Part 9 out of 15
in love with her just to cut him out.
"What are you talking about?" said Alfred. "So this is the reason you
have kept away from me of late: why, I was engaged to her at the very
time; only my father was keeping us apart."
"Then why didn't you say so?"
"Because my love is not of the prattling sort."
"Oh, nonsense; I don't believe a word of it."
"You don't believe my word! Did you ever know me tell a lie? At that rate
think what you please, sir: drive on, Strabo."
And so ended that little friendship.
On the road our ardent youth arranged in his head a noble scheme. He
would bring Peggy Black home with him, compensating her liberally for the
place she would thereby lose: would confront her privately with his
father, and convince him it was his interest to restore the Dodds their
money with a good grace, take the L. 5000 he had already offered, and
countenance the wedding by letting Jane be present at it. It was hard to
do all this in the time, but well worth trying for, and not impossible. A
two-horse fly is not a slow conveyance, and he offered the man a guinea
to drive fast; so that it was not nine o'clock when they reached
Silverton Grove House, a place Alfred had never heard of. This, however,
I may observe, was no wonder: for it had not borne that name a
It was a large square mansion of red brick, with stone facings and
corners, and with balustrades that hid the garret windows. It stood in
its own grounds, and the entrance was through handsome iron gates, one of
which was wide open to admit people on foot or horseback. The flyman got
down and tried to open the other, but could not manage it. "There, don't
waste time," said Alfred impatiently, "let me out."
He found a notice under the bell, "Ring and enter." He rang accordingly,
and at the clang the hall-door opened, as if he had pulled a porter along
with the bell; and a grey-haired servant out of livery stood on the steps
to receive him. Alfred hurried across the plat, which was trimmed as
neatly as a college green, and asked the servant if he could see Margaret
"Margaret Black?" said the man doubtfully: "I'll inquire, sir. Please to
They entered a handsome hall, with antlers and armour: from this a double
staircase led up to a landing with folding doors in the centre of it; one
of these doors was wide open like the iron gate outside. The servant
showed Alfred up the left-hand staircase, through the open door, into a
spacious drawing-room, handsomely though not gaily furnished and
decorated, but a little darkened by Venetian blinds.
The old servant walked gravely on and on, till Alfred began to think he
would butt the wall; but he put his hand out and opened a door that might
very well escape a stranger's notice; for it was covered with
looking-glass, and matched another narrow mirror in shape and size. This
door led into a very long room, as plain and even sordid as the
drawing-room was inviting: the unpapered walls were a cold drab, and
wanted washing; there was a thick cobweb up in one corner, and from the
ceiling hung the tail of another, which the housemaid's broom had
scotched not killed: that side of the room they entered by was all books.
The servant said, "Stay here a moment, sir, and I'll send her to you."
With this he retired into the drawing-room, closing the door softly after
him: once closed it became invisible; it fitted like wax, and left
nothing to be seen but books; not even a knob. It shut to with that
gentle but clean click which a spring bolt, however polished and oiled
and gently closed, will emit. Altogether it was enough to give some
people a turn. But Alfred's nerves were not to be affected by trifles; he
put his hands in his pockets and walked up and down the room, quietly
enough at first, but by-and-bye uneasily. "Confound her for wasting my
time," thought he; "why doesn't she come?
Then, as he had learned to pick up the fragments of time, and hated
dawdling, he went to take a book from the shelves.
He found it was a piece of iron, admirably painted: it chilled his hand
with its unexpected coldness: and all the books on and about the door
were iron and chilly.
"Well," thought he, "this is the first dummy ever took me in. What a fool
the man must be! Why he could have bought books with ideas in them for
the price of these impostors."
Still Peggy did not come. So he went to a door opposite, and at right
angles to the farthest window, meaning to open it and inquire after her:
lo and behold he found this was a knob without a door. There had been a
door but it was blocked up. The only available door on that side had a
keyhole, but no latch, nor handle.
Alfred was a prisoner.
He no sooner found this out than he began to hammer on the door with his
fists, and call out.
This had a good effect, for he heard a woman's dress come rustling: a key
was inserted, and the door opened. But, instead of Peggy, it was a tall
well-formed woman of thirty, with dark grey eyes, and straightish
eyebrows massive and black as jet. She was dressed quietly but like a
lady. Mrs. Archbold, for that was her name, cast on Alfred one of those
swift, all-devouring glances, with which her sex contrive to take in the
features, character, and dress of a person from head to foot, and smiled
most graciously on him, revealing a fine white set of teeth. She begged
him to take a seat; and sat down herself. She had left the door ajar.
"I came to see Margaret Black," said Alfred.
"Margaret Black? There is no such person here," was the quiet reply.
"What! has she gone away so early as this?"
Mrs. Archbold smiled, and said soothingly, "Are you sure she ever
existed; except in your imagination?"
Alfred laughed at this, and showed her Peggy's letter. She ran her eye
over it, and returned it him with a smile of a different kind, half
pitying, half cynical. But presently resuming her former manner, "I
remember now," said she in dulcet tones: "the anxiety you are labouring
under is about a large sum of money, is it not?"
"What, can you give me any information about it?" said he, surprised.
"I think we can render you great _service_ in the matter, infinite
service, Mr. Hardie," was the reply, in a voice of very honey.
Alfred was amazed at this. "You say you don't know Peggy! And yet you
seem to know me. I never saw you in my life before, madam; what on earth
is the meaning of all this?"
"Calm yourself," said Mrs. Archbold, laying a white and finely moulded
hand upon his arm, "there is no wonder nor mystery in the matter: _you
The colour rushed into Alfred's face, and he started to his feet; some
vague instinct told him to be gone from this place.
The lady fixed her eyes on him, put her hand to a gold chain that was
round her neck, and drew out of her white bosom, not a locket, nor a key,
but an ivory whistle. Keeping her eye steadily fixed on Alfred, she
breathed softly into the whistle. Then two men stepped quietly in at the
door; one was a short, stout snob, with great red whiskers, the other a
wiry gentleman with iron-grey hair. The latter spoke to Alfred, and began
to coax him. If Mrs. Archbold was honey, this personage was treacle. "Be
calm, my dear young gentleman; don't agitate yourself. You have been sent
here for your good; and that you may be cured, and so restored to society
and to your anxious and affectionate friends."
"What are you talking about? what do you mean?" cried Alfred; "are you
"No, _we_ are not," said the short snob, with a coarse laugh.
"Have done with this fooling, then," said Alfred sharply; "the person I
came to see is not here; good morning."
The short man instantly stepped to the door, and put his back to it. The
other said calmly, " No, Mr. Hardie, you cannot leave the house at
"Can't I? Why not, pray?" said Alfred, drawing his breath hard: and his
eyes began to glitter dangerously.
"We are responsible for your safety: we have force at hand if necessary;
pray do not compel us to summon it."
"Why, where am I?" said Alfred, panting now; "is this a prison?"
"No, no," said Mrs. Archbold soothingly: "it is a place where you will be
cured of your headaches and your delusions, and subjected to no
unnecessary pain nor restraint."
"Oh, bother," said the short snob brutally. "Why make two bites of a
cherry? You are in my asylum, young gentleman, and a devilish lucky thing
At this fatal word, "asylum," Alfred uttered a cry of horror and despair,
and his eyes roved wildly round the room in search of escape. But the
windows of the room, though outside the house they seemed to come as low
as those of the drawing-room, were partly bricked-up within, and made
just too high to be reached without a chair. And his captors read that
wild glance directly, and the doctor whipped one chair away, while Mrs.
Archbold, with more tact, sat quietly down on the other. They all three
blew their whistles shrilly.
Alfred uttered an oath and rushed at the door; but heard heavy feet
running on stone passages towards the whistles, and felt he had no chance
out that way: his dilating eye fell upon the handle of the old defunct
door: he made a high leap, came down with his left foot on its knob of
brass, and, though of course he could not stand on it, contrived to
spring from it slap at the window--Mrs. Archbold screamed--he broke the
glass with his shoulder, and tore and kicked the woodwork, and squeezed
through on to a stone ledge outside, and stood there bleeding and
panting, just as half a dozen keepers burst into the room at his back. He
was more than twenty feet from the ground: to leap down was death or
mutilation: he saw the flyman driving away. He yelled to him, "Hy! hy!
stop! stop!" The flyman stopped and looked round. But soon as he saw who
it was, he just grinned: Alfred could see his hideous grin; and there was
the rattle of chairs being brought to the window, and men were mounting
softly to secure him. A coarse hand stole towards his ankle; he took a
swift step and sprang desperately on to the next ledge--it was an old
manor house, and these ledges were nearly a foot broad--from this one he
bounded to the next, and then to a third, the last but one on this side
of the building. The corner ledge was but half the size, and offered no
safe footing: but close to it he saw the outside leaves of a tree. That
tree, then, must grow close to the corner; could he but get round to it
he might yet reach the ground whole. Urged by that terror of a madhouse
which is natural to a sane man, and in England is fed by occasional
disclosures, and the general suspicion they excite, he leaped on to a
piece of stone no bigger than one's hat, and then whirled himself round
into the tree, all eyes to see and claws to grasp.
It was a weeping ash: he could get hold of nothing but soft yielding
slivers, that went through his fingers, and so down with him like a
bulrush, and souse he went with his hands full of green leaves over head
and ears into the water of an enormous iron tank that fed the baths.
The heavy plunge, the sudden cold water, the instant darkness, were
appalling: yet, like the fox among the hounds, the gallant young
gentleman did not lose heart nor give tongue. He came up gurgling and
gasping, and swimming for his life in manly silence: he swam round and
round the edge of the huge tank, trying in vain to get a hold upon its
cold rusty walls. He heard whistles and voices about: they came faint to
him where he was, but he knew they could not be very far off.
Life is sweet. It flashed across him how, a few years before, a
university man of great promise had perished miserably in a tank on some
Swiss mountain--a tank placed for the comfort of travellers. He lifted
his eyes to Heaven in despair, and gave one great sob.
Then he turned upon his back and floated: but he was obliged to paddle
with his hands a little to keep up.
A window opened a few feet above him, and a face peered out between the
Then he gave all up for lost, and looked to hear a voice denounce him;
but no: the livid face and staring eyes at the window took no notice of
him: it was a maniac, whose eyes, bereft of reason, conveyed no images to
the sentient brain. Only by some half vegetable instinct this darkened
man was turning towards the morning sun, and staring it full in the face.
Alfred saw the rays strike and sparkle on those glassy orbs, and fire
them; yet they never so much as winked. He was appalled yet fascinated by
this weird sight: could not take his eyes off it, and shuddered at it in
the very water. With such creatures as that he must be confined, or die
miserably like a mouse in a basin of water.
He hesitated between two horrors.
Presently his foot struck something, and he found it was a large pipe
that entered the tank to the distance of about a foot This pipe was not
more than three feet under water, and Alfred soon contrived to get upon
it, and rest his fingers upon the iron edge of the tank. The position was
painful: yet so he determined to remain till night: and then, if
possible, steal away. Every faculty of mind and body was strung up to
defend himself against the wretches who had entrapped him.
He had not been long in this position, when voices approached, and next
the shadow of a ladder moved across the wall towards him. The keepers
were going to search his pitiable hiding-place. They knew, what he did
not, that there was no outlet from the premises: so now, having hunted
every other corner and cranny, they came by what is called the exhaustive
process of reasoning to this tank; and when they got near it, something
in the appearance of the tree caught the gardener's quick eye. Alfred
quaking heard him say, "Look here! He is not far from this."
Another voice said, "Then the Lord have mercy on him; why there's seven
foot of water; I measured it last night."
At this Alfred was conscious of a movement and a murmur, that proved
humanity was not extinct; and the ladder was fixed close to the tank, and
feet came hastily up it.
But, as usual with spirits so quickwitted and resolute, it was but for a
moment. "One man in his time plays many animals;" he caught at the words
he had heard, and played the game the jackal desperate plays in India,
the fox in England, the elephant in Ceylon: he feigned death; filled his
mouth with water, floated on his back paddling imperceptibly, and half
closed his eyes.
He was rewarded by a loud shout of dismay just above his head, and very
soon another ladder was placed on the other side, and with ropes and
hands he was drawn out and carried down the ladder: he took this
opportunity to discharge the water from his mouth, on which a coarse
voice said, "Look there! _His_ troubles are at an end."
However, they laid him on the grass, and sent for the doctor; then took
off his coat, and one of them began to feel his heart to see whether
there was any pulsation left: he found it thumping. "Look out," he cried
in some alarm; "he's shamming Abraham."
But, before the words were well uttered, Alfred, who was a practised
gymnast, bounded off the ground without touching it with his hands, and
fled like a deer towards the front of the house: for he remembered the
open iron gate. The attendants followed shouting, and whistle answered
whistle all over the grounds. Alfred got safe to the iron gate: alas! it
had been closed at the first whistle twenty minutes ago. He turned in
rage and desperation, and the head-keeper, a powerful man, was rushing
incautiously upon him. Alfred instantly steadied himself, and with his
long arm caught the man in full career a left-handed blow like the kick
of a pony, that laid his cheek open and knocked him stupid and
staggering. He followed it up like lightning with his right, and,
throwing his whole weight into this second blow, sent the staggering man
to grass; slipped past another, and skirting the south side of the house
got to the tank again well in advance of his pursuers, seized the ladder,
carried it to the garden wall, and was actually half way up it, and saw
the open country and liberty, when the ladder was dragged away and he
fell heavily to the ground, and a keeper threw himself bodily on him.
Alfred half expected this, and drawing up his foot in time, dashed it
furiously in the coming face, actually knocking the man backwards.
Another kneeled on his chest: Alfred caught him by the throat so felly
that he lost all power, and they rolled over and over together, and
Alfred got clear and ran for it again, and got on the middle of the lawn,
and hallooed to the house:--"Hy! hy! Are there any more sane men
imprisoned there? Come out, and fight for your lives!" Instantly the open
windows were filled with white faces, some grinning, some exulting, all
greatly excited; and a hideous uproar shook the whole place--for the poor
souls were all sane in their own opinion --and the whole force of
attendants, two of them bleeding profusely from his blows, made a cordon
and approached him. But he was too cunning to wait to be fairly
surrounded; he made his rush at an under-keeper, feinted at his head,
caught him a heavy blow in the pit of the stomach, doubled him up in a
moment, and off again, leaving the man on his knees vomiting and
groaning. Several mild maniacs ran out in vast agitation, and, to curry
favour, offered to help catch him. Vast was their zeal. But when it came
to the point, they only danced wildly about and cried, "Stop him! for
God's sake stop him! he's ill, dreadfully ill; poor wretch! knock out his
brains!" And, whenever he came near them, away they ran whining like
Mrs. Archbold, looking out at a window, advised them all to let him
alone, and she would come out and persuade him. But they would not be
advised: they chased him about the lawn; but so swift of foot was he, and
so long in the reach, that no one of them could stop him, nor indeed come
near him, without getting a facer that came like a flash of lightning.
At last, however, they got so well round him, he saw his chance was gone:
he took off his hat to Mrs. Archbold at the window, and said quietly, "I
surrender to _you,_ madam."
At these words they rushed on him rashly. On this he planted two blows
right and left, swift as a cat attacked by dogs; administered two fearful
black eyes, and instantly folded his arms, saying haughtily, "It was to
the lady I yielded, not to you fellows."
They seized him, shook their fists in his face, cursed him, and pinned
him. He was quite passive: they handcuffed him, and drove him before
them, shoving him every now and then roughly by the shoulders. He made no
resistance, spoke no word. They took him to the strong-room, and manacled
his ankles together with an iron hobble, and then strapped them to the
bed-posts, and fastened his body down by broad bands of ticking with
leathern straps at the ends: and so left him more helpless than a
swaddled infant. The hurry and excitement of defence were over, and a
cold stupor of misery came down and sat like lead on him. He lay mute as
death in his gloomy cell, a tomb within a living tomb. And, as he lay,
deeper horror grew and grew in his dilating eyes: gusts of rage swept
over him, shook him, and passed: then gusts of despairing tenderness; all
came and went, but his bonds. What would his Julia think? If he could
only let her know! At this thought he called, he shouted, he begged for a
messenger; there was no reply. The cry of a dangerous lunatic from the
strong-room was less heeded here than a bark from any dog-kennel in
Christendom. "This is my father's doing," he said. "Curse him! Curse him
Curse him!" and his brain seemed on fire, his temples throbbed: he vowed
to God to be revenged on his father.
Then he writhed at his own meanness in coming to visit a servant and his
folly in being caught by so shallow an artifice. He groaned aloud. The
clock in the hall struck ten. There was just time to get back if they
would lend him a conveyance. He shouted, he screamed, he prayed. He
offered terms humbly, piteously; he would forgive his father, forgive
them all, he would say no more about the money, would do anything,
consent to anything, if they would only let him keep faith with his
Julia: they had better consent, and not provoke his vengeance. "Have
mercy on me!" he cried. "Don't make me insult her I love. They will all
be waiting for me. It is my wedding-day; you can't have known it is my
wedding-day; fiends, monsters, I tell you it is my wedding-day. Oh, pray
send the lady to me; she can't be all stone, and my misery might melt a
stone." He listened for an answer, he prayed for an answer. There was
none. Once in a mad-house, the sanest man is mad, however interested and
barefaced the motive of the relative who has brought two of the most
venal class upon the earth to sign away his wits behind his back. And
once hobbled and strapped, he is a _dangerous_ maniac, for just so many
days, weeks, or years, as the hobbles, handcuffs, and jacket happen to be
left upon him by inhumanity, economy, or simple carelessness. Poor
Alfred's cries and prayers were heard, but no more noticed than the night
howl of a wolf on some distant mountain. All was sullen silence, but the
grating tongue of the clock, which told the victim of a legislature's
shallowness and a father's avarice--that Time, deaf to his woe, as were
the walls, the men, the women, and the cutting bands, was stealing away
with iron finger his last chance of meeting his beloved at the altar.
He closed his eyes, and saw her lovelier than ever, dressed all in white,
waiting for him with sweet concern in that peerless face. "Julia! Julia!"
he cried, with a loud heart-broken cry. The half-hour struck. At that he
struggled, he writhed, he bounded: he made the very room shake, and
lacerated his flesh; but that was all. No answer. No motion. No help. No
The perspiration rolled down his steaming body. The tears burst from his
young eyes and ran down his cheeks. he sobbed, and sobbing almost choked,
so tight were his linen bands upon his bursting bosom.
He lay still exhausted.
The clock ticked harshly on: the rest was silence. With this miserable
exception: ever and anon the victim's jammed body shuddered so terribly
it shook and rattled the iron bedstead, and told of the storm within, the
agony of the racked and all foreboding soul.
For then rolled over that young head hours of mortal anguish that no
tongue of man can utter, nor pen can shadow. Chained sane amongst the
mad; on his wedding-day; expecting with tied hands the sinister acts of
the soul-murderers who had the power to make their lie a truth! We can
paint the body writhing vainly against its unjust bonds; but who can
paint the loathing, agonised soul in a mental situation so ghastly? For
my part I feel it in my heart of hearts; but am impotent to convey it to
others; impotent, impotent.
Pray think of it for yourselves, men and women, if you have not _sworn_
never to think over a novel. Think of it for your own sakes: Alfred's
turn to-day, it may be yours to-morrow.
AT two o'clock an attendant stole on tiptoe to the strong-room, unlocked
the door, and peeped cautiously in. Seeing the dangerous maniac quiet, he
entered with a plate of lukewarm beef and potatoes, and told him bluntly
to eat. The crushed one said he could not eat. "You must," said the man.
"Eat!" said Alfred; "of what do you think I am made! Pray put it down and
listen to me. I'll give you a hundred pounds to let me out of this place;
two hundred; three."
A coarse laugh greeted this proposal. "You might as well have made it a
thousand when you was about it."
"So I will," said Alfred eagerly, "and thank you on my knees besides. Ah,
I see you don't believe I have money. I give you my honour I have ten
thousand pounds: it was settled on me by my grandfather, and I came of
age last week."
"Oh, that's like enough," said the man carelessly. "Well, you _are_
green. Do you think them as sent you here will let you spend your money?
No, your money is theirs now."
And he sat down with the plate on his knee and began to cut the meat in
small pieces; while his careless words entered Alfred's heart, and gave
him such a glimpse of sinister motives and dark acts to come as set him
"Come none o' that," said the man, suspecting this shudder. He thought it
was the prologue to some desperate act; for all a chained madman does is
read upon this plan: his terror passes for rage, his very sobs for
"Oh, be honest with me," said Alfred imploringly; "do you think it is to
steal my money the wretch has stolen my liberty?"
"I know nothing about it," said the man sullenly, "in course there's
mostly money behind, when young gents like you come to be took care of.
But you musn't go thinking of that, or you'll excite yourself again. Come
you eat your vittles like a Christian, and no more about it."
"Leave it, that is a good fellow; and then I'll try and eat a little
by-and-bye. But my grief is great--oh Julia! Julia! what shall I do? And
I am not used to eat at this time. Will you, my good fellow?"
"Well, I will, now you behave like a gentleman," said the man.
Then Alfred coaxed him to take off the handcuffs. He refused, but ended
by doing it; and so left him.
Four more leaden hours rolled by, and then this same attendant (his name
was Brown) brought him a cup of tea. It was welcome to his parched
throat; he drank it, and ate a mouthful of the meat to please the man,
and even asked for some more tea.
At eight four keepers came into his room, undressed him, compelled him to
make his toilette, &c., before them, which put him to shame--being a
gentleman--almost as much as it would a woman. They then hobbled him, and
fastened his ankles to the bed, and put his hands into muffles, but did
not confine his body; because they had lost a lucrative lodger only a
month ago, throttled at night in a strait-waistcoat.
Alfred lay in this plight, and compared with anguish unspeakable his
joyful anticipations of this night with the strange and cruel reality.
"My wedding night! my wedding night!" he cried aloud, and burst into a
passion of grief.
By-and-bye he consoled himself a little with the hope that he could not
long be incarcerated as a madman, being sane; and his good wit told him
his only chance was calmness. He would go to sleep and recover composure
to bear his wrongs with dignity, and quietly baffle his enemies.
Just as he was dropping off' he felt something crawl over his face.
Instinctively he made a violent motion to put his hands up. Both hands
were confined; he could not move them. He bounded, he flung, he writhed.
His little persecutors were quiet a moment, but the next they began
again. In vain he rolled and writhed, and shuddered with loathing
inexpressible. They crawled, they smelt, they bit.
Many a poor soul these little wretches had distracted with the very
sleeplessness the madhouse professed to cure, not create, in conjunction
with the opiates, the confinement and the gloom of Silverton House, they
had driven many a feeble mind across the line that divides the weak and
nervous from the unsound.
When he found there was no help, Alfred clenched his teeth and bore
it:--"Bite on, ye little wretches," he said "bite on, and divert my mind
from deeper stings than yours--if you can."
And they did; a little.
Thus passed the night in mental agony, and bodily irritation and disgust.
At daybreak the feasters on his flesh retired, and utterly worn out and
exhausted, he sank into a deep sleep.
At half-past seven the head keeper and three more came in, and made him
dress before them. They handcuffed him, and took him down to breakfast in
the noisy ward; set him down on a little bench by the wall like a naughty
boy, and ordered a dangerous maniac to feed him.
The dangerous maniac obeyed, and went and sat beside Alfred with a basin
of thick gruel and a great wooden spoon. He shovelled the gruel down his
charge's throat mighty superciliously from the very first; and presently,
falling into some favourite and absorbing train of thought, he fixed his
eye on vacancy, and handed the spoonfuls over his left shoulder with such
rapidity and recklessness that it was more like sowing than feeding.
Alfred cried out "Quarter! I can't eat so fast as that, old fellow."
Something in his tone struck the maniac; he looked at Alfred full, Alfred
looked at him in return, and smiled kindly but sadly.
"Hallo!" cried the maniac.
"What's up now?" said a keeper fiercely.
"Why this man is sane. As sane as I am."
At this there was a horse laugh.
"Saner," persisted the maniac; "for I am a little queer at times, you
"And no mistake, Jemmy. Now what makes you think he is sane?"
"Looked me full in the face, and smiled at me."
"Oh, that is your test, is it?"
"Yes, it is. You try it on any of those mad beggars there and see if they
can stand it."
"Who invented gunpowder?" said one of the insulted persons, looking as
sly and malicious as a magpie going to steal.
Jemmy exploded directly: "I did, ye rascal, ye liar, ye rogue, ye
Baconian!" and going higher, and higher in this strain, was very soon
handcuffed with Alfred's handcuffs, and seated on Alfred's bench and tied
to two rings in the wall. On this his martial ardour went down to zero:
"Here is treatment, sir," said he piteously to Alfred. "I see you are a
gentleman; now look at this. All spite and jealousy because I invented
that invaluable substance, which has done so much to prolong human life
and alleviate human misery."
Alfred was now ordered to feed Jemmy; which he did: so quickly were their
Directly after breakfast Alfred demanded to see the proprietor of the
Answer: Doesn't live here.
The Doctor then.
Oh, he has not come.
This monstrosity irritated Alfred: "Well, then," said he, "whoever it is
that rules this den of thieves, when those two are out of it."
"I rule in Mr. Baker's absence," said the head keeper, "and I'll teach
you manners, you young blackguard. Handcuff him."
In five minutes Alfred was handcuffed and flung into a padded room.
"Stay there till you know how to speak to your betters," said the head
Alfred walked up and down grinding his teeth with rage for five long
Just before dinner Brown came and took him into a parlour, where Mrs.
Archbold was seated writing. Brown retired. The lady finished what she
was doing, and kept Alfred standing like a schoolboy going to be
lectured. At last she said, "I have sent for you to give you a piece of
advice: it is to try and make friends with the attendants."
"Me make friends with the scoundrels! I thirst for their lives. Oh,
madam, I fear I shall kill somebody here."
"Foolish boy; they are too strong for you. Your worst enemies could wish
nothing worse for you than that you should provoke them." In saying these
words she was so much more kind and womanly that Alfred conceived hopes,
and burst out, "Oh, madam, you are human then; you seem to pity me; pray
give me pen and paper, and let me write to my friends to get me out of
this terrible place; do not refuse me."
Mrs. Archbold resumed her distant manner without apparent effort: she
said nothing, but she placed writing materials before him. She then left
the room, and locked him in.
He wrote a few hasty ardent words to Julia, telling her how he had been
entrapped, but not a word about his sufferings--he was too generous to
give her needless pain--and a line to Edward, imploring him to come at
once with a lawyer and an honest physician, and liberate him.
Mrs. Archbold returned soon after, and he asked her if she would lend him
sealing-wax: "I dare not trust to an envelope in such a place as this,"
said he. She lent him sealing-wax.
"But how am I to post it?" said he.
"Easily: there is a box in the house; I will show you."
She took him and showed him the box: he put his letters into it, and in
the ardour of his gratitude kissed her hand. She winced a little and
said, "Mind, this is not by my advice; I would never tell my friends I
had been in a madhouse; oh, never. I would be calm, make friends with the
servants-- they are the real masters--and never let a creature know where
I had been."
"Oh, you don't know my Julia," said Alfred; "she will never desert me,
never think the worse of me because I have been entrapped illegally into
"Illegally, Mr. Hardie! you deceive yourself; Mr. Baker told me the order
was signed by a relation, and the certificates by first-rate lunacy
"What on earth has that to do with it, madam, when I am as sane as you
"It has everything to do with it. Mr. Baker could be punished for
confining a madman in this house without an order and two certificates;
but he couldn't for confining a sane person under an order and two
Alfred could not believe this, but she convinced him that it was so.
Then he began to fear he should be imprisoned for years: he turned pale,
and looked at her so piteously, that to soothe him she told him sane
people were never kept in asylums now; they only used to be.
"How can they?" said she. "The London asylums are visited four times a
year by the commissioners, and the country asylums six times, twice by
the commissioners, and four times by the justices. _We_ shall be
inspected this week or next; and then you can speak to the justices: mind
and be calm; say it is a mistake; offer testimony; and ask either to be
discharged at once or to have a commission of lunacy sit on you. Ten to
one your friends will not face public proceedings: but you must begin at
the foundation, by making the servants friendly--and by--being calm." She
then fixed her large grey eyes on him and said, "Now if I let you dine
with me and the first-class patients, will you pledge me your honour to
'be calm,' and not attempt to escape?" Alfred hesitated at that. Her eye
dissected his character all the time. "I promise," said he at last with a
deep sigh. "May I sit by you? There is something so repugnant in the very
idea of mad people."
"Try and remember it is their misfortune, not their crime," said Mrs.
Archbold, just like a matronly sister admonishing a brother from school.
She then whistled in a whisper for Brown, who was lurking about unseen
all the time. He emerged and walked about with Alfred, and by-and-bye,
looking down from a corridor, they saw Mrs. Archbold driving the
second-class women before her to dinner like a flock of animals. Whenever
one stopped to look at anything, or try and gossip, the philanthropic
Archbold went at her just like a shepherd's dog at a refractory sheep,
caught her by the shoulders, and drove her squeaking headlong.
At dinner Alfred was so fortunate as to sit opposite a gentleman, who
nodded and grinned at him all dinner with a horrible leer. He could not,
however, enjoy this to the full for a little distraction at his elbow:
his right hand neighbour kept forking pieces out of his plate and
substituting others from his own. There was even a tendency to gristle in
the latter. Alfred remonstrated gently at first; the gentleman forbore a
minute, then recommenced. Alfred laid a hand very quietly on his wrist
and put it back. Mrs. Archbold's quick eye surprised this gesture: "What
is the matter there?" said she.
"Oh, nothing serious, madam," replied Alfred; "only this gentleman does
me the honour to prefer the contents of my plate to his own."
"Mr. Cooper!" said the Archbold sternly.
Cooper, the head keeper, pounced on the offender, seized him roughly by
the collar, dragged him from the table, knocking his chair down, and
bundled him out of the room with ignominy and fracas, in spite of a
remonstrance from Alfred, "Oh, don't be so rough with the poor man.
Then the novice laid down his knife and fork, and ate no more. "I am
grieved at my own ill-nature in complaining of such a trifle," said he
when all was quiet
The company stared considerably at this remark: it seemed to them a most
morbid perversion of sensibility; for the deranged, thin-skinned beyond
conception in their own persons, and alive to the shadow of the shade of
a wrong, are stoically indifferent to the woes of others.
Though Alfred was quiet as a lamb all day, the attendants returned him to
the padded room at night, because he had been there last night. But they
only fastened one ankle to the bed-post: so he encountered his
Lilliputians on tolerably fair terms--numbers excepted: they swarmed.
Unable to sleep, he put out his hand and groped for his clothes. But they
were outside the door, according to rule.
Day broke at last: and he took his breakfast quietly with the first-class
patients. It consisted of cool tea in small basins instead of cups, and
table-spoons instead of tea-spoons; and thick slices of stale bread
thinly buttered. A few patients had gruel or porridge instead of tea.
After breakfast Alfred sat in the first-class patients' room and counted
the minutes and the hours till Edward should come. After dinner he
counted the hours till tea-time. Nobody came; and he went to bed in such
grief and disappointment as some men live to eighty without ever knowing.
But when two o'clock came next day, and no Edward, and no reply, then the
distress of his soul deepened. He implored Mrs. Archbold to tell him what
was the cause. She shook her head and said gravely, it was but too
common; a man's nearest and dearest were very apt to hold aloof from him
the moment he was put into an asylum.
Here an old lady put in her word. "Ah, sir, you must not hope to hear
from anybody in this place. Why, I have been two years writing and
writing, and can't get a line from my own daughter. To be sure she is a
fine lady now: but it was her poor neglected mother that pinched and
pinched to give her a good education, and that is how she caught a good
husband. But it's my belief the post in our hall isn't a real post: but
only a box; and I think it is contrived so as the letters fall down a
pipe into that Baker's hands, and so then when the postman comes----"
The Archbold bent her bushy brows on this chatty personage. "Be quiet,
Mrs. Dent; you are talking nonsense, and exciting yourself: you know you
are not to speak on that topic. Take care."
The poor old woman was shut up like a knife; for the Archbold had a way
of addressing her own sex that crushed them. The change was almost
comically sudden to the mellow tones in which she addressed Alfred the
very next moment, on the very same subject: "Mr. Baker, I believe, sees
the letters: and, where our poor patients (with a glance at Dent) write
in such a way as to wound and perhaps terrify those who are in reality
their best friends, they are not always sent. But I conclude _your_
letters have gone. If you feel you can be calm, why not ask Mr. Baker? He
is in the house now; for a wonder."
Alfred promised to be calm; and she got him an interview with Mr. Baker.
He was a full-blown pawnbroker of Silverton town, whom the legislature,
with that keen knowledge of human nature which marks the British senate,
permitted, and still permits, to speculate in Insanity, stipulating,
however, that the upper servant of all in his asylum should be a doctor;
but omitting to provide against the instant dismissal of the said doctor
should he go and rob his employer of a lodger--by curing a patient.
As you are not the British legislature, I need not tell you that to this
pawnbroker insanity mattered nothing, nor sanity: his trade lay in
catching, and keeping, and stinting, as many lodgers, sane or insane, as
he could hold.
There are certain formulae in these quiet retreats, which naturally
impose upon greenhorns such as Alfred certainly was, and some visiting
justices and lunacy commissioners would seem to be. Baker had been a
lodging-house keeper for certified people many years, and knew all the
formulae: some call them dodges: but these must surely be vulgar minds.
Baker worked "the see-saw formula."
"Letters, young gentleman?" said he: "they are not in my department They
go into the surgery, and are passed by the doctor, except those he
examines and orders to be detained."
Alfred demanded the doctor.
"He is gone," was the reply. (Formula.)
Alfred found it as hard to be calm as some people find it easy to say
that word over the wrongs _of others._
The next day, but not till the afternoon, he caught the doctor: "My
letters! Surely, sir, you have not been so cruel as to intercept them?"
"I intercept no letters," said the doctor, as if scandalised at the very
idea. "I see who writes them, and hand them to Mr. Baker, with now and
then a remark. If any are detained, the responsibility rests with him."
"He says it rests with you."
"You must have misunderstood him."
"Not at all, sir. One thing is clear; my letters have been stolen either
by him or you; and I will know which."
The doctor parried with a formula.
"You are _excited,_ Mr. Hardie. Be calm, sir, be calm: or you will be
here all the longer."
All Alfred obtained by this interview was a powerful opiate. The
head-keeper brought it him in bed. He declined to take it. The man
whistled, and the room filled with keepers.
"Now," said Cooper, "down with it, or you'll have to be drenched with
"You had better take it, sir," said Brown; "the doctor has ordered it
"The doctor? Well, let me see the doctor about it."
"He is gone."
"He never ordered it me," said Alfred. Then fixing his eyes sternly on
Cooper, "You miscreants, you want to poison me. No, I will not take it.
Then ensued a struggle, on which I draw a veil: but numbers won the day,
with the help of handcuffs and a cowhorn.
Brown went and told Mrs. Archbold, and what Alfred had said.
"Don't be alarmed," said that strong-minded lady: "it is only one of the
old fool's composing draughts. It will spoil the poor boy's sleep for one
night, that is all. Go to him the first thing in the morning."
About midnight Alfred was seized with a violent headache and fever:
towards morning he was light-headed, and Brown found him loud and
incoherent: only he returned often to an expression Mr. Brown had never
"Justifiable parricide. Justifiable parricide. Justifiable patricide."
Most people dislike new phrases. Brown ran to consult Mrs. Archbold about
this one. After the delay inseparable from her sex, she came in a morning
wrapper; and they found Alfred leaning over the bed and bleeding
violently at the nose. They were a good deal alarmed, and tried to stop
it: but Alfred was quite sensible now, and told them it was doing him
"I can manage to see now," he said; "a little while ago I was blind with
They unstrapped his ankle and made him comfortable, and Mrs. Archbold
sent Brown for a cup of strong coffee and a glass of brandy. He tossed
them off; and soon after fell into a deep sleep that lasted till
tea-time. This sleep the poor doctor ascribed to the sedative effect of
his opiate. It _was_ the natural exhaustion consequent on the morbid
excitement caused by his cursed opiate.
"Brown," said Mrs. Archbold, "if Dr. Bailey prescribes again, let me
know. He shan't square _this_ patient with his certificates, whilst I am
This was a shrewd, but uncharitable, speech of hers. Dr. Bailey was not
such a villain as that.
He was a less depraved, and more dangerous animal: he was a fool.
The farrago he had administered would have done an excited maniac no
good, of course, but no great harm. It was dangerous to a sane man: and
Alfred to the naked eye was a sane man. But then Bailey had no naked eye
left: he had been twenty years an M. D. The certificates of Wycherley and
Speers were the green spectacles he wore--very green ones--whenever he
looked at Alfred Hardie.
Perhaps in time he will forget those certificates, and, on his spectacles
dropping off, he will see Alfred is sane. If he does, he will publish him
as one of his most remarkable _cures._
Meanwhile the whole treatment of this ill-starred young gentleman
gravitated towards insanity. The inner mind was exasperated by barefaced
injustice and oppression; above all, by his letters being stopped; for
that convinced him both Baker and Bailey, with their see-saw evasions,
knew he was sane, and dreaded a visit from honest, understanding men: and
the mind's external organ, the brain, which an asylum professes to
soothe, was steadily undermined by artificial sleeplessness. A man can't
sleep in irons till he is used to them and, when Alfred was relieved of
these, his sleep was still driven away by biting insects and barking
dogs, two opiates provided in many of these placid Retreats, with a view
to the permanence rather than the comfort of the lodgers.
On the eighth day Alfred succeeded at last in an object he had steadily
pursued for some time: he caught the two see-saw humbugs together.
"Now," said he, _"you_ say _he_ intercepts my letters; and _he_ says it
is _you_ who do it. Which is the truth?"
They were staggered, and he followed up his advantage: "Look me in the
face, gentlemen," said he. "Can you pretend you do not know I am sane?
Ah, you turn your heads away. You can only tell this bare-faced lie
behind my back. Do you believe in God, and in a judgment to come? Then,
if you cannot release me, at least don't be such scoundrels as to stop my
letters, and so swindle me out of a fair trial, an open, public trial."
The doctor parried with a formula. "Publicity would be the greatest
misfortune could befall you. Pray be calm."
Now, an asylum is a place not entirely exempt from prejudices: and one of
them is, that any sort of appeal to God Almighty is a sign or else
forerunner of maniacal excitement.
These philosophers forget that by stopping letters, evading public
trials, and, in a word, cutting off all appeals to human justice, they
compel the patient to turn his despairing eyes, and lift his despairing
voice to Him, whose eye alone can ever really penetrate these dark
However, the patient who appealed to God above a whisper in Silverton
Grove House used to get soothed directly. And the tranquillising
influences employed were morphia, croton oil, or a blister.
The keeper came to Alfred in his room. "Doctor has ordered a blister."
"What for? Send for him directly."
"He is gone."
This way of ordering torture, and then coolly going, irritated Alfred
beyond endurance. Though he knew he should soon be powerless, he showed
fight; made his mark as usual on a couple of his zealous attendants; but
not having room to work in was soon overpowered, hobbled, and handcuffed:
then they cut off his hair, and put a large blister on the top of his
The obstinate brute declined to go mad. They began to respect him for
this tenacity of purpose: a decent bedroom was allotted him; his
portmanteau and bag were brought him, and he was let walk every day on
the lawn with a keeper; only there were no ladders left about, and the
trap-door was locked, _i.e._ the iron gate.
On one of these occasions he heard the gatekeeper whistle three times
consecutively; his attendant followed suit, and hurried Alfred into the
house, which soon rang with treble signals.
"What is it?" inquired Alfred.
"The visiting justices are in sight: go into your room, please."
"Yes, I'll go," said Alfred, affecting cheerful compliance, and the man
The whole house was in a furious bustle. All the hobbles, and chains, and
instruments of restraint were hastily collected and bundled out of sight,
and clean sheets were being put on many a filthy bed whose occupant had
never slept in sheets since he came there, when two justices arrived and
were shown into the drawing-room.
During the few minutes they were detained there by Mrs. Archbold, who was
mistress of her whole business, quite a new face was put on everything
and everybody; ancient cobwebs fell; soap and water explored unwonted
territories: the harshest attendants began practising pleasant looks and
kind words on the patients, to get into the way of it, so that it might
not come too abrupt and startle the patients visibly under the visitors'
eyes: something like actors working up a factitious sentiment at the wing
for the public display, or like a racehorse's preliminary canter.
Alfred's heart beat with joy inexpressible. He had only to keep calm, and
this was his last day at Silverton Grove. The first thing he did was to
make a careful toilet.
The stinginess of relations, and the greed of madhouse proprietors, make
many a patient look ten times madder than he is, by means of dress.
Clothes wear out in an asylum, and are not always taken off, though
Agriculture has long and justly claimed them for her own. And when it is
no longer possible to refuse the Reverend Mad Tom or Mrs. Crazy Jane some
new raiment, then consanguineous munificence does not go to Pool or
Elise, but oftener to paternal or maternal wardrobes, and even to the
ancestral chest, the old oak one, singing:
"Poor things, they are out of the world: what need for them to be in the
This arrangement keeps the bump of self-esteem down, especially in women,
and so co-operates with many other little arrangements to perpetuate the
Silverton Grove in particular was supplied with the grotesque in dress
from an inexhaustible source. Whenever money was sent Baker to buy a
patient a suit, he went from his lunacy shop to his pawnbroker's, dived
headlong into unredeemed pledges, dressed his patient as gentlemen are
dressed to reside in cherry-trees; and pocketed five hundred per cent. on
the double transaction. Now Alfred had already observed that many of the
patients looked madder than they were--thanks to short trousers and
petticoats, holey gloves, ear-cutting shirt-collars, frilled bosoms,
shoes made for and declined by the very infantry: coats short in the
waist and long in the sleeves, coalscuttle bonnets, and grand-maternal
caps. So he made his toilet with care, and put his best hat on to hide
his shaven crown. He then kept his door ajar, and waited for a chance of
speaking to the justices. One soon came: a portly old gentleman, with a
rubicund face and honest eye, walked slowly along the corridor, looking
as wise as he could, cringed on by Cooper and Dr. Bailey; the latter had
arrived post haste, and Baker had been sent for. Alfred came out, touched
his hat respectfully, and begged a private interview with the magistrate.
The old gentleman bowed politely, for Alfred's dress, address, and
countenance, left no suspicion of insanity possible in an unprejudiced
But the doctor whispered in his ear, "Take care, sir. Dangerous!"
Now this is one of the most effective of the formulae in a private
asylum. How can an inexperienced stranger know for certain that such a
statement is a falsehood? And even the just do not love justice--_to
others_--quite so well as they love their own skins. So Squire Tollett
very naturally declined a private interview with Alfred; and even drew
back a step, and felt uneasy at being so near him. Alfred implored him
not to be imposed upon. "An honest man does not whisper," said he. "Do
not let him poison your mind against me; on my honour, I am as sane as
you are, and he knows it. Pray, pray use your own eyes and ears, sir, and
give yourself a chance of discovering the truth in this stronghold of
"Don't excite yourself, Mr. Hardie," put in the doctor parentally.
"Don't you interrupt me, doctor; I am as calm as you are. Calmer; for,
see, you are pale at this moment; that is with fear that your wickedness
in detaining a sane man here is going to be exposed. Oh, sir," said he,
turning to the justice, "fear no violence from me, not even angry words;
my misery is too deep for irritation, or excitement. I am an Oxford man,
sir, a prize man, an Ireland scholar. But, unfortunately for me, my
mother left me ten thousand pounds, and a heart. I love a lady whose name
I will not pollute by mentioning it in this den of thieves. My father is
the well-known banker, bankrupt, and cheat, of Barkington. He has wasted
his own money, and now covets his neighbour's and his son's. He had me
entrapped here on my wedding-day, to get hold of my money, and rob me of
her I love. I appeal to you, sir, to discharge me, or, if you have not so
much confidence in your own judgment as to do that, then I demand a
commission of lunacy, and a public inquiry."
Dr. Bailey said, "That would be a most undesirable exposure, both to
yourself and your friends." (Formula.)
"It is only the guilty who fear the light, sir," was the prompt reply.
Mr. Tollett said he thought the patient had a legal right to a commission
of lunacy if there was property, and he took note of the application. He
then asked Alfred if he had any complaint to make of the food, the beds,
or the attendants.
"Sir," said Alfred, "I leave those complaints to the insane ones: with me
the gigantic wrong drives out the petty worries. I cannot feel my stings
for my deep wound."
"Oh, then, you admit you are not treated _unkindly_ here?"
I admit nothing of the kind, sir. I merely decline to encumber your
memory with petty injuries, when you are good enough to inquire into a
"Now that is very sensible and considerate," said Mr. Tollett. " I will
see you, sir, again before we leave."
With this promise Alfred was obliged to be content. He retired
respectfully, and the justice said, "He seems as sane as I am." The
doctor smiled. The justice observed it, and not aware that this smile was
a formula, as much so as a prizefighter's or a ballet-dancer's, began to
doubt a little: He reflected a moment, then asked who had signed the
"Dr. Wycherley for one."
"Dr. Wycherley? that is a great authority."
"One of the greatest in the country, sir."
"Oh, then one would think he must be more or less deranged."
"Dangerously so at times. But in his lucid intervals you never saw a more
quiet gentlemanly creature." (Formula.)
"Very. He is my most interesting patient (formula), though terribly
violent at times. Would you like to see the medical journal about him?"
The inspection then continued: the inspector admired the clean sheets
that covered the beds, all of them dirty, some filthy: and asked the more
reasonable patients to speak freely and say if they had any complaint to
make. This question being, with the usual sagacity of public inspectors,
put in the presence of Cooper and the doctor, who stuck to Tollett like
wax, the mad people all declared they were very kindly treated. The
reason they were so unanimous was this: they knew by experience that, if
they told the truth, the justices could not at once remedy their
discomforts, whereas the keepers, the very moment the justices left the
house, would knock them down, beat them, shake them, strait-jacket them,
and starve them: and the doctor, less merciful, would doctor them. So
they shook in their shoes, and vowed they were very comfortable in
Thus, in later days, certain Commissioners of Lunacy inspecting Accomb
House, extracted nothing from Mrs. Turner, but that she was happy and
comfortable under the benignant sway of Metcalf the mild--there present.
It was only by a miracle the public learned the truth, and miracles are
Meantime, Alfred had a misgiving. The plausible doctor had now Squire
Tollett's ear, and Tollett was old, and something about him reminded the
Oxonian of a trait his friend Horace had detected in old age:
"Vel quod res omnes timide gelide que ministrat.
Dilator, spe longus, iners," &c.
He knew there was another justice in the house, but he knew also he
should not be allowed to get speech with him, if by cunning or force it
could be prevented. He kept his door ajar. Presently Nurse Hannah came
bustling along with an apronful of things, and let herself into a vacant
room hard by. This Hannah was a young woman with a pretty and rather
babyish face, diversified by a thick biceps muscle in her arm that a
blacksmith need not have blushed for. And I suspect it was this masculine
charm, and not her feminine features, that had won her the confidence of
Baker and Co., and the respect of his female patients: big or little,
excited or not excited, there was not one of them this bicipital
baby-face could not pin by the wrists, and twist her helpless into a
strong-room, or handcuff her unaided in a moment; and she did it, too, on
slight provocation. Nurse Hannah seldom came into Alfred's part of the
house; but when she did meet him, she generally gave him a kind look in
passing; and he had resolved to speak to her, and try if he could touch
her conscience, or move her pity. He saw what she was at, but was too
politic to detect her openly and irritate her. He drew back a step, and
said softly, "Nurse Hannah! Are you there?"
"Yes, I am here," said she sharply, and came out of the room hastily, and
shut it. "What do you want, sir?"
Alfred clasped his hands together. "If you are a woman, have pity on me."
She was taken by surprise. "What can I do?" said she in some agitation.
"I am only a servant."
"At least tell me where I can find the Visiting Justice, before the
keepers stop me."
"Hush! Speak lower," said Hannah. "You _have_ complained to one, haven't
"Yes, but he seems a feeble old fogy. Where is the other? Oh, pray tell
"I mustn't: I mustn't In the noisy ward. There, run."
And run he did.
Alfred was lucky enough to get safe into the noisy ward without being
intercepted. And then he encountered a sunburnt gentleman, under thirty,
in a riding-coat, with a hunting-whip in his hand: it was Mr. Vane, a
Tory squire and large landholder in the county.
Now, as Alfred entered at one door, Baker himself came in at the other,
and they nearly met at Vane. But Alfred saluted him first, and begged
respectfully for an interview.
"Certainly, sir," said Mr. Vane.
"Take care, sir; he is dangerous," whispered Baker. Instantly Mr. Vane's
countenance changed. But this time Alfred overheard the formula, and said
quietly: "Don't believe him, sir. I am not dangerous; I am as sane as any
man in England. Pray examine me, and judge for yourself."
"Ah, that is his delusion," said Baker. "Come, Mr. Hardie, I allow you
great liberties, but you abuse them. You really must not monopolise his
Worship with your fancies. Consider, sir, you are not the only patient he
has to examine."
Alfred's heart sank: he turned a look of silent agony on Mr. Vane.
Mr. Vane, either touched by that look, or irritated by Baker's
pragmatical interference, or perhaps both, looked that person coolly in
the face, and said sternly: "Be silent, sir; and let _the gentleman_
speak to me."
ALFRED thus encouraged told his story with forced calmness, and without a
word too much. Indeed, so clear and telling was the narrative, and the
logic so close, that incoherent patients one or two stole up and listened
with wonder and a certain dreamy complacency; the bulk, however, held
aloof apathetic: inextricably wrapped in fictitious Autobiography.
His story told, Alfred offered the Dodds in evidence that the fourteen
thousand pounds was no illusion, and referred to his sister and several
friends as witnesses to his sanity, and said the letters he wrote were
all stopped in the asylum: and why? That no honest man or woman might
know where he was.
He ended by convincing Mr. Vane he was a sane and injured man, and his
father a dark designing person.
Mr. Vane asked him whether he had any other revelations to make. Alfred
replied, "Not on my own account, but for the sake of those afflicted
persons who are here for life. Well, the beds want repaving; the vermin
thinning; the instruments of torture want abolishing, instead of hiding
for an hour or two when you happen to come: what do the patients gain by
that? The madmen dare not complain to you, sir, because the last time one
did complain to the justices (it was Mr. Petworth), they had no sooner
passed through the iron gate, than Cooper made an example of him; felled
him with his fist, and walked up and down him on his knees, crying, 'I'll
teach you to complain to the justices.' But one or two gentlemanly
madmen, who soon found out that I am not one of _them,_ have complained
to _me_ that the attendants wash them too much like Hansom cabs, strip
them naked, and mop them on the flag-stones, then fling on their clothes
without drying them. They say, too, that the meat is tough and often
putrid, the bread stale, the butter rancid, the vegetables stinted, since
they can't be adulterated. And as for sleep, it is hardly known; for the
beds are so short your feet stick out; insects, without a name to ears
polite, but highly odoriferous and profoundly carnivorous, bite you all
night; and dogs howl eternally outside; and, when exhausted nature defies
even these enemies of rest, then the doctor, who seems to be in the pay
of Insanity, claps you on a blister by brute force, and so drives away
sleep, Insanity's cure, or hocuses you by brute force as he did me, and
so steals your sleep, and tries to steal your reason, with his opium,
henbane, morphia, and other tremendous brain-stealers. With such a
potion, sir, administered by violence, he gave me in one night a bursting
fever, headache, loss of sight, and bleeding at the nose; as Mrs.
Archbold will tell you. Oh, look into these things, sir, in pity to those
whom Heaven has afflicted: to me they are but strokes with a feather. I
am a sane man torn from love and happiness, and confined among the mad;
discomfort is nothing to me; comfort is nothing; you can do nothing for
me but restore me to my dignity as a man, my liberty as a Briton, and the
rights as a citizen I have been swindled out of by a fraudulent bankrupt
and his tools, two venal doctors, who never saw me but for one five
minutes, but came to me ready bribed at a guinea apiece, and so signed
away my wits behind my back."
"Now, Mr. Baker," said Vane, "what do you say to all this?"
Baker smiled with admirable composure, and replied with crafty
moderation, "He is a gentleman, and believes every word he says; but it
is all his delusions. Why, to begin, sir, his father has nothing to do
with putting him in here; nothing on earth. (Alfred started; then smiled
incredulous.) And, in the next place, there are no instruments of
restraint here, but two pair of handcuffs and two strait jackets, and
these never hardly used; we trust to the padded rooms, you know. And,
sir," said he, getting warm, which instantly affected his pronunciations
"if there's a hinsect in the ouse, I'll heat im."
Delusion is a big word, especially in a mad-house; it overpowers a
visitor's understanding. Mr. Vane was staggered. Alfred, whose eager eyes
were never off his face, saw this with dismay, and feeling that, if he
failed in the simpler matter, he should be sure to fail in establishing
his sanity, he said with inward anxiety, though with outward calmness,
"Suppose we test these delusions?"
"With all my heart," said Vane.
Baker's countenance fell.
"Begin with the instruments of restraint. Find me them."
Baker's countenance brightened up; he had no fear of their being found.
"I will," said Alfred: "please to follow me."
Baker grinned with anticipated triumph.
Alfred led the way to a bedroom near his own; and asked Mr. Baker to
unlock it. Baker had not the key; no more had Cooper. The latter was sent
for it; he returned, saying the key was mislaid.
"That I expected," said Alfred. "Send for the kitchen poker, sir: I'll
soon unlock it."
"Fetch the kitchen poker," said Vane.
"Good gracious! sir," said Cooper; "he only wants that to knock all our
brains out. You have no idea of his strength and ferocity."
"Well lied, Cooper," said Alfred ironically.
"Fetch _me_ the poker," said Vane.
Cooper went for it, and came back with the key instead.
The door was opened, and they all entered. Alfred looked under the bed.
The rest stood round it.
There was nothing to be seen but a year's dust
Alfred was dumb-foundered, and a cold perspiration began to gather on his
brow. He saw at once a false move would be fatal to him.
"Well, sir," said Vane grimly. "Where are they?"
Alfred caught sight of a small cupboard; he searched it; it was empty.
Baker and Cooper grinned at his delusion quietly, but so that Vane might
see that formula. Alfred returned to the bed and shook it. Cooper and
Baker left off grinning; Alfred's quick eye caught this, and he shook the
bed violently, furiously.
"Ah!" said Mr. Vane, "I hear a chink."
"It is an iron bedstead and old," suggested Baker.
Alfred tore off the bed-clothes, and then the mattress. Below the latter
was a framework, and below the framework a receptacle about six inches
deep, five feet long, and three broad, filled with chains, iron belts,
wrist-locks, muffles, and screw-locked hobbles, &c.; a regular
If Baker had descended from the Kemble family, instead of rising from
nothing, he could not have acted better. "Good Heavens!" cried he, "where
do these come from? They must have been left here by the last
Vane replied only by a look of contempt, and ordered Cooper to go and ask
Mr. Tollett to come to him.
Alfred improved the interval. "Sir," said he, "all my delusions, fairly
tested, will turn out like this."
"They _shall_ be tested, sir; I give you my word."
Mr. Tollett came, and the two justices commenced a genuine
scrutiny--their first. They went now upon the true method, in which all
these dark places ought to be inspected. They did not believe a word;
they suspected everything; they examined patients apart, detected
cruelty, filth and vermin under philanthropic phrases and clean linen;
and the upshot was they reprimanded Baker and the attendants severely,
and told him his licence should never be renewed, unless at their next
visit the whole asylum was reformed. They ordered all the iron
body-belts, chains, leg-locks, wrist-locks, and muffs, to be put into Mr.
Tollett's carriage, and concluded a long inspection by inquiring into
Alfred's sanity: at this inquiry they did not allow Baker to be even
present, but only Dr. Bailey.
First they read the order; and found it really was not Alfred's father
who had put him into the asylum. Then they read the certificates,
especially Wycherley's. It accused Alfred of headache, insomnia, nightly
visions, a rooted delusion (pecuniary), a sudden aversion to an
affectionate father; and at the doctor's last visit, a wild look
(formula), great excitement, and threats of violence without any
provocation to justify them. This overpowered the worthy squires'
understandings to begin. But they proceeded to examine the three books an
asylum has to keep by law: the visitor's book, the case book, and the
medical journal. All these were kept with the utmost looseness in
Silverton House as indeed they are in the very best of these places.
However, by combining the scanty notices in the several books, they
arrived at this total:
"Admitted April 11. Had a very wild look, and was much excited. Attempted
suicide by throwing himself into a tank. Attacked the keepers for
rescuing him, with prodigious strength and violence. Refused food."
And some days after came an entry with his initials instead of his name,
which was contrary to law. "A. H. Much excited. Threats. Ordered
And a day or two after: "A. H. Excited. Blasphemous. Ordered blister."
The first entry, however, was enough. The doctor had but seen real facts
through his green spectacles, and lo! "suicide," "homicide," and "refusal
of food," three cardinal points of true mania.
Mr. Vane asked Dr. Bailey whether he was better since he came.
"Oh, infinitely better," said Dr. Bailey. "We hope to cure him in a month
They then sent for Mrs. Archbold, and had a long talk with her,
recommending Alfred to her especial care: and, having acted on his
judgment and information in the teeth of those who called him insane,
turned tail at a doctor's certificate; distrusted their eyesight at an
Alfred was packing up his things to go away; bright as a lark. Mrs.
Archbold came to him, and told him she had orders to give him every
comfort; and the justices hoped to liberate him at their next visit.
The poor wretch turned pale. "At their next visit!" he cried, "What, not
to-day? When is their next visit?"
Mrs. Archbold hesitated: but at last she said, "Why you know; I told you;
they come four times every year."
The disappointment was too bitter. The contemptible result of all his
patience, self-command, and success, was too heart-breaking. He groaned
aloud. "And you can come with a smile and tell me that; you cruel woman."
Then he broke down altogether and burst out crying. "You were born
without a heart," he sobbed.
Mrs. Archbold quivered at that. "I wish I had been," said she, in a
strange, soft, moving voice; then, casting an eloquent look of reproach
on him, she went away in visible agitation, and left him sobbing. Once
out of his sight she rushed into another room, and there, taking no more
notice of a gentle madwoman, its occupant, than of the bed or the table,
she sank into a chair, and, throwing her head back with womanly abandon,
hid her hand upon her bosom that heaved tempestuously.
And soon the tears trickled out of her imperious eyes, and ran
The mind of Edith Archbold corresponded with her powerful frame, and
bushy brows. Inside this woman all was vigour: strong passions, strong
good sense to check or hide them; strong will to carry them out. And
between these mental forces a powerful struggle was raging. She was
almost impenetrable to mere personal beauty, and inclined to despise
early youth in the other sex; and six months spent with Alfred in a quiet
country house would probably have left her reasonably indifferent to him.
But the first day she saw him in Silverton House he broke through her
guard, and pierced at once to her depths; first he terrified her by
darting through the window to escape: and terror is a passion. So is
pity; and never in her life had she overflowed with it as when she saw
him drawn out of the tank and laid on the grass. If, after all, he was as
sane as he looked, that brave high-spirited young creature, who preferred
death to the touch of coarse confining hands!
No sooner had he filled her with dismay and pity, than he bounded from
the ground before her eyes and fled. She screamed, and hoped he would
escape; she could not help it. Next she saw him fighting alone against
seven or eight, and with unheard-of prowess almost beating them. She sat
at the window panting, with clenched teeth and hands, and wished him to
beat, and admired him, wondered at him. He yielded, but not to them: to
her. All the compliments she had ever received were tame compared with
this one. It thrilled her vanity. He was like the men she had read of,
and never seen: the young knights of chivalry. She glowed all over at
him, and detecting herself in time was frightened. Her strong good sense
warned her to beware of this youth, who was nine years her junior, yet
had stirred her to all her depths in an hour; and not to see him nor
think of him too much. Accordingly she kept clear of him altogether at
first. Pity soon put an end to that; and she protected and advised him,
but with a cold and lofty demeanour put on express. What with her kind
acts and her cold manner he did not know what to make of her; and often
turned puzzled earnest eyes upon her, as much as to say, Are you really
my friend or not? Once she forgot herself and smiled so tenderly in
answer to these imploring eyes, that his hopes rose very high indeed. He
flattered himself she would let him out of the asylum before long. That
was all Julia's true lover thought of.
A feeling hidden, and not suppressed, often grows fast in a vigorous
nature. Mrs. Archbold's fancy for Alfred was subjected to this dangerous
treatment; and it smouldered, and smouldered, till from a _penchant_ it
warmed to a fancy, from a fancy to a passion. But _penchant,_ fancy, or
passion, she hid it with such cunning and resolution, that neither Alfred
nor even those of her own sex saw it; nor did a creature even suspect it,
except Nurse Hannah; but her eyes were sharpened by jealousy, for that
muscular young virgin was beginning to sigh for him herself, with a
gentle timidity that contrasted prettily with her biceps muscle and
prowess against her own sex.
Mrs. Archbold had more passion than tenderness, but what woman is not to
be surprised and softened? When her young favourite, the greatest fighter
she had ever seen, broke down at the end of his gallant effort and began
to cry like a girl, her bowels of compassion yearned within her, and she
longed to cry with him. She only saved herself from some imprudence by
flight, and had her cry alone. After a flow of tears, such a woman is
invincible; she treated Alfred at tea-time with remarkable coldness and
reserve. This piece of acting led to unlooked-for consequences: it
emboldened Cooper, who was raging against Alfred for telling the
justices, but had forborne from violence for fear of getting the house
into a fresh scrape. He now went to the doctor, and asked for a powerful
drastic. Bailey gave him two pills, or rather boluses, containing croton
oil--_inter alia;_ for Bailey was one of the _farraginous_ fools of the
unscientific science. Armed with this weapon of destruction, Cooper
entered Alfred's bedroom at night, and ordered him to take them: he
refused. Cooper whistled, and four attendants came. Alfred knew he should
soon be powerless. He lost no time, sprang at Cooper, and with his long
arm landed a blow that knocked him against the wall, and in this
position, where his body could not give, struck him again with his whole
soul, and cut his cheek right open. The next minute he was pinned,
handcuffed, and in a straitjacket, after crippling one assailant with a
kick on the knee.
Cooper, half stunned, and bleeding like a pig, recovered himself now, and
burned for revenge. He uttered a frightful oath, and jumped on Alfred as
he lay bound and powerless, and gave him a lesson he never forgot.
Every art has its secrets: the attendants in such madhouses as this have
been for years possessed of one they are too modest to reveal to
justices, commissioners, or the public; the art of breaking a man's ribs,
or breast-bone, or both, without bruising him externally. The convicts at
Toulon arrive at a similar result by another branch of the art: they
stuff the skin of a conger eel with powdered stone; then give the
obnoxious person a sly crack with it; and a rib backbone is broken with
no contusion to mark the external violence used. But Mr. Cooper and his
fellows do their work with the knee-joint: it is round, and leaves no
bruise. They subdue the patient by walking up and down him on their
knees. If they don't jump on him, as well as promenade him, the man's
spirit is often the only thing broken; if they do, the man is apt to be
broken bodily as well as mentally. Thus died Mr. Sizer in 1854, and two
others quite recently. And how many more God only knows: we can't count
the stones at the bottom of a dark well.
Cooper then sprang furiously on Alfred, and went kneeling up and down
him. Cooper was a heavy man, and his weight crushed and hurt the victim's
legs; but that was a trifle: as often as he kneeled on Alfred's chest,
the crushed one's whole framework seemed giving way, and he could
scarcely breathe. But Brown drew Cooper back by the collar, saying, "D'ye
want to kill him?" And at this moment Mrs. Archbold, who was on the
watch, came in with Hannah and another nurse, and the three women at a
word from their leader pinned Cooper simultaneously, and, taking him at a
disadvantage, handcuffed him in a moment with a strength, sharpness,
skill, and determination not to be found in women out of a
madhouse--luckily for the newspaper husbands.
The other keepers looked astounded at this masterstroke; but, as no
servant had ever affronted Mrs. Archbold without being dismissed
directly, they took their cue and said, "We advised him, ma'am, but he
would not listen to us."
"Cooper," said Mrs. Archbold as soon as she recovered her breath, "you
are not fit for your place. To-morrow you go, or I go."
Cooper, cowed in a moment by the handcuffs, began to whine and say that
it was all Alfred's fault.
But Mrs. Archbold was now carried away by two passions instead of one,
and they were together too much for prudence. She took a handful of
glossy locks out of her bosom and shook them in Cooper's face.
"You monster!" said she; "you should go, for _that,_ if you were my own
The two young nurses assented loudly, and turned and cackled at Cooper
for cutting off such lovely hair.
He shrugged his shoulders at them, and said sulkily to Mrs. Archbold,
"Oh, I didn't know. Of course, if you have fallen in love with him, my
cake is burnt. 'Tisn't the first lunatic you have taken a fancy to."
At this brutal speech, all the more intolerable for not being quite
false, Mrs. Archbold turned ashy pale, and looked round for a weapon to
strike him dead; but found none so handy and so deadly as her tongue.
"It's not the first you have tried to MURDER," said she. "I know all
about that death in Calton Retreat: you kept it dark before the coroner;
but it is not too late, I'll open the world's eyes. I was only going to
dismiss you, sir: but you have insulted me. I'll hang you in reply."
Cooper turned very pale and was silent; his tongue clove to the roof of
But a feeble, unexpected voice issued from the bed and murmured
cheerfully, though with some difficulty, a single word--
At an expression so out of place they all started with surprise.
Alfred went on: "You are putting the saddle on the wrong horse. The fault
lies with those villains Baker and Bailey. Cooper is only a servant, you
know, and obeys orders."
"What business had the wretch to cut your hair off?" said Mrs. Archbold,
turning on Alfred with flashing eyes. Her blood once up, she was ready to
quarrel even with him for taking part against himself.
"Because he was ordered to put on a blister, and hair must come off
before a blister can go on," replied Alfred soberly.
"That is no excuse for him beating you and trying to break your front
She didn't mind so much about his side ribs.
"No," replied Alfred. "But I hit him first: look at the bloke's face.
Dear Mrs. Archbold, you are my best friend in this horrid place, and you
have beautiful eyes; and, talk of teeth, look at yours! But you haven't
much sense of justice, forgive me for saying so. Put the proposition into
signs; there is nothing like that for clearing away prejudice. B. and C.
have a scrimmage: B begins it, C. gets the worst of it; in comes A. and
turns away--C. Is that justice? It is me you ought to turn away; and I
wish to Heaven you would: dear Mrs. Archbold, do pray turn me away, and
keep the other blackguard."
At this extraordinary and, if I may be allowed the expression, Alfredian
speech, the men first stared, and then laughed; the women smiled, and
then were nearer crying than laughing.
And so it was, that justice handcuffed, straitjacketed, blistered, and
impartial, sent from its bed of torture a beam through Cooper's tough
hide to his inner heart. He hung his head and stepped towards Alfred:
"You're what I call a man," he said. "I don't care a curse whether I stay
or go, after what she has said to me. But, come what may, you're a
gentleman, and one as can put hisself in a poor man's place. Why, sir, I
wasn't always so rough; but I have been twenty years at it; and mad folk
they'd wear the patience out of Jove, and the milk of human kindness out
of saints and opossums. However, if I was to stay here all my life,
instead of going to-morrow, I'd never lift hand to trouble you again, for
you taking my part again yourself like that."
"I'll put that to the test," said Mrs. Archbold sharply. "Stay--on your
And Baby-face biceps at a look took off his handcuffs; which she had been
prominent in putting on.
This extraordinary scene ended in the men being dismissed, and the women
remaining and going to work after their kind.
"The bed is too short for one thing," said Hannah. "Look at his poor feet
sticking out and cold as a stone: just feel of them, Jane."
"No, no; murder!" cried Alfred; "that tickles."
Hannah ran for a chair, Jane for another pillow. Mrs. Archbold took off
his handcuffs, and, passing her hand softly and caressingly over his
head, lamented the loss of his poor hair. Amongst them they relieved him
of his straitjacket, set up his head, covered his feet, and he slept like
a top for want of drastics and opiates, and in spite of some brilliant
charges by the Lilliputian cavalry.
After this the attendants never molested Alfred again; nor did the
doctor; for Mrs. Archbold got his boluses, and sent them up to a famous
analysing chemist in London, and told him she had; and said, "I'll thank
you not to prescribe at random for _that_ patient any more." He took the
lady's prescription, coming as it did in a voice quietly grim, and with a
momentary but wicked glance shot from under her black brows.
Alfred was all the more miserable at his confinement: his melancholy
deepened now there was no fighting to excite him. A handsome bright young
face clouded with sadness is very pitiable, and I need not say that both
the women who had fallen in love with him had their eyes, or at least the
tails of their eyes, for ever on his face. The result varied with the
characters of the watchers. That young face, ever sad, made Mrs. Archbold
sigh, and long to make him happy under her wing. How it wrought on the
purer and more womanly Hannah will be revealed by the incident I have to
relate. Alfred was sitting on a bench in the corridor bowed down by
grief, and the Archbold lurking in a room hard by, feasting her eyes on
him through an aperture in the door caused by the inspection plate being
under repair--when an erotic maniac was driven past. She had obtained
access--with marvellous cunning--to the men's side; but was now coming
back with a flea in her ear, and faster than she went; being handcuffed
and propelled by Baby-face biceps. On passing the disconsolate Alfred the
latter eyed him coyly, gave her stray sheep a coarse push--as one pushes
a _thing_--and laid a timid hand, gentle as falling down, upon the
rougher sex. Contrast sudden and funny.
"Don't be so sad, sir," she murmured, cooing like the gentlest of doves.
"I can't bear to see you look like that."
Alfred looked up, and met her full with his mournful honest eyes. "Ah,
Hannah, how can I be anything but sad, imprisoned here, sane amongst the
"Well, and so am I, sir; so is Mrs. Archbold herself."
"Ay, but you have not been entrapped, imprisoned on your wedding-day. I
cannot even get a word sent to my Julia, my wife that ought to be. Only
think of the affront they have made me put on her I love better, ten
times better, than myself. Why, she must have been waiting for me;
humiliated perhaps by my absence. What will she think of me? The rogues
will tell her a thousand lies: she is very high spirited, Hannah,
impetuous like myself, only so gentle and so good. Oh, my angel, my
angel; I shall lose you for ever."
Hannah clasped her hands, with tears in her eyes: "No, no," she cried;
"it is a burning shame to part true lovers like you and her. Hush! speak
low. Brown told me you are as well as he is."
"God bless him for it, then."
"You have got money, they say; try it on with Brown."
"I will. Oh you darling. What is the matter?"
For Baby-face was beginning to whimper.
"Oh, nothing, sir; only you are so glad to go; and we shall be sorry to
part with you: but you won't care for that--oh! oh! oh!"
"What, do you think I shall forget you and your kindness? Never: I'll
square accounts with friends and foes; not one shall be forgotten."
"Don't offer me any of your money," sobbed Hannah, "for I wouldn't touch
it. Good-bye," said she: "I shan't have as much as a kiss for it I'll be
bound: good-bye," said she again, and never moved.
"Oh, won't you, though," cried Alfred gaily. "What is that? and that? and
that? Now, what on earth are you crying about? Dry your tears, you dear
good-hearted girl: no, I'll dry them for you."
He took out a white handkerchief and dried her cheeks gently for her, and
gave her a parting kiss. But the Archbold's patience was exhausted: a
door opened nearly opposite, and there she stood yellow with jealousy and
sombre as night with her ebon brows. At sight of this lowering figure
Hannah uttered a squawk, and fled with cheeks red as fire. Alfred, not
aware of Mrs. Archbold's smouldering passion, and little dreaming that
jealous anguish and rage stood incarnate before him, burst out laughing
like a mischievous boy! On this she swept upon him, and took him by both
shoulders, and awed him with her lowering brows close to his. "You
ungrateful wretch," she said violently, and panted.
His colour rose. "Ungrateful? That I am not madam. Why do you call me
"You are--you are. What have I done to you that you run from me to the
very servants? However, she shall be packed off this very night, and you
to thank for it."
This was the way to wound the generous youth. "Now it is you that are
ungenerous," he said. "What harm has the poor girl done? She had a
virtuous movement and pitied me for the heartless fraud I suffer by; that
is all. Pray, do you never pity me?"
"Was it this virtuous movement set her kissing you?" said the Archbold,
clenching her teeth as if the word stung her, like the sight.
"She didn't, now," said Alfred; "it was I kissed her."
"And yet you pretend to love your Julia so truly?"
"This is no place for that sacred name, madam. But be sure I have no
secrets from her, and kiss nobody she would not kiss herself."
"She must be a very accommodating young lady."
At this insult Alfred rose pale with anger, and was about to defy his
monitor mortally; but the quick-witted woman saw and disarmed him. In one
moment, before ever he could speak, she was a transformed creature, a
penitent; she put her hands together supplicatingly, and murmured--
"I didn't mean it; I respect _her;_ and your love for her; forgive me,
Alfred: I am so unhappy, oh forgive me.
And behold she held his hand between her soft, burning palms, and her
proud head sank languidly on his shoulder, and the inevitable tears ran
Morals apart, it was glorious love-making.
"Bother the woman," thought Alfred.
"Promise me not to do it again," she murmured, "and the girl shall stay."
"Oh, lord, yes, I promise; though I can't see what it matters to you."
"Not much, cruel boy, alas! but it matters to her; for----" She kissed
Alfred's hand gently, and rose to her feet and moved away; but at the
second step turned her head sudden as a bird and finished her
sentence--"if you kiss her before me, I shall kill her before you."
Here was a fresh complication! The men had left off blistering,
torturing, and bullying him; but his guardian angels, the women, were
turning up their sleeves to pull caps over him, and plenty of the random
scratches would fall on him. If anything could have made him pine more to
be out of the horrid place, this voluptuous prospect would. He hunted
everywhere for Brown. But he was away the day with a patient. At night he
lay awake for a long time, thinking how he should open the negotiation.
He shrank from it. He felt a delicacy about bribing Beelzebub's servant
to betray him.
As Hannah had originated the idea, he thought he might very well ask her
to do the dirty work of bribing Brown, and he would pay her for it; only
in money, not kisses. With this resolution he sank to sleep, and his
spirit broke prison: he stood with Julia before the altar, and the priest
made them one. Then the church and the company and daylight disappeared,
and her own sweet low moving voice came thrilling, "My own, own, own,"
she murmured. "I love you ten times more for all you have endured for
me;" and with this her sweet lips settled on his like the dew.
Impartial sleep flies at the steps of the scaffold and the gate of
Elysium: so Alfred awoke at the above; but doubted whether he was quite
awake; for two velvet lips seemed to be still touching his. He stirred,
and somebody was gone like the wind, with a rustle of flying petticoats,
and his door shut in a moment. It closed with a catch-lock; this
dastardly vision had opened it with her key, and left it open to make
good her retreat if he should awake. Alfred sat up in bed indignant, and
somewhat fluttered. "Confound her impudence," said he. But there was no
help for it; he grinned and bore it, as he had the blisters, and boluses,
&c., rolled the clothes round his shoulders, and off to the sleep of the
just again. Not so the passionate hypocrite, who, maddened by a paroxysm
of jealousy, had taken this cowardly advantage of a prisoner. She had
sucked fresh poison from those honest lips, and filled her veins with
molten fire. She tossed and turned the livelong night in a high fever of
passion, nor were the cold chills wanting of shame and fear at what she
In the morning, Alfred remembered this substantial vision, and determined
to find out which of those two it was. "I shall know by her looks," said
he; "she won't be able to meet my eye. Well, the first he saw was Mrs.
Archbold. She met his eye full with a mild and pensive dignity. "Come, it
is not you," thought Alfred. Presently he fell in with Hannah. She wore a
serene, infantine face, the picture of unobtrusive modesty. Alfred was
dumbfoundered. "It's not this one, either," said he. "But then, it must.
Confound her impudence for looking so modest." However, he did not speak
to her; he was looking out for a face that interested him far more: the
weather-beaten countenance of Giles Brown. He saw him once or twice, but
could not get him alone till the afternoon. He invited him into his room:
and when he got him there, lost no time. "Just look me in the face,
Brown," said he quietly. Brown looked him in the face.
"Now, sir, am I mad or sane?"
Brown turned his head away. Alfred laughed. "No, no, none of your tricks,
old fellow: look me in the face while you answer."
The man coloured. "I can't look a gentleman like you in the face, and
tell him he is mad."
"I should think not. Well, now; what shall I give you to help me escape?"
"Hush! don't mention that, sir; it's as much as my place is worth even to
listen to you."
"Well! then I must give you as much as your place is worth. Please to
calculate that, and name the figure."
"My place! I wouldn't lose it for a hundred pounds."
"Exactly. Then I'll give you a hundred guineas."
"And how am I to get my money, sir?"
"The first time you are out, come to Albion Villa, in Barkington, and
I'll have it all ready for you."
"And suppose you were to say, 'No: you didn't ought ever to have been
"I must trouble you to look in my face again, Mr. Brown. Now, do you see
treason, bad faith, avarice, ingratitude, rascality in it?"
"Not a grain of 'em," said Brown, with an accent of conviction. "Well,
now, I'll tell you the truth; I can read a gent by this time: and I'm no
more afeared for the money than if I had it in my hand. But ye see, my
stomach won't let me do it."
This was a sad disappointment; so sudden, too. " Your stomach?" said
Alfred ruefully. "'What do you mean?"
"Ay, my stomach. Wouldn't _your_stomach rise against serving a man that
had done you the worst turn one man can do another--been and robbed you
of your sweetheart?"
Alfred stared with amazement.
Brown continued, and now with some emotion: "Hannah Blake and I were very
good friends till you came, and I was thinking of asking her to name the
day; but now she won't look at me. 'Don't come teasing me,' says she, 'I
am meat for your master.' It's you that have turned the girl's head,
"Bother the women!" said Alfred cordially. "Oh, what plagues they are!
And how unjust _you_ are, to spite me for the fault of another. Can I
help the fools from spooning upon me?" He reflected a moment then burst
out: "Brown, you are a duffer, a regular duffer. What, don't you see your
game is to get me out of the place? If you do, in forty-eight hours I
shall be married to my Julia, and that dumpling-faced girl will be cured.
But if you keep me here, by Gee, sir, I'll make hot love to your Hannah,
boiling hot, hotter than ever was--out of the isles of Greece. Oh do help
me out, and I'll give you the hundred pounds, and I'll give Hannah
another hundred pounds, on condition she marries you: and, if she won't
marry you, she shan't have a farthing, only a good hiding."
Brown was overpowered by his maniac's logic. "You have a head," said he;
"there's my hand; I'll go in, if I die for it."
They now put their heads together over the means. Brown's plan was to
wait, and wait, for an opportunity. Alfred's was to make one this very
"But how can I?" said Brown. "I shan't have the key of your room. I am
not on watch in your part to-night."
"Hannah's? She has got no key of the male patients rooms."
"Oh yes, she has; of mine, at all events."
"What makes you think that, sir?" said Brown suspiciously.
Alfred didn't know what to say: he could not tell him why he felt sure
she had a key.
"Just go quietly and ask her for it" said he: "don't tell her I sent you,
Brown obeyed, and returned in half-an-hour with the key of the vacant
bedroom, where the hobbles and chains were hidden on the arrival of the
She tells me this is the only key she has of any room in this corridor.
But dear heart," said Brown, "how quicksighted the women are. She said,
says she, 'If it is to bring sorrowful true lovers together again, Giles,
or the like of that I'll try and get the key you want off Mrs. Archbold's
bunch, though I get the sack for it,' says she. 'I know she heaves them
in the parlour at night' says Hannah. She is a trump, you must allow."
Alfred coloured up. He suspected he had been unjust.
"She is a good, kind, single-hearted girl," said he; "and neither of you
shall find me ungrateful."
It was evident by the alacrity Brown now showed, that he had got his
orders from Hannah.
It was agreed that Alfred should be down at night in his clothes, ready
to seize the right moment; that Hannah should get the key, and watch the
coast clear, and let him out into the corridor; and Brown get him down by
a back stairs, and out on the lawn, There he would find a ladder close by
the wall, and his own arms and legs must do the rest.
And now Alfred was a changed creature: his eye sparkled; he walked on
air, and already sniffed the air of liberty.
After tea Brown brought in some newspapers, and made Alfred a signal,
previously agreed on, that the ladder was under the east wall. He went to
bed early, put on his tweed shooting-jacket and trousers, and lay
listening to the clock with beating heart.
At first, feet passed to and fro from time to time. These became less
frequent as the night wore on.
Presently a light foot passed, stopped at the door, and made a sharp
scratch on it with some metal instrument.
It was the key. The time was not ripe to use it, but good Hannah had
taken this way to let him know she had got it.
This little scratch outside his door, oh it made his heart leap and
thrill. One great difficulty was overcome. He waited, and waited, but
with glowing, hopeful heart; and at last a foot came swiftly, the key
turned, and Hannah opened the door. She had a bull's-eye lantern.
"Take your shoes in your hand," she whispered, "and follow me."
He followed her. She led him in and out, to the door of the public room
belonging to the second-class patients. Then she drew her whistle, and
breathed very softly. Brown answered as softly from the other end. He was
waiting at the opposite door.
"All right," said she; "the dangerous part is over." She put a key into
the door, and said very softly, "Good-bye."
"God bless you, Hannah," said Alfred, with deep emotion. "God in heaven
bless you for this!"
"He will, He does," said the single-hearted girl, and put her other hand
to her breast with a great gulp. She opened the door slowly. "Good-bye,
dear. I shall never see you again."
And so these two parted; for Hannah could not bear the sight of Giles at
that moment. He was welcome to Alfred, though, most welcome, and
conducted him by devious ways to the kitchen, lantern in hand.
He opened the kitchen door softly, and saw two burly strangers seated at
the table, eating with all their souls, and Mrs. Archbold standing before
the fire, but looking towards him: for she had heard his footsteps ever
so far off.
The men looked up, and saw Alfred. They rose to their feet, and said,
"This will be the gentleman, madam?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Archbold.
"Your servant, sir," said the man very civilly. "If you are ready we
SAMPSON'S placard was on Barkington walls, and inside the asylum Alfred
was softening hearts and buying consciences, as related; so, in fact, he
had two strings to his bow.
But mark how strangely things turn; these two strings got entangled. His
father, alarmed by the placard, had called at the pawnbroker's shop, and
told him he must move Alfred directly to a London asylum. Baker raised
objections; Mr. Hardie crushed them with his purse, _i.e.,_ with his
son's and victim's sweetheart's father's money. So then, as Baker after
all could not resist the project, but only postpone it for a day or two,
he preferred to take a handsome present, and cooperate. He even connived
at Mr. Hardie's signing the requisite name to the new order. This the
giddy world calls forgery; but, in these calm retreats, far from the
public's inquisitive eye, it goes for nothing. Why, Mrs. Archbold had
signed Baker's name and Dr. Bailey's more than a hundred several times to
orders, statements, and certificates; depriving Englishmen of their
liberty and their property with a gesture of her taper fingers; and
venting the conventional terms, "Aberration," "Exaltation," "Depression,"
"Debility," "Paralysis," "Excitable," "Abnormal," as boldly and blindly
as any male starling in the flock.
On the very night, then, of Alfred's projected escape, two keepers came
down from Dr. Wycherley's asylum to Silverton station: Baker met them and
drove them to Silverton House in his dog-cart. They were to take Alfred
up by the night train; and, when he came into the kitchen with Brown,
they suspected nothing, nor did Baker or Cooper, who presently emerged
from the back kitchen. Brown saw, and recovered his wits partially.
"Shall I go for his portmanteau, sir?" stammered he, making a shrewd and
fortunate guess at what was up. Baker assented; and soon after went out
to get the horse harnessed. On this Mrs. Archbold, pale, sorrowful, and
silent hitherto, beckoned Alfred into the back kitchen, and there gave
him his watch and his loose money. "I took care of them for you," said