Mansfield's Short Stories
The Garden Party
And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a
garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the
blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. The
gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass
and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the
roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that
impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing.
Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed
down as though they had been visited by archangels.
Breakfast was not yet over before the men came to put up the marquee.
"Where do you want the marquee put, mother?"
"My dear child, it's no use asking me. I'm determined to leave everything to you children
this year. Forget I am your mother. Treat me as an honoured guest."
But Meg could not possibly go and supervise the men. She had washed her hair before
breakfast, and she sat drinking her coffee in a green turban, with a dark wet curl stamped
on each cheek. Jose, the butterfly, always came down in a silk petticoat and a kimono
"You'll have to go, Laura; you're the artistic one."
Away Laura flew, still holding her piece of bread-and-butter. It's so delicious to have an
excuse for eating out of doors, and besides, she loved having to arrange things; she
always felt she could do it so much better than anybody else.
Four men in their shirt-sleeves stood grouped together on the garden path. They carried
staves covered with rolls of canvas, and they had big tool- bags slung on their backs.
They looked impressive. Laura wished now that she had not got the bread-and-butter, but
there was nowhere to put it, and she couldn't possibly throw it away. She blushed and
tried to look severe and even a little bit short-sighted as she came up to them.
"Good morning," she said, copying her mother's voice. But that sounded so fearfully
affected that she was ashamed, and stammered like a little girl, "Oh--er--have you come--
is it about the marquee?"
"That's right, miss," said the tallest of the men, a lanky, freckled fellow, and he shifted his
tool-bag, knocked back his straw hat and smiled down at her. "That's about it."
His smile was so easy, so friendly that Laura recovered. What nice eyes he had, small,
but such a dark blue! And now she looked at the others, they were smiling too. "Cheer