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The Life of Katherine Mansfield



When—like Fenella in The Voyage—Kass went to visit her grandparents at Picton—in the little square white house where they lived with her uncle Stanley, who wore a black velvet coat—she found a place quite different from Anikiwa, even though it was on the same Sound and only ten miles away. And Picton in the 'nineties was quite other than Picton in the 'sixties. Grass was growing in the narrow streets, and cows grazed in them, and strolled lazily among the shabby houses and old wooden shops. The lovely little seaport had gone to sleep for ever.

The “General Merchant Store,” built for grandfather Beauchamp on Wellington Street, was only 150 yards or so from the boat jetties and wharf. From that water-front, Kathleen might have imagined herself on the shores of a lovely lake. In the sunlight it was blue and sparkling; but the town faces north, and sudden grey squalls rise quickly in the small harbour enclosed by the steep page 94 bush-clad mountains that throw their arms about Picton. Then it is dark and terrifying,“like living at the bottom of a well.” Towards evening the sense of being closed in, cut off from all the world, grows rapidly with the twilight. The western hillside looks dark and threatening in its own shadow. To the child it was like a great crouching lion, as if the bulk of shadow gathered its dark force ready to spring. Yet if she looked north, where it falls into the sea, that was the lion's tail; and, since tails have a levity which make one laugh, the fantasy would pass.