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
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
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
“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
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
“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?”
“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
“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
“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.’”
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
A Love that Chan-ges,
Life is Wee-ary,
A Love that Chan-ges,
But at the word “Good-bye,”
and although the piano sounded more desperate than
ever, her face broke into a brilliant, dreadfully
“Aren’t I in good voice, mummy?”
“This Life is
Hope comes to
But now Sadie interrupted them. “What is
“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.”
“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?”
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
“Yes, of course, olive.
What a horrible combination it sounds. Egg and
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, 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
“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
“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.
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“Mother, a man’s been killed,” began
“Not in the garden?” interrupted her mother.
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
Laura said faintly “Is it?”
and smiled up at Laurie, and didn’t tell him
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
“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
Laura helped her mother with the good-byes.
They stood side by side in the porch till it was all
“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
“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?”
“My dear,” said Mrs. Sheridan,
holding up her hand, “we did. It nearly
ruined the party. Laura insisted we should put
“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
“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-
No, better not put such ideas into
the child’s head! “Nothing! Run
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
“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
“All right, my dear,”
said the other. “I’ll thenk the young
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.”
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
“Mother was getting anxious. Was it all
“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.