[from Hall Caine Drink]


I LEFT the hypnotist at Clousedale Hall and went back to the " Wheatsheaf." Not until then did I realise what the tension had been, and what it still must be. How I passed the four nights and days ensuing I do not know. One creeping terror dominated every sleeping and waking hour- that Lucy would never come out of the trance in which our mysterious forces had laid her. I went up to the house constantly, and as often as .I approached it I glanced nervously from the farthest point of sight to assure myself that the blinds had not been drawn down. I crept upstairs on tiptoe, and stole along the corridors like a thief. I know that, short as the time of waiting was, measured in relation to life, I wasted away in it and grew pale and haggard. It ought to have reassured me that all this time the hypnotist did not turn a hair. A smug content shone on his face as often as I looked at it with fearful eyes. Luey's. condition continued good. Her pulse was regular and her heart normal. She took nourishment in sustaining quantities by the means they. had of passing it through her almost motionless lips.

I had no thought to waste on the people of Cleator, but it was impossible not to know that in some way public opinion was against me. Even Mrs. Tyson, the landlady, at first so friendly a soul, was clearly looking at me askance. Suspicion, which I had feared might settle on Lucy, was resting on myself instead.

But I lived through everything, and even Saturday night came at length. It was the night before the morning appointed for Lucy's awakening, and I did not attempt to sleep. When I ought to have gone to bed I wandered out into the locality of the mines, and at early morning I found myself, like a lost soul, encircling the smelting-house of " Owd Boney." The bank fires burning the refuse of iron ore sent a red glow into the world of darkness. Mountains and dale were blotted out; nothing was visible but the :tongues of fume leaping from the squat mouths of the chimneys, and nothing was audible but thedeep panting of the labouring engine tbat brought the iron out of the bowels of the earth. In my mood at that time it seemed a fit scene for .the mysterious and awful rites which were being enacted in the big house behind the trees, with my love as the silent and unconscious subject.

The morning dawned very.fresh and bright and beautiful. The sun shone and the birds sang, and there was no cloud or wind. As early as I dare I went up to the house. The doctor and the Scots minister arrived soon after me. I could not help seeing in their grim sallowness a certain satisfaction at my nervousness and pallor. It was almost as if they hoped for a tragic issue, or at least foresaw a ghastly triumph over me if things should not go well.

La Mothejoined us after a period of waiting. He looked cheerful and spoke cheerily. There was an irritating atmosphere of every-dayness about the man's manner. He had been sleeping and had just awakened. I think he yawned as he bade us "Good-morning! "

In due course we all four passed into the bed- room. That peaceful place was full of a holy calm. Lucy lay there as I had last seen her, with the tranquil face of a sleeping angel. I thought I had never seen a human countenance so saintly. Not a line of evil passion, not a trace of that spiritual alloy which the touch of the world brings to the soul that- is fresh from God. The air around her seemed to breathe of heaven.

" Is everything ready, nurse ? " said the hypnotist. "Yes,' said Mrs. Hill, again through me.

Bring up that small table and set it near to the bed."

This was done.

Now set a wine-glass on the table, with the decanter of brandy."

This was done also. The time for the awakening was at hand. There was no sound in the room except the chirping of the cheerful fire, the singing of the birds outside, the shuffling of the feet and the rasping of the breath of the hypnotist. The rest of us were very quiet. Our very hearts seemed to stand still.

I must have lived a lifetime during the next two minutes. The tension was terrible. No physical agony can compare with the agony of suspense like that.

The hypnotist approached my darling, and, putting his fingers lightly on her forehead, raised her eyelids with his thumbs. Her pupils were turned up - I could not look at her, I could not look away.

the hypnotist was leaning closely over her, with his face close to her face, blowing softly into her eyes

At the next moment the hypnotist was leaning closely over her, with his face close to her face, blowing softly into her eyes..

There was a measureless period of suspense. Lucy lay without a sign of life.

The hypnotist was holding the eyelids wide open, and blowing strongly on to the pupils. The pupils were moving-they were coming down.

Then, close to the silent face, very close, the hypnotist began to speak. In a loud, deep voice, caressing and yet commanding, he cried, "You're all right!"

Luey's eyelids twitched under his fingers, but there was no other response.

" You're all right ! " cried the hypnotist, as one calling into a deep cavern.

" All right! All right! "

The voice seemed to be dragging back the reluctant soul.

The sleeper moved. There was a clutching Of the counterpane, a swelling of the bosom, a deep, audible breathing, and then the whole body rolled over on its side, as a child does when it is awaken- ing in the Morning from the long, unbroken sleep of the night.

I had begun to breathe freely again under the mingled feelings' of relief and joy.

" Speak to her," said the hypnotist.

I tried, but could not; then tried again, and 'uttered a husky gurgle.

" Have no fear. She is quite safe. In two minutes more she will be awake and well. Speak to her. Let your voice be the first that she hears on returning to consciousness and to the world. Recall some incident of the past-the more tender the better. We will leave you. "

He motioned the doctor and the minister to go out with him, and they passed into the boudoir together. I reached over to my dear one and took her hand and kissed her, and then in a whisper I called her by her name.

" Lucy ! "

There was a moment's silence, as if the soul of the sleeping were listening, and then in a toneless, somnambulistic voice she answered-

" Yes."

"Do you remember the day we parted in London?" There was another pause, and then came a flood of words.

" What a lovely sunset! . See how sweetly the red glow stretches down the river! How beautiful the world is! And how good!"

I remembered the words. I had heard her speak them before. She was living over again the incidents of our last evening at Sir George Chute's.

" What a long, long time, it must be before we meet again! Christmas ! Will it ever come ? I shall count the days like the prisoner of Chillon."

I remembered how I had answered her when she said this before, and in the same way I answered her again.

" Let its. hope that, like him, you.- will not become too fond of your prison to leave it for good when I come in the spring to fetch you.','

There was a little trill of laughter, like the ghostly echo of the merry note . which had danced in my ears on that June night when we sat on the balcony looking down at the sleeping Thames.

"They are lighting the-lamps in the drawing room. Would you like me to sing something?' In another moment my darling was singing from her bed in the breaking sleep of her spirit, just as she had sung to me at that happy parting seven months before.

And when my seven long years are gone-- Suddenly the voice broke and then frayed away, and the song stopped. Lucy moved and opened her eyes. I was face to face with her, and she looked on me with a bewildered gaze. Then the light of love came into her eyes, and in an ardent, penetrating, passionate tone she cried, " Robert! " and reached out her arm to me.

" I was dreaming of you," she said. " I thought we were together in: London and I was singing." " And so you were, my love," I answered, as well as I was able for the sobs that choked me; Then she raised herself on her elbow and realised where we were.

" I remember-you brought the French doctor early this morning. What time is' it now?

I made what shift I could to answer her question, and little by little everything came back. Her distress was more than I could bear to, witness, and I crept away..

Yet before I left the room I realised that the hypnotist, who had come to the little table, was pouring brandy from the decanter into the glass.

" Offer her this," he said in his own language to the nurse, who had been hovering about the bedhead.

But Lucy only glanced at the glass, and then, with a look of repulsion and a voice of pain, she cried-

" No, no ! Take it away. It makes me sick.'"

In the agony of my suspense. I had forgotten our mission. We had succeeded. The drink craving was gone.


back index next


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