The Katherine Mansfield Reading Life Project
"The Black Cap" by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1823-New Zealand) was first published in 1917 and republished in a collection of her work, Something Childish and Other Stories, edited by her husband John Middleton Murry in 1924.
As "The Black Cap" opens we are presented with a conversation between a wife and her husband involving the wife's plans to make a trip of a few days to a distant city to get some dental work done. The wife is trying to mask her excitement over her trip by going over routine household matters with her husband. We can see that their relationship has settled into a routine. The wife is upset because her husband continues to read the newspaper even though she will shortly be leaving for her trip. I found the conversation very well done and quite believable:
He. You haven't got too much time if you want to catch that train.
She. I know. I'm going. (In a changed tone.) Darling, don't let us part like this. It makes me feel so wretched. Why is it that you always seem to take a positive delight in spoiling my enjoyment?
He. I don't think going to the dentist is so positively enjoyable.
She. Oh, you know that's not what I mean. You're only saying that to hurt me. You know you are begging the question.
He (laughing). And you are losing your train. You'll be back on Thursday evening, won't you?
She (in a low, desperate voice). Yes, on Thursday evening. Good-bye, then. (Comes over to him, and takes his head in her hands.) Is there anything really the matter? Do at least look at me. Don't you—care—at—all?Something shocking and quite unexpected happens when she gets to her destination. I really do not want to spoil this story so I will relay no more of the plot action other than to repeat an old saying from some where or other "wherever we go we always find ourselves."
"The Black Cap" is a great addition to Mansfield's work in that it shows she is very capable of stepping beyond the "man is always the villain" mode. It is also a great account of limited self knowledge. "The Black Cap" is also just a fun read.