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Journal of Katherine Mansfield



The postman was late. She rang and asked the eternal ‘déjà passé?’ and heard the eternal ‘pas encore, Madame.’ At last Armand appeared with a letter and the papers. The letter she read. And then it happened again, again there seemed to be a dreadful loud shaking and trembling: her heart leaped. She sank down in the bed. She began to weep and could not stop.

The first bell rang. She got up, she began to dress, crying and cold. The second bell. She sat down and steeled herself; her throat ached, ached. She powdered herself thickly and went downstairs. In the lift: “Armand, cherchezmoi une voiture pour deux heures juste.” And then one hour and a quarter in the brilliant glaring noisy salle, sipping wine to stop crying, page 146 and seeing all the animals crack up the food. The waiters kept jerking her chair, offering food. It was no good. She left and went upstairs, but that was fatal. Had she a home? A little cat? Was she any man's wife? Was it all over?

She dressed and went downstairs into the horrible hall, because there, with the monde drinking coffee, she dared not cry. A little brougham drove up with an old dragging man. She got in. “A la poste!” Oh, these little broughams, what she had gone through in them! the blue-buttoned interior, the blue cords and ivory tassels, all, all! She leaned back and lifted her veil and dried her tears. But it was no use. The post office was full. She had to wait in a queue for the telegrams among horrible men who shouted over her shoulder, horrible men. And now, where? A dose of sal volatile at the chemist's. While he made it up she walked quickly up and down the shop, twisting her hands. There was a box of Kolynos. It spoke of him, him in her room, talking about the foam, saying he'd leave his behind. Four francs seventy-five.

She bought and drank the mixture, and now, where? She got into the cab—the old man hung at the door—she couldn't speak. Suddenly down the road on the opposite side, looking very grave came Frances. She crossed over and taking her hand said “Deo gratias.” And she was silent a moment. Then she said suddenly, “Come along and see M'Laren now. Let's fix it now this moment.” They waited in a very quiet room, page 147 rich with books and old dark coloured prints, and dark highly polished furniture. Frances went out for a preparatory talk and then came back for her and they entered the doctor's room. He was short, dry, with a clipped beard and fine brown eyes. A fire burned: there were books everywhere. German books too. Frances stayed while the long familiar careful examination went on again. The doctor took infinite pains. When he had done she dressed, and Frances said: “Doctor, it's the desire of my life to cure this—little friend of mine. You must let me have her, you must let me do it.” And after a pause which the other thought final, he said: “I think it would be ideal for her to be with you. She ought not to have to suffer noise and the constant sight of repellent people. She is highly sensitive and her disease—of such long standing, has increased it a thousandfold.” He was quiet, grave, gentle. Oh, if they could have known or seen her heart that had been stabbed and stabbed. But she managed to smile and thank the doctor, and then Frances put her back into the brougham, and it was arranged she would leave in a week.

All the afternoon she had been seeing wallflowers. Let her never have a sprig of wallflowers—if ever she had a garden. Oh, anguish of life! Oh, bitter, bitter Life! That reminded her of wallflowers and Shakespeare. Yes, how in a Winter's Tale, Perdita refused gillyflowers in her garden. “They call them nature's bastards.” She came back into her room and lay down. It was like Bavaria again, but worse, worse—and page 148 now she could not take a drug, or anything, She must just bear it and go on.