Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sawdust and Elephants

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murray

(December 14, 1915)

Dearest of all,

on't you worry about me. My femme de chambre, when she goes off duty, leaves me in her 'friend's' charge and her 'friend' is a little spry creature with a pale blue nose who is very gentille indeed to me. 'Il ne faut pas vous gener,' she keeps saying to me. 'Je veux faire tout ce que je peux pour vous.' In fact, the servants here seem to think I'm a dear little thing! And after midday that Englishman, terribly shy, knocked at my door. It appears he has a most marvellous cure for just my kind of rheumatism. Would I try it? All this was explained in the most preposterous rigmarole, in an attempt to appear off-hand and at his poor unfortunate case. I never saw a man so shy! Finally he says that if the pharmacien can't make it up here he will take the first train to Toulon this afternoon and get it for me. It is a rubbing mixture which he got off a German doctor one year when he was at Switzerland for winter sports and had an attack of sciatic rheumatism. It sounds to me--very hopeful--but I'd catch any straw! So I thanked him and bowing and humming and hawing he went off. I can't think what frightened him so. I shall have to put on a hat and a pair of gloves when he brings me back the unguent.

Oh, that postman is a tortoise, a detestable tortoise--half a tortoise. (Bogey, I am an awful little cod. My bed is going to my brain. Now I'll wait for your letter before I go on.)

Later. I did wait with a vengeance. At half past 3 I rang the bell. 'Le courier, a-t-il deja passe?' 'Ah, oui, Madame--une bonne demi-heure!' 'Merci bien.' But when she had gone I confess I turned to the wall and cried bitterly. . . . .I think mostly from rage. Then I began to think how my Father always always had time to write every single day to my Mother, etc., etc., etc. Then in despair I climbed out of bed, found a piece of ribbon and sat up and made myself a hat. Once before, I remember, when I was ill at Rottingdean and alone and waiting for a letter that didn't come I made myself a hat out of pins and fury and it was the hat of my life. So is this. But I am desperately disappointed, I must confess and I think it is awfully awfully cruel. Once I get better I'll forgive you if you don't write, but Oh--to lie in this silent room and know the postman has been. You wouldn't like it, Bogey..

Now I've had dinner, an omelette, some cauliflower and a stewed apple. I am getting thin. There are 2 hollows in my cheeks but no little love kisses them. My Englishman has arrived with his pot of ointment and refuses to take even a pin or a bead in pavement. How kind he is--It's easy to see he hasn't lived with me 3 years.

I am very angry--but not really with you. You couldn't help your letter missing the post, I suppose. Or perhaps you were handing cups and saucers for that quiet lady with the cast eye.

I should like to be at a large circus tonight: in a box--very luxurious you know, very warm, very gay with a smell of sawdust and elephants. A superb clown called Pistachio--white poneys, little blue monkeys drinking out of Chinese cups. I should like to be dressed beautifully, beautifully, down to the last fragment of my chemise--and I should like Colette Willy to be dressed just exactly like me and to be in the same box. And during the entr'actes while the orchestra blared Pot Pourri from The Toreador we would eat tiny little jujubes out of a much too big bag and tell each other all about our childhood.
A demain, then. Are you a darling? Oh, I forgive you. I love you. I hug your blessed little head against my breast and kiss you. I love you, you bad wicked precious adorable and enchanting Boge. I am,
Wig Tig

-from Katherine Mansfield's Letters to John Middleton Murray 1913-1922 edited by John Middleton Murray (London: Constable & Co., 1951, 1958)p.52-54.

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