The Magician 'How oddly you talk of him! Somehow I can only see his beautiful, kind eyes and his tender mouth. I would as soon do a caricature of him as write a parody on a poem I loved.' Margaret took the portfolio in which Susie kept her sketches. She caught the look of alarm that crossed her friend's face, but Susie had not the courage to prevent her from looking. She turned the drawings carelessly and presently came to a sheet upon which, in a more or less finished state, were half a dozen heads of Arthur. Pretending not to see it, she went on to the end. When she closed the portfolio Susie gave a sigh of relief. 'I wish you worked harder,' said Margaret, as she put the sketches down. 'I wonder you don't do a head of Arthur as you can't do a caricature.' 'My dear, you mustn't expect everyone to take such an overpowering interest in that young man as you do.' The answer added a last certainty to Margaret's suspicion. She told herself bitterly that Susie was no less a liar than she. Next day, when the other was out, Margaret looked through the portfolio once more, but the sketches of Arthur had disappeared. She was seized on a sudden with anger because Susie dared to love the man who loved her. The web in which Oliver Haddo enmeshed her was woven with skilful intricacy. He took each part of her character separately and fortified with consummate art his influence over her. There was something satanic in his deliberation, yet in actual time it was almost incredible that he could have changed the old abhorrence with which she regarded him into that hungry passion. Margaret could not now realize her life apart from his. At length he thought the time was ripe for the final step. 'It may interest you to know that I'm leaving Paris on Thursday,' he said casually, one afternoon. She started to her feet and stared at him with bewildered eyes. 'But what is to become of me?' 'You will marry the excellent Mr Burdon.' 'You know I cannot live without you. How can you be so cruel?' 'Then the only alternative is that you should accompany me.' Her blood ran cold, and her heart seemed pressed in an iron vice. 'What do you mean?' 'There is no need to be agitated. I am making you an eminently desirable offer of marriage.' She sank helplessly into her chair. Because she had refused to think of the future, it had never struck her that the time must come when it would be necessary to leave Haddo or to throw in her lot with his definitely. She was seized with revulsion. Margaret realized that, though an odious attraction bound her to the man, she loathed and feared him. The scales fell from her eyes. She remembered on a sudden Arthur's great love and all that he had done for her sake. She hated herself. Like a bird at its last gasp beating frantically against the bars of a cage, Margaret made a desperate effort to regain her freedom. She sprang up. 'Let me go from here. I wish I'd never seen you. I don't know what you've done with me.'
Published on Apr 1, 2012