Part 11 out of 15
cloak. "Order, ladies," said he briskly, "from Cross, Fitchett, and Co.,
Primrose Lane. Porter outside with the piece. You can come in, sir."
Porter entered with a bale. "Please sign this, ma'am." Mrs. Dodd signed a
receipt for the stuff, with an undertaking to deliver it in cloaks, at 11
Primrose Lane, in such a time. Porter retreated. The other said, "Our Mr.
Fitchett wishes you to observe this fall in the pattern. It is new."
"I will, sir. Am I to trouble you with any money--by way of deposit,
"No orders about it, ma'am. Ladies, your most obedient. Good morning,
And he was away.
All this seemed like a click or two of City clock-work: followed by rural
silence. Yet in that minute Commerce had walked in upon genteel poverty,
and left honest labour and modest income behind her.
Great was the thankfulness, strange and new the excitement. Edward was
employed to set up a very long deal table for his mother to work on,
Julia to go and buy tailors' scissors. Calculations were made how to cut
the stuff to advantage, and in due course the heavy scissors were heard
snick, snick, snicking all day long.
Julia painted zealously, and Edward, without saying a word to them,
walked twenty miles a day hunting for a guinea a week; and finding it
not. Not but what employment was often bobbed before his eyes: but there
was no grasping it. At last he heard of a place peculiarly suited to him;
a packing foreman's in a warehouse at Southwark; he went there, and was
referred to Mr. A.'s private house. Mr. A. was in the country for a day.
Try Mr. B. Mr. B. was dining with the Lord Mayor. Returning belated, he
fell in with a fire; and, sad to say, life was in jeopardy: a little old
man had run out at the first alarm, when there was no danger, and, as
soon as the fire was hot, had run in again for his stockings, or some
such treasure. Fire does put out some people's reason; clean. While he
was rummaging madly, the staircase caught, and the smoke cut off his
second exit, and drove him up to a little staircase window at the side of
the house. Here he stood, hose in hand, scorching behind and screeching
in front. A ladder had been brought: but it was a yard short: and the
poor old man danced on the window-ledge and dare not come down to a
gallant fireman who stood ready to receive him at great personal peril.
In the midst of shrieks and cries and shouts of encouragement, Edward, a
practised gymnast, saw a chance. He ran up the ladder like a cat, begged
the fireman to clasp it tight; then got on his shoulders and managed to
grasp the window-sill. He could always draw his own weight up by his
hands: so he soon had his knee on the sill, and presently stood erect. He
then put his left arm inside the window, collared the old fellow with his
right, and, half persuasion, half force, actually lowered him to the
ladder with one Herculean arm amidst a roar that made the Borough ring.
Such a strain could not long be endured; but the fireman speedily
relieved him by seizing the old fellow's feet and directing them on to
the ladder, and so, propping him by the waist, went down before him, and
landed him safe. Edward waited till they were down: then begged them to
hold the ladder tight below; he hung from the ledge, got his eye well on
the ladder below him, let himself quietly drop, and caught hold of it
with hands of iron, and twisting round, came down the ladder on the
inside hand over head without using his feet, a favourite gymnastic
exercise of his learnt at the Modern Athens. He was warmly received by
the crowd and by the firemen. "You should be one of us, sir," said a fine
young fellow who had cheered him and advised him all through. "I wish to
Heaven I was," said Edward. The other thought he was joking, but laughed
and said, "Then you should talk to our head man after the business; there
is a vacancy, you know."
Edward saw the fire out, and rode home on the engine. There he applied to
the head man for the vacancy.
"You are a stranger to me, sir," said the head man. "And I am sure it is
no place for you; you are a gentleman."
"Well; is there anything ungentlemanly in saving people's lives and
"Hear! hear!" said a comic fireman.
The compliment began to tell, though. Others put in their word. "Why, Mr.
Baldwin, if a gentleman ain't ashamed of us, why should we be ashamed of
"Where will ye get a better?" asked another; and added, "He is no
stranger; we've seen him work."
"Stop a bit," said the comic fireman: "what does the dog say? Just call
him, sir, if you please; his name is Charlie."
Edward called the fire-dog kindly; he came and fawned on him; then
gravely snuffed him all round, and retired wagging his tail gently, as
much as to say, "I was rather taken by surprise at first, but, on the
whole, I see no reason to recall my judgment."
"It is all right," said the firemen in chorus; and one that had not yet
spoken to Edward now whispered him mysteriously, "Ye see that there
dog--he knows more than we do."
After the dog, a biped oracle at head-quarters was communicated with, and
late that very night Edward was actually enrolled a fireman; and went
home warmer at heart than he had been for some time. They were all in
bed; and when he came down in the morning, Julia was reading out of the
_'Tiser_ a spirited and magniloquent description of a fire in Southwark,
and of the heroism displayed by a young gentleman unknown, but whose name
the writer hoped at so much the line would never be allowed to pass into
oblivion, and be forgotten. In short, the _'Tiser_ paid him in one
column, for years of devotion. Now Edward, of course, was going to relate
his adventure; but the journal told it so gloriously, he hesitated to
say, "I did all that." He just sat and stared, and wondered, and blushed,
and grinned like an imbecile.
Unfortunately looks seldom escaped the Doddesses. "What is that for?"
inquired Julia reproachfully. "Is that sheepish face the thing to wear
when a sister is reading out an heroic action? Ah, these are the things
that make one long to be a man, to do them. What are you thinking about,
"Well, I am thinking the _'Tiser_ is pitching it rather strong."
"My love, what an expression!"
"Well, then, to be honest, I agree with you that it is a jolly thing to
fight with fire and save men's lives; and I am glad you see it in that
light; for now you will approve the step I have taken. Ladies, I have put
myself in the way of doing this sort of thing every week of my life. I'm
"You are jesting, I trust?" said Mrs. Dodd anxiously.
"No, mamma. I got the place late last night, and I'm to enter on my
duties and put on the livery next Monday. Hurrah!"
Instantly the admirers of fiery heroes at a distance overflowed with
grief and mortification at the prospect of one in their own family. They
could not speak at all at first: and, when they did, it was only "Cruel!
cruel!" from Julia; and "Our humiliation is now complete," from Mrs.
They soon dashed Edward's spirits, and made him unhappy; but they could
not convince him he had done wrong. However, in the heat of remonstrance,
they let out at last that they had just begun to hope by dint of scissors
and paint-brush to send him back to Oxford. He also detected, under a
cloud of tender, loving, soothing, coaxing and equivocating expressions,
their idea of a Man: to wit, a tall, strong, ornamental creature, whom
the women were to cocker up, and pet, and slave for; and be rewarded by
basking, dead tired, in an imperial smile or two let fall by their
sovereign _protege_ from his arm-chair. And, in fact, good women have
often demoralised their idols down to the dirt by this process; to be
sure their idols were sorryish clay, to begin.
Edward was anything but flowery, so he paraded no manly sentiments in
reply; he just bluntly ridiculed the idea of his consenting to prey on
them; and he said humbly, "I know I can't contribute as much to our
living as you two can--the petticoats carry the brains in our
family--but, be a burden to you? Not if I know it."
"Pride! pride! pride!" objected Julia, lifting her grand violet orbs like
a pensive Madonna.
"And such pride! The pride that falls into a fire-bucket," suggested
"That is cutting," said Edward: "but, _soyons de notre siecle;_
flunkeyism is on the decline. I'll give you something to put in both your
'Honour and rank from no condition rise.
Act well thy part; in that the honour lies.'"
"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Dodd, "only first choose your part; and let your
choice be reasonable."
"Mine was Hobson's, and he never chooses wrong. Come, come," said he, and
appealed calmly to their reason, by which means he made no impression at
all. Then he happened to say, "Besides, I must do something. I own to you
I am more cast down than I choose to show. Mother, I feel like lead ever
since she died." Now on this, their faces filled with sympathy directly.
So encouraged he went on to say: "But when I got my hand on that old
duffer's collar, and lowered him to the ladder, and the fire shot roaring
out of the window after him, too late to eat him, and the crowd cheered
the fireman and me, I did feel warm about the waistcoat, and, for the
first time this ever so long, life seemed not quite ended. I felt there
was a little bit of good left, that even a poor dunce like me could do,
and she could approve--if she can look down and see me, as I hope she
"There, there," said Mrs. Dodd tearfully, "I am disarmed, But, my
darling, I do not know what you are talking about: Stay; why, Edward,
surely--I hope--you were not the young gentleman in the paper, the one
that risked his life so nobly, so foolishly--if it was you.
"Why, mother, didn't I tell you it was me?" said Edward, colouring.
"No, that you did not," said Julia. "Was it? was it? oh do be quick and
tell one. There, it was."
"Well, it was: ah, I remember now; that splendiferous account shut me up.
Oh, I say, didn't the _'Tiser_ pitch it strong?"
"Not at all," cried Julia; "I believe every word, and ever so much more.
Mamma, we have got a hero, and here he is at breakfast with us, like an
ordinary mortal." She rose suddenly with a burst of her old fire and fell
upon him and kissed him, and said earnestly how proud she was of him;
"And so is mamma. She may say what she likes."
"Proud of him! ah, that I am; very proud, and very unhappy. _Heroes are
my horror._ How often, and how earnestly have I prayed that my son might
not be brave like his father, but stay quietly at home out of harm's
Here remonstrance ended; the members of this family, happy by nature,
though unhappy by accident, all knew when to yield to each other.
Unfortunately, in proportion as all these excitements great and small
died, and her life became quiet and uniform, the depth of Julia's wound
showed itself more and more. She never sang nor hummed, as she used to
do, going about the house. She never laughed. She did burst out with
fervid sentiments now and then, but very rarely; on the whole, a pensive
languor took the place of her lovely impetuosity. Tears rushed in a
moment to her eyes with no visible cause. She often stole to the window,
and looked all up and down the street; and when she was out of doors, she
looked down every side street she passed; and sometimes, when a quick
light step came behind them, or she saw a tall young gentleman at a great
distance, her hand twitched her mother's arm or trembled on it. And,
always, when they came home, she lingered a moment at the door-step and
looked all round before she went in.
At all these signs one half of Mrs. Dodd's heart used to boil with
indignation, and the other half melt with pity. For she saw her daughter
was looking for "the Wretch." Indeed Mrs. Dodd began to fear she had done
unwisely in ignoring "the Wretch." Julia's thoughts dwelt on him none the
less; indeed all the more as it seemed; so the topic interdicted by tacit
consent bade fair to become a barrier between her and Mrs. Dodd, hitherto
her bosom friend as well as her mother. This was intolerable to poor Mrs.
Dodd: and at last she said one day, "My darling, do not be afraid of me;
rob me of your happy thoughts if you will, but oh, not of your sad ones."
Julia began to cry directly. "Oh no, mamma," she sobbed, "do not you
encourage me in my folly. I know I have thrown away my affections on one
who----I shall never see him again: shall I, mamma? Oh, to think I can
say those words, and yet go living on."
Mrs. Dodd sighed. "And if you saw him, would that mend the chain he has
chosen to break?"
"I don't know; but if I could only see him to part friends! It is cruel
to hate him now he has lost his sister; and then I have got her message
to give him. And I want to ask him why he was afraid of me: why he could
not tell me he had altered his mind: did he think I wanted to have him
against his will? Oh, mamma," said she imploringly, "he seemed to love
me; he seemed all truth. I am a poor unfortunate girl."
Mrs. Dodd had only caresses to soothe her with. She could not hold out
One day Julia asked her timidly if she might be a district visitor: "My
dear friend was, and advised me to be one too; but I was wilful in those
days and chose to visit by fits and starts, and be independent. I am
humbled now a little: may I, mamma? Since she died every word of hers
seems a law to me."
Mrs. Dodd assented cordially; as she would to anything else her wounded
one had proposed.
This project brought Julia into communication with the new curate; and
who should it prove to be but Mr. Hurd? At sight of him she turned white
and red, and the whole scene in the church came back to her. But Mr. Hurd
showed considerable tact for so young a man; he spoke to her in accents
of deep respect, but confined his remarks strictly to the matter in hand.
She told her mother when she got home; and expressed her gratitude to Mr.
Hurd, but said she wished they did not live in the same parish with him.
This feeling, however, wore off by degrees, as her self-imposed duties
brought her more and more into contact with him, and showed her his good
As for Mr. Hurd, he saw and understood her vivid emotion at sight of him;
saw and pitied; not without wonder that so beautiful a creature should
have been jilted. And from the first he marked his sense of Alfred's
conduct by showing her a profound and chivalrous respect which he did not
bestow on other young ladies in his parish; on the contrary, he rather
received homage from them than bestowed it. By-and-bye he saw Julia
suppress if not hide her own sorrow, and go sore-hearted day by day to
comfort the poor and afflicted: he admired and almost venerated her for
this. He called often on Mrs. Dodd, and was welcome. She concealed her
address for the present from all her friends except Dr. Sampson; but Mr.
Hurd had discovered her, and ladies do not snub the clergy. Moreover, Mr.
Hurd was a gentleman, and inclined to High Church. This she liked. He was
very good-looking too, and quiet in his manners. Above all, he seemed to
be doing her daughter good; for Julia and Mr. Hurd had one great
sentiment in common. When the intimacy had continued some time on these
easy terms, Mrs. Dodd saw that Mr. Hurd was falling in love with Julia;
and that sort of love warm, but respectful, which soon leads to marriage,
especially when the lover is a clergyman. This was more than Mrs. Dodd
bargained for; she did not want to part with her daughter, and under
other circumstances would have drawn in her horns. But Mr. Hurd's
undisguised homage gratified her maternal heart, coming so soon after
that great insult to her daughter; and then she said to herself: "At any
rate, he will help me cure her of 'the Wretch.'" She was not easy in her
mind, though; could not tell what would come of it all. So she watched
her daughter's pensive face as only mothers watch; and saw a little of
the old peach bloom creeping back.
That was irresistible: she let things go their own way, and hoped for the
THE tenacity of a private lunatic asylum is unique. A little push behind
your back and you slide into one; but to get out again is to scale a
precipice with crumbling sides. Alfred, luckier than many, had twice
nearly escaped; yet now he was tighter in than ever. His father at first
meant to give him but a year or two of it, and let him out on terms, his
spirit broken and Julia married. But his sister's death was fatal to him.
By Mrs. Hardie's settlement the portion of any child of hers dying a
minor, or intestate and childless, was to go to the other children; so
now the prisoner had inherited his sister's ten thousand pounds, and a
good slice of his bereaved enemy's and father's income. But this doubled
his father's bitterness--that he, the unloved one, should be enriched by
the death of the adored one!--and also tempted his cupidity: and
unfortunately shallow legislation conspired with that temptation. For
when an Englishman, sane or insane, is once pushed behind his back into a
madhouse, those relatives who have hidden him from the public eye,
_i.e.,_ from the eye of justice, can grab hold of his money behind his
back, as they certified away his wits behind his back, and can administer
it in the dark, and embezzle it, chanting "But for us the 'dear deranged'
would waste it." Nor do the monstrous enactments which confer this
unconstitutional power on subjects, and shield its exercise from the
light and safeguard of Publicity, affix any penalty to the abuse of that
power, if by one chance in a thousand detected. In Lunacy Law extremes of
intellect meet; the British senator plays at Satan; and tempts human
frailty and cupidity beyond what they are able to bear.
So behold a son at twenty-one years of age devoted by a father to
imprisonment for life. But stop a minute; the mad statutes, which by the
threefold temptation of Facility, Obscurity, and Impurity, insure the
occasional incarceration and frequent detention of sane but moneyed men,
do provide, though feebly, for their bare liberation, if perchance they
should not yield to the _genius loci,_ and the natural effect of
confinement plus anguish, by going mad or dying. The Commissioners of
Lunacy had power to liberate Alfred in spite of his relations. And that
power, you know, he had soberly but earnestly implored them to exercise.
After a delay that seemed as strange to him as postponing a hand to a
drowning man, he received an official letter from Whitehall. With
bounding heart he broke the seal, and devoured the contents. They ran
"Sir,--By order of the Commissioners of Lunacy, I am directed to inform
you that they are in the receipt of your letter of the 29th ultimo, which
will be laid before the Board at their next meeting.--I am, &c."
Alfred was bitterly disappointed at the small advance he had made.
However, it was a great point to learn that his letters were allowed to
go to the Commissioners at all, and would be attended to by degrees.
He waited and waited, and struggled hard to possess his soul in patience.
At times his brain throbbed and his blood boiled, and he longed to kill
the remorseless, kinless monsters who robbed him of his liberty, his
rights as a man, and his Julia. But he knew this would not do; that what
they wanted was to gnaw his reason away, and then who could disprove that
he had always been mad? Now he felt that brooding on his wrong would
infuriate him; so he clenched his teeth, and vowed a solemn vow that
nothing should drive him mad. By advice of a patient he wrote again to
the Commissioners begging for a special Commission to inquire into his
case; and, this done, with rare stoicism, self-defence, and wisdom in one
so young, he actually sat down to read hard for his first class. Now, to
do this, he wanted the Ethics, Politics, and Rhetoric of Aristotle,
certain dialogues of Plato, the Comedies of Aristophanes, the first-class
Historians, Demosthenes, Lucretius, a Greek Testament, Wheeler's
Analysis, Prideaux, Horne, and several books of reference sacred and
profane. But he could not get these books without Dr. Wycherley, and
unfortunately he had cut that worthy dead in his own asylum.
"The Scornful Dog" had to eat wormwood pudding and humble pie. He gulped
these delicacies as he might; and Dr. Wycherley showed excellent
qualities; he entered into his maniac's studies with singular alacrity,
supplied him with several classics from his own shelves, and borrowed the
rest at the London Library. Nor did his zeal stop there; he offered to
read an hour a day with him; and owned it would afford him the keenest
gratification to turn out an Oxford first classman from his asylum. This
remark puzzled Alfred and set him thinking; it bore a subtle family
resemblance to the observations he heard every day from the patients; it
was so one-eyed.
Soon Alfred became the doctor's pet maniac. They were often closeted
together in high discourse, and indeed discussed Psychology, Metaphysics,
and Moral Philosophy with indefatigable zest, long after common sense
would have packed them both off to bed, the donkeys. In fact, they got so
thick that Alfred thought it only fair to say one day, "Mind, doctor, all
these pleasant fruitful hours we spend together so sweetly will not
prevent my indicting you for a conspiracy as soon as I get out: it will
rob the retribution of half its relish, though."
"Ah, my dear young friend and fellow-student," said the doctor blandly,
"let us not sacrifice the delights of our profitable occupation of
imbibing the sweets of intellectual intercourse to vague speculations as
to our future destiny. During the course of a long and not, I trust,
altogether unprofitable career, it has not unfrequently been my lot to
find myself on the verge of being indicted, sued, assassinated, hung. Yet
here I sit, as yet unimmolated on the altar of phrenetic vengeance. This
is ascribable to the fact that my friends and pupils always adopt a more
favourable opinion of me long before I part with them; and ere many days
(and this I divine by infallible indicia), _your_ cure will commence in
earnest; and in proportion as you progress to perfect restoration of the
powers of judgment, you will grow in suspicion of the fact of being under
a delusion; or rather I should say a very slight perversion and
perturbation of the forces of your admirable intellect, and a proper
subject for temporary seclusion. Indeed this consciousness of insanity is
the one diagnostic of sanity that never deceives me and, on the other
hand, an obstinate persistence in the hypothesis of perfect rationality
demonstrates the fact that insanity yet lingers in the convolutions and
recesses of the brain, and that it would not be humane as yet to cast the
patient on a world in which he would inevitably be taken some ungenerous
Alfred ventured to inquire whether this was not rather paradoxical.
"Certainly," said the ready doctor; "and paradoxicality is an indicial
characteristic of truth in all matters beyond the comprehension of the
"That _sounds_ rational," said the maniac very drily.
One afternoon, grinding hard for his degree, he was invited downstairs to
see two visitors.
At that word he found out how prison tries the nerves. He trembled with
hope and fear. It was but for a moment: he bathed his face and hands to
compose himself; made his toilet carefully, and went into the
drawing-room, all on his guard. There he found Dr. Wycherley and two
gentlemen; one was an ex-physician, the other an ex-barrister, who had
consented to resign feelessness and brieflessness for a snug L. 1500 a
year at Whitehall. After a momentary greeting they continued the
conversation with Dr. Wycherley, and scarcely noticed Alfred. They were
there _pro forma;_ a plausible lunatic had pestered the Board, and
extorted a visit of ceremony. Alfred's blood boiled, but he knew it must
not boil over. He contrived to throw a short, pertinent remark in every
now and then. This, being done politely, told; and at last Dr. Eskell,
Commissioner of Lunacy, smiled and turned to him: "Allow me to put a few
questions to you."
"The more the better, sir," said Alfred.
Dr. Eskell then asked him to describe minutely, and in order, all he had
done since seven o'clock that day. And he did it. Examined him in the
multiplication table. And he did it. And, while he was applying these
old-fashioned tests, Wycherley's face wore an expression of pity that was
truly comical. Now this Dr. Eskell had an itch for the classics: so he
went on to say, "You have been a scholar, I hear."
"I am not old enough to be a scholar, sir," said Alfred; "but I am a
"Well, well; now can you tell me what follows this line--
"Jusque datum sceleri canimus populuinque potentem'?"
"Why, not at the moment."
"Oh, surely you can," said Dr. Eskell ironically. "It is in a tolerably
well-known passage. Come, try."
"Well, I'll _try,_" said Alfred, sneering secretly. "Let me see--
In sua victrici conversum viscera dextra.'"
"Quite right; now go on, if you can."
Alfred, who was playing with his examiner all this time, pretended to
cudgel his brains, then went on, and warmed involuntarily with the
"Cognatasque acies et rupto foedere regni
Certatum totis concussi viribus orbis
In commune nefas; infestis que obvia signis
Signa, pares aquilas, et pila minantia pilis."
"He seems to have a good memory," said the examiner, rather taken aback.
"Oh, that is nothing for him," observed Wycherley;
"He has Horace all by heart; you'd wonder:
And mouths out Homer's Greek like thunder."
The great faculty of Memory thus tested, Dr. Eskell proceeded to a
greater: Judgment. "Spirited lines those, sir."
"Yes, sir; but surely rather tumid. 'The whole _forces_ of the shaken
globe?' But little poets love big words."
"I see; you agree with Horace, that so great a work as an epic poem
should open modestly with an invocation."
"No, sir," said Alfred. "I think that rather an arbitrary and peevish
canon of friend Horace. The AEneid, you know, begins just as he says an
epic ought not to begin; and the AEneid is the greatest Latin Epic. In
the next place the use of Modesty is to keep a man from writing an epic
poem at all but, if he will have that impudence, why then he had better
have the courage to plunge into the Castalian stream, like Virgil and
Lucan, not crawl in funking and holding on by the Muse's apron-string.
But--excuse me --quorsum haec tam putida tendunt? What have the Latin
poets to do with this modern's sanity or insanity?"
Mr. Abbott snorted contemptuously in support of the query. But Dr. Eskell
smiled, and said: "Continue to answer me as intelligently, and you may
find it has a great deal to do with it."
Alfred took this hint, and said artfully, "Mine was a thoughtless remark:
of course a gentleman of your experience can test the mind on any
subject, however trivial." He added piteously, "Still, if you would but
leave the poets, who are all half crazy themselves, and examine me in the
philosophers of Antiquity. Surely it would be a higher criterion."
Dr. Wycherley explained in a patronising whisper, "He labours under an
abnormal contempt for poetry, dating from his attack. Previously to that
he actually obtained a prize poem himself."
"Well, doctor, and after that am I wrong to despise poetry?"
They might have comprehended this on paper, but spoken it was too keen
for them all three. The visitors stared. Dr. Wycherley came to their aid
"You might examine my young friend for hours and not detect the one
crevice in the brilliancy of his intellectual armour."
The maniac made a face as one that drinketh verjuice suddenly. "For
pity's sake, doctor, don't be so inaccurate. Say a spot on the
brilliancy, or a crevice in the armour; but not a crevice in the
brilliancy. My good friend here, gentlemen, deals in conjectural
certificates and broken metaphors. He dislocates more tropes, to my
sorrow, than even his friend Shakespeare, whom he thinks a greater
philosopher than Aristotle, and who calls the murder of an individual
sleeper the murder of sleep, confounding the concrete with the abstract,
and then talks of taking arms against a sea of troubles; query, a cork
jacket and a flask of brandy?"
"Well, Mr. Hardie," said Dr. Eskell, rather feebly, "let me tell you
those passages, which so shock your _peculiar_ notions, are among the
"Very likely, sir," retorted the maniac, whose logic was up; "but
applauded only in a nation where the _floods_ clap their hands every
Sunday morning, and we all pray for peace, giving as our exquisite reason
that we have got the God of hosts on our side in war."
Mr. Abbott, the other commissioner, had endured all this chat with an air
of weary indifference. He now said to Dr. Wycherley, "I wish to put to
you a question or two in private."
Alfred was horribly frightened: this was the very dodge that had ruined
him at Silverton House. "Oh no, gentlemen," he cried imploringly. "Let me
have fair play. You have given me no secret audience; then why give my
accuser one? I am charged with a single delusion; for mercy's sake, go to
the point at once, and examine me on that head."
"Now you talk sense," said Mr. Abbott; as if the previous topics had been
chosen by Alfred.
"But that will excite him," objected Dr. Eskell? "it always does excite
"It excites the insane, but not the sane," said Alfred. "So there is
another test; you will observe whether it excites me." Then, before they
could interrupt him, he glided on. "The supposed hallucination is this: I
strongly suspect my father, a bankrupt--and therefore dishonest--banker,
of having somehow misappropriated a sum of fourteen thousand pounds,
which sum is known to have been brought from India by one Captain Dodd,
and has disappeared."
"Stop a minute," said Mr. Abbott. "Who knows it besides you?"
"The whole family of the Dodds. They will show you his letter from India,
announcing his return with the money."
"Where do they live?"
"Albion Villa, Barkington."
Mr. Abbott noted the address in his book, and Alfred, mightily cheered
and encouraged by this sensible act, went on to describe the various
indications, which, insufficient singly, had by their united force driven
him to his conclusion. When he described David's appearance and words on
his father's lawn at night, Wycherley interrupted him quietly: "Are you
quite sure this was not a vision, a phantom of the mind heated by your
agitation, and your suspicions?"
Dr. Eskell nodded assent, knowing nothing about the matter.
"Pray, doctor, was I the only person who saw this vision?" inquired
"I conclude so," said Wycherley, with an admirable smile.
"But why do you conclude so? Because you are one of those who reason in a
circle of assumptions. Now it happens that Captain Dodd was seen and felt
on that occasion by three persons besides myself."
"Name them," said Mr. Abbott sharply.
"A policeman called Reynolds, another policeman, whose name I don't know,
and Miss Julia Dodd. The policemen helped me lift Captain Dodd off the
grass, sir; Julia met us chose by, and we four carried Dr. Wycherhey's
phantom home together to Albion Villa."
Mr. Abbott noted down all the names, and then turned to Dr. Wycherley.
"What do you say to that?"
"I say it is a very important statement," said the doctor blandly; "and
that I am sure my young friend would not advance it unless he was firmly
persuaded of its reality."
"Much obliged, doctor; and you would not contradict me so rashly in a
matter I know all about and you know nothing about, if it was not your
fixed habit to found facts on theories instead of theories on facts."
"There, that is enough," said Mr. Abbott. "I have brought you both to an
issue at last. I shall send to Barkington, and examine the policemen and
"Oh, thank you, sir," cried Alfred with emotion. "If you once apply
genuine tests like that to my case, I shall not be long in prison."
"Prison?" said Wycherley reproachfully.
"Have you any complaint, then, to make of your treatment here?" inquired
"No, no, sir," said Alfred warmly. "Dr. Wycherley is the very soul of
humanity. Here are no tortures, no handcuffs nor leg-locks, no brutality,
no insects that murder Sleep--without offence to Logic. In my last asylum
the attendants inflicted violence, here they are only allowed to endure
it. And, gentlemen, I must tell you a noble trait in my enemy there:
nothing can make him angry with madmen; their lies, their groundless and
narrow suspicions of him, their deplorable ingratitude to him, of which I
see examples every day that rile me on his account; all these things seem
to glide off him, baffled by the infinite kindness of his heart and the
incomparable sweetness of his temper; and he returns the duffers good for
evil with scarcely an effort."
At this unexpected tribute the water stood in the doctor's eyes. It was
no more than the truth; but this was the first maniac he had met
intelligent enough to see his good qualities clearly and express them
"In short," continued Alfred, "to be happy in his house all a man wants
is to be insane. But, as I am not insane, I am miserable; no convict, no
galley slave is so wretched as I am, gentlemen. And what is my crime?"
"Well, well," said Dr. Eskell kindly, "I think it likely you will not be
very long in confinement." They then civilly dismissed him; and on his
departure asked Dr. Wycherley his candid opinion. Dr. Wycherley said he
was now nearly cured; his ability to discuss his delusion without
excitement was of itself a proof of that. But in another month he would
be better still. The doctor concluded his remarks thus--
"However, gentlemen, you have heard him: now judge for yourselves whether
anybody can be as clever as he is, without the presence of more or less
abnormal excitement of the organs of intelligence."
It was a bright day for Alfred; he saw he had made an excellent
impression on the Commissioners, and, as luck does not always come
single, after many vain attempts to get a letter posted to Julia, he
found this very afternoon a nurse was going away next day. He offered her
a guinea, and she agreed to post a letter. Oh the hapiness it was to the
poor prisoner to write it, and unburden his heart and tell his wrongs. He
kept his manhood for his enemies; his tears fell on the paper he sent to
his forlorn bride. He had no misgivings of her truth; he judged her by
himself: gave her credit for anxiety, but not for doubt. He concluded a
long, ardent, tender letter by begging her to come and see him, and, if
refused admission, to publish his case in the newspapers, and employ a
lawyer to proceed against all the parties concerned in his detention. Day
after day he waited for an answer to his letter; none came. Then he began
to be sore perplexed, and torn with agonising doubts. What if her mind
was poisoned too! What if she thought him mad! What if some misfortune
had befallen her! What if she had believed him dead, and her heart had
broken! Hitherto he had seen his own trouble chiefly; but now he began to
think day and night on hers; and though he ground on for his degree not
to waste time, and not to be driven mad, yet it was almost superhuman
labour; sighs issued from his labouring breast while his hard,
indomitable brain laboured away, all uphill, at Aristotle's Divisions and
On the seventh day, the earliest the mad statute allowed, the two
Commissioners returned, and this time Mr. Abbott took the lead, and told
him that the policeman Reynolds had left the force, and the Dodds had
left the town, and were in London, but their address not known.
At this Alfred was much agitated. She was alive, and perhaps near him.
"I have heard a good deal of your story," said Mr. Abbott, "and coupling
it with what we have seen of you, we think your relatives have treated
you, and a young lady of whom everybody speaks with respect--"
"God bless you for saying that! God bless you!"
"--treated you both, I say, with needless severity."
Dr. Eskell then told him the result of the Special Commission, now
closed. "I believe you to be cured," said he; "and Mr. Abbott has some
doubts whether you were ever positively insane. We shall lay your case
before the Board at once, and the Board will write to the party who
signed the order, and propose to him to discharge you at once."
At this magnificent project Alfred's countenance fell, and he stared with
astonishment. "What! have you not the power to do me justice without
soliciting Injustice to help you?"
"The Board has the power," said Dr. Eskell; "but for many reasons they
exercise it with prudence and reserve. Besides, it is only fair to those
who have signed the order, to give them the graceful office of liberating
the patient; it paves the way to reconciliation."
Alfred sighed. The Commissioners, to keep up his heart, promised to send
him copies of their correspondence with the person who had signed the
order. "Then," said Mr. Abbott kindly, "you will see your case is not
The following precis, though imperfect, will give some idea of the
1. The Board wrote to Thomas Hardie, letting him know the result of the
Special Commission, and requesting him to discharge his nephew.
Thomas quaked. Richard smiled, and advised Thomas to take no notice. By
this a week was gained to Injustice, and lost to Justice.
2. The Board pointed out Thomas Hardie's inadvertence in not answering
No. 1; enclosed copy of it, and pressed for a reply.
Thomas quaked, Richard smiled.
3. Thomas Hardie to the Board. From what he had heard, it would be
premature to discharge Alfred. Should prefer to wait a month or two.
4. Board to Alfred, conveying this in other terms.
5. Alfred to Board, warning them against this proposal. To postpone
justice was to refuse justice, certainly for a time, probably for ever.
6. The Board to Thomas Hardie, suggesting that if not released
immediately Alfred ought to have a trial--_i.e.,_ be allowed to go into
the world with a keeper.
7. Alfred to the Board, begging that Dr. Sampson, an honest independent
physician, might be allowed to visit him and report to them.
8. The Board to Alfred, declining this, for the present as unadvisable,
they being in correspondence with the person who had signed the
order--with a view to his liberation.
9. T. Hardie to the Board, shuffling, and requesting time to make further
10. The Board, suggesting there should be some reasonable limit to delay.
11. T. Hardie, asking for a month to see about it.
12. The Board, suggesting a week.
13. Alfred Hardie, asking permission to be visited by a solicitor with a
view to protection of his liberty and property.
14. The Board, declining this, pending their correspondence with other
parties; but asking him for the names and addresses of all his trustees.
15. Thomas Hardie, informing the Board he had now learned Alfred had
threatened to kill his father as soon as ever he should get out, and
leaving the Board to discharge him on their own responsibility if they
chose after this warning: but declining peremptorily to do so himself.
16, 17, 18. The Board, by advice of Mr. Abbott, to Alfred's trustees,
warning them against any alienation of Alfred's money under the notion
that he was legally a lunatic; and saying that a public inquiry appeared
inevitable, owing to Mr. T. Hardie's unwillingness to enter into their
19. To Alfred, inquiring whether he wished to encounter the expense of
Chancery proceedings to establish his sanity.
20. Alfred to the Board, imploring them to use their powers and discharge
him without further delay, and assuring them he meditated no violence on
his liberation, but should proceed against all parties under legal
21. The Board to T. Hardie, warning him that he must in future pay
Alfred's maintenance in Asylum out of his own pocket, and pressing him
either to discharge the young man, or else to apply to the Lord
Chancellor for a Commission de Lunatico Inquirendo, and enclosing copy of
a letter from Wycherley saying the patient was harmless.
22. T. Hardie respectfully declining to do either, but reminding the
Commissioners that the matter could be thrown into Chancery without his
consent; only the expense, which would be tremendous, would fall on the
lunatic's estate, which might hereafter be regretted by the party
himself. He concluded by promising to come to town and visit Alfred with
his family physician, and write further in a week.
Having thus thrown dust in the eyes of the Board, Thomas Hardie and
Richard consulted with a notoriously unscrupulous madhouse keeper in the
suburbs of London, and effected a masterstroke; whereof anon.
The correspondence had already occupied three months, and kept Alfred in
a fever of the mind; of all the maddening things with which he had been
harassed by the pretended curers of insanity, this tried him hardest. To
see a dozen honest gentlemen wishing to do justice, able to do justice by
one manly stroke of the pen, yet forego their vantage-ground, and descend
to coax an able rogue to do their duty and undo his own interest and
rascality! To see a strong cause turned into a weak one by the timidity
of champions clad by law in complete steel; and a rotten cause, against
which Law and Power, as well as Truth, Justice, and Common Sense, had now
declared, turned into a strong one by the pluck and cunning of his one
unarmed enemy! The ancients feigned that the ingenious gods tortured
Tantalus in hell by ever-present thirst, and water flowing to just the
outside of his lips. A Briton can thirst for liberty as hard as Tantalus
or hunted deer can thirst for cooling springs and this soul-gnawing
correspondence brought liberty, and citizenhood, and love, and happiness,
to the lips of Alfred's burning, pining, aching heart, again, and again,
and again; then carried them away from him in mockery. Oh, the sickening
anguish of Hope deferred, and deferred:
"The Hell it is in suing long to bide."
But indeed his hopes began to sicken for good when he found that the
Board would not allow any honest independent physician to visit him, or
any solicitor to see him. At first, indeed, they refused it because Mr.
Thomas Hardie was going to let him out: but when T. Hardie would not move
at their request, then on a fresh application they refused it, giving as
their reason that they had already refused it. Yet in so keen a battle he
would not throw away a chance: so he determined to win Dr. Wycherley
altogether by hook or by crook, and get a certificate of sanity from him.
Now a single white lie, he knew would do the trick. He had only to say
that Hamlet was mad. And "Hamlet was mad" is easily said.
Dr. Wycherley was a collector of mad people, and collectors are always
amateurs, and very seldom connoisseurs. His turn of mind co-operating
with his interests, led him to put down any man a lunatic, whose
intellect was manifestly superior to his own. Alfred Hardie, and one or
two more contemporaries, had suffered by this humour of the good
doctor's. Nor did the dead escape him entirely. Pascal, according to
Wycherley, was a madman with an illusion about a precipice; John Howard a
moral lunatic in whom the affections were reversed; Saul a moping maniac
with homicidal paroxysms and nocturnal visions; Paul an incoherent
lunatic, who in his writings flies off at a tangent, and who admits
having once been the victim of a photopsic illusion in broad daylight;
Nebuchadnezzar a lycanthropical lunatic; Joan of Arc a theomaniac; Bobby
Burton and Oliver Cromwell melancholy maniacs; Napoleon an ambitious
maniac, in whom the sense of impossibility became gradually extinguished
by visceral and cerebral derangement; Porson an oinomaniac; Luther a
phrenetic patient of the old demoniac breed, alluded to by Shakespeare:
"One sees more devils than vast Hell can hold.
That is the madman."
But without intending any disrespect to any of these gentlemen, he
assigned the golden crown of Insanity to Hamlet. To be sure, this
character tells his friends in the play he shall _feign_ insanity, and
swears them not to reveal the reason; and after this hint to his friends
and the pit (it is notorious he was not written for readers) he keeps his
word, and does it as cleverly as if his name was David or Brutus instead
of Hamlet; indeed, like Edgar, he rather overdoes it, and so puzzles his
enemies in the play, and certain German criticasters and English mad
doctors in the closet, and does not puzzle his bosom friend in the play
one bit, nor the pit for whom he was created. Add to this his
sensibility, and his kindness to others, and his eloquent grief at the
heart-rending situation which his father's and mother's son was placed in
and had brains to realise, though his psychological critics, it seems,
have not; and add to all that the prodigious extent of his mind, his keen
observation, his deep reflection; his brilliant fancy, united for once in
a way with the great Academic, or judicial, intellect, that looks down
and sees all the sides of everything--and what can this rare intellectual
compound be? Wycherley decided the question. Hamlet was too much greater
in the world of mind than S. T. Coleridge and his German criticasters;
too much higher, deeper, and broader than Esquirol, Pinel, Sauze, Haslam,
Munro, Pagan, Wigan, Prichard, Romberg, Wycherley, and such small deer,
to be anything less than a madman.
Now, in their midnight discussions, Dr. Wycherley more than once alluded
to the insanity of Hamlet; and offered proofs. But Alfred declined the
subject as too puerile. "A man must exist before he can be insane," said
the Oxonian philosopher, severe in youthful gravity. But when he found
that Dr. Wycherley, had he lived in Denmark at the time, would have
conferred cannily with Hamlet's uncle, removed that worthy relative's
disbelief in Hamlet's insanity, and signed the young gentleman away
behind his back into a lunatic asylum, Alfred began to sympathise with
this posthumous victim of Psychological Science. "I believe the bloke was
no madder than I am," said he. He got the play, studied it afresh,
compared the fiction with the legend, compared Hamlet humbugging his
enemies and their tool, Ophelia, with Hamlet opening his real mind to
himself or his Horatio the very next moment; contrasted the real madness
the author has portrayed in the plays of Hamlet and Lear by the side of
these extravagant imitations, to save, if possible, even dunces, and
dreamers, and criticasters from being taken in by the latter; and at
their next seance pitched into the doctor's pet chimera, and what with
logic, fact, ridicule, and the author's lines, knocked it to atoms.
Now, in their midnight discussions, Dr. Wycherley had always handled the
question of Alfred Hardie's Sanity or Insanity with a philosophical
coolness the young man admired, and found it hard to emulate; but this
philosophic calmness deserted him the moment Hamlet's insanity was
disputed, and the harder he was pressed the angrier, the louder, the more
confused the Psychological physician became; and presently he got
furious, burst out of the anti-spasmodic or round-about style and called
Alfred a d--d ungrateful, insolent puppy, and went stamping about the
room; and, finally, to the young man's horror, fell down in a fit of an
epileptic character, grinding his teeth and foaming at the mouth.
Alfred was filled with regret, and, though alarmed, had the presence of
mind not to call for assistance. The fit was a very mild one in reality,
though horrible to look at. The doctor came to, and asked feebly for
wine. Alfred got it him, and the doctor, with a mixture of cunning and
alarm in his eye, said he had fainted away, or nearly. Alfred assented
coaxingly, and looked sheepish. After this he took care never to libel
Hamlet's intellect again by denying his insanity; for he was now
convinced of what he had long half suspected, that the doctor had a bee
in his own bonnet; and Alfred had studied true insanity all this time,
and knew how inhumane it is to oppose a monomaniac's foible; it only
infuriates and worries him. No power can convince him.
But now he resolved to play on the doctor's foible. It went against his
conscience; but the temptation was so strong. He came to him with a
"Doctor," said he, "I have been thinking over your arguments, and I
capitulate. If Hamlet ever existed, he was as mad as a March hare." And
he blushed at this his first quibble.
Dr. Wycherley beamed with satisfaction.
"My young friend, this gives me sincere pleasure; not on my account, but
on your own. There goes one of your illusions then. Now tell me--the L.
4,000! Have you calmly reconsidered that too?"
Alfred hung his head, and looked guiltier and guiltier.
"Why," said he, "that never amounted to anything more than a strong
suspicion. It has long ceased to occupy my mind in excess. However,
should I ever be so fortunate as to recover my liberty, I have no
objection to collect the evidence about it pro and con., and then make
you the judge instead of myself." This he delivered with an admirable
appearance of indifference.
"Very well, sir," said the doctor drily. "Then, now I have a piece of
good news for _you._
"Oh, doctor, what is that?"
"Your cure is complete; that is all! You are now a sane man, as sane as I
Alfred was a little disappointed at this piece of news; but recovering
himself, asked him to certify that and let him send the certificate to
the Board. Dr. Wycherley said he would with pleasure.
"I'll bring it to you when I make my round," said he.
Alfred retired triumphant, and went in at Plato with a good heart.
In about an hour Dr. Wycherley paid him the promised visit. But what may
not an hour bring forth? He came with mortification and regret in his
face to tell Alfred that an order of transfer had been signed by the
proper parties, and counter-signed by two Commissioners, and he was to go
to Dr. Wolf's asylum that day.
Alfred groaned. "I knew my father would out-wit my feeble friends somehow
or other," said he. "What is his game! do you know?"
"I suppose to obtain a delay; and meantime get you into an asylum, where
they will tell the Commissioners you are worse again, and perhaps do
something to make their words good. Dr. Wolf, between ourselves, will say
or do almost anything for money. And his asylum is conducted on the old
system; though he pretends not."
"My dear friend," said Alfred, "will you do me a favour?"
"How could I deny you anything at this sorrowful moment?"
"Here is an advertisement I want inserted in the _Morning Advertiser._"
"Oh, I can't do that, I fear."
"Look at it before you break my heart by refusing me."
Dr. Wycherley looked at it, and said it was innocent, being
unintelligible: and he would insert it himself.
"Three insertions, dear doctor, said Alfred. "Here is the money.
The doctor then told him sorrowfully he must pack up his things--Dr.
Wolf's keepers were waiting for him.
The moment of parting came. Then Alfred solemnly forgave Dr. Wycherley
for signing away his wits, and thanked him for all his kindness and
humanity. "We shall never meet again, I fear," said he; "I feel a weight
of foreboding here about my heart I never felt before; yet my trials have
been many and great. I think the end is at hand." Dr. Wolf's keepers
received him, and their first act was to handcuff him. The cold steel
struck into him deeper than his wrist, and reminded him of Silverton
Grove; he could not suppress a shudder. The carriage rolled all through
London with him. He saw the Parks with autumn's brown and golden tints:
he saw the people, some rich, some poor, but none of them prisoners. He
saw a little girl all rags. "Oh if I could be as ragged as you are," he
said, "and free."
At last they reached Drayton House--a huge old mansion, fortified into a
jail. His handcuffs were whipped off in the yard. He was ushered into a
large gloomy drawing-room. Dr. Wolf soon came to him, and they measured
each other by the eye like two prize-fighters. Dr. Wolf's eye fell under
Alfred's, and the latter felt he was capable of much foul play. He was
one of the old bull-necked breed: and contained the bull-dog and the
spaniel in his single nature. "I hope you will be comfortable here, sir,"
said he doggedly.
"I will try, sir."
"The first-class patients dine in half an hour."
"I will be ready, sir."
"Full dress in the evening; there are several ladies." Alfred assented by
a bow. Dr. Wolf rang a bell, and told a servant to show Mr. Hardie his
He had just time to make his toilet when the bell rang for dinner.
As he went down a nurse met him, held up something white to him as she
came, lowered it quickly, and dropped it at his feet in passing.
It was a billet-doux.
It was twisted into a pretty shape, scented and addressed to Mr. Hardie,
in a delicate Italian hand, and in that pale ink which seems to reflect
the charming timidity of the fair who use it.
He wondered; carried it into a recess; then opened it and read it. It
contained but this one line--
_"Drink nothing but water at dinner._"
These words in that delicate Italian hand sent a chill through Alfred.
What on earth was all this? Was he to be poisoned? Was his life aimed at
now instead of his reason? What was this mysterious drama prepared for
him the very moment he set his foot in the place, perhaps before? A
poisoner, and a friend! Both strangers. He went down to dinner: and
contrived to examine every lady and gentleman at the table. But they were
all strangers. Presently a servant filled his glass with beer; he looked
and saw it was poured from a small jug holding only his portion. Alfred
took his ring off his finger, and holding the glass up dropped his ring
"What is that for?" inquired one or two.
"Oh, my ring has a peculiar virtue, it tells me what is good for me. Ah!
what do I see? My ruby changes colour. Fetch me a clean glass." And he
filled it with water from a caraffe. "No, sir, leave the beer. I'll
analyse it in my room after dinner. I'm a chemist."
Dr. Wolf changed colour, and was ill at ease. Here was a bold and ugly
customer. However, he said nothing, and felt sure his morphia could not
be detected in beer by any decomposer but the stomach. Still he was
In the evening Alfred came dressed into the drawing-room, and found
several gentlemen and ladies there. One of the ladies seemed to attract
the lion's share of male homage. Her back was turned to Alfred: but it
was a beautiful back, with great magnificent neck and shoulders, and a
skin like satin; she was tall but rounded and symmetrical, had a massive
but long and shapely white arm, and perfect hand: and masses of thick
black hair sat on her grand white poll like a raven on a marble pillar.
It was not easy to get near her; for the mad gentlemen were fawning on
her all round; like Queen Elizabeth's courtiers.
However, Dr. Wolf, seeing Alfred standing alone, said, "Let me introduce
you," and took him round to her. The courtiers fell back a little. The
lady turned her stately head, and her dark eyes ran lightly all over
Alfred in a moment.
He bowed, and blushed like a girl. She curtseyed composedly and without a
symptom of recognition--deep water runs still--and Dr. Wolf introduced
"Mr. Hardie--Mrs. Archbold."
ON Alfred's leaving Silverton, Mrs. Archbold was prostrated. It was a
stunning blow to her young passion, and left her weary, desolate.
But she was too strong to lie helpless under disappointed longings. Two
days she sat stupefied with the heartache; after that she bustled about
her work in a fervour of half-crazy restlessness, and ungovernable
irritability, quenched at times by fits of weeping. As she wept apart,
but raged and tyrannised in public, she soon made Silverton House
Silverton Oven, especially to those who had the luck to be of her sex.
Then Baker timidly remonstrated; at the first word she snapped him up and
said a change would be good for both of them. He apologised; in vain:
that very day she closed by letter with Dr. Wolf, who had often invited
her to be his "Matron." Her motive, half hidden from herself, was to be
anywhere near her favourite.
Installed at Drayton House, she waited some days, and coquetted
woman-like with her own desires, then dressed neatly but soberly, and
called at Dr. Wycherley's; sent in a note explaining who she was with a
bit of soft sawder, and asked to see Alfred.
She was politely but peremptorily refused. She felt this rebuff bitterly.
She went home stung and tingling to the core. But Bitters wholesome be:
offended pride now allied with strong good sense to wither a wild
affection; and, as it was no longer fed by the presence of its object,
her wound healed, all but the occasional dull throbbing that precedes a
At this stage of her convalescence Dr. Wolf told her in an off-hand way
that Mr. Hardie, a patient of doubtful insanity, was coming to his
asylum, to be kept there by hook or by crook. (She was entirely in Wolf's
confidence, and he talked of these things to her in English.) The
impenetrable creature assented outwardly, with no sign of emotion
whatever, but one flash of the eye, and one heave of the bosom swiftly
suppressed. She waited calmly and patiently till she was alone; then
yielded to joy and triumph; they seemed to leap inside her. But this very
thing alarmed her. "Better for me never to see him again," she thought.
"His power over me is too terrible. Ah, good-bye to the peace and comfort
I have been building up! He will scatter them to the winds. He has."
She tried not to think of him too much. And, while she was so struggling,
Wolf let out that Alfred was to have morphia at dinner the first
day--morphia, the accursed drug with which these dark men in these dark
places coax the reason away out of the head by degrees, or with a potent
dose stupefy the victim, then act surprise, alarm; and make his stupor
the ground for applying medical treatment to the doomed wretch. Edith
Archbold knew the game, and at the word morphia, Pity and Passion rose in
her bosom irresistible. She smiled in Dr. Wolf's face, and hated him; and
secretly girt herself up to baffle him, and protect Alfred's reason, and
win his heart through his gratitude.
She received him as I have related, to throw dust in Dr. Wolf's eyes: but
she acted so admirably that some went into Alfred's. "Ah," thought he,
"she is angry with herself for her amorous folly; and, with the justice
of her sex, she means to spite poor me for it." He sighed; for he felt
her hostility would be fatal to him. To give her no fresh offence, he
fell into her manner, and treated her with a world of distant respect.
Then again, who else but she could have warned him against poison? Then
again, if so, why look so cold and stern at him? He cast one or two
wistful glances at her; but the artful woman of thirty was impenetrable
in public to the candid man of twenty-one. Even her passion could not put
them on an equality.
That night he could not sleep. He lay wondering what would be the next
foul practice, and how he should parry it.
He wrote next morning to the Commissioners that two of their number,
unacquainted with the previous proceedings of the Board, had been
surprised into endorsing an order of transfer to an asylum bearing a very
inferior character to Dr. Wycherley's; the object of this was clearly
foul play. Accordingly, Dr. Wolf had already tried to poison his reason,
by drugging his beer at dinner. He added that Dr. Wycherley had now
signed a certificate of his sanity, and implored the Board to inspect it,
and discharge him at once, or else let a solicitor visit him at once, and
take the requisite steps towards a public inquiry.
While waiting anxiously for the answer, it cost him all his philosophy to
keep his heart from eating itself. But he fought the good fight of
Reason; he invited the confidences of the quieter mad people, and
established a little court, and heard their grievances, and by impartial
decisions and good humour won the regard of the moderate patients and of
the attendants, all but three; Rooke, the head keeper, a morose burly
ruffian; Hayes, a bilious subordinate, Rooke's shadow; and Vulcan, a huge
mastiff that would let nobody but Rooke touch him; he was as big as a
large calf, and formidable as a small lion, though nearly toothless with
age. He was let loose in the yard at night, and was an element in the
Restraint system; many a patient would have tried to escape but for
Vulcan. He was also an invaluable howler at night, and so cooperated with
Dr. Wolf's bugs and fleas to avert sleep, that vile foe to insanity and
all our diseases, private asylums included.
Alfred treated Mrs. Archbold with a distant respect that tried her hard.
But that able woman wore sweetness and unobtrusive kindness, and bided
In Drayton House the keeperesses eclipsed the keepers in cruelty to the
poorer patients. No men except Dr. Wolf and his assistant had a pass-key
into their department, so there was nobody they could deceive, nobody
they held worth the trouble. In the absence of male critics they showed
their real selves, and how wise it is to trust that gentle sex in the
dark with irresponsible power over females. With unflagging patience they
applied the hourly torture of petty insolence, needless humiliation,
unreasonable refusals to the poor madwomen; bored them with the poisoned
gimlet, and made their hearts bleeding pin-cushions. But minute cruelty
and wild caprice were not enough for them, though these never tired nor
rested; they must vilify them too with degrading and savage names.
Billingsgate might have gone to school to Drayton House. _Inter alia,_
they seemed in love with a term that Othello hit upon; only they used it
not once, but fifty times a day, and struck decent women with it on the
face, like a scorpion whip; and then the scalding tears were sure to run
in torrents down their silly, honest, burning cheeks. But this was not
all; they had got a large tank in a flagged room, nominally for
cleanliness and cure, but really for bane and torture. For the least
offence, or out of mere wantonness, they would drag a patient stark naked
across the yard, and thrust her bodily under water again and again,
keeping her down till almost gone with suffocation, and dismissing her
more dead than alive with obscene and insulting comments ringing in her
ears, to get warm again in the cold. This my ladies called "tanking."
In the ordinary morning ablutions they tanked without suffocating. But
the immersion of the whole body in cold water was of itself a severe
trial to those numerous patients in whom the circulation was weak; and as
medical treatment, hurtful and even dangerous. Finally, these
keeperesses, with diabolical insolence and cruelty, would bathe twenty
patients in this tank, and then make them drink that foul water for their
"The dark places of the land are full of horrible cruelty."
One day they tanked so savagely that Nurse Eliza, after months of sickly
disapproval, came to the new redresser of grievances, and told.
What was he to do? He seized the only chance of redress; he ran panting
with indignation to Mrs. Archbold, and blushing high, said imploringly,
"Mrs. Archbold, you used to be kindhearted----" and could say no more for
something rising in his throat.
Mrs. Archbold smiled encouragingly on him, and said softly, "I am the
same I always was--to you Alfred."
"Oh, thank you; then pray send for Nurse Eliza, and hear the cruelties
that are being done to the patients within a yard of us."
"You had better tell me yourself, if you want me to pay any attention."
"I can't. I don't know how to speak to a lady of such things as are done
here. The brutes! the cowardly she-devils! Oh, how I should like to kill
Mrs. Archbold laughed a little at his enthusiasm (fancy caring so what
was done to a pack of women), and sent for Nurse Eliza. She came and
being questioned told Mrs. Archbold more than she had Alfred. "And,
ma'am," said she, whimpering, "they have just been tanking one they had
no business to touch; it is Mrs. Dale, her that is so close on her
confinement. They tanked her cruel they did, and kept her under water
till she was nigh gone. I came away; I couldn't stand it."
Alfred was walking about in a fury, and Nurse Eliza, in making this last
revolting communication, lowered her voice for him not to hear, but his
senses were quick. I think he heard, for he turned and came quickly to
"Mrs. Archbold, you are strong and brave--for a woman; oh, do go in to
them and take them by the throat and shake the life out of them, the
merciless, cowardly beasts! Oh that I could be a woman for an hour, or
they could be men, I'd soon have my foot on some of the wretches."
Mrs. Archbold acted Ignition. "Come with me both of you," she said, and
they were soon in the female department. Up came keeperesses directly,
smirking and curtseying to her, and pretending not to look at Adonis.
"Which of you nurses tanked Mrs. Dale?" said she sternly.
"'Twasn't I, ma'am, 'twasn't I."
"Oh, fie!" said Eliza to one, "you know you were at the head of it."
She pointed out two as the leaders. The Archbold instantly had them
seized by the others--who, with treachery equal to their cowardice,
turned eagerly against their fellow-culprits, to make friends with
Power--and, inviting all the sensible maniacs who had been tanked, to
assist or inspect, she bared her own statuesque arms, and, ably aided,
soon plunged the offenders, screaming, crying, and whining, like spaniel
bitches whipped, under the dirty water. They swallowed some, and
appreciated their own acts. Then she forced them to walk twice round the
yard with their wet clothes clinging to them, hooted by the late victims.
"There," said Alfred, "let that teach you men will not own hyaenas in
petticoats for women."
Poor Alfred took all the credit of this performance; but in fact, when
the Archbold invited him to bear a hand, he showed the white feather.
_"I_ won't touch the blackguardesses," said he, haughtily turning it off
on the score of contempt. _"You_ give it them! Again, again! Brava!"
Mosaic retribution completed, Mrs. Archbold told the nurses if ever
"tanking recurred she would bundle the whole female staff into the
street, and then have them indicted by the Commissioners."
These virtuous acts did Edith Archbold for love for a young man. Whether
mad women or sane, women pregnant, or the reverse, were tanked or not,
she cared at heart no more than whether sheep were washed or no in
Ettrick's distant dale. She was retiring with a tender look at Alfred,
and her pulse secretly unaccelerated by sheep-washing of she-wolves, when
her grateful favourite appealed to her again:
"Dear Mrs. Archbold, shall we punish and not comfort? This poor Mrs.
The Archbold could have boxed his ears. "Dear boy," she murmured
tenderly, "you teach us all our duty." She visited the tanked one, found
her in a cold room after it, shivering like ague, and her teeth
chattering. Mrs. Archbold had her to the fire, and got her warm clothes
and a pint of wine, and probably saved her life and her child's--for love
of a young man.
Why I think Mrs. Dale would otherwise have left this shifting scene, Mrs.
Carey, the last woman in her condition they tanked and then turned into a
flagged cell that only wanted one frog of a grotto, was found soon after
moribund; on which they bundled her out of the asylum to die. She did die
next day, at home, but murdered by the asylum; and they told the
Commissioners she died through her friends taking her away from the
asylum too soon. The Commissioners had nothing to do but believe this,
and did believe it. Inspectors who visit a temple of darkness, lies,
cunning, and hypocrisy, four times a year, know mighty little of what
goes on there the odd three hundred and sixty-one days, five hours,
forty-eight minutes, and fifty-seven seconds.*
* Arithmetic of my boyhood. I hear the world revolves some minutes
"Now, Alfred," said Mrs. Archbold, "I can't be everywhere, or know
everything; so you come to me when anything grieves you, and let me be
the agent of your humanity."
She said this so charmingly he was surprised into kissing her fair hand;
then blushed, and thanked her warmly. Thus she established a chain
between them. When he let too long elapse without appealing to her, she
would ask his advice about the welfare of this or that patient; and so
she cajoled him by the two foibles she had discerned in him--his vanity
and his humanity.
Besides Alfred, there were two patients in Drayton House who had never
been insane; a young man, and an old woman; of whom anon. There were also
three ladies and one gentleman, who had been deranged, but had recovered
years ago. This little incident, Recovery, is followed in a public asylum
by instant discharge; but, in a private one, Money, not Sanity, is apt to
settle the question of egress. The gentleman's case was scarce credible
in the nineteenth century: years ago, being undeniably cracked, he had
done what Dr. Wycherley told Alfred was a sure sign of sanity: _i.e.,_ he
had declared himself insane; and had even been so reasonable as to sign
his own order and certificates, and so imprison himself illegally, but
with perfect ease; no remonstrance against that illegality from the
guardians of the law! When he got what plain men call sane, he naturally
wanted to be free, and happening to remember he alone had signed the
order of imprisonment, and the imaginary doctor's certificates, he
claimed his discharge from illegal confinement. Answer: "First obtain a
legal order for your discharge." On this he signed an order for his
discharge. "That is not a legal order."--"It is as legal as the order on
which I am here." "Granted; but, legally or not, the asylum has got you;
the open air has not got you. Possession is ninety-nine points of Lunacy
law. Die your own illegal prisoner, and let your kinsfolk eat your land,
and drink your consols, and bury you in a pauper's shroud" All that
Alfred could do for these victims was to promise to try and get them out
some day, D.V. But there was a weak-minded youth, Francis Beverley, who
had the honour to be under the protection of the Lord Chancellor. Now a
lunatic or a Softy, protected by that functionary, is literally a lamb
protected by a wolf, and that wolf _ex officio_ the cruellest, cunningest
old mangler and fleecer of innocents in Christendom. Chancery lunatics
are the richest class, yet numbers of them are flung among pauper and
even criminal lunatics, at a few pounds a year, while their committees
bag four-fifths of the money that has been assigned to keep the patient
Unfortunately the protection of the Chancellor extends to Life and
Reason, as well as Fleece; with the following result:
In public asylums about forty per cent. are said to be cured.
In private ones twenty-five per cent, at least; most of them poorish.
Of Chancery Lunatics not five per cent.
Finally, one-third of all the Chancery Lunatics do every six years
exchange the living tombs they are fleeced and bullied in for dead tombs
where they rest; and go from the sham protection of the Lord Chancellor
of England to the real protection of their Creator and their Judge.
These statistics have been long before the world, and are dead figures to
the Skimmer of things, but tell a dark tale to the Reader of things, so
dark, that I pray Heaven to protect me, and all other weak inoffensive
persons, from the protection of my Lord Chancellor in this kind.
Beverley was so unfortunate as to exist before the date of the above
petition: and suffered the consequences.
He was an aristocrat by birth, noble on both sides of his house, and
unluckily had money. But for that he would have been a labouring man, and
free. My Lord Protector committed him with six hundred pounds a year
maintenance money to the care of his committee, the Honourable Fynes
Now this corporate, yet honourable individual, to whom something was
committed, and so Chancery Lane called him in its own sweet French the
thing committed, was a gentleman of birth, breeding, and intelligence. He
undertook to take care of his simple cousin; and what he did take care of
THE SUB-LETTING SWINDLE.
I. The Honourable Fynes Beverley, Anglo-French committee, or crown
tenant, sub-let soft Francis for L. 300 a year, pocketed L. 300, and
washed his hands of Frank.
2. Mr. Heselden, the sub-tenant, sub-let the Softy of high degree for L.
150, pocketed the surplus, and washed his hands of him.
3. The L. 150 man sub-let him to Dr. Wolf at L. 60 a year, pouched the
surplus, and washed his hands of him.
And now what on earth was left for poor Dr. Wolf to do? Could he
sub-embezzle a Highlander's breeks? Could he subtract more than her skin
from off the singed cat? Could he peel the core of a rotten apple? Could
he pare a grated cheese rind? Could he flay a skinned flint? Could he
fleece a hog after Satan had shaved it as clean as a bantam's egg?
Let no man dare to limit genius; least of all the genius of extortion.
Dr. Wolf screwed comparatively more out of young Frank than did any of
the preceding screws. He turned him into a servant of all work and half
starved him; money profit, L. 45 out of the L. 60, or three-fourths,
whereas the others had only bagged one-half. But by this means he got a
good servant without wages, and on half a servant's food, clearing L. 22
and L. 12 in these two items.
Victim of our great national vice and foible, Vicariousness, this scion
of a noble house, protected in theory by the Crown, vicariously
sub-protected by the Chancellor, sub-vicariously sub-sham protected by
his kin, was really flung unprotected into the fleece market, and might
be seen--at the end of the long chain of subs. pros, vices, locos, shams,
shuffles, swindles, and lies--shaking the carpets, making the beds,
carrying the water, sweeping the rooms, and scouring the sordid vessels,
of thirty patients in Drayton House, not one of whom was his equal either
in birth or wealth; and of four menials, who were all his masters and
hard ones. His work was always doing, never done. He was not the least
mad nor bad, but merely of feeble intellect all round. Fifty thousand
gentlemen's families would have been glad of him at L. 300 a year, and
made a son and a brother of him. But he was under the vicarious
protection of the Lord Chancellor. Thin, half-starved, threadbare, out at
elbows, the universal butt, scoffed at by the very lunatics, and
especially ill treated by the attendants whose work he did gratis, he was
sworn at, jeered, insulted, cuffed and even kicked, every day of his
hard, hard life. And yet he was a gentleman, though a soft one; his
hands, his features, his carriage, his address, had all an indefinable
stamp of race. How had it outlived such crushing, degrading usage? I
don't know; how does a daisy survive the iron roller? Alfred soon found
him out, and to everybody's amazement, especially Frank's, remonstrated
gently but resolutely and eloquently, and soon convinced the majority,
sane and insane, that a creature so meek and useful merited special
kindness, not cruelty. One keeper, The Robin, _alias_ Tom Wales, an
ex--prize fighter, was a warm convert to this view. Among the maniacs
only one held out, and said contemptuously he couldn't see it.
"Well," said Alfred, "lay a finger on him after this, and I'll lay a hand
on you, and aid your intellectual vision."
Rooke and Hayes treated remonstrance with open and galling contempt. Yet
the tide of opinion changed so, they did not care to defy it openly: but
they bullied poor Beverley now and then on the sly, and he never told. He
was too inoffensive for this world. But one day, as Alfred was sitting
with his door ajar, writing a letter of earnest expostulation to the
Commissioners, who had left his first unanswered, he heard Hayes at the
head of the stairs call roughly, "Frank! Frank!"
"Sir," replied the soft little voice of young Beverley.
"Come, be quick, young shaver."
"I'm coming, sir," and up ran Beverley.
"Here, take this tray downstairs."
"Stop, there's a bit of bread for you." And Hayes chucked him a crust, as
one throws it to another man's dog.
"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Beverley, stooping down for it, and being
habitually as hungry as a ratcatcher's tyke, took an eager bite in that
"How dare you eat it there," said Hayes brutally: "take it to your own
crib: come, mizzle." And with that lent him a contemptuous kick behind,
which owing to his position sent him off his balance flat on the tray; a
glass broke under him. Poor young Mr. Beverley uttered a cry of dismay,
for he knew Hayes would not own himself the cause. Hayes cursed him for
an awkward idiot, and the oath went off into a howl, for Alfred ran out
at him brimful of Moses, and with a savage kick in the back and blow on
the neck, administered simultaneously, hurled him head foremost down the
stairs. Alighting on the seventh step, he turned a somersault, and
bounded like a ball on to the landing below, and there lay stupefied. He
picked himself up by slow degrees, and glared round with speechless awe
and amazement up at the human thunderbolt that had shot out on him and
sent him flying like a feather. He shook his fist, and limped silently
away all bruises and curses, to tell Rooke and concert vengeance. Alfred,
trembling still with ire, took Beverley to his room (the boy was as white
as a sheet), and encouraged him, and made him wash properly, brushed his
hair, dressed him in a decent tweed suit he had outgrown, and taking him
under his arm, and walking with his own nose haughtily in the air,
paraded him up and down the asylum, to show them all the best man in the
house respected the poor soft gentleman. Ah, what a grand thing it is to
be young! Beverley clung to his protector too much like a girl, but
walked gracefully and kept step, and every now and then looked up at
Alfred with a loving adoration, that was sweet, yet sad to see. Alfred
marched him to Mrs. Archbold, and told his tale; for he knew Hayes would
misrepresent it, and get him into trouble. She smiled on the pair; gently
deplored her favourite's impetuosity, entreated him not to go fighting
with that great monster Rooke, and charmed him by saying, "Well, and
Frank _is_ a gentleman, when he is dressed like one."
"Isn't he?" said Alfred eagerly. "And whose fault is it he is not always
dressed like one? Whose fault that here's an earl's nephew, 'Boots in
"Not yours, Alfred, nor mine," was the honeyed reply.
In vain did Mr. Hayes prefer his complaint to Dr. Wolf. The Archbold had
been before him, and the answer was, "Served you right."
These and many other good deeds did Alfred Hardie in Drayton House. But,
as the days rolled on, and no answer came from the Commissioners, his own
anxiety, grief, and dismay left him less and less able to sympathise with
the material but smaller wrongs around him. He became silent, dejected.
At last he came to Mrs. Archbold, and said sternly his letters to the
Commissioners were intercepted.
"I can't believe that," said she. "It is against the law."
So it was: but law and custom are two.
"I am sure of it," said he; "and may the eternal curse of Heaven light on
the cowardly traitor and miscreant who has done it." And he stalked
When he left her, she sighed at this imprecation from his lips; but did
not repent. "I _can't_ part with him," she said despairingly; "and if I
did not stop his poor dear letters, Wolf would:" and the amorous
crocodile shed a tear, and persisted in her double-faced course.
By-and-by, when she saw him getting thinner and paler, and his bright
face downcast and inexpressibly sad, she shared his misery: ay, shed
scalding tears for him: yet could not give him up; for her will was as
strong as the rest of her was supple; and hers was hot love, but not true
love like Julia's.
Perhaps a very subtle observer, seeing this man and woman wax pale and
spiritless together in one house, might have divined her secret. Dr.
Wolf, then, was no such observer, for she made him believe she had a
rising _penchant_ for him. He really had a strong one for her.
While Alfred's visible misery pulled at her heart-strings, and sometimes
irritated, sometimes melted her, came curious complications; one of which
Mrs. Dodd then was not the wife to trust blindly where her poor husband
was concerned. She bribed so well that a keeperess in David's first
asylum told her David had been harshly used by an attendant. She
instantly got Eve Dodd to take him away: and transfer him to a small
asylum nearer London, and kept by a Mrs. Ellis. "Women are not cruel to
men," said the sagacious Lucy Dodd.
But, alas! if women are not cruel where sex comes in and mimics that
wider sentiment, Humanity, women are deadly economical. Largely gifted
with that household virtue, Mrs. Ellis kept too few servants, and, sure
consequence in a madhouse, too many straitjackets, hobbles, muffs,
leg-locks, bodybelts, &c. &c. Hence half her patients were frequently
kept out of harm's way by cruel restraints administered, not out of
hearty cruelty, but female parsimony. Mrs. and Miss Dodd invaded the
house one day when the fair economist was out, and found seven patients
out of the twelve kept out of mischief thus: one in a restraint chair,
two hobbled like asses, two chained like dogs, and two in
straight-waistcoats, and fastened to beds by webbing and straps; amongst
the latter, David, though quiet as a lamb.
Mrs. Dodd cried over him as if her heart would break, and made Miss Dodd
shift him to a large asylum, where I believe he was very well used. But
here those dreadful newspapers interfered; a prying into sweet secluded
spots. They diversified Mrs. Dodd's breakfast by informing her that the
doctor of this asylum had just killed a patient; the mode of execution
bloodless and sure, as became fair science. It was a man between sixty
and seventy; an age at which the heart can seldom stand very much
shocking, or lowering, especially where the brain is diseased. So they
placed him in a shower-bath, narrow enough to impede respiration, without
the falling water, which of necessity drives out air. In short a vertical
box with holes all round the top.
Here the doctor ordered him a cold shower-bath of unparalleled duration:
half an hour. To be followed by an unprecedented dose of tartar emetic.
This double-barrelled order given, the doctor went away. (Formula.)
The water was down to forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Half an hour's
shower-bath at that temperature in a roomy bath would kill the youngest
and strongest man in her Majesty's dominions.
For eight-and-twenty mortal minutes the poor old man stood in this
vertical coffin under this cold cascade. Six hundred gallons of icy water
were in that his last hour, his last half-hour, discharged upon his
devoted head and doomed body.
He had to be helped away from this death-torrent he had walked into in
high spirits, poor soul.
Even this change awakened no misgivings, no remorse; though you or I, or
any man or woman picked at hazard out of the streets, would at once have
seen that he was dying, he was duly dozed by the fire with four spoonfuls
of antimonial tincture--_to mak' sicker._ But even the "Destructive Art
of Healing" cannot slay the slain. The old man cheated the emetic; for,
before it could hurt him, he died of the bath; And his body told its own
sad tale; to use the words of a medical eye-witness, it was "A PIECE OF
ALABASTER." The death-torrent had driven the whole circulation from the
* This mode of execution is well known in the United States. They settle
refractory prisoners with it periodically. But half an hour is not
needed; twenty minutes will do the trick. _"Harper's Weekly,_" a year or
two ago, contained an admirable woodcut of a negro's execution by water.
In this remarkable picture you see the poor darkie seated powerless,
howling and panting his life away under the deadly cascade, and there
stands the stolid turnkey, erect, formal, stiff as a ramrod, pulling the
deadly string with a sort of drill exercise air, and no more compunction
nor reflection than if he himself was a machine constructed to pull
strings or triggers on his own string being pulled by butcher or fool. A
picture well studied, and so worth study.
Mrs. Dodd was terrified, and in spite of Sampson's assurance that this
was the asylum of all others they would not settle another patient in
until the matter should have blown over, got Eve Dodd to write to Dr.
Wolf, and offer L. 300 a year if he would take David at once, and treat
him with especial consideration.
He showed this letter triumphantly to Mrs. Archbold, and she, blinded for
a moment by feeling, dissuaded him from receiving Captain Dodd. He stared
at her. "What, turn away a couple of thousand pounds?"
"But they will come to visit him; and perhaps see him."
"Oh, that can be managed. You must be on your guard: and I'll warn Rooke.
I can't turn away money on a chance."
One day Alfred found himself locked into his room. This was unusual: for,
though they called him a lunatic in words, they called him sane by all
their acts. He half suspected that the Commissioners were in the house.
Had he known who really was in the house, he would have beaten himself to
pieces against the door.
At dinner there was a new patient, very mild and silent, with a beautiful
large brown eye, like some gentle animal's.
Alfred was very much struck with this eye, and contrived to say a kind
word to him after dinner. Finding himself addressed by a gentleman, the
new comer handled his forelock and made a sea scrape, and announced
himself as William Thompson; he added with simple pride, "Able Seaman;"
then touching his forelock again, "Just come aboard, your honour." After
this, which came off glibly, he was anything but communicative. However,
Alfred contrived to extract from him that he was rather glad to leave his
last ship, on account of having been constantly impeded there in his
duties by a set of lubbers, that clung round him and kept him on deck
whenever the first lieutenant ordered him into the top.
The very next day, pacing sadly the dull gravel of his prison yard,
Alfred heard a row; and there was the able seaman struggling with the
Robin and two other keepers. He wanted to go to his duties in the
foretop: to wit, the fork of a high elm-tree in the court-yard. Alfred
had half a mind not to interfere. "Who cares for _my_ misery?" he said.
But his better nature prevailed, and he told the Robin he was sure going
up imaginary rigging would do Thompson more good than harm.
On this the men reluctantly gave him a trial, and he went up the tree
with wonderful strength and agility, but evident caution. Still Alfred
quaked when he crossed his thighs tight over a limb of the tree forty
feet from earth, and went carefully and minutely through the whole
process of furling imaginary sails. However, he came down manifestly
soothed by the performance, and, singular phenomenon, he was quite cool;
and it was the spectators on deck who perspired.
"And what a pleasant voice he has," said Alfred; "it quite charms my ear;
it is not like a mad voice. It is like--I'm mad myself."
"And he has got a fiddle, and plays it like a hangel, by all accounts,"
said the Robin; "only he won't touch it but when he has a mind."
At night Alfred dreamed he heard Julia's sweet mellow voice speaking to
him; and he looked, and lo! it was the able seaman. He could sleep no
more, but lay sighing.
Ere the able seaman had been there three days, Mrs. Dodd came
unexpectedly to see him; and it was with the utmost difficulty Alfred was
smuggled out of the way. Mrs. Archbold saw by her loving anxiety these
visits would be frequent, and, unless Alfred was kept constantly locked
up, which was repugnant to her, they would meet some day. She knew there
are men who ply the trade of spies, and where to find them; she set one
of them to watch Mrs. Dodd's house, and learn her habits, in hopes of
getting some clue as to when she might be expected.
Now it so happened that, looking for one thing, she found another which
gave her great hopes and courage. And then the sight of Alfred's misery
tried her patience, and then he was beginning half to suspect her of
stopping his letters. Passion, impatience, pity, and calculation, all
drove her the same road, and led to an extraordinary scene, so
impregnated with the genius of the madhouse--a place where the passions
run out to the very end of their tether--that I feel little able to
describe it. I will try and indicate it.
One fine Sunday afternoon, then, she asked Alfred languidly would he like
to walk in the country.
"Would I like? Ah, don't trifle with a prisoner," said he sorrowfully.
She shook her head. "No, no, it will not be a happy walk. Rooke, who
hates you, is to follow us with that terrible mastiff, to pull you down
if you try to escape. I could not get Dr. Wolf to consent on any other
terms. Alfred, let us give up the idea. I fear your rashness."
"No, no, I won't try to escape--from you. I have not seen a blade of
grass this six months."
The accomplished dissembler hesitated, yielded. They passed through the
yard and out at the back door, which Alfred had so often looked wistfully
at; and by-and-by reached a delicious pasture. A light golden haze
streamed across it. Nature never seemed so sweet, so divine, to Alfred
before; the sun as bright as midsummer, though not the least hot, the air
fresh, yet genial, and perfumed with Liberty and the smaller flowers of
earth. Beauty glided rustling by his side, and dark eyes subdued their
native fire into softness whenever they turned on him; and scarce fifty
yards in the rear hung a bully and a mastiff ready to tear him down if he
should break away from beauty's light hand, that rested so timidly on
his. He was young, and stout-hearted, and relished his peep of liberty
and nature, though blotted by Vulcan and Rooke. He chatted to Mrs.
Archbold in good spirits. She answered briefly, and listlessly.
At last she stopped under a young chestnut-tree as if overcome with a
sudden reflection, and turning half away from him leaned her head and
hand upon a bough, and sighed. The attitude was pensive and womanly. He
asked her with innocent concern what was the matter; then faintly should
he take her home. All her answer was to press his hand with hers that was
disengaged, and, instead of sighing, to cry.
The novice in woman's wiles set himself to comfort her--in vain; to
question her--in vain at first; but by degrees she allowed him to learn
that it was for him she mourned; and so they proceeded on the old, old
plan, the man extorting from the woman bit by bit just so much as she
wanted all along to say, and would have poured in a stream if let quite
He drew from his distressed friend that Dr. Wolf for reasons of his own
had made special inquiries about the Dodds; that she had fortunately or
unfortunately heard of this, and had questioned the person employed,
hoping to hear something that might comfort Alfred. "Instead of that,"
said she, "I find Miss Dodd is like most girls; out of sight is out of
mind with her."
"What do you mean?" said Alfred, trembling suddenly.
"Do not ask me. What a weak fool I was to let you see I was unhappy for
"The truth is the truth," gasped Alfred; "tell me at once."
"Must I? I am afraid you will hate me; for I should hate any one who told
me your faults. Well, then--if I must-- Miss Dodd has a beau."
"It is a lie!" cried Alfred furiously.
"I wish it was. But she has two in fact, both of them clergymen. However,
one seems the favourite; at least they are engaged to be married; it is
Mr. Hurd, the curate of the parish she lives in. By what I hear she is
one of the religious ones; so perhaps that has brought the pair to an
At these words a cold sickness rushed all over Alfred, beginning at his
heart. He stood white and stupefied a moment; then, in the anguish of his
heart, broke out into a great and terrible cry; it was like a young lion
wounded with a poisoned shaft.
Then he was silent, and stood stock still, like petrified despair.
Mrs. Archbold was prepared for an outburst: but not of this kind. His
anguish was so unlike a woman's that it staggered her. Her good and bad
angels, to use an expressive though somewhat too poetical phrase, battled
for her. She had an impulse to earn his gratitude for life, to let him
out of the asylum ere Julia should be Mrs. Hurd, and even liberty come
too late for true love. She looked again at the statue of grief by her
side; and burst out crying in earnest.
This was unfortunate. Shallow pity exuding in salt water leaves not
enough behind to gush forth in good deeds.
She only tried to undo her own work in part; to comfort him a little with
commonplaces. She told him in a soothing whisper there were other women
in the world besides this inconstant girl, others who could love him as
He made no answer to all she could say, but just waved his hand once
impatiently. Petty consolation seemed to sting him.
She drew back discouraged; but only for a while. He was silent.
With one grand serpentine movement she came suddenly close to him, and,
standing half behind him, laid her hand softly on his shoulder, and
poured burning love in his ear. "Alfred," she murmured, "we are both
unhappy; let us comfort one another. I had pity on you at Silverton
House, I pity you now: pity _me_ a little in turn: take me out of this
dreadful house, out of this revolting life, and let me be with you. Let
me be your housekeeper, your servant, your slave. This news that has
shocked you so has torn the veil from my eyes. I thought I had cooled my
love down to friendship and tender esteem; but no, now I see you as
unhappy as myself, now I can speak and wrong no one, I own I--oh Alfred
my heart burns for you, bleeds for you, yearns for you, sickens for you,
dies for you."
"Oh, hush! hush! Mrs. Archbold. You are saying things you will blush for
the next moment."
"I blush now, but cannot hush; I have gone too far. And your happiness as
well as mine is at stake. No young girl can understand or value such a
man as you are: but I, like you, have suffered; I, like you, am constant;
I, like you, am warm and tender; at my age a woman's love is bliss to him
who can gain it; and I love you with all my soul, Alfred. I worship the
ground you walk on, my sweet, sweet boy. Say you the word, dearest, and I
will bribe the servants, and get the keys, and sacrifice my profession
for ever to give you liberty (see how sweet the open face of nature is,
sweeter than anything on earth, but love); and all I ask is a little,
little of your heart in return. Give me a chance to make you mine for
ever; and, if I fail, treat me as I shall deserve; desert me at once; and
then I'll never reproach you; I'll only die for you; as I have lived for
you ever since I first saw your heavenly face."
The passionate woman paused at last, but her hot cheek and heaving bosom
and tender convulsive hand prolonged the pleading.
I am afraid few men of her own age would have resisted her; for voice and
speech and all burning, melting, and winning; and then, so reasonable,
lads; she did not stipulate for constancy.
But Alfred turned round to her blushing and sorrowful. "For shame!" he
said; "this is not love: you abuse that sacred word. Indeed, if you had
ever really loved, you would have pitied me and Julia long ago, and
respected our love; and saved us by giving me my freedom long ago. I am
not a fool: do you think I don't know that you are my jailer, and the
cunningest and most dangerous of them all?"
"You cruel, ungrateful!" she sobbed.
"No; I am not ungrateful either," said he more gently. "You have always
come between me and that kind of torture which most terrifies vulgar
souls: and I thank you for it. Only if you had also pitied the deeper
anguish of my heart, I should thank you more still. As it is, I forgive
you for the share you have had in blasting my happiness for life; and
nobody shall ever know what you have been mad enough in an unguarded
moment to say; but for pity's sake talk no more of love, to mock my
Mrs. Archbold was white with ire long before he had done this sentence.
"You insolent creature," said she; "you spurn my love; you shall feel my
"So I conclude," said he coldly: "such love as yours is hard by hate."
"It is," said she: "and I know how I'll combine the two. To-day I loved
you, and you spurned me; ere long you shall love me and I'll despise you;
and not spurn you."
"I don't understand you," said Alfred, feeling rather uneasy.
"What," said she, "don't you see how the superior mind can fascinate the
inferior? Look at Frank Beverley--how he follows you about and fawns on
you like a little dog."
"I prefer his sort of affection to yours."
"A gentleman and a man would have kept that to himself; but you are
neither one nor the other; or you would have taken my offer, and then run
away from me the next day, you fool. A man betrays a woman; he doesn't
insult her. Ah, you admire Frank's affection; well, you shall imitate it.
You couldn't love me like a man; you shall love me like a dog."
"How will you manage that, pray? " he inquired with a sneer.
"I'll drive you mad."
She hissed this fiendish threat out between her white teeth.
"Ay, sir," she said, "hitherto your reason has only encountered men. You
shall see now what an insulted woman can do. A lunatic you shall be ere
long, and then I'll make you love me, dote on me, follow me about for a
smile: and then I'll leave off hating you, and love you once more, but
not the way I did five minutes ago."
At this furious threat Alfred ground his teeth, and said, "Then I give
you my honour that the moment I see my reason the least shaken, I'll kill
you: and so save myself from the degradation of being your lover on any
"Threaten your own sex with that," said the Archbold contemptuously; "you
may kill me whenever you like; and the sooner the better. Only, if you
don't do it very quickly, you shall be my property, my brain-sick,
AFTER a defiance so bitter and deadly, Alfred naturally drew away from
his inamorata. But she, boiling with love and hate, said bitterly, "We
need not take Mr. Rooke into our secrets. Come, sir, your arm!"
He stuck it out ungraciously, and averted his head; she took it,
suppressed with difficulty a petty desire to pinch, and so walked by his
side. He was as much at his ease as if promenading jungles with a
panther. She felt him quiver with repugnance under her soft hand; and
prolonged the irritating contact. She walked very slowly, and told him
with much meaning she was waiting for a signal. "Till then," said she,
"we will keep one another company;" biting the word with her teeth as it
By-and-by a window was opened in the asylum, and a table-cloth hung out.
Mrs. Archbold pointed it out to Alfred; he stared at it; and after that
she walked him rapidly home in silence. But, as soon as the door was
double-locked on him, she whispered triumphantly in his ear--
"Your mother-in-law was expected to-day; that signal was to let me know
she was gone."
"My mother-in-law!" cried the young man, and tried in vain to conceal his
surprise and agitation.
"Ay; your mother-in-law, that shall never be. Mrs. Dodd."
"Mrs. Dodd here!" said Alfred, clasping his hands. Then he reflected, and
said coolly: "It is false; what should she come here for?"
"To see your father-in-law."
"My father-in-law? What, is he here, too?" said Alfred with an
"Yes, the raving maniac that calls himself Thompson, and that you took to
from the first: he is your precious father-in-law--that shall never be."
Alfred was now utterly amazed, and bewildered. Mrs. Archbold eyed him in
"Poor man," said he at last; and hung his head sorrowfully. "No wonder
then his voice went so to my heart. How strange it all is! and how will
it all end?"
"In your being a madman instead of an insolent fool," hissed the viper.
At this moment Beverley appeared at the end of the yard. Mrs. Archbold
whistled him to her like a dog. He came running zealously. "Who was that
called while I was out?" she inquired.
"A polite lady, madam: she said sir to me, and thanked me."
"That sounds like Mrs. Dodd," said the Archbold quietly.
"Ah, but," continued Frank, "there was another with her a beautiful young
lady; oh, so beautiful!"
"Miss Julia Dodd," said the Archbold grimly.
Alfred panted, and his eyes roved wildly in search of a way to escape and
follow her; she could not be far off.
"Anybody else, Frank?" inquired Mrs. Archbold.
"No more ladies, madam; but there was a young gentleman all in black. I
think he was a clergyman--or a butler."
"Ah, that was her husband that is to be; that was Mr. Hurd. She can go
nowhere without him, not even to see her old beau."
At these words, every one of them an adder, Alfred turned on her
furiously, and his long arm shot out of its own accord, and the fingers
opened like an eagle's claw. She saw, and understood, but never blenched.
Her vindictive eye met his dilating flashing orbs unflinchingly.
"You pass for a woman," he said, "and I am too wretched for anger." He
turned from her with a deep convulsive sob, and, almost staggering,
leaned his brow against the wall of the house.
She had done what no man had as yet succeeded in; she had broken his
spirit. And here a man would have left him alone. But the rejected beauty
put her lips to his ear, and whispered into them, "This is only the
beginning." Then she left him and went to his room and stole all his
paper, and pens, and ink, and his very Aristotle. He was to have no
occupation now, except to brood, and brood, and brood.
As for Alfred, he sat down upon a bench in the yard a broken man: up to
this moment he had hoped his Julia was as constant as himself. But no;
either she had heard he was mad, and with the universal credulity had
believed it, or perhaps, not hearing from him at all believed herself
forsaken; and was consoling herself with a clergyman. Jealousy did not as
yet infuriate Alfred. Its first effect resembled that of a heavy blow.
Little Beverley found him actually sick, and ran to the Robin. The