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

Chapter II
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SHE had a belief that her father's house         [FE]   [MS]
was nicer than other people's houses. It
stood off from the high road, in Black's
Lane, at the head of the turn. You came
to it by a row of tall elms standing up
along Mr Hancock's wall. Behind the
last tree its slender white end went straight
up from the pavement, hanging out a
green balcony like a birdcage above the
green door.
  The lane turned sharp there and went
on, and the long brown garden wall
went with it. Behind the wall the lawn
flowed down from the white house and
the green veranda to the cedar tree at
the bottom. Beyond the lawn was the              [FE]
kitchen garden, and beyond the kitchen
garden the orchard; little crippled apple
trees bending down in the long grass.
  She was glad to come back to the house
after the walk with Eliza, the nurse, or
Annie, the housemaid; to go through all
the rooms looking for Mimi; looking for
Mamma, telling her what had happened.
  'Mamma, the red-haired woman in
the sweetie-shop has got a little baby,                 [MS]      
and its hair's red, too.... Some day I
shall have a little baby. I shall dress him
in a long gown-'
  'Robe.'
  'Robe, with bands of lace all down it,
as long as that; and a white christening
cloak sewn with white roses. Won't he
look sweet?'
  'Very sweet.'                                  [FE]                            
  'He shall have lots of hair. I shan't
love him if he hasn't.'
  'Oh, yes, you will.'
  'No. He must have thick, flossy hair
like Mimi, so that I can stroke him.
Which would you rather have, a little
girl or a little boy?'
  'Wellwhat do you think?'
  'I thinkperhaps I'd rather have a
little girl.'
  She would be like Mamma, and her
little girl would be like herself. She
couldn't think of it any other way.

  The school-treat was held in Mr Han-
cock's field. All afternoon she had been
with the children, playing Oranges and
lemons, A ring, a ring of roses, and Here
we come gathering nuts in May, nuts              [FE]   [MS}
in May, nuts in May: over and over
again. And she had helped her mother
to hand cake and buns at the infants'
table.
  The guest-children's tea was served last
of all, up on the lawn under the immense,
brown brick, many windowed house.
There wasn't room for everybody at the
table, so the girls sat down first and the
boys waited for their turn. Some of
them were pushing and snatching.
  She knew what she would have. She
would begin with a bun, and go on through
two sorts of jam to Madeira cake, and end
with raspberries and cream. Or perhaps
it would be safer to begin with raspberries
and cream. She kept her face very still,
so as not to look greedy, and tried not to
stare at the Madeira cake lest people should     [FE]
see she was thinking of it. Mrs Hancock
had given her somebody else's crumby
plate. She thought: 'I'm not greedy.
I'm really and truly hungry.' She could
draw herself in at the waist with a flat,
exhausted feeling, like the two ends of a
concertina coming together.
  She was doing this when she saw her
mother standing on the other side of the
table, looking at her and making signs.
'If you've finished, Hatty, you'd better                [MS]
get up and let that little boy have some-
thing.'
  They were all turning round and looking
at her. And there was the crumby plate
before her. They were thinking: 'That
greedy little girl has gone on and on eat-
ing.' She got up suddenly, not speaking,
and left the table, the Madeira cake and         [FE]
the raspberries and cream. She could feel
her skin all hot and wet with shame.
  And now she was sitting up in the
drawing-room at home. Her mother had
brought her a piece of seed-cake and a cup
of milk with the cream on it. Mamma's
soft eyes kissed her as they watched her
eating her cake with short crumbly bites,
like a little cat. Mamma's eyes made her
feel so good, so good.
  'Why didn't you tell me you hadn't
finished?'
  'Finished? I hadn't even begun.'
  'Oh-h, darling, why didn't you tell
me?'
  'Because I--I don't know.'
  'Well, I'm glad my little girl didn't
snatch and push. It's better to go without
than to take from other people. That's           [FE]
ugly.'
  Ugly. Being naughty was just that.
Doing ugly things. Being good was
being beautiful like Mamma. She wanted
to be like her mother. Sitting up there                 [MS]
and being good felt delicious. And the
smooth cream with the milk running
under it, thin and cold, was delicious too.
  Suddenly a thought came rushing at
her. There was God and there was
Jesus. But even God and Jesus were
not more beautiful than Mamma. They
couldn't be.
  'You mustn't say things like that,
Hatty; you mustn't, really. It might
make something happen.'
  'Oh, no, it won't. You don't suppose
they're listening all the time.'
  Saying things like that made you feel          [FE]
good and at the same time naughty,
which was more exciting than only
being one or the other. But Mamma's
frightened face spoiled it. What did she
thinkwhat did she think God would
do?

  Red campion--
  At the bottom of the orchard a door in
the wall opened into Black's Lane, below
the three tall elms.
  She couldn't believe she was really
walking there by herself. It had come
all of a sudden, the thought that she must
do it, that she must go out into the lane;
and when she found the door unlatched,
something seemed to take hold of her
and push her out. She was forbidden to                  [MS] 
go into Black's Lane; she was not even           [FE]
allowed to walk there with Annie.
  She kept on saying to herself: 'I'm
in the lane. I'm in the lane. I'm dis-
obeying Mamma.'
  Nothing could undo that. She had
disobeyed by just standing outside the
orchard door. Disobedience was such a
big and awful thing that it was waste
not to do something big and awful with
it. So she went on, up and up, past the
three tall elms. She was a big girl,
wearing black silk aprons and learning
French. Walking by herself. When she
arched her back and stuck her stomach
out she felt like a tall lady in a crinoline
and shawl. She swung her hips and made
her skirts fly out. That was her grown-up
crinoline, swing-swinging as she went.
  At the turn the cow-parsley and rose           [FE]
campion began: on each side a long trail
of white froth with the red tops of the
campion pricking through. She made
herself a nosegay.
  Past the second turn you came to the
waste ground covered with old boots and
rusted, crumpled tins. The little dirty
brown house stood there behind the
rickety blue palings; narrow, like the
piece of a house that has been cut in
two. It hid, stooping under the ivy
bush on its roof. It was not like the
houses people live in; there was some-
thing queer, some secret, frightening thing
about it.
  The man came out and went to the gate                 [MS]
and stood there. He was the frightening
thing. When he saw her he stepped
back and crouched behind the palings,            [FE]
ready to jump out.
  She turned slowly, as if she had thought
of something. She mustn't run. She
must not run. If she ran he would come
after her.
  Her mother was coming down the
garden walk, tall and beautiful in her
silver-gray gown with the bands of black
velvet on the flounces and the sleeves;
her wide, hooped skirts swung, brushing
the flower borders.
  She ran up to her, crying, 'Mamma, I
went up the lane where you told me
not to.'
  'No, Hatty, no; you didn't.'
  You could see she wasn't angry. She
was frightened.
  'I did. I did.'
  Her mother took the bunch of flowers           [FE]
out of her hand and looked at it. 'Yes,'
she said, 'that's where the dark red
campion grows.'
  She was holding the flowers up to her
face. It was awful, for you could see her
mouth thicken and redden over its edges
and shake. She hid it behind the flowers.
And somehow you knew it wasn't your
naughtiness that made her cry. There
was something more.
  She was saying in a thick, soft voice,                [MS]
  'It was wrong of you, my darling.'
  Suddenly she bent her tall straightness.
'Rose campion,' she said, parting the
stems with her long, thin fingers. 'Look,
Hatty, how beautiful they are. Run
away and put the poor things in
water.'
  She was so quiet, so quiet, and her            [FE]        
quietness hurt far more than if she had
been angry.
  She must have gone straight back into
the house to Papa. Harriett knew, be-
cause he sent for her. He was quiet, too.
. . . That was the little, hiding voice he
told you secrets in.... She stood close 
up to him, between his knees, and his
arm went loosely round her to keep her
there while he looked into her eyes. You
could smell tobacco, and the queer, clean
man's smell that came up out of him
from his collar. He wasn't smiling; but
somehow his eyes looked kinder than if
they had smiled.
  'Why did you do it, Hatty?'
  'Because-I wanted to see what it
would feel like.'
  'You mustn't do it again. Do you               [FE]
hear, you mustn't do it.'
  'Why?'
  'Why? Because it makes your mother
unhappy. That's enough why.'
  But there was something more. Mamma
had been frightened. Something to do                    [MS]
with the frightening man in the lane.
  'Why does it make her?'
  She knew; she knew; but she wanted
to see what he would say.
  'I said that was enough.... Do you
know what you've been guilty of?'
  'Disobedience.'
  'More than that. Breaking trust.
Meanness. It was mean and dishonour-
able of you when you knew you wouldn't
be punished.'
  'Isn't there to be a punishment?'
  'No. People are punished to make               [FE]
them remember. We want you to forget.'
His arm tightened, drawing her closer.
And the kind, secret voice went on.
  'Forget ugly things. Understand, Hatty,
nothing is forbidden. We don't forbid,
because we trust you to do what we
wish. To behave beautifully.... There,
there.'
  She hid her face on his breast against
his tickly coat, and cried.
  She would always have to do what
they wanted; the unhappiness of not
doing it was more than she could bear.
All very well to say there would be no
punishment; their unhappiness was the
punishment. It hurt more than any-
thing. It kept on hurting when she
thought about it.
  The first minute of to-morrow she              [FE]
would begin behaving beautifully; as
beautifully as she could. They wanted
you to; they wanted it more than any-                   [MS]
thing because they were so beautiful. So
good. So wise.
  But three years went before Harriett
understood how wise they had been, and
why her mother took her again and again
into Black's Lane to pick red campion,
so that it was always the red campion she
remembered. They must have known
all the time about Black's Lane; Annie, the
housemaid, used to say it was a bad place;
something had happened to a little girl
there. Annie hushed and reddened and
wouldn't tell you what it was. Then one
day, when she was thirteen, standing by
the apple tree, Connie Hancock told her.
A secret.... Behind the dirty blue               [FE]
palings.... She shut her eyes, squeezing
the lids down, frightened. But when she
thought of the lane she could see nothing
but the green banks, the three tall elms,
and the red campion pricking through the
white froth of the cow-parsley; her
mother stood on the garden walk in her
wide, swinging gown; she was holding`
the red and white flowers up to her face
and saying, 'Look, how beautiful they
are.'
  She saw her all the time while Connie
was telling her the secret. She wanted
to get up and go to her. Connie knew                    [MS]
what it meant when you stiffened suddenly
and made yourself tall and cold and silent.
The cold silence would frighten her and
she would go away. Then, Harriett
thought, she could get back to her mother        [FE]        
and Longfellow.
  Every afternoon, through the hours
before her father came home, she sat in
the cool, green-lighted drawing-room read-
ing Evangeline aloud to her mother. When
they came to the beautiful places they
looked at each other and smiled.
  She passed through her fourteenth year
sedately, to the sound of Evangeline. Her
upright body, her lifted, delicately obstin-
ate, rather wistful face expressed her small,
conscious determination to be good. She
was silent with emotion when Mrs Hancock
told her she was growing like her mother.

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