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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 19. Serviss Assumes Control
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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 19. Serviss Assumes Control Post by :p00kie Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3222

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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 19. Serviss Assumes Control


At the carriage-door Mrs. Lambert halted, her heart sorely smitten by the vision of Clarke's agonized face. "Wait a moment!" she cried out. "We were too cruel. Let me say good-bye."

"No," Lambert replied, firmly. "You are done with him." And with these words he gently assisted her into the coach. "Get in, professor," he added, with a touch of the same command. "We must be moving."

With a succinct phrase of direction to the driver, Serviss complied, taking the front seat, opposite Viola. He was horrified to find her shaking violently as if with cold, her face white, her eyes big and wild. Her physical rescue was accomplished, but it was immediately made plain to him that the invisible bonds which linked her to Clarke were being drawn upon with merciless power, for with the first motion of the vehicle she fixed a look of terror and entreaty upon her mother, exclaiming, huskily: "They are calling me! They will not let me go."

Lambert stared in helpless dismay as he realized the force of this inner struggle; but the young scientist, filled with fierce rage at this assertion of the dark forces, met them promptly in pride of his own resources, his own desire.

"Give me your hands!" he commanded, sharply. She obeyed like a child in a stupor of pain, her breath coming through her pallid lips with a hissing sound as if she were sinking each moment deeper into an icy flood.

With both her inert hands in his, with love and mastering will in his eyes, he bent a deep, piercing gaze upon her with intent to rouse her and sustain her. "You must not give way. You are too strong, too brave, to yield to this delusion. You are clear of it all now--entering upon a free and happy life.... Think of the new conditions into which you are going.... Kate is waiting you. No one can control you if you set your will sharply against it.... Remember the Marshall Basin and the splendid sunshine.... You are leaving all hateful, evil influences behind." In this way he labored to fill her mind with new conceptions, building up in her a will to resist, and as he felt the tremor die out of her hands and saw the color coming back into her face he smiled with a sense of victory. "You see!" he resumed, in triumph. "You are better. Your hands are warmer. You are breathing naturally again. Your enemies are being left behind."

It was true. The hunted, piteous look had left her eyes. She seemed drowsy, but it was the languor of relief. The vital force, the sanity, the imperious appeal of the man before her had rolled back the cloud of fear which had all but closed over her head. He released her hands, saying: "We must have no more backward glances. Remember Lot's wife."

Lambert, filled with satisfaction, laid a silencing hand upon his wife's arm. His faith in science, in the force of exact learning, was being met, and he was resolved to leave the hypnotist free to act, to control.

Roused and confident, the young scientist continued his appeal, leaving her no time to dwell upon the past. "You are young," he said in effect, "and it is spring. You are false to yourself if you permit yourself to lose through any such morbid imagining a single hour of joy. All depends on your own will, your own desire to be free. Henceforth you are never to be sad or afraid. I will you to be happy and you must obey."

She rose from the deep of her depression as a lily rises from the sod after the trampling storm-wind has passed. Her response to his call filled him with hope as well as with astonishment. It was as if he had torn from her throat the hands of some hideous beast, half-man, half-devil, and they entered Kate's home in such normal, cheerful relationship that no one could possibly have associated any hidden grief with either of them, not even with Mrs. Lambert, and Viola met her hostess with the gay spirits of an unexpected but confident guest.

Kate was both amazed and delighted by their sudden irruption, and being eager to know all the details of their escape from the Pratt stronghold hurried Viola and her mother away to their rooms, leaving Lambert in Morton's care.

"Well, professor," said the miner, when they were alone, "we made the break and won out. I reckon they're side-tracked now."

"Yes, and I hope we are done with both Pratt and Clarke; but they'll both bear watching. Pratt I especially fear."

"He's had his notice," Lambert grimly replied. "As for Clarke, it looks as though even Julia had got enough of him. He looked like a man on the road to the mad-house, and I reckon she's convinced of it now."

"I pitied him, but I do not feel that you are in any sense indebted to him. On the contrary, a large part of your daughter's slavery to the trance is due to his pernicious influence."

"You must be something of an influence yourself, professor. It was wonderful the way you brought her out of that trance. I never saw that done before. I reckon you must have some kind of mesmerism about you."

"Not a particle more than you have. However, I should like to believe in my power to help her. In fact, I do believe that. It is really a question of her own will. The old idea of some subtle physical force or fluid passing from the operator to the subject is no longer held. It is not even necessary to make passes nor to put the subject in a trance. All we need to do is suggest to her that no one, not even her ghostly grandfather, can control her against her will. We must keep her mind full of bright and cheerful thoughts, and convince her that by leaving the Pratt house she has attained freedom."

"I will do what I can," said Lambert; "but I've seen her taken down so many times, I'm a little doubtful. She's in a bad way, I admit. It has its bad side as well as its pretty side, this religion. It unhinges a lot of people, and I reckon Clarke's a little off or he wouldn't have got my folks into that mess."

"Don't let Viola feel your doubt; present a confident face to her. There is nothing supernatural in the world, nothing lying outside of nature or outside of law. Many diseases which were once considered demoniacal possessions we now know to be quite as natural as any other in fact. Disease is only health gone wrong; and the mental disorder in which Viola now stands is certainly curable if we proceed properly and with confidence."

"I like to have you say these things, professor. They kind o' fit in with what I've thought over all by myself out there in the mountains. I like the man who says 'such and such a thing is so-and-so, because I can prove it.' That's what science is, I take it. There's altogether too much guess-work about this spiritualistic religion--it needs some engineer like you to get down to the bed-rock. Clarke is the kind of man who thinks he's on the vein when he ain't."

"I'm giving it a good deal of thought, and may be I will some day take up the experimentation--but not with your daughter as a subject. However, we'll discuss that later. You are tired and I'll show you your room and bath, and after you freshen up a bit we'll discuss our next movement."

Lambert turned as he entered the room assigned to him, and said, with deep feeling: "I'm trusting in you, professor. I'm out o' my latitude in this spirit enterprise. As I say, I've neglected my family since Clarke came into it, and it was all wrong. I should have asserted my rights. I don't blame Julia as much as I did. Women are kind o' weak in some ways--more religious, you may say--and Clarke got hold of Julia in a way that I couldn't understand. I didn't mind her thinking more of Waldron than of me--that's natural, we all have our first loves--but I couldn't stand Clarke's overbearing ways in my own house." His voice grew firm. "Well, now, here I am with time and money. Tell me what to do and I'll do it."

Morton's liking for the Western man was raised almost to affection, as he looked into his earnest, remorseful eyes and listened to his low-toned confession. "You may depend on my help," he responded, heartily, extending his hand in token. "Your step-daughter interests me deeply. There is something for you to do, but I will not ask it now."

"Yes, tell me, so I can be thinking it over."

Morton pondered a moment, then said: "I had a consultation to-day with a great nerve specialist, a man who uses hypnotism, or 'suggestion,' as he calls it, in his practice. He is perfectly sure that your daughter can be restored to mental health, but she must have a complete change of companionship and environment. He agrees with me that she must be separated not merely from Pratt and Clarke, but from her mother also. I need your help in this."

"That will be hard on Julia," Lambert slowly responded. "She hasn't much else but the girl and her religion." He looked down at the floor. "Yes, that is a rough sentence, professor, but I shouldn't wonder if you were right."

"It must be done, Lambert; and the very best service you can render is to take your wife and go home, leaving Viola here in our care--But that can wait till after you are rested." And with this final word he closed the door and returned to his library to await Kate's return and her inevitable demand for the story of what had taken place.

He took up one of the most recent books treating of Suggestion, and resumed consideration of a paragraph which had arrested him as if a hand had been placed upon his shoulder. "Suggestion does not limit or depress the subconscious self, it sets it free, exalts its powers, making it not something less, but something vastly more than the normal and the conscious self."

Could it be possible that Viola, in common with hundreds of other apparently well-authenticated cases, possessed the "psychic force" which Maxwell, Richet, and Lombroso recognized? The hypothesis, difficult as it was, profoundly inexplicable from every point of view, was, after all, less of a wrench to the reason, came closer to the frame of his philosophy than the claims of Crookes and Wallace. To accept the spiritist faith even as a "working hypothesis" was impossible to his definite type of mind.

If these raps, movements, voices, could be related to the working of the subconscious mind, or, as Meyers called it, the "subliminal self," then the power of the hypnotist might be able to control their order and to a certain extent their character. They were not signs of a diseased brain (according to Meyers again), but were the manifestations of a power scattered here and there among men, without system, without known law. Maxwell agreeing with this, ends by saying: "These mysterious phenomena are due, therefore, neither to spirits nor disease, but to a perfectly natural force lying within the minds of the sitters and exercised by the psychic."

He had already derived much hope from the monumental work of Meyers and his school. Hundreds of cases of hallucinations, alternating personality, hysterio-epilepsy, and other kindred apparent abnormalities, had been studied by means of hypnotism, and certain processes inhibited or set going at the will of an operator. The latest word of these masters was most heartening. They had demonstrated that the trance was no longer a necessary part of hypnotism. That the subject would not follow out in trance any improper or criminal suggestion which he would not do in conscious state; and, "There is no great physical difference between the normal and the hypnotic state," he read; "the real mental difference lies in the temporary removal of motives tending to counteract the suggestion, and this removal does not imply an inhibition of faculty, but an actual extension or liberation of faculty."

In fine, these men agreed that the mind, reaching back, by its very structure, to the beginning of organic life, was limited by consciousness to a comparatively small number of its potentialities, whereas its subliminal life (on the contrary) was infinite and unsearchably subtle. All minds partook, in varying degrees, of these baffling powers, but only now and then, through unusual favoring circumstances, was the brain able to manifest its depth and subtlety. Sickness, sleeplessness, physical shock, some accidental series of events now and then permitted a display of these hidden acquirements, and thereafter the individual was marked as abnormal, possessed, according to the ancient view, by angels or devils.

Others still, by putting themselves deliberately into the study, had been able to subordinate the conscious mind, little by little liberating their subliminal forces by practice, attaining thus almost miraculous powers. In this way the "medium" became clairvoyant, clairaudient, telekinetic. In other cases still, as in Viola's case, this subordination of the supra-liminal self had been accomplished by the suggestion of others, by submission to the will of others.

He had been profoundly instructed by Tolman's account of a case of alternating personality which he had studied with so much care. The fact that the secondary self appeared when the subject's life seemed at a lower ebb, and when the cerebral centres were sparsely supplied with the life-current, and the further fact that the use of a certain substance which stimulated (without poisoning) the higher brain-centres, was able to bring back the primary or supra-liminal self, was of the utmost value. It threw a flood of light upon Viola's condition, for had she not in her trance become inert, cold, and almost without pulse? He had provided himself with this drug, and as he studied its appearance in the phial, so minute, so colorless, so helpless in its prison, he felt once again the mystery of matter, and smiled to think how childish was the popular conception of the physical universe as something dead and inorganic. Nothing is more mysterious.

"The office of this drug can be twofold. It has the power in itself to flush the cerebral centres with fresh blood, and it can also serve as a point of support for the suggestion I am about to give. It does not really matter whether she has any phase of what they call mediumistic power or not. To rid her of her trances will liberate her from a belief in her ills, and that is the main consideration."

He found the greatest encouragement at this point in the many cases where perfect mental health had been restored by means of a complete change of mental stimuli. "All hypnotic methods," he read, "have one thing in common, and that is the diversion of attention from the insistency of external surroundings.... The hypnotic state has one broad characteristic, and that is the working of the subliminal consciousness in directions unusual in ordinary life."

"The way to help her is to cut off every suggestion which leads to the trance and to the thought of the dead; to centre her mind on the serene, the busy, the sunny. Thus flooding her brain with sights and sounds utterly disassociated with her past."

The realization that she was at last domesticated under his roof made her redemption seem easy, certain, almost accomplished. There remained only the painful duty of separating her from her mother. He could see that this would bring keen sorrow upon them both, but that if she could be brought to consider him in the light of her future husband, the change would seem less violent; for, after all, it was the law of life which subordinated the claims of the mother to those of the husband.

"At any rate, the issue is now clear in my mind. A powerful chain of suggestion has been formed and fastened upon her by her own mother and by Clarke. That chain must be broken; it is broken in Clarke's case, and no matter what the pain, the fear, this course may cause the mother, it must be pursued in order to restore Viola to health."

He passed from this to a forecast of the radical changes in his own life which an avowal of love would make, and his mood chilled. He had always imagined the announcement of his engagement, falling into a sober and decorous paragraph among the society notes, and had figured himself receiving with dignified composure the congratulations of his associates and club-fellows. He had never considered the possibility of shrinking from these publicities, nor fancied himself in the light of finding excuses to justify or explain his marriage. He now clearly foresaw, foreheard the comment, the surprise, the opposition of his family.

He pulled himself up short with a word of derision at the length to which he had permitted his mind to run. "All this for the future. The immediate question is, Can she be freed from her bonds?"

He was deep in his book when Kate entered with excited greeting. "Morton, do you know that those women have been locked in their rooms all day for fear of Clarke and Pratt? Well, they were! Clarke has gone stark mad with jealousy, and even that besotted mother was afraid of him, and admits it. They would be there in that house prisoners this minute only for you."

"Don't lay your wreath on my head; keep it for Lambert. Really, Kate, he was magnificent. Little as he is, he towered. I had no doubt of his willingness and ability to kill either Pratt or Clarke; and I don't think they questioned the integrity of his promise."

Kate's mind took a new turn. "She's broken with Clarke, thank Heaven! But the mother clings to him in spite of all."

"I am about to suggest to Mrs. Lambert that she go West with her husband, leaving the girl in your care for a little while."

"I wish they would!"

"She must be freed from even her mother's presence for a while--that is, if they really want to have her cured of her trances."

"I see," said Kate, thoughtfully. "The mother is so closely associated with all that tapping."

"Precisely. I wish, when Mrs. Lambert is rested, you would ask her to let me see her here. I want to talk these matters over with her in private."

"They're both lying down, but I'll tell her when she rises. Don't do anything rash," she added, with a reaction towards caution which amused him.

"You may trust me."

She came back a few steps, and hesitatingly said. "For, after all, Morton, the girl _is abnormal."

"So are we all--under abnormal conditions. I am going to see if I can't so change the current of her thought that she will forget her besetments--and you must help me."

"She's shockingly pretty and it will be very dangerous having her beneath your very roof." She gave a warning backward look. "How dare you permit it?"

"I am a very brave man," he replied, with a smile, and an inflection that puzzled her.

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