Mansfield's Short Stories
The Daughters Of The Late Colonel
The week after was one of the busiest weeks of their lives. Even when they went to bed it
was only their bodies that lay down and rested; their minds went on, thinking things out,
talking things over, wondering, deciding, trying to remember where...
Constantia lay like a statue, her hands by her sides, her feet just overlapping each other,
the sheet up to her chin. She stared at the ceiling.
"Do you think father would mind if we gave his top-hat to the porter?"
"The porter?" snapped Josephine. "Why ever the porter? What a very extraordinary idea!"
"Because," said Constantia slowly, "he must often have to go to funerals. And I noticed
at--at the cemetery that he only had a bowler." She paused. "I thought then how very
much he'd appreciate a top-hat. We ought to give him a present, too. He was always very
nice to father."
"But," cried Josephine, flouncing on her pillow and staring across the dark at Constantia,
"father's head!" And suddenly, for one awful moment, she nearly giggled. Not, of course,
that she felt in the least like giggling. It must have been habit. Years ago, when they had
stayed awake at night talking, their beds had simply heaved. And now the porter's head,
disappearing, popped out, like a candle, under father's hat...The giggle mounted,
mounted; she clenched her hands; she fought it down; she frowned fiercely at the dark
and said "Remember" terribly sternly.
"We can decide to-morrow," she said.
Constantia had noticed nothing; she sighed.
"Do you think we ought to have our dressing-gowns dyed as well?"
"Black?" almost shrieked Josephine.
"Well, what else?" said Constantia. "I was thinking--it doesn't seem quite sincere, in a
way, to wear black out of doors and when we're fully dressed, and then when we're at
"But nobody sees us," said Josephine. She gave the bedclothes such a twitch that both her
feet became uncovered, and she had to creep up the pillows to get them well under again.
"Kate does," said Constantia. "And the postman very well might."