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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

Travelling Alone

Travelling Alone.

Was it simply her own imagination, or could there be any truth in this feeling that waiters—waiters especially and hotel servants—adopted an impertinent, arrogant and slightly amused attitude towards a woman who travelled alone? Was it just her wretched female self-consciousness? No, she really did not think it was. For even when she was feeling at her happiest, at her freest, she would become aware, quite suddenly, of the ‘tone’ of the waiter or the hotel servant. And it was extraordinary how it wrecked her sense of page 32 security, how it made her feel that something malicious was being plotted against her and that everybody and everything—yes, even to inanimate objects like chairs or tables—was secretly ‘in the know’, waiting for that ominous infallible thing to happen to her, which always did happen, which was bound to happen, to every woman on earth who travelled alone!

The waiter prodded a keyhole with a bunch of keys, wrenched one round, flung the grey-painted door open and stood against it, waiting for her to pass in. He held his feather duster upright in his hand like a smoky torch.

“Here is a nice little room for Madame,” said the waiter insinuatingly. As she entered, he brushed past her, opened the groaning window and unhooked the shutters.

[After some weeks in rooms at Elgin Crescent, in July we took a house at No. 5 Acacia Road, St. John's Wood. Here Katherine Mansfield's brother “Chummie” came to stay with her for a week before going to the front. He was killed almost immediately. The following entry is a record of one of their conversations together.]