose house-front was studded all over with minute bird-cages. Children swarmed. When the Sheridans were little they were forbidden to set foot there because of the revolting language and of what they might catch. But since they were grown up, Laura and Laurie on their prowls sometimes walked through.
It was disgusting and sordid. They came out with a shudder. But still one must go everywhere; one must see everything. So through they went. I'm every bit as sorry about it as you. I feel just as sympathetic. She looked at her sister just as she used to when they were little and fighting together.
Who said he was drunk? She said, just as they had used to say on those occasions, "I'm going straight up to tell mother. Why, what's the matter?
What's given you such a colour? Sheridan turned round from her dressing-table. She was trying on a new hat. Sheridan sighed with relief, and took off the big hat and held it on her knees. Breathless, half-choking, she told the dreadful story. They'd hear us, mother; they're nearly neighbours! She refused to take Laura seriously. It's only by accident we've heard of it. If some one had died there normally - and I can't understand how they keep alive in those poky little holes - we should still be having our party, shouldn't we?
She sat down on her mother's sofa and pinched the cushion frill. Sheridan got up and came over to her, carrying the hat.
Before Laura could stop her she had popped it on. It's made for you. It's much too young for me. I have never seen you look such a picture. Look at yourself! She couldn't look at herself; she turned aside.
This time Mrs. Sheridan lost patience just as Jose had done. And it's not very sympathetic to spoil everybody's enjoyment as you're doing now. There, quite by chance, the first thing she saw was this charming girl in the mirror, in her black hat trimmed with gold daisies, and a long black velvet ribbon. Never had she imagined she could look like that. Is mother right? And now she hoped her mother was right. Am I being extravagant? Perhaps it was extravagant. Just for a moment she had another glimpse of that poor woman and those little children, and the body being carried into the house.
But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper. I'll remember it again after the party's over, she decided. And somehow that seemed quite the best plan By half-past two they were all ready for the fray. The green-coated band had arrived and was established in a corner of the tennis-court. You ought to have arranged them round the pond with the conductor in the middle on a leaf. At the sight of him Laura remembered the accident again.
She wanted to tell him. If Laurie agreed with the others, then it was bound to be all right. And she followed him into the hall. You do look stunning," said Laurie. Soon after that people began coming in streams. The band struck up; the hired waiters ran from the house to the marquee. Wherever you looked there were couples strolling, bending to the flowers, greeting, moving on over the lawn. They were like bright birds that had alighted in the Sheridans' garden for this one afternoon, on their way to - where?
Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes. I've never seen you look so striking. Won't you have an ice? The passion-fruit ices really are rather special. They stood side by side in the porch till it was all over. Let's go and have some fresh coffee. I'm exhausted. Yes, it's been very successful. But oh, these parties, these parties! Why will you children insist on giving parties!
I wrote the flag. Sheridan took a bite and the sandwich was gone. He took another. Sheridan, holding up her hand, "we did. It nearly ruined the party. Laura insisted we should put it off. Lived just below in the lane, and leaves a wife and half a dozen kiddies, so they say. Sheridan fidgeted with her cup. Really, it was very tactless of father Suddenly she looked up.
There on the table were all those sandwiches, cakes, puffs, all uneaten, all going to be wasted. She had one of her brilliant ideas. Let's send that poor creature some of this perfectly good food. At any rate, it will be the greatest treat for the children.
Don't you agree? And she's sure to have neighbours calling in and so on. What a point to have it all ready prepared. Again, how curious, she seemed to be different from them all. To take scraps from their party. Would the poor woman really like that? What's the matter with you to-day? An hour or two ago you were insisting on us being sympathetic, and now--" Oh well! Laura ran for the basket. It was filled, it was heaped by her mother. No, wait, take the arum lilies too.
People of that class are so impressed by arum lilies. So they would. Just in time. And, Laura! Run along. A big dog ran by like a shadow. The road gleamed white, and down below in the hollow the little cottages were in deep shade.
How quiet it seemed after the afternoon. Here she was going down the hill to somewhere where a man lay dead, and she couldn't realize it. Why couldn't she? She stopped a minute. And it seemed to her that kisses, voices, tinkling spoons, laughter, the smell of crushed grass were somehow inside her.
She had no room for anything else. How strange! She looked up at the pale sky, and all she thought was, "Yes, it was the most successful party. The lane began, smoky and dark. Women in shawls and men's tweed caps hurried by. Men hung over the palings; the children played in the doorways. A low hum came from the mean little cottages. In some of them there was a flicker of light, and a shadow, crab-like, moved across the window. Laura bent her head and hurried on.
She wished now she had put on a coat. How her frock shone! And the big hat with the velvet streamer - if only it was another hat! Were the people looking at her? They must be.
It was a mistake to have come; she knew all along it was a mistake. Should she go back even now? This was the house. It must be. A dark knot of people stood outside. Beside the gate an old, old woman with a crutch sat in a chair, watching. She had her feet on a newspaper.A warm little silver star.
But when Beryl looked at the bush, it seemed to her the bush was sad. The bell jangled, the red serge curtains parted, and Mrs. She actually said, "Help me, God," as she walked up the tiny path and knocked. Not the Stanley whom everyone saw, not the everyday one; but a timid, sensitive, innocent Stanley who knelt down every night to say his prayers, and who longed to be good.