The Arrow of Gold HTML version

Chapter II.1
Sometimes I wonder yet whether Mills wished me to oversleep myself or not: that is,
whether he really took sufficient interest to care. His uniform kindliness of manner made
it impossible for me to tell. And I can hardly remember my own feelings. Did I care? The
whole recollection of that time of my life has such a peculiar quality that the beginning
and the end of it are merged in one sensation of profound emotion, continuous and
overpowering, containing the extremes of exultation, full of careless joy and of an
invincible sadness - like a day-dream. The sense of all this having been gone through as if
in one great rush of imagination is all the stronger in the distance of time, because it had
something of that quality even then: of fate unprovoked, of events that didn't cast any
shadow before.
Not that those events were in the least extraordinary. They were, in truth, commonplace.
What to my backward glance seems startling and a little awful is their punctualness and
inevitability. Mills was punctual. Exactly at a quarter to twelve he appeared under the
lofty portal of the Hotel de Louvre, with his fresh face, his ill- fitting grey suit, and
enveloped in his own sympathetic atmosphere.
How could I have avoided him? To this day I have a shadowy conviction of his inherent
distinction of mind and heart, far beyond any man I have ever met since. He was
unavoidable: and of course I never tried to avoid him. The first sight on which his eyes
fell was a victoria pulled up before the hotel door, in which I sat with no sentiment I can
remember now but that of some slight shyness. He got in without a moment's hesitation,
his friendly glance took me in from head to foot and (such was his peculiar gift) gave me
a pleasurable sensation.
After we had gone a little way I couldn't help saying to him with a bashful laugh: "You
know, it seems very extraordinary that I should be driving out with you like this."
He turned to look at me and in his kind voice:
"You will find everything extremely simple," he said. "So simple that you will be quite
able to hold your own. I suppose you know that the world is selfish, I mean the majority
of the people in it, often unconsciously I must admit, and especially people with a
mission, with a fixed idea, with some fantastic object in view, or even with only some
fantastic illusion. That doesn't mean that they have no scruples. And I don't know that at
this moment I myself am not one of them."
"That, of course, I can't say," I retorted.
"I haven't seen her for years," he said, "and in comparison with what she was then she
must be very grown up by now. From what we heard from Mr. Blunt she had experiences
which would have matured her more than they would teach her. There are of course
people that are not teachable. I don't know that she is one of them. But as to maturity