Then, you know, they clapped ’em away in what they called a lunatic asylum.”
“I know,” said Mwres. “In these confounded historical romances that every one is listening to, they always rescue a beautiful girl from an asylum or something of the sort. I don’t know if you attend to that rubbish.”
“I must confess I do,” said the hypnotist. “It carries one out of oneself to hear of those quaint, adventurous, half-civilised days of the nineteenth century, when men were stout and women simple. I like a good swaggering story before all things. Curious times they were, with their smutty railways and puffing old iron trains, their rum little houses and their horse vehicles. I suppose you don’t read books?”
“Dear, no!” said Mwres, “I went to a modern school and we had none of that old-fashioned nonsense. Phonographs are good enough for me.”
“Of course,” said the hypnotist, “of course”; and surveyed the table for his next choice. “You know,” he said, helping himself to a dark blue confection that promised well, “in those days our business was scarcely thought of. I daresay if any one had told them that in two hundred years’ time a class of men would be entirely occupied in impressing things upon the memory, effacing unpleasant ideas, controlling and overcoming instinctive but undesirable impulses, and so forth, by means of hypnotism, they would have refused to believe the thing possible. Few people knew that an order made during a mesmeric trance, even an order to forget or an order to desire, could be given so as to be obeyed after the trance was over. Yet there were men alive then who could have told them the thing was as absolutely certain to come about as—well, the transit of Venus.”
“They knew of hypnotism, then?”
“Oh, dear, yes! They used it—for painless dentistry and things like that! This blue stuff is confoundedly good: what is it?”
“Haven’t the faintest idea,” said Mwres, “but I admit it’s very good. Take some more.”
The hypnotist repeated his praises, and there was an appreciative pause.
“Speaking of these historical romances,” said Mwres, with an attempt at an easy, off-hand manner, “brings me—ah—to the matter I—ah—had in mind when I asked you—when I expressed a wish to see you.” He paused and took a deep breath.
The hypnotist turned an attentive eye upon him, and continued eating.
“The fact is,” said Mwres, “I have a—in fact a—daughter. Well, you know I have given her—ah—every educational advantage.Lectures—not a solitary lecturer of ability in the world but she has had a telephone direct, dancing, deportment, conversation, philosophy, art criticism … ” He indicated catholic culture by a gesture of his hand. “I had intended her to marry a very good friend of mine—Bindon of the Lighting Commission—plain little man, you know, and a bit unpleasant in some of his ways, but an excellent fellow really—an excellent fellow.”
“Yes,” said the hypnotist, “go on. How old is she?”