The Reading Life Katherine Mansfield Project
"Two Tuppenny Ones, Please" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) was first published in 1917 and was republished in an anthology of her work, Something Childish and Other Stories, edited by her husband, John Middleton Murray in 1924. "Two Tuppeny Ones, Please" is narrated in a very interesting way that spotlights another aspect of the great talent of Mansfield, her ability to beautifully and brilliantly convey plot action and character through dialogue. The story is written as if it were a small play with two characters, a lady and her friend. This was back in the day when to refer to a woman as a "lady" meant she was of upper social standing with a bit of money.
All of the action of this very short work takes places on a public bus. The primary speaker, Linda, feels obligated to explain to a friend who has just gotten on the bus why she is taking public transportation. There really is a lot in these few lines:
LADY: Yes, there is, dear; there's plenty of room. If the lady next to me would move her seat and sit opposite. … Would you mind? So that my friend may sit next to me. … Thank you so much! Yes, dear, both the cars on war work; I'm getting quite used to 'buses. Of course, if we go to the theatre, I 'phone Cynthia. She's still got one car. Her chauffeur's been called up. … Ages ago. … Killed by now, I think. I can't quite remember. I don't like her new man at all. I don't mind taking any reasonable risk, but he's so obstinate—he charges everything he sees. Heaven alone knows what would happen if he rushed into something that wouldn't swerve aside. But the poor creature's got a withered arm, and something the matter with one of his feet, I believe she told me. I suppose that's what makes him so careless. I mean—well! … Don't you know! …