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The Magician women of the world, admirably gowned, actresses of renown, and fashionable courtesans. The noise was very great. A Hungarian band played in a distant corner, but the music was drowned by the loud talking of excited men and the boisterous laughter of women. It was plain that people had come to spend their money with a lavish hand. The vivacious crowd was given over with all its heart to the pleasure of the fleeting moment. Everyone had put aside grave thoughts and sorrow. Margaret had never been in better spirits. The champagne went quickly to her head, and she talked all manner of charming nonsense. Arthur was enchanted. He was very proud, very pleased, and very happy. They talked of all the things they would do when they were married. They talked of the places they must go to, of their home and of the beautiful things with which they would fill it. Margaret's animation was extraordinary. Arthur was amused at her delight with the brightness of the place, with the good things they ate, and with the wine. Her laughter was like a rippling brook. Everything tended to take him out of his usual reserve. Life was very pleasing, at that moment, and he felt singularly joyful. 'Let us drink to the happiness of our life,' he said. They touched glasses. He could not take his eyes away from her. 'You're simply wonderful tonight,' he said. 'I'm almost afraid of my good fortune.' 'What is there to be afraid of?' she cried. 'I should like to lose something I valued in order to propitiate the fates. I am too happy now. Everything goes too well with me.' She gave a soft, low laugh and stretched out her hand on the table. No sculptor could have modelled its exquisite delicacy. She wore only one ring, a large emerald which Arthur had given her on their engagement. He could not resist taking her hand. 'Would you like to go on anywhere?' he said, when they had finished dinner and were drinking their coffee. 'No, let us stay here. I must go to bed early, as I have a tiring day before me tomorrow.' 'What are you going to do?' he asked. 'Nothing of any importance,' she laughed. Presently the diners began to go in little groups, and Margaret suggested that they should saunter towards the Madeleine. The night was fine, but rather cold, and the broad avenue was crowded. Margaret watched the people. It was no less amusing than a play. In a little while, they took a cab and drove through the streets, silent already, that led to the quarter of the Montparnasse. They sat in silence, and Margaret nestled close to Arthur. He put his arm around her waist. In the shut cab that faint, oriental odour rose again to his nostrils, and his head reeled as it had before dinner. 'You've made me very happy, Margaret,' he whispered. 'I feel that, however long I live, I shall never have a happier day than this.' 'Do you love me very much?' she asked, lightly. He did not answer, but took her face in his hands and kissed her passionately. They arrived at Margaret's house, and she tripped up to the door. She held out her hand to him, smiling. 9


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham