Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Journal of Katherine Mansfield

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose.

“All my virtues—all my rich nature—gone,” she said, “grown over, tangled, forgotten, deserted like a once upon a time garden.” She smiled and pulled down her hat and pulled her page 93 coat together as though making ready to stumble out into it and be lost too. “A dark place” said she, wavering to her feet. And then she smiled again. “Perhaps there is just left my—my — curiosity about myself. Evening Primrose….” She half shut her eyes, stooping forward, curiously as though the plant had sprung up at her feet. “I always did hate evening primroses. They sound such darlings, but when you see one they're such weedy, shabby—flower on the grave without a grave stone—sort of things—I don't mean anything symbolical by that,” said she. “God forbid!” and was gone.

Maisie—the student—their lodgers—she risks anything.

The little leaf that blows in—her memory of the park and crocodile—then there must be her cat called Millie. That quick Hook on, dear girl—and the pain so great that she almost sobs. But nothing happens—

Nay, though my heart should break,
I would not bind you.

Miss Ruddick who always plays with her music propped against the towel rail, and whenever she pulls out her handkerchief out comes an end of resin gummed on a flannel as well.

On these summer evenings the sound of the steps along the street is quite different. They knock-knock-knock along, but lightly and easily, as though they belonged to people who were page 94 walking home at their ease, after a procession or a pic-nic or a day at the sea.

The sky is pale and clear: the silly piano is overcome and reels out waltzes—old waltzes, spinning, drunk with sentiment—gorged with memory.

This is the hour when the poor underfed dog appears, at a run, nosing the dry gutter. He is so thin that his body is like a cage on four wooden pegs…. His lean triangle of a head is down, his long straight tail is out, and up and down, up and down he goes, silent and fearfully eager. The street watches him from its creeper-covered balconies, from its open windows—but the fat lady on the ground floor who is no better than she should be comes out, down the steps to the gate, with a bone. His tail, as he waits for her to give it him, bangs against the gate post, like a broomhandle—and the street says she's a fool to go feeding strange dogs. Now she'll never be rid of him.

(What I'd like to convey is that, at this hour, with this half light and the pianos and the open, empty sounding houses, he is the spirit of the street—running up and down, poor dog, when he ought to have been done away with years ago.)