Chapter Five

CHAPTER FIVE

Anne

October 16th, 1885

Royal Bethlem Hospital

To be put into a sack!

My arms are pinned to my sides, my hands stuck fast inside deep, itchy pockets. I can’t straighten my fingers, and my long nails dig painfully into my palms. It must be made of some sort of stout linen, or possibly even wool. I lean against the wall and rub my body up and down; right arm, left arm, stomach, back, ah. It brings me welcome relief for roughly two minutes before the itching starts up again.

Are there insects in this thing?

Oh, woe is me.

I try yanking my hands upwards and outward as hard as I can, but this only makes me almost topple over backwards. Where are the buttons, or laces?

Can I get it out of it somehow?

This is harsh punishment indeed for simply throwing the chamber pot at my captors. What did they expect me to do? Let them carve out my eyes? I’m not sorry for doing it, though I am regretful to be partially restrained because of it. They don’t seem to take too kindly to my defensive strategies. But they must understand that they can’t just go around the world, taking people from their homes in the middle of the night and putting them into cells.

Perhaps the best thing I can do is stay quiet, and wait to be rescued.

I shuffle over to my bed and lie down awkwardly, not sure how I’m going to stand up again, but not caring. I close my eyes and try to imagine what must be happening on the outside, back at the Manor. What I wouldn’t give to be back at home, amongst the people whom love me.

I must have dozed off, because one minute I’m sat in my father’s library, my favorite place in the whole world, and the next I’m being poked by a fat finger telling me to get up.

“And quickly about it!”

Another poke.

“Wha-”

“Now!”

I’m still sleepy when Fat-Ruth lifts the brown sack over my head, accomplishing in mere seconds what I failed to do given hours. Unfortunately, she mushes my face into the mattress as she does so without a care nor thought for my well-being. The smell of faeces invades my nose as she sits me up, and I can’t help but gag.

“My arms have gone numb,” I say, swallowing vomit. “And can’t you open a window?”

“It’s your own fault your arms are numb and no, the windows don’t open. People would throw themselves out of them,” she says, throwing the tangled sack into a corner by the door. “And, if you hadn’t emptied your chamber-pot over me, we wouldn’t have had to restrain you, would we?”

I wonder briefly why people would be compelled to throw themselves out of a window, but become distracted by Fat Ruth bustling about with another porcelain jug whilst keeping it discreetly out of my reach. I smile a little at that, until she dips a sponge into the water, and wrings it out over my head. I utter a few profanities. When I’m all soaked through, she pulls the sodden nightgown off me and I sit there, naked and ashamed, on the edge of what has become ‘my’ bed., trying ineffectually to cover myself with crossed legs and folded arms. She starts washing my feet.

“Ah! Wash my stomach first, I’ve been asleep you bloody degenerate! You are going to destroy my circulation!”

She ignores me.

“You’re absolutely filthy, you are a disgrace.” She repeats the motion over and over again, adding some soap into the mix, rubbing my arms, my legs, my back, my face, and last of all, my stomach. Now all of my blood which has been involved in digestion is bound to stay there, and I shall feel sluggish and woeful for the rest of the day. I suppose that’s how the lower classes wash themselves, which explains why she’s so fat.

The rest of the water in the jug gets poured directly on my head. A towel is produced from somewhere which she starts roughly drying me with, turning my skin pink.

I tell her not to rub so hard. She tuts, and finishes up, ignoring my request.

“My god, your leaking again. Wait a second.” She disappears out the door in a rush, and comes back in with a bowl. Dipping her hands into it, she grabs hold of both my breasts.

I shriek.

“What on earth are you doing!” I scream, and try to push her off me. She holds on tight, and starts squeezing them and rubbing them. It hurts.

“Dear god! You foul, immoral degenerate!”

“Oh, be quiet Anne,” she says, letting go abruptly and picking something up from the floor. “Now, put these on, and be quick about it,” she says, flinging a clean nightgown onto my lap as she bends down to pick up the empty jug. I stare at the top of her head and consider staying naked for a while; putting my shame to one side just to offend her.

“I’m going to have you arrested,” I tell her. “You just abused me.”

“Anne, the doctor is coming,” she says, standing up and ignoring my threat. “Do you want him to see you like this?” Her keys jangle as she makes her way over to the cell door, bending over to retrieve the sack from the floor. “Do you know what men do to women who are exposed in such a manner?” She leaves with a smile, slamming the door.

I get dressed quickly, scoot myself over to the wall and start picking.

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