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Home -> Arthur Conan Doyle -> The Parasite -> - II -

The Parasite - - II -

1. - I -

2. - II -

3. - III -

4. - IV -


March 26. Wilson was, as I had anticipated, very
exultant over my conversion, and Miss Penclosa was also
demurely pleased at the result of her experiment.
Strange what a silent, colorless creature she is save
only when she exercises her power! Even talking about
it gives her color and life. She seems to take a
singular interest in me. I cannot help observing how
her eyes follow me about the room.

We had the most interesting conversation about her own
powers. It is just as well to put her views on record,
though they cannot, of course, claim any scientific

"You are on the very fringe of the subject," said she,
when I had expressed wonder at the remarkable instance
of suggestion which she had shown me. "I had no direct
influence upon Miss Marden when she came round to you.
I was not even thinking of her that morning. What I
did was to set her mind as I might set the alarum of a
clock so that at the hour named it would go off of its
own accord. If six months instead of twelve hours had
been suggested, it would have been the same."

"And if the suggestion had been to assassinate me?"

"She would most inevitably have done so."

"But this is a terrible power!" I cried.

"It is, as you say, a terrible power," she answered
gravely, "and the more you know of it the more terrible
will it seem to you."

"May I ask," said I, "what you meant when you said that
this matter of suggestion is only at the fringe of it?
What do you consider the essential?"

"I had rather not tell you."

I was surprised at the decision of her answer.

"You understand," said I, "that it is not out of
curiosity I ask, but in the hope that I may find some
scientific explanation for the facts with which you
furnish me."

"Frankly, Professor Gilroy," said she, "I am not at all
interested in science, nor do I care whether it can or
cannot classify these powers."

"But I was hoping----"

"Ah, that is quite another thing. If you make it a
personal matter," said she, with the pleasantest of
smiles, "I shall be only too happy to tell you any
thing you wish to know. Let me see; what was it you
asked me? Oh, about the further powers. Professor
Wilson won't believe in them, but they are quite true
all the same. For example, it is possible for an
operator to gain complete command over his subject--
presuming that the latter is a good one. Without any
previous suggestion he may make him do whatever he

"Without the subject's knowledge?"

"That depends. If the force were strongly exerted, he
would know no more about it than Miss Marden did when
she came round and frightened you so. Or, if the
influence was less powerful, he might be conscious of
what he was doing, but be quite unable to prevent
himself from doing it."

"Would he have lost his own will power, then?"

"It would be over-ridden by another stronger one."

"Have you ever exercised this power yourself?"

"Several times."

"Is your own will so strong, then?"

"Well, it does not entirely depend upon that. Many
have strong wills which are not detachable from
themselves. The thing is to have the gift of
projecting it into another person and superseding his
own. I find that the power varies with my own strength
and health."

"Practically, you send your soul into another person's

"Well, you might put it that way."

"And what does your own body do?"

"It merely feels lethargic."

"Well, but is there no danger to your own health?" I

"There might be a little. You have to be careful never
to let your own consciousness absolutely go; otherwise,
you might experience some difficulty in finding your
way back again. You must always preserve the
connection, as it were. I am afraid I express myself
very badly, Professor Gilroy, but of course I don't
know how to put these things in a scientific way. I am
just giving you my own experiences and my own

Well, I read this over now at my leisure, and I marvel
at myself! Is this Austin Gilroy, the man who has won
his way to the front by his hard reasoning power and by
his devotion to fact? Here I am gravely retailing the
gossip of a woman who tells me how her soul may be
projected from her body, and how, while she lies in a
lethargy, she can control the actions of people at a
distance. Do I accept it? Certainly not. She must
prove and re-prove before I yield a point. But if I am
still a sceptic, I have at least ceased to be a
scoffer. We are to have a sitting this evening, and
she is to try if she can produce any mesmeric effect
upon me. If she can, it will make an excellent
starting-point for our investigation. No one can
accuse me, at any rate, of complicity. If she cannot,
we must try and find some subject who will be like
Caesar's wife. Wilson is perfectly impervious.

10 P. M. I believe that I am on the threshold of an
epoch-making investigation. To have the power of
examining these phenomena from inside--to have an
organism which will respond, and at the same time a
brain which will appreciate and criticise--that is
surely a unique advantage. I am quite sure that Wilson
would give five years of his life to be as susceptible
as I have proved myself to be.

There was no one present except Wilson and his wife. I
was seated with my head leaning back, and Miss
Penclosa, standing in front and a little to the left,
used the same long, sweeping strokes as with Agatha.
At each of them a warm current of air seemed to strike
me, and to suffuse a thrill and glow all through me
from head to foot. My eyes were fixed upon Miss
Penclosa's face, but as I gazed the features seemed to
blur and to fade away. I was conscious only of her own
eyes looking down at me, gray, deep, inscrutable.
Larger they grew and larger, until they changed
suddenly into two mountain lakes toward which I seemed
to be falling with horrible rapidity. I shuddered, and
as I did so some deeper stratum of thought told me that
the shudder represented the rigor which I had observed
in Agatha. An instant later I struck the surface of
the lakes, now joined into one, and down I went beneath
the water with a fulness in my head and a buzzing in my
ears. Down I went, down, down, and then with a swoop
up again until I could see the light streaming brightly
through the green water. I was almost at the surface
when the word "Awake!" rang through my head, and, with
a start, I found myself back in the arm-chair, with
Miss Penclosa leaning on her crutch, and Wilson, his
note book in his hand, peeping over her shoulder. No
heaviness or weariness was left behind. On the
contrary, though it is only an hour or so since the
experiment, I feel so wakeful that I am more inclined
for my study than my bedroom. I see quite a vista of
interesting experiments extending before us, and am all
impatience to begin upon them.

March 27. A blank day, as Miss Penclosa goes with
Wilson and his wife to the Suttons'. Have begun Binet
and Ferre's "Animal Magnetism." What strange, deep
waters these are! Results, results, results--and the
cause an absolute mystery. It is stimulating to the
imagination, but I must be on my guard against that.
Let us have no inferences nor deductions, and nothing
but solid facts. I KNOW that the mesmeric trance is
true; I KNOW that mesmeric suggestion is true; I KNOW
that I am myself sensitive to this force. That is my
present position. I have a large new note-book which
shall be devoted entirely to scientific detail.

Long talk with Agatha and Mrs. Marden in the evening
about our marriage. We think that the summer vac.
(the beginning of it) would be the best time for the
wedding. Why should we delay? I grudge even those few
months. Still, as Mrs. Marden says, there are a good
many things to be arranged.

March 28. Mesmerized again by Miss Penclosa.
Experience much the same as before, save that
insensibility came on more quickly. See Note-book A
for temperature of room, barometric pressure, pulse,
and respiration as taken by Professor Wilson.

March 29. Mesmerized again. Details in Note-book A.

March 30. Sunday, and a blank day. I grudge any
interruption of our experiments. At present they
merely embrace the physical signs which go with slight,
with complete, and with extreme insensibility.
Afterward we hope to pass on to the phenomena of
suggestion and of lucidity. Professors have
demonstrated these things upon women at Nancy and at
the Salpetriere. It will be more convincing when a
woman demonstrates it upon a professor, with a second
professor as a witness. And that I should be the
subject--I, the sceptic, the materialist! At least, I
have shown that my devotion to science is greater than
to my own personal consistency. The eating of our own
words is the greatest sacrifice which truth ever
requires of us.

My neighbor, Charles Sadler, the handsome young
demonstrator of anatomy, came in this evening to return
a volume of Virchow's "Archives" which I had lent him.
I call him young, but, as a matter of fact, he is a
year older than I am.

"I understand, Gilroy," said he, "that you are being
experimented upon by Miss Penclosa.

"Well," he went on, when I had acknowledged it, "if I
were you, I should not let it go any further. You will
think me very impertinent, no doubt, but, none the
less, I feel it to be my duty to advise you to have no
more to do with her."

Of course I asked him why.

"I am so placed that I cannot enter into particulars as
freely as I could wish," said he. "Miss Penclosa is
the friend of my friend, and my position is a delicate
one. I can only say this: that I have myself been the
subject of some of the woman's experiments, and that
they have left a most unpleasant impression upon my

He could hardly expect me to be satisfied with that,
and I tried hard to get something more definite out of
him, but without success. Is it conceivable that he
could be jealous at my having superseded him? Or is he
one of those men of science who feel personally injured
when facts run counter to their preconceived opinions?
He cannot seriously suppose that because he has some
vague grievance I am, therefore, to abandon a series of
experiments which promise to be so fruitful of results.
He appeared to be annoyed at the light way in which I
treated his shadowy warnings, and we parted with some
little coldness on both sides.

March 31. Mesmerized by Miss P.

April 1. Mesmerized by Miss P. (Note-book A.)

April 2. Mesmerized by Miss P. (Sphygmographic chart
taken by Professor Wilson.)

April 3. It is possible that this course of mesmerism
may be a little trying to the general constitution.
Agatha says that I am thinner and darker under the
eyes. I am conscious of a nervous irritability which I
had not observed in myself before. The least noise,
for example, makes me start, and the stupidity of a
student causes me exasperation instead of amusement.
Agatha wishes me to stop, but I tell her that every
course of study is trying, and that one can never
attain a result with out paying some price for it.
When she sees the sensation which my forthcoming paper
on "The Relation between Mind and Matter" may make, she
will understand that it is worth a little nervous wear
and tear. I should not be surprised if I got my F. R.
S. over it.

Mesmerized again in the evening. The effect is
produced more rapidly now, and the subjective visions
are less marked. I keep full notes of each sitting.
Wilson is leaving for town for a week or ten days, but
we shall not interrupt the experiments, which depend
for their value as much upon my sensations as on his

April 4. I must be carefully on my guard. A
complication has crept into our experiments which I had
not reckoned upon. In my eagerness for scientific
facts I have been foolishly blind to the human
relations between Miss Penclosa and myself. I can
write here what I would not breathe to a living soul.
The unhappy woman appears to have formed an attachment
for me.

I should not say such a thing, even in the privacy of
my own intimate journal, if it had not come to such a
pass that it is impossible to ignore it. For some
time,--that is, for the last week,--there have been
signs which I have brushed aside and refused to think
of. Her brightness when I come, her dejection when I
go, her eagerness that I should come often, the
expression of her eyes, the tone of her voice--I tried
to think that they meant nothing, and were, perhaps,
only her ardent West Indian manner. But last night, as
I awoke from the mesmeric sleep, I put out my hand,
unconsciously, involuntarily, and clasped hers. When I
came fully to myself, we were sitting with them locked,
she looking up at me with an expectant smile. And the
horrible thing was that I felt impelled to say what she
expected me to say. What a false wretch I should have
been! How I should have loathed myself to-day had I
yielded to the temptation of that moment! But, thank
God, I was strong enough to spring up and hurry from
the room. I was rude, I fear, but I could not, no, I
COULD not, trust myself another moment. I, a
gentleman, a man of honor, engaged to one of the
sweetest girls in England--and yet in a moment of
reasonless passion I nearly professed love for this
woman whom I hardly know. She is far older than myself
and a cripple. It is monstrous, odious; and yet the
impulse was so strong that, had I stayed another minute
in her presence, I should have committed myself. What
was it? I have to teach others the workings of our
organism, and what do I know of it myself? Was it the
sudden upcropping of some lower stratum in my nature--a
brutal primitive instinct suddenly asserting itself? I
could almost believe the tales of obsession by evil
spirits, so overmastering was the feeling.

Well, the incident places me in a most unfortunate
position. On the one hand, I am very loath to abandon
a series of experiments which have already gone so far,
and which promise such brilliant results. On the
other, if this unhappy woman has conceived a passion
for me---- But surely even now I must have made some
hideous mistake. She, with her age and her deformity!
It is impossible. And then she knew about Agatha. She
understood how I was placed. She only smiled out of
amusement, perhaps, when in my dazed state I seized her
hand. It was my half-mesmerized brain which gave it a
meaning, and sprang with such bestial swiftness to meet
it. I wish I could persuade myself that it was indeed
so. On the whole, perhaps, my wisest plan would be to
postpone our other experiments until Wilson's return.
I have written a note to Miss Penclosa, therefore,
making no allusion to last night, but saying that a
press of work would cause me to interrupt our sittings
for a few days. She has answered, formally enough, to
say that if I should change my mind I should find her
at home at the usual hour.

10 P. M. Well, well, what a thing of straw I am! I am
coming to know myself better of late, and the more I
know the lower I fall in my own estimation. Surely I
was not always so weak as this. At four o'clock I
should have smiled had any one told me that I should go
to Miss Penclosa's to-night, and yet, at eight, I was
at Wilson's door as usual. I don't know how it
occurred. The influence of habit, I suppose. Perhaps
there is a mesmeric craze as there is an opium craze,
and I am a victim to it. I only know that as I worked
in my study I became more and more uneasy. I fidgeted.
I worried. I could not concentrate my mind upon the
papers in front of me. And then, at last, almost
before I knew what I was doing, I seized my hat and
hurried round to keep my usual appointment.

We had an interesting evening. Mrs. Wilson was present
during most of the time, which prevented the
embarrassment which one at least of us must have felt.
Miss Penclosa's manner was quite the same as usual, and
she expressed no surprise at my having come in spite of
my note. There was nothing in her bearing to show that
yesterday's incident had made any impression upon her,
and so I am inclined to hope that I overrated it.

April 6 (evening). No, no, no, I did not overrate it.
I can no longer attempt to conceal from myself that
this woman has conceived a passion for me. It is
monstrous, but it is true. Again, tonight, I awoke
from the mesmeric trance to find my hand in hers, and
to suffer that odious feeling which urges me to throw
away my honor, my career, every thing, for the sake of
this creature who, as I can plainly see when I am away
from her influence, possesses no single charm upon
earth. But when I am near her, I do not feel this.
She rouses something in me, something evil, something I
had rather not think of. She paralyzes my better
nature, too, at the moment when she stimulates my
worse. Decidedly it is not good for me to be near her.

Last night was worse than before. Instead of flying I
actually sat for some time with my hand in hers talking
over the most intimate subjects with her. We spoke of
Agatha, among other things. What could I have been
dreaming of? Miss Penclosa said that she was
conventional, and I agreed with her. She spoke once or
twice in a disparaging way of her, and I did not
protest. What a creature I have been!

Weak as I have proved myself to be, I am still strong
enough to bring this sort of thing to an end. It shall
not happen again. I have sense enough to fly when I
cannot fight. From this Sunday night onward I shall
never sit with Miss Penclosa again. Never! Let the
experiments go, let the research come to an end; any
thing is better than facing this monstrous temptation
which drags me so low. I have said nothing to Miss
Penclosa, but I shall simply stay away. She can tell
the reason without any words of mine.

April 7. Have stayed away as I said. It is a pity to
ruin such an interesting investigation, but it would be
a greater pity still to ruin my life, and I KNOW that I
cannot trust myself with that woman.

11 P. M. God help me! What is the matter with me? Am
I going mad? Let me try and be calm and reason with
myself. First of all I shall set down exactly what

It was nearly eight when I wrote the lines with which
this day begins. Feeling strangely restless and uneasy,
I left my rooms and walked round to spend the evening
with Agatha and her mother. They both remarked that I
was pale and haggard. About nine Professor Pratt-
Haldane came in, and we played a game of whist. I
tried hard to concentrate my attention upon the cards,
but the feeling of restlessness grew and grew until I
found it impossible to struggle against it. I simply
COULD not sit still at the table. At last, in the very
middle of a hand, I threw my cards down and, with some
sort of an incoherent apology about having an
appointment, I rushed from the room. As if in a dream
I have a vague recollection of tearing through the
hall, snatching my hat from the stand, and slamming the
door behind me. As in a dream, too, I have the
impression of the double line of gas-lamps, and my
bespattered boots tell me that I must have run down the
middle of the road. It was all misty and strange and
unnatural. I came to Wilson's house; I saw Mrs. Wilson
and I saw Miss Penclosa. I hardly recall what we
talked about, but I do remember that Miss P. shook the
head of her crutch at me in a playful way, and accused
me of being late and of losing interest in our
experiments. There was no mesmerism, but I stayed some
time and have only just returned.

My brain is quite clear again now, and I can think over
what has occurred. It is absurd to suppose that it is
merely weakness and force of habit. I tried to explain
it in that way the other night, but it will no longer
suffice. It is something much deeper and more terrible
than that. Why, when I was at the Mardens' whist-
table, I was dragged away as if the noose of a rope had
been cast round me. I can no longer disguise it from
myself. The woman has her grip upon me. I am in her
clutch. But I must keep my head and reason it out and
see what is best to be done.

But what a blind fool I have been! In my enthusiasm
over my research I have walked straight into the pit,
although it lay gaping before me. Did she not herself
warn me? Did she not tell me, as I can read in my own
journal, that when she has acquired power over a
subject she can make him do her will? And she has
acquired that power over me. I am for the moment at
the beck and call of this creature with the crutch. I
must come when she wills it. I must do as she wills.
Worst of all, I must feel as she wills. I loathe her
and fear her, yet, while I am under the spell, she can
doubtless make me love her.

There is some consolation in the thought, then, that
those odious impulses for which I have blamed myself do
not really come from me at all. They are all
transferred from her, little as I could have guessed it
at the time. I feel cleaner and lighter for the

April 8. Yes, now, in broad daylight, writing coolly
and with time for reflection, I am compelled to confirm
every thing which I wrote in my journal last night. I
am in a horrible position, but, above all, I must not
lose my head. I must pit my intellect against her
powers. After all, I am no silly puppet, to dance at
the end of a string. I have energy, brains, courage.
For all her devil's tricks I may beat her yet. May! I
MUST, or what is to become of me?

Let me try to reason it out! This woman, by her own
explanation, can dominate my nervous organism. She can
project herself into my body and take command of it.
She has a parasite soul; yes, she is a parasite, a
monstrous parasite. She creeps into my frame as the
hermit crab does into the whelk's shell. I am
powerless What can I do? I am dealing with forces of
which I know nothing. And I can tell no one of my
trouble. They would set me down as a madman.
Certainly, if it got noised abroad, the university
would say that they had no need of a devil-ridden
professor. And Agatha! No, no, I must face it alone.

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