Saturday, 23 March 2013



Comments on How Pearl Button was Kidnapped

 A girl is sitting outside her house alone when she is greeted by some Maori passers-by.   They ask her if she’s going with them and she does.   She’s affectionately treated,  and after a bit joins them on a cart, and ends up at the seaside, astonished because she’s never seen the sea before.  They’re easy going, and their children are well fed and friendly.

At first you feel perhaps she has been kidnapped, but as the story goes on their simplicity and kindness make you think that they really are just being friendly.  But it’s left ambiguous why they should have taken her so far from home.  At all events she goes voluntarily and has a wonderful time. Mansfield writes,

“Pearl had never been happy like this before.”  

She finds their simply happy life too good to be true.  She asks them about their living arrangements, saying,

“Don’t you all live in a row?  Don’t the men go to offices?  Aren’t there any nasty things?”   

The ‘nasty things’ strongly suggests that her treatment at home is anything but kind.    You begin to think that whether she’s been kidnapped or not she might just stay with the Maoris and become one of them, ‘go native’ in the colonialist terminology.  It would be a sort of fairy story with a happy ending.

But then, when she goes into the sea paddling – a kind of baptism perhaps? -   they are suddenly interrupted by “little men in blue coats”  blowing whistles and shouting.  These men, policemen,  take her back home.  The dream is over.   But she has ‘seen’ something, an alternative to the way she’s treated at home, and that’s the centre of the story.  Whether, technically, she’s been kidnapped doesn’t matter.   To the Maoris she hasn’t been.  To the Whites she has.

This intervention by the colonialist world,  colonialist law, destroys the idyllic life style she meets, or at least has a vision of.   The intervention prevents the story from risking sentimentality by having her simply melt into the ‘natural life’ of the Maoris.   But that idea comes into our minds and is made to contrast with her life in a ‘row’ of houses with a father who goes to the office, and nasty things happen.   No doubt nasty things happen in Maori households,  but that’s not the point.  She’s realised something about her own style of life.

Beyond that, we get a glimpse of the background of Mansfield’s work, and indeed her New Zealand culture, the sense of the Maoris in the background, the culture which was destroyed by Europeans, but which is always ‘there’ in the unconscious of white New Zealanders.   

A girl is sitting outside her house alone when she is greeted by some Maori passers-by.   They ask her if she’s going with them and she does.   She’s affectionately treated,  and after a bit joins them on a cart, and ends up at the seaside, astonished because she’s never seen the sea before.  They’re easy going, and their children are well fed and friendly.

At first you feel perhaps she has been kidnapped, but as the story goes on their simplicity and kindness make you think that they really are just being friendly.  But it’s left ambiguous why they should have taken her so far from home.  At all events she goes voluntarily and has a wonderful time. Mansfield writes,

“Pearl had never been happy like this before.”  

She finds their simply happy life too good to be true.  She asks them about their living arrangements, saying,

“Don’t you all live in a row?  Don’t the men go to offices?  Aren’t there any nasty things?”   

The ‘nasty things’ strongly suggests that her treatment at home is anything but kind.    You begin to think that whether she’s been kidnapped or not she might just stay with the Maoris and become one of them, ‘go native’ in the colonialist terminology.  It would be a sort of fairy story with a happy ending.

But then, when she goes into the sea paddling – a kind of baptism perhaps? -   they are suddenly interrupted by “little men in blue coats”  blowing whistles and shouting.  These men, policemen,  take her back home.  The dream is over.   But she has ‘seen’ something, an alternative to the way she’s treated at home, and that’s the centre of the story.  Whether, technically, she’s been kidnapped doesn’t matter.   To the Maoris she hasn’t been.  To the Whites she has.

This intervention by the colonialist world,  colonialist law, destroys the idyllic life style she meets, or at least has a vision of.   The intervention prevents the story from risking sentimentality by having her simply melt into the ‘natural life’ of the Maoris.   But that idea comes into our minds and is made to contrast with her life in a ‘row’ of houses with a father who goes to the office, and nasty things happen.   No doubt nasty things happen in Maori households,  but that’s not the point.  She’s realised something about her own style of life.

Beyond that, we get a glimpse of the background of Mansfield’s work, and indeed her New Zealand culture, the sense of the Maoris in the background, the culture which was destroyed by Europeans, but which is always ‘there’ in the unconscious of white New Zealanders.   

On Katherine Mansfield’s  ‘Prelude’  

It’s got the same ‘array’ structure,  based loosely on natural time rather than narrative direction.   The story’s in ‘cells’ and each of these focuses on one or two characters, often in interaction.   They are almost but never quite revealed, but beyond the move to the country, there’s no narrative development.   The story follows the sequence of the days, beginning on the evening of the move and then moving through the next few days with shifts of focus on different characters, usually in pairs or small groups.    The lack of narrative makes it more like the kind a poet’s ‘sequence’.

All the characters are fretful in some way except for Stanley who is mainly full of himself as having made the purchase, though even he has an insecurity about ‘home’, if everything is going to be ‘all right’ when he gets there.

What is it a ‘prelude’ to?   A new life as such, or at least a new setting, a new place with the same hangups.

Linda is always disabled and can’t make decisions.  At first she seems like the traditional ‘ neurotic’ woman with partly imaginary ailments, sitting around being indecisive and doing nothing.    She fears childbirth (hinted) hates parts of Stanley and loves others.   She also has fantasies and escape, flying away and leaving them all. The dream of a soft fluffy bird gradually enlarging could by pregnancy, or equally orgasm.   She dreams of things swelling up.  The aloe suggests escape sometimes, sometimes danger and her own inner hardness.   Its seldom flowering perhaps suggests a scarceness of human fulfilment When she visits it with her mother when Stanley and Beryl are playing crib, she thinks ‘I shall remember it long after I’ve forgotten all the other things.’ – the language of someone who will be going away.  And indeed the aloe suggests a kind of ship on which she can float away from it all.   She notices the buds.  It’s possibly going to flower this year, her mother says.  Linda feels it coming towards them.  And the hardness of the aloe draws her into an empathy. 

‘Looking at it from below she could see the long sharp thorns that edged the aloe leaves, and at the sight of them her heart grew hard. . . .  She particularly like the long sharp thorns. . . .  Nobody could come near the ship or to follow after.
    “Not even my Newfoundland dog,” thought she, “ that I’m so fond of in the daytime.”
This is Stanley, who would be fine if he weren’t so dog-like and didn’t ‘rush at her’(in the night time).  We remember Kezia asking the difference between a sheep and a ram, and Pat telling her that rams rush at you, and how Kezia too dislikes things that rush at her.   Kezia, like her mother, has fears of an IT following her, a threat.  Her IT corresponds to Linda’s THEY always in the house somewhere.

Linda feels “You are killing me.”  And it’s not clear if this is literally true, if her pregnancies are really so harmful.

Then she thinks it ‘mania’ to keep alive at all.    Sounds like depression?   This wish to escape perhaps through the aloe ship of death is comparable Beryl’s feeling of being imprisoned and not alive at all, but also of wishing to escape with a rich man who’ll see her beauty.   

Stanley is presented as mainly without sensitivity, and narrowly macho competitive.  He sees the house as a good bargain, dirt cheap, a symbol of his own cleverness.  He does his near naked exercises insufferably, talks about himself, not her, to Linda, mainly ignores the children,  casually orders Mrs Fairfield about like a servant.   Thinks of friends coming over for tennis, gain as social one-upmanship.     He longs for a son, where there’s a space at the table.   Stanley’s vulnerability is in his close relationship to Linda whom he needs as someone to please and to listen to, witness, him.  He bores her with his office talk, and she finds him slightly ridiculous with his exercises and macho posturing.

Mrs Fairfield does everything in the house, is selfless, practical, non-reflective beyond here and now, perhaps because old.  Her bond with Kezia is clear but not accented as in The Bay.  She makes a pair with Kezia as being the only other generous soul in the story.   She doesn’t resent being a housekeeper, getting orders from Stanley, and so on, and she seems to merge into the house and its furniture with a kind of belonging none of the others have.   Kezia’s love for her is hinted at her but not developed as it is in The Bay.

Beryl is very bitter and narcissistic in the mirror all the time, but trapped in spinsterhood for lack of money, though seems to fancy Stanley.   She’s hurt when he fails to praise her for all her hard work (he thinking she resents his not helping more)  She thinks of her two selves, but even the real one seems narcissistic.  She sings about the house to give an impression of happiness, but on her own she’s the opposite.  She’s lost in herself.   She’s snobbish about imaginary suitors and situations and to the maid, a good match or at least companion for Stanley.

Kezia comes out most clearly when she’s horrified at the ducks’ decapitation.  Mansfield makes the children all mad with excitement first at the headless ‘steam engine’, which perhaps they all are, and then Kezia sees the horror and wants the head impossibly put back on.    She also has thoughts about the aloe, and has fear of an IT following her perhaps like death, or just childlike fear.   In both she echoes her mother.   She’s trusted by her grandmother to carry the lamp, symbolic as in The Doll’s House, perhaps.

Isabel is dictatorial, and manipulative,  trying to ingratiate herself with the adults and get the younger sisters into trouble.   Controlling.   She and Lottie are not that well developed, though Lottie’s deception about the strawberries and cream is telling.  

The Trouts and Joseph Samuels are on the edge of things, but don’t come into it much, not as much as they do in The Bay.     As also Pat who is thought ‘first rate’ by Stanley, and who kills the duck.


1  What happens?   What is different at the end?

2  What is all this a ‘prelude’ to?

3  What themes run through the story:  
·         fear of the future?  
·         being imprisoned?  
·         power and powerlessness?
·         domestic and dream lives?
·         children, generations?
·         destructiveness of power, wealth
·         nature

4   Is there a main character?

5   What do these images suggest thematically?
·         the aloe
·         the headless duck
·         cribbage
·         dogs
·         IT and THEY
·         swelling up
·         home

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

On Life of Ma Parker
·         How far does Katherine Mansfield get ‘inside’ her working class character?  Does she feel like a person? 

·         Why does Katherine Mansfield introduce the ‘literary gentleman’, who has nothing to do with Ma Parker’s grief?

·         Does the respelling of certain words to make them ‘working class’  create realism or is it patronising?

·         Why is the ‘hard life’ theme repeated so much?  Is this over done?

·         ‘But the struggle she’d had to bring up those six little children and keep herself to herself’  What does that last clause mean?

·         Why is the sick child ‘offended’?  

·         How convincing is it that Ma Parker can find nowhere to cry? 

·         Is this need to cry all on her own some kind of symptom of her life?   Is it just loneliness?   Is it something to do
                 with English culture?

·         Compare Ma Parker’s need to have a ‘planned cry’ to the boss in The Fly.

·         Is Ma Parker represented simply as a victim of fate (compare  Reginald’s comment in Mr and Mrs Dove)?

·         Are we to think of Ma Parker as typical of her class?

On Mr and Mrs Dove
·         Reginald’s lack of self-confidence is based on:   Reality (He’s just a loser)?   His low self esteem?   Class?   His mother?

·         Reginald speculates that Anne doesn’t really know why she laughs at him?   Is there a Freudian explanation?

·         Mrs Dove leads Mr Dove, but Anne’s upbringing makes her think the husband should lead.  Is that assumption 
               questioned in the  story?

·         Is this a story about gender?

·         Anne is fond of her doves?   Does she like the ‘marriage’ arrangement her doves have?   Or like to laugh at it?

·         Mr Dove follows Mrs Dove bowing and so on.   Anne tells Reginald that that’s all they do?   Has she forgotten something?     
                    Is she denying something?  

·         Why does Katherine Mansfield choose doves?   Doves are traditional symbols of love and peace.  
                    The dove comes back to Noah with a message of hope, that there is land somewhere out there.

·         Anne finds Reginald a good ‘friend’, but that’s not enough.  She goes to her reading  in which, we assume, ‘love’ is a romantic             
         notion with a masterly Adonis-like lover with  wicked bedroom eyes.

·         How can Reginald expect Anne to up sticks and go to Rhodesia with him the very next day?

·         Katherine Mansfield represents Rhodesia as a kind of ‘saving’ of Reginald but also a place of loneliness . 
                 He says he can stand the   loneliness but there’s something he can’t cope with.  Which is?

·         Do you think Anne is first just ‘silly’, and second selfish in wanting to make Reginald somehow remove her guilt?

·         What happens in the end?   Is Reggie redeemed or doomed?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Not being able to see or articulate or be understood -  A T S Eliot connection             

It's interesting how often we've come across characters in Katherine Mansfield's stories who can't quite put their fingers on the significance of something,  or it slips out of their memory, or they can't get others to quite understand, or they themselves don't (don't want to) understand.   This comes in most clearly at the end of The Garden Party where Laura is struggling to see the 'real' significance of her epiphany when she sees the working class man's dead body.   It's there just out of sight in Miss Brill's transference of her jolting experience onto the crying fur in the box.   It's there e of Je ne Parle pas Francais where the arrogant young writer is haunted, for reasons he can't quite grasp, by the memory of Mouse.   It's in the strange structure of An Indiscreet Journey where the significance first of her dangerous journey is left as a blank, as also is the meaning of the drink of Mirabelle in the 'forbidden' cafe.  It comes up obliquely in Bliss where Bertha doesn't understand and isn't understood and falsely 'understands', and clearly again in The Daughters of the Late Colonel where the daughters are almost about to articulate what's next, and where it's all be leading to  when the get entwined in each other and 'forget' what they understand.  You'll see an almost identical 'replay' of this forgetting trope in The Fly.   We should perhaps keep a look out for other examples.   It's also worth relating this lack of definition of a 'point' to KM's stories generally, stories which tend to raise a question to which several 'answers' are left hovering after the story has ended.   

Katherine Mansfield may have been influenced by T S Eliot, whom she knew, but who was not that much of a fan of hers and took some trouble later on to try and rubbish her reputation which he thought had been wrongly inflated by critics.  T S Eliot was an extremely influential poet and representative of modernism in literature.   In an early poem called The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, Eliot dealt with this character's sense of unfulfilment.  Midway through the poem he writes:

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,        90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—        95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,        100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:        105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Here are a few generalisations, questions, speculations  See if 
you can pin them to details in the texts to test them.


What is their financial situation is?   Are they secure?  Will they now be poor?   Has the Colonel left a will?  Does Mansfield mention financial matters?  If not why not?    Or, when they talk about sacking the maid and doing for themselves, is that really because they can’t afford her?   Is that why they worry about the nurse’s greed over butter?

What evidence is there that the colonel bullied the girls?   How much did they see of him?   Did they love him?

The  colonel in effect blighted their lives.  When his wife died young he kept them away from suitors so that they would stay at home and look after him.  Is this the ‘moral’ of the story?

They seem very babyish in their fear of touching the colonel’s things, let alone sorting them out?  Is this superstition?  How far is Mansfield credible here?

Why is Ceylon important?

Josephine seems older and more decisive than Constantia, but in fact this is only a matter of conversational tone.  Neither can get anything done.   This is because they have spent their lives being told what to do and can’t think for themselves.

What happens in the story?   What is it that they have forgotten they were going to say.

The Garden Party ends with a person not being able to say, or perhaps find, what they mean.   Here we have a similar ‘losing the point’.  How do these story compare to An Indiscreet Journey, and Miss Brill, Je ne Parle pas Français?   Something avoided?



Is this story really about her husband not getting enough rumpy-pumpy?   Or it’s a Freudian scenario.  She’s afraid of sex, but still needs it, so she becomes hysterical and falls in love with a fantasy of her new woman friend,  and has religious feelings for a pear tree?

Mansfield is always interested in deception, and self-deception in particular.   A long theme in the Western intellectual tradition (Socrates:  know yourself).     But what is Bertha deceiving herself about?

Is Henry really a very cunning deceiver, and has he been for some time now?   Or is Pearl something new?
What are we to make of Bertha’s relationship to her child?    And Henry’s?

Henry seems to be fond of Egyptian dancers with green eyelids.  What do we read into that?

She says she likes her friends and being ‘modern’.   Her friends, in fact, are a lot of pseuds.

“The lights will be out.  And you and he will be alone together in the dark room –the warm bed. . .’
 She jumped up from her chair and ran over to the piano”
          It sounds as they they’ve never been alone together in bed.  That can’t be so.   What’s  she thinking?  Note Mansfield gives us only a little of her thought and then leaves it up to use to imagine.

Just before she laments her coldness,  Bertha says that Henry’s ‘different’.  What does that mean?   Is she a tart?

How does Mansfield create the aura around Pearl Fulton?   Is it a matter of exact descriptive imagery?

“’Good night, good-bye’ she cried from the top stop, feeling that this self of hers was taking leave of them for ever.”   Which self?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Norm:                       Life in the big colonial house,  upper middle class speech, values, silences
                                   This includes the garden party.
Unusual event             Death of Scott

Problem                  How to respond.  Cancel the party or not
(1) Attitude to the working class. 
(2) Laura’s moral isolation   (twice)
Actions                    (1) Fudge issue by ref to upper middle class customs  
(2) Hat as ‘bribe’ 
(3) Left-overs gift (‘bribe’ to conscience, implicitly vindicating Laura)
Resolution                              Laura’s epiphany.  Laura’s relative isolation confirmed.


Artistic one (false excuse from Jose) pushed into organising, but is organised
Responds to the workmen with nervousness,  affection,  surprise at sensitivity
Responds the mews of the accident with moral certainty
Moral certainty poo-pooed, then undermined and bribed away
At the party itself enjoys her beauty in the hat
After the party morally questions mothers idea of sending left-overs
Mother’s gesture implicitly confirms her earlier moral certainty
Now she has scruples again and feels always on the other side
Overruled with bad logic from mother
She (not not because ‘artistic’) goes to the cottage
Is unnerved by the atmosphere (as on previous trips) and hell dog.
Feels her class privilege exemplified by the hat (now an accusation)
Sees family’s actual grief and is controlled by them, their rituals
Sees death and has an epiphany,  asks for forgiveness
Is  morally and emotionally isolated: can’t explain even to Laurie, who can’t understand.
Is still part of her class, but ‘no longer at ease in the old dispensation’  (Eliot)


1              What does Laura actually learn?  
2              How is power exercised?  What kinds of power?
3              What kinds of self-deception are there?
4              Why is the story called The Garden Party?
5              Is Mrs Sheridan really a kind of monster?
6              What moral issues does the story pose?
7              How does Mansfield use imagery of weather and times of the day?
8              How do we understand “she couldn’t explain” at the end of the story
9              Is there any genuine love in the story?


Saturday, 26 January 2013

KM and plagiarism

I've copied these two stories from the internet.    You may remember that we thought of discussing them later in the course.   Katherine Mansfield was all her life devoted to the work of Chekhov, and it has been claimed that her story, The Child-Who-Was-Tired is based rather too closely on Chekhov's story Sleepy.   She was never actually sued for plagiarism, however, and tended to keep the story out of sight as the went on with her writing.

Text adapted from the illustrated on-line version at the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center. First prepared by Judy Boss. Edited by Thomas P. Lukas and David Seaman. The print version appeared as "Sleepy-Eye" in Cosmopolitan Magazine, volume 41, New York, May, 1906, with illustrations by James Preston. The title is translated as "Sleepy." here.
By Anton Chékhov

NIGHT. Nursemaid Varka, aged thirteen, rocks the cradle where baby lies, and murmurs, almost inaudibly:
"Bayu, bayushki, bayu!"
"Nurse will sing a song to you."
In front of the ikon burns a green lamp; across the room from wall to wall stretches a cord on which hang baby clothes and a great pair of black trousers. On the ceiling above the lamp shines a great green spot, and the baby clothes and trousers cast long shadows on the stove, on the cradle, on Varka. When the lamp flickers, the spot and shadows move as if from a draught. It is stifling. There is a smell of soup and boots.
The child cries. It has long been hoarse and weak from crying, but still it cries, and who can say when it will be comforted? And Varka wants to sleep. Her eyelids droop, her head hangs, her neck pains her. She can hardly move her eyelids or her lips, and it seems to her that her face is sapless and petrified, and that her head has shriveled up to the size of a pinhead.
"Bayu, bayushki, bayu!" she murmurs, "Nurse is making pap for you."
In the stove chirrups a cricket. In the next room behind that door snore Varka's master and the journeyman Athanasius. The cradle creaks plaintively, Varka murmurs -- and the two sounds mingle soothingly in a lullaby sweet to the ears of those who lie in bed. But now the music is only irritating and oppressive, for it inclines to sleep, and sleep is impossible. If Varka, which God forbid, were to go to sleep, her master and mistress would beat her.
The lamp flickers. The green spot and the shadows move about, they pass into the half-open, motionless eyes of Varka, and in her half-awakened brain blend in misty images. She sees dark clouds chasing one another across the sky and crying like the child. And then a wind blows, the clouds vanish, and Varka sees a wide road covered with liquid mud; along the road stretch wagons, men with satchels on their backs crawl along, and shadows move backward and forward; on either side through the chilly, thick mist are visible hills. And suddenly the men with the satchels and the shadows collapse in the liquid mud. "Why is this?" asks Varka. "To sleep, to sleep!" comes the answer. And they sleep soundly, sleep sweetly; and on the telegraph wires perch crows, and cry like the child, and try to awaken them.
"Bayu, bayushki, bayu! Nurse will sing a song to you," murmurs Varka; and now she sees herself in a dark and stifling cabin.
On the floor lies her dead father, Yélim Stépanov. She cannot see him, but she hears him rolling from side to side, and groaning. In his own words he "has had a rupture." The pain is so intense that he cannot utter a single word, and only inhales air and emits through his lips a drumming sound.
"Bu, bu, bu, bu, bu -- "
Mother Pelageya has run to the manor house to tell the squire that Yélim is dying. She has been gone a long time. Will she ever return? Varka lies on the stove, and listens to her father's "Bu, bu, bu, bu." And then some one drives up to the cabin door. It is the doctor, sent from the manor house where he is staying as a guest. The doctor comes into the hut; in the darkness he is invisible, but Varka can hear him coughing and hear the creaking of the door.
"Bring a light!" he says.
"Bu, bu, bu," answers Yélim.
Pelageya runs to the stove and searches for a jar of matches. A minute passes in silence. The doctor dives into his pocket and lights a match himself.
"Immediately, batiushka, immediately!" cries Pelageya, running out of the cabin. In a minute she returns with a candle-end.
Yélim's cheeks are flushed, his eyes sparkle, and his look is piercing, as if he could see through the doctor and the cabin wall.
"Well, what's the matter with you?" asks the doctor, bending over him. "Ah! You have been like this long?"
"What's the matter? The time has come your honor, to die. I shall not live any longer."
"Nonsense; we'll soon cure you."
"As you will, your honor. Thank you humbly -- only we understand. If we must die, we must die."
Half an hour the doctor spends with Yélim; then he rises and says:
"I can do nothing. You must go to the hospital; there they will operate on you. You must go at once, without fail! It is late and they will all be asleep at the hospital; but never mind, I will give you a note. Do you hear?"
"Batiushka, how can he go to the hospital?" asks Pelageya. "We have no horse."
"Never mind, I will speak to the squire; he will lend you one."
The doctor leaves, the light goes out, and again Varka hears, "Bu, bu, bu." In half an hour some one drives up to the cabin. This is the cart for Yélim to go to the hospital in. Yélim gets ready and goes.
And now comes a clear and fine morning. Pelageya is not at home; she has gone to the hospital to find out how Yélim is. There is a child crying, and Varka hears some one singing with her own voice:
"Bayu, bayushki, bayu! Nurse will sing a song to you."
Pelageya returns; she crosses herself and whispers:
"Last night he was better; toward morning he gave his soul to God. Heavenly kingdom, eternal rest! They say we brought him too late; we should have done it sooner."
Varka goes into the wood and cries, and suddenly some one slaps her with such force that her head bangs against a birch tree. She lifts her head, and sees before her her master, the bootmaker.
"What are you doing, scabby?" he asks. "The child is crying and you are asleep."
He gives her a slap on the ear; and she shakes her head, rocks the cradle and murmurs her lullaby. The green spot, the shadows from the trousers and the baby clothes tremble, wink at her, and soon again possess her brain. Again she sees a road covered with liquid mud. Men, with satchels on their backs, and shadows, lie down and sleep soundly. When she looks at them Varka passionately desires to sleep; she would lie down with joy, but mother Pelageya comes along and hurries her. They are going into town to seek situations.
"Give me a kopeck for the love of Christ," says her mother to everyone she meets. "Show the pity of God, merciful gentleman!"
"Give me here the child," cries a well-known voice. "Give me the child," repeats the same voice, but this time angrily and sharply. "You are asleep, beast!"
Varka jumps up, and looking around her, remembers where she is; there is neither road, nor Pelageya, nor people, but only, standing in the middle of the room, her mistress who has come to feed the child. While the stout, broad-shouldered woman feeds and soothes the baby, Varka stands still, looks at her, and waits till she has finished.
And outside the window the air grows blue, the shadows fade and the green spot on the ceiling pales. It will soon be morning.
"Take it," says her mistress. "It is crying. The evil eye is upon it!"
Varka takes the child, lays it in the cradle, and again begins rocking. The shadows and the green spot fade away, and there is nothing now to set her brain going. But, as before, she wants to sleep, wants passionately to sleep. Varka lays her head on the edge of the cradle and rocks it with her whole body so as to drive away sleep; but her eyelids droop again, and her head is heavy.
"Varka, light the stove!" rings the voice of her master from behind the door.
That is to say, it is at last time to get up and begin the day's work. Varka leaves the cradle, and runs to the shed for wood. She is delighted. When she runs or walks she does not feel the want of sleep as badly as when she is sitting down. She brings in wood, lights the stove, and feels how her petrified face is waking up, and how her thoughts are clearing.
"Varka, get ready the samovar!" cries her mistress.
Varka cuts splinters of wood, and has hardly lighted them and laid them in the samovar when another order comes:
"Varka, clean your master's galoches!"
Varka sits on the floor, cleans the galoches, and thinks how delightful it would be to thrust her head into the big, deep galoche, and slumber in it a while. And suddenly the galoche grows, swells, and fills the whole room. Varka drops her brush, but immediately shakes her head, distends her eyes, and tries to look at things as if they had not grown and did not move in her eyes.
"Varka, wash the steps outside; the customers will be scandalized!"
Varka cleans the steps, tidies the room, and then lights another stove and runs into the shop. There is much work to be done, and not a moment free.
But nothing is so tiresome as to stand at the kitchen table and peel potatoes. Varka's head falls on the table, the potatoes glimmer in her eyes, the knife drops from her hand, and around her bustles her stout, angry mistress with sleeves tucked up, and talks so loudly that her voice rings in Varka's ears. It is torture, too, to wait at table, to wash up, and to sew. There are moments when she wishes, notwithstanding everything around her, to throw herself on the floor and sleep.
The day passes. And watching how the windows darken, Varka presses her petrified temples, and smiles, herself not knowing why. The darkness caresses her drooping eyelids, and promises a sound sleep soon. But toward evening the bootmaker's rooms are full of visitors.
"Varka, prepare the samovar!" cries her mistress.
It is a small samovar, and before the guests are tired of drinking tea, it has to be filled and heated five times. After tea, Varka stands a whole hour on one spot, looks at the guests, and waits for orders.
"Varka, run and buy three bottles of beer!"
Varka jumps from her place, and tries to run as quickly as possible so as to drive away sleep.
"Varka, go for vodka! Varka, where is the corkscrew? Varka, clean the herrings!"
At last the guests are gone; the fires are extinguished; master and mistress go to bed.
"Varka, rock the cradle!" echoes the last order.
In the stove chirrups a cricket; the green spot on the ceiling, and the shadows from the trousers and baby clothes again twinkle before Varka's half-opened eyes; they wink at her, and obscure her brain.
"Bayu, bayushki, bayu!" she murmurs, "Nurse will sing a song to you."
But the child cries and wearies itself with crying. Varka sees again the muddy road, the men with satchels, Pelageya and father Yélim. She remembers, she recognizes them all, but in her semi-slumber she cannot understand the force which binds her, hand and foot, and crushes her, and ruins her life. She looks around her, and seeks that force that she may rid herself of it. But she cannot find it. And at last, tortured, she strains all her strength and sight; she looks upward at the winking, green spot, and as she hears the cry of the baby, she finds the enemy who is crushing her heart.
The enemy is the child.
Varka laughs. She is astonished. How was it that never before could she understand such a simple thing? The green spot, the shadows and the cricket, it seems, all smile and are surprised at it.
An idea takes possession of Varka. She rises from the stool and, smiling broadly with unwinking eyes, walks up and down the room. She is delighted and touched by the thought that she will soon be delivered from the child who has bound her, hand and foot -- be delivered, and then to sleep, sleep, sleep.                                                        And smiling and blinking, and threatening the green spot with her fingers, Varka steals to the cradle and bends over it with outspread fingers which afterward close tightly. Then, laughing with joy at the thought that now she can sleep, in a moment she sleeps as soundly as the dead child.


She was just beginning to walk along a little white road with tall black trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere, and where nobody walked at all, when a hand gripped her shoulder, shook her, slapped her ear.
“Oh, oh, don't stop me,” cried the Child-Who-Was-Tired. “Let me go.”
“Get up, you good-for-nothing brat,” said a voice; “get up and light the oven or I'll shake every bone out of your body.”
With an immense effort she opened her eyes, and saw the Frau standing by, the baby bundled under one arm. The three other children who shared the same bed with the Child-Who-Was-Tired, accustomed to brawls, slept on peacefully. In a corner of the room the Man was fastening his braces.
“What do you mean by sleeping like this the whole night through—like a sack of potatoes? You've let the baby wet his bed twice.”
She did not answer, but tied her petticoat string, and buttoned on her plaid frock with cold, shaking fingers.
“There, that's enough. Take the baby into the kitchen with you, and heat that cold coffee on the spirit lamp for the master, and give him the loaf of black bread out of the table drawer. Don't guzzle it yourself of I'll know.”
The Frau staggered across the room, flung herself on to her bed, drawing the pink bolster round her shoulders.
It was almost dark in the kitchen. She laid the baby on the wooden settle, covering him with a shawl, then poured the coffee from the earthenware jug  into the saucepan, and set it on the spirit lamp to boil.
“I'm sleepy,” nodded the Child-Who-Was-Tired, kneeling on the floor and splitting the damp pine logs into little chips. “That's why I'm not awake.”
The oven took a long time to light. Perhaps it was cold, like herself, and sleepy. … Perhaps it had been dreaming of a little white road with black trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere.
Then the door was pulled violently open and the Man strode in.
“Here, what are you doing, sitting on the floor?” he shouted. “Give me my coffee. I've got to be off. Ugh! You haven't even washed over the table.”
She sprang to her feet, poured his coffee into an enamel cup, gave him bread and a knife, then, taking a wash rag from the sink, smeared over the black linoleumed table.
“Swine of a day—swine's life,” mumbled the Man, sitting by the table and staring out of the window at the bruised sky, which seemed to bulge heavily over the dull land. He stuffed his mouth with bread and then swilled it down with the coffee.
The Child drew a pail of water, turned up her sleeves, frowning the while at her arms, as if to scold them for being so thin, so much like little, stunted twigs, and began to mop over the floor.
“Stop sousing about the water while I'm here,” grumbled the Man. “Stop the baby snivelling; it's been going on like that all night.”
The Child gathered the baby into her lap and sat rocking him.
“Ts—ts—ts,” she said. “He's  cutting his eye teeth, that's what makes him cry so. And dribble—I never seen a baby dribble like this one.” She wiped his mouth and nose with a corner of her skirt. “Some babies get their teeth without you knowing it,” she went on, “and some take on this way all the time. I once heard of a baby that died, and they found all its teeth in its stomach.”
The Man got up, unhooked his cloak from the back of the door, and flung it round him.
“There's another coming,” said he.
“What—a tooth!” exclaimed the Child, startled for the first time that morning out of her dreadful heaviness, and thrusting her finger into the baby's mouth.
“No,” he said grimly, “another baby. Now, get on with your work; it's time the others got up for school.”
She stood a moment quite silently, hearing his heavy steps on the stone passage, then the gravel walk, and finally the slam of the front gate.
“Another baby! Hasn't she finished having them yet?” thought the Child. “Two babies getting eye teeth—two babies to get up for in the night—two babies to carry about and wash their little piggy clothes!” She looked with horror at the one in her arms, who, seeming to understand the contemptuous loathing of her tired glance, doubled his fists, stiffened his body, and began violently screaming.
“Ts—ts—ts.” She laid him on the settle and went back to her floor-washing. He never ceased crying for a moment, but she got quite used to it and kept time with her broom. Oh, how tired she was! Oh, the heavy broom handle and the burning spot just at the back of her neck that ached so, and a funny little fluttering feeling just at the back of her waistband, as though something were going to break.
The clock struck six. She set a pan of milk in the oven, and went into the next room to wake and dress the three children. Anton and Hans lay together in attitudes of mutual amity which certainly never existed out of their sleeping hours. Lena was curled up, her knees under her chin, only a straight, standing-up pigtail of hair showing above the bolster.
“Get up,” cried the child, speaking in a voice of immense authority, pulling off the bedclothes and giving the boys sundry pokes and digs. “I've been calling you this last half-hour. It's late, and I'll tell on you if you don't get dressed this minute.”
Anton awoke sufficiently to turn  over and kick Hans on a tender part, whereupon Hans pulled Lena's pigtail until she shrieked for her mother.
“Oh, do be quiet,” whispered the Child. “Oh, do get up and dress. You know what will happen. There—I'll help you.”
But the warning came too late. The Frau got out of bed, walked in a determined fashion into the kitchen, returning with a bundle of twigs in her hand fastened together with a strong cord. One by one she laid the children across her knee and severely beat them, expending a final burst of energy on the Child-Who-Was-Tired, then returned to bed, with a comfortable sense of her maternal duties in good working order for the day. Very subdued, the three allowed themselves to be dressed and washed by the Child, who even laced the boys' boots, having found through experience that if left to themselves they hopped about for at least five minutes to find a comfortable ledge for their foot, and then spat on their hands and broke the bootlaces.
While she gave them their breakfast they became uproarious, and the baby would not cease crying. When she filled the tin kettle with milk, tied on the rubber tit, and, first moistening it herself, tried with little coaxing words to make him drink, he threw the bottle on to the floor and trembled all over.
“Eye teeth!” shouted Hans, hitting Anton over the head with his empty cup; “he's getting the evil-eye teeth, I should say.”
“Smarty!” retorted Lena, poking out her tongue at him, and then, when he promptly did the same, crying at the  top of her voice, “Mother, Hans is making faces at me!”
“That's right,” said Hans; “go on howling, and when you're in bed tonight I'll wait till you're asleep, and then I'll creep over and take a little tiny piece of your arm and twist and twist it until——” He leant over the table, making the most horrible faces at Lena, not noticing that Anton was standing behind his chair until the little boy bent over and spat on his brother's shaven head.
“Oh, weh! oh, weh!”
The Child-Who-Was-Tired pushed and pulled them apart, muffled them into their coats, and drove them out of the house.
“Hurry, hurry! the second bell's rung,” she urged, knowing perfectly well she was telling a story, and rather exulting in the fact. She washed up  the breakfast things, then went down to the cellar to look out the potatoes and beetroot.
Such a funny, cold place the coal cellar! With potatoes banked on one corner, beetroot in an old candle box, two tubs of sauerkraut, and a twisted mass of dahlia roots—that looked as real as though they were fighting one another, thought the Child.
She gathered the potatoes into her skirt, choosing big ones with few eyes because they were easier to peel, and bending over the dull heap in the silent cellar, she began to nod.
“Here, you, what are you doing down there?” cried the Frau, from the top of the stairs. “The baby's fallen off the settle, and got a bump as big as an egg over his eye. Come up here, and I'll teach you!”
“It wasn't me—it wasn't me!”  screamed the Child, beaten from one side of the hall to the other, so that the potatoes and beetroot rolled out of her skirt.
The Frau seemed to be as big as a giant, and there was a certain heaviness in all her movements that was terrifying to anyone so small.
“Sit in the corner, and peel and wash the vegetables, and keep the baby quiet while I do the washing.”
Whimpering, she obeyed, but as to keeping the baby quiet, that was impossible. His face was hot, little beads of sweat stood all over his head, and he stiffened his body and cried. She held him on her knees, with a pan of cold water beside her for the cleaned vegetables and the “ducks' bucket” for the peelings.
“Ts—ts—ts!” she crooned, scraping and boring; “there's going to be another soon, and you can't both keep on crying. Why don't you go to sleep, baby? I would, if I were you. I'll tell you a dream. Once upon a time there was a little white road——”
She shook back her head, a great lump ached in her throat and then the tears ran down her face on to the vegetables.
“That's no good,” said the Child, shaking them away. “Just stop crying until I've finished this, baby, and I'll walk you up and down.”
But by that time she had to peg out the washing for the Frau. A wind had sprung up. Standing on tiptoe in the yard, she almost felt she would be blown away. There was a bad smell coming from the ducks' coop, which was half full of manure water, but away in the meadow she saw the grass blowing like little green hairs. And she remembered having heard of a child who had once played for a whole day in just such a meadow with real sausages and beer for her dinner—and not a little bit of tiredness. Who had told her that story? She could not remember, and yet it was so plain.
The wet clothes flapped in her face as she pegged them; danced and jigged on the line, bulged out and twisted. She walked back to the house with lagging steps, looking longingly at the grass in the meadow.
“What must I do now, please?” she said.
“Make the beds and hang the baby's mattress out of the window, then get the waggon and take him for a little walk along the road. In front of the house, mind—Where I can see you. Don't stand there, gaping! Then come in when I call you and help me cut up the salad.”
When she had made the beds the Child stood and looked at them. Gently she stroked a pillow with her hand, and then, just for one moment, let her head rest there. Again the smarting lump in her throat, the stupid tears that fell and kept on falling as she dressed the baby and dragged the little waggon up and down the road.
A man passed, driving a bullock waggon. He wore a long, queer feather in his hat, and whistled as he passed. Two girls with bundles on their shoulders came walking out of the village—one wore a red handkerchief about her head and one a blue. They were laughing and holding each other by the hand. Then the sun pushed by a heavy fold of grey cloud  and spread a warm yellow light over everything.
“Perhaps,” thought the Child-Who-Was-Tired, “if I walked far enough up this road I might come to a little white one, with tall black trees on either side—a little road——”
“Salad, salad!” cried the Frau's voice from the house.
Soon the children came home from school, dinner was eaten, the Man took the Frau's share of pudding as well as his own, and the three children seemed to smear themselves all over with whatever they ate. Then more dish-washing and more cleaning and baby-minding. So the afternoon dragged coldly through.
Old Frau Grathwohl came in with a fresh piece of pig's flesh for the Frau, and the Child listened to them gossiping together.
 “Frau Manda went on her ‘journey to Rome’ last night, and brought back a daughter. How are you feeling?”
“I was sick twice this morning,” said the Frau. “My insides are all twisted up with having children too quickly.”
“I see you've got a new help,” commented old Mother Grathwohl.
“Oh, dear Lord”—the Frau lowered her voice—“don't you know her? She's the free-born one—daughter of the waitress at the railway station. They found her mother trying to squeeze her head in the wash-hand jug, and the child's half silly.”
“Ts—ts—ts!” whispered the “freeborn” one to the baby.
As the day drew in the Child-Who-Was-Tired did not know how to fight her sleepiness any longer. She was afraid to sit down or stand still. Asshe sat at supper the Man and the Frau seemed to swell to an immense size as she watched them, and then become smaller than dolls, with little voices that seemed to come from outside the window. Looking at the baby, it suddenly had two heads, and then no head. Even his crying made her feel worse. When she thought of the nearness of bedtime she shook all over with excited joy. But as eight o'clock approached there was the sound of wheels on the road, and presently in came a party of friends to spend the evening.
Then it was:
“Put on the coffee.”
“Bring me the sugar tin.”
“Carry the chairs out of the bedroom.”
“Set the table.”
And, finally, the Frau sent her intothe next room to keep the baby quiet.
There was a little piece of candle burning in the enamel bracket. As she walked up and down she saw her great big shadow on the wall like a grown-up person with a grown-up baby. Whatever would it look like when she carried two babies so!
“Ts—ts—ts! Once upon a time she was walking along a little white road, with oh! such great big black trees on either side.”
“Here, you!” called the Frau's voice, “bring me my new jacket from behind the door.” And as she took it into the warm room one of women said, “She looks like an owl. Such children are seldom right in their heads.”
“Why don't you keep that baby quiet?” said the Man, who had just drunk enough beer to make him feel very brave and master of his house.
“If you don't keep that baby quiet you'll know why later on.”
They burst out laughing as she stumbled back into the bedroom.
“I don't believe Holy Mary could keep him quiet,” she murmured. “Did Jesus cry like this when He was little? If I was not so tired perhaps I could do it; but the baby just knows that I want to go to sleep. And there is going to be another one.”
She flung the baby on the bed, and stood looking at him with terror.
From the next room there came the jingle of glasses and the warm sound of laughter.
And she suddenly had a beautiful, marvellous idea.
She laughed for the first time that day, and clapped her hands.
 “Ts—ts—ts!” she said, “lie there, silly one; you will go to sleep. You'll not cry any more or wake up in the night. Funny, little, ugly baby.”
He opened his eyes, and shrieked loudly at the sight of the Child-Who-Was-Tired. From the next room she heard the Frau call out to her.
“One moment—he is almost asleep,” she cried.
And then gently, smiling, on tiptoe, she brought the pink bolster from the Frau's bed and covered the baby's face with it, pressed with all her might as he struggled, “like a duck with its head off, wriggling,” she thought.
She heaved a long sigh, then fell back on to the floor, and was walking along a little white road with tall black trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere, and where nobody walked at all—nobody at all.