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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume I

At the Café Noailles, Marseilles, — Thursday, March 21, 1918. —

page 159
At the Café Noailles, Marseilles,
Thursday, March 21, 1918.

To J. M. Murry

The train goes to-night at 7.5.

Tea, orange-flower water, fever, a pain in my stomach, tablettes hypnotiques (“ne pas dépasser huit tablettes dans les 24 heures”), sun, dust, a great coloured—a dreaming swaying balloon of balloons out side—yellow, red orange, purple. (A little boy has just had it bought for him and he's terrified of it. He thinks it means to carry him away. What's the good of being cross with him? But she is cross. She shakes him and drags him along.)

L. M. has lost all her luggage, but all, and has had to buy it all over again with a rucksack to put it in. She can't think how it disappeared. “Will you see about it at Cook's for me and write to the hotel and explain?” I've done that. But she is good otherwise, quieter now that she is en voyage, and she has bought, oh, such good figs.

I feel so ill—such a belly ache and a back ache and a head ache. The tablettes hypnotiques cost 7.50. What do you think of that? But they are the same things that good old Doctor Martin gave Mother to give me. That being the case, I bought them, just as Mother would have, and felt a mysterious well-being all through me as I swallowed one. I couldn't have gone off to-night if I had not bought them. I should have had to go to an hotel and lie there.

Cook's seemed to take a perfect joy in giving me the £5, and long beams of light came from my fingers as I took it and tucked it away.

It is so hot, so very, very hot. One feels as though some fiend had seized one by the hair and then peppered one all over with dust and sand. (Rotten sentence!)

I had an omelette for lunch—2 francs—and then thought some cauliflower, because it was only 20 c. and very harmless. So I had that and then some stewed fruit. God! The cauliflower was 2 francs instead! And you can buy whole ones at Bandol for 35 centimes! Can you see my page 160 face? And L. M. comforting me: “It's not as if it is for every day but only for one day.”

Paris to-morrow, and then the offensive at the Consul's. Shall I arrive before this letter? And will Rib make fringe papers of it under my very eyes—what he will call “les petits frissons”? Or does it mean I am going to be torpedoed and that's why I keep on writing? Oh, I hope not. I am very frightened of the journey on the sea, because my wings are so sinkable.

(Deux citronades—deux! That gives you the day.)

This place seems to me infected. I mean in the fire and brimstone way. It ought to be destroyed and all the people in it. It is a filthy place. And the actor next to me, who is holding out the promise of a part to a poor little woman while he eats her sweets and drinks her chocolate—on him I would let fall the biggest brimstone of all.

God help us!

[Note added by J. Middleton Murry:]

[On the same day that Katherine Mansfield arrived in Paris, very dangerously ill, the long-range bombardment of the city began, and all civilian traffic was suspended. She did not reach London until April 11th, three weeks later. Her letters during this period of illness and anxiety are too painful and intimate to be published.]