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Journal of Katherine Mansfield



“Did M. wear a grey dressing gown with a dark red piping?” she asked.

“No, he was dressed.”

“Oh! Then I suppose he was very dressed; he always is.”

That made her think, suddenly, of another friend of his—a young, fattish man who wore spectacles and was extremely serious, with a kind of special fatness that she had noticed went with just that kind of seriousness. She saw him standing by a wash-table drying his neck—and she saw his hair right to the neck-band of his shirt. His hair was, as usual, too long.

“How awful S. must be without a collar!”

“Without a collar?” He looked at her; he almost gasped.

page 96

“Yes, in a shirt and trousers.”

“In a shirt and trousers!” he exclaimed. “I've never seen him in one—”

“No—but— Oh, well—”

He positively fixed her at that.

“How extraordinarily inconsequential you are!”

And all in a minute she was laughing.

“Well,” she said,” “men are——”

And she looked out of the window at the tall poplar, with its whispering leaves, with its beautiful top, gold in the last sunlight.

On the wall of the kitchen there was a shadow, shaped like a little mask with two gold slits for eyes. It danced up and down.

August 2nd. 2 Portland Villas, Hampstead. Her heart had not spoken…. When it does—too late—the pain of it. I ought to have felt like this—often, often….

September 20th. My fits of temper are really terrifying. I had one this (Sunday) morning and tore a page up of the book I was reading—and absolutely lost my head. Very significant. When it was over J. came in and stared. “What is the matter? What have you done? Why? You look all dark.” He drew back the curtains and called it an effect of light, but when I came into my studio to dress I saw it was not that. I was a deep earthy colour, with pinched eyes. Strangely enough these fits are L. and F. over again. I am more like L. than anybody. We are unthinkably alike, in fact.

page 97

It is a dark, reluctant day. The fire makes a noise like a flag—and there is the familiar sound from below of someone filling buckets. I am very stiff, very unused to writing now, and yet, as I sit here, it's as though my dear one, my only one, came and sat down opposite me and gazed at me across the table. And I think suddenly of the verses which seemed so awfully good in my girlhood.

Others leave me—all things leave me,
You remain.

My room really has for me a touch of fairy. Is there anything better than my room? Anything outside? The kitten says not—but then it's such a hunting ground for the kitten; the sun throws the shape of the window on to the carpet, and in those four little square fields the silly flies wander, ever so spied upon by the little lion under the sommier frill….

Oh dear—Oh dear—where are my people? With whom have I been happiest? With nobody in particular. It has all been mush of a mushness.

Later. That kitten took sick, was taken away, lived two weeks in great torture, then for two days it lost the will to live. It became just a cotton reel of fur with two great tearful eyes: “Why has this happened to me?” So the vet. killed it. It had gastric trouble, acute constipation, with a distended belly, and canker in both ears. The two days before it went away it suffered here. I bought it a ball and it tried to play a little—but no! It couldn't even wash itself. It came up page 98 to me, stood on its hind legs, opened its little jaws and tried to mew. No sound came; I never saw anything more pitiful.

September 30. I hope this pen works. Yes, it does.

The last day in September—immensely cold, a kind of solid cold outside the windows. My fire has played traitor nearly all day, and I have been, in the good, old-fashioned way, feeling my skin curl.

Don't read this. Do you hear that train whistle and now the leaves—the dry leaves—and now the fire—fluttering and breaking.

Why doesn't she bring the lamps?

October 21. L.M. is going to town. I must take some of my dear money out of the Bank and give it her. I am in bed; I feel very sick. Queer altogether—decomposing a bit. It's a pale, silent day: I would like to be walking in a wood, far away.

Health seems to me now more remote than anything—unattainable. Best to stay in bed and be horrid from there. This sky in waves of blue and cream and grey is like the sky overhanging a dead calm sea, when you hear someone rowing, far, far away; and then the voices from the boat and the rattle of the chain and the barking of the ship's dog all sound loud. There is as usual a smell of onions and chop bones in the house.

page 99

What do I want her to buy for me? When it really becomes an urgent matter—I want nothing—waste of money—I feel like Mlle. Séguin, who wouldn't hang the pictures in her new flat because Life is such a breath, little Dolly.

October. Hampstead. I ought to write something brief for the Nation to-day and earn a bit more money, a “Little Lunch at the Club” or something of that kind. It's not difficult; in fact it is too easy for me because if I do err more on one side than t'other—I'm over-fluent.

This view from the window is simply superb—the pale sky and the half bare trees. It's so beautiful it might be the country—Russian country as I see it.

I never connected until to-day—sang froid with Cold blood. This is a word which is one of New Zealand's queer 'uns, like calling the Savoy the Sāvoy—or talking of the aryeighted bread shops. Sagn frēūd.

October 24. This is simply the most Divine Spot. So remote, so peaceful; full of colour, full of Autumn; the sunset is real, and the sound of somebody splitting small wood is real, too. If only one could live up here for really a long time and not have to see anybody…. It might very well be France, it's much more like France than it is like England.

The place—remote—the dresses and scarves old;
The year,—fruitful! their talk and laughter gay.