The Arrow of Gold
"Such a charming lady in a grey silk dress and a hand as white as snow. She looked at me
through such funny glasses on the end of a long handle. A very great lady but her voice
was as kind as the voice of a saint. I have never seen anything like that. She made me feel
The voice uttering these words was the voice of Therese and I looked at her from a bed
draped heavily in brown silk curtains fantastically looped up from ceiling to floor. The
glow of a sunshiny day was toned down by closed jalousies to a mere transparency of
darkness. In this thin medium Therese's form appeared flat, without detail, as if cut out of
black paper. It glided towards the window and with a click and a scrape let in the full
flood of light which smote my aching eyeballs painfully.
In truth all that night had been the abomination of desolation to me. After wrestling with
my thoughts, if the acute consciousness of a woman's existence may be called a thought, I
had apparently dropped off to sleep only to go on wrestling with a nightmare, a senseless
and terrifying dream of being in bonds which, even after waking, made me feel powerless
in all my limbs. I lay still, suffering acutely from a renewed sense of existence, unable to
lift an arm, and wondering why I was not at sea, how long I had slept, how long Therese
had been talking before her voice had reached me in that purgatory of hopeless longing
and unanswerable questions to which I was condemned.
It was Therese's habit to begin talking directly she entered the room with the tray of
morning coffee. This was her method for waking me up. I generally regained the
consciousness of the external world on some pious phrase asserting the spiritual comfort
of early mass, or on angry lamentations about the unconscionable rapacity of the dealers
in fish and vegetables; for after mass it was Therese's practice to do the marketing for the
house. As a matter of fact the necessity of having to pay, to actually give money to
people, infuriated the pious Therese. But the matter of this morning's speech was so
extraordinary that it might have been the prolongation of a nightmare: a man in bonds
having to listen to weird and unaccountable speeches against which, he doesn't know
why, his very soul revolts.
In sober truth my soul remained in revolt though I was convinced that I was no longer
dreaming. I watched Therese coming away from the window with that helpless dread a
man bound hand and foot may be excused to feel. For in such a situation even the absurd
may appear ominous. She came up close to the bed and folding her hands meekly in front
of her turned her eyes up to the ceiling.
"If I had been her daughter she couldn't have spoken more softly to me," she said
I made a great effort to speak.