Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Life of Katherine Mansfield



How differently each of her friends saw Kathleen Beauchamp. It was so all of her life. Few of her friends “knew” her: she had an outward chameleon quality by which she could match herself to the individual and the situation, until her acquaintances were baffled—unable to agree “who she was.” A certain sure intuition made her protect herself from most of them. Few knew anything of her life beyond their own immediate part in it. She completed, rounded off, her experiences quickly; she passed rapidly from one circle to another; she seldom mentioned her earlier life to the new group, page 240 and since she really was a different person in the various stages of her swift development she left her acquaintances with widely divergent impressions. To herself she was like one in a train who, even as he waves to those left behind on the platform, is seeing the new destination which they would never know. She often said to Ida:“I've finished with all that; now let's forget it!”

During most of her life she made her friends among those who had an artistic aim corresponding to her own. When she returned to Wellington most of her first acquaintances were musicians.

Matty, Mr. Beauchamp's secretary, was a member of their trio—one who could be called upon to accompany Kathleen's practices. Kathleen could telephone to her, when she felt in the mood, as she did on the evening when she said:

“There's a fine fire in Harold's study. He and the girls are away. Do come, dear. We can talk there. I hate society! There's so much hypocrisy in it!”

Matty smiled over this with her own peculiar satisfaction. She looked upon Kathleen Beauchamp as she might have looked upon the star of a troupe of players descended upon Wellington fresh from London.

She had seen Kathleen for the first time after her return, on a Saturday morning in October, at eleven o'clock, entering the D.I.C. tea-room, a social centre of Wellington. Hesitating a moment, glancing across the crowded little tables, Kathleen met her own eyes in a gilt-framed mirror. With a slight pause as she passed it, she pushed the eye-veil back page 241 over the little round hat with the Mercury wings— her “Wooza” pinned to the back hair above the stiff linen collar. She was fully conscious of the glance passing between Matty and the girl with her. Matty's pointed little nose fairly leaned toward her cheek in eager agitation. As she passed, Kathleen took out a cigarette, and said coolly:“How are you, dear?”

During the following months she allowed herself to be cultivated. In these matters she never was obtuse.

“What do you think of relatives who call one ‘posey and affected’?” she asked Matty once, speaking of a letter received by the family. Secretly immensely intrigued, Matty merely answered:“It isn't very tactful.” Matty had concluded that Kathleen could be “posey without its really seeming to be affectation.” She who never thought of herself as a picture to be appropriately framed was enthralled by what, to her, was remarkable and individual in the dress and appearance of Kathleen Beauchamp. After a concert which they attended together, someone asked her:“Who was that fine-looking girl you were with?“Matty preened herself over this. She secretly thought that Kass had “a fine proud bearing, magnificent dark eyes, beautifully waved hair, and distinction,” and she took the compliment to herself.

At one concert Kathleen sat in the balcony, dressed in a simple black frock and toying with a red rose; but at an afternoon tea she was wearing a plain dress of heavy, stiff stuff and a stiff dark hat, while everyone else was fluffy. She told Matty later page 242 that Marie had made them, and added:“It's counterpane stuff!”

That was another thing which held Matty charmed and astonished: she never knew what Kass would say. Though she always appeared serious, though Matty never saw more than a slight change of expression—though she spoke in a monotone, she was always making dry comments on things and people, which seemed to Matty daring and dangerous and delightful, as when, in the middle of a concert, just after a tenor solo, she leaned over to her and whispered:“Wasn't he an elongated clothes horse?”