The Magician Asking her to sit down, he began to talk as if they were old acquaintances between whom nothing of moment had occurred. At last she took her courage in both hands. 'Why did you make me come here?' she asked suddenly, 'You give me credit now for very marvellous powers,' he smiled. 'You knew I should come.' 'I knew.' 'What have I done to you that you should make me so unhappy? I want you to leave me alone.' 'I shall not prevent you from going out if you choose to go. No harm has come to you. The door is open.' Her heart beat quickly, painfully almost, and she remained silent. She knew that she did not want to go. There was something that drew her strangely to him, and she was ceasing to resist. A strange feeling began to take hold of her, creeping stealthily through her limbs; and she was terrified, but unaccountably elated. He began to talk with that low voice of his that thrilled her with a curious magic. He spoke not of pictures now, nor of books, but of life. He told her of strange Eastern places where no infidel had been, and her sensitive fancy was aflame with the honeyed fervour of his phrase. He spoke of the dawn upon sleeping desolate cities, and the moonlit nights of the desert, of the sunsets with their splendour, and of the crowded streets at noon. The beauty of the East rose before her. He told her of many−coloured webs and of silken carpets, the glittering steel of armour damascened, and of barbaric, priceless gems. The splendour of the East blinded her eyes. He spoke of frankincense and myrrh and aloes, of heavy perfumes of the scent−merchants, and drowsy odours of the Syrian gardens. The fragrance of the East filled her nostrils. And all these things were transformed by the power of his words till life itself seemed offered to her, a life of infinite vivacity, a life of freedom, a life of supernatural knowledge. It seemed to her that a comparison was drawn for her attention between the narrow round which awaited her as Arthur's wife and this fair, full existence. She shuddered to think of the dull house in Harley Street and the insignificance of its humdrum duties. But it was possible for her also to enjoy the wonder of the world. Her soul yearned for a beauty that the commonalty of men did not know. And what devil suggested, a warp as it were in the woof of Oliver's speech, that her exquisite loveliness gave her the right to devote herself to the great art of living? She felt a sudden desire for perilous adventures. As though fire passed through her, she sprang to her feet and stood with panting bosom, her flashing eyes bright with the multi−coloured pictures that his magic presented. Oliver Haddo stood too, and they faced one another. Then, on a sudden, she knew what the passion was that consumed her. With a quick movement, his eyes more than ever strangely staring, he took her in his arms, and he kissed her lips. She surrendered herself to him voluptuously. Her whole body burned with the ecstasy of his embrace. 'I think I love you,' she said, hoarsely. She looked at him. She did not feel ashamed. 'Now you must go,' he said. He opened the door, and, without another word, she went. She walked through the streets as if nothing at all had happened. She felt neither remorse nor revulsion.
Published on Apr 1, 2012