THE FALL OF MAN

Who stands so high that he may never fall,
Who lies so low that he may never rise?
The lowliest may one day win life’s prize,
The highest thro’ temptation lose his all.

Beaumont was a man who neglected no chance, however small, by which he
could benefit himself; consequently thinking if he discovered Squire
Garsworth’s secret it might prove of use to him, he determined to find
out all about it. He knew perfectly well that no power of persuasion
would lead the madman to divulge his thoughts, so the only chance of
discovering anything was to reduce him to a mere automaton, perfectly
powerless in his hands. This he hoped to do by means of hypnotism, of
which curious process he knew a good deal.

While in Germany, some years before, he had by accident come across
Heidenheim’s book on animal magnetism, which interested him so much
that he pursued the subject. After reading the opinions of Grützner,
Berger and Baumler on hypnosis, he turned his attention to French
authorities, eagerly following the history of animal magnetism from
Mesmer and Puységur downward, and led by such studies to try his hand
on subjects, he became quite an adept in this strange psychological
science. Taking it up at first merely as an amusement, on going deeper
into the subject he soon saw that such hypnotic power would be a
terrible weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous man, as, by reducing
the hypnotised person to the condition of a mere instrument, it
enabled him to do acts through such instrument for which he himself
could not be held legally responsible.

In a book on the subject by MM. Demarquay and Giraud Teulon, entitled
“Recherches sur L’Hypnotism,” he had come across a case in which a
lady in a condition of hypnotic hallucination began to tell aloud
secrets which compromised her exceedingly. Taking this case as an
illustration of what could be done during hypnosis, Beaumont
determined to throw the Squire into a cataleptic trance, and by
questions or suggestions lead him to reveal his secret. This being
done, he could restore him to his normal condition, absolutely
ignorant of his revelation, and he thought if the secret were worth
anything, he could then do what he pleased.

Having thus definitely settled his plan of action, the next step to
take was to guard against the possibility of Nestley surprising him in
any of his hypnotic experiments, with which, as medical attendant of
the Squire, he would have a perfect right to interfere. Although
Nestley had become much more friendly with Beaumont, he still regarded
him with a certain amount of suspicion, so the artist’s aim was now to
reduce him to the state of subjection in which he had been in London
five years before.

He knew Nestley was a very clever man, but remarkably weak, and likely
to be led astray. In London, under the influence of drink, he had been
a slave to Beaumont, and here in Garsworth the artist determined to
reduce him to a similar state of slavery. Never for a moment did he
think of the clever brain he would destroy, or the life he would
wreck–all he wanted was the assistance of the young doctor in certain
plans beneficial to himself, and, at whatever cost, he determined to
carry them out. Beaumont, as a matter of fact, had in him a great deal
of the Italian Despot nature as described by Machiavelli, and with
cold, relentless subtlety, set himself to work to ruin the unhappy
Duncan Nestley body and soul for his own ends.

Nestley was doubtless weak to allow himself to be so dominated, but
unhappily it was his nature. If Nature endows a man largely in one
way, she generally deprives him of something else in equal proportion,
and while Nestley was a brilliant, clever man, who, if left to
himself, would have lived an honest and creditable life, yet his
morally weak nature placed him at the mercy of any unscrupulous
scoundrel who thought fit to play upon his feelings.

Unhappily, circumstances aided Beaumont’s nefarious plan, for after
leaving Una the young doctor walked across the common to the village,
hoping to pull himself together by a brisk walk.

At the bridge he found Beaumont leaning over it, looking at the water
swirling below, and on hearing footsteps, the artist looked up with a
gratified smile as he recognised his victim.

“What’s the matter, Nestley?” he asked after the first greetings; “you
don’t look well.”

“I’m not well,” retorted Nestley abruptly; “I’m nearly worn out by
that old man–morn, noon and night I’ve got to be beside him–if he’s
paid me handsomely he’s taking his full value out of me.”

“Yes, I think he is,” replied Beaumont deliberately, “you look quite
thin–not the man of three weeks ago. He must be a kind of mediæval
succubus living on the blood of young men. It would be wise for you to
leave him.”

Nestley leaned his chin on his folded arms, which were resting on the
parapet of the bridge, and sighed deeply.

“No–I can’t do that.”

“Oh! I understand,” said Beaumont with a sneer, beginning to smoke one
of his eternal cigarettes.

“What do you understand?”

“Why you won’t leave the Grange.”

“There’s no difficulty in guessing that,” retorted Nestley angrily,
“my medical—- What the deuce are you grinning at?”

“You, my friend,” said Basil smiling, “your
medical–what!–honour–knowledge–interest–what you like.”

“Don’t talk rubbish.”

“As you please.”

“Look here,” said Nestley, turning round with a resolute frown on his
haggard face, “what is the reason I don’t leave the Grange?”

“Not being in your confidence I can’t say, but if I may guess, I
should think Una Challoner.”

Nestley made a gesture of assent, and turned once more to gaze moodily
at the grey waters of the river.

“If I only had the courage,” he muttered harshly, “I would throw
myself into the water and end everything.”

“More fool you,” remarked Beaumont cynically; “men have died from time
to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. Don’t give
Rosalind’s remark the lie.”

“I’ve no doubt she loves someone else,” said Nestley bitterly.

“I’ve no doubt she does,” replied Beaumont tranquilly, “but you seem
quite worn out between love and sickness, so come with me to the inn
and have something to eat.”

“I don’t mind,” said Nestley listlessly, “but I can’t eat a thing.”

“Don’t give way so easily, my dear fellow,” said Beaumont scornfully,
as they walked along; “be a man, not a baby.”

“You’re not in love.”

“True, oh king; but I’ve had the disease badly enough–it’s all dead
and done with now. I’ve left Venus for Plutus, and I think Mercury,
the god of tricksters, has some of my worship.”

Dr. Nestley made no remark, being occupied with his own sad thoughts,
so Beaumont said nothing more, and they walked along to the inn
silently. On arriving there they went into the parlour, and Nestley
took his seat near the window, staring idly out at the dusty road,
while Beaumont ordered a slight luncheon, and a bottle of champagne.

Job Kossiter’s idea of wine was a very vague one, as he himself
habitually drank beer, but in deference to Beaumont’s wishes, he sent
over to Duxby and obtained a few dozen cases of champagne, whose
excellence satisfied even the fastidious artist. The table being laid
and the luncheon brought in, Beaumont filled two tumblers with
champagne, one for himself, and the other he placed by Nestley’s
plate. The young doctor, being wrapped up in gloomy thought, did not
perceive this, and, when he took his seat at the table, had no idea
that the glass at his elbow contained wine instead of water. He tried
to eat two or three mouthfuls of food, but not succeeding, took up the
glass to drink, and so preoccupied was he that it was not until he had
swallowed a mouthful that he perceived what it was. Replacing the
glass on the table immediately, he glared angrily at Beaumont, who,
feigning not to observe his annoyance, went on eating his luncheon
with great enjoyment.

“Why did you give me champagne?” asked Nestley harshly. “You know I
only drink water.”

“I know you’re an idiot,” retorted Beaumont coolly, “and don’t know
what’s good for you. In your present state of health a glass of
champagne will do you no harm.”

“You forget the harm drink has done me already.”

“Five years ago,” said the artist mockingly. “You’ve been a
teetotaller for five years, so I think you are entitled to a little
indulgence now. Go on, drink it up like a man.”

“No,” replied Nestley resolutely, and he turned his head away. “I will
not drink.”

“Very well,” said Beaumont indifferently. “Please yourself.”

His unhappy friend looked again at the amber-coloured wine in the
glass, and felt half inclined to yield. After all, he had not touched
liquor of any sort for five long years, and did not feel as a rule
inclined to take it, but now the nights of watching by the bedside of
the old squire had worn him out physically, and the disdain of Una had
made him wretched mentally, so he half determined to take this one
glass to cheer him up. His good angel, however, came to his aid at
this critical moment, and turning his head away with a shudder, he
went on making a pretence of eating. Beaumont, who had watched him
narrowly all this time, saw the struggle that was going on in the
young man’s mind, but with true craftiness, pretended to take no
notice, satisfied that his victim was gradually being lured into the
snare so artfully laid.

“So you love Miss Challoner,” he said genially. “Well, I can hardly
wonder at that. To tell you the truth, I fell in love with her
myself–merely in an artistic sense, I assure you,” added the astute
artist with a laugh as he saw the anger in Nestley’s face. “She has a
lovely face which seems to wear the calm of those old Greek statues. I
should like to paint her as Artemis–the inviolate Artemis before she
loved Endymion–with the serene light of chastity on her face and the
sweetness of night in her eyes. It would be a wonderful picture.”

“I wonder you don’t ask her to be your model,” growled Nestley,
sulkily.

“Hardly worth while, for two reasons,” replied Beaumont lightly, yet
with a suspicion of regret in his tone. “In the first place she would
refuse, and in the second, my hand has lost its cunning. One needs to
be young and enthusiastic to paint a classical picture. I am of too
earthy a nature to have such hopeless visions. Well, are you going to
play the part of young Endymion to this moon goddess?”

“No,” answered Nestley bitterly, “she won’t have anything to do with
me.”

“Poor Endymion!”

“Don’t be a fool, talking such classical stuff! I tell you I’m madly
in love with her, and she won’t have anything to do with me.
Everything is against me. I’m poor, unloved and obscure. Life isn’t
worth living under such conditions.”

He looked again at the sparkling wine, which seemed to invite him to
try it as an anodyne for his pain. Everything seemed to his distorted
imagination to be dull and dark. Wine would at least give him a few
hours’ respite from these torturing thoughts. He was master of himself
now. He would drink one glass and no more. After all, seeing that
everything was lost, what did it matter if he did fall once more? He
had nothing to live for now. A wild despair took possession of his
heart, and with a reckless laugh he seized the glass and finished the
wine to the last drop.

“_Evohé Bacchus_,” said Beaumont, draining his glass. “There’s nothing
like wine to cure a broken heart.”

The insidious wine mounted rapidly to the excitable brain of the young
man, and he no longer felt regret at breaking the pledge he had made
five years before. The humdrum past of struggle and respectability was
done with. Wine would solace him. Drink! Who cared for such a thing?
Anacreon was the head of a glorious band of poets, and praised the
wine. Wise Anacreon, he knew the true virtues of the grape. The past
is dead, the future is uncertain. Live–live only in the present, with
wine to make us as gods–_Evohé Bacchus_.

The stimulating wine had performed its work excellently, and the world
hitherto so gloomy now appeared of a roseate tint.

“A broken heart!” he repeated, with a gay laugh. “Pish! hearts don’t
break so easily. A woman’s no means yes. I’ll ask again.”

“Nothing like perseverance,” said Basil, observing with infinite joy
the flushed face and bright eyes of the young man. “Have some more
wine?”

“Rather!” replied Nestley, holding out his glass, which Beaumont
filled. “I was a fool to give up this for water. I’m sick of total
abstainers–thin-blooded croakers. Here’s confusion to them!” and he
drank off the second glass.

Beaumont now saw that his victim was in that obstinate stage of
recklessness which could not brook contradiction, so knew well how to
proceed.

“Well, we’ve finished the bottle,” he said brightly. “Suppose we go
out for a walk.”

“No–no walk,” returned Nestley, with an imbecile grin. “You’ve stood
me a bottle. Now it’s my turn.”

“I don’t want any more,” said Beaumont indifferently, “and I think
you’ve had enough also.”

“I haven’t,” retorted Nestley defiantly. “I’m as straight as a die. I
suppose you won’t drink with me?”

“Oh yes, I will, if you insist upon it.”

“I do insist,” cried the doctor, bringing his fist down on the table
with a bang. “You must drink to show there is no ill-will. We were
once friends, Basil.”

“And are so still, I trust,” said the artist, cordially.

“Your hand,” said Nestley, with an outburst of maudlin affection.
“Give me your hand.”

Beaumont suffered his hand to be shaken violently by the doctor, and
then that gentleman, now in a hilarious state of excitement, walked to
the bell, ringing it with unnecessary violence.

Margery appeared in answer, and seemed somewhat astonished at
Nestley’s state, as he had always been so reserved and quiet in his
demeanour.

“Another bottle of champagne,” said Nestley in a thick voice, coming
close to her. “You are a pretty girl.”

He tried to embrace her, but Margery, who was used to seeing the
rustics in a similar state, pushed him away with a hearty laugh, and
went off to get the wine.

Nestley resumed his seat at the table, talking rapidly to Beaumont
about all sorts of things, and then began to boast about himself.

“I can do anything–anything, I tell you,” he said, looking at
Beaumont, who was smoking. “My brain’s worth a dozen of any other
fellows’ Don’t you believe me?”

“Oh, yes, I believe you,” replied Beaumont, as Margery returned with
another bottle of champagne; “but, if I were you, I’d take no more
wine.”

“Won’t I!” said Nestley in a defiant manner. “You’ll see.”

Margery retreated, laughing at the maudlin condition of the young man,
and filling his tumbler up to the brim with wine, he drank it off with
an air of drunken bravado. Beaumont, with a sneer on his thin lips,
sat calmly watching the grotesque antics of the man he had brought so
low, and only took a little of the second bottle. Dr. Nestley sang and
laughed and boasted till his legs began to get shaky, and then he sat
down and finished the rest of the bottle, thereby reducing himself to
a state of hopeless intoxication.

Finally he fell asleep with his head on the table, whereupon Beaumont,
not without some difficulty, woke him up and half led, half dragged
him to the sofa. With noisy protests that he was all right, the
unhappy young man lay down, and in a few moments fell into a drunken
slumber, while Beaumont, feeling no compunction at having reduced a
human being to the level of the beast, stood over him with a sneer.

“I don’t think you’ll give me much trouble,” he said serenely. “You’ve
started on the downward path once more, and this time I expect you’ll
never get back again.”

He went out, calmly smoking his cigarette, and asked Margery to let no
one disturb his friend.

“He’s taken more than is good for him,” he said apologetically.

“Oh bless you, sir, that’s nothing,” returned Margery stolidly. “A
sleep will put him all right.”

“Will it?” said Beaumont to himself when he was standing in the bright
sunshine. “A sleep will never put you all right again in this life,
Duncan Nestley.”