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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume I

Sunday morning, 8 a.m. — November 30, 1919

Sunday morning, 8 a.m.
November 30, 1919

It's a real Sunday, calm, quiet, with the sea practising over a voluntary while the verger tiptoes laying out the hymn and prayer books in the strangers' pews. There's a lovely piece of bright sun in my room—but, bother, it is moving towards great banks of unruffled cloud.

I went to San Remo yesterday afternoon. It was very exciting. The shops are all prepared for the Great Fleece. page 306 A great many antique shops are open. I suppose they are all frauds. At any rate the prices would be appalling, but, by Jove! they have got some lovely things! There was a chair yesterday that can't be a fraud, covered in the most exquisite needlework on old ivory brocade. Figs and their leaves, pomegranates, apricots, pears, a spotted snake or two, all in most gay delicate colours, and then there was another great piece of embroidery, all flowers, with a little running border of wild strawberry fruits, leaves and blossoms. The shops are rather darkish. One looks in and one sees a flash of silver, a mass of copper, dark polished furniture, lace, a glass case or two of miniatures and jewels, and the old spider with a silk handkerchief over her head sitting quiet, on the watch. I'd be the first fly to go in if my purse were full.

I went to the market. It was gay there. You remember where they used to sell fried cakes? Yesterday there was a stall covered with them and to the side on a charcoal stove women were cooking pancakes. A queer feeling markets give me. I feel that—once every hundred years or so—I walk about among the stalls, price the fruit, note that the new raisins have come, smell the fried cakes, and see the woman's gesture as she rattles for change in the money-bag at her side.

Waiting for the tram R. came up. Well! He'll commit murder one of these days. If ever man looked like a murderer…. He's a fascinating character, a real villain. Not a fool, not merely vague (far from it). He'll end by having a small hotel at a place like Boulogne or Calais or Dieppe, and he'll meet the trains wearing a straw hat and sand shoes.

It's autumn here now: the vines are red and yellow: the dark women carry pale chrysanthemums, and oranges and lemons are ripe. I came home, lit my fire, began to take my shoes off and fell asleep. When I woke up it was dark—the fire just burning, not a sound. I didn't know how long I'd been asleep. Everything was still. I sat there for about half an hour, then I heard steps outside, and page 307 L. M. came in, back from the village. It was nearly seven o'clock. I ate dinner, came up, got into bed, fell asleep again and woke at eleven, bitten to death by three huge mosquitos in the net. Murdered them, went to sleep again and slept till seven! What a pa woman! Oh, find the house! I am longing for it. Christmas is near. Shall we next year really keep Christmas? Shall we have a tree and put it in a room with the door locked—only you and I allowed to go in and decorate it—and then have a small party on Christmas Eve?? We shall go out all wrapped up to the noses, with a pruning hook to cut holly and we'll burn a Christmas log. (Perhaps!)

You know it's madness to love and live apart. That's what we do. Last time when I came back to France do you remember how we swore never again? Then I went to Looe—and after that we swore: never again. Then I came here. Shall we go on doing this? It isn't a married life at all—not what I mean by a married life. How I envy—; no wonder she can write. There is always in her writing a calm freedom of expression as though she were at peace—her roof over her, her possessions round her, and her man somewhere within call. What have I done that I should have all the handicaps—plus a disease and an enemy—and why should we believe this won't happen again? We've said as sincerely as we can ever possibly say: “It will not. This is to be the last time. We'll never let each other go again. We could not.” But the time comes and there's nothing else to be done, and before you say Jack Knife, we're apart again, going through it all again. Shall I be in Malaga next winter, or Algiers? Odious, odious thought. But really, I'd better get used to it. We are the sport of circumstances. It's obviously impossible for us to do anything. But how tired the dice get of being rattled and thrown!