Katherine Mansfield, an outstanding English short-story writer of the 20th century, was born in New Zealand in 1888 and died in 1923. She is the author of a number of excellent short stories which deal with human nature and psychology.
At the age of eighteen she decided to become a professional writer. Her first short stories appeared in Melbourne in 1907, but literary fame came to her in London after the publication of a collection of short stories called “In a German Pension”.
Katherine Mansfield took a great interest in Russian literature, particularly in the works of Chekhov. In fact, she considered herself to be a pupil of the great Russian writer.
Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. She was young, brilliant, extremely modern, well dressed and amazingly well read in the newest of the new books. Rosemary had been married two years, and her husband was very fond of her. They were rich, really rich, not just comfortably well-off, so if Rosemary wanted to shop, she would go to Paris as you and I would go to Bond Street.
One winter afternoon she went into a small shop to look at a little box which the shopman had been keeping for her. He had shown it to nobody as yet so that she might be the first to see it.
“Charming!” Rosemary admired the box. But how much would he charge her for it? For a moment the shopman did not seem to hear. The lady could certainly afford a high price. Then his words reached her, “Twenty-eight guineas, madam.”
“Twenty-eight guineas.” Rosemary gave no sign. Even if one is rich… Her voice was dreamy as she answered: “Well, keep it for me, will you? I’ll…” The shopman bowed. He would be willing of course, to keep it for her forever.
Outside rain was falling, there was a cold, bitter taste in the air, and the newly lighted lamps looked sad… At that very moment a young girl, thin, dark, appeared at Rosemary’s
elbow and a voice, like a sigh, breathed: “Madam, may I speak to you a moment?”
“Speak to me?” Rosemary turned. She saw a little creature, no older than herself who shivered as though she had just come out of the water.
“Madam,” came the voice, “would you let me have the price of a cup of tea?”
“A cup of tea?” There was something simple, sincere in that voice; it couldn’t be the voice of a beggar. “Then have you no money at all?” asked Rosemary. “None, madam”, came the answer. “How unusual!” Rosemary looked at the girl closer. And suddenly it seemed to her such an adventure. Supposing she took the girl home? Supposing she did one of those things she was always reading about or seeing on the stage? What would happen? It would be thrilling. And she heard herself saying afterwards to the amazement of her friends: “I simply took her home with me.” And she stepped forward and said to the girl beside her: “Come home to tea with me.”
The girl gave a start. “You’re – you’re not taking me to the police station?” There was pain in her voice.
“The police station!” Rosemary laughed out. “Why should I be so cruel? No, I only want to make you warm and to hear – anything you care to tell me. Come along.”
Hungry people are easily led. The footman held the door of the car open, and a moment later they were riding through the dusk.
“There!” cried Rosemary, as they reached her beautiful big bedroom. “Come and sit down”, she said, pulling her big chair up to the fire. “Come and get warm. You look so terribly cold.”
“I daren’t, madam,” hesitated the girl.
“Oh, please,” – Rosemary ran forward – “you mustn’t be frightened, you mustn’t, really.