Penn Library
CETI: Center for Electronic Text & Image

The Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922)
by May Sinclair

Chapter I

FE Index MS Index

  '"PUSSYCAT, Pussycat, where have you been?"    [FE]   [MS]
  "I've been to London, to see the Queen."
  "Pussycat, Pussycat, what did you there ?"
  "I caught a little mouse under the chair."'

  Her mother said it three times. And
each time the Baby Harriett laughed.
The sound of her laugh was so funny
that she laughed again at that; she kept
on laughing, with shriller and shriller
  'I wonder why she thinks it's funny,'
her mother said.
  Her father considered it. ' I don't
know. The cat perhaps. The cat and
the Queen. But no; that isn't funny.'
  'She sees something in it we don't             [FE]
see, bless her,' said her mother.
  Each kissed her in turn, and the Baby
Harriett stopped laughing suddenly.

  'Mamma, did Pussycat see the Queen?'
  'No,' said Mamma. 'Just when the
Queen was passing the lithe mouse came
out of its hole and ran under the chair.                 [MS]
That's what Pussycat saw.'
  Every evening before bedtime she said
the same rhyme, and Harriett asked the 
same question.

  When Nurse had gone she would lie
still in her cot, waiting. The door would
open, the big pointed shadow would
move over the ceiling, the lattice shadow
of the fireguard would fade and go away,
and Mamma would come in carrying the             [FE]
lighted candle. Her face shone white
between her long, hanging curls. She
would stoop over the cot and lift Harriett
up, and her face would be hidden in
curls. That was the kiss-me-to-sleep kiss.
And when she had gone Harriett lay
still again, waiting. Presently Papa would
come in, large and dark in the firelight.
He stooped and she leapt up into his
arms. That was the kiss-me-awake kiss;
it was their secret.

  Then they played. Papa was the Pussy-
cat and she was the lithe mouse in her
hole under the bedclothes. They played
till Papa said, 'No more!' and tucked
the blankets tight in.

  'Now you're kissing like Mamma-
Hours afterwards they would come again
together and stoop over the cot and she          [FE]
wouldn't see them; they would kiss her                   [MS]
with soft, light kisses, and she wouldn't

  She thought: 'To-night I'll stay awake
and see them.' But she never did. Only
once she dreamed that she heard footsteps
and saw the lighted candle, going out of
the room; going, going away.

  The blue egg stood on the marble top
of the cabinet where you could see it
from everywhere; it was supported by a
gold waistband, by gold hoops and gold
legs, and it wore a gold ball with a frill
round it like a crown. You would never
have guessed what was inside it. You
touched a spring in its waistband and it
flew open, and then it was a workbox.
Gold scissors and thimble and stiletto           [FE]
sitting up in holes cut in white velvet.

  The blue egg was the first thing she
thought of when she came into the room.
There was nothing like that in Connie
Hancock's Papa's house. It belonged to

  Harriett thought: 'If only she could
have a birthday and wake up and find
that the blue egg belonged to her---

  Ida, the wax doll, sat on the drawing-                 [MS]
room sofa, dressed ready for the birthday.
The darling had real person's eyes made
of glass, and real eyelashes and hair.
Little finger and toe-nails were marked
in the wax, and she smelt of the lavender
her clothes were laid in.

  But Emily, the new birthday doll,
smelt of composition and of gum and hay;         [FE]
she had flat, painted hair and eyes, and
a foolish look on her face, like Nurse's
aunt, Mrs Spinker, when she said ' Lawk-
a-daisy! ' Although Papa had given her
Emily, she could never feel for her the
real, loving love she felt for Ida.
  And her mother had told her that she
must lend Ida to Connie Hancock if
Connie wanted her.
  Mamma couldn't see that such a thing
was not possible.
  'My darling, you mustn't be selfish.
You must do what your little guest
  'I can't.'
  But she had to; and she was sent out
of the room because she cried. It was
much nicer upstairs in the nursery with
Mimi, the Angora cat. Mimi knew that              [FE]
something sorrowful had happened. He
sat still, just lifting the root of his tail
as you stroked him. If only she could
have stayed there with Mimi; but in the
end she had to go back to the drawing-                   [MS]
  If only she could have told Mamma
what it felt like to see Connie with Ida
in her arms, squeezing her tight to her
chest and patting her as if Ida had been
her child. She kept on saying to herself
that Mamma didn't know; she didn't
know what she had done. And when it
was all over she took the wax doll and put
her in the long narrow box she had come
in, and buried her in the bottom drawer
in the spare room wardrobe. She thought
'If I can't have her to myself I won't have
her at all. I've got Emily. I shall just          [FE]
have to pretend she's not an idiot.'
  She pretended Ida was dead; lying in
her pasteboard coffin and buried in the
wardrobe cemetery.
  It was hard work pretending that Emily
didn't look like Mrs Spinker.

Table of Contents Section Index Next

First Edition Index Manuscript Index