Thursday, 11 August 2011

Tea and Saki

If one's soul was really enslaved at one's mistress's feet, 
how could one talk coherently about weakened tea?

Stopping for tea, an afternoon last week... and tea it was, leaf-tea in cups and saucers, bread, butter and that blackcurrant jam, radishes and salt, à la façon française... recalled a story by Saki, entitled: Tea.

Proposing marriage, even to a nice girl like Joan, was a rather irksome business

But as James Cushat-Prinkly sets out one afternoon to fulfil his duty, he realises with distaste that his arrival coincides with the hour of afternoon tea.

Joan would be seated at a low table, spread with an array of silver kettles and cream-jugs and delicate porcelain tea-cups, behind which her voice would tinkle pleasantly in a series of little friendly questions about weak or strong tea, how much, if any, sugar, milk, cream and so-forth.

He takes a detour via a distant cousin Rhoda, who happens to be having a picnic-meal of bread and butter and caviare, red-pepper and lemon, and tea.  Based on this, and amusing conversation, Cushat-Prinkly's marriage proposal is instantly transferred to this cousin.

Only to find, coming into the drawing-room, once married:

Rhoda was seated at a low table, behind a service of dainty porcelain and gleaming silver.  There was a pleasant tinkling note in her voice as she handed him a cup.  'You like it weaker than that, don't you?  Shall I put some more hot water to it?'


Tea,  by Saki

In 76 Short Stories, Collins, London 1956

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