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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

Strawberries and a Sailing Ship

Strawberries and a Sailing Ship.

We sat on the top of the cliff overlooking the open sea. Our backs turned to the little town. Each of us had a basket of strawberries. We had just bought them from a dark woman with quick eyes—berry-finding eyes.

“They're fresh picked,” said she, “from our own garden.”

The tips of her fingers were stained a bright red. But what strawberries! Each one was the finest—the perfect berry—the strawberry Absolute —the fruit of our childhood! The very air came fanning on strawberry wings. And down below, in the pools, little children were bathing, with strawberry faces….

Over the blue, swinging water, came a three-masted sailing-ship—with nine, ten, eleven sails. Wonderfully beautiful! She came riding by as though every sail were taking its fill of the sun and the light.

And: “Oh how I'd love to be on board!” said Anne.

(The captain was below, but the crew lay about, idle and handsome. “Have some strawberries!” we said, slipping and sliding on the rocking decks, and shaking the baskets. They ate them in a kind of dream….)

And the ship sailed on. Leaving us in a kind of dream, too. With the empty baskets….

[At the beginning of July K.M. returned to Redcliffe Road. At the end of the month we moved into No. 2 Portland Villas, East Heath Road, Hampstead.]

page 91

July 5. [47 Redcliffe Road.] To-day, this evening, after I have come home (for I must go out and buy some fruits) commence encore une vie nouvelle. Turn over and you'll see how good I become—a different child.

Later. I have read—given way to reading—two books by Octave Mirbeau—and after them I see dreadfully and finally, (1) that the French are a filthy people, (2) that their corruption is so puante—I'll not go near 'em again. No, the English couldn't stoop to this. They aren't human; they are in the good old English parlance—monkeys.

I must start writing again. They decide me. Something must be put up against this.

Ach, Tchehov! why are you dead? Why can't I talk to you, in a big darkish room, at late evening—where the light is green from the waving trees outside. I'd like to write a series of Heavens: that would be one.

I must not forget my timidity before closed doors. My debate as to whether I shall ring too loud or not loud enough…. It's deep deep deep: in fact it is the ‘explanation’ of the failure of K.M. as a writer up to the present, and Oh! what a good anfang zu einem Geschichte!