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

Chapter III
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CONNIE HANCOCK was her friend.                   [FE]   [MS]      
  She had once been a slender, wide-
mouthed child, top-heavy with her damp
clumps of hair. Now she was squaring
and thickening and looking horrid, like
Mr Hancock. Beside her Harriett felt
tall and elegant and slender.
  Mamma didn't know what Connie was
really like; it was one of those things you
couldn't tell her. She said Connie would
grow out of it. Meanwhile you could see
he wouldn't. Mr Hancock had red whis-
kers, and his face squatted down in his
collar, instead of rising nobly up out of
it like Papa's. It looked as if it was
thinking things that made its eyes bulge         [FE]    
and its mouth curl over and slide like a
drawn loop. When you talked about
Mr Hancock, Papa gave a funny laugh,
as if he was something improper. He
said Connie ought to have red whiskers.
  Mrs Hancock, Connie's mother, was
Mamma's dearest friend. That was why
there had always been Connie. She could
remember her, squirming and spluttering
in her high nursery chair. And there
had always been Mrs Hancock, refined
and mournful, looking at you with gentle,
disappointed eyes.
  She was glad that Connie hadn't been                  [MS]
sent to her boarding-school, so that nothing
could come between her and Priscilla
Heaven.
  Priscilla was her real friend.                 [FE]    
  It had began in her third term, when
Priscilla first came to the school, unhappy
and shy, afraid of the new faces. Harriett
took her to her room.
  She was thin, thin, in her shabby black
velvet jacket. She stood looking at herself
in the greenish glass over the yellow-
painted chest of drawers. Her heavy
black hair had dragged the net and
broken it. She put up her thin arms,
helpless.
  'They'll never keep me,' she said.
'I'm so untidy.'
  'It wants more pins,' said Harriett.
'Ever so many more pins. If you put
them in head downwards they'll fall out.
I'll show you.'
  Priscilla trembled with joy when Harriett
asked her to walk with her; she had been         [FE]    
afraid of her at first because she behaved
so beautifully.
  Soon they were always together. They
sat side by side at the dinner table and in             [MS]
school, black head and golden brown
leaning to each other over the same book;
they walked side by side in the packed
procession, going two by two. They
slept in the same room, the two white
beds drawn close together; a white dimity
curtain hung between; they drew it back
so that they could see each other lying
there in the summer dusk and in the
clear mornings when they waked.
  Harriett loved Priscilla's odd, dusk-
white face; her long hound's nose, seeking;
her wide mouth, restless between her
shallow, fragile jaws; her eyes, black,
cleared with spots of jade gray, prominent,      [FE]    
showing white rims when she was startled.
She started at sudden noises; she quivered
and stared when you caught her dreaming;
she cried when the organ bust out
triumphantly in church. You had to
take care every minute that you didn't
hurt her.
  She cried when term ended and she
had to go home. Priscilla's home was
horrible. Her father drank, her mother
fretted; they were poor; a rich aunt paid
for her schooling.
  When the last midsummer holidays
came she spent them with Harriett.
  'Oh-h-h!' Prissie drew in her breath
when she heard they were to sleep together
in the big bed in the spare room. She                   [MS]
went about looking at things, curious,
touching them softly as if they were             [FE]    
sacred. She loved the two rough-coated
china lambs on the chimney-piece, and
'Ohthe dear little china boxes with the
flowers sitting up on them.'
  But when the bell rang she stood
quivering in the doorway.
  'I'm afraid of your father and mother,
Hatty. They won't like me. I know they
won't like me.'
  'They will. They'll love you,' Hatty said.
  And they did. They were sorry for
the little white-faced, palpitating thing.

  It was their last night. Priscilla wasn't
going back to school again. Her aunt,
she said, was only paying for a year.
They lay together in the big bed, dim
face to face, talking.
  'Hatty- if you wanted to do something          [FE]    
most awfully, more than anything else in
the world, and it was wrong, would you
be able not to do it?'
  'I hope so. I think I would, because
I'd know if I did it would make Papa
and Mamma unhappy.'                                     [MS]
  'Yes, but suppose it was giving up
something you wanted, something you
loved more than them- could you?'
  'Yes. If it was wrong for me to have
it. And I couldn't love anything more
than them.'
  'But if you did, you'd give it up'
  'I'd have to.'
  'Hatty- I couldn't.'
  'Oh, yes, you could if I could.'
  'No. No. . . .'
  'How do you know you couldn't ?
  'Because I haven't. I- I oughtn't to           [FE]    
have gone on staying here. My father's
ill. They wanted me to go to them, and
I wouldn't go.'
  'Oh, Prissie--
  'There, you see. But I couldn't. I
couldn't. I was so happy here with you.
I couldn't give it up.'
  'If your father had been like Papa you
would have.'
  'Yes. I'd do anything for him, because
he's your father. It's you I couldn't
give up.'
  'You'll have to some day.'
  'Whenwhen?'
  'When somebody else comes. When
you're married.'
  'I shall never marry. Never. I shall
never want anybody but you. If we could                 [MS]
always be together.... I can't think             [FE]    
why people marry, Hatty.'
  'Still,' Hatty said, 'they do.'
  'It's because they haven't ever cared
as you and me care.... Hatty, if I
don't marry anybody, you won't, will
you?'
  'I'm not thinking of marrying any-
body.'
  'No. But promise, promise on your
honour you won't ever.'
  'I'd rather not promise. You see, I
might. I shall love you all the same,
Priscilla, all my life.'
  'No, you won't. It'll all be different. I
love you more than you love me. But
I shall love you all my life and it won't
be different. I shall never marry.'
  'Perhaps I shan't, either,' Harriett said.
  They exchanged gifts. Harriett gave            [FE]    
Priscilla a rosewood writing-desk inlaid
with mother-of-pearl, and Priscilla gave
Harriett a pocket-handkerchief case she
had made herself of fine gray canvas
embroidered with blue flowers like a
sampler and lined with blue and white
plaid silk. On the top part you read
'Pocket-handkerchiefs' in blue lettering,
and on the bottom 'Harriett Frean,' and,
tucked away in one corner, 'Priscilla
Heaven: September, 1861.'

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