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The Lair of the White Worm

11. Mesmer's Chest
After a couple of weeks had passed, the kite seemed to give Edgar Caswall a new zest for
life. He was never tired of looking at its movements. He had a comfortable armchair put
out on the tower, wherein he sat sometimes all day long, watching as though the kite was
a new toy and he a child lately come into possession of it. He did not seem to have lost
interest in Lilla, for he still paid an occasional visit at Mercy Farm.
Indeed, his feeling towards her, whatever it had been at first, had now so far changed that
it had become a distinct affection of a purely animal kind. Indeed, it seemed as though the
man's nature had become corrupted, and that all the baser and more selfish and more
reckless qualities had become more conspicuous. There was not so much sternness
apparent in his nature, because there was less self-restraint. Determination had become
indifference.
The visible change in Edgar was that he grew morbid, sad, silent; the neighbours thought
he was going mad. He became absorbed in the kite, and watched it not only by day, but
often all night long. It became an obsession to him.
Caswall took a personal interest in the keeping of the great kite flying. He had a vast coil
of cord efficient for the purpose, which worked on a roller fixed on the parapet of the
tower. There was a winch for the pulling in of the slack; the outgoing line being
controlled by a racket. There was invariably one man at least, day and night, on the tower
to attend to it. At such an elevation there was always a strong wind, and at times the kite
rose to an enormous height, as well as travelling for great distances laterally. In fact, the
kite became, in a short time, one of the curiosities of Castra Regis and all around it. Edgar
began to attribute to it, in his own mind, almost human qualities. It became to him a
separate entity, with a mind and a soul of its own. Being idle-handed all day, he began to
apply to what he considered the service of the kite some of his spare time, and found a
new pleasure--a new object in life--in the old schoolboy game of sending up "runners" to
the kite. The way this is done is to get round pieces of paper so cut that there is a hole in
the centre, through which the string of the kite passes. The natural action of the wind-
pressure takes the paper along the string, and so up to the kite itself, no matter how high
or how far it may have gone.
In the early days of this amusement Edgar Caswall spent hours. Hundreds of such
messengers flew along the string, until soon he bethought him of writing messages on
these papers so that he could make known his ideas to the kite. It may be that his brain
gave way under the opportunities given by his illusion of the entity of the toy and its
power of separate thought. From sending messages he came to making direct speech to
the kite--without, however, ceasing to send the runners. Doubtless, the height of the
tower, seated as it was on the hill-top, the rushing of the ceaseless wind, the hypnotic
effect of the lofty altitude of the speck in the sky at which he gazed, and the rushing of
the paper messengers up the string till sight of them was lost in distance, all helped to
further affect his brain, undoubtedly giving way under the strain of beliefs and
 
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