The Magician A cold sweat came over Arthur, and he grew more pale than ever. He realized now he was in the presence of a mystery that he could not unravel. She went on feverishly. 'The other night, at supper, I told a story, and I saw you wince with shame. It wasn't I that told it. The impulse came from him, and I knew it was vile, and yet I told it with gusto. I enjoyed the telling of it; I enjoyed the pain I gave you, and the dismay of those women. There seem to be two persons in me, and my real self, the old one that you knew and loved, is growing weaker day by day, and soon she will be dead entirely. And there will remain only the wanton soul in the virgin body.' Arthur tried to gather his wits together. He felt it an occasion on which it was essential to hold on to the normal view of things. 'But for God's sake leave him. What you've told me gives you every ground for divorce. It's all monstrous. The man must be so mad that he ought to be put in a lunatic asylum.' 'You can do nothing for me,' she said. 'But if he doesn't love you, what does he want you for?' 'I don't know, but I'm beginning to suspect.' She looked at Arthur steadily. She was now quite calm. 'I think he wishes to use me for a magical operation. I don't know if he's mad or not. But I think he means to try some horrible experiment, and I am needful for its success. That is my safeguard.' 'Your safeguard?' 'He won't kill me because he needs me for that. Perhaps in the process I shall regain my freedom.' Arthur was shocked at the callousness with which she spoke. He went up to her and put his hands on her shoulders. 'Look here, you must pull yourself together, Margaret. This isn't sane. If you don't take care, your mind will give way altogether. You must come with me now. When you're out of his hands, you'll soon regain your calmness of mind. You need never see him again. If you're afraid, you shall be hidden from him, and lawyers shall arrange everything between you.' 'I daren't.' 'But I promise you that you can come to no harm. Be reasonable. We're in London now, surrounded by people on every side. How do you think he can touch you while we drive through the crowded streets? I'll take you straight to Susie. In a week you'll laugh at the idle fears you had.' 'How do you know that he is not in the room at this moment, listening to all you say?' The question was so sudden, so unexpected, that Arthur was startled. He looked round quickly. 'You must be mad. You see that the room is empty.'
Published on Apr 1, 2012