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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XX. THE BAD MAN.

David Elginbrod by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XX. THE BAD MAN.

She kent he was nae gentle knight,

That she had letten in;

For neither when he gaed nor cam',

Kissed he her cheek or chin.

He neither kissed her when he cam'

Nor clappit her when he gaed;

And in and out at her bower window,

The moon shone like the gleed.

Glenkindie. -- Old Scotch Ballad.

WHEN Euphra recovered from the swoon into which she had fallen -- for I need hardly explain to my readers, that it was she who walked the Ghost's Walk in white -- on seeing Margaret, whom, under the irresistible influences of the moonlight and a bad conscience, she took for the very being whom Euphra herself was personating -- when she recovered, I say, she found herself lying in the wood, with Funkelstein, whom she had gone to meet, standing beside her. Her first words were of anger, as she tried to rise, and found she could not.

|How long, Count Halkar, am I to be your slave?|

|Till you have learned to submit.|

|Have I not done all I can?|

|You have not found it. You are free from the moment you place that ring, belonging to me, in right of my family, into my hands.|

I do not believe that the man really was Count Halkar, although he had evidently persuaded Euphra that such was his name and title. I think it much more probable that, in the course of picking up a mass of trifling information about various families of distinction, for which his position of secretary in several of their houses had afforded him special facilities, he had learned something about the Halkar family, and this particular ring, of which, for some reason or other, he wanted to possess himself.

|What more can I do?| moaned Euphra, succeeding at length in raising herself to a sitting posture, and leaning thus against a tree. |I shall be found out some day. I have been already seen wandering through the house at midnight, with the heart of a thief. I hate you, Count Halkar!|

A low laugh was the count's only reply.

|And now Lady Euphrasia herself dogs my steps, to keep me from the ring.| She gave a low cry of agony at the remembrance.

|Miss Cameron -- Euphra -- are you going to give way to such folly?|

|Folly! Is it not worse folly to torture a poor girl as you do me -- all for a worthless ring? What can you want with the ring? I do not know that he has it even.|

|You lie. You know he has. You need not think to take me in.|

|You base man! You dare not give the lie to any but a woman.|

|Why?|

|Because you are a coward. You are afraid of Lady Euphrasia yourself. See there!|

Von Funkelstein glanced round him uneasily. It was only the moonlight on the bark of a silver birch. Conscious of having betrayed weakness, he grew spiteful.

|If you do not behave to me better, I will compel you. Rise up!|

After a moment's hesitation, she rose.

|Put your arms round me.|

She seemed to grow to the earth, and to drag herself from it, one foot after another. But she came close up to the Bohemian, and put one arm half round him, looking to the earth all the time.

|Kiss me.|

|Count Halkar!| her voice sounded hollow and harsh, as if from a dead throat -- |I will do what you please. Only release me.|

|Go then; but mind you resist me no more. I do not care for your kisses. You were ready enough once. But that idiot of a tutor has taken my place, I see.|

|Would to God I had never seen you! -- never yielded to your influence over me! Swear that I shall be free if I find you the ring.|

|You find the ring first. Why should I swear? I can compel you. You know you laid yourself out to entrap me first with your arts, and I only turned upon you with mine. And you are in my power. But you shall be free, notwithstanding; and I will torture you till you free yourself. Find the ring.|

|Cruel! cruel! You are doing all you can to ruin me.|

|On the contrary, I am doing all I can to save myself. If you had loved me as you allowed me to think once, I should never have made you my tool.|

|You would all the same.|

|Take care. I am irritable to-night.|

For a few moments Euphra made no reply.

|To what will you drive me?| she said at last.

|I will not go too far. I should lose my power over you if I did. I prefer to keep it.|

|Inexorable man!|

|Yes.|

Another despairing pause.

|What am I to do?|

|Nothing. But keep yourself ready to carry out any plan that I may propose. Something will turn up, now that I have got into the house myself. Leave me to find out the means. I can expect no invention from your brains. You can go home.|

Euphra turned without another word, and went; murmuring, as if in excuse to herself:

|It is for my freedom. It is for my freedom.|

Of course this account must have come originally from Euphra herself, for there was no one else to tell it. She, at least, believed herself compelled to do what the man pleased. Some of my readers will put her down as insane. She may have been; but, for my part, I believe there is such a power of one being over another, though perhaps only in a rare contact of psychologically peculiar natures. I have testimony enough for that. She had yielded to his will once. Had she not done so, he could not have compelled her; but, having once yielded, she had not strength sufficient to free herself again. Whether even he could free her, further than by merely abstaining from the exercise of the power he had gained, I doubt much.

It is evident that he had come to the neighbourhood of Arnstead for the sake of finding her, and exercising his power over her for his own ends; that he had made her come to him once, if not oftener, before he met Hugh, and by means of his acquaintance, obtained admission into Arnstead. Once admitted, he had easily succeeded, by his efforts to please, in so far ingratiating himself with Mr. Arnold, that now the house-door stood open to him, and he had even his recognised seat at the dinner-table.

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