The Arrow of Gold
That night I didn't get on board till just before midnight and Dominic could not conceal
his relief at having me safely there. Why he should have been so uneasy it was
impossible to say but at the time I had a sort of impression that my inner destruction (it
was nothing less) had affected my appearance, that my doom was as it were written on
my face. I was a mere receptacle for dust and ashes, a living testimony to the vanity of all
things. My very thoughts were like a ghostly rustle of dead leaves. But we had an
extremely successful trip, and for most of the time Dominic displayed an unwonted
jocularity of a dry and biting kind with which, he maintained, he had been infected by no
other person than myself. As, with all his force of character, he was very responsive to
the moods of those he liked I have no doubt he spoke the truth. But I know nothing about
it. The observer, more or less alert, whom each of us carries in his own consciousness,
failed me altogether, had turned away his face in sheer horror, or else had fainted from
the strain. And thus I had to live alone, unobserved even by myself.
But the trip had been successful. We re-entered the harbour very quietly as usual and
when our craft had been moored unostentatiously amongst the plebeian stone-carriers,
Dominic, whose grim joviality had subsided in the last twenty-four hours of our
homeward run, abandoned me to myself as though indeed I had been a doomed man. He
only stuck his head for a moment into our little cuddy where I was changing my clothes
and being told in answer to his question that I had no special orders to give went ashore
without waiting for me.
Generally we used to step on the quay together and I never failed to enter for a moment
Madame Leonore's cafe. But this time when I got on the quay Dominic was nowhere to
be seen. What was it? Abandonment - discretion - or had he quarrelled with his Leonore
before leaving on the trip?
My way led me past the cafe and through the glass panes I saw that he was already there.
On the other side of the little marble table Madame Leonore, leaning with mature grace
on her elbow, was listening to him absorbed. Then I passed on and - what would you
have! - I ended by making my way into the street of the Consuls. I had nowhere else to
go. There were my things in the apartment on the first floor. I couldn't bear the thought of
meeting anybody I knew.
The feeble gas flame in the hall was still there, on duty, as though it had never been
turned off since I last crossed the hall at half-past eleven in the evening to go to the
harbour. The small flame had watched me letting myself out; and now, exactly of the
same size, the poor little tongue of light (there was something wrong with that burner)
watched me letting myself in, as indeed it had done many times before. Generally the
impression was that of entering an untenanted house, but this time before I could reach
the foot of the stairs Therese glided out of the passage leading into the studio. After the
usual exclamations she assured me that everything was ready for me upstairs, had been
for days, and offered to get me something to eat at once. I accepted and said I would be