Arthur Burdon spent two or three days in a state of complete uncertainty, but at last the idea he had in mind grew so compelling that it overcame all objections. He went to the Carlton and asked for Margaret. He had learnt from the porter that Haddo was out and so he hoped to find Margaret alone. When he was shown into the drawing-room he found Margaret sitting at the table. She neither read nor worked.
“You told me I might call upon you”, said Arthur.
She stood up without answering and grew deathly pale.
“Why have you come?” she said hoarsely.
“I thought that I might be able to help you,” he answered softly.
“I want no help. I’m perfectly happy. I have nothing to say to you.”
She spoke hurriedly and nervously and her eyes were fixed anxiously on the door as though she feared that someone would come in.
“I feel that we have much to say to one another.”
“He’ll know,” she cried suddenly. “Do you think anything can be concealed from him?”
Arthur glanced at her. He was horrified by the terror that was in her eyes.
“I want you to know that I do not blame you for anything you did. No action of yours can lessen my affection for you.”
She suddenly burst into tears. She fell on her knees by Arthur’s side and seized his hands.
“Oh, why did you come here? Why do you torture me by saying such things? Did you think I didn’t see how you suffered? My heart bled when I looked at your face and your tortured eyes. Oh, Arthur, Arthur, you must forgive me.”
“But there’s nothing to forgive, darling.”
She looked at him steadily.
‘You say that but you don’t really think it, and yet if you only knew that all I have suffered is because of you.” “What do you mean?” asked Arthur. She made a great effort to be calm.
never loved me, he would never have thought of me if he hadn’t wanted to hurt you. He hated you, and he’s made me what I am so that you might suffer. It isn’t I who lied to you and left you and caused you all this unhappiness. He has some dreadful power over me so that I’ve been like wax in his hands. All my will has disappeared. And if I try to resist. My life is hell, and his revenge is complete.”
Margaret’s agitation was terrible. This was the first time that she had ever spoken to anybody of all these things, and now the long restraint had burst as burst the waters of a dam.
“You always laughed at his claims. But I know. Oh, I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen things with my own eyes that are against all comprehension. I tell you, he has powers of the most awful kind. Sometimes I think I shall go mad with the terror of it all.”
“Look here,” said Arthur. “You must come away at once.”
“I can’t leave him. It’s no use.”
“Because I love him with all my soul.”
“I hate him. He fills me with disgust. And yet I do not know what there is in my blood that draws me to him against my will. I can’t help it.”
A cold sweat came over Arthur, and he grew more pale than ever. He realised that he was in the presence of a mystery against which he could not fight.
“But if he doesn’t love you, what does he want you for?”
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 is mad or not. But I think he intends to try some horrible experiment and he wants me for its success.”
“What do you mean by saying he wants you?”
“He wants my life.”
It was more than Arthur could stand. He saw on the table a whisky bottle. He poured some whisky into a glass and gave it to Margaret.
“Drink it,” he said.
Obediently, she put it to her lips.