‘What time is it?’
’Tea-time. The water is boiling.
‘Was I dreadful last night?’
’I have a sort of recollection of getting angry and stamping about. I didn’t do anything foolish?’
‘You took a great deal too much of my sedative,’ I answered.
‘I feel quite well,’ he said; ’but I didn’t know I had taken any sedative at all. I’m glad I didn’t do anything silly last night.’
I ran away to prepare the tea. The situation was too much for me.
‘My poor Diaz!’ I said, when we had begun to drink the tea, and he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his eyes full of sleep, his chin rough, and his hair magnificently disarranged, ’you did one thing that was silly last night.’
‘Don’t tell me I struck you?’ he cried.
‘Oh no!’ and I laughed. ‘Can’t you guess what I mean?’
‘You mean I got vilely drunk.’
‘Magda,’ he burst out passionately, seeming at this point fully to arouse himself, to resume acutely his consciousness, ’why were you late? You said four o’clock. I thought you had deceived me. I thought I had disgusted you, and that you didn’t mean to return. I waited more than an hour and a quarter, and then I went out in despair.’
‘But I came just afterwards,’ I protested. ’You had only to wait a few more minutes. Surely you could have waited a few more minutes?’
‘You said four o’clock,’ he repeated obstinately.
‘It was barely half-past five when I came,’ I said.
‘I had meant never to drink again,’ he went on.
‘You were so kind to me. But then, when you didn’t come—’
‘You doubted me, Diaz. You ought to have been sure of me.’
‘I was wrong.’
‘No, no!’ I said. ’It was I who was wrong. But I never thought that an hour and a half would make any difference.’
There was a pause.
’Ah, Magda, Magda!’—he suddenly began to weep; it was astounding—’remember that you had deserted me once before. Remember that. If you had not done that, my life might have been different. It would have been different.’
‘Don’t say so,’ I pleaded.
’Yes, I must say so. You cannot imagine how solitary my life has been. Magda, I loved you.’
And I too wept.
His accent was sincerity itself. I saw the young girl hurrying secretly out of the Five Towns Hotel. Could it be true that she had carried away with her, unknowing, the heart of Diaz? Could it be true that her panic flight had ruined a career? The faint possibility that it was true made me sick with vain grief.
‘And now I am old and forgotten and disgraced,’ he said.
‘How old are you, Diaz?’
‘Thirty-six,’ he answered.
‘Why,’ I said, ‘you have thirty years to live.’
‘Yes; and what years?’
‘Famous years. Brilliant years.’