[from Hall Caine Drink]
LA MOTHE was enraptured with his success. "We have taken only one step yet," he said. " We have staved off a single attack. But we must put the lady under the hypnotic sleep again and again, until the chain of the periodic craving is broken. And if that will not suffice to cure her, we must have recourse to therapeutic suggestion. While she is under influence we must impress it upon her that drink is a sickening poison which she ought never to touch.
But I could not nerve myself to go on. To allow Lucy to slip back again and again to the world of silence and darkness was more than I dared think of. Then my feeling of repulsion against the occult powers, and against the means of using them, was now stronger than ever, not- withstanding the good results. And I began to foresee a new and hideous danger.
" Dr. La Mothe," I said, "has it been your .experience that a subject is easier to magnetise at a second than at the first attempt, and easier still at a third, and that the difficulty grows less and less at each successive effort?"
" Certainly," said La Mothe, with eagerness; "we should have no such scene again as we went through on Wednesday morning."
"And has it been your experience, also, that the subjects of the magnetiser become more and more attached to him, as though drawn and held by the fascination of his own personality?"
" That was Mesmer's chief difficulty," said La Mothe. " It is told of his subjects that they were constantly following him about the house. with the eyes of devoted dogs."
It must be just as I foresaw. When I thought of the scene of the magnetising, the prospect of a fascination based on such forces as were there brought into play terrified and revolted me. La Mothe seemed to guess at the nature of my objection, for he began to argue the claims of hypnotism as distinguished from those of mesmerism.
" In hypnotism," he said, "the operator's personality is not an active force. Your English doctor, Braid, saw this clearly, at a moment when the very mention of mesmerism would have de- prived him of his practice and ruined him for life. Hypnotism requires no commerce between the body of the operator and the body of the subject."
But it requires instead," I urged, "the acquiescence of the subject's will."
" In the first instance, certainly," said La Mothe. " Only in the first instance?"
" Well, the first few instances."
" That is to say," I said, ,,that the subject who has once or twice or thrice submitted her will to the will of the hypnotist slackens her hold of it little by little."
" I think that may be allowed."
"And in the long run, if the experiment were carried so far, there might come the complete subjugation of the will of the subject and the complete domination of the will of the operator."
" Opinions among authorities," said La Mothe; "are divided on that point. The schools of Salpêtrière and of Nancy part company on the question (among others) of whether the free will remains unbroken or the hypnotised subject is a mere automaton."
" But what is your own opinion ? "
" My own opinion is that the will of the subject does in the long run, and after many operations, assimilate itself to the will of the operator." `
" That means," I said, that if the operator is a good man the influence he exercises will be for good."
" Most certainly," said La Mothe.
I did not urge the opposing fact, that if the operator is an evil man his influence must be for evil. My mind was already made up. Whatever La Mothe might be, if the. powers he exercised were what he described, the risk that Lucy would run in being made subject to them was so fearful that no gain seemed great enough to justify the, change. The remedy would be worse than the disease. On the one side was the drink craving, with its blasting curse ; on the other side either the moral danger of a power which no man should wield over any woman, or else the malign domination of the very soul itself.
I had had enough of hypnotism and mesmerism. They might offer a means of cure for Lucy, but I could not bear to think of them. They revolted me. I paid La Mothe his fee, and with a shrug and a sneer he went back to London. When he was gone I asked myself where I stood. No nearer the end which I had set out to reach. One spasm of the drink craving I had postponed or passed over. But another would come soon, and perhaps it would come with redoubled force.