‘It is Diaz,’ I said to myself; ‘and he can’t get in!’
And I felt very guilty because I had slept. I must have slept for hours. Groping for a candle, I lighted it.
‘Coming! coming!’ I called in a loud voice.
And I went into the passage with the candle and opened the door.
It was Diaz. The gas was lighted on the stairs. Between that and my candle he stood conspicuous in all his details. Swaying somewhat, he supported himself by the balustrade, and was thus distant about two feet from the door. He was drunk—viciously drunk; and in an instant I knew the cruel truth concerning him, and wondered that I had not perceived it before. He was a drunkard—simply that. He had not taken to drinking as a consequence of nervous breakdown. Nervous breakdown was a euphemism for the result of alcoholic excess. I saw his slow descent as in a vision, and everything was explained. My heart leapt.
‘I can save him,’ I said to myself. ‘I can restore him.’
I was aware of the extreme difficulty of curing a drunkard, of the immense proportion of failures. But, I thought, if a woman such as I cannot by the lavishing of her whole soul and body deliver from no matter what fiend a man such as Diaz, then the world has changed, and the eternal Aphrodite is dead.
‘I can save him!’ I repeated.
Oh, heavenly moment!
‘Aren’t you coming in?’ I addressed him quietly. ’I’ve been waiting for you.’
‘Have you?’ he angrily replied. ‘I waited long enough for you.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘come in.’
‘Who is it?’ he demanded. ‘I inzizt—who is it?’
‘It’s I,’ I answered; ‘Magda.’
‘That’s no’ wha’ I mean,’ he went on. ’And wha’s more—you know it. Who is it addrezzes you, madame?’
‘Why,’ I humoured him, ‘it’s you, of course—Diaz.’
There was the sound of a door opening on one of the lower storeys, and I hoped I had pacified him, and that he would enter; but I was mistaken. He stamped his foot furiously on the landing.
‘Diaz!’ he protested, shouting. ’Who dares call me Diaz? Wha’s my full name?’
‘Emilio Diaz,’ I murmured meekly.
‘That’s better,’ he grumbled. ‘What am I?’
‘Wha’ am I?’ he roared; and his voice went up and down the echoing staircase. ‘I won’t put foot ev’n on doormat till I’m told wha’ I am here.’
‘You are the—the master,’ I said. ‘But do come in.’
‘The mas’r! Mas’r of wha’?’
‘Master of the pianoforte,’ I answered at once.
He smiled, suddenly appeased, and put his foot unsteadily on the doormat.
‘Good!’ he said. ‘But, un’stan’, I wouldn’t ev’n have pu’ foot on doormat—no, not ev’n on doormat—’
And he came in, and I shut the door, and I was alone with my wild beast.
‘Kiss me,’ he commanded.
I kissed him on the mouth.