Mansfield's Short Stories
Life Of Ma Parker
When the literary gentleman, whose flat old Ma Parker cleaned every Tuesday, opened
the door to her that morning, he asked after her grandson. Ma Parker stood on the
doormat inside the dark little hall, and she stretched out her hand to help her gentleman
shut the door before she replied. "We buried 'im yesterday, sir," she said quietly.
"Oh, dear me! I'm sorry to hear that," said the literary gentleman in a shocked tone. He
was in the middle of his breakfast. He wore a very shabby dressing-gown and carried a
crumpled newspaper in one hand. But he felt awkward. He could hardly go back to the
warm sitting-room without saying something--something more. Then because these
people set such store by funerals he said kindly, "I hope the funeral went off all right."
"Beg parding, sir?" said old Ma Parker huskily.
Poor old bird! She did look dashed. "I hope the funeral was a--a-- success," said he. Ma
Parker gave no answer. She bent her head and hobbled off to the kitchen, clasping the old
fish bag that held her cleaning things and an apron and a pair of felt shoes. The literary
gentleman raised his eyebrows and went back to his breakfast.
"Overcome, I suppose," he said aloud, helping himself to the marmalade.
Ma Parker drew the two jetty spears out of her toque and hung it behind the door. She
unhooked her worn jacket and hung that up too. Then she tied her apron and sat down to
take off her boots. To take off her boots or to put them on was an agony to her, but it had
been an agony for years. In fact, she was so accustomed to the pain that her face was
drawn and screwed up ready for the twinge before she'd so much as untied the laces. That
over, she sat back with a sigh and softly rubbed her knees...
"Gran! Gran!" Her little grandson stood on her lap in his button boots. He'd just come in
from playing in the street.
"Look what a state you've made your gran's skirt into--you wicked boy!"
But he put his arms round her neck and rubbed his cheek against hers.
"Gran, gi' us a penny!" he coaxed.
"Be off with you; Gran ain't got no pennies."
"Yes, you 'ave."
"No, I ain't."
"Yes, you 'ave. Gi' us one!"