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The Magician circulated also, and someone related that he had been turned out of a club in Vienna for cheating at cards. He played many games, but here, as at Oxford, it was found that he was an unscrupulous opponent. And those old rumours followed him that he took strange drugs. He was supposed to have odious vices, and people whispered to one another of scandals that had been with difficulty suppressed. No one quite understood on what terms he was with his wife, and it was vaguely asserted that he was at times brutally cruel to her. Susie's heart sank when she heard this; but on the few occasions upon which she caught sight of Margaret, she seemed in the highest spirits. One story inexpressibly shocked her. After lunching at some restaurant, Haddo gave a bad louis among the money with which he paid the bill, and there was a disgraceful altercation with the waiter. He refused to change the coin till a policeman was brought in. His guests were furious, and several took the first opportunity to cut him dead. One of those present narrated the scene to Susie, and she was told that Margaret laughed unconcernedly with her neighbour while the sordid quarrel was proceeding. The man's blood was as good as his fortune was substantial, but it seemed to please him to behave like an adventurer. The incident was soon common property, and gradually the Haddos found themselves cold−shouldered. The persons with whom they mostly consorted had reputations too delicate to stand the glare of publicity which shone upon all who were connected with him, and the suggestion of police had thrown a shudder down many a spine. What had happened in Rome happened here again: they suddenly disappeared. Susie had not been in London for some time, and as the spring advanced she remembered that her friends would be glad to see her. It would be charming to spend a few weeks there with an adequate income; for its pleasures had hitherto been closed to her, and she looked forward to her visit as if it were to a foreign city. But though she would not confess it to herself, her desire to see Arthur was the strongest of her motives. Time and absence had deadened a little the intensity of her feelings, and she could afford to acknowledge that she regarded him with very great affection. She knew that he would never care for her, but she was content to be his friend. She could think of him without pain. Susie stayed in Paris for three weeks to buy some of the clothes which she asserted were now her only pleasure in life, and then went to London. She wrote to Arthur, and he invited her at once to lunch with him at a restaurant. She was vexed, for she felt they could have spoken more freely in his own house; but as soon as she saw him, she realized that he had chosen their meeting−place deliberately. The crowd of people that surrounded them, the gaiety, the playing of the band, prevented any intimacy of conversation. They were forced to talk of commonplaces. Susie was positively terrified at the change that had taken place in him. He looked ten years older; he had lost flesh, and his hair was sprinkled with white. His face was extraordinarily drawn, and his eyes were weary from lack of sleep. But what most struck her was the change in his expression. The look of pain which she had seen on his face that last evening in the studio was now become settled, so that it altered the lines of his countenance. It was harrowing to look at him. He was more silent than ever, and when he spoke it was in a strange low voice that seemed to come from a long way off. To be with him made Susie curiously uneasy, for there was a strenuousness in him which deprived his manner of all repose. One of the things that had pleased her in him formerly was the tranquillity which gave one the impression that here was a man who could be relied on in difficulties. At first she could not understand exactly what had happened, but in a moment saw that he was making an unceasing effort at self−control. He was never free from suffering and he was constantly on the alert to prevent anyone from seeing it. The strain gave him a peculiar restlessness. But he was gentler than he had ever been before. He seemed genuinely glad to see her and asked about her travels with interest. Susie led him to talk of himself, and he spoke willingly enough of his daily round. He was earning a good deal of money, and his professional reputation was making steady progress. He worked hard. Besides his duties at the two hospitals with which he was now connected, his teaching, and his private practice, he had read of late one or two papers before scientific bodies, and was editing a large work on surgery.



The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham