[from Hall Caine Drink]


1 STAYED a fortnight longer in Cumberland. It was a tender, pathetic time. Lucy's health grew better every day, yet her spirits did not improve. There was a look of trouble in her face, and some- times her eyes would fill when the talk was cheerful and I was doing my best to be very merry. I noticed that the visits of the Scots minister were frequent. Lucy and D,IcPherson were much in each other's company. I did not intrude upon their conversation, thinking it might refer to the good works on which they were engaged together. But one day I saw them part with undisguised anger on his side and some confusion upon hers, and then I knew that his visits had involved a more serious and personal issue. Lucy told me what it was. It concerned myself so closely. With eyes on the needlework that was in her trembling fingers she let slip the truth. Robert," she said, "don't think too hard of me." .

"What is it," I said.

"Try to forgive me if I have' given you so much trouble, so much pain--"

I saw it coming.

"'Tell me-what is it, Lucy ? "

I want to go into a Sisterhood."

" Good God! " I cried, " can you mean it ? "

" I have thought - it over very carefully," she said. " There is nothing else left for me to do. It is my only hope, my only refuge. If I am ever to conquer this curse, it can only be there. And if I am not to conquer it, where else can I hide myself so well ? Besides, I feel that it is right and just. I know all about my grandfather and how he made our money. That needs an expiation, and we know what is written about the third and fourth generation. But I am very sorry for your sake, Robert. It was very sweet and beautiful- all we hoped and expected--but then-but then--"

Her cheeks were becoming red, her eyes moist, and her voice husky.

" Lucy, my darling," I said, " you are not very well yet. By and bye you will be better, and then everything will seem different. All the world will be changed, and you will wonder how you could ever have made this resolution. Let us not think of it any more now, that's a good girl.:'

My reason was more selfish than I had allowed. It was impossible for me to discuss with this sweet and tender creature an infirmity so ugly and so abject. I was asking myself what it was that had led to her determination, and telling myself that imagination was the most potent factor in life. Lucy wanted to go into a Sisterhood because the idea of an hereditary curse had- taken possession of her imagination. What was the drink craving in her case? What must it be in nearly all cases? It was the idea that drink controlled the will. The drunkard drinks because he thinks he cannot help it. Drink is the hypnotist, and every time the victim yields to its sway its influence becomes more powerful. The first of its attempts upon Lucy was the moment when she first tasted, for then the bulwark of her will was broken down. Imagination may bring to pass the thing it fears, and Luey's imagination, dominated by the thought of a curse inherited from her grandfather, was working out the results which the curse predicted.

On the other hand, was there no poison in her blood? No organic mischief set up by two generations of alcoholism? The eagerness with which she had clutched at the brandy immediately before her trance, and the repulsion she had shown at the sight of it when she awoke, seemed to point to some absolute bodily predisposition quite independent of imagination.

But the only standing ground I could find anywhere was that, if an imaginative idea had been the beginning of Lucy's disease, another and healthier imaginative idea might perhaps be her medicine. What was therapeutic suggestion but imagination working on imagination? 'the sleep was no part of the primary thing, but only necessary for that subjugation of the opposing will wherein the imagination of the operator might have free play with the imagination oŁ the subject. Then why not the imagination without the sleep ? Why not my imagination against that of Lucy ? And where was the imaginative idea with which .I could overcome her belief in the curse ? There lay her salvation, if only I could find it.


back index next


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