Summary of “The Little Girl” by Katherine Mansfield
The little girl always considered her father a figure to be scared of. She used to be greatly relieved when her father left for work after kissing her goodbye. The noise of the carriage getting fainter and fainter pleased her. She stood near the staircase when her father returned home in the evening. Mother used to ask her to come down and take off her father’s boots. By the time she would slowly slip down the stairs, and walk even more slowly across the hall and push open the drawing-room door, her father had his spectacles on and looked at her in a way that terrified her.
Upon being asked by her father if she had been a good girl, her response was “I d-d-don’t know, Father”. She stuttered in front of her father out of sheer fear, which made her father think that she needed to be taken to the doctor. She was trying too hard to say the words properly. Her father then asked her to take the teacup back to the table carefully. Her father was big, like a giant.
On Sunday afternoons, she was sent to the drawing-room to have a nice talk with mother and father. But her mother was always reading whenever she went down to talk. And her father was always found stretched out on the sofa with his handkerchief on his face, his feet on one of the best cushions, sleeping, and snoring. So, she sat on a stool and watched him until he woke up and asked the time and then looked at her. Hea asked Kezia not to stare at him.
One day her grandmother told her that father’s birthday was next week and advised her to make him a pin-cushion for a gift. The little girl somehow stitched three sides with a double cotton. But she wasn’t sure what to fill it with. Grandmother was out in the garden. So, she went into Mother’s bedroom to look for some scraps. She found many sheets of fine paper on the bed-table. She gathered them, tore them into tiny pieces and stuffed her in the case and finally, stitched the fourth side. Little did she know that it was her father’s great speech for the Port Authority. The rooms were being searched and, finally, Mother came to Kezia’s room to ask her if she had seen some papers on the table in their room. She frankly responded that she tore them up for her father’s birthday surprise. Her mother was furious and she dragged her down to where her Father was walking to and fro with his hands behind his back. Mother explained everything to Father and he demanded that the child’s put to bed on that very instant.
She cried too much to explain everything to her father but then as she lay in the shadowed room watching the evening light make the patterns on the floor, her father came into the room with a ruler in his hands. He said that he was going to punish her for her mistake by beating her with the ruler. The little girl cried out and tried to hide under the bedclothes but he pulled her aside and ordered her to sit up and hold out her hands. He said that she needed to be taught not to touch things that do not belong to her. She couldn’t make him understand that it was for his birthday.
After a few hours, when Grandmother wrapped her in a shawl and rocked her in her rocking chair, she desperately clung to her soft body. She sobbed and asked her grandmother why God made fathers at all. Grandmother consoled her and advised her to go to sleep but Kezia could not let it go. Next time when she saw her father, she put both her hands behind her back and a red color flew into her cheeks.
The Macdonalds lived next door and had five children. Kezia saw them playing ‘tag’ in the evening. The father put baby Mao on his shoulders and two little girls hung on to his coat pockets and ran round and round the flower-beds. They all shared a common laughter throughout. Once she saw the boys turn the hose on him and he tried to catch them laughing. After seeing this, Kezia figured that there were different types of fathers.
One day, MOther became ill and she and Grandmother had to go to the hospital. Kezia was left alone in the house with the cook. She was okay during the daytime but when she was put to bed, she suddenly grew afraid, She was scared that she might have nightmares. When she had nightmares, Grandmother took her to her bed and let her sleep with her. But she wasn’t there now. Kezia couldn’t stay in the dark alone. Alice advised her to go to sleep and asked her not to scream and wake up her father.
But she had the same nightmare again. The butcher with a knife and a rope came nearer and nearer to her and smiled a frightful smile, while she couldn’t move at all. She could only stand still and cry for help from Grandma. She woke up shivering and saw her father beside her bed with a candle in his hand.
He lives Kezia up in his arms and carried her along the passage to the big room. He put away the newspaper that was on the bed and carefully tucked her up. He lay next to Kezia and she crept close to him, snuggled her head under his arm and cling tightly to his shirt. It didn’t matter that it was dark, she lay still beside her father.
Father advised her to rub her feet against his legs and get warm. Her father was tired. So, he dozed off before Kezia. A funny feeling came over her as she thought that father was not so big after all- with no one to look after him. He was not as soft as Grandmother but the hardness was nice. Every day he had to work and eventually got tired. She felt bad that she tore up all his writing. She stirred and sighed. Her father noticed this and asked her if she was having another nightmare. But the little girl responded that her head is on his heart and she could hear it beating. She told her father that he has got a big heart.