He made inarticulate noises in his throat, and ultimately achieved the remark:
‘You’re very hard, Magda.’
Then he bent himself towards the next room.
‘You will want a candle,’ I said, with bitterness. ’No; I will carry it. Let me go first.’
I preceded him through a tiny salon into the bedroom, and, leaving him there with one candle, came back into the first room. The whole place was deplorable, though not more deplorable than I had expected from the look of the street and the house and the stairs and the girl with the large hat. It was small, badly arranged, disordered, ugly, bare, comfortless, and, if not very dirty, certainly not clean; not a home, but a kennel—a kennel furnished with chairs and spotted mirrors and spotted engravings and a small upright piano; a kennel whose sides were covered with enormous red poppies, and on whose floor was something which had once been a carpet; a kennel fitted with windows and curtains; a kennel with actually a bed! It was the ready-made human kennel of commerce, which every large city supplies wholesale in tens of thousands to its victims. In that street there were hundreds such; in the house alone there were probably a score at least. Their sole virtue was their privacy. Ah the blessedness of the sacred outer door, which not even the tyrant concierge might violate! I thought of all the other interiors of the house, floor above floor, and serried one against another—vile, mean, squalid, cramped, unlovely, frowsy, fetid; but each lighted and intensely alive with the interplay of hearts; each cloistered, a secure ground where the instincts that move the world might show themselves naturally and in secret. There was something tragically beautiful in that.
I had heard uncomfortable sounds from the bedroom. Then Diaz called out:
‘It’s no use. Can’t do it. Can’t get into bed.’ I went directly to him. He sat on the bed, still clasping the umbrella, one arm out of his coat. His gloomy and discouraged face was the face of a man who retires baffled from some tremendously complicated problem.
‘Put down your umbrella,’ I said. ‘Don’t be foolish.’
‘I’m not foolish,’ he retorted irritably. ’Don’t want to loosh thish umbrella again.’
‘Well then,’ I said, ‘hold it in the other hand, and I will help you.’
This struck him as a marvellous idea, one of those discoveries that revolutionize science, and he instantly obeyed. He was now very drunk. He was nauseating. The conventions which society has built up in fifty centuries ceased suddenly to exist. It was impossible that they should exist—there in that cabin, where we were alone together, screened, shut in. I lost even the sense of convention. I was no longer disgusted. Everything that was seemed natural, ordinary, normal. I became his mother. I became his hospital nurse. And at length he lay in bed, clutching the umbrella to his breast. Nothing had induced him to loose it from both hands at once. The priceless value of the umbrella was the one clearly-defined notion that illuminated his poor devastated brain. I left him to his inanimate companion.