Something childish but very natural

August 22, 2010

She looked startled. ‘Take off my hat?’

‘Yes–it’s your hair, I’d give anything to see your hair properly.’

She protested. ‘It isn’t really…’

‘Oh it is,’ cried Henry, and then, as she took off the hat and gave her head a little toss, ‘Oh, Edna! it’s the loveliest thing in the world.’

‘Do you like it?’ she said, smiling and very pleased. She pulled it round her shoulders like a cape of gold. ‘People generally laugh at it. It’s such an absurd colour.’ But Henry would not believe that. She leaned her elbows on her knees and cupped her chin in her hands. ‘That’s how I often sit when I’m angry and then I feel it burning me up. …Silly?’

‘No, no, not a bit,’ said Henry. ‘I knew you did. It’s your sort of weapon against all the dull horrid things.’

‘However did you know that? Yes, that’s just it. But however did you know?’

‘Just knew,’ smiled Henry. ‘My God!’ he cried, ‘what fools people are! All the little pollies that you know and that I know. Just look at you and me. Here we are—that’s all there is to be said. I know about you and you know about me—we’ve just found each other—quite simply—just by being natural. That’s all life is—something childish and very natural. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes—yes,’ she said eagerly. ‘That’s what I’ve always thought.’

‘It’s people that make things so—silly. As long as you can keep away from them you’re safe and you’re happy.’

‘Oh, I’ve thought that for a long time.’

‘Then you’re just like me,’ said Henry. The wonder of that was so great that he almost wanted to cry. Instead he said very solemnly: ‘I believe we’re the only two people alive who think as we do. In fact, I’m sure of it. Nobody understands me. I feel as though I were living in a world of strange beings—do you?’


‘We’ll be in that loathsome tunnel again in a minute,’ said Henry. ‘Edna! can I—just touch your hair?’

She drew back quickly. ‘Oh no, please don’t,’ and as they were going into the dark she moved a little away from him.

Katherine Mansfield, ‘Something Childish But Very Natural’, Selected Stories, London: Oxford U P, 1959: 8-9.

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