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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

The Barmaid

The Barmaid.

She had an immense amount of fuzzy hair piled up on top of her head, and several very large rings, which from their bright flashing look, you felt certain were engagement-rings.

Above all cooking smells I hate that of mutton chops. It is somehow such an ill-bred smell. It page 184 reminds me of commercial travellers and secondclass, N.Z.

I'll stand in front of the house and knock, and when the door is opened, run in past the maid and call for whoever is there.

Should you say wasted? No, not really. Something is gathered. This quiet time brings one nearer.

July. I finished Mr. and Mrs. Dove yesterday. I am not altogether pleased with it. It's a little bit made up. It's not inevitable. I mean to imply that those two may not be happy together—that that is the kind of reason for which a young girl marries. But have I done so? I don't think so. Besides, it's not strong enough. I want to be nearer—far, far nearer than that. I want to use all my force even when I am taking a fine line. And I have a sneaking notion that I have, at the end, used the Doves unwarrantably. Tu sais ce que je veux dire. I used them to round off something—didn't I? Is that quite my game? No, it's not. It's not quite the kind of truth I'm after. Now for Susannah. All must be deeply felt.

But what is one to do, with this wretched cat and mouse act? There's my difficulty! I must try to write this afternoon instead. There is no reason why I shouldn't! No reason, except the after-effects of pain on a weakened organism.

July 23. Finished An Ideal Family yesterday. It seems to me better than The Doves, but still it's not good enough. I worked at it hard enough, page 185 God knows, and yet I didn't get the deepest truth out of the idea, even once. What is this feeling? I feel again that this kind of knowledge is too easy for me; it's even a kind of trickery. I know so much more. This looks and smells like a story, but I wouldn't buy it. I don't want to possess it —to live with it. NO. Once I have written two more, I shall tackle something different—a long story: At the Bay, with more difficult relationships. That's the whole problem.

“Out of the pocket of the mackintosh she took an ample bag, which she opened and peered into and shook. Her eyebrows were raised, her lips pressed together….”

“And a very long shining blue-black hairpin gleaming on the faded carpet….”

“She shuddered. And now when she looked at his photograph, even the white flower in his buttonhole looked as though it were made of a curl of mutton-fat….”

“And she saw Mr. Bailey in a blue apron standing at the back of one of those horrible shops. He had one hand on his hip, the other grasped the handle of a long knife that was stuck into a huge chopping block. At the back of him there hung a fringe of small rabbits, their feet tied together, a dark clot of blood trembling from their noses….”

July 18. The noise in this house this morning is sheer hell. It has gone on steadily since shortly after six o'clock, and for some reason the maid page 186 seems to have completely lost her head. It's now nearly ten, and she hasn't cleared the breakfast away. I have to go again to the Palace at 11, and the consequence is I'm rather nervous anyway. And I've had the flowers to do and various things to see to like—laundry. I can hardly bear it. Now she plods up. Bang! She will be at the door in a moment. I don't know how to stand it if it goes on. She's here. She's about to put the things in the lift. What are her thoughts? I don't know or care. But I bitterly long for a little private room where I can work undisturbed. The balcony is not good enough; neither is this salon. Here again, J. has beaten me. And it's not half so important for him….