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The Magician deeply lined. He was exhausted. At length, after much tiresome changing, they reached Venning. She had expected a greater coolness in that northern country; but there was a hot blight over the place, and, as they walked to the inn from the little station, they could hardly drag their limbs along. Arthur had telegraphed from London that they must have rooms ready, and the landlady expected them. She recognized Arthur. He passionately desired to ask her whether anything had happened since he went away, but forced himself to be silent for a while. He greeted her with cheerfulness. 'Well, Mrs Smithers, what has been going on since I left you?' he cried. 'Of course you wouldn't have heard, sir,' she answered gravely. He began to tremble, but with an almost superhuman effort controlled his voice. 'Has the squire hanged himself?' he asked lightly. 'No sir—but the poor lady's dead.' He did not answer. He seemed turned to stone. He stared with ghastly eyes. 'Poor thing!' said Susie, forcing herself to speak. 'Was it—very sudden?' The woman turned to Susie, glad to have someone with whom to discuss the event. She took no notice of Arthur's agony. 'Yes, mum; no one expected it. She died quite sudden like. She was only buried this morning.' 'What did she die of?' asked Susie, her eyes on Arthur. She feared that he would faint. She wanted enormously to get him away, but did not know how to manage it. 'They say it was heart disease,' answered the landlady. 'Poor thing! It's a happy release for her.' 'Won't you get us some tea, Mrs Smithers? We're very tired, and we should like something immediately.' 'Yes, miss. I'll get it at once.' The good woman bustled away. Susie quickly locked the door. She seized Arthur's arm. 'Arthur, Arthur.' She expected him to break down. She looked with agony at Dr Porhoet, who stood helplessly by. 'You couldn't have done anything if you'd been here. You heard what the woman said. If Margaret died of heart disease, your suspicions were quite without ground.' He shook her away, almost violently. 'For God's sake, speak to us,' cried Susie. His silence terrified her more than would have done any outburst of grief. Dr Porhoet went up to him gently. 14


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham