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after you shouting the talecurse my timidity! But I daresay they knew as
much as I did. More. All the new tricksif that were possible.''
While he was making this uproar, Dona Rita put her fingers in her ears and
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then suddenly changed her mind and clapped her hands over my ears.
Instinctively I disengaged my head but she persisted. We had a short tussle
without moving from the spot, and suddenly I had my head free, and there was
complete silence. He had screamed himself out of breath, but Dona Rita
muttering ``Too late, too late,'' got her hands away from my grip and
shipping altogether out of her fur coat seized some garment lying on a chair
near by (I think it was her skirt), with the intention of dressing herself, I
imagine, and rushing out of the house. Determined to prevent this, but
indeed without thinking very much what I was doing, I got hold of her arm.
That struggle was silent, too; but I used the least force possible and she
managed to give me an unexpected push. Stepping back to save myself from
falling I overturned the little table, bearing the sixbranched candlestick.
It hit the floor, rebounded with a dull ring on the carpet, and by the time
it came to a rest every single candle was out.
He on the other side of the door naturally heard the noise and greeted it
with a triumphant screech: ``Aha! I've managed to wake you up,'' the very
savagery of which had a laughable effect. I felt the weight of Dona Rita
grow on my arm and thought it best to let her sink on the floor, wishing to
be free in my movements and really afraid that now he had actually heard a
noise he would infallibly burst the door. But he didn't even thump it. He
seemed to have exhausted himself in that scream. There was no other light
in the room but the darkened glow of the embers and I could hardly make out
amongst the shadows of furniture Dona Rita sunk on her knees in a
penitential and despairing attitude. Before this collapse I, who had been
wrestling desperately with her a moment before, felt that I dare not touch
her. This emotion, too, I could not understand; this abandonment of herself,
this consciencestricken humility. A humbly imploring request to open the
door came from the other side. Ortega kept on repeating: ``Open the door,
open the door,'' in such an amazing variety of intonations, imperative,
whining, persuasive, insinuating, and even unexpectedly jocose, that I
really stood there smiling to myself, yet with a gloomy and uneasy heart.
Then he remarked, parenthetically as it were, ``Oh, you know how to torment
a man, you brownskinned, lean, grinning, dishevelled imp, you. And mark,''
he expounded further, in a curiously doctoral tone``you are in all your
limbs hateful: your eyes are hateful and your mouth is hateful, and your hair
is hateful, and your body is cold and vicious like a snakeand altogether
you are perdition.''
This statement was astonishingly deliberate. He drew a moaning breath after
it and uttered in a heartrending tone, ``You know, Rita, that I cannot live
without you. I haven't lived. I am not living now. This isn't life.
Come, Rita, you can't take a boy's soul away and then let him grow up and go
about the world, poor devil, while you go amongst the rich from one pair of
arms to another, showing all your best tricks. But I will forgive you if
you only open the door,'' he ended in an inflated tone: ``You remember how
you swore time after time to be my wife. You are more fit to be Satan's wife
but I don't mind. You shall be _my_ wife!''
A sound near the floor made me bend down hastily with a stern: ``Don't
laugh,'' for in his grotesque, almost burlesque discourses there seemed to me
to be truth, passion, and horror enough to move a mountain.
Suddenly suspicion seized him out there. With perfectly farcical
unexpectedness he yelled shrilly: ``Oh, you deceitful wretch! You won't
escape me! I will have you. . . .''
And in a manner of speaking he vanished. Of course I couldn't see him but
somehow that was the impression.
I had hardly time to receive it when crash! . . . he was already at the
other door. I suppose he thought that his prey was escaping him. His
swiftness was amazing, almost inconceivable, more like the effect of a trick
or of
The Arrow of Gold
VII
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a mechanism. The thump on the door was awful as if he had not been able to
stop himself in time. The shock seemed enough to stun an elephant. It was
really funny. And after the crash there was a moment of silence as if he
were recovering himself. The next thing was a low grunt, and at once he
picked up the thread of his fixed idea.
``You will have to be my wife. I have no shame. You swore you would be and
so you will have to be.'' Stifled low sounds made me bend down again to the
kneeling form, white in the flush of the dark red glow. ``For goodness' sake
don't,'' I whispered down. She was struggling with an appalling fit of
merriment, repeating to herself, ``Yes, every day, for two months. Sixty
times at least, sixty times at least.'' Her voice was rising high.
She was struggling against laughter, but when I tried to put my hand over
her lips I felt her face wet with tears. She turned it this way and that,
eluding my hand with repressed low, little moans. I lost my caution and
said, ``Be quiet,'' so sharply as to startle myself (and her, too) into
expectant stillness.
Ortega's voice in the hall asked distinctly: ``Eh? What's this?'' and then
he kept still on his side listening but he must have thought that his ears
had deceived him. He was getting tired, too. He was keeping quiet out
thereresting. Presently he sighed deeply; then in a harsh melancholy tone he
started again.
``My love, my soul, my life, do speak to me. What am I that you should take
so much trouble to pretend that you aren't there? Do speak to me,'' he
repeated tremulously, following this mechanical appeal with a string of
extravagantly endearing names, some of them quite childish, which all of a
sudden stopped dead; and then after a pause there came a distinct,
unutterably weary:
``What shall I do now?'' as though he were speaking to himself. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]