I should have left then, though I had a wish not to leave. But I was prevented from going by the fear of descending those sinister stairs alone, and the necessity of calling aloud to the concierge in order to get out through the main door, and the possible difficulties in finding a cab in that region at that hour. I knew that I could not have borne to walk even to the end of the street unprotected. So I stayed where I was, seated in a chair near the window of the larger room, saturating myself in the vague and heavy flood of sadness that enwraps the fretful, passionate city in the night—the night when the commonest noises seem to carry some mystic message to the listening soul, the night when truth walks abroad naked and whispers her secrets.
A gas-lamp threw its radiance on the ceiling in bars through the slits of the window-shutters, and then, far in the middle wilderness of the night, the lamp was extinguished by a careful municipality, and I was left in utter darkness. Long since the candles had burnt away. I grew silly and sentimental, and pictured the city in feverish sleep, gaining with difficulty inadequate strength for the morrow—as if the city had not been living this life for centuries and did not know exactly what it was about! And then, sure as I had been that I could not sleep, I woke up, and I could see the outline of the piano. Dawn had begun. And not a sound disturbed the street, and not a sound came from Diaz’ bedroom. As of old, he slept with the tranquillity of a child.
And after a time I could see the dust on the piano and on the polished floor under the table. The night had passed, and it appeared to be almost a miracle that the night had passed, and that I had lived through it and was much the same Carlotta still. I gently opened the window and pushed back the shutters. A young woman, tall, with a superb bust, clothed in blue, was sweeping the footpath in long, dignified strokes of a broom. She went slowly from my ken. Nothing could have been more prosaic, more sane, more astringent. And yet only a few hours—and it had been night, strange, voluptuous night! And even now a thousand thousand pillows were warm and crushed under their burden of unconscious dreaming souls. But that tall woman must go to bed in day, and rise to meet the first wind of the morning, and perhaps never have known the sweet poison of the night. I sank back into my chair....
There was a sharp, decisive sound of a key in the lock of the entrance-door. I jumped up, fully awake, with beating heart and blushing face. Someone was invading the flat. Someone would catch me there.
Of course it was his servant. I had entirely forgotten her.
We met in the little passage. She was a stout creature and appeared to fill the flat. She did not seem very surprised at the sight of me, and she eyed me with the frigid disdain of one who conforms to a certain code for one who does not conform to it. She sat in judgment on my well-hung skirt and the rings on my fingers and the wickedness in my breast, and condemned me to everlasting obloquy.