The Arrow of Gold
Dona Rita was curious to know how I got on with her peasant sister and all I could say in
return for that inquiry was that the peasant sister was in her own way amiable. At this she
clicked her tongue amusingly and repeated a remark she had made before: "She likes
young men. The younger the better." The mere thought of those two women being sisters
aroused one's wonder. Physically they were altogether of different design. It was also the
difference between living tissue of glowing loveliness with a divine breath, and a hard
hollow figure of baked clay.
Indeed Therese did somehow resemble an achievement, wonderful enough in its way, in
unglazed earthenware. The only gleam perhaps that one could find on her was that of her
teeth, which one used to get between her dull lips unexpectedly, startlingly, and a little
inexplicably, because it was never associated with a smile. She smiled with compressed
mouth. It was indeed difficult to conceive of those two birds coming from the same nest.
And yet . . . Contrary to what generally happens, it was when one saw those two women
together that one lost all belief in the possibility of their relationship near or far. It
extended even to their common humanity. One, as it were, doubted it. If one of the two
was representative, then the other was either something more or less than human. One
wondered whether these two women belonged to the same scheme of creation. One was
secretly amazed to see them standing together, speaking to each other, having words in
common, understanding each other. And yet! . . . Our psychological sense is the crudest
of all; we don't know, we don't perceive how superficial we are. The simplest shades
escape us, the secret of changes, of relations. No, upon the whole, the only feature (and
yet with enormous differences) which Therese had in common with her sister, as I told
Dona Rita, was amiability.
"For, you know, you are a most amiable person yourself," I went on. "It's one of your
characteristics, of course much more precious than in other people. You transmute the
commonest traits into gold of your own; but after all there are no new names. You are
amiable. You were most amiable to me when I first saw you."
"Really. I was not aware. Not specially . . . "
"I had never the presumption to think that it was special. Moreover, my head was in a
whirl. I was lost in astonishment first of all at what I had been listening to all night. Your
history, you know, a wonderful tale with a flavour of wine in it and wreathed in clouds,
with that amazing decapitated, mutilated dummy of a woman lurking in a corner, and
with Blunt's smile gleaming through a fog, the fog in my eyes, from Mills' pipe, you
know. I was feeling quite inanimate as to body and frightfully stimulated as to mind all
the time. I had never heard anything like that talk about you before. Of course I wasn't
sleepy, but still I am not used to do altogether without sleep like Blunt . . ."
"Kept awake all night listening to my story!" She marvelled.