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The Magician She tried to push the gate to, but Arthur's foot prevented her. Paying no heed to her angry expostulations, he forced his way in. He walked quickly up the drive. The lodge−keeper accompanied him, with shrill abuse. The gate was left unguarded, and the others were able to follow without difficulty. 'You can go to the door, but you won't see Mr Haddo,' the woman cried angrily. 'You'll get me sacked for letting you come.' Susie saw the house. It was a fine old building in the Elizabethan style, but much in need of repair; and it had the desolate look of a place that has been uninhabited. The garden that surrounded it had been allowed to run wild, and the avenue up which they walked was green with rank weeds. Here and there a fallen tree, which none had troubled to remove, marked the owner's negligence. Arthur went to the door and rang a bell. They heard it clang through the house as though not a soul lived there. A man came to the door, and as soon as he opened it, Arthur, expecting to be refused admission, pushed in. The fellow was as angry as the virago, his wife, who explained noisily how the three strangers had got into the park. 'You can't see the squire, so you'd better be off. He's up in the attics, and no one's allowed to go to him.' The man tried to push Arthur away. 'Be off with you, or I'll send for the police.' 'Don't be a fool,' said Arthur. 'I mean to find Mr Haddo.' The housekeeper and his wife broke out with abuse, to which Arthur listened in silence. Susie and Dr Porhoet stood by anxiously. They did not know what to do. Suddenly a voice at their elbows made them start, and the two servants were immediately silent. 'What can I do for you?' Oliver Haddo was standing motionless behind them. It startled Susie that he should have come upon them so suddenly, without a sound. Dr Porhoet, who had not seen him for some time, was astounded at the change which had taken place in him. The corpulence which had been his before was become now a positive disease. He was enormous. His chin was a mass of heavy folds distended with fat, and his cheeks were puffed up so that his eyes were preternaturally small. He peered at you from between the swollen lids. All his features had sunk into that hideous obesity. His ears were horribly bloated, and the lobes were large and swelled. He had apparently a difficulty in breathing, for his large mouth, with its scarlet, shining lips, was constantly open. He had grown much balder and now there was only a crescent of long hair stretching across the back of his head from ear to ear. There was something terrible about that great shining scalp. His paunch was huge; he was a very tall man and held himself erect, so that it protruded like a vast barrel. His hands were infinitely repulsive; they were red and soft and moist. He was sweating freely, and beads of perspiration stood on his forehead and on his shaven lip. For a moment they all looked at one another in silence. Then Haddo turned to his servants. 'Go,' he said. As though frightened out of their wits, they made for the door and with a bustling hurry flung themselves out. A torpid smile crossed his face as he watched them go. Then he moved a step nearer his visitors. His manner had still the insolent urbanity which was customary to him. 'And now, my friends, will you tell me how I can be of service to you?' 14


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham