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Mansfield's Short Stories

Marriage A La Mode
On his way to the station William remembered with a fresh pang of disappointment that
he was taking nothing down to the kiddies. Poor little chaps! It was hard lines on them.
Their first words always were as they ran to greet him, "What have you got for me,
daddy?" and he had nothing. He would have to buy them some sweets at the station. But
that was what he had done for the past four Saturdays; their faces had fallen last time
when they saw the same old boxes produced again.
And Paddy had said, "I had red ribbing on mine bee-fore!"
And Johnny had said, "It's always pink on mine. I hate pink."
But what was William to do? The affair wasn't so easily settled. In the old days, of
course, he would have taken a taxi off to a decent toyshop and chosen them something in
five minutes. But nowadays they had Russian toys, French toys, Serbian toys--toys from
God knows where. It was over a year since Isabel had scrapped the old donkeys and
engines and so on because they were so "dreadfully sentimental" and "so appallingly bad
for the babies' sense of form."
"It's so important," the new Isabel had explained, "that they should like the right things
from the very beginning. It saves so much time later on. Really, if the poor pets have to
spend their infant years staring at these horrors, one can imagine them growing up and
asking to be taken to the Royal Academy."
And she spoke as though a visit to the Royal Academy was certain immediate death to
any one...
"Well, I don't know," said William slowly. "When I was their age I used to go to bed
hugging an old towel with a knot in it."
The new Isabel looked at him, her eyes narrowed, her lips apart.
"Dear William! I'm sure you did!" She laughed in the new way.
Sweets it would have to be, however, thought William gloomily, fishing in his pocket for
change for the taxi-man. And he saw the kiddies handing the boxes round--they were
awfully generous little chaps--while Isabel's precious friends didn't hesitate to help
What about fruit? William hovered before a stall just inside the station. What about a
melon each? Would they have to share that, too? Or a pineapple, for Pad, and a melon for
Johnny? Isabel's friends could hardly go sneaking up to the nursery at the children's meal-
times. All the same, as he bought the melon William had a horrible vision of one of
Isabel's young poets lapping up a slice, for some reason, behind the nursery door.