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The Magician He got up and moved towards the door, but he staggered and with a groan tumbled to his knees. Margaret sprang forward to help him. She reproached herself bitterly for those scornful words. The man had barely escaped death, and she was merciless. 'Oh, please stay as long as you like,' she cried. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you.' He dragged himself with difficulty back to the chair, and she, conscience−stricken, stood over him helplessly. She poured out a glass of water, but he motioned it away as though he would not be beholden to her even for that. 'Is there nothing I can do for you at all?' she exclaimed, painfully. 'Nothing, except allow me to sit in this chair,' he gasped. 'I hope you'll remain as long as you choose.' He did not reply. She sat down again and pretended to read. In a little while he began to speak. His voice reached her as if from a long way off. 'Will you never forgive me for what I did the other day?' She answered without looking at him, her back still turned. 'Can it matter to you if I forgive or not?' 'You have not pity. I told you then how sorry I was that a sudden uncontrollable pain drove me to do a thing which immediately I bitterly regretted. Don't you think it must have been hard for me, under the actual circumstances, to confess my fault?' 'I wish you not to speak of it. I don't want to think of that horrible scene.' 'If you knew how lonely I was and how unhappy, you would have a little mercy.' His voice was strangely moved. She could not doubt now that he was sincere. 'You think me a charlatan because I aim at things that are unknown to you. You won't try to understand. You won't give me any credit for striving with all my soul to a very great end.' She made no reply, and for a time there was silence. His voice was different now and curiously seductive. 'You look upon me with disgust and scorn. You almost persuaded yourself to let me die in the street rather than stretch out to me a helping hand. And if you hadn't been merciful then, almost against your will, I should have died.' 'It can make no difference to you how I regard you,' she whispered. She did not know why his soft, low tones mysteriously wrung her heartstrings. Her pulse began to beat more quickly. 'It makes all the difference in the world. It is horrible to think of your contempt. I feel your goodness and your purity. I can hardly bear my own unworthiness. You turn your eyes away from me as though I were unclean.' 8


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham