The Arrow of Gold
That night I passed in a state, mostly open-eyed, I believe, but always on the border
between dreams and waking. The only thing absolutely absent from it was the feeling of
rest. The usual sufferings of a youth in love had nothing to do with it. I could leave her,
go away from her, remain away from her, without an added pang or any augmented
consciousness of that torturing sentiment of distance so acute that often it ends by
wearing itself out in a few days. Far or near was all one to me, as if one could never get
any further but also never any nearer to her secret: the state like that of some strange wild
faiths that get hold of mankind with the cruel mystic grip of unattainable perfection,
robbing them of both liberty and felicity on earth. A faith presents one with some hope,
though. But I had no hope, and not even desire as a thing outside myself, that would
come and go, exhaust or excite. It was in me just like life was in me; that life of which a
popular saying affirms that "it is sweet." For the general wisdom of mankind will always
stop short on the limit of the formidable.
What is best in a state of brimful, equable suffering is that it does away with the
gnawings of petty sensations. Too far gone to be sensible to hope and desire I was spared
the inferior pangs of elation and impatience. Hours with her or hours without her were all
alike, all in her possession! But still there are shades and I will admit that the hours of
that morning were perhaps a little more difficult to get through than the others. I had sent
word of my arrival of course. I had written a note. I had rung the bell. Therese had
appeared herself in her brown garb and as monachal as ever. I had said to her:
"Have this sent off at once."
She had gazed at the addressed envelope, smiled (I was looking up at her from my desk),
and at last took it up with an effort of sanctimonious repugnance. But she remained with
it in her hand looking at me as though she were piously gloating over something she
could read in my face.
"Oh, that Rita, that Rita," she murmured. "And you, too! Why are you trying, you, too,
like the others, to stand between her and the mercy of God? What's the good of all this to
you? And you such a nice, dear, young gentleman. For no earthly good only making all
the kind saints in heaven angry, and our mother ashamed in her place amongst the
"Mademoiselle Therese," I said, "vous etes folle."
I believed she was crazy. She was cunning, too. I added an imperious: "Allez," and with a
strange docility she glided out without another word. All I had to do then was to get
dressed and wait till eleven o'clock.
The hour struck at last. If I could have plunged into a light wave and been transported
instantaneously to Dona Rita's door it would no doubt have saved me an infinity of pangs