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Journal of Katherine Mansfield



October. They are walking up and down the garden in Acacia Road. It is dusky; the Michaelmas daisies are bright as feathers. From the old fruit-tree at the bottom of the garden—the slender tree rather like a poplar—there falls a little round pear, hard as a stone.

“Did you hear that, Katie? Can you find it? By Jove—that familiar sound.”

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Their hands move over the thin moist grass. He picks it up, and, unconsciously, as of old, polishes it on his handkerchief.

“Do you remember the enormous number of pears there used to be on that old tree?”

“Down by the violet bed.”

“And how after there'd been a Southerly Buster we used to go out with clothes baskets to pick them up?”

“And how while we stooped they went on falling, bouncing on our backs and heads?”

“And how far they used to be scattered, ever so far, under the violet leaves, down the steps, right down to the lily-lawn? We used to find them trodden in the grass. And how soon the ants got to them. I can see now that little round hole with a sort of fringe of brown pepper round it.”

“Do you know that I've never seen pears like them since?”

“They were so bright, canary yellow—and small. And the peel was so thin and the pips jet—jet black. First you pulled out the little stem and sucked it. It was faintly sour, and then you ate them always from the top—core and all.”

“The pips were delicious.”

“Do you remember sitting on the pink garden seat?”

“I shall never forget that pink garden seat. It is the only garden seat for me. Where is it now? Do you think we shall be allowed to sit on it in Heaven?”

“It always wobbled a bit and there were usually the marks of a snail on it.”

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“Sitting on that seat, swinging our legs and eating the pears—”

“But isn't it extraordinary how deep our happiness was—how positive—deep, shining, warm. I remember the way we used to look at each other and smile—do you?—sharing a secret … What was it?”

“I think it was the family feeling—we were almost like one child. I always see us walking about together, looking at things together with the same eyes, discussing…. I felt that again—just now—when we looked for the pear in the grass. I remembered ruffling the violet leaves with you—Oh, that garden! Do you remember that some of the pears we found used to have little teeth marks in them?”


“Who bit them?”

“It was always a mystery.”

He puts his arm round her. They pace up and down. And the round moon shines over the pear tree, and the ivy walls of the garden glitter like metal. The air smells chill … heavy … very cold.

“We shall go back there one day—when it's all over.”

“We'll go back together.”

“And find everything—”


She leans against his shoulder. The moonlight deepens. Now they are facing the back of the house. A square of light shows in the window.

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“Give me your hand. You know I shall always be a stranger here.”

“Yes, darling, I know.”

“Walk up and down once more and then we'll go in.”

“It's so curious—my absolute confidence that I'll come back. I feel it's as certain as this pear.”

“I feel that too.”

“I couldn't not come back. You know that feeling. It's awfully mysterious.”

The shadows on the grass are long and strange; a puff of strange wind whispers in the ivy and the old moon touches them with silver.

She shivers.

“You're cold.”

“Dreadfully cold.”

He puts his arm round her. Suddenly he kisses her—

“Good-bye, darling.”

“Ah, why do you say that!”

“Darling, good-bye … good-bye!”

October 29. A misty, misty evening. I want to write down the fact that not only am I not afraid of death—I welcome the idea of death. I believe in immortality because he is not here, and I long to join him. First, my darling, I've got things to do for both of us, and then I will come as quickly as I can. Dearest heart, I know you are there, and I live with you, and I will write for you. Other people are near, but they are not close to me. To you only do I belong, just as you belong page 36 to me. Nobody knows how often I am with you. Indeed, I am always with you, and I begin to feel that you know—that when I leave this house and this place it will be with you, and I will never even for the shortest space of time be away from you. You have me. You're in my flesh as well as in my soul. I give others my “surplus” love, but to you I hold and to you I give my deepest love.

[In November Katherine Mansfield gave up the house in Acacia Road, and went to the south of France. I went with her, but returned to England after three weeks.]

November, Bandol, France. Brother. I think I have known for a long time that life was over for me, but I never realized it or acknowledged it until my brother died. Yes, though he is lying in the middle of a little wood in France and I am still walking upright and feeling the sun and the wind from the sea, I am just as much dead as he is. The present and the future mean nothing to me. I am no longer “curious” about people; I do not wish to go anywhere; and the only possible value that anything can have for me is that it should put me in mind of something that happened or was when he was alive.

“Do you remember, Katie?” I hear his voice in the trees and flowers, in scents and light and shadow. Have people, apart from these faraway people, ever existed for me? Or have they always failed and faded because I denied them reality? Supposing I were to die as I sit at this table, playing with my Indian paper-knife, what page 37 would the difference be? No difference at all. Then why don't I commit suicide? Because I feel I have a duty to perform to the lovely time when we were both alive. I want to write about it, and he wanted me to. We talked it over in my little top room in London. I said: I will just put on the front page: To my brother, Leslie Heron Beauchamp. Very well: it shall be done….

The wind died down at sunset. Half a ring of moon hangs in the hollow air. It is very quiet. Somewhere I can hear a woman crooning a song. Perhaps she is crouched before the stove in the corridor, for it is the kind of song that a woman sings before a fire—brooding, warm, sleepy, and safe. I see a little house with flower patches under the windows and the soft mass of a haystack at the back. The fowls have all gone to roost—they are woolly blurs on the perches. The pony is in the stable with a cloth on. The dog lies in the kennel, his head on his forepaws. The cat sits up beside the woman, her tail tucked in, and the man, still young and careless, comes climbing up the back road. Suddenly a spot of light shows in the window and on the pansy bed below, and he walks quicker, whistling.

But where are these comely people? These young strong people with hard healthy bodies and curling hair? They are not saints or philosophers; they are decent human beings—but where are they?

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Wednesday. [December.] To-day I am hardening my heart. I am walking all round my heart and building up the defences. I do not mean to leave a loophole even for a tuft of violets to grow in. Give me a hard heart, O Lord! Lord, harden thou my heart!

This morning I could walk a little. So I went to the Post Office. It was bright with sun. The palm-trees stood up into the air, crisp and shining; the blue gums hung heavy with sun as is their wont. When I reached the road I heard a singing. A funny thought … “The English have come!” But of course, it was not they.

Sunday. [December.] Ten minutes past four. I am sure that this Sunday is the worst of all my life. I've touched bottom. Even my heart doesn't beat any longer. I only keep alive by a kind of buzz of blood in my veins. Now the dark is coming back again; only at the windows there is a white glare. My watch ticks loudly and strongly on the bed table, as though it were rich with a minute life, while I faint—I die.

It is evening again. The sea runs very high. It frets, sweeps up and over, hugs, leaps upon the rocks. In the sharp metallic light the rocks have a reddish tinge. Above them a broad band of green mixed with a rich sooty black; above it the cone of a violet mountain; above the mountain a light blue sky shining like the inside of a wet sea-shell. Every moment the light changes. Even as I write, it is no longer hard. Some small white clouds top the mountain like tossed-up page 39 smoke. And now a purple colour, very menacing and awful, is pulling over the sky. The trees tumble about in the unsteady light. A dog barks. The gardener, talking to himself, shuffles across the new raked path, picks up his weed basket and goes off. Two lovers are walking together by the side of the sea. They are muffled up in coats. She has a red handkerchief on her head. They walk, very proud and careless, hugging each other and braving the wind.

I am ill to-day—I cannot walk at all—and in pain.

[The illness from which Katherine Mansfield suffered was a rheumatic pain which had a pernicious effect on the action of her heart. It had no connection with the pulmonary tuberculosis of which she died. This did not appear until two years later, in December 1917. Katherine Mansfield was always convinced that she would die of heart-failure.]