The Arrow of Gold
Without caring much about it I was conscious of sudden illumination. I said to myself
confidently that these two people had been quarrelling all the morning. I had discovered
the secret of my invitation to that lunch. They did not care to face the strain of some
obstinate, inconclusive discussion for fear, maybe, of it ending in a serious quarrel. And
so they had agreed that I should be fetched downstairs to create a diversion. I cannot say I
felt annoyed. I didn't care. My perspicacity did not please me either. I wished they had
left me alone - but nothing mattered. They must have been in their superiority
accustomed to make use of people, without compunction. From necessity, too. She
especially. She lived by her wits. The silence had grown so marked that I had at last to
raise my eyes; and the first thing I observed was that Captain Blunt was no longer to be
seen in the garden. Must have gone indoors. Would rejoin us in a moment. Then I would
leave mother and son to themselves.
The next thing I noticed was that a great mellowness had descended upon the mother of
the last of his race. But these terms, irritation, mellowness, appeared gross when applied
to her. It is impossible to give an idea of the refinement and subtlety of all her
transformations. She smiled faintly at me.
"But all this is beside the point. The real point is that my son, like all fine natures, is a
being of strange contradictions which the trials of life have not yet reconciled in him.
With me it is a little different. The trials fell mainly to my share - and of course I have
lived longer. And then men are much more complex than women, much more difficult,
too. And you, Monsieur George? Are you complex, with unexpected resistances and
difficulties in your etre intime - your inner self? I wonder now . . ."
The Blunt atmosphere seemed to vibrate all over my skin. I disregarded the symptom.
"Madame," I said, "I have never tried to find out what sort of being I am."
"Ah, that's very wrong. We ought to reflect on what manner of beings we are. Of course
we are all sinners. My John is a sinner like the others," she declared further, with a sort of
proud tenderness as though our common lot must have felt honoured and to a certain
extent purified by this condescending recognition.
"You are too young perhaps as yet . . . But as to my John," she broke off, leaning her
elbow on the table and supporting her head on her old, impeccably shaped, white fore-
arm emerging from a lot of precious, still older, lace trimming the short sleeve. "The
trouble is that he suffers from a profound discord between the necessary reactions to life
and even the impulses of nature and the lofty idealism of his feelings; I may say, of his
principles. I assure you that he won't even let his heart speak uncontradicted."
I am sure I don't know what particular devil looks after the associations of memory, and I
can't even imagine the shock which it would have been for Mrs. Blunt to learn that the
words issuing from her lips had awakened in me the visual perception of a dark- skinned,