The Pagan Madonna (Chapter 5, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 5

Father and son! For a while Jane had the sensation of walking upon
unsubstantial floors, of seeing unsubstantial objects. The encounter did
not seem real, human. Father and son, and they had not rushed into each
other's arms! No matter what had happened in the past, there should have
been some human sign other than astonishment. At the very least two or
three years had separated them. Just stared for a moment, and passed on!

Hypnotism is a fact; a word or a situation will create this peculiar state
of mind. Father and son! The phrase actually hypnotized Jane, and she
remained in the clutch of it until hours later, which may account for the
amazing events into which she permitted herself to be drawn. Father and
son! Her actions were normal; her mental state was not observable; but
inwardly she retained no clear recollection of the hours that intervened
between this and the astonishing climax. As from a distance, she heard the
voice of the son: "Looks rum to you, no doubt. But I can't tell you the story--at least not
now. It's the story of a tomfool. I had no idea he was on this side. I
haven't laid eyes on him in seven years. Dinner at seven. I'll have that
germicide sent up to your room."

The captain nodded abruptly and made off toward the entrance.

Jane understood. He wanted to be alone--to catch his breath, as it were.
At any rate, that was a human sign that something besides astonishment was
stirring within. So she walked mechanically over to the bookstall and
hazily glanced at the backs of the new novels, riffled the pages of a
magazine; and to this day she cannot recall whether the clerk was a man or
a woman, white or brown or yellow, for a hand touched her sleeve lightly,
compelling her attention. Dennison's father stood beside her.

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