Journal of Katherine Mansfield
[In November 1917 K.M. caught a chill, which developed into pleurisy. When she had partly recovered the doctor advised her to go to the South of France.
She was overjoyed at the prospect. She did not realise, neither did anybody warn her, that during the two years since she was last in Bandol conditions in France had utterly changed. Railway travelling was difficult, food bad. And, perhaps most serious of all, she would not admit that she was gravely ill. Her courage and confidence deceived herself as well as her friends. She persuaded herself and them that she was the one to be envied for being sent into the sun.
After an appalling journey, described in one of her letters, she reached Bandol in January 1918 to find that the little Mediterranean town she remembered so beautiful was now dirty and neglected. From the moment she arrived she was seriously ill and quite alone, until in February her friend, L.M., managed to get to her.]
[January. Bandol.] When I am sitting above the rocks near the edge of the sea, I always fancy that I hear above the plash of the water the voice of two people talking somewhere I know not what. And the talking is always broken by something which is neither laughter nor sobbing, but a low thrilling sound which might be either and is a part of both.
But Lord! Lord! how I do hate the French.page 74
Mademoiselle complains that she has the pieds glacés.
“Then why do you wear such pretty stockings and shoes, Mademoiselle?” leers Monsieur.
“Eh—o, la—c'est la mode!”
And the fool grins, well content with the idiot answer.
How immensely easier it is to attack an insect that is running away from you rather than one that is running towards you.
Note: A muff like a hard nut. (Mouse in Je ne parle pas.)
(February.) What happens is that I come in absolutely exhausted, lie down, sit up and sit in a daze of fatigue—a horrible state—until 7 o'clock. I can barely walk—can't think, don't dare to go to sleep because if I do I know I'll lie awake through the night, and that is my horror. Oh, for a sofa or a very comfortable armchair—this is always the longing at the back of my mind; and except for that and a feeling of despair at wasting the time I am simply a blank. The pain continues in my left shoulder and is the——. That adds, of course, for finally it becomes intolerable and drives me to lie on the bed covered over to support it. But these are, Hard Lines.
Verses Writ in a Foreign Bed.
Almighty Father of All and Most Celestial Giver
Who has granted to us thy children a heart and lungs and a liver;
page 75 If upon me should descend thy beautiful gift of tongues
Incline not thine Omnipotent ear to my remarks on lungs.
“Toujours fatiguée, Madame?”
“Oui, toujours fatiguée.”
“Je ne me lève pas, Victorine; et le courier?”
Victorine smiles meaningly, “Pas encore passé.”
February 19. I woke up early this morning and when I opened the shutters the full round sun was just risen. I began to repeat that verse of Shakespeare's: “Lo, here the gentle lark weary of rest”, and bounded back into bed. The bound made me cough—I spat—it tasted strange—it was bright red blood. Since then I've gone on spitting each time I cough a little more. Oh, yes, of course I am frightened. But for two reasons only. I don't want to be ill, I mean ‘seriously’, away from J. J. is the first thought. 2nd, I don't want to find this is real consumption, perhaps it's going to gallop—who knows?—and I shan't have my work written. That's what matters. How unbearable it would be to die—leave ‘scraps,’ ‘bits’ … nothing real finished.
But I feel the first thing to do is to get back to J. Yes, my right lung hurts me badly, but it always does more or less. But J. and my work—they are all I think of (mixed with curious visionary longings for gardens in full flower). L.M. has gone for the doctor.
I knew this would happen. Now I'll say why. On my way here, in the train from Paris to Marseilles I sat in a carriage with two women. They page 76 were both dressed in black. One was big, one little. The little spry one had a sweet smile and light eyes. She was extremely pale, had been ill—was come to repose herself. The Big One, as the night wore on, wrapped herself up in a black shawl—so did her friend. They shaded the lamp and started (trust 'em) talking about illnesses. I sat in the corner feeling damned ill myself.
Then the big one, rolling about in the shaking train, said what a fatal place this coast is for anyone who is even threatened with lung trouble. She reeled off the most hideous examples, especially one which froze me finally, of an American belle et forte avec un simple bronchite who came down here to be cured and in three weeks had had a severe hæmorrhage and died. “Adieu mon mari, adieu mes beaux enfants.”
This recital, in that dark moving train, told by that big woman swathed in black, had an effect on me that I wouldn't own and never mentioned. I knew the woman was a fool, hysterical, morbid, but I believed her; and her voice has gone on somewhere echoing in me ever since….
Juliette has come in and opened the windows; the sea is so full of ‘little laughs’ and in the window space some tiny flies are busy with their darting, intricate dance.
[Juliette was the little maid at the hotel who devoted herself to Katherine Mansfield. There are many charming pictures of her in the letters of this time.
At last, after many wearing delays, Katherine Mansfield received permission from the “authorities” to return to England. On the day, however, on which she reached page 77 Paris, the long-range bombardment of the city began, and all civilian traffic between Paris and London was instantly suspended. For nearly three weeks she was detained in Paris, exhausted by her illness, yet continually having to visit various “authorities” for permission either to stay or to depart. She managed to get to London on April 11, a shadow of herself. The ravages of four months' anxiety and illness had been terrible.]
April 2. Paris. I am not doing what I swore I would at Bandol. I must again write the word Discipline and under that Which Do You Prefer?
And from day to day after this keep a strict account of what it is that I fail in. I have failed very badly these last few days and this evening was a ‘comble.’ This to the uninitiated would appear great rubbish. They'd suspect me of God knows what. If only they knew the childish truth! But they won't know. Now, Katherine, here goes for to-morrow—Keep it up, my girl. It's such a chance, now that L.M. is not I-spy-I.
April 3rd. A good day.
He woke, but did not move. Warm and solemn he lay, with wide open troubled eyes, pouting a little, almost frowning for one long moment. In that long moment he sprang out of bed, bathed, dressed, reached the wharf, boarded the ferry boat, crossed the harbour and was waving—waving to Isabel and Maisie who stood there, waiting for him on the pier. A tall young sailor, standing near page 78 him, threw a coil of tarred rope and it fell in a long loop, over a landing post…. Beautifully done…. And all this moment (vision) was so clear and bright and tiny, he might with his flesh and pout and solemn eyes have been a baby watching a bubble.
“I'm there—I'm there. Why do I have to start and do it all so slowly all over again?” But as he thought he moved and the bubble vanished and was forgotten. He sat up in bed smiling, pulling down his pyjama sleeves.
“Je me repose.”
April 25. “Well sit down, Mansfield, and reposez-vous,” said F., “and I'll get on with my dressing.”
So he went into his bedroom and shut the door between, and I sat on the end of the sofa. The sun came full through the two windows, dividing the studio into four—two quarters of light and two of shadow, but all those things which the light touched seemed to float in it, to bathe and to sparkle in it as if they belonged not to land, but to water; they even seemed, in some strange way, to be moving.
When you lean over the edge of the rock and see something lovely and brilliant flashing at the bottom of the sea it is only the clear, trembling water that dances—but—can you be quite sure? … No, not quite sure, and that little Chinese group on the writing table may or may not have shaken itself awake for just one hundredth of a second out of hundreds of years of sleep.page 79
Very beautiful, O God! is a blue tea-pot with two white cups attending; a red apple among oranges addeth fire to flame—in the white bookcases the books fly up and down in scales of colour, with pink and lilac notes recurring, until nothing remains but them, sounding over and over.
There are a number of frames, some painted and some plain, leaning against the wall, and the picture of a naked woman with her arms raised, languid, as though her heavy flowering beauty were almost too great to bear. There are two sticks and an umbrella in one corner, and in the fireplace, a kettle, curiously like a bird.
White net curtains hang over the windows. For all the sun it is raining outside. The gas in the middle of the room has a pale yellow paper shade, and as F. dresses he keeps up a constant whistling.
Oui, je me repose….
April 26. If I had my way I should stay in the Redcliffe Road until after the war. It suits me. Whatever faults it has it is not at all bourgeois. There is ‘something a bit queer’ about all the people who live in it; they are all more or less ‘touched.’ They walk about without their hats on and fetch and carry their food and even their coal. There are nearly four bells to every door— the curtains are all ‘odd’ and shabby. The charwomen, blown old flies, buzz down each other's basements…. “No. 56 'ad a party last night. You never seen anything like the stite of page 80 'is room this morning….” “… 'Igh time 'e did get married, I say. 'Is fiangse spends the night with 'im already. 'E says she 'as 'is bed and 'e sleeps on the table. You don't tell me a great stick of a fellow like 'im sleeps on 'is table!”
Question: But do you like this sort of talk? This kind of thing? What about the Poets and —flowers and trees?
Answer: As I can't have the perfect other thing, I do like this. I feel, somehow, free in it. It has no abiding place, and neither have I. And —and—Oh well, I do feel so cynical.
[Since it was out of the question that K.M. should remain in my two dark ground-floor rooms in Redcliffe Road, she went on May 17 to Looe in Cornwall, while I searched for a house in Hampstead.]
May 21. [Looe, Cornwall.] … I positively feel, in my hideous modern way, that I can't get into touch with my mind. I am standing gasping in one of those disgusting telephone boxes and I can't ‘get through.’
“Sorry. There's no reply,” tinkles out the little voice.
“Will you ring them again—Exchange? A good long ring. There must be somebody there.” “I can't get any answer.”
Then I suppose there is nobody in the building —nobody at all. Not even an old fool of a watchman. No, it's dark and empty and quiet … above all—empty.
Note: A queer thing is that I keep seeing it— this empty building—as my father's office. I page 81 smell it as that. I see the cage of the clumsy wooden goods lift and the tarred ropes hanging.
May 22. The sea here is real sea. It rises and falls with a loud noise, has a long, silky roll on it as though it purred, seems sometimes to climb half up into the sky and you see the sail boats perched upon clouds—like flying cherubs.
Hallo! here come two lovers. She has a pinched in waist, a hat like a saucer turned upside down— he sham panama, hat guard, cane, etc.; his arm enfolding. Walking between sea and sky. His voice floats up to me: “Of course, occasional tinned meat does not matter, but a perpetual diet of tinned meat is bound to produce …”
I am sure that the Lord loves them and that they and their seed will prosper and multiply for ever and ever….
[Those of the following phrases which are marked K.M. (by herself) are her own. One or two of the rest may be quotations.]
… to meet, on the stopping of the chariot, the august emergence.
The jewel wrapped up in a piece of old silk and negotiable one day in the market of misery.
Luxuriant complications which make the air too tropical….
The sense of folded flowers … as though the night had laid its hand upon their hearts and they were folded and at peace like folded flowers. (K.M.)
… plucked her sensations by the way, detached, nervously, the small wild blossoms of her dim forest.page 82
The high luxury of not having to explain….
The ostrich burying its head in the sand does at any rate wish to convey the impression that its head is the most important part of it. (K.M. Good.)
Though she did in a way, simply offer herself to me she was so cold, so rich, so splendid, that I simply couldn't see a spoon silver enough to dare help myself with…. (K.M.)
If there were going to be large freedoms she was determined to enjoy them too. She wasn't going to be perched, swaying perilous in the changing jungle like a little monkey dropped from a tree on to an elephant's head—and positively clinging to some large ear. (K.M.)
She was the same through and through. You could go on cutting slice after slice and you knew you would never light upon a plum or a cherry or even a piece of peel.
Our friends are only a more or less imperfect embodiment of our ideas….
June. Looe. Feature Extraordinary: Shoes that have never squeaked before start up a squeaking.
A cold day—the cuckoo singing and the sea like liquid metal. Everything feels detached—uprooted—flying through the hurtling air or about to fly. There's almost a sense of having to dodge these unnatural rudderless birds…. To use a homely image, imagine the world an immense drying ground with everything blown off the lines…. It is very nervously exhausting.
And the day spent itself…. The idle hours blew on it and it shed itself like seed….page 83
[Mrs. Honey, in the following note, was the chambermaid in the hotel at Looe, and like most of her servants, devoted to Katherine Mansfield.]
Mrs. Honey explains. She has been crying. Madame spoke to her “awful crool” about a cracked tumbler. Lied. Bullied. And the poor old creature, who has had 15 rooms to do lately and three flights of stairs to scrub (age 68) “couldn't help but cry….”
I wish Madame would develop a tumour during the night, have it cut out to-morrow and be “dead, buried and a',” before the Sunday dinner. She is exactly like a large cow in a black silk dress—and she will never, never, Never die.
“If the fire turns bright, your mããn is in a good temper.” (Mrs. Honey.)
I went into J.'s room just now to put a book there—and turned down the pink bed cover to see if he had enough blankets. As I did so I thought of J. as a boy of about 17. I had a sort of prophetic vision of doing just the same thing for my son … in years to come. The moment had no emotional value at all—especially as it was all drowned in the smell of roast mutting. There goes the gong: it sounds like a timid fire alarm. But I wait until the first course is done. I wait until the chimpanzees have lapped up their little pool before I start a-nut-cracking wiv 'em.
The table was laid for two. I dined opposite a white serviette—shaped like a hand with spread fingers. Now I have dressed and am waiting for the motor. I rubbed some genêt fleuri on my collar just now: I look different—as though I were meant to be played on and not just to lie in a corner, with the bow in that slot opposite which fastens with two buttons. No! Now the bow is hanging from the peg—At Least.
June: Paralysis as an idea. A pleasant one. Spinal disease. A shock. Failure of the Heart's Action. Some “obscure” Horror. Dead before Friday. A cripple—unable to speak—My face all deformed. But the top and bottom of this sangwidge is a paralytic stroke—the important middle —heart failure. Well I've cut it for myself and eaten it day after day—day after day—It's an endless loaf…. And I'd like to put on quiet record that the physical pain is just not unbearable—only just not.
Love To be read after it has happened.
At 4.30 to-day it did conquer me and I began, like the Tchehov students, to “pace from corner to corne”—then up and down, up and down, and the pain racked me like a curse and I could hardly breathe. Then I sat down again and tried to take it quietly. But although I've an armchair and a fire and little table all drawn up comfortable I feel too ill to write. I could dictate I think p'raps—but write—no. Trop Malade.
I have been, in addition, waiting for A. all the page 85 afternoon. I thought, even in this storm, she'd “blow over.” “Hillo!” And about 100 A.s with quick deliberate steps have walked up this brick path but got no further. Plus that, I have nothing to read. Hurrah!!!
One's ‘salvation’ would I think be music. To have a 'cello again. That I must try….
June 20th. The twentieth of June 1918.
C'est de la misére.
Non, pas ça exactement. Il y a quelque chose—une profonde malaise me suive comme un ombre. Oh, why write bad French? Why write at all? 11,500 miles are so many—too many by 11,449¾ for me. [New Zealand is that distance from England.]
June 21. What is the matter with to-day? It is thin, white, as lace curtains are white, full of ugly noises (e.g. people opening the drawers of a cheap chest and trying to shut them again). All food seems stodgy and indigestible—no drink is hot enough. One looks hideous, hideous in the glass—bald as an egg—one feels swollen—and all one's clothes are tight. And everything is dusty, gritty—the cigarette ash crumbles and falls—the marigolds spill their petals over the dressing table. In a house nearby someone is trying to tune a cheap cheap piano.
If I had a ‘home’ and could pull the curtains together, lock the door—burn something sweet, fast, walk round my own perfect room, soundlessly, watching the lights and the shadows—it would page 86 be tolerable—but living as I do in a public house—it's trés difficile.
A few of its enormities.
I decided to faire les ongles de mes pieds avant mon petit déjeuner—and did not—from idleness.
The coffee was not hot: the bacon salt, and the plate shewed that it had been fried in a dirty pan.
I could not think of any small talk for Mrs. Honey, who seemed silent and distrait—burning with a very feeble wick….
J.'s letter telling of all his immense difficulties—all the impossible things he must do before he could start his holiday left me lukewarm. It had somehow a flat taste—and I felt rather as tho' I'd read it curiously apart, not united.
A vague stomach-ache in my bath.
Nothing to read and too rainy to go out.
A. came—and did not ring. I felt she had enough of our friendship for the present….
Very bad lunch. A small tough rissole which was no use to the functions and some rather watery gooseberries. I despise terribly English cooking.
Went for a walk and was caught in the wind and rain. Terribly cold and wretched.
The tea was not hot. I meant not to eat the bun but I ate it. Over-smoked.
I seem to spend half of my life arriving at strange hotels. And asking if I may go to bed immediately.page 87
“And would you mind filling my hot water bottle? … Thank you; that is delicious. No, I shan't require anything more.”
The strange door shuts upon the stranger, and then I slip down in the sheets. Waiting for the shadows to come out of the corners and spin their slow, slow web over the Ugliest Wallpaper of All.
The man in the room next to mine has the same complaint as I. When I wake in the night I hear him turning. And then he coughs. And I cough. And after a silence I cough. And he coughs again. This goes on for a long time. Until I feel we are like two roosters calling to each other at false dawn. From far-away hidden farms.
On Wednesday mornings Mrs. Honey comes into my room as usual and pulls up the blinds and opens the big french windows. Letting in the dancing light and the swish of the sea and the creak of the boats lying at anchor out in the Roads, and the sound of the lawn mower and the smell of cut grass and syringa and the cheeky whistle of that same blackbird.
Then she comes back to my bed and stands over me, one hand pressed to her side, her old face puckered up as though she had some news that she didn't know how to break gently.
“'Tis a meatless day” says she.
When the two women in white came down to the lonely beach—She threw away her paintbox—and She threw away her notebook. Down they sat on the sand. The tide was low. Before them the weedy rocks were like some herd of shaggy beasts huddled at the pool to drink and staying there in a kind of stupor.
Then She went off and dabbled her legs in a pool thinking about the colour of flesh under water. And She crawled into a dark cave and sat there thinking about her childhood. Then they came back to the beach and flung themselves down on their bellies, hiding their heads in their arms. They looked like two swans.
Four o'clock. Is it light now at four o'clock? I jump out of bed and run over to the window. It is half-light, neither black nor blue. The wing of the coast is violet; in the lilac sky there are dark banners and little black boats manned by black shadows put out on the purple water.
Oh! how often I have watched this hour when I was a girl! But then—I stayed at the window until I grew cold—until I was icy—thrilled by something—I did not know what. Now I fly back into bed, pulling up the clothes, tucking them into my neck. And suddenly my feet find the hot water bottle. Heavens! it is still beautifully warm. That really is thrilling.
She is little and grey, with a black velvet band round her hair, false teeth, and skinny little hands coming out of frills like the frills on cutlets.
As I passed her room one morning I saw her ‘worked’ brush-and-comb bag and her Common Prayerbook.
Also, when she goes to the ‘Ladies’ for some obscure reason she wears a little shawl….
At the dining table, smiling brightly:—“This is the first time I have ever travelled alone, or stayed by myself in a Strange Hotel. But my husband does not mind. As it is so Very Quiet. Of course, if it were a Gay Place——” And she draws in her chin, and the bead chain rises and falls on her vanished bosom.
Always, when I see foxgloves, I think of the L.'s.
Again I pass in front of their cottage, and in the window—between the daffodil curtains with the green spots—there are the great, sumptuous blooms.
“And how beautiful they are against the whitewash!” cry the L.'s.
As is their custom, when they love anything, they make a sort of Festa. With foxgloves everywhere. And then they sit in the middle of them, like blissful prisoners, dining in an encampment of Indian Braves.page 90
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!
The Eternal Question.
I pose myself, yet once more, my Eternal Question. What is it that makes the moment of delivery so difficult for me? If I were to sit down—now—and just to write out, plain, some page 92 of the stories—all written, all ready, in my mind 'twould take me days. There are so many of them. I sit and think them out, and if I overcome my lassitude and do take the pen they ought (they are so word perfect) to write themselves. But it's the activity. I haven't a place to write in or on—the chair isn't comfortable—yet even as I complain this seems the place and this the chair. And don't I want to write them? Lord! Lord! it's my only desire—my one happy issue. And only yesterday I was thinking—even my present state of health is a great gain. It makes things so rich, so important, so longed for … changes one's focus.
… When one is little and ill and far away in a remote bedroom all that happens beyond is marvellous…. Alors, I am always in that remote bedroom. Is that why I seem to see, this time in London—nothing but what is marvellous—marvellous—and incredibly beautiful?
The tide is full in the Redcliffe Road. One by one the doors have opened, have slammed shut. Now, in their blind way, the houses are fed. That poor little violin goes on, tearing up note after note—there is a strange dazzling white cloud over the houses and a pool of blue.
“All my virtues—all my rich nature—gone,” she said, “grown over, tangled, forgotten, deserted like a once upon a time garden.” She smiled and pulled down her hat and pulled her page 93 coat together as though making ready to stumble out into it and be lost too. “A dark place” said she, wavering to her feet. And then she smiled again. “Perhaps there is just left my—my — curiosity about myself. Evening Primrose….” She half shut her eyes, stooping forward, curiously as though the plant had sprung up at her feet. “I always did hate evening primroses. They sound such darlings, but when you see one they're such weedy, shabby—flower on the grave without a grave stone—sort of things—I don't mean anything symbolical by that,” said she. “God forbid!” and was gone.
Maisie—the student—their lodgers—she risks anything.
The little leaf that blows in—her memory of the park and crocodile—then there must be her cat called Millie. That quick Hook on, dear girl—and the pain so great that she almost sobs. But nothing happens—
Nay, though my heart should break,
I would not bind you.
Miss Ruddick who always plays with her music propped against the towel rail, and whenever she pulls out her handkerchief out comes an end of resin gummed on a flannel as well.
On these summer evenings the sound of the steps along the street is quite different. They knock-knock-knock along, but lightly and easily, as though they belonged to people who were page 94 walking home at their ease, after a procession or a pic-nic or a day at the sea.
The sky is pale and clear: the silly piano is overcome and reels out waltzes—old waltzes, spinning, drunk with sentiment—gorged with memory.
This is the hour when the poor underfed dog appears, at a run, nosing the dry gutter. He is so thin that his body is like a cage on four wooden pegs…. His lean triangle of a head is down, his long straight tail is out, and up and down, up and down he goes, silent and fearfully eager. The street watches him from its creeper-covered balconies, from its open windows—but the fat lady on the ground floor who is no better than she should be comes out, down the steps to the gate, with a bone. His tail, as he waits for her to give it him, bangs against the gate post, like a broomhandle—and the street says she's a fool to go feeding strange dogs. Now she'll never be rid of him.
(What I'd like to convey is that, at this hour, with this half light and the pianos and the open, empty sounding houses, he is the spirit of the street—running up and down, poor dog, when he ought to have been done away with years ago.)
The Middle of the Note.
Whenever I have a conversation about Art which is more or less interesting I begin to wish to God I could destroy all that I have written and start again: it all seems like so many ‘false starts’. Musically speaking, it is not—has not page 95 been—In the middle of the note—you know what I mean? When, on a cold morning perhaps, you've been playing and it has sounded all right—until suddenly, you realize you are warm—you have only just begun to play. Oh, how badly this is expressed! How confused and even ungrammatical!
Now the day was divine—warm, soft sunshine lay upon her arms and breast like velvet—tiny clouds, silver ones, shone upon the dazzling blue—the garden trees were full of gold light—and a strange brightness came from the houses—from the open windows with their fairy curtains and flower pots … the white steps and the narrow spiked railings.
“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,
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.
The Ladies Club in Wartime.
Ladies to the Centre: A round hall, very dim, lighted from above. A loud, reluctant (swing glass) door that can't bear people trying to burst their way in and loathes people trying to burst their way out. To one side of the door the porter's cave dotted with pigeon holes, and a desk, furnished with a telephone, usually a big tea-stained china tea cup crowned with its saucer. In front of it a squeaking revolving chair with a torn imitation leather seat.
And once again the door opened, and she passed as it were into another world—the world of night, cold, timeless, inscrutable.
Again she saw the beautiful fall of the steps, the dark garden edged with fluttering ivy—on the other side of the road the huge bare willows—and above them the sky big and bright with stars.
Again there came that silence that was a question—but this time she did not hesitate. She moved forward, very softly and gently—as though fearful of making a ripple in that boundless pool of quiet. She put her arm round her friend. The friend is astonished—murmurs “It has been so nice.” The other—“Good-night, dear friend.” A long tender embrace. Yes, that was it—of course that was what was wanting.
“I”—like a blow on her heart—“I have come—for——”page 101
She leaned against the door, quite faint.
“Yes?” said she.
“This—,” tightly, quickly, he caught her up into his arms.
December 31. 4.45 p.m. Oh, the times when she had walked upside down on the ceiling, run up glittering panes, floated on a lake of light, flashed through a shining beam!
And God looked upon the fly fallen into the jug of milk and saw that it was good. And the smallest Cherubim and Seraphim of all, who delight in misfortune, struck their silver harps and shrilled: “How is the fly fallen, fallen!”