Wellington, New Zealand, 1908
Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp, age 19
I shall kill myself, she proclaimed, as she stared out her third-floor bedroom window onto the Wellington harbor. I ' ve been back home for eighteen months, fifteen days, and six hours and it ' s intolerable. Pa keeps promising to talk about it but he never does. Mother says, ' talk to your father. ' Jeanne, Chaddie, and Vera turn away saying, ' Give it up. Pa will never let you return to London. He ' s too afraid of the trouble you ' ll cause. ' And my dear sweet little brother Leslie just smiles and says, ' Pa will let you go. Be patient. '
Why did Grandmother Dyer have to die just when I needed her most? She ' s the only one who could convince Pa that I must live in London. And she ' d be the only one who ' d miss me. That is except Leslie. He ' d miss our walks in the woods and my bedtime stories.
No one understands. I must become a famous author like my cousin, Elizabeth. I can never do that if I stay here. You would think after all the trouble I ' ve caused Pa, he ' d let me go.
It certainly has convinced Mother. Katherine giggled. Especially after I wrote that story about my childish affair with Edith. Oh yes, I adored Edith. Who wouldn ' t? She ' s beautiful. Talented. And she adored me. But after that week alone with her at our cottage I was bored. And then there was Maata! Exotic Maata. A real Maori princess. I never should have asked Pa ' s secretary to type that story but I did warn her that she might find it shocking. She giggled again. So did Pa.
She posed in the mirror. And you call yourself an independent woman. You ' ll never survive in London if you don ' t stand up for yourself now, here in this house.
She turned toward her posh bedroom. The lace curtains. Doilies on the tables. Pink bedspread. I ' m so sick of this room. I ' m so sick of this life, she moaned.
A horn blasted from the harbor and she hurried to the window to watch the travelers wave good-bye to their families on the dock. Oh why aren ' t I on that ship? Why did Pa promise me I could go and then say no?
She walked over to the door and turned the knob to go downstairs to her father ' s study and confront him. Abruptly, she returned to the window and glarled at the ship slipping away.
Coward. You might act otherwise but you ' re such a coward.
Katherine picked up the family photo taken five years ago aboard the cargo ship Niwaru that brought her and her sisters to Queens College in London, where their parents dropped them off.
It ' s their fault. They ' re the ones who sent me to England for a proper education. Didn ' t they realize that after I spent th