The Arrow of Gold
I took my eyes from her face and became aware that dusk was beginning to steal into the
room. How strange it seemed. Except for the glazed rotunda part its long walls, divided
into narrow panels separated by an order of flat pilasters, presented, depicted on a black
background and in vivid colours, slender women with butterfly wings and lean youths
with narrow birds' wings. The effect was supposed to be Pompeiian and Rita and I had
often laughed at the delirious fancy of some enriched shopkeeper. But still it was a
display of fancy, a sign of grace; but at that moment these figures appeared to me weird
and intrusive and strangely alive in their attenuated grace of unearthly beings concealing
a power to see and hear.
Without words, without gestures, Dona Rita was heard again. "It may have been as near
coming to pass as this." She showed me the breadth of her little finger nail. "Yes, as near
as that. Why? How? Just like that, for nothing. Because it had come up. Because a wild
notion had entered a practical old woman's head. Yes. And the best of it is that I have
nothing to complain of. Had I surrendered I would have been perfectly safe with these
two. It is they or rather he who couldn't trust me, or rather that something which I
express, which I stand for. Mills would never tell me what it was. Perhaps he didn't know
exactly himself. He said it was something like genius. My genius! Oh, I am not conscious
of it, believe me, I am not conscious of it. But if I were I wouldn't pluck it out and cast it
away. I am ashamed of nothing, of nothing! Don't be stupid enough to think that I have
the slightest regret. There is no regret. First of all because I am I - and then because . . .
My dear, believe me, I have had a horrible time of it myself lately."
This seemed to be the last word. Outwardly quiet, all the time, it was only then that she
became composed enough to light an enormous cigarette of the same pattern as those
made specially for the king - por el Rey! After a time, tipping the ash into the bowl on her
left hand, she asked me in a friendly, almost tender, tone:
"What are you thinking of, amigo?"
"I was thinking of your immense generosity. You want to give a crown to one man, a
fortune to another. That is very fine. But I suppose there is a limit to your generosity
"I don't see why there should be any limit - to fine intentions! Yes, one would like to pay
ransom and be done with it all."
"That's the feeling of a captive; and yet somehow I can't think of you as ever having been
"You do display some wonderful insight sometimes. My dear, I begin to suspect that men
are rather conceited about their powers. They think they dominate us. Even exceptional
men will think that; men too great for mere vanity, men like Henry Allegre for instance,