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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume I

Wednesday — January 23, 1918

January 23, 1918

Last night, when I had finished capturing all I could of this wind and rain and cold, it ceased, and this morning the sun came out. There is still a stiff breeze, but it's warm in the sun and indescribably lovely. Every mortal thing looks sheathed in a glittering beauty.

I got up at about eleven and went out to buy myself une canne avec une frique. The disagreeable shop has become amiable. I bought a small stout one for 1.25 and then walked up the road behind the front, past Ma'am Gamel's, to the top of the hill and a little way further. The sky over the sea was lilce an immense Canterbury page 106 bell, darkly, transparently blue. Towards me came walking an old woman in a pleated black dress with a broad straw hat tied under her chin with a linen band, and she carried a pack of jonquils. Then there came a butterfly, my little sister, weak in the wing and staggering a little, but basking. The cats lay on the window sills. In a field against the sea a man and a woman were digging; the olive trees blew silver, and the sea, very wild still, embraced the shore as though it loved it. As I came back I saw an old man sitting in the corner of a field, some wine and bread in a basket by him. He had a pair of breeches over his knees that he was carefully darning. They looked awfully forlorn, as though he had just given them a beating.

But how can all this have happened in a night? Yesterday—midwinter—. I walked to the post wearing your wadded coat, my woollen one, my great blue one over all, and was perished. I staggered home, and decided that I must ask you to send me an anchor, a small one, shaped like a crab perhaps, with whiskers, that I would draw behind me on a string, to keep me from blowing (a) into the sea or (b) over le grand, cerveau—and here's to-day come to mock me. On a vraiment chaud

Oh, the washer-girl came to-day while I was in bed. You remember her? How fine she was, always so gauffree, with frills over her hands and gold rings in her ears, and very expensive sparkling eyes. Now, poor wench, she's so changed. There can't have been a soul in Bandol with pyjame de laine 2.50 the washing since you left. She has shed all her brightness, jusqu' à ses pieds, which were covered in lovely red kid slippers. I hope it will monte again. She charged me 3.30, but it was not a swin really.

I must tell you, my little maid is becoming more and more friendly. She looks like the girl you read of who spreads the linen to dry in the orchard while the young boy up the ladder fills her apron with pears. She was saying yesterday she did not like the hotel to be so empty.

page 107

We sit together, said she, there's nothing to do. “Alors, nous nous regardons—nous causons—mais, c'est triste, vous savez, ce n'est pas si gai que la service!” What do they talk about and where do they sit? I began to wonder.

I am doing all I can to live without spending, to wear my old clothes and shoes. We shall feast and array ourselves when we are together, “and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.”

Now that you know I am so much better, you will tell me all about yourself, and you will take care of yourself.

And this is not a boon.
'Tis as I should entreat you wear your gloves
Or feed on nourishing dishes, or keep you warm,
Or sue to you to do a peculiar profit
To your own person….