Instead of following the ladies into the house, I followed the horses to the stables. I thought I might see Simon Slowden, who I was sure would be my friend, and was watching Kaffar closely, but I could not catch sight of him. Herod Voltaire came up to me, however, and hissed in my ear—
“Do you yield to my power now?”
I answered almost mechanically, “No.”
“But you will,” he went on. “You dared to follow me to yonder lake, but you found you could not ride alone with her. How terrible it must be to have to obey the summons of the devil, and so find out the truth that while two is company, five is none!”
I began to tremble again.
He fixed his terrible eye upon me, and said slowly and distinctly, “Justin Blake, resistance is useless. I have spent years of my life in finding out the secrets of life. By pure psychology I have obtained my power over you. You are a weaker man than I—weaker under ordinary circumstances. You would be swayed by my will if I knew no more the mysteries of the mind than you, because as a man I am superior to you—superior in mind and in will-force; but by the knowledge I have mentioned I have made you my slave.”
I felt the truth of his words. He was a stronger man than I naturally, while by his terrible power I was rendered entirely helpless. Still, at that very moment, the inherent obstinacy of my nature showed itself.
“I am not your slave,” I said.
“You are,” he said. “Did you feel no strange influences coming back just now? Was not Herod Voltaire your master?”
I was silent.
“Just so,” he answered with a smile; “and yet I wish to do you no harm. But upon this I do insist. You must leave Temple Hall; you must allow me to woo and to win Miss Gertrude Forrest.”
“I never will,” I cried.
“Then,” said he, jeeringly, “your life must be ruined. You must be swept out of the way, and then, as I told you, I will take this dainty duck from you, I will press her rosy lips to mine, and—”
“Stop!” I cried; “not another word;” and, seizing him by the collar, I shook him furiously. “Speak lightly of her,” I continued, “and I will thrash you like a dog, as well as that cur who follows at your heels.”
For a moment my will had seemed to gain the mastery over him. He stared at me blankly, but only for a moment, for soon his light eyes glittered; and then, as Kaffar came up by his side, my strength was gone, my hands dropped by my side, and unheeding the cynical leer of the Egyptian, or the terrible look of his friend, I walked into the house like one in a dream.
DARKNESS AND LIGHT
During the next few days there was but little to record. The party evidently forgot mesmerism and thought-reading, and seemingly enjoyed themselves without its assistance. The young men and women walked together and talked together, while the matrons looked complacently on. During the day there was hunting, skating, and riding, while at night there was story-telling, charades, games of various sorts, and dancing. Altogether, it was a right old-fashioned, unconventional English country party, and day by day we got to enjoy ourselves more, because we learned to know each other better.