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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume I

Saturday night — August 11, 1917

Saturday night
August 11, 1917

There are three unfinished letters to you in my writing case—one is even five pages long. I could not re-read them but I know why they were not sent. They seemed to me (and they were) as I wrote them hopelessly superficial and fatiguing—fatiguing like a conversation by telephone can be. I heard my own little mocking, mechanical voice, loathed it, and chose silence. Quite suddenly, just after you had been so near,—for no reason that I can explain away—it was as if the light changed, and you vanished from me. I wandered about in the wood among the wild smelling bushes and sometimes I thought I saw the dark plume of page 78 your hat, or your lips or your hands but when I went towards you—you were not. The strange part was that my memory of the days we had just spent together was as perfect as ever—as bright, as untroubled. I still saw the blue spears of lavender—the trays of fading, scented leaves, you in your room, and your bed with the big white pillow and you coming down in the garden swinging the gay lantern. But between these lovely memories and me there opened a deep dark chasm—it trembled open as if by an earthquake—and now it is shut again and no trace of it remains.

There—now I have told you ‘all.’

Ever since I came back except for two hellish days, I have been ‘at home’ and working. It is the only life I care about—to write, to go out occasionally and ‘lose myself’ looking and hearing and then to come back and write again. At any rate that's the life I've chosen. But as soon as this bloody war is over I shall flee the country.

To-day has been so strange, very sunny, with a loud wind blowing and the sky a bright dazzle. One simply wanted to run about and be blown about and, if I dare quote Meredith, to cry like Diana: ‘I am like a leaf.’

I am dying for something to read, but there is nothing. Every time my longing eye searches my shelves it sees Horace for English Readers or Petit Larousse…. Where are the books?