The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume I
Sunday, early afternoon — March 21, 1915
March 21, 1915
Still no letter—perhaps I can be certain of one tomorrow. I walked to the post this morning and then, finding neither light nor murmur there, I went to the Luxembourg gardens. About 3 of the biggest chestnut trees are really in leaf to-day—you never saw anything lovelier, with pigeons and babies adoring. I walked and walked until at last I came to a green plot with the back view of the head and shoulders of a pa-man rising out of an enormous stone urn—d'une forme de carotte. Laughing with my muff as my solitary habit is, I sped to see his face and found that it was a statue of Verlaine. What extraordinary irony! The head seemed to me to be very lovely in its way, bashed in but dignified, as I always imagine Verlaine. I stayed a long time looking at that, then sunned myself off on a prowl. Every soul carried a newspaper. L'Information came out on orange sails. La Patrie lifted up its voice at the métro stations. Nothing was talked of but the raid last night. (I'm dying to tell you about this raid, but I'm sure I shan't be able to.)
Oh, Jack, it was really rather fine. I came home late. I had been dining with B. at the Lilas. It was a lovely night. I came in, made some tea, put out the lamp, and page 11 opened the shutters for a while to watch the river. Then I worked till about one. I had just got into bed and was reading Kipling's Simples Contes des Collines, when there was a sharp quick sound of running, then the trumpets from all sides blaring Garde à vous! This went on, accompanied by the heavy groaning noise of the shutters opening and then a chirrup of voices. I jumped up and did likewise. In a minute every light went out except one point at the bridges. The night was bright with stars. If you had seen the house stretching up and the people leaning out! And then there came a loud noise like doo-da-doo-da repeated hundreds of times. I never thought of Zeppelins until I saw the rush of heads and bodies turning upwards as the Ultimate Fish (see The Critic in Judgment) passed by, flying high with fins of silky grey. It is absurd to say that romance is dead when things like this happen. And the noise it made, almost soothing, you know,—steady and clear, doo-da-doo-da, like a horn. I longed to go out and follow it, but instead I waited, and still the trumpets blared—and finally when it was over I made some more tea and felt that a great danger was past and longed to throw my arms round some one. It gave one a feeling of boundless physical relief, like the aftermath of an earthquake.
B.'s flat is really very jolly. She only takes it by the quarter at 900 francs a year—four rooms and a kitchen, a big hall, a cabinet and a conservatory. Two rooms open on to the garden. A big china stove in the salle à manger heats the place. All her furniture is second-hand and rather nice. The faithful J. conducts her shopping. Her own rooms, with a grey self-colour carpet, lamps in bowls with chinese shades, a piano, 2 divans 2 armchairs, books, flowers, a bright fire, was very unlike Paris, really very charming. But the house I think detestable; one creeps up and down stairs. She has dismissed D. and transferred her virgin heart to P. Strange and really beautiful though she is still, with the fairy air about her and her pretty little head still so fine—she is ruined. There is no doubt page 12 of it. I love her, but I take an intense, cold interest in noting the signs. She says, “It's no good my having a crowd of people. If there are more than you I go to the cupboard and nip cognacs until it's all over for me, my dear …” or, “Last Sunday I had a fearful crise. I got drunk on rhum by myself at the Rotonde and ran up and down this street crying and ringing the bells and saying, ‘Save me from this man!’ There wasn't anybody there at all.” And then she says with a faint show of importance, “Of course the people here simply love me for it. There hasn't been a real woman of feeling here since the war. But now I am going to be careful.”
Myself, I am dead off drink—I mean, the idea of being drunk revolts me horribly. Last time I was drunk was with B. here, and the memory stays and shames me even now. We were drunk with the wrong people. Not that I committed any sottise, but I hate to think of their faces and—ugh! no, I shall not drink again like that—never, never.
As I write to you the concierge is doing the flat, and she will persist in talking. Do I like flowers? Cold or heat? Birds or beasts? She is one of those women who can't lift or replace a thing without giving it its ticket. But she's a good soul and looks after me and fills the lamp without being told. Of course everybody she ever knew has died a grisly death in this war. The fact that C. is going to Turkey seems to delight her beyond measure. “II ne reviendra jamais!”
To-day everywhere they are crying “Voici les jolies violettes de parme,” and the day is like that. Under the bridges floats a purple shadow.
I must start working. I believe now she is dusting simply to spite me and to keep me off my work. What a bore these women are!