‘Hurrah!’ I cried. ‘She can go. I am to call for her in the cab.’
And I crushed the note cruelly, and threw it in the fire.
‘Tell him to call at Ryleys’,’ I said to Rebecca as she was putting me and my dress into the cab.
And she told the cabman with that sharp voice of hers, always arrogant towards inferiors, to call at Ryleys.’
I put my head out of the cab window as soon as we were in Oldcastle Street.
‘Drive straight to Hanbridge,’ I ordered.
The thing was done.
He was like his photograph, but the photograph had given me only the most inadequate idea of him. The photograph could not render his extraordinary fairness, nor the rich gold of his hair, nor the blue of his dazzling eyes. The first impression was that he was too beautiful for a man, that he had a woman’s beauty, that he had the waxen beauty of a doll; but the firm, decisive lines of the mouth and chin, the overhanging brows, and the luxuriance of his amber moustache, spoke more sternly. Gradually one perceived that beneath the girlish mask, beneath the contours and the complexion incomparably delicate, there was an individuality intensely and provocatively male. His body was rather less than tall, and it was muscular and springy. He walked on to the platform as an unspoilt man should walk, and he bowed to the applause as if bowing chivalrously to a woman whom he respected but did not love. Diaz was twenty-six that year; he had recently returned from a tour round the world; he was filled full of triumph, renown, and adoration. As I have said, he was already legendary. He had become so great and so marvellous that those who had never seen him were in danger of forgetting that he was a living human being, obliged to eat and drink, and practise scales, and visit his tailor’s. Thus it had happened to me. During the first moments I found myself thinking, ’This cannot be Diaz. It is not true that at last I see him. There must be some mistake.’ Then he sat down leisurely to the piano; his gaze ranged across the hall, and I fancied that, for a second, it met mine. My two seats were in the first row of the stalls, and I could see every slightest change of his face. So that at length I felt that Diaz was real, and that he was really there close in front of me, a seraph and yet very human. He was all alone on the great platform, and the ebonized piano seemed enormous and formidable before him. And all around was the careless public—ignorant, unsympathetic, exigent, impatient, even inimical—two thousand persons who would get value for their money or know the reason why. The electric light and the inclement gaze of society rained down cruelly upon that defenceless head. I wanted to protect it. The tears rose to my eyes, and I stretched out towards Diaz the hands of my soul. My passionate sympathy must have reached him like a beneficent influence, of which, despite the perfect self-possession and self-confidence of his demeanour, it seemed to me that he had need.