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 jacket.

"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 up, we won't bite," their smile seemed to say. How very nice workmen were! And what a beautiful morning! She mustn't mention the morning; she must be business-like. The marquee.

"Well, what about the lily-lawn? Would that do?"

And she pointed to the lily-lawn with the hand that didn't hold the bread-and-butter. They turned, they stared in the direction. A little fat chap thrust out his under-lip, and the tall fellow frowned.

"I don't fancy it," said he. "Not conspicuous enough. You see, with a thing like a marquee," and he turned to Laura in his easy way, "you want to put it somewhere where it'll give you a bang slap in the eye, if you follow me."

Laura's upbringing made her wonder for a moment whether it was quite respectful of a workman to talk to her of bangs slap in the eye. But she did quite follow him.

"A corner of the tennis-court," she suggested. "But the band's going to be in one corner."

"H'm, going to have a band, are you?" said another of the workmen. He was pale. He had a haggard look as his dark eyes scanned the tennis-court. What was he thinking?

"Only a very small band," said Laura gently. Perhaps he wouldn't mind so much if the band was quite small. But the tall fellow interrupted.

"Look here, miss, that's the place. Against those trees. Over there. That'll do fine."

Against the karakas. Then the karaka-trees would be hidden. And they were so lovely, with their broad, gleaming leaves, and their clusters of yellow fruit. They were like trees you imagined growing on a desert island, proud, solitary, lifting their leaves and fruits to the sun in a kind of silent splendour. Must they be hidden by a marquee?

They must. Already the men had shouldered their staves and were making for the place. Only the tall fellow was left. He bent down, pinched a sprig of lavender, put his thumb and forefinger to his nose and snuffed up the smell. When Laura saw that gesture she forgot all about the karakas in her wonder at him caring for things like that—caring for the smell of lavender. How many men that she knew would have done such a thing? Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldn't she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? She would get on much better with men like these.

It's all the fault, she decided, as the tall fellow drew something on the back of an envelope, something that was to be looped up or left to hang, of these absurd class distinctions. Well, for her part, she didn't feel them. Not a bit, not an atom... And now there came the chock-chock of wooden hammers. Some one whistled, some one sang out, "Are you right there, matey?" "Matey!" The friendliness of it, the—the—Just to prove how happy she was, just to show the tall fellow how at home she felt, and how she despised stupid conventions, Laura took a big bite of her bread-and-butter as she stared at the little drawing. She felt just like a work-girl.

"Laura, Laura, where are you? Telephone, Laura!" a voice cried from the house.

"Coming!" Away she skimmed, over the lawn, up the path, up the steps, across the veranda, and into the porch. In the hall her father and Laurie were brushing their hats ready to go to the office.

"I say, Laura," said Laurie very fast, "you might just give a squiz at my coat before this afternoon. See if it wants pressing."

"I will," said she. Suddenly she couldn't stop herself. She ran at Laurie and gave him a small, quick squeeze. "Oh, I do love parties, don't you?" gasped Laura.

"Ra-ther," said Laurie's warm, boyish voice, and he squeezed his sister too, and gave her a gentle push. "Dash off to the telephone, old girl."

The telephone. "Yes, yes; oh yes. Kitty? Good morning, dear. Come to lunch? Do, dear. Delighted of course. It will only be a very scratch meal—just the sandwich crusts and broken meringue-shells and what's left over. Yes, isn't it a perfect morning? Your white? Oh, I certainly should. One moment—hold the line. Mother's calling." And Laura sat back. "What, mother? Can't hear."

Mrs. Sheridan's voice floated down the stairs. "Tell her to wear that sweet hat she had on last Sunday."

"Mother says you're to wear that sweet hat you had on last Sunday. Good. One o'clock. Bye-bye."

Laura put back the receiver, flung her arms over her head, took a deep breath, stretched and let them fall. "Huh," she sighed, and the moment after the sigh she sat up quickly. She was still, listening. All the doors in the house seemed to be open. The house was alive with soft, quick steps and running voices. The green baize door that led to the kitchen regions swung open and shut with a muffled thud. And now there came a long, chuckling absurd sound. It was the heavy piano being moved on its stiff castors. But the air! If you stopped to notice, was the air always like this? Little faint winds were playing chase, in at the tops of the windows, out at the doors. And there were two tiny spots of sun, one on the inkpot, one on a silver photograph frame, playing too. Darling little spots. Especially the one on the inkpot lid. It was quite warm. A warm little silver star. She could have kissed it.

The front door bell pealed, and there sounded the rustle of Sadie's print skirt on the stairs. A man's voice murmured; Sadie answered, careless, "I'm sure I don't know. Wait. I'll ask Mrs Sheridan."

"What is it, Sadie?" Laura came into the hall.

"It's the florist, Miss Laura."

It was, indeed. There, just inside the door, stood a wide, shallow tray full of pots of pink lilies. No other kind. Nothing but lilies—canna lilies, big pink flowers, wide open, radiant, almost frighteningly alive on bright crimson stems.

"O-oh, Sadie!" said Laura, and the sound was like a little moan. She crouched down as if to warm herself at that blaze of lilies; she felt they were in her fingers, on her lips, growing in her breast.

"It's some mistake," she said faintly. "Nobody ever ordered so many. Sadie, go and find mother."

But at that moment Mrs. Sheridan joined them.

"It's quite right," she said calmly. "Yes, I ordered them. Aren't they lovely?" She pressed Laura's arm. "I was passing the shop yesterday, and I saw them in the window. And I suddenly thought for once in my life I shall have enough canna lilies. The garden-party will be a good excuse."

"But I thought you said you didn't mean to interfere," said Laura. Sadie had gone. The florist's man was still outside at his van. She put her arm round her mother's neck and gently, very gently, she bit her mother's ear.

"My darling child, you wouldn't like a logical mother, would you? Don't do that. Here's the man."

He carried more lilies still, another whole tray.

"Bank them up, just inside the door, on both sides of the porch, please," said Mrs. Sheridan. "Don't you agree, Laura?"

"Oh, I do, mother."

In the drawing-room Meg, Jose and good little Hans had at last succeeded in moving the piano.

"Now, if we put this chesterfield against the wall and move everything out of the room except the chairs, don't you think?"


"Hans, move these tables into the smoking-room, and bring a sweeper to take these marks off the carpet and—one moment, Hans—" Jose loved giving orders to the servants, and they loved obeying her. She always made them feel they were taking part in some drama. "Tell mother and Miss Laura to come here at once.

"Very good, Miss Jose."

She turned to Meg. "I want to hear what the piano sounds like, just in case I'm asked to sing this afternoon. Let's try over 'This life is Weary.'"

Pom! Ta-ta-ta Tee-ta! The piano burst out so passionately that Jose's face changed. She clasped her hands. She looked mournfully and enigmatically at her mother and Laura as they came in.

     "This Life is Wee-ary,
      A Tear—a Sigh.
      A Love that Chan-ges,
        This Life is Wee-ary,
      A Tear—a Sigh.
      A Love that Chan-ges,
      And then... Good-bye!"

But at the word "Good-bye," and although the piano sounded more desperate than ever, her face broke into a brilliant, dreadfully unsympathetic smile.

"Aren't I in good voice, mummy?" she beamed.

     "This Life is Wee-ary,
      Hope comes to Die.
      A Dream—a Wa-kening."

But now Sadie interrupted them. "What is it, Sadie?"

"If you please, m'm, cook says have you got the flags for the sandwiches?"

"The flags for the sandwiches, Sadie?" echoed Mrs. Sheridan dreamily. And the children knew by her face that she hadn't got them. "Let me see." And she said to Sadie firmly, "Tell cook I'll let her have them in ten minutes."

Sadie went.

"Now, Laura," said her mother quickly, "come with me into the smoking-room. I've got the names somewhere on the back of an envelope. You'll have to write them out for me. Meg, go upstairs this minute and take that wet thing off your head. Jose, run and finish dressing this instant. Do you hear me, children, or shall I have to tell your father when he comes home to-night? And—and, Jose, pacify cook if you do go into the kitchen, will you? I'm terrified of her this morning."

The envelope was found at last behind the dining-room clock, though how it had got there Mrs. Sheridan could not imagine.

"One of you children must have stolen it out of my bag, because I remember vividly—cream cheese and lemon-curd. Have you done that?"


"Egg and—" Mrs. Sheridan held the envelope away from her. "It looks like mice. It can't be mice, can it?"

"Olive, pet," said Laura, looking over her shoulder.

"Yes, of course, olive. What a horrible combination it sounds. Egg and olive."

They were finished at last, and Laura took them off to the kitchen. She found Jose there pacifying the cook, who did not look at all terrifying.

"I have never seen such exquisite sandwiches," said Jose's rapturous voice. "How many kinds did you say there were, cook? Fifteen?"

"Fifteen, Miss Jose."

"Well, cook, I congratulate you."

Cook swept up crusts with the long sandwich knife, and smiled broadly.

"Godber's has come," announced Sadie, issuing out of the pantry. She had seen the man pass the window.

That meant the cream puffs had come. Godber's were famous for their cream puffs. Nobody ever thought of making them at home.

"Bring them in and put them on the table, my girl," ordered cook.

Sadie brought them in and went back to the door. Of course Laura and Jose were far too grown-up to really care about such things. All the same, they couldn't help agreeing that the puffs looked very attractive. Very. Cook began arranging them, shaking off the extra icing sugar.

"Don't they carry one back to all one's parties?" said Laura.

"I suppose they do," said practical Jose, who never liked to be carried back. "They look beautifully light and feathery, I must say."

"Have one each, my dears," said cook in her comfortable voice. "Yer ma won't know."

Oh, impossible. Fancy cream puffs so soon after breakfast. The very idea made one shudder. All the same, two minutes later Jose and Laura were licking their fingers with that absorbed inward look that only comes from whipped cream.

"Let's go into the garden, out by the back way," suggested Laura. "I want to see how the men are getting on with the marquee. They're such awfully nice men."

But the back door was blocked by cook, Sadie, Godber's man and Hans.

Something had happened.

"Tuk-tuk-tuk," clucked cook like an agitated hen. Sadie had her hand clapped to her cheek as though she had toothache. Hans's face was screwed up in the effort to understand. Only Godber's man seemed to be enjoying himself; it was his story.

"What's the matter? What's happened?"

"There's been a horrible accident," said Cook. "A man killed."

"A man killed! Where? How? When?"

But Godber's man wasn't going to have his story snatched from under his very nose.

"Know those little cottages just below here, miss?" Know them? Of course, she knew them. "Well, there's a young chap living there, name of Scott, a carter. His horse shied at a traction-engine, corner of Hawke Street this morning, and he was thrown out on the back of his head. Killed."

"Dead!" Laura stared at Godber's man.

"Dead when they picked him up," said Godber's man with relish. "They were taking the body home as I come up here." And he said to the cook, "He's left a wife and five little ones."

"Jose, come here." Laura caught hold of her sister's sleeve and dragged her through the kitchen to the other side of the green baize door. There she paused and leaned against it. "Jose!" she said, horrified, "however are we going to stop everything?"

"Stop everything, Laura!" cried Jose in astonishment. "What do you mean?"

"Stop the garden-party, of course." Why did Jose pretend?

But Jose was still more amazed. "Stop the garden-party? My dear Laura, don't be so absurd. Of course we can't do anything of the kind. Nobody expects us to. Don't be so extravagant."

"But we can't possibly have a garden-party with a man dead just outside the front gate."

That really was extravagant, for the little cottages were in a lane to themselves at the very bottom of a steep rise that led up to the house. A broad road ran between. True, they were far too near. They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys. Washerwomen lived in the lane and sweeps and a cobbler, and a man whose house-front was studded all over with minute bird-cages. Children swarmed. When the Sheridans were little they were forbidden to set foot there because of the revolting language and of what they might catch. But since they were grown up, Laura and Laurie on their prowls sometimes walked through. It was disgusting and sordid. They came out with a shudder. But still one must go everywhere; one must see everything. So through they went.

"And just think of what the band would sound like to that poor woman," said Laura.

"Oh, Laura!" Jose began to be seriously annoyed. "If you're going to stop a band playing every time some one has an accident, you'll lead a very strenuous life. I'm every bit as sorry about it as you. I feel just as sympathetic." Her eyes hardened. She looked at her sister just as she used to when they were little and fighting together. "You won't bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental," she said softly.

"Drunk! Who said he was drunk?" Laura turned furiously on Jose. She said, just as they had used to say on those occasions, "I'm going straight up to tell mother."

"Do, dear," cooed Jose.

"Mother, can I come into your room?" Laura turned the big glass door-knob.

"Of course, child. Why, what's the matter? What's given you such a colour?" And Mrs. Sheridan turned round from her dressing-table. She was trying on a new hat.

"Mother, a man's been killed," began Laura.

"Not in the garden?" interrupted her mother.

"No, no!"

"Oh, what a fright you gave me!" Mrs. Sheridan sighed with relief, and took off the big hat and held it on her knees.

"But listen, mother," said Laura. Breathless, half-choking, she told the dreadful story. "Of course, we can't have our party, can we?" she pleaded. "The band and everybody arriving. They'd hear us, mother; they're nearly neighbours!"

To Laura's astonishment her mother behaved just like Jose; it was harder to bear because she seemed amused. She refused to take Laura seriously.

"But, my dear child, use your common sense. It's only by accident we've heard of it. If some one had died there normally—and I can't understand how they keep alive in those poky little holes—we should still be having our party, shouldn't we?"

Laura had to say "yes" to that, but she felt it was all wrong. She sat down on her mother's sofa and pinched the cushion frill.

"Mother, isn't it terribly heartless of us?" she asked.

"Darling!" Mrs. Sheridan got up and came over to her, carrying the hat. Before Laura could stop her she had popped it on. "My child!" said her mother, "the hat is yours. It's made for you. It's much too young for me. I have never seen you look such a picture. Look at yourself!" And she held up her hand-mirror.

"But, mother," Laura began again. She couldn't look at herself; she turned aside.

This time Mrs. Sheridan lost patience just as Jose had done.

"You are being very absurd, Laura," she said coldly. "People like that don't expect sacrifices from us. And it's not very sympathetic to spoil everybody's enjoyment as you're doing now."

"I don't understand," said Laura, and she walked quickly out of the room into her own bedroom. There, quite by chance, the first thing she saw was this charming girl in the mirror, in her black hat trimmed with gold daisies, and a long black velvet ribbon. Never had she imagined she could look like that. Is mother right? she thought. And now she hoped her mother was right. Am I being extravagant? Perhaps it was extravagant. Just for a moment she had another glimpse of that poor woman and those little children, and the body being carried into the house. But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper. I'll remember it again after the party's over, she decided. And somehow that seemed quite the best plan...

Lunch was over by half-past one. By half-past two they were all ready for the fray. The green-coated band had arrived and was established in a corner of the tennis-court.

"My dear!" trilled Kitty Maitland, "aren't they too like frogs for words? You ought to have arranged them round the pond with the conductor in the middle on a leaf."

Laurie arrived and hailed them on his way to dress. At the sight of him Laura remembered the accident again. She wanted to tell him. If Laurie agreed with the others, then it was bound to be all right. And she followed him into the hall.


"Hallo!" He was half-way upstairs, but when he turned round and saw Laura he suddenly puffed out his cheeks and goggled his eyes at her. "My word, Laura! You do look stunning," said Laurie. "What an absolutely topping hat!"

Laura said faintly "Is it?" and smiled up at Laurie, and didn't tell him after all.

Soon after that people began coming in streams. The band struck up; the hired waiters ran from the house to the marquee. Wherever you looked there were couples strolling, bending to the flowers, greeting, moving on over the lawn. They were like bright birds that had alighted in the Sheridans' garden for this one afternoon, on their way to—where? Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes.

"Darling Laura, how well you look!"

"What a becoming hat, child!"

"Laura, you look quite Spanish. I've never seen you look so striking."

And Laura, glowing, answered softly, "Have you had tea? Won't you have an ice? The passion-fruit ices really are rather special." She ran to her father and begged him. "Daddy darling, can't the band have something to drink?"

And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed.

"Never a more delightful garden-party... " "The greatest success... " "Quite the most... "

Laura helped her mother with the good-byes. They stood side by side in the porch till it was all over.

"All over, all over, thank heaven," said Mrs. Sheridan. "Round up the others, Laura. Let's go and have some fresh coffee. I'm exhausted. Yes, it's been very successful. But oh, these parties, these parties! Why will you children insist on giving parties!" And they all of them sat down in the deserted marquee.

"Have a sandwich, daddy dear. I wrote the flag."

"Thanks." Mr. Sheridan took a bite and the sandwich was gone. He took another. "I suppose you didn't hear of a beastly accident that happened to-day?" he said.

"My dear," said Mrs. Sheridan, holding up her hand, "we did. It nearly ruined the party. Laura insisted we should put it off."

"Oh, mother!" Laura didn't want to be teased about it.

"It was a horrible affair all the same," said Mr. Sheridan. "The chap was married too. Lived just below in the lane, and leaves a wife and half a dozen kiddies, so they say."

An awkward little silence fell. Mrs. Sheridan fidgeted with her cup. Really, it was very tactless of father...

Suddenly she looked up. There on the table were all those sandwiches, cakes, puffs, all uneaten, all going to be wasted. She had one of her brilliant ideas.

"I know," she said. "Let's make up a basket. Let's send that poor creature some of this perfectly good food. At any rate, it will be the greatest treat for the children. Don't you agree? And she's sure to have neighbours calling in and so on. What a point to have it all ready prepared. Laura!" She jumped up. "Get me the big basket out of the stairs cupboard."

"But, mother, do you really think it's a good idea?" said Laura.

Again, how curious, she seemed to be different from them all. To take scraps from their party. Would the poor woman really like that?

"Of course! What's the matter with you to-day? An hour or two ago you were insisting on us being sympathetic, and now—"

Oh well! Laura ran for the basket. It was filled, it was heaped by her mother.

"Take it yourself, darling," said she. "Run down just as you are. No, wait, take the arum lilies too. People of that class are so impressed by arum lilies."

"The stems will ruin her lace frock," said practical Jose.

So they would. Just in time. "Only the basket, then. And, Laura!"—her mother followed her out of the marquee—"don't on any account—"

"What mother?"

No, better not put such ideas into the child's head! "Nothing! Run along."

It was just growing dusky as Laura shut their garden gates. A big dog ran by like a shadow. The road gleamed white, and down below in the hollow the little cottages were in deep shade. How quiet it seemed after the afternoon. Here she was going down the hill to somewhere where a man lay dead, and she couldn't realize it. Why couldn't she? She stopped a minute. And it seemed to her that kisses, voices, tinkling spoons, laughter, the smell of crushed grass were somehow inside her. She had no room for anything else. How strange! She looked up at the pale sky, and all she thought was, "Yes, it was the most successful party."

Now the broad road was crossed. The lane began, smoky and dark. Women in shawls and men's tweed caps hurried by. Men hung over the palings; the children played in the doorways. A low hum came from the mean little cottages. In some of them there was a flicker of light, and a shadow, crab-like, moved across the window. Laura bent her head and hurried on. She wished now she had put on a coat. How her frock shone! And the big hat with the velvet streamer—if only it was another hat! Were the people looking at her? They must be. It was a mistake to have come; she knew all along it was a mistake. Should she go back even now?

No, too late. This was the house. It must be. A dark knot of people stood outside. Beside the gate an old, old woman with a crutch sat in a chair, watching. She had her feet on a newspaper. The voices stopped as Laura drew near. The group parted. It was as though she was expected, as though they had known she was coming here.

Laura was terribly nervous. Tossing the velvet ribbon over her shoulder, she said to a woman standing by, "Is this Mrs. Scott's house?" and the woman, smiling queerly, said, "It is, my lass."

Oh, to be away from this! She actually said, "Help me, God," as she walked up the tiny path and knocked. To be away from those staring eyes, or to be covered up in anything, one of those women's shawls even. I'll just leave the basket and go, she decided. I shan't even wait for it to be emptied.

Then the door opened. A little woman in black showed in the gloom.

Laura said, "Are you Mrs. Scott?" But to her horror the woman answered, "Walk in please, miss," and she was shut in the passage.

"No," said Laura, "I don't want to come in. I only want to leave this basket. Mother sent—"

The little woman in the gloomy passage seemed not to have heard her. "Step this way, please, miss," she said in an oily voice, and Laura followed her.

She found herself in a wretched little low kitchen, lighted by a smoky lamp. There was a woman sitting before the fire.

"Em," said the little creature who had let her in. "Em! It's a young lady." She turned to Laura. She said meaningly, "I'm 'er sister, miss. You'll excuse 'er, won't you?"

"Oh, but of course!" said Laura. "Please, please don't disturb her. I—I only want to leave—"

But at that moment the woman at the fire turned round. Her face, puffed up, red, with swollen eyes and swollen lips, looked terrible. She seemed as though she couldn't understand why Laura was there. What did it mean? Why was this stranger standing in the kitchen with a basket? What was it all about? And the poor face puckered up again.

"All right, my dear," said the other. "I'll thenk the young lady."

And again she began, "You'll excuse her, miss, I'm sure," and her face, swollen too, tried an oily smile.

Laura only wanted to get out, to get away. She was back in the passage. The door opened. She walked straight through into the bedroom, where the dead man was lying.

"You'd like a look at 'im, wouldn't you?" said Em's sister, and she brushed past Laura over to the bed. "Don't be afraid, my lass,"—and now her voice sounded fond and sly, and fondly she drew down the sheet—"'e looks a picture. There's nothing to show. Come along, my dear."

Laura came.

There lay a young man, fast asleep—sleeping so soundly, so deeply, that he was far, far away from them both. Oh, so remote, so peaceful. He was dreaming. Never wake him up again. His head was sunk in the pillow, his eyes were closed; they were blind under the closed eyelids. He was given up to his dream. What did garden-parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him? He was far from all those things. He was wonderful, beautiful. While they were laughing and while the band was playing, this marvel had come to the lane. Happy... happy... All is well, said that sleeping face. This is just as it should be. I am content.

But all the same you had to cry, and she couldn't go out of the room without saying something to him. Laura gave a loud childish sob.

"Forgive my hat," she said.

And this time she didn't wait for Em's sister. She found her way out of the door, down the path, past all those dark people. At the corner of the lane she met Laurie.

He stepped out of the shadow. "Is that you, Laura?"


"Mother was getting anxious. Was it all right?"

"Yes, quite. Oh, Laurie!" She took his arm, she pressed up against him.

"I say, you're not crying, are you?" asked her brother.

Laura shook her head. She was.

Laurie put his arm round her shoulder. "Don't cry," he said in his warm, loving voice. "Was it awful?"

"No," sobbed Laura. "It was simply marvellous. But Laurie—" She stopped, she looked at her brother. "Isn't life," she stammered, "isn't life—" But what life was she couldn't explain. No matter. He quite understood.

"Isn't it, darling?" said Laurie.


  1. The description of the man’s wake is foreshadowed by Jose’s song in the middle of the story. In particular, her characterization of death as an exit from a “weary” life is picked up again and further developed here. Death has released this man from his weary life and bestowed upon him the peacefulness of sleep. In this way, Mansfield’s characterization of death as sleep subtly refers back to the song and brings its lyrics to fruition.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. This is the moment of Laura’s epiphany. Within her mother’s garden, Laura is protected from the outside world and reality. However, once she ventures out of the garden and confronts death, she must grow up a little. Her epiphany is a confrontation with death in all of its incomprehensibility. She is astounded that, for the deceased man, death is merely a peaceful sleep. This encounter with the mysteries and nuances of reality is the culmination of Laura’s quest in this story.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The word “shade” bears two important meanings in this passage. On a literal level, “shade” refers to shadows and darkness, a visual motif for the population of the working class. On a more literary level, a “shade” is a ghost, a soul in the underworld. This is an important definition here in that Mansfield establishes a powerful allusion to Greek and Roman myths about characters who descend into Hades, or the underworld.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. This unspoken warning from mother to child invokes a literary tradition of myths about the consequences of not obeying one’s mother. Most pertinent among these myths is the Greek story of Persephone. In it, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest and fertility, is kidnapped by Hades while picking flowers. Hades takes her to the underworld and makes her the queen of the dead. Distraught, Demeter curses the land with perpetual winter. Zeus agrees to return Persephone to the land of the living as long as Persephone has not eaten anything in the underworld. Demeter is certain that her daughter will be returned since she had warned the girl never to take food from strangers. Mrs. Sheridan’s attempt to warn Laura before she travels out of the safety of their home invokes this mythological tradition.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. White lilies signify death and one’s ability to regain their lost innocence and purity in death. In many Eastern cultures and in medieval Europe, white is seen as the deepest mourning color. Thus, Mrs. Sheridan wants to send white lilies, literal symbols of death, in order to comfort a grieving widow.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Mrs. Sheridan’s comment is a classed opinion that assumes that her high status grants her superior knowledge of other’s tastes. Her comment here can be read as condescending and dismissive. Mrs. Sheridan may also be making the comment that the lower classes are impressed by arum lilies because they are so white, a color that is not present in the dark and dingy homes below the Sheridan mansion.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Laura’s style of dress during the party represents her unique position in the story. The hat Mrs. Sheridan gives her is a symbol of high class; hats were an important status symbol in British and European society. Yet the hat is black, denoting Laura’s desired movement, or her fascination with, to the lower and working classes. When Laura is accused of looking “quite Spanish,” the compliment—with its suggestion of exoticism—reveals Laura’s outsider status.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Arum lilies are bright white flowers with a large, cone-shaped petal. There is a yellow pestle in the middle of the flower. The other lilies mentioned earlier in this story were calla lilies, which are flowers of the same family that exhibit bright colors such as yellow, purple, and orange.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Characterizing this idea as only “one of” many brilliant ideas suggests that Mrs. Sheridan is the head of this family. Throughout the story, she is depicted as commanding everyone in the house and her family, and here she is shown to orchestrate the family’s relationship with the outside world as well.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. This comment contains a veiled double meaning. On the surface, the adjective “becoming” simply means “proper” or “stylish.” The hat, however, subtly marks a shift in Laura’s trajectory as a character. In a sense, Laura is in a state of “becoming.” As the story unfolds, Laura becomes a more mature and conscientious version of herself.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. The newspaper represents the events of the real world outside the idyllic space of the Sheridan household. Laura’s “blurred” perspective of the newspaper illustrates her naïve understanding of the outside world. The motif of the newspaper reappears again after Laura descends into the reality of the working class cottages.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. “Poky” is an outdated term that means “cramped” or “shabby.” Mrs. Sheridan’s comment reveals a disdain and lack of empathy for the working classes. The description of their homes as “holes” is dehumanizing in its suggestion that cottages are like animal lairs dug into the ground.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Mrs. Sheridan chooses Laura to help bid her guests goodbye. This signifies the connection between Laura and her mother: she is the chosen youth, or favorite child, of the matriarch.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Careful readers will notice the shift to present tense in this selection. This shift informs us that we are hearing Laura’s own thoughts. This accomplishes a couple of things: first, it establishes Laura as the main character of the story; second, it establishes early on that Mansfield will fluidly transition between character thoughts and narrative exposition.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Contrary to the natural flowers that have been thus far described in the story, the “gold daisies” of this hat take on an artificial and dazzling quality. When Laura wears the hat, she becomes both one with the garden and distinct from it. Since gold is symbolic of wealth and power, this could be Mrs. Sheridan crowing Laura with power over the garden. This metaphorical crowning represents the close relationship between Mrs. Sheridan and Laura.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Jose’s comment reveals the prejudice she holds against working-class people. She fabricates the man’s drunkenness, passing it off as if it were fact and subtly shifting the responsibility for the accident onto the man. Jose is playing on a stereotype that working-class people are more prone to alcoholism. Jose’s comments ultimately reveal her own close-minded nature.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. The word “sacrifice” is interesting here. “Sacrifice” invokes the ritualistic offering to the gods as a form of praise to a higher power. In using this word, Mrs. Sheridan symbolically aligns the upper classes with deities: they are the ones to whom things are sacrificed; they do not make sacrifices themselves.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. This passage at the end of the description of the cottage row represents an example of free, indirect speech in which the source of the narrative voice becomes unclear. The narration briefly steps away from the story, yet it does not appear to express Laura’s voice. The sentence is prescriptive, a sort of broad platitude.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. Mansfield uses metaphorical language to separate the living conditions of the working class from those of the upper classes. The metaphors double as examples of metonymy in that the objects used to describe the smoke emerging from rich and poor houses are domestic in nature. The smoke from the cottages is like “little rags and shreds,” indicating poverty, while the Sheridan’s smoke is “silvery,” silver being a token of wealth. Since rags are used to clean and polish silver this metaphor also maps directly onto the hierarchical relationship between the rich and the poor.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. By this, Mrs. Sheridan means “what has made you so pale?” Paleness, or “colour,” in this context signifies distress of some nature. Mrs. Sheridan is asking Laura why she looks upset.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. This passage represents an example of free indirect speech, a style of narration Mansfield employs often. It is a style in which the voice of the character and that of the third-person narrator become merged. While the thought “that really was extravagant” is part of the narration, it really belongs to Laura. In such moments, the narration slips into the character’s mind, narrating her consciousness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. “Cabbage” is historically a famine or poverty food. Famine food is any inexpensive and readily available food that can offer nutrients to poor residents during times of starvation, famine, or extreme poverty. These foods are associated with hardship and social stigma. While the Sheridan’s garden is populated with delicate, symbolic flowers, this garden grows only famine food.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. The use of the word “extravagant” is quite telling. It comes from the Latin root “vagari,” which means “to wander” or “to roam.” The prefix “extra” denotes “outside.” Extravagant is thus an ideal description of Laura throughout the story. Laura’s role in the story is to be the one who “wanders outside” the garden, literally and figuratively.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. Laura doesn’t complete her final thought in the story, which suggests that she has had such an intense experience with death that she cannot formulate any conclusive statement about life. Instead, she and Laurie share a mutual understanding about the experience: the nature of life and death is so complicated that it cannot actually be put into words.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. Notice the sharp contrast between the “gardens” of the poor houses and the decadence of the Sheridan’s garden. While the narrator spends a lot of time describing the flowers in the Sheridan’s garden, the description here focuses on the lack of beauty in these places. “Sick hens,” “tomato cans,” and “cabbage” are all indicative of scarcity. There is no abundance here.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Mrs. Sheridan was getting anxious about her daughter and sent Laurie to retrieve Laura. If we look to Greek and Roman myth one final time, we can view Laurie as an embodiment of Hermes, the messenger god and guide to the underworld. In the Persephone myth, Hermes is tasked with retrieving Persephone from the underworld and returning her to her worried mother, Demeter. This comparison brings both stories to a similar ending as Laura/Persephone leaves the underworld with a new relationship with, and understanding of, death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  27. Jose cannot understand why Laura would think of canceling the party on behalf of a dead man from the lower class. This haughty opinion signals Jose’s classist mentality. She believes that their high-class position relieves them of social obligation to those beneath them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. In this moment of epiphany, many of the story’s elements come together to reveal the result of Laura’s journey: her identification with the widow, her admiration of the dead man, her mother’s garden, and her association with Greek-and-Roman myth. If we build on these moments and analyses, then it’s possible to see the scene as an allusion the Persephone myth, in which Persephone becomes Hades’s bride. Laura’s quest into the “underworld” brings her a level comfort with death: in essence, Laura becomes “wedded” to a new understanding of life and death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  29. Mansfield again characterizes Laura as compassionate and empathetic. She places herself in the shoes of someone who has lost their loved one and acknowledges that it would be difficult to hear the sounds of celebration in such a difficult time. Mansfield appears to ask the reader to question whether Laura is being “extravagant” or simply being thoughtful.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. Canna lilies also symbolize rebirth or resurrection. In the Christian tradition, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter three days after his crucifixion. Canna lilies bloom around Easter and are shaped like trumpets making them symbols of triumph and celebration. In stating that she will “finally have enough canna lilies,” Mrs. Sheridan could be drawing on this symbolic resonance: the flowers become a symbol of both the celebratory nature of the party and the distancing of death. In a garden full of robust flowers that symbolize rebirth, death and gloom have no place.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. Here, we see that Em’s sister persuades Laura to look at the body. The adjective “sly” has connotations of ingenuity as well as deceitfulness. While on the surface we have little reason to believe that Em’s sister is trying to trick Laura, we can return to Greek and Roman mythology for a potential explanation. In the Persephone myth, she is tricked into eating pomegranate seeds and therefore bound to the underworld. Perhaps this instance parallels a similar story, in which Laura is tricked into seeing the body and forever bound to a new understanding of death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  32. When used as an adjective in this way, “oily” means that the person is being excessively compliant in speech or manners. In other words, she is trying to be so charming that it comes across as excessively flattering.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  33. While Laura sympathizes with the people in the “little cottages” she also expresses the belief that the cottages “were far too near.” Laura then goes onto say that these houses “were the greatest possible eyesore” and even denies their right to exist in the neighborhood “at all.” Since the description of the “dwellings” indicates that the people living in the cottages are of the working-class, Laura’s comments here are incredibly classist.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. Notice that these flowers are characterized as “radiant,” “frighteningly alive,” and having “crimson stems.” The robustness of the flowers underscores the liveliness of the setting and the initial personification of the flowers in the story. Their crimson stems create imagery that makes the flowers seem as though they are full of blood and therefore life-like.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  35. Additionally, if we consider the “old, old woman” as Laura’s guide and recall the parallels between Aeneas (from Virgil’s Aeneid), then the woman possibly represents Aeneas’s guide, Sybil. In Sybil’s cave, oracles and prophecies are written on leaves that blow around the ground. Newspapers represent information and, in a way, prophecies. The old woman’s standing on the newspaper then could be seen as another parallel between the story of Aeneas and Laura’s own journey.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  36. Lilies, like daisies, are symbolic of innocence and purity. In Greek and Roman mythology, they were believed to have been born out of Hera’s spilled milk. The flowers were so beautiful that jealous Venus inserted an ugly pistil into the middle of them to distract from their beauty. These delicate flowers are white, purple, red, and often associated with springtime.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  37. Laura is “horrified” upon hearing the news of the man’s death and immediately assumes that the entire garden party must be stopped. On the one hand, Laura’s hasty reaction emphasizes her youth, but on the other hand, it underscores her empathetic nature. Laura feels a connection with the people in the “little cottages” and, in some ways, is the only person who treats them with compassion and respect in this trying time. Her youth may be exemplified here, but her reaction to this situation actually seems more appropriate than that of the adults who surround her.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  38. This ancient woman is one of the few people who speak to Laura in this place. If we continue to read this story through the lens of the Greek-and-Roman journey to the underworld, then Laura, like other heroes before her, needs a guide. This woman provides that role by confirming Laura’s inquiry about the location of Mrs. Scott.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  39. Up until this point, the preparations for the garden party have been simply idyllic. All has gone according to plan, the weather is beautiful, and the party is shaping up to be splendid. However the death of this man casts a shadow on the Sheridan’s perfect garden party, and this eerie and surprising declaration foreshadows events to come.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  40. Similar to the brightness of her frock, Laura’s big hat causes her to stand out. If we recall that the black hat is trimmed with gold daisies, then we can also look to Greek and Roman myth for another symbolic purpose of this item. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas requires the golden bough (a branch from a sacred tree) for passage into the underworld. The daisies on Laura’s hat are also gold, which further emphasizes this connection between Laura’s hat and her passage to the underworld.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  41. Notice that Mrs. Sheridan mostly speaks in imperatives. She assumes an authoritative quality and appears to control everything. What is interesting about this command is that it comes from a disembodied voice that floats down from above. These qualities further the supernatural elements of the story; it is as if Mrs. Sheridan has the ultimate power and authority to manipulate all of the pieces of this event.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  42. While her frock is likely of high quality and cleaner than other clothes in this area, we can also read this as further evidence that Laura’s journey leads her into the land of the dead. In Greek and Roman mythology, mortals who venture to the underworld shine in comparison to the dead. Laura has brought vibrancy and life with her to this place, which causes her to stand out.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  43. A “squiz” is a slang term in New Zealand and Australia for a look or glance. The use of this vernacular signals to the audience that the story is set in New Zealand.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  44. Sadie’s immediate reaction to the florist’s arrival is to ask Mrs. Sheridan for guidance despite Mrs. Sheridan’s declaration that she will leave the arrangements for the children. Mansfield again emphasizes Mrs. Sheridan’s authority here. Although Sadie could supposedly ask Laura for direction, the careful reader might notice that Mrs. Sheridan’s input is the ultimate decider. Mrs. Sheridan’s powerful presence looms over her children, regardless of her proclaimed desire to be treated as merely “an honoured guest.”

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  45. A “pale” is a wooden stake or post. When enough pales stand next to each other in a line, they form a “paling,” or a type of fence. Without other ways to support the pales, such as using horizontal plinths, this type of fence is of low quality and construction, which likely speaks to why Mansfield uses it in this passage: the palings emphasize the poverty in this area.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  46. Notice that the house is described as “alive with soft, quick steps and running voices” and that the “little faint winds [are] playing chase.” Mansfield uses personification to give the story a mystical, supernatural tone. Further, Mansfield’s imagery of the change in the air is both literal and figurative, foreshadowing a future turn of events in the narrative.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  47. Jose’s song represents an interesting shift in tone. The lyrics are somber, introducing a tone that contrasts the pleasant mood of the garden party. The operative word in the song is “weary,” which is most often used to describe people in a state of fatigue. “This life” refers to the upper-class life of the Sheridans, which is “weary” in the sense that Laura is bored of it, ready to move beyond its boundaries—one of the story’s central themes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  48. Laura’s surprise that this workman cares about the scent of the flower demonstrates both her distance from the natural world and her distance from the minds of common people. Paying attention to a flower does not occur to her or the people who visit her house. The tone of this statement also communicates a type of superiority since Laura is surprised that this man has the curiosity or interest in the flower.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  49. This short, abrupt sentence conveys a powerful moment. Crossings represent a transition from one place to another. On one level, this short, strong statement emphasizes Laura’s leaving her own comfort zone. However, building on previous evidence we can read this on another level. If we recall the shift in tone and the presence of the large dog, then this road likely alludes to the River Styx from Greek and Roman mythology, which when crossed, represents a transition to the land of the dead.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  50. A “veranda” is a roofed platform along the outside of the ground-level of a home, like a porch. Typically, a veranda is only partially enclosed, often with a latticed roof. Latticed verandas are still quite popular today, and they continue to feature prominently in the Victorian-style architecture of New Zealand (where this short-story is set) among other places.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  51. Baize is coarse woolen material used for curtains and furniture lining. In this case, the door would have been covered with baize, a common design in that time.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  52. Lavender has been imbued with heavy symbolism throughout history. Romans and Egyptians used it for its antiseptic qualities and pungent fragrance. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, people used the plant to ward away evil and protect the living from disease. Biblical tradition claims that it is the only plant that Adam and Eve brought with them from the Garden of Eden, and that its smell came from Jesus’s robes. The workman's fascination with the plant demonstrates his connection to the earth and could symbolize his belief in the supernatural power of the plant.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  53. Laura is extremely aware of the “absurd class distinctions” that govern her society, but she denies that they have any tangible effect on her. Laura’s denial here underscores her youth and naivety. She refuses to acknowledge that her social reality has the capacity to alter her own perception and operates as if she can be exempt from the influence of her society.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  54. Laura reveals her romantic view of the world in this characterization of the trees on a desert island. She imagines that they are similar to people: “proud”and “solitary,” “splendid.” This romantic vision demonstrates Laura’s separation from reality and relative naivety.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  55. If we build on the idea that Laura has left the land of light and life for one of shadow and death, then the presence of a large dog immediately calls to mind a key figure from Greek and Roman mythology: Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the gates to the underworld. Further allusions to Greek and Roman mythology arise during Laura’s journey, representing strong evidence that her tale extends beyond a mere quest.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  56. Laura’s reflection that she doesn’t feel “these absurd class distinctions” reveals the peculiarity of her position. She is a member of the upper class, and yet makes an effort to understand and cross the boundaries of class. Thus her statement is true and untrue. It is true in that she does not subscribe to or respect the distinctions between the upper and working classes. She is deluded in thinking that she does not “feel them.” She surely does, as illustrated by the puzzlement she experiences in her interactions with the workers. Laura’s attempt to dissolve class boundaries is one of the story’s central themes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  57. This sentence marks a massive transition in the tone of the story by introducing darker, more muted elements as the day comes to a close. In this paragraph alone we see words such as “dusky,” “shadow,” “shade,” and “pale,” all words that represent an absence of vibrance, color, and life. The transition is so strong that it’s as if Laura were leaving the land of the living behind her and venturing into the realm of the dead.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  58. Laura notes the “yellow” fruit here to add to the characterization of the setting as a shining, summer garden. The presence of fruit and bright colors furthers the perfection of the garden party’s setting.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  59. Since Laura and Jose have already had an argument about the party, calling Jose “practical” further illustrates the differences between these two sisters: Laura is the “artistic” and romantic one while Jose is “practical” and plain. On a deeper level, Jose is Laura’s conventional counterpart, unable to see beyond the confined perspectives offered by her family and society. Laura’s “artistic” temperament puts her in a position to question her culture and surroundings. Her questioning leads her out of the garden and out of a state of innocence.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  60. The adjective “lanky” means “awkwardly" or "ungracefully long and lean.” As the tallest of the men that Laura encounters here, this man might seem somewhat intimidating to Laura at first glance. However, Mansfield characterizes this “freckled fellow” as “friendly,” and his smile puts Laura at ease.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  61. A karaka tree is a type of evergreen indigenous to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Its dark green, leathery leaves have a leafy canopy quality and a stout trunk. The tree is known mostly for its bright-yellow fruit which ripens in the summer and autumn. The fruit contains one seed which is extremely poisonous when eaten raw. Victims of the karakin poison convulse so badly that they can become physically disabled or paralyzed.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  62. Mansfield adds an additional layer to the set of distinctions between the working classes and upper classes. The word “haggard” comes from Old French and literally means “wild.” There is something earthy and untamed about the workingmen. The return of the “dark eyes” reiterates the light-versus-dark symbolism. It is most notable that, despite her efforts, there is a chasm between Laura and the man; she cannot read him. “What was he thinking?” she wonders to herself.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  63. Mansfield’s narrator depicts the perfection of the afternoon through the metaphor of a flower that blooms in all its splendor and finally closes its petals. In addition to the flower imagery aptly suiting the garden party, Mansfield’s choice here suggests that perfection is fleeting and that beauty is temporary.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  64. Notice that the workers do not approve of the lily-lawn as the proper location for the Marquee. Lilies are symbolic for innocence and purity. It is possible that the lawn is not “conspicuous,” or visibly obvious, enough for the marquee because the natural backdrop, lilies, is not strong enough to be eye-catching. They choose a large, imposing tree instead of a soft, inviting lawn.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  65. Mansfield uses this colloquial phrase to show how class distinctions play out on the level of speech. For the marquee to give someone “a bang slap in the eye” is for it to be featured prominently, to be well in view. The phrase “bang slap in the eye” is inexact and carries a crude tone, causing Laura to react with mild alarm. It is interesting that Laura understands the worker nonetheless: “she did quite follow him.” The phrase is ultimately effective, and Laura’s willingness to “follow him” bespeaks her keen interest in the working class.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  66. Passion fruit is an edible fruit of the passion flower, which is grown in tropical locations around the world. In addition to the use of “squiz” earlier, the presence of passion fruit further suggests that the story is set in New Zealand.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  67. A “lily-lawn” is presumably a lawn that is covered in white, yellow, and red lilies. Notice that Mrs. Sheridan orders lots of flowers and has a garden full of the very flowers that she orders. The presence of these flowers represents an abundance of growth, life, and beauty. It paints the Sheridan’s house as a world of edenic perfection.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  68. Much like the last line in the passage above, here Laura reveals her enthusiasm for being perceived as an adult. However, this line works on a few levels. On the surface, Laura’s copying of her mother is an attempt at stepping into the role of an adult, which feels silly and childlike in itself for Laura. On another level, she is also trying to assume a new, more dominant role, which she realizes that she in not ready for. Her stammering in the following sentence indicates the lack of confidence she currently has in such a role. Mansfield further emphasizes Laura’s conflicting position: she is not a child, but not yet an adult.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  69. The class distinctions in the story are expressed through the symbolic contrast of light and dark. The environs of the Sheridan home are bright and light, echoing the perfect clarity of the day, while the cluster of cottages that house the working classes, is cloaked in shadows and darkness. That darkness appears in the workman’s “dark blue” eye. That Laura admires his eye illustrates her desire to cross class boundaries, to explore the darkness beyond her upper-class world.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  70. Having seen all the planning and preparation that happens to orchestrate this party, we can now examine how the guests are behaving in Mrs. Sheridan’s garden. First, they walk about in couples, which suggests that they have romantically paired off. Second, they bend to the flowers, which we associate with beauty, fertility, and growth. With these two readings in mind, we can perhaps view Mrs. Sheridan’s garden party as more than a simple gathering; it is an opportunity for people to meet and marry and Mrs. Sheridan to play matchmaker.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  71. “Turban” in this context refers to a headdress worn by upper-class European and American women during the late 18th and early 19th century. It was supposed to resemble headdresses worn by women in Asia and can be read as a sign of colonial influences on upper-class culture.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  72. “Maitland” is one of the few surnames mentioned in the story. Interestingly, the name likely comes from Anglo-Norman French "maltalent," or "mautalent," meaning "bad temper." Since Kitty Maitland arrives on the scene and immediately makes some petty complaints, this surname selection is appropriate.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  73. The narrator describes Meg’s wet curls stamped on each cheek to create a two-dimensional image; Meg’s hair is flattened onto the plane of her face. Coupled with the lavish images of coffee and her bright turban, the two-dimensional quality of this description likens Meg to a subject depicted before perspectivism was invented, such as figures on an ancient urn or in a medieval portrait. This quality adds to the idyllic nature of the day and the god-like quality of these aristocrats.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  74. One characteristic which separates the working-class men from the upper-class Sheridans is the nature of their work. The workmen perform physical labor and possess an accompanying quality of robustness that Mansfield and, in turn, Laura points out. One of the primary themes of the story is the crossing of class boundaries. Laura does so here in her acknowledgement of the “impressive[ness]” of the workmen.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  75. Laura’s attempts to look more “severe” and “even a little bit short-sighted” around the working-class men reveals her desire to be viewed as sophisticated and mature. At around the age of sixteen, Laura wants to be taken seriously, but she is still young. Mansfield uses telling details like this to give us a closer look into the mind of Laura and her growth as an individual on the edge of adulthood.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  76. A “chock” is a short hollow sound produced by hammering. It is also an example of onomatopoeia, or a word that has been formed to imitate the sound it makes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  77. A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment, a kind of silk robe. The appearance of the kimono speaks to the wealth of the Sheridan family, who can afford to clothe themselves in luxury goods. The kimono also points to the colonial backdrop of the story, which takes place in the British colony of New Zealand among people of English origin. Mansfield herself, who was born and raised in New Zealand, had grandparents from England. Items like the kimono reveal the breadth and power of the British empire’s networks of trade and colonial rule.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  78. The sudden appearance of these roses suggests that even nature responds to the needs of this party. In personifying these roses as understanding their fashionable and widely known nature, the narrator suggests that the roses are more part of the world in which this party takes place than they are of an indifferent natural world.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  79. A “petticoat” is a close-fitting undercoat, usually worn under a doublet and over a shirt. The fact that the petticoat is made of silk is indicative of Jose’s, and the Sheridan family’s, wealth and status, since silk was very costly.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  80. The reference to archangels places the garden in the context of Christian theology. This passage could allude to the the Garden of Eden, where according to the Book of Genesis, humanity lived briefly in a state of innocence and grace. After learning of sexuality and mortality, the humans are expelled and forced to live in the real world. In “The Garden Party,” Laura’s journey may reflect such themes of innocence lost and the necessary departure into the darkness and ambiguity of the world. Finally, regardless of any allusion, the suggestion that the garden has been visited by archangels further adds to the supernatural beauty of the garden.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  81. Mansfield uses flowers in this opening passage to describe the setting and lay the foundations for many themes within the story. Throughout the story, she will continue to use flowers for their appearance and their metaphorical significance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  82. The story opens with a line of perfect iambic pentameter, which establishes a tone of order and perfection. This would have been a calculated move by Mansfield, a prolific poet as well as short story writer.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  83. In Greek mythology, the goddess Chloris created the rose when she happened upon the body of a dead nymph in the woods. Chloris turned the nymph into a rose, then asked Aphrodite to bless the flower with beauty and Bacchus to imbue it with a special nectar that would make it smell sweet. The god of the West Wind, Zephyrus, blew away the clouds and Apollo let the sun shine on the flower to make it bloom. Because of all the divine intervention this flower received, it is known as the Queen of the Flowers.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  84. Notice that the presence of these roses suggests that there is a supernatural quality to this garden. The roses are not only personified to understand their own beauty, but also seem to appear overnight as if called by a god. Again, the presence of the flowers suggest that there is more to this story than what lies on the surface.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  85. A “marquee” is a large tent that it often used for social and commercial functions. Today, one might see marquees at outdoor wedding ceremonies, conventions, or festivals. This detail subtly informs the reader of the Sheridan’s socioeconomic status, as during this time, marquees would have been used for social gatherings of middle to upper-class individuals.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  86. Mansfield’s description of the weather as “ideal,” the day as “windless [and] warm,” and “the sky without a cloud,” creates a fantastical, whimsical tone. The setting for the garden party is almost too idyllic. The ethereal imagery suggests from the very beginning that the story will have a mystical element.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  87. Daisies are symbolic of innocence and purity. In Celtic mythology it was believed that god sprinkled the flowers over the earth when a child died in order to cheer up the child’s parents. As it is a flower that blooms all year round, it is also a symbol of immortality. The presence of daisies in the garden suggests that there is a dark undercurrent to all of the joy and perfection that make up this setting.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  88. “Rosettes” are garden ornaments that are carved, painted, or moulded to resemble a rose. In this context, the rosettes are plates on which potted daisies are placed. Notice that roses are so prevalent in this garden that they even ornament the other flowers that are present.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff