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Journal of Katherine Mansfield


page 137


January 1. J. prepares to go. Drying figs on the stove, and white socks drying from the mantel-piece. A dish of oranges and rain-wet leaves—a pack of cards on the table. It rains but it is warm. The jonquil is in bud. We linger at the door. L.M. sings.

January 2. J. left for London. The house very empty and quiet. I was ill all day—exhausted. In the afternoon fell asleep over my work and missed the post. My heart won't lie down. No post. During the night the cat picture became terrifying.

January 3. A load of wood. Sent review. Cold day. Miss S. called—deadly dull. Her yawn and recovery. Storm of wind and rain. I had nightmare about J. He and I ‘separated.’ Miss S. talked about tulips, but she makes all sound so fussy: the threads of her soul all ravelled.

January 4. Cold, wet, windy, terrible weather. Fought it all day. Horribly depressed. D. came to tea; but it was no good. Worked. Two wires from J. According to promise. I cannot write. page 138 The jonquils are out, weak and pale. Black clouds pull over.

Immediately the sun goes in I am overcome—again the black fit takes me. I hate the sea. There is naught to do but work. But how can I work when this awful weakness makes even the pen like a walking-stick?

January 5. Nuit blanche. Decided at 3 a.m. that D. was a homicidal maniac. Certain of this. Started my story, ‘Late Spring.’ A cold bitter day. Worked on Tchehov all day and then at my story till 11 p.m. Anna came. We talked about her to her face in English. No letters. Post Office strike. Anna's bow and velvet blouse.

January 6. Black day. Dark, no sky to be seen; a livid sea; a noise of boiling in the air. Dreamed the cats died of anti-pneumonia. Heart attack 8 a.m. Awful day. No relief for a moment. Couldn't work. At night changed the position of my bed. At five o'clock I thought I was at sea tossing—for ever. N.B.

January 7. On the verandah. I don't want a God to praise or to entreat, but to share my vision with. This afternoon looking at the primula after the rain. I want no one to dance and wave their arms. I only want to feel they see, too.

January 8. Black. A day spent in Hell. Unable to do anything. Took brandy. Determined not to weep—wept. Sense of isolation frightful. I page 139 shall die if I don't escape. Nauseated, faint, cold with misery. Oh, I must survive it somehow.

January 9. Black. Another of them. In the afternoon Foster came and agreed I must leave here. Somehow or other I wrote a column. Broke my watch glass. In the evening L.M. and I were more nearly friendly than we have been for years. I couldn't rest or sleep. The roaring of the sea was insufferable.

January 10. Spent the evening writing another column. Help me, God! And then L.M. came in to say I was half-an-hour slow. Just did it in time. Had talk with L.M. Our friendship is returning—in the old fashion. Thought out “The Exile.”1 Appalling night of misery.

January 11. Worked from 9.30 till a quarter after midnight only stopping to eat. Finished the story. Lay awake then until 5.30 too excited to sleep. In the sea drowned souls sang all night. I thought of everything in my life, and it all came back so vividly…. These are the worst days of my whole life.

January 12. Posted the story and a telegram. Very tired. The sea howled and boomed and roared away. When will this cup pass from me? Oh, misery! I cannot sleep. I lie retracing my steps—going over all the old life before….

1 Afterwards called “The Man without a Temperament”; see Bliss.

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January 13. Bad day. A curious smoky effect over the coast. I crawled and crept about the garden in the afternoon. I feel terribly weak and all the time on the verge of breaking down. Tried to work; could not work. At six o'clock went back to bed. Had a dreadful nightmare.

January 14. Foster came: says my lung is remarkably better, but must rest absolutely for two months and not attempt to walk at all. I have got a “bigger chance.” Bell rang at night. My eye pains me. Cannot get a move on. Dreamed about B. She gave me her baby to mind.

January 15. Sat in my room watching the day change to evening. The fire like a golden stag. Thinking of the past always; dreaming it over. The cotton plant has turned yellow. To-night the sea is down. P.O. strike. No, no letters.

January 16. Wrote and sent reviews. Stayed in bed, worked. Had a bath. The day was very lovely. I had to work hard. In the evening began my new story “A Strange Mistake.”1 P.O. strike for letters and telegrams. At night I could not sleep. My life in London seems immeasurably far and all like a dream. L.M. talked of herself as a child.

January 17. Postal strike: no letters, no wire. Tearing up and sorting the old letters. The

1 Subsequently called The Wrong House: see “Something Childish, and Other Stories,” where it is wrongly dated 1919.

page 141 feeling that comes—the anguish—the words that fly out into one's breast: My darling! My wife! Oh, what anguish! Oh, will it ever be the same? Lay awake at night listening to the voices. Two men seemed to sing—a tenor and a baritone: then the drowned began.

January 18. No letters: strike still on. A fine day. But what is that to me? I am an invalid. I spend my life in bed. Read Shakespeare in the morning. I feel I cannot bear this silence to-day. I am haunted by thoughts.

January 19. No letters or papers. V. came; and Mrs. V. and Miss S. in white. “The trouble I've had with you, Mrs. Murry, and the expense it's put me to—more fuss than if you'd died there.” The women against the flowers were so lovely—even Miss S. I had a dreadful crying fit about “noise and cleanliness.” It was horrible.

January 20. Washed my hair. L.M. out all day. Here alone—a perfect day. I wandered in the garden…. There was a ship, white and solid on the water. Overcoat disappeared. The fire in my room and the double light. All was exquisitely beautiful. “Good-bye.” It now believes we are going and it is safe.

January 21. A day like a dream. V.'s hair, stick, jacket, teeth, tie—all to be remembered. “To use a volgarism, I'm fed up.” The journey—the flowers—and these women here. Jinnie's black page 142 satin neckcloth and pearl pin. This exquisite cleanliness turns me into a cat.

[On this day K.M. finally left the Casetta for a nursing home in Mentone.]

January 22. Saw the doctor: a fool. The Casetta left to itself: the little winds blowing, the shutters shut, the cotton plant turning yellow. Spent a tiring morning. My heart hurts me. The meals downstairs are a fearful strain. But the people naïve.

January 23. Saw two of the doctors—an ass, and an ass. Spent the day at my window. It was very lovely and fair. But I was trying to work all day and could not get down to it. In the night had appalling nightmare.

January 24. Cousin C. brought the tiny dog to see me—a ravishing animal. The same despairing desire to work, and could not work. I suppose I started reviewing T. nine or ten times. Felt very tired as a result of this.

January 25. The meals here are a horror. I seem to be sitting hours and hours there, and the people are ugly. Nevertheless, thank God I am here, in sound of the train, in reach of the post.

January 26. Felt ill with fatigue and cold and my lungs hurt. It is because I am not working. All is a bit of a nightmare for that reason. My page 143 temper is so bad! I feel I am horrid and can't stop it. It's a bad feeling.

January 27. The woman who does the massage is not really any good. My life is queer here. I like my big airy room, but to work is so hard. At the back of my mind I am so wretched. But all the while I am thinking over my philosophy—the defeat of the personal.

January 28. I shall not remember what happened on this day. It is a blank. At the end of my life I may want it, may long to have it. There was a new moon: that I remember. But who came or what I did—all is lost. It's just a day missed, a day crossing the line.

January 30. I tried all day to work and feel dog-tired. Perhaps it's the massage. Jinnie came to see me and brought me a present from her little dog.

January 31. Changed my room for this other. I prefer it. It is more snug and there is only one bed.

February 1. My room is horrible. Very noisy: a constant clatter and a feeling as though it were doorless. French people don't care a hang how much noise they make. I hate them for it. Stayed in bed; felt very ill, but don't mind because of the reason. The food was really appalling: nothing to eat. At night old Casetta feelings, like madness. Voices and words and half-visions.

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February 2. Connie and Jinnie came and brought a notice of my book [“Bliss”]. I brought in more flowers. Saw the lovely palm. Love will win if only I can stick to it. It will win after all and through all.

February 3. Went for a little walk in the garden and saw all the pale violets. The beauty of palm trees. I fell in love with a tree. Japonica is a lovely flower, but people never grow enough of it.

February 4. Horrible day. I lay all day and half slept in this new way—hearing voices.

February 5. Went for a drive. All the way gay. The house and the girl. Couldn't work: slept again. Dreadful pain in joints. Fearfully noisy house! Saw an orange-tree, an exquisite shape against the sky: when the fruit is ripe the leaves are pale yellow.

February 6. Determined to review two books to-day and to get on with “Second Helping.” Saw the fool of a doctor to-day. Diddle-dum-dum-dee! Cod is the only word! Bad-in-age! Flat-ter-ie! Gal-ant-ter-ie! Frogs!!! Vous pouvez vous promener. Liar. The palm tree. Did not finish review; but no matter, it goes.

February 7. House in a perfect uproar. Dreadfully nervous. Dressmaker came and her little apprentice who gave me the flowers. Had a bath—but all was in a tearing hurry and clatter. Had page 145 a strange dream. “She is one with the moonlight.” George Sand—ma sœur.

February 8. To Villa Flora. In the garden with the unhappy woman lying on the hard bench. The Spanish brocade cloth—the piece of heliotrope. Jinnie's plan that I shall go and live there. Came back and wrote it all to J. in delight. I for the first time think I should like to join the Roman Catholic Church. I must have something.

[Shortly afterwards K.M. left the nursing home to stay at the Villa Flora with her cousin Miss Beauchamp and her friend Miss Fullerton, whose devoted care of her was rewarded by a rapid and remarkable improvement in her health.]


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.

The Glimpse.

And yet one has these ‘glimpses’, before which all that one ever has written (what has one written?)—all (yes, all) that one ever has read, pales…. The waves, as I drove home this afternoon, and the high foam, how it was suspended in the air before it fell…. What is it that happens in that moment of suspension? It is timeless. In that moment (what do I mean?) the whole life of the soul is contained. One is flung up—out of life—one is ‘held’, and then,—down, bright, broken, glittering on to the rocks, tossed back, part of the ebb and flow.

I don't want to be sentimental. But while one hangs, suspended in the air, held,—while I watched the spray, I was conscious for life of the white sky with a web of torn grey over it; of the slipping, sliding, slithering sea; of the dark woods blotted against the cape; of the flowers on the tree I was passing; and more—of a huge cavern where my selves (who were like ancient sea-weed gatherers) mumbled, indifferent and intimate … and this other self apart in the carriage, grasping the cold knob of her umbrella, thinking of a ship, of ropes stiffened with white paint and the wet, flapping oilskins of sailors…. Shall one ever be at peace with oneself? Ever quiet and uninterrupted—without pain—with the one whom one loves under the same roof? Is it too much to ask?

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February 29. Oh, to be a writer, a real writer given up to it and to it alone! Oh, I failed to-day; I turned back, looked over my shoulder, and immediately it happened, I felt as though I too were struck down. The day turned cold and dark on the instant. It seemed to belong to summer twilight in London, to the clang of the gates as they close the garden, to the deep light painting the high houses, to the smell of leaves and dust, to the lamp-light, to that stirring of the senses, to the languor of twilight, the breath of it on one's cheek, to all those things which (I feel to-day) are gone from me for ever…. I feel to-day that I shall die soon and suddenly: but not of my lungs.

There are moments when Dickens is possessed by this power of writing: he is carried away. That is bliss. It certainly is not shared by writers to-day. The death of Cheedle: dawn falling upon the edge of night. One realises exactly the mood of the writer and how he wrote, as it were, for himself, but it was not his will. He was the falling dawn, and he was the physician going to Bar. And again when …

Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Ne reviendra plus ce printemps-ci,
Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Est passé—le temps des œillets aussi.

Le vent a changé—les cieux sont moroses
Et nous n'irons pas couper et cueillir
Les lilas en fleurs et les belles roses;
Le printemps est triste et ne peut fleurir.

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O joyeux et doux printemps de l'année
Qui vint, l'an passé, nous ensoleiller;
Notre fleur d'amour est si bien fânée
Las! que ton baiser ne peut l'éveiller.

Et toi, que fais-tu? pas de fleurs écloses
Point de gai soleil ni d'ombrages frais;
Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Avec notre amour est mort à jamais.

Life's a queer thing. I read this to-day, and in my mind I heard it sung in a very pure voice to a piano, and it seemed to me to be part of the great pain of youthful love.


I kissed her. Her cheek felt cold, white, and somehow moist. It was like kissing a church candle. I looked into her eyes: they were pale, flickering with dim, far-off lights. She smelled faintly of incense. Her skirt was rubbed and bulged at the knees.

“But how could you say that about the Blessed Virgin!” said she. “It must have hurt Our Lady so terribly.”

And I saw the B.V. throwing away her copy of Je ne parle pas Français and saying: “Really, this K.M. is all that her friends say of her to me.”

Roosters and Hens.

By night and at early morning I love to listen to my darling roosters crowing to one another from lonely yards. Each one has a different note: I have never heard two roosters crow alike. But the hens who seem from their cackle to be laying page 151 eggs all day long sound as like one another as … as … In fact there's no possible distinguishing between them. L.M. says they are not all laying eggs. Some of them are frightened, surprised, excited, or just—playful. But this seems to me to make the affair even more … humiliating.

April 4. Easter eggs in the folded napkins. A Happy Easter. We drink to absent friends, but carelessly, not knowing whether to bow or no.

April 9. Cold and windy. Out of the window the writhing palms—the dust—the woman with a black veil. I feel I must live alone, alone, alone —with artists only to touch the door. Every artist cuts off his ear and nails it on the outside of the door for the others to shout into.

April II. I never can remember what happens. It is so without outline. “Yesterday” falls into the general shade. But all the time one looks back and there are wonders. There is always Miss H. stretching out her hands to the great defiant mosquito—crying with a kind of groan—“Oh, the darlings!” That remains for ever. And then one must never forget the dog which gets all the love of children. “Going nice ta-tas, my ducksie pet!”

April 12. Went to the fish museum at Monaco. Must remember the bubbles as the man plunged the rod into the tanks. The young girl. How naice! Young girls make me feel forty. Well, page 152 one certainly doesn't want to look 21. The woman with her three little children at Monte….

[At the end of April K.M. returned to England, to her house in Hampstead.]

August 9. “And if a man will consider life in its whole circuit, and see how superabundantly it is furnished with what is extra-ordinary and beautiful and great, he shall soon know for what we were born.”

August 9. I should like to have a secret code to put on record what I feel to-day. If I forget it, may my right hand forget its cunning … the lifted curtain … the hand at the fire with the ring and stretched fingers … no, it's snowing … the telegram to say he's not … just the words arrive 8.31. But if I say more I'll give myself away.

[Later.] I wrote this because there is a real danger of forgetting that kind of intensity, and it won't do.

December 8, 1920. No, there is no danger of forgetting.

August 12. More beautiful by far than a morning in spring or summer. The mist—the trees standing in it—not a leaf moves—not a breath stirs. There is a faint smell of burning. The sun comes slowly—slowly the room grows lighter. Suddenly, on the carpet, there is a square of pale, red light. The bird in the garden goes ‘snip—snip—snip’—a little wheezy, like the sound of page 153 a knife-grinder. The nasturtiums blaze in the garden: their leaves are pale. On the lawn, his paws tucked under him, sits the black and white cat….

August. I cough and cough, and at each breath a dragging, boiling, bubbling sound is heard. I feel that my whole chest is boiling. I sip water, spit, sip, spit. I feel I must break my heart. And I can't expand my chest; it's as though the chest had collapsed…. Life is—getting a new breath. Nothing else counts.

“Can't you help me? Can't you?” But even while she asked him she smiled as if it didn't matter so much whether he could or couldn't.

My nature … my nerves … the question is whether I shall change or not. Per-sonally…. You see him? And he has a friend, a confidant, an old schoolfellow, small, shabby, with a wooden leg, whom he has re-discovered. He's married. The friend enters the new ménage. Little by little he gets to know the wife. No tragedy. He feels like a one-legged sparrow. Talking together in the house before she comes in. “Is that you, Beaty? Can we have some tea?”

Let the sparrow—let the sparrow—suffer the sparrow to….

Charades. Roger of course commits suicide, cuts his throat with a paper knife and gurgles his life away.

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[The following notes evidently refer to the first conception of the unfinished story called Weak Heart, which is included in “The Doves' Nest” (see page 183). The date shows that K.M. had cherished the idea of the story a long while.]

September. The daughter of the watch-smith. Her piano-playing. Her weak heart, queer face, queer voice, awful clothes. The violets in their garden. Her little mother and father. The scene at the Baths: the coldness, the blueness of the children, her size in the red twill bathing-dress, trimmed with white braid. The steps down to the water—the rope across.

Edie has a brother Siegfried. 17. You never know whether he has begun to shave or not. He and Edie walk in arm in arm…. Her Sunday hat is trimmed beyond words.

Oh, that tree at the corner of May Street! I forgot it until this moment. It was dark and hung over the street like a great shadow. The father was fair and youthful to look at. He was a clockmaker.

[The following entries belong to September 1920, and were made on the journey to the Villa Isola Bella at Mentone, where K.M. spent the winter of that year.]

Feminine Psychology.

“It is said that the turtledove never drinks clear water, but always muddies it first with its foot so that it may the better suit its pensive mind.”

Isola Bella: How shall I buy it?

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Southward Bound.

Lying facing the window I woke early. The blind was half pulled down. A deep pink light flew in the sky, and the shapes of the trees, ancient barns, towers, walls were all black. The pools and rivers were quicksilver. Nearing Avignon, the orchard in the first rays of sunlight shone with gold fruit: apples flashed like stars.

L.M.'s legs dangled. She dropped down, slowly waving her big grey legs, as though something pulled her, dragged her—the tangle of rich blue weeds on the red carpet.

“A-vig … Avig … Avig-non.” she said.

“One of the loveliest names in the world done to death,” said I. “A name that spans the ancient town like a bridge.”

She was very impressed. But then George Moore could impress her.

Woman and Woman.

What I feel is: She is never for one fraction of a second unconscious. If I sigh, I know that her head lifts. I know that those grave large eyes solemnly fix on me: Why did she sigh? If I turn she suggests a cushion or another rug. If I turn again, then it is my back. Might she try to rub it for me? There is no escape. All night: a faint rustle, the smallest cough, and her soft voice asks: “Did you speak? Can I do anything?” If I do absolutely nothing then she discovers my fatigue under my eyes. There is something profound and terrible in this eternal desire to establish contact.

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Man and Woman.

Mysterious is man and woman. She sat on a flat seat in the corridor and he stood above her while the dark fat man beat them up a couple of beds. She looked sulky, stubborn and bored. But it was plain to see she suited him.

“Bang on the door when you're ready, old girl!”

And the door slammed. He sat on the flap-seat, smoothed his thin smooth hair, folded his bony hands. A neat foot dangled from a trim ankle. The light shone on his glasses. Seeing him thus one could not imagine a man who looked less like a woman's man. But I admired him immensely. I was proud of them as “made in England.”

Breakfast Time.

It grew hot. Everywhere the light quivered green-gold. The white soft road unrolled, with plane-trees casting a trembling shade. There were piles of pumpkins and gourds: outside the house the tomatoes were spread in the sun. Blue flowers and red flowers and tufts of deep purple flared in the road-side hedges. A young boy, carrying a branch, stumbled across a yellow field, followed by a brown high-stepping little goat. We bought figs for breakfast, immense thin-skinned ones. They broke in one's fingers and tasted of wine and honey. Why is the northern fig such a chaste fair-haired virgin, such a soprano? The melting contraltos sing through the ages.

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England and France.

The great difference: England so rich, with the green bowers of the hops and gay women and children with their arms lifted, pausing to watch the train. A flock of yellow hens, led by a red rooster, streamed across the edge of the field. But France: an old man in a white blouse was cutting a field of small clover with an old-fashioned half-wooden scythe. The tops of the flowers were burnt; the stooks (are they stooks?) were like small heaps of half-burned tobacco.

[Marie of the following notes was the bonne at the Villa Isola Bella.]


October. She is little and grey with periwinkle—I feel inclined to write peritwinkle—blue eyes and swift, sweeping gestures. Annette said she is “une personne très supérieure—la veuve d'un cocher,” and “qu'elle a son appartement à Nice…. Mais, que voulez-vous? La vie est si chère. On est forcé.” But Marie does not look like any of these imposing, substantial things. She is far too gay, too laughing, too light, to have ever been more than a feather in the coachman's hat. As to an appartement, I suspect it was a chair at a window which overlooked a market.

Throttling, strangling by the throat, a helpless, exhausted little black silk bag.

But one says not a word and to the best of one's belief gives no sign. I went out into the gentle rain and saw the rainbow. It deepens; it shone page 158 down into the sea and it faded: it was gone. The small gentle rain fell on the other side of the world. Frail—Frail. I felt Life was no more than this.

Marie and the Cauliflower.

Mon pauvre mari rolled over and said: Tu as peur? Que tu es bête! Ce sont des rats. Douze encore.” I thought, after she told me, and these words kept rippling and rippling through my mind, something had disturbed the long silent forgotten surface. How many of his words were remembered? Did anybody ever quote the living words he'd spoken? “Tu as peur? Que tu es bête!” Words spoken at night, in the dark, strangely intimate, reassuring. He turned over and lifted himself in his grave as Marie spoke. Mournful, mournful….

“What about a cauliflower?” I said. “A cauliflower with white sauce.”

“But they are so dear, Madame,” wailed Marie. “So dear. One little cauliflower for 2 fr. 50. It's robbery, it's …”

Suddenly through the kitchen window I saw the moon. It was so marvellously beautiful that I walked out of the kitchen door, through the garden and leaned over the gate before I knew what I was doing. The cold bars of the gate stopped me. The moon was full, transparent, glittering. It hung over the sighing sea. I looked at it for a long time. Then I turned round, and the little house faced me—a little white house quivering with light, a house like a candle shining behind a feather of mimosa-tree. I had utterly page 159 forgotten these things when I was ordering the dinner. I went back to the kitchen.

“Let us have a cauliflower at any price,” I said firmly.

And Marie muttered, bending over a pot—could she have understood?—“En effet, the times are dangerous!”


“Does nobody want that piece of bread and butter?” says L.M. You would really think from her tone that she was saving the poor little darling from the river or worse, willing to adopt it as her own child and bring it up so that it never should know it was once unwanted. She cannot bear to see solitary little pieces of bread and butter or lonely little cakes—or even a lump of sugar that someone has cruelly, heartlessly left in his saucer. And when you offer her the big cake, she says resignedly: “Oh, well, my dear, I'll just try”, as though she knew how sensitive and easily hurt the poor old chap's feelings were, if he's passed by. After all, it can't hurt her.

L.M. is also exceedingly fond of bananas. But she eats them so slowly, so terribly slowly. Ah, they know it—somehow they realise what is in store for them when she reaches out her hand. I have seen bananas turn absolutely livid with terror, or grow pale—pale as ashes.

The Kiss.

… I kissed her. Her flesh felt cold, pale, soft. I thought of nuns who have prayed all page 160 night in cold churches…. All her warmth and colour and passion she had offered up in prayer, in cold ancient churches…. She was chill, severe, pale; the light flickered in her raised eyes like the light of candles; her skirt was worn shiny over her peaked knees; she smelled faintly of incense. “No, Father. Yes, Father. Do you think so, Father?” (But still I haven't said what I wanted to say.) October 18, 1920.

The Doll.

“Well, look!” muttered Miss Sparrow.1 “I've nothing to be ashamed of. Look as much as you like. I defy you. It's what I've wanted all my life,” she cried brokenly, “and now I've got it. I defy you. I defy the world!” And she drew herself up in front of the window, proudly, proudly; her eyes flashed, her lips gleamed. She pressed the doll to her flat bosom. She was the Unmarried Mother.

Of course, I can't write that. I'm surprised to have made such a crude note. That's the raw idea, as they say. What I ought to do, though, is to write it, somehow, immediately, even if it's not good enough to print. My chief fault, my overwhelming fault is not writing it out. Well, now that I know it (and the disease is of very long standing) why don't I begin, at least, to follow a definite treatment? It is my experience that when an ‘evil’ is recognised, any delay in attempting to eradicate it is fatally weakening. And I, who love order, with my mania for the ‘clean page 161 sweep,’ for every single thing being ship-shape—I to know there's such an ugly spot in my mind! Weeds flourish in neglect. I must keep my garden open to the light and in order. I must at all costs plant these bulbs and not leave them (oh, shameful!) to rot on the garden paths. To-day (October 18, 1920) is Monday. I have raised my right hand and sworn. Am I ever happy except when overcoming difficulties? Never. Am I ever free from the sense of guilt, even? Never. After I had finished that slight sketch, The Young Girl, wasn't there a moment which surpasses all other moments? Oh, yes. Then—why do you hesitate? How can you? I take my oath. Not one day shall pass without I write something—original.

December 14. The baby became covered with inkspots and served as a little reminder for days of the things she had forgotten to say and the things she might have said so differently.

1 See entry of January 24, 1922.

The Little Cat.

“Here he used to sit and sometimes on the path below there sat a small white and yellow cat with a tiny flattened face. It sat very still and its little peaked shadow lay beside it….

“This little cat never ran straight. It wound its way along the path, skirting the tufts of grass, crept now by the fence, now to the side of a rubbish-heap, and its little paws seemed to touch the ground as lightly as possible as though it were afraid of being followed,—traced.”

I shan't say it like that. It's only a note. But Ah, my darling, how often have I watched your page 162 small, silent progress! I shall not forget you, my little cat, as you ran along your beat on this whirling earth.

When Jean-Paul was undressed, his breast was like a small cage of bent bamboos. And she hated to see it. “Cover yourself!” And he shot his small arms into his woollen shirt.

Why Suffer?

“I don't want you to be other than yourself….”

“But if I am myself I won't do what you ask me to do…. I feel its forcing me. It's not me; it's not my geste.”

They looked at each other and for some reason they smiled, actually smiled.

“I really and truly don't know what I want to do. Life isn't so simple as all that, you know….”

And the music went on, gay, soothing, reassuring. All will be well, said the music. Life is so easy … so easy. Why suffer …?

This is the music when the elephants come in to drink out of bottles. Then the clown comes in and takes the bottles away and drinks himself.

The Last Waiting-Room.

One must write a story about a doctor's waiting-room. The glass doors with the sun from outside shining through; the autumn trees pale and fine; the cyclamen, like wax. Now a cart shakes by.

Think of the strange places that illness carries one into; the strange people among whom one passes from hand to hand; the succession of black-coated gentlemen to whom she'd whispered page 163 99, 44, 1—2—3. The last waiting-room. All before had been so cheerful.

“Then you don't think my case is hopeless?”

“The disease is of long standing, but certainly not hopeless.” This one, however, leaned back and said: “You really want to know?”

“Yes, of course. Oh, you can be quite frank with me.”

“Then, I do!”

The carriage came and drove her away, her head buried in her collar.

But the champagne was no good at all. I had to drink it because it was there; but there was something positively malicious in the way the little bubbles hurled themselves to the brim, danced, broke. They seemed to be jeering at me.


I should like this to be accepted as my confession.

There is no limit to human suffering. When one thinks: “Now I have touched the bottom of the sea—now I can go no deeper,” one goes deeper. And so it is for ever. I thought last year in Italy, Any shadow more would be death. But this year has been so much more terrible that I think with affection of the Casetta! Suffering is boundless, it is eternity. One pang is eternal torment. Physical suffering is—child's play. To have one's breast crushed by a great stone—one could laugh!

I do not want to die without leaving a record of my belief that suffering can be overcome. For page 164 I do believe it. What must one do? There is no question of what is called ‘passing beyond it.’ This is false.

One must submit. Do not resist. Take it. Be overwhelmed. Accept it fully. Make it part of life.

Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. This is the mystery. This is what I must do. I must pass from personal love to greater love. I must give to the whole of life what I gave to one. The present agony will pass—if it doesn't kill. It won't last. Now I am like a man who has had his heart torn out—but—bear it—bear it! As in the physical world, so in the spiritual world, pain does not last for ever. It is only so terribly acute now. It is as though a ghastly accident had happened. If I can cease reliving all the shock and horror of it, cease going over it, I will get stronger.

Here, for a strange reason, rises the figure of Doctor Sorapure. He was a good man. He helped me not only to bear pain, but he suggested that perhaps bodily ill-health is necessary, is a repairing process, and he was always telling me to consider how man plays but a part in the history of the world. My simple kindly doctor was pure of heart as Tchehov was pure of heart. But for these ills one is one's own doctor. If ‘suffering’ is not a repairing process, I will make it so. I will learn the lesson it teaches. These are not idle words. These are not the consolations of the sick.

page 165

Life is a mystery. The fearful pain will fade. I must turn to work. I must put my agony into something, change it. ‘Sorrow shall be changed into joy.’

It is to lose oneself more utterly, to love more deeply, to feel oneself part of life,—not separate.

Oh Life! accept me—make me worthy—teach me.

I write that. I look up. The leaves move in the garden, the sky is pale, and I catch myself weeping. It is hard—it is hard to make a good death….

To live—to live—that is all. And to leave life on this earth as Tchehov left it and Tolstoi.

After a dreadful operation I remember that when I thought of the pain of being stretched out, I used to cry. Every time I felt it again, and it was unbearable.

That is what one must control. Queer! The two people left are Tchehov—dead—and unheeding, indifferent Doctor Sorapure. They are the two good men I have known.


Katherine Mansfield


At the Bay.

At last the milk white harbour catches the glitter and the gulls floating on the trembling water gleam like the shadows within a pearl.

[See Six Years After, “The Doves' Nest,” p. 115.]

The house dog comes out of his kennel dragging the heavy chain and kalop-kalops at the water standing cold in the iron pan. The house cat page 166 emerges from nowhere and bounds on to the kitchen window sill waiting for her spill of warm morning milk.

[See At the Bay, “The Garden Party,” p. 10.]

Morning Children.

Children! children!

Oh no. Not yet. Oh, it can't be time. Go away. I wont. Oh, why must I?

Children! Children!

They are being called by the cold servant girls.

But they simply can't get up. They simply must have one more little sleep—the best sleep of all—the warm, soft, darling little rabbit of a sleep…. Just let me hug it one minute more before it bounds away.

Soft little girls rolled up in rounds, just their bunch of curls showing over the sheet top; little long pale boys stretching out their slender feet; other little boys lying on their bellies pressing their heads into the pillow; tiny little fellows with fresh cut hair sprouting from a tuft; little girls on their backs, their fists clenched, the bed-clothes anyhow, one foot dangling; girls with pig tails or rings of white paper snails instead of hair…. And now there is the sound of plunging water and all those youthful, warm bodies, the tender exposed boy children, and the firm compact little girls, lie down in the bath tubs and ruffle their shoulders scattering the bright drops as birds love to do with their wings….

Squeech! Squeech! Tchee! Quee! Little boys with plastered hair, clean collars and brand page 167 new boots squeak from the nursery to the lobby to the cupboard under the stairs where the school kits are hung. Furious young voices cry: “Who's stolen my ink eraser that was in the well of my pencil box?”

They hiss through their teeth at the stolid servant girls carrying the porridge pots: “You've been at this! Thief! Spy!!”

The Stranger.

“You merely find yourself in the old position of trying to change me. And I refuse to be changed. I won't change. If I don't feel these things—I don't feel them and there's an end of it.”

For a moment he stood there, cold, frigid, grasping the door-handle, staring not at her but over her head. He looked like a stranger who had opened her door by accident, and felt it necessary, for some reason or other to explain the accident before he closed it again and went out of her life for ever.

Weak Tea.

… “I have just partaken of that saddest of things—a cup of weak tea. Oh, why must it be weak! How much more than pathetic it is to hear someone say as she puts it down before you: “I am afraid it is rather weak.” One feels such a brute to take advantage of it until it is a little stronger. I grasp the cup; it seems to quiver—to breathe—“coward!” I confess, I can never hear a person at a tea party say (in that timid whisper you know, as though they were shamefully page 168 conscious): “Very weak for me, please,” without wanting to burst into tears. Not that I like desperately strong tea—No, let it be a moderate strength—tea that rings the bell. Very strong tea does seem to give you your penny back—in the teapot from the taste of it.

Now and again Fred talked in his sleep. But even then you could say he was quiet…. She would wake up and hear him say suddenly: “it wants a couple of screws,” or “try the other blade,” but never more than that.

The Change.

For a long time she said she did not want to change anything in him, and she meant it. Yet she hated things in him and wished they were otherwise. Then she said she did not want to change anything in him and she meant it. And the dark things that she had hated she now regarded with indifference. Then she said she did not want to change anything in him. But now she loved him so that even the dark things she loved, too. She wished them there; she was not indifferent. Still they were dark and strange but she loved them. And it was for this they had been waiting. They changed. They shed their darkness—the curse was lifted and they shone forth as Royal Princes once more, as creatures of light.

The Rivers of China.

She sat on the end of the box ottoman buttoning her boots. Her short fine springy hair page 169 stood out round her head. She wore a little linen camisole and a pair of short frilled knickers.

“Curse these buttons,” she said, tugging at them. And then suddenly she sat up and dug the handle of the button hook into the box ottoman.

“Oh dear,” she said, “I do wish I hadn't married. I wish I'd been an explorer.” And then she said dreamily, “The Rivers of China, for instance.”

“But what do you know about the rivers of China, darling,” I said. For Mother knew no geography whatever; she knew less than a child of ten.

“Nothing,” she agreed. “But I can feel the kind of hat I should wear.” She was silent a moment. Then she said, “If Father hadn't died I should have travelled and then ten to one I shouldn't have married.” And she looked at me dreamily—looked through me, rather.


Have you noticed how very smug those mountains look that are covered with snow all the year round. They seem to expect me to be so full of admiring awe. It never seems to enter their silly tops to wonder whether it isn't rather dull to be so for ever and ever above suspicion.

Cultivated Minds.

Such a cultivated mind doesn't really attract me. I admire it, I appreciate all “les soins et les peines” that have gone to produce it—but page 170 it leaves me cold. After all, the adventure is over. There is now nothing to do but to trim and to lop and to keep back—all faintly depressing labours. No, no, the mind I love must still have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two (real snakes), a pool that nobody's fathomed the depth of—and paths threaded with those little flowers planted by the mind. It must also have real hiding places, not artificial ones—not gazebos and mazes. And I have never yet met the cultivated mind that has not had its shrubbery. I loathe and detest shrubberies.

Let me remember when I write about that fiddle how it runs up lightly and swings down sorrowful; how it searches

In the white lace, the spreading veil and the pearls she looked like a gull. But a quick hungry gull with an absolutely insatiable appetite for bread. “Come feed me! Feed me!” said that quick glare. It was as though all her vitality, her cries, her movements, her wheelings depended upon the person on the bridge who carried the loaf.

The Voyage of “The Bugle.”

No, no, said Miss P., that really isn't fair. I love serious books. Why, I don't know when I've enjoyed a book as much as—as—Dear me! How silly! It's on the tip of my tongue—Darwin's … page 171 one moment—it's coming—Darwin's Decline and Fall…. No, no, that wasn't the one. That's not right now. Tchuh! Tchuh! you know how it is—I can see it quite plainly and yet … I've got it! Darwin's Descent of Man! … Was that the one—though? Do you know now I'm not certain? I feel it was, and yet it's unfamiliar. This is most extraordinary. And yet I enjoyed it so much. There was a ship. Ah! that's brought it back. Of course, of course! That was the one. Darwin's Voyage of the Bugle!

“La mère de Lao-Tse a conçu son fils rien qu'en regardant filer une étoile.”

December 27. When I stuck the small drawing to the side of the mirror frame I realised that the seal—the mark—the cachet rouge—had been set on the room. It had then become the room of those two, and not her room any more. It is not that the room was dead before, but how it has gained in life! Whence has come the tiny bouquet of tangerine fruits, the paste-pot on the writing-table, the fowl's feather stuck in Ribni's hair,1 the horn spectacles on the Chinese embroidery. The ‘order’ in which I live is not changed, but enriched; in some strange way it is enlarged.

This is en effet just the effect of his mind upon mine. Mysterious fitness of our relationship! page 172 And all those things which he does impose on my mind please me so deeply that they seem to be natural to me. It is all part of this feeling that he and I, different beyond the dream of difference, are yet an organic whole. We are, as I said yesterday, the two sides of the medal, separate, distinct and yet making one. I do not feel that I need another to fulfil my being, and yet having him, I possess something that without him I would lack. In fact we are—apart from everything else—each other's critic in that he ‘sees’ me, I see myself reflected as more than I appear and yet not more than I am, and so I believe it is with him. So, to be together is apart from all else an act of faith in ourselves.

I went out into the garden just now. It is starry and mild. The leaves of the palm are like down-drooping feathers; the grass looks soft, unreal, like moss. The sea sounded, and a little bell was ringing, and one fancied—was it real, was it imaginary?—one heard a body of sound, one heard all the preparations for night within the houses. Some one brings in food from the dark, lamp-stained yard. The evening meal is prepared. The charcoal is broken, the dishes are clattered; there is a soft movement on the stairs and in the passages and doorways. In dusky rooms where the shutters are closed the women, grave and quiet, turn down the beds and see that there is water in the water-jugs. Little children are sleeping….

Does it always happen that while you look at the star you feel the other stars are dancing, page 173 flickering, changing places, almost playing a game on purpose to bewilder you? It is strange that there are times when I feel the stars are not at all solemn: they are secretly gay. I felt this to-night. I sat on the cane chair and leaned against the wall. I thought of him contained in the little house against which I leaned—within reach—within call. I remembered there was a time when this thought was a distraction. Oh, it might have been a sweet distraction—but there it was! It took away from my power to work…. I, as it were, made him my short story. But that belongs to the Past…. One has passed beyond it.

1 “Ribni” was a Japanese doll belonging to K.M., so named after “Captain Ribnikov,” the Japanese spy who is the hero of Kuprin's remarkable story of that title.