Frédéric Boutet: Hypnotism (part two)
These passes worried Lydie, for his fingers with each gesture threatened her eyes. She closed her lids and did not open them again.
“Do you sleep?” he asked, thrilled by such great success.
“Lydie sleeps.” She waited a moment, then spoke in a ghostly voice.
M. Lérouvel sighed with pride. He did not presume too much upon his powers.
“Lydie sleeps,” he repeated. “It is well. Now Lydie must answer. She loves her husband?”
“But, she loves him passionately, absolutely, blindly? She gives him everything, and all of herself? She could not live without him? She would sooner die than dream of another?”
“Yes, all that is true,” said Lydie, with conviction.
“Will she always and forevermore love him so?”
“She had never loved before she met him? She was a young girl without any lover, any flirtation, even the most innocent?”
“No one, none.”
“And since she’s been married, up to the present time, there is someone who courts Lydie, who pursues her?”
“Lydie does not know… No one who matters to Lydie.”
She responded with apparent candor, but with a tremble of impatience in her voice. Her husband’s questions seemed to her a little uninhibited. She’d thought of it, during the course of her day, that she might take control of the situation, claim under this pseudo-sleep an augmentation to her budget for little luxuries, or more frequent nights out, or trips to the theatre. Now the comedy of the game began to weary her and it seemed almost vile…
Besides, she did not feel in full possession of herself. She wondered if a real hypnotic influence had begun to interfere.
“Lydie is tired.” She was in haste to make an end. “You must wake Lydie.”
“In good time,” answered M. Lérouvel, wrought-up and resolute. “Lydie must sleep on, speak on.”
“No, no, Lydie will say no more…”
“Yes, yes! I will it. I will it! Sleep! Sleep! Speak!”
“Lydie is suffering,” she moaned, flexing her fingers.
“So what! Lydie must speak, I will it! So, it is the truth…Lydie is forever and always her husband’s, no one else woos her. Answer…I will it.”
But the young woman was at the end of her strength. A foolish impulse seized her. He wanted the truth, he would have it! Abruptly, she drew away from her husband, to fling herself back in her seat as though fallen into convulsions…taking pains to keep her eyes closed, so as not to betray her role.
“Lydie lies! Lydie has an imbecile for a husband who tortures her with his jealousy, annoys her with his vanity, which is born of his avarice and his egotism! Lydie could love him if she could have confidence in him, and if he were her friend. Yes, Lydie had her flirtations as a young girl, like all young girls. She loved her cousin Maurice and would have married him, had circumstances allowed. Lydie has not yet cheated on her husband, but she dallies, as do all women not consumed by love for one man! He must not ask the impossible of Lydie. She is only a woman, she has loved him well, and if he were not so jealous, if he did not otherwise treat her as a little thing he’d bought by marrying her…”
She interrupted herself, gave three or four cries, and had an attack of nerves, not simulated. When she was revived by a vinegar bath, smelling salts, and eau de cologne, and by the diligent care of M. Alexandre Lérouvel, it was not without worry that, on reopening her eyes, she saw him before her.
My God, my God, she thought in horror, what have I done, telling him everything?
She closed her eyes again.
“My dear child,” said he, with much kindliness. “I apologize at once for having provoked this state of nerves in which you find yourself. The séance was most interesting, but I fault myself for over-prolonging it. During all the first part of your sleep, you’d said to me the most just, most sensible, most truthful things… Then you warned me you were tired, and I did not take account of it. After that it was nothing more than ramblings, nightmares, incomprehensible foolishness.”
Lydie looked at him dumbfounded. He was sincere. The completest faith shone from his eyes.
He added: “I was not mistaken about my powers of magnetism. I am truly a hypnotist of the first order.”
(2020, translation, Stephanie Foster)