The Arrow of Gold HTML version

First Note
The pages which follow have been extracted from a pile of manuscript which was
apparently meant for the eye of one woman only. She seems to have been the writer's
childhood's friend. They had parted as children, or very little more than children. Years
passed. Then something recalled to the woman the companion of her young days and she
wrote to him: "I have been hearing of you lately. I know where life has brought you. You
certainly selected your own road. But to us, left behind, it always looked as if you had
struck out into a pathless desert. We always regarded you as a person that must be given
up for lost. But you have turned up again; and though we may never see each other, my
memory welcomes you and I confess to you I should like to know the incidents on the
road which has led you to where you are now."
And he answers her: "I believe you are the only one now alive who remembers me as a
child. I have heard of you from time to time, but I wonder what sort of person you are
now. Perhaps if I did know I wouldn't dare put pen to paper. But I don't know. I only
remember that we were great chums. In fact, I chummed with you even more than with
your brothers. But I am like the pigeon that went away in the fable of the Two Pigeons. If
I once start to tell you I would want you to feel that you have been there yourself. I may
overtax your patience with the story of my life so different from yours, not only in all the
facts but altogether in spirit. You may not understand. You may even be shocked. I say
all this to myself; but I know I shall succumb! I have a distinct recollection that in the old
days, when you were about fifteen, you always could make me do whatever you liked."
He succumbed. He begins his story for her with the minute narration of this adventure
which took about twelve months to develop. In the form in which it is presented here it
has been pruned of all allusions to their common past, of all asides, disquisitions, and
explanations addressed directly to the friend of his childhood. And even as it is the whole
thing is of considerable length. It seems that he had not only a memory but that he also
knew how to remember. But as to that opinions may differ.
This, his first great adventure, as he calls it, begins in Marseilles. It ends there, too. Yet it
might have happened anywhere. This does not mean that the people concerned could
have come together in pure space. The locality had a definite importance. As to the time,
it is easily fixed by the events at about the middle years of the seventies, when Don
Carlos de Bourbon, encouraged by the general reaction of all Europe against the excesses
of communistic Republicanism, made his attempt for the throne of Spain, arms in hand,
amongst the hills and gorges of Guipuzcoa. It is perhaps the last instance of a Pretender's
adventure for a Crown that History will have to record with the usual grave moral
disapproval tinged by a shamefaced regret for the departing romance. Historians are very
much like other people.
However, History has nothing to do with this tale. Neither is the moral justification or
condemnation of conduct aimed at here. If anything it is perhaps a little sympathy that the