9 Margaret's night was disturbed, and next day she was unable to go about her work with her usual tranquillity. She tried to reason herself into a natural explanation of the events that had happened. The telegram that Susie had received pointed to a definite scheme on Haddo's part, and suggested that his sudden illness was but a device to get into the studio. Once there, he had used her natural sympathy as a means whereby to exercise his hypnotic power, and all she had seen was merely the creation of his own libidinous fancy. But though she sought to persuade herself that, in playing a vile trick on her, he had taken a shameful advantage of her pity, she could not look upon him with anger. Her contempt for him, her utter loathing, were alloyed with a feeling that aroused in her horror and dismay. She could not get the man out of her thoughts. All that he had said, all that she had seen, seemed, as though it possessed a power of material growth, unaccountably to absorb her. It was as if a rank weed were planted in her heart and slid long poisonous tentacles down every artery, so that each part of her body was enmeshed. Work could not distract her, conversation, exercise, art, left her listless; and between her and all the actions of life stood the flamboyant, bulky form of Oliver Haddo. She was terrified of him now as never before, but curiously had no longer the physical repulsion which hitherto had mastered all other feelings. Although she repeated to herself that she wanted never to see him again, Margaret could scarcely resist an overwhelming desire to go to him. Her will had been taken from her, and she was an automaton. She struggled, like a bird in the fowler's net with useless beating of the wings; but at the bottom of her heart she was dimly conscious that she did not want to resist. If he had given her that address, it was because he knew she would use it. She did not know why she wanted to go to him; she had nothing to say to him; she knew only that it was necessary to go. But a few days before she had seen the Phedre of Racine, and she felt on a sudden all the torments that wrung the heart of that unhappy queen; she, too, struggled aimlessly to escape from the poison that the immortal gods poured in her veins. She asked herself frantically whether a spell had been cast over her, for now she was willing to believe that Haddo's power was allâˆ’embracing. Margaret knew that if she yielded to the horrible temptation nothing could save her from destruction. She would have cried for help to Arthur or to Susie, but something, she knew not what, prevented her. At length, driven almost to distraction, she thought that Dr Porhoet might do something for her. He, at least, would understand her misery. There seemed not a moment to lose, and she hastened to his house. They told her he was out. Her heart sank, for it seemed that her last hope was gone. She was like a person drowning, who clings to a rock; and the waves dash against him, and beat upon his bleeding hands with a malice all too human, as if to tear them from their refuge. Instead of going to the sketchâˆ’class, which was held at six in the evening, she hurried to the address that Oliver Haddo had given her. She went along the crowded street stealthily, as though afraid that someone would see her, and her heart was in a turmoil. She desired with all her might not to go, and sought vehemently to prevent herself, and yet withal she went. She ran up the stairs and knocked at the door. She remembered his directions distinctly. In a moment Oliver Haddo stood before her. He did not seem astonished that she was there. As she stood on the landing, it occurred to her suddenly that she had no reason to offer for her visit, but his words saved her from any need for explanation. 'I've been waiting for you,' he said. Haddo led her into a sittingâˆ’room. He had an apartment in a maison meublee, and heavy hangings, the solid furniture of that sort of house in Paris, was unexpected in connexion with him. The surroundings were so commonplace that they seemed to emphasise his singularity. There was a peculiar lack of comfort, which suggested that he was indifferent to material things. The room was large, but so cumbered that it gave a cramped impression. Haddo dwelt there as if he were apart from any habitation that might be his. He moved cautiously among the heavy furniture, and his great obesity was somehow more remarkable. There was the acrid perfume which Margaret remembered a few days before in her vision of an Eastern city.
Published on Apr 1, 2012