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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

The Child in my Arms

The Child in my Arms.

“Will you touch me with the child in my arms?” is no mere pleasantry. Change the ‘will’ into ‘can’ and it's tief, sehr tief! I was thinking just now … that I hardly dare give rein to my thoughts of J. and my longing for J. And I thought: if I had a child, I would play with it now and lose myself in it and kiss it and make it laugh. And I'd use a child as my guard against my deepest feeling.

page 5

When I felt: ‘No, I'll think no more of this; it's intolerable and unbearable;’ I'd dance the baby.

That's true, I think, of all, all women. And it accounts for the curious look of security that you see in young mothers: they are safe from any ultimate state of feeling because of the child in their arms. And it accounts also for the women who call men ‘children.’ Such women fill themselves with their men—gorge themselves really into a state of absolute heartlessness. Watch the sly, satisfied smile of women who say, “Men are nothing but babies!”

“They were neither of them quite enough in love to imagine that £350 a year would supply them with all the comforts of life” (Jane Austen's “Elinor and Edward”). My God! say I.

I went to J.'s room and looked through the window. It was evening, with little light, and what was there was very soft—the Freak Hour when people never seem to be quite in focus. I watched a man walking up and down the road— and he looked like a fly walking up a wall—and some men straining up with a barrow—all bottoms and feet. In the house opposite, at a ground-floor window, heavily barred, sat a little dark girl in a grey shawl reading a book. Her hair was parted down the middle: she had a small, oval face. She was perfectly charming, so set in the window with the shining white of the book. I felt a sort of Spanish infatuation…

page 6

It is as though God opened his hand and let you dance on it a little, and then shut it up tight —so tight that you could not even cry…. The wind is terrible to-night. I am very tired—but J can't go to bed. I can't sleep or eat. Too tired.

“It was the touch of art that P. was suffering, the inexorable magic touch that still transforms in spite of us; that never hesitates to test and examine the materials it has to transmute, but never fails to transmute them.”

[By the end of February 1914 we had returned to London, with very little but the clothes we stood in. For a few weeks we lived in a furnished flat in Beaufort Mansions, Chelsea. From the back windows one had a view of a timber-yard and a cemetery.]