Susie felt it impossible to stay in the deserted studio any longer, and accepted a friend’s invitation to spend the winter in Italy. Margaret had not written to her, and she could not make herself write to her. In Rome Susie had the news of Haddo and his wife. They had spent some time there, and the little English circle was still talking of their eccentricities. Haddo had excited attention by the extravagance of his costume and manner; and Margaret by her beauty. She was seen in her box at the opera every night, and her diamonds were the envy of all women. But suddenly the pair had disappeared without saying a word to anybody. It was reported that they were now in Monte Carlo.
Susie had intended to pass the spring on the Riviera, but when she heard that the Haddos were there, she hesitated. She did not want to run the risk of seeing them, and yet she had a keen desire to find out exactly how things were going. At last curiosity won and she went to Monte Carlo. After two or three days she saw them at the tables, but they were so absorbed in their game that they did not notice her. Margaret was playing, but Haddo stood behind her and directed her movements. Susie was unable to recognize in her the girl who had been her friend. What struck her most was that there was in Margaret’s expression an extraordinary likeness to Haddo’s. In spite of her beauty, she-had Oliver’s evil look which suggested that she saw with his eyes.
They had won great sums that evening. Taking up the money, Haddo touched her on the shoulder, and she followed him.
Susie learned that Haddos had rooms at the most expensive of the hotels. They knew few English except those who had bad reputations, but seemed to prefer the society of those foreigners whose wealth and eccentricities made them the centre of that little world. Margaret moved among all those odd people with a cold mysteriousness that excited everybody’s curiosity. Oliver’s eccentric
imagination invented whimsical festivities and orgies that were held in the dark sitting-room of the hotel. He wanted to revive the mystical ceremonies of old religions imitating those he had seen in Eastern places. Haddo was thought to be involved in occult studies, and some said that he was occupied with the Magnum Opus, the greatest and most fantastic of alchemical experiments. It was also said that he was attempting to create living beings. He had explained to somebody that magical receipts existed for the manufacture of homunculi.
No one understood his true relations with his wife, and it was said that he was sometimes very cruel to her. Susie’s heart sank when she heard this; but several times when she saw Margaret, she seemed in the highest spirits. Then the same thing that had happened in Rome happened here again; they suddenly disappeared.
* * *
Susie had not been to London for some time, and as the spring advanced she remembered that her friends had invited her. Though she would not confess it to herself, her desire to see Arthur was the strongest of her motives. She knew that he would never care for her, but she was glad to be his friend.
In London she wrote to Arthur, and he invited her to the opera. “Susie was terrified at the change that had taken place in him. He looked ten years older, he had lost weight, and his hair was white. But what most struck her was the change of his expression. The look of pain which she had seen oil his face that last evening in the studio was now become settled, so that it changed its countenance.