The story at hand by Joyce Cary revolves around the theme of growing up. Apart from the physical growth of the teenage girls, Kate and Jenny, the story also focuses on the 'emotional growing up' of their middle-aged father, Robert Quick, our protagonist of the story. The story having a simple outline begins with Robert returning home from a business trip for the weekend. He finds a note from his wife that the two girls-Kate and Jenny, their daughters, were in the garden and that she would be back by four. Expecting a warm welcome from the girls, he at once made for the garden.
The author then gives a brief description of the Quicks' garden which seemed to be a 'wilderness'. Except for a small vegetable patch near the pond, and one bed near where Mrs. Quick grew flowers for the house, it had not been touched for years.
The excuse for the neglect was that the garden belonged to the children, while the truth was that neither of the Quicks cared for the garden. However, the excuse had eventually come true and the garden belonged to the children, with all its unshaven grass- suggesting 'a bit of real wild country', or a place for picnics as Robert thought.
He went to the garden to find his two little girls lost in their own world. Quick greeted them but got no response and for a moment he thought that they may have missed him. A little disappointed and dismayed, he recollected that the last time the when he had missed the girls, two years before.
First, he caught the sight of Jenny, the younger of the two, lying on her stomach by the pond with a book under her nose. She was twelve and had lately taken furiously to reading. He made for the pond with long steps calling out and waving to her.
He now saw Kate, sitting with an air of laziness and concentration, on the swing leaning sideways against a rope, with her head down, apparently in deep thought. Her bare legs were blotched with mud, with 'one foot hooked over the other' as she replied in a faint muffled voice to her father's calling, barely looking at him.
Although his daughters took no notice of him, Mr. Quick, never the one to demand affection, brought out a deck chair and began to read the morning paper. He generally believed that his daughters were naturally impulsive and affectionate and would grow up to be exciting women.