[from Hall Caine Drink]


A LETTER came from the Scots minister. By the grace of God Lucy was better. Her ardent philanthropy had begun again. She was organising Bands of Hope among the children. The power of the Lord was strong above all other powers, and our dear victim was to be saved.

I was relieved, but I was also distressed. The pathos of Lucy's repentance touched me deeply; but if the world knew the truth, how it would shout itself hoarse at what it must call her hypocrisy !

My time was not yet, but it came only too soon, only too surely. A fortnight later I heard from Mrs. Hill. Lucy was betraying symptoms of another attack. The twitching of her mouth, the restlessness of her hands, the keen and feverish look. of her eyes, these were unmistakable in- dications.

They began," said the nurse, "after service last Sunday morning. She took the communion ! Merciful Father! What am I saying? And yet. it is the truth. I must not conceal it."

I had told Mrs. Hill that I had engaged a doctor who was a specialist in nervous ailments, and that I wished for due warning of the return of an attack. Her letter was intended to ask for the specialist, and I summoned La Mothe by a telegram.

On the way to Euston I called on Sir George at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He heard of my errand without either approval. or disapproval. His strong face was like a mask and gave no sign. As I was leaving his room he touched my arm and said, `1 Have you telegraphed to your father ? "

I answered "No,"' and tried to hasten away. " I must do so myself," he said.

"Give me a week more," I pleaded. "There will still be time enough to stop him."

Sir George nodded his head and I left him. He had less than no faith in my errand. Only his pity for the deep entanglement of my affections suffered him to see me go on with my enterprise.

Late the same night I reached Cumberland with La Mothe. We put up at the " Wheatsheaf," and I lost no tiane in sending a message to McPherson and to Godwin, announcing my arrival and asking them to oblige me with a call. The two men came together, and there was a strained and painful interview. I introduced the hypnotist and told of my intention, saying I desired their countenance and assistance.

The minister refused it promptly and absolutely. His attitude was precisely that which I might have foreseen. What I proposed to do, if I could do it, would be tampering with free will. His conscience was startled by such audacity. Drink was a temptation of the Devil, only to be conquered by the grace of God. The measures we proposed to employ were the instrument of the Evil One. To subjugate the free will of a fellow creature,-to t,ct upon her by "suggestion," to compel her to do that -which she must, and not that which she would, was to attempt to uproot the moral law, to unseat religion, and shake our trust in God Himself.

It was in vain that I urged that it was no part of my present scheme to act upon Lucy by thera- peutic suggestion, but that if I were driven to doing so as a - last resource I should feel justified by the natural order of life.

" You talk," I said, " about conscience, about moral responsibility, about free will. To ninety-nine out of a hundred there is no such thing. Only the hundredth has a will that is free, and, for good or evil, he makes slaves of the wills of the ninety and nine. The orator swaying an assembly., the statesman directing affairs, the king controlling an empire, the pretty woman directing fashion, the young bride winning to her own way the husband who loves her-what are they all doing but imposing the free will on the will that is not free ? Every great man is great in degree as he dictates the wills of other "nen, and he is the greatest man -whom the greatest men are doomed to obey."

The Scots minister listened to me with a faceof horror.

" Why call a man great," he said, "because he paralyses. the souls of his fellow men? The basest and the worst of men do that, and it is by the power of the Devil that they do it. The murderer who lures his victim to a lonely place that he may fall on him and kill him, the Judas who worms himself into the secret of his master that he may betray and sell him, the unjust steward who seeks the care of the widow and fatherless that he may rob them of their bread, the seducer who palters with the love of a weak woman that he may dishonour her and then fling her in the mud -these are the men who try to control the actions of their fellow men, and they are the real Lucifers, for they are in rebellion against God on His real throne-the hearts of His creatures."

" In short, you mean," I said, "that if I cause bliss Clousedale to be put under the hypnotic sleep, in the hope of conquering the drink crave which is destroying her, I shall be acting the part of her worst enemy ? "

" You will be attempting to break down the sanctuaries of her soul," he answered, " and pretending to a power that can only come of the grace of God itself."

I was losing my patience. " Nevertheless, I intend to try."

The minister flushed to the eyes. " You shall not do ' so ! "

I set a firm lower lip and went on. " She has no legal guardian, and I am shortly to be her

husband. The moral right is mine, and I am going to exercise it."

" Then, sir," replied the Reverend McPherson, bringing his fist down on the table, " I wash my hands of your proceedings"; and with that and a flash of anger -he rose and -left us.

I had no better encouragement from the doctor. His steely eyes had glittered as with amused contempt during my encounter with the minister, and now he spoke with the easy superiority of a man who believes himself to be above all feeble superstitions. His theories were the modern ones, his methods the reverse of those who trust to moral suasion. The drink craving was a disease. - The victims of it ought to be treated as diseased people, and kept under restraint until the madness had been overcome.

The word stung me, and I suppose I coloured deeply, for he looked into my face and said, " This is no time for mock modesty. It is a time to face the truth. For my own part, I have done so from the first. Regarding Miss Clousedale as a subject of temporary insanity, I have, as you are aware, treated her accordingly."

I bit my lip and asked, " With what results ? ."

" I am not entirely responsible for results," he said. " I am only responsible for the treatment.

To attempt to cure the drink crave merely by the machinery of the temperance pledge: is a coursediscredited in the eyes, of scientific inquirers. In spite of the gigantic temperance organisation of the-, last fifty years, drunkenness the world over is not less, but more. Its consequences are more serious,, its special cases- more acute. As a whole, taken in its broadest aspects, the temperance cause has, failed. So far I am at one with you : but--"

I was shaking my head : he paid no heed to. my dissent.

" -but the method with which you now propose, to supersede the effete one of temperance people like this Scots minister is not only ineffectual, it. isbeset with terrors. You say you are going to put the, young lady under hypnotic sleep. There is no such thing as hypnotic sleep, What there is in actual fact is a, phenomenon produced by imagination."

"Very well," I said, "if you prefer to call it imagination, let us do so ; and if imagination is a medicine; by all means let us use it."

Not so quick," he answered. You have clearly not counted with the dangers. The- phe- nomenon of imagination which you propose to induce is only a form of hysteria. We, know what that involves. It involves the danger of madness- incurable, madness, not temporary madness, such as the victim of drink suffers from. Thus you are. trying to jump out of the frying-pan into the fire. Even if it is possible to put Miss Clousedale into a real sleep of three days' duration -a thing I entirely disbelieve-you would only be reducing her by one form of hysteria-the quiescent form, the most dangerous form-to a condition which must imperil her life."

" Do you mean," I said, -that she would never awake ? "

" I mean," he answered, " that she would probably never awake to the consciousness of reason, or else that she would only awake to die." In short, you refuse to share our responsibility? "

"I am not so simple as to share it. What you say you are going to do amounts in effect, if you can do it, to the administration of chloroform. Now, a patient my die under chloroform; and when this occurs our defence is obvious. But you are using unrecognised means, and there is no way by which you can show that, such as they are, you are using them properly. If Miss Clousedale should die in your hands, what is your position in the eye of the law ?

She will not die."

But if, my friend-if-if ?

If," I answered, "you know so little of what was first called hypnotism by one of your own faculty as to speak of its dangers in the same breathwith those of chloroform, it is clear that we have nothing to gain by your co-operation, and nothing to lose by your withdrawal."

The hard face became harder, and the square brow more stern.

" So you ask me to withdraw-you, who have no legal rights whatever-you ask me to step back in favour of God knows whom, from God knows where, coming with God knows what tricks of the adventurer and the charlatan ? "

" I ask you to remember," I replied, "that your profession has always used just such language as you are now using about everything and everybody that has done any great work in the interests of humanity." "

He had risen and was making for the door.

" It is such men as you, and-and this person --pointing with his hat to the hypnotist-" who are the disturbers of society, making with a little burning straw and dirty smoke the scarecrow superstitions which fill the world with weakness and melancholy and insanity. I leave you to your silly work; but I warn you that if you do what you say, and anything happens as the consequence, as sure as there is law in the land, I will set it in motion to punish you."

I bowed him out with cold politeness and he went off in anger. The hypnotist had sat through both interviews with no better apprehension of their drift than observation of our faces had afforded him.

" Mr. La Mothe," I said, in French, ,the Gentlemen wash their hands of us."

He smiled. I had not surprised him.


back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2012