Susie gave a little gasp. Her first thought was for Arthur, and she uttered a wail of sorrow because he must be cast again into the agony of desolation. Once more she had to break the dreadful news. She dressed hurriedly and ate some breakfast. There was no train till nearly eleven, and she had to bear her impatience as best she could. At last it was time to start, and she put on her gloves. At that moment the door was opened, and Arthur came in.
She gave a cry of terror and turned pale.
‘I was just coming to London to see you,’ she faltered. ’How did you find out?’
’Haddo sent me a box of chocolates early this morning with a card on which was written: I think the odd trick is mine.’
This cruel vindictiveness, joined with a schoolboy love of taunting the vanquished foe, was very characteristic. Susie gave Arthur Burdon the note which she had found in Margaret’s room. He read it and then thought for a long time.
‘I’m afraid she’s right,’ he said at length. ’It seems quite hopeless. The man has some power over her which we can’t counteract.’
Susie wondered whether his strong scepticism was failing at last. She could not withstand her own feeling that there was something preternatural about the hold that Oliver had over Margaret. She had no shadow of a doubt that he was able to affect his wife even at a distance, and was convinced now that the restlessness of the last few days was due to this mysterious power. He had been at work in some strange way, and Margaret had been aware of it. At length she could not resist and had gone to him instinctively: her will was as little concerned as when a chip of steel flies to a magnet.
’I cannot find it in my heart now to blame her for anything she has done,’ said Susie. ’I think she is the victim of a most lamentable fate. I can’t help it. I must believe that he was able to cast a spell on her; and to that is due all that has happened. I have only pity for her great misfortunes.’
’Has it occurred to you what will happen when she is back in Haddo’s hands?’ cried Arthur. ’You know as well as I do how revengeful he is and how hatefully cruel. My heart bleeds when I think of the tortures, sheer physical tortures, which she may suffer.’
He walked up and down in desperation.
’And yet there’s nothing whatever that one can do. One can’t go to the police and say that a man has cast a magic spell on his wife.’
‘Then you believe it too?’ said Susie.
‘I don’t know what I believe now,’ he cried. ’After all, we can’t do anything if she chooses to go back to her husband. She’s apparently her own mistress.’ He wrung his hands. ’And I’m imprisoned in London! I can’t leave it for a day. I ought not to be here now, and I must get back in a couple of hours. I can do nothing, and yet I’m convinced that Margaret is utterly wretched.’