[from Hall Caine Drink]

CHAPTER SIX.

EARLY the next morning we went up to Clousedale Hall. I was not surprised to find that both doctor and clergyman were there before us. They had come, however, to watch, not to resist, and were moving about in the breakfast-room with grim and silent faces. Mrs. Hill was looking worn and wretched.

"You are none too soon," she said in her low and nervous voice. Then she led the way upstairs. It is impossible to say what effect the sight of Lucy had upon me. She was sitting in a boudoir which had a bedroom opening out of it. The' beautiful pale face was now flushed and heated, the big blue eyes were keen and restless, there was something feverish and electrical in her manner; and her glossy chestnut hair, almost as dull as tozv, was partly draggling over her shoulders. When she saw me she tried to escape, but I intercepted her at the bedroom door and did what I could to overcome .the torment of her humiliation. She fell upon my neck, buried her face in my breast, and burst into tears. As well as I was able for the sobs that choked me, I tried to soothe and comfort her.

" You will soon be well again, dearest. Have no fear. I have brought a French specialist to see you, and you must do all that he asks and expects." Then the hypnotist entered, and close behind _. cafne the doctor and the minister.

Lucy held my hand during the first examination, and she- seemed fairly quiet and tractable. But when an attempt was made to part her to sleep by causing her to fix her gaze for a few moments on some luminous object, she realised the intention instantly, and broke into a fit of hysteria. It was agony to listen to her cries and to see the convulsive twitching of her features. The hypnotist called for brandy, and offered her a small dose of it. She clutched at the glass with feverish eagerness. Her eyes at that moment were like balls of fire in the darkness. Their wild gloating was terrible to look upon.

She clutched at the glass with feverish eagerness

It was true enough that we had not come too soon. The attack was imminent. We must act now or not at all.

" Hypnogenic agencies," said La Mothe, "are difficult in a case like this, so we must needs try the mesmeric ones."

Without quite realising the difference. I consented to this change in the experiment, and then everybody except myself was ordered out of theroom. Shall I ever forget what occurred ? The scene that followed has left scars on my memory. It is with pain like that of tearing the bandage from a wound that I try now to recall it.

The magnetiser put my dear one to sit on a chair in the middle of the floor, and seated himself on another chair drawn up directly in front. Then, sitting face to face with her, he proceeded to make passes before her, and at length to apply his left hand on her breast in downward movements to what I now know as the hypnogenie zones. After that he reached over and passed his light hand across her shoulder and behind her body. Their foreheads touched. Lucy made a low, indistinguishable cry, and half turned to me with a movement either of appeal or of reproach.

The operation went on. Slowly, very slowly, with a calm that began to grow hateful, the magnetiser continued the downward pressure. Lucy's hysteria seemed to subside at every stroke of his hand. After a time her face, which had grown pale with fear, was inflamed as with pleasure, her eyes brightened and became humid, their pupils dilated and their gaze became transfixed. She dropped her head, covered her face, and sighed audibly. I wanted to put a stop to everything, but did not know why I should do so.

The operation continued. Lucy's eyes grew dimmer, their vision seemed to be obscured, her breathing became short and difficult, as if she were beginning to suffer from an attack of nervous suffocation.

"The room is going round and round," she said in a thick, low voice, and again in a half articulate murmur, " It is going faster and faster."

" All right," said La Mothe, turning to me for a moment, and my impulse to intervene was checked.

Thcn my darling's body began to be agitated by sudden jerky movements. This was followed by languor and prostration. Finally, as the man reached across to her again .she fell forward in his arms, swayed a moment, dropped her head over his shoulders, with eyes closed and neck extended, and with a sigh she lost consciousness.

"All right," said La Mothe again, but his tone of satisfaction revolted me. I wanted to lay hold of him by the throat and fling him out of the house. I knew now what the sensation of horror was which down to that moment had been vague. It was horror of the power that one human creature can by the mysterious processes of Nature wield over another, putting the soul to sleep and to death-for a time, at all events.

" Let me take her to her room," said La Mothe.

" Out of the way there! " I cried, and plucking my dear one from his arms I carried her into her bedroom, and laid her upon the bed.. -

I was leaning over her, kissing her- marble fore- . head, that was wet with my tears, when I became conscious that Godwin and McPherson were standing behind me.

" The intense excitement has produced catalepsy," said the doctor, and then after a moment he added, " She has merely fainted."

I repeated the words in French, and La Mothe smiled, shook his head, and answered, "NO."

" Don't you see she has merely fainted ? " said the doctor.

I repeated these words also, and the hypnotist replied, " Do people speak when they have fainted? " " Of course not," said the doctor.

" Speak to her," said the hypnotist to me.

I leaned over the bed again, and, looking down at the closed eyelids, cried in a loud tone, " Lucy ! " " Don''t shout," said the hypnotist. " Her heÓring is not duller. It is intensified. She hears all we are saying, as well as the ticking of our watches and the beating of our hearts."

In a breaking voice that was all but a whisper I spoke again.

"Lucy !"

The sweet lips, so softly closed, opened gently, and the voice of my dear one came like the voice of one who speaks as she is sinking into a sleep.

"Yes."

"Are you in pain ? "

" Oh, no."

"Do you know who I am?" " Yes."

" Do you wish me to hold your hand ? " " Oh, yes."

I lifted from the counterpane the thin, motion-less fingers and enclosed them in my moist and swelling palms.

"Are you happy now, dearest?" " Quite happy."

The doctor and the minister listened and looked on.

" She is exhausted, that's all," said Godwin, speaking in French.

" Do you mean that she is not asleep ?" said the hypnotist.

" Certainly I do."

"Then arouse her. Make her sit up and talk to us in the common way of life."

The doctor accepted the challenge promptly. He raised Lucy in his arms and spoke to her, but she dropped back as one without bodily power.

" Raise her eyelids. Look at the pupils," said the hypnotist.

The doctor did so. " She is asleep," he muttered. " But only in the somnambulistic phase," said the hypnotist.

Then be touched her eyebrows and her temples with a hard downward pressure; her breathing became slower and less audible, her face settled to a serene expression, and a faint tinge of colour rose to her cheeks.

,,She is now in the deeper phase-she is. in a trance," said the hypnotist.

"You mean that she is unconscious'?" ,said the doctor.

"Quite unconscious."

" Lu-cy ! " I cried again over the placid face, but there came no answer.

" Lucy ! Lucy ! "

There was not the quiver of an eyelid, not the shadow of movement on the lips. She was gone - gone to the great world of silence where the soul lives apart.

But I felt no fear now, no self-reproach, no misgiving. It was impossible to look into that silent face and be afraid. Never had my dear one seemed to me so softly beautiful, so like a happy sleeping child, so like an angel still on earth and yet cut off from the jar and fret of life. Her bosom rose and fell with the gentlest motion. I had to listen hard to catch the sound of her slow breathing. Her heart beat regularly. She was at peace.

Oh! sleep, it is a gentle thing, Beloved from pole to pole. Would this experiment succeed? When my darling awoke from this sleep of the soul, would the burning thirst of the flesh be gone?

" How long does the craving usually last ? " said the hypnotist.

" Three days," answered Mrs. Hill. (through me), rising from a chair at the back, where she had been sitting with covered face.

"Three! This is Wednesday. Thursday-Friday-Saturday-we'll waken her on Sunday morning. Meantime I will stay in the house, and if, as is probable, she should recover from the influence in the morning, I will put her under hypnosis again."


 

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