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Sagas of the Wild West
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Voices are Calling From Far Away


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Even seated a few feet back, Jonah could see the moving figures through the slits in the contraption, and it was, indeed, mesmerizing, more for the wonder of it than the actual repetitive movements.  He'd seen similar contraptions in bigger cities and they'd always fascinated him.  Seemed like there was more that could be done with them besides children's amusements and hypnotizing subjects.

 

Unbidden, he started counting jumps along with Arabella, listening to the man's voice, relaxing, not really closing his eyes, but neither really aware of anything but the jumping horses and the low voice...

 

The slight movement beside him as Aoife glanced his way roused him, and he looked at the nurse, belatedly registering that Miss Mudd wasn't rambling on incessantly about...well, anything!  Could it possibly be that the child was truly in a trance?  Something had quieted her, that was certain.

 

He glanced at Pettigrew and frowned, wanting to ask questions, but knowing better...and wanting to ask the man to make this Miss Mudd's normal demeanor, and knowing better!

 

@Javia; @boshmi

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Pettigrew’s next series of questions were more to the point, but all of a nature that could be answered simply, yes and no in most cases. Dr. Danforth had explained the perceived problems in language the girl might not understand, the questions had to be a lot more prosaic, with no room for misinterpretation.

 

“Arabella, do you like Doctor Danforth?” She looked at him, focused enough, but po-faced.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to kiss Doctor Danforth?”

“No”

 

Pettigrew was careful not to react in the slightest to this, no approval or disapproval toward the answers, nothing to sway the girl or even rouse her from her waking slumber, just uttering the questions in the same solid, boring, murmur.

 

“Look at Nurse Leane, do you like her?”

“No”

“Would you like to kiss her?”

“Yes”

 

He ran through a few more people she knew; invariably the men fell into the “Yes/No” category; interestingly, her friends Jemima Wigfall and Bridget Monahan were “Yes/No” too. Caroline Mundee and Miriam Kaufman were “Yes/Yes”.

 

At last the hypnotist felt satisfied and moved on to the final stage of this impromptu treatment. Parlour trick mesmerists usually stuck to making people parade around the room pretending to be chickens or some other mildly humiliating antics. To try and permanently change a core facet of somebody’s personality: well, that was something else.

 

But Pettigrew seemed willing to try.

 

“Arabella. The next time you want to kiss a lady, or a girl, you will suddenly think that it is a very silly thing to want to do. Kissing another girl is silly.

Repeat what I say. Kissing another girl is silly.”

 

Arabella duly repeated.

 

“You will want to laugh when you think of kissing a girl. It is a silly thing, You will laugh. Silly. Laugh. Silly. Laugh. Repeat!”

 

A smile formed and faded around the girl’s mouth. Then the smile returned. “It’s silly!” she laughed: but there was something horrible and hollow about her laugh. It wasn’t her usual low gurgling chuckle. It was a hard, false laugh that somehow made your skin crawl.

 

“When you want to kiss a girl you will think it is a very silly thing to do; you will laugh; instead, you will want to help the girl; offer her some help. You will laugh, it is silly, you offer her some help. Repeat!” The mild-mannered dressmaker was now speaking in an insistent, almost frightening, commanding voice.

 

“Repeat!”

 

He made her repeat the mantra several times until she started to seem a little confused and look about the room, a frightened look in her eyes. Pettigrew held up a hand, lest the Doctor try to interfere.

 

“Now, now, Arabella. In a few seconds I will snap my fingers and you will wake up. You won’t remember what happened when you were asleep, but inside, you will remember my commands. You will remember my commands.

 

“I will remember.” She repeated.

 

Pettigrew snapped his fingers and flopped back in his chair: the strain of the thing had quite taken it out of him!

 

@boshmi @Bongo

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“Look at Nurse Leane, do you like her?”

“No”

“Would you like to kiss her?”

“Yes”

Aoife's first reaction was to bristle with indignation (although she was a mite confused as to what she would be bristling). Considering that no one had told her what this was about, and how it flew in the face of any practical medicine, she was inclined to think it was some sort of elaborate prank.

But the moment that Arabella spoke that final syllable, everything fell into place. The secrecy, the unwillingness to see her yesterday, and the incredibly non-medical medical procedure.

The nurse relaxed, words disappearing in her mouth. It wasn't a prank, it was just very very strange.

 

The subsequent... er... hypnosis continued very much in the sort of way you saw in books, with a 'repeat after me' and a 'you will want to _____ when you _____' and for once, Aoife didn't feel as though she had any authority on the matter, because five minutes ago she would have laughed at anyone who told her that mesmerism could cure homosexuality.

 

"You will remember my commands.”

“I will remember.”

...and the undergarment salesman snapped his fingers again, supposedly breaking the trance. Aoife watched sternly, ready to pounce on any indication that Pettigrew had fried the brain of that poor child in some way.

@Bongo@Javia

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Jonah was immensely relieved that the girl didn't want to kiss him, and this being an honest response under Pettigrew's spell, and not the child just saying what she thought they wanted to hear.  As for their tastes in ladies, he found that they were quite similar, although, as an adult, he knew the difference between 'wanting',  'dreaming' and 'doing', and that you couldn't give in to all your urges.

 

At the suggestion that she find kissing girls 'silly', his lips turned up a bit in a grin, but it was, for Miss Mudd, a good suggestion, and now to see if she would come back to 'normal', (god forbid!), though at the moment, there was no way to test the process, for he wasn't going to put his new nurse in the position of potentially being kissed by the child by making such a suggestion.

 

Perhaps the little man had other ideas.

 

And then a thought, accompanied by a cold chill -- kissing was only part of carnal relations...so, what about hugging, touching...really touching, not to mention impure thoughts and ideations...?

 

This could be very bad...messing with someone's head could be as bad as already having your head messed up!

 

@Javia; @boshmi

 

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In a tawdry novel or an ill written play at the theater (not that poor old Kalispell even had a theater - yet) a body coming out of such a trance would look confused and flustered, remembering little or nothing of the experience. However, a blinking Arabella did not seem to have missed a word of it all.

 

“Oh! That was real strange!!” she gaped “I … I could hear every single little word but it was like I was a million, million miles away, and … and I know it was just now really, but it sorta feels like we was doin’ all that yes and no bizz a million, million years ago! And…” she frowned “… and when you asked me a question, Mr. Pettigrew, I wanted to say … well you know, be polite and such but I was … far away…” her eyes drifted around the room and eventually rested on Aiofe.

 

“Oh!” she remembered that she had said she didn’t like the nurse. She was less concerned that she had said she wanted to kiss her!

 

“Oh, Miss, I’m sorry I said what I said before I … why, I don’t even know you! I don’t know why I said that.” She fiddled with her ubiquitous shawl. “I’m real sorry.” She said, looking at the floor, and then glancing quickly up, begging for a forgiving word from the stern looking young Irishwoman.

Pettigrew pooh-poohed the whole thing.

 

“Oh, do pay no mind to that, nurse Leane’s feelings are hardly our prime consideration.” He waved away Arabella’s concerns, before addressing Dr. Danforth.

 

“Mesmerism, as I understand it, sir, can no more change a body’s innate nature than it can turn a cat into a toad. I cannot make Miss Mudd desire to, er, kiss gentlemen, even such magnificent specimens as ourselves, Doctor.” He said. “Neither can it stop Miss Mudd wanting to kiss pretty young nurses like Miss Leane here. What it can do is…” he thought carefully about the words “… divert the attendant actions and consequences of such desires. By offering a strong and hypnotically amplified suggestion to take such and such a different course of action when certain stimuli are present. Thus undesirable consequences may be averted.”

 

“How do you feel, Miss Mudd?” he asked.

 

Arabella shrugged “Same.” she answered simply enough before glancing at Aiofe for a second “Just a little ashamed of myself, for some of the things I said.”

 

@boshmi @Bongo

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“Oh, Miss, I’m sorry I said what I said before I … why, I don’t even know you! I don’t know why I said that. I’m real sorry.”

"It's... alright." Aoife said slowly. She wasn't upset, merely a slight embarrassed. She'd certainly not expected a declaration of solely physical affection from Arabella, of the two guests they entertained this day.

 

As if to annunciate Aoife's thoughts, Mr. Pettigrew cut in with; “Oh, do pay no mind to that, nurse Leane’s feelings are hardly our prime consideration.”

He launched into an explanation of mesmerism's finer mechanics, but Aoife sat a little too dumbstruck at it's actual function to really take any of the nuance in. Hypnotism! In real life! It was like a Charles Dickens story, except with significantly less ghosts.

@Javia@Bongo

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"We all say things we regret," Jonah observed, then chuckled, "and we are all going to say things we'll regret, it's just a matter of learning when to hold our tongues."  Of course, some people never learned, but then, there were people who had a knack for rambling on so openly that little of what they actually said was heard, and Miss Mudd seemed to have that gift.

 

"If Mr. Pettigrew is done with your therapy, I think Mrs. Towberman has some ginger cookies and milk?" he addressed the girl, "Just to smooth things over?  Or you can take some with you, if you wish."

 

Then there was the matter of payment, but that was up to Pettigrew, although Jonah wouldn't let him bilk the child.

 

@Javia; @boshmi

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Both Dr. Danforth and Nurse Leane were being nice to her about what she’d said while she was ‘under’.

 

"We all say things we regret," Jonah observed, then chuckled, "and we are all going to say things we'll regret, it's just a matter of learning when to hold our tongues." 

 

Arabella nodded with a smile, but then frowned. Say, was he saying she needed to hold her tongue more?! She’d come here to cure her ‘funny feelings’ not because she (allegedly) talked too much! But before she could say anything about that, Dr. Danforth brought proceedings to a close.

 

"If Mr. Pettigrew is done with your therapy, I think Mrs. Towberman has some ginger cookies and milk?" he addressed the girl, "Just to smooth things over?  Or you can take some with you, if you wish."

 

“Sure, thanks.” Said the patient as she stood somewhat unsteadily. Pettigrew said not a word, just watched with a sort of professional interest as the girl wondered what she was going to do next. Then she remembered the money, too.

 

“Oh!” she gave a nervous smile and rummaged in her purse, pulling out two dollars.

 

She proffered them to Doctor Danforth. “Is that right Doctor? Two?”

 

@boshmi @Bongo

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"Oh, I think a dollar fifty will suffice," Jonah commented, glancing at Pettigrew and hoping that he wouldn't ask for more, after all, it was a day's wages for the girl, and while he didn't want to offend her senses by offering charity, neither did he want to bilk her of her hard-earned money.

 

That said (or thought), he wouldn't dispute Pettigrew if he named a different amount, unless, of course, it was something outrageous.

 

"And, Miss Mudd, please don't hesitate to return if you feel the need."  He hoped not, he was out of ideas for this particular ailment!

 

@Javia; @boshmi

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"Oh, I think a dollar fifty will suffice," Jonah commented, glancing at Pettigrew and hoping that he wouldn't ask for more, after all, it was a day's wages for the girl, and while he didn't want to offend her senses by offering charity, neither did he want to bilk her of her hard-earned money.

 

Arabella counted out the money from her purse and turned this way and that, should she give it to the Doctor, or to Pettigrew, or even to Nurse Leane?!

 

However, Pettigrew waved it away with as much distain as if she were offering him a dog dropping picked up off the street.

 

“I do not want your money child, not for this experiment. You save it; but do feel free to come on over and spend it at the store!” he added, although not particularly humorously. He stood and started to put the Zoetrope into the big Gladstone bag.

 

“Talking of which, I had better get back to my real business, Doctor, and leave you to yours. He picked up the bag. “Nurse, if you could show me out?” he said, but Arabella stopped him.

 

“Oh, but I … I want to say thankyou, Mr. Pettigrew…” he turned his watery pale blue eyes to hers. “… thank you for everything.” she smiled genuinely.

 

“Well, well, very good. Just don’t pester me at the store about it, child" he said shortly "If you feel that you need more of the ‘treatment’ please to arrange it through Doctor Danforth. This way, was it, nurse?” He nodded to Jonah and was gone.

 

Arabella turned to the Doctor and shrugged.

 

“Oh well, you’d best have this I guess!” she said and thrust the money in his direction.

 

“Funny, when I go into his store he does just about everything he can think of to get me to spend money and splash out on a whole lot of stuff I don’t rightly need!” she pondered. “Well, there’s nothing so queer as folks, that’s what my cousin Buford used to say: before he got decapitulated at Manassas. Course, he didn’t say much at all, after that. But do you know, they found his head half a mile from where his body lay and, guess what?, he had the most happiest smile on his face. I reckon he’d just thought of a funny joke just before them Yanks, oh no offence Doc, them Yanks blowed his head off. In fact…”

 

"And, Miss Mudd, please don't hesitate to return if you feel the need."  He hoped not, he was out of ideas for this particular ailment!

 

“Oh, right! I’d best be getting along, I guess” she laughed. She frowned in thought. “You know what, Doctor? I reckon I might go along to Mr. Pettigrew’s store this afternoon and see if this here cure’s worked. See, there’s a girl works there what… well, I reckon you can guess how I been feelin’ about her and, well, 'proof of the pudding is in the eatin’ - like cousin Buford used to say. I might just go along there and, get her to come help me on with a ribbon or what-not and see if I still feel like eating her puddin’, er, I mean, giving her a kiss!” she stumbled.  

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