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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

Marie and the Cauliflower

Marie and the Cauliflower.

Mon pauvre mari rolled over and said: Tu as peur? Que tu es bête! Ce sont des rats. Douze encore.” I thought, after she told me, and these words kept rippling and rippling through my mind, something had disturbed the long silent forgotten surface. How many of his words were remembered? Did anybody ever quote the living words he'd spoken? “Tu as peur? Que tu es bête!” Words spoken at night, in the dark, strangely intimate, reassuring. He turned over and lifted himself in his grave as Marie spoke. Mournful, mournful….

“What about a cauliflower?” I said. “A cauliflower with white sauce.”

“But they are so dear, Madame,” wailed Marie. “So dear. One little cauliflower for 2 fr. 50. It's robbery, it's …”

Suddenly through the kitchen window I saw the moon. It was so marvellously beautiful that I walked out of the kitchen door, through the garden and leaned over the gate before I knew what I was doing. The cold bars of the gate stopped me. The moon was full, transparent, glittering. It hung over the sighing sea. I looked at it for a long time. Then I turned round, and the little house faced me—a little white house quivering with light, a house like a candle shining behind a feather of mimosa-tree. I had utterly page 159 forgotten these things when I was ordering the dinner. I went back to the kitchen.

“Let us have a cauliflower at any price,” I said firmly.

And Marie muttered, bending over a pot—could she have understood?—“En effet, the times are dangerous!”