Chapters

CHAPTER ONE

Anne

October 11th 1885

Unknown Location

What I really want to know is how the bastards did it.

It’s the blackest part of the night, and I’ve woken up to find myself lying upon a bed made of straw. Although this in itself may sound rather conventional, it most certainly is not when a person went to sleep on a mattress stuffed with horsehair and layered with cotton.

How does one accomplish such a feat?

This is possibly the rudest thing to which I have ever borne witness. Or not, considering I was asleep. The sheer, bloody audacity of thieves these days!

I roll over and sit myself up, the utterly repellent material crunching underneath me. Something tickles my foot and I shriek, pushing the blanket away, gasping as I do so. Not only did they bring an insect breeding-ground into my house, they’ve stolen my quilt, too.

Of all the nerve…

Right.

I’m contacting the police. The audacious fiends shan’t get away with it.

I shuffle to the end of the bed, and stand. After all, if I’m quick enough to report, they won’t be too hard to find. A seven foot wide mattress is not an easy nor sensible thing to walk along a road with, even under the cover of night. I reach for my slippers, but, wait. Why am I standing on a cold floor? Where is…

They’ve done away with my Ambusson rug!

This is utterly outrageous.

“Beatrix!” I shout, walking towards the door. “Beatrix! Wake up, we’ve been robbed!” Wait, it’s too dark, and I’m cold. “Beatrix! Come on in here and light a light, will you?” I raise my arms out in front of me,  swinging my hands back and forth as I blindly search for my dressing gown. After walking a few steps, I bump into a wall that shouldn’t be there.

I run my fingers across it.

It is cracked and in a dire state of disrepair.

This is not my wall.

Something flakes off underneath my palms, and inside my mind.

This isn’t my bedroom.

I’ve been kidnapped.

No, no…it can’t possibly be. There must be a logical explanation for this strangeness.

Did I fall from my horse again?

Is it possible I hit my head?

Could I still be asleep?

The pain that shoots through my arm as I pinch myself is suddenly overtaken by a horrible ache inside my breasts; a hot, tender, bruised sensation. I ignore it, listening for a sound.

Any sound.

Where am I?

I turn in a circle, lost.

What does one do in such a predicament?

Am I in the servants quarters?

My anger is swiftly replaced by fear.

“Beatrix!” I hiss, keeping my voice low this time. I am rewarded with the dreadful sound of nothingness.

What time is it?

I start to walk in a straight line, searching for something, anything, that might inform me as to my location. A lamp. A door. A dressing-table.  My hands brush nothing but air until they hit what feels like another stone wall. I place my back against it, and follow it with my palms until I hit a corner.

I continue onwards, until I realize I have counted four corners and effectively walked in a square.

I’m in a room.

A small room.

A small room without a door.

As horrendous a prospect this may be, I follow my journey again. Slowly, carefully, I search for any grooves or handles that I in my haste, I undoubtedly missed the first time. Other than the bed, nothing of sufficient prominence nor irregularity informs me of my whereabouts.  If I can’t identify my location, then I should at least try to escape.

But I don’t find anything.

I sit on the floor.

How is this possible?

Every room has a door. If someone brought me here then there is a way inside, and therefore, a way out.

I don’t know how long I stay like this, thinking of everything and nothing. Frozen in place, scared to call out, too frightened to move, yet now terrified not to do both. I close my eyes for just a moment, and when I open them a small pool of light rests upon my arm.

I lift my head, searching for it’s source.

A small, square window hangs roughly twelve feet above the ground. It has unusual, horizontal lines across it. I squint. What could they be? Cautiously, I rise, intending to investigate, when a loud knock reverberates from somewhere nearby.

I shriek, and run towards the bed that I can now see; albeit faintly, grabbing the blanket off the floor and leaping into it. Pulling the cover over my head, I pray they won’t notice me.

My heart is beating too fast. I can’t breathe under this blanket and it smells.

“Lady Stanbury?”

Who?

“Anne?”

Me?

Oh, it’s Beatrix, dear-hearted Beatrix. I push the cover away from my face, readying myself to leap into her arms.

“Quick, Beatrix, come inside! Light a light, quickly now! What has happened to my bed, where are we-”

A familiar scratching sound; the lighting of an oil lamp. Held up to a woman’s face.

A face that is not Beatrix’s.

I scream.

She is wearing a white uniform complete with a starched collar; a strange wrap-around contraption, slightly reminiscent of a maids, yet, bewilderingly, subtly and grossly different. Her vast body fills the doorway, illuminated by an unknown source of light from behind her. She stands still for a moment, assessing me.

Doorway?

“Now, now, Lady Stanbury,” she says, her bosom heaving as if she is gasping for breath.  “I don’t expect any trouble from you now, especially not at this hour of the morning. Here is your breakfast.”

I push myself as far up the bed as I can, away from her. What has she done with Beatrix?

“Where is Beatrix?” I shout, as she puts a stinking tray on the floor next to my bed. Who in hell is this damned fiend, and does she honestly imagine I will eat my breakfast…off the floor?

“Beatrix will be along momentarily, my Lady,” she says, stepping away from me and smirking. She places her masculine hands on fat hips and with a small incline of her fat head, performs a wobbly, insubordinate imitation of a badly-executed curtsey. “For now, I am your maid.

I could kill her.

“Leave at once, intruder!” I scream. “I certainly did not employ you, you liar!”  Leaping out of bed, I back away from her. Where on earth is Beatrix?  “Father! There is a thief in our house!” Where is my riding crop? I shall beat her senseless.  I whirl around to find it, but wait, this room is not mine.  I have been kidnapped!

What is this accursed place?

“Calm yourself,” says the fat thief, approaching me with outstretched hands.

“Father! Beatrix!” My head feels strange: spots of black are floating in front of my eyes. Lord, if I faint in this monster’s clutches I’m doomed.  She might try to eat me.

Until my father or Beatrix arrives, I must find something with which to hit her if she attacks me.  An object to defend myself; though if need be I shall get her with my bare hands and teeth. Goddamn her! Yet sadly, there is only the thin mattress on which I awoke, atop which lie a couple of awfully colored brown blankets.  Bloody useless. The bed frame itself looks affixed to the floor. The room is roughly eight feet squared, and unfortunately, sparse.  No wardrobe.

Heavens.

And the window! It has bars across it! I have been thrown in a cell!  Lord, have mercy on my soul!  This is an exercise in utter futility.  There is nothing to make a weapon with here. My safety is a thing of the past.

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….” I mutter, as I search the room. God will help cast out this devil.

In my haste to find a dangerous object, I fail to notice a lone flagstone in the floor which has risen above its neighbors. The one inch jut is adequate enough to trip me.

Landing on my head, pain shoots through my brain.

“Doctor!” The fat kidnapper shouts from behind me. Doctor? Does she imagine she can pretend  I am in a hospital?  This cell does not resemble a place of rest!  I consider the wall opposite me as I lie on my face.  It is a sickening yellow in dire need of paint, flaking off in places and somebody needs to fix this floor.  And what is that smell?  Sitting up, I look back at the offending slab. It mocks me, and threads of green grace it’s edges.  For the first time, I detect I am not wearing my own lacey white nightgown. This drab excuse is no Parisian beauty; rather a thin and awful green linen thing which trails below my feet.

The reason I tripped! The hem must have become stuck on the slab.   This gives me a sense of self satisfaction in that it was my clothes conspiring against me as opposed to my own unwieldy awkwardness.  Score one to Anne, zero to my obese jailer: you supplied me with the wrong size gown!  A manic laugh resounds inside my head.  This is evidence no doubt of her stupidity.  If she cannot judge the size of my frame then she will make a further mistake, which will enable me to escape.

I am happy.  Tomorrow she might give me the jailer’s keys for breakfast, and put the bowl of porridge in her pocket.  That would serve her right. I roll onto my stomach, the dizziness is overwhelming. She can have a view of my behind. She doesn’t deserve my face.

“Why is she laughing?” a man’s voice says.

“How am I to know? But she has fallen, and she has urinated upon herself!”

There are two of them? If this situation weren’t so dreadful, it would be almost comical. And who has urinated upon themselves? That is disgusting. Splayed in a most undignified manner on the floor, dressed in an appalling green gown, with blood trickling out of my head, I contemplate which is more worrisome. The state of my cell, no fit state for a Lady, or the fact that a man has an uncontested view of my unmentionables. 

My head does not overly concern me, the warmth of the blood is rather soothing.

“Pervert!” I shout.

The floor is comfortable too.

I don’t want to get up.

Rustling and hushing from behind me.

Before I realize what is happening, I am manhandled into a sitting position. I squirm in a pathetic attempt to stay where I am, to no avail. What impolite, rude behavior.

“My father will not give you a solitary farthing!” I say, into the face of the ‘doctor’ holding me. “Unhand me at once and let me go home, you, you,” I struggle to find an insult strong enough. “You utter, foul sod of a rotter!” My voice breaks and I am ashamed and astounded that I start to sob.

“Lady Stanbury, look at me,” he says.  I refuse, and moan into my gown. “I am a doctor. My name is George, Dr George Savage. I am the chief medical officer here at Bethlem Royal Hospital. You are safe, and let me assure you, we have not kidnapped you. The courts’ requested that you be sent here at Her Majesty’s pleasure, until we can make you well again. You are not a prisoner, but a patient.” He attempts to rub my arms and is rewarded by a smack in the face.

This is outrageous.  They have the wrong person! My name is not Lady Stanbury, nor do I know of any person by that name. I don’t believe a word he says. Blood runs into my right eye, making it difficult to assess him in any detail. I make out a long brown beard and a well-fitting suit. How dare this degenerate masquerade as an eminent doctor? I am disgusted.

“My name, if you please, is Lady Anne. You have kidnapped the wrong woman, I never saw you in my life! Incompetents!” This is too hilarious. I start to laugh.

“Chloral?” asks the enormous specimen of a human by his side.

“No, no,” he replies, “We only dose them as a last resort. It is better to let her rest awhile, see if she comes to her senses somewhat by noon. Get the new attendant to come and clean her up.” They start to move away from me.

“Don’t you dare leave me alone in this place!” I shout, jumping to my feet, but I am too slow: they are at the door. With a somewhat evil glance behind her, the ‘nurse’ winks at me and slams the door shut; a yellow door which matches and blends perfectly with the walls.

I sit back on the bed and start sobbing once again.

CHAPTER TWO

Dr George Savage

M.D, M.R.C.P

October 12th, 1885.

Royal Bethlem Hospital

Preparing for my next entry, I scan through Lady Stanbury’s admission notes and find myself taken for a moment by her photograph. Such a normal looking woman. Demure. Soft. Kind.

Her eyes stare at mine and I close the book, pushing it away.

Alas, such insanity is scarcely recognized until it interferes with the law in some way. As a father myself the brutality of her crime scratches at my heart, yet I understand on a professional level that she is not to blame. Indeed, I hold forth great hope that she will, given time, recover completely; but sometimes I wonder if it would be a mercy for her if she did not. I remember all too well the screaming crowd outside the hospital on the day she arrived. Men, women, and even children armed with placards, all shouting for justice and many demanding the death penalty.

Society is scared of that which it does not understand and my job, nay, my role in life is to enlighten them. Lady Stanbury’s crime is widely viewed as the worst a woman could ever commit: the very nature of it inciting other women to question their own status. As if one woman’s’ broken virtue could taint them by mere association of a shared gender.

I pull the case book towards me, licking my finger and flicking through it until I reach the next blank page. Picking up my ink eyedropper in one hand and a pen in the other, I carefully fill it without any spillages and smile. Preparation is everything. I do not want to run out mid-sentence.

It has now been little over a week since Lady Stanbury’s admission to Royal Bethlem Hospital, and as yet, no discernible progress has been made. Despite rest and recuperation, everything of which she suffered on admission is still very much established. There is no longer any doubts nor questions regarding the initial diagnosis.

Patient is violent, and as a direct consequence of this I am unable to do a complete physical exam, though she is still lactating and remains ammenorehic. Friction of the breasts with salt and castor oil has as yet proven impossible.

There is no sign of mastitis.

She remains flushed in appearance.

I am in complete agreement with Dr Goldenheind and Dr Johnson; the two physicians who signed the first certificates of insanity. Their reports adequately reflect the behavior I myself have witnessed since.

She remains in isolation for her own safety.

Commissioners duly informed.

I read over what I have written, carefully correcting the bottom curl of a ‘y’.

There.

At this time, Lady Stanbury is certainly a person whom requires that she should be deprived of her liberty as much for her own sake as for that of society.

She is not the first woman to be admitted to an asylum on this charge, and will not be the last.

Behind her beautiful smile lies the diseased mind of a lunatic.

CHAPTER THREE

Anne

October 16th, 1885

Royal Bethlem Hospital

Last night I was kept awake by the sound of a woman weeping; an awful, incessant, irritating sound that rose steadily in pitch and prolongation as the night wore on. Covering my head with the flimsy blanket in an effort to block out the noise proved useless. “It’s difficult enough to sleep in here, you fiends!” I cried, hammering at the handle-less door that confuses me so; the yellow, metal gateway separating me from my freedom. It does not even have a keyhole for me to peer through. I’m not entirely sure whether something worse than incarceration awaits me on the other side, but the most terrifying thing is not knowing.

I do know that I’m at the mercy of my captors if I can’t find a way to open it.

Damn them all, the bunch of goats. I roll over and try to get comfortable; a few strands of straw poking me in the eye.

My father must be frantic, and what of Beatrix? I hope they are both safe and well, and that they have not been abducted too. No doubt the police have been contacted by now, and I imagine they are searching through fields and rivers, looking for my body. Surely my kidnappers left clue’s that will lead them to me.

I rub my eyes in an attempt to clear them. I am glad that I am without a mirror; combined with the awful night-gown I am forced to wear, I imagine I resemble a lower-class prostitute. I can’t remember the last time my hair was brushed, my face washed, or my finger-nails filed. I haven’t had a warm bath in days. I could shed tears just thinking about it.

The darkness of my cell begins to fade. I get out of bed and move over to the window, standing on tip-toes, listening closely for any sounds the day may bring. I stay here for a long time, and it occurs to me that no church bells toll the hour. I must therefore be somewhere in the countryside as opposed to a city. I keep listening, my suspicions eventually confirmed with the rewarding crow of a singular cock somewhere in the distance. I have no way of telling the time in here; no clocks adorn the walls, and I wonder idly whether my captors might be kind enough to supply me with a stick. As I consider my plight and troubles with keeping time, the sound of my cell door opening disturbs the quiet. The same fat woman that appears every morning is hovering in the doorway, holding my breakfast tray.

Watching me.

Well, at least my captors don’t wish me to starve to death.

“What unsolicited advice do you have for me this morning?” I say, as she moves wordlessly into the room and bends to put the tray onto the floor.  She normally comes armed with a prepared speech regarding my behavior: stop banging, stop shouting, stop crying. My breakfast unsurprisingly consists of a single bowl of thick, tasteless, glutinous porridge: a vast and sad difference to the perfectly golden, buttery toast to which I am accustomed.

“To be quieter at night?” It is a rhetorical question, and she doesn’t bother turning to look at me, busying herself with my breakfast.

I peer at her large behind. The fabric is stretched tight across her buttocks. If she bends forward any farther, she is liable to rip open the seams.

“Were you trying to kill someone last night?” I imagine all sorts of wonderful foods that she must eat in the mornings. Bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, sausages. All piled high on beautifully polished silver plates.

“No, Anne, I wasn’t.”

“I’m sorry, you ‘wasn’t’ what?”

“That’s the answer to your question.”

“What question?”

What is she talking about?

“You asked me if I was killing someone last night. I wasn’t.”

Oh, that.

“You were,” I say, picking at my nails.

“I wasn’t.”

She’s such a dirty liar! I resist the childish urge to stamp my foot.

“You most certainly were.”

She stares at me.

“Look,” I say, pretending to be nice. Polite. “Can I have something other than this slop for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Who do you think I am, Oliver Twist?”

She mutters under her breath and stands, turning as if to leave.

“May I have a stick to tell the time?” I ask quickly, not wishing to be thwarted so soon. She spins and looks at me as if I am mad.

“No, Anne. I dread to think what might occur if we gave our inmates sticks. Full out war, I expect. And how do you suppose a stick will help you tell the time?”

Inmates?

Well, you place a stick in the ground, upright – normally easier if you have a bit of soil, which I don’t, but I’m fairly sure I can make it stand up somehow. In that porridge, most probably: for it is thick enough. Anyway, then, when the sun hits the stick, you look at the shadow as you would imagine a clock-face, and-“

Anne, stop. The only times you need to know are that of mealtimes. In fact,” she says, sneering, “You don’t even need to know the times of those. You are to remain inside this room.” She pauses and looks about her, before bringing her face close to mine. Foul breath invades my nose as I stifle a heave. “Do you need to be somewhere?”

Well, yes, I need to be at home.” I stutter, the stench of sewage blocking my voice.

I will bring you your food for now. When, and if, you are eventually allowed out into the hospital freely, a bell will ring at the times of breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Backing away from me, she adds, “A stick…Lord have mercy!” She pulls open the door, for which I am semi-grateful, and semi-despondent, but I try to peek around her.

It’s no use.

She’s too fat.

And yet….

Any human contact is better than none.

“I want to observe the body.” I entice her to stay.

“Oh, Anne…” her fat chins ripple as she closes the door. I am reminded of the red jelly Mrs Cook used to make for me when I was a child.

I shudder.

I don’t think I will ever eat it again.

No matter.

I leap onto the floor and search the porridge with my fingers.

No keys.

Dejected, I sit with my back to the wall and watch the sun rise in the sky through the window. I realize with a sudden clarity that I’ve seen that woman before, in the dream I had a few nights ago. What if it wasn’t a dream, maybe that’s how I got here? I ponder this for a while, but quickly tire of thinking. I’m bored of everything. The days in here are long and utterly pointless, and nothing holds my attention.

Eventually dawn turns to noon as the yellow fireball peaks at the uppermost part through the bars, and at once my stomach grumbles. It has learned that lunch will be delivered soon after the sun hits that particular spot in the glass. Yet the fact that my hunger pangs will soon be satisfied, is not enough to lift me from my abject misery. I have too many matters to mull over.

What do they want with me?

Do they intend to harm me?

Who are ‘they’?

And where is Beatrix? I miss her. Nobody else here speaks French and if I don’t practice, I may forget how to speak it. I can only hope that my confidante, my best friend, is outside these four walls, discussing my freedom with my kidnappers. It is lucky my captors are not French too, as Father would be absolutely hopeless in any sort of negotiation, and Beatrix would be of utmost importance.

There is a tickling sensation in my hands. Looking down, I find I am holding a pile of yellow paint chips. I must have spent my morning picking them off the walls as I watched the sun rise. I brush them away, scattering them onto the floor.

The fat woman in the apron returns right on time but she is not alone, she is accompanied by a younger, slimmer version of her foul self. They are wearing identical aprons, so no doubt this newcomer is a lying, thieving fiend too. This new one reminds me of a rat, she’s all teeth and bones and her eyes protrude from her face.

My, they do employ the most graceless women.

“I don’t suppose you speak French, do you?” I say, staring at the newcomer, hopefully. She shakes her head and remains silent, looking at the floor and twiddling her key-chain.

“Does she even speak English?”

“Be quiet,” the fat one replies. “Today we are going to take you for a walk. God knows, I shan’t be taking you alone. You’d like that, I imagine?” She nudges Rat-Face in the side, who startles before running over to me and grabbing me by an arm. I ignore the urge to smack her.

“I thought you said I couldn’t leave the room,” I say.

The fat-one snorts.

“Yes well, the doctor has decided he want’s you out for a while. Might drive you crazy if you stay in here for too long.” She slides a look at Rat-Face, sniggering, and this time it truly takes all of my self-restraint not to hurt her.

“Oh, well, how wonderful! Yes! I would love to go for a walk!” I smile innocently. Bastard, only letting me out for a ‘walk’ like a dog. If a fair opportunity should arise, I’ll give them both the slip, that would surprise the ‘good doctor’, wouldn’t it?

“Let’s get it over with then,” the fat-one says, grabbing hold of my other arm, and the two of them pull me out of my cell into the longest corridor imaginable.

Light!

One side is made almost in its entirety of large windows, as far I can see. Sunlight pours through them, shining stars and whorls up the walls. Wooden benches run along both sides of the passageway at regular intervals, and potted flowers bloom in the golden rays.  It is incredible. The twitter of canaries co-mingles with doves cooing; the sounds emanating from ornamental bird-cages scattered everywhere on small wooden tables.

And people! There are other women! This fact delights me for a moment, and I almost jump with joy until I remember that I am a hostage and whoever my captors are, they must earn a fortune in ransom money if I am not the only one here. I am smiling and frowning at the same time; a stifling, rumbling pot of contradictory thoughts.

As I am flanked on either side by my two captors, escape is imminently futile. I have no choice but to follow wherever they lead me.

“Thieves, robbers.” I gripe quietly under my breath, loathe to make my feelings known in case I am marched firmly back to my cell, but unable to repress them completely. I stay inconspicuously alert for signs of an exit whilst letting myself be maneuvered down the corridor.

As we make our way through the hallway, we are forced to slow down by a woman curled up in a fetal position, moaning and crying on the ground. We stop just in front of her, and my fat captor nudges me in my side with a surprisingly knobbly-feeling elbow. The woman is laid at anothers feet; those of a handsome, fair-haired woman who is leaning forward, stroking her hair. She is dressed in the same apron as my captor, but she seems different.

She looks kind.

“Anne,” the fat-one says to me, “Do you see this woman?”

“A little hard to miss, seeing as if I take one more step I shall trip over her.” I say.

“This is your body.”

“Pardon?”

“The body you presumed had been left after the alleged murder last night,” she replies, grinning at me, and elbowing me again in my ribs, making me wince. “I told you nobody was killed.”

“Oh.” I am momentarily lost for words.

“This is another patient, just as you are a patient. Her name is Grace.”

“Miss Grace, could you kindly move your body off the floor so we may walk by?” I say, studying her. Grace stops sobbing and looks up at me. I smile, but this is wasting time. I need to find an exit.

“Don’t be cruel,” says her captor, who stops stroking her head for a moment to assess me. “This is Grace’s spot. She stays here all day, and she’s been here much longer than you have.”

“Her family hasn’t paid the ransom then yet?” I shake my head, sadly. I tut, and waggle my finger. “Shame on you. Shame on all of you. Cretins.” I am rewarded with a curious, questioning glance.

“She thinks she’s been kidnapped.” says my fat jailor.

“I have been kidnapped,” I say with assertion, nodding my head.

“Oh, this is the one, who you know…” says the nice looking jailor, her eyes flicking over me from head to toe.

“Yes,” says the fat-one.

“Pardon? I’m the one who what?” I’m confused.

“Nothing of your concern at present,” says Rat-Face. “Now come on, we can walk around Grace and continue on our way.” She starts tugging at my arm now, and the fat one pulls at the other arm in the other direction. We’re not going anywhere unless they pull me one way or the other, not two. Rat-Face gives up the fight and lets go of me.

“Are you taking me home?”

“No. I’m taking you for your salt and castor oil rub. You’re leaking. “

“Leaking where? What do you mean?”

She sighs.

“Forget it, Anne.”

I do.

“Well then…can I please have a stick?”

“No.”

I sigh, and turn to the fair haired woman.

“Do you speak French?” I raise my eyebrows pleadingly as I am pulled past her.

“Oui.”

That one word gives me the hope and courage I need to smile and let myself be dragged onwards.

***

What is your name?”I ask, as my fat jailor leads me back along the corridor. We had a not-so-nice walk up and down the corridor, for an hour. Rat-Face scuttled off somewhere halfway through, possibly to find some cheese, or a dead body to chew upon.

“My name? Oh, Dear Lord-” and she starts laughing, wiping a tear away from under an eye with a tubby finger, skillfully keeping one hand firmly shackled on my upper arm. “My name is not the one that should be of importance to you: it is your own.”

“What?” We reach my cell door and she hands me over to a nearby woman, asking her to keep hold of me for a second whilst she unlocks it.

What does she think I am, a donkey? To be tethered to a lamp-post at will? The girl holding me is wearing a night-gown identical to my own. But it strikes very quickly that she worryingly bald; out-rightly denuded of hair, and two large, water-filled blisters bulge like over-sized bugs on her head. Her eyes are devoid of human emotion, and her eyelashes are gone too. I yelp, kick her in the shin and she lets go of me with a cry.

I start running down the corridor, the sunlight burning flashes in my vision as I pass the windows at the speed of a gazelle. The sound of a shrill whistle being blown momentarily startles me but I ignore it, keeping my momentum. I revel in the fact that my feet are taking me far away from here, leading me home. I’m free, I’m free, there’s no way that fat woman can possibly catch me. People jump out of my way, tables crash in front of me, a birdcage tips over, and as I look behind me, I see a dove soaring his own way to freedom. It is a funny sight and I giggle, just as a familiar cramp hits me in the side and I am bowled over by a man.

“Nurse Ruth!” He shouts in a loud and authoritative boom, and the buzz of activity I incited during the past few minutes stops. The dove flaps ineffectually against the glass in a fatalistic attempt at freedom.

I know just how he feels.

Just as someone catches him in a net, the man catches me and as we are both being led back to our cells in opposite directions, the bird’s little black eyes meet mine. He stops struggling for a moment; looking at me as if to say, What happened? We were almost there.

I know bird, I know. I’ll ask them to give you extra feed tonight for your trouble.

But it’s not really good enough is it? I hate you, he tells me.

I shrug. Qui onques rien n’enprist riens n’achieva, I say to him.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I repeat aloud, in English.

The man deposits me back outside of my cell, and the fat-one comments on how ‘mad’ I am, glaring at me as she holds the door open. The doctor tries to push me through, but I thrust back.

“They’re all mad, Nurse Ruth, or have you forgotten where you work today?”

“If only,” she harrumphs, practically farting out of her mouth.

“You never answered my question,” I say to her, my principled display of non-conformance with the doctor continuing as I advance through the doorway inch by excruciating inch.

“What question, Anne?” she says, idiotically.

“You could at least employ someone intelligent,” I say to the man, who I realize now is the ‘doctor’.  “I asked her her name, about four minutes ago, and she’s already forgotten about it.”

He looks at me and offers me a small grin. For a second, less than a second, I feel a brief sense of solidarity. It quickly disappears when his fish eyes goggle at me.

“My name isn’t the question Anne, and my memory isn’t the one in dispute here: yours is. Lady Anne Stanbury.” she says, one half of her mouth turned upwards in a parody of a grin.

I could scream, I really could.

So I do.

And then, with lack of any other options, I sit on the floor in the doorway.

“Oh, how frustrated you people are making me! I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again: you have the wrong woman! My name is Lady Anne, yes, but my surname is Damsbridge, D-A-M-S-B-R-I-D-G-E. Just in case you’re having difficulty understanding that, I thought I should spell it out for you. But are you illiterate? I suppose you probably are. Again, Damsbridge. My father is the Earl of Damsbridge. The name of Stanbury is not mine, I have never heard of it, and I don’t even know anybody by that name!”

“Anne, her name is Ruth,” says the ‘doctor’. ‘Ruth’ farts again, and the doctor turns to her, saying,“Well? There is no harm in her knowing your name. She should, anyway, you’re supposed to be building a relationship with the patients. I’ve told you before.”

Ruth makes another noise, and I ask her whether she just farted out of her bottom or out of her mouth. “For when you talk, its nothing but a lot of smelly noise,” I tell her. “Your breath stinks. I noticed the other day, but decided to be polite about it and not say so.”

Her face turns a deep shade of pink.

“But…she’s so, so, stubborn! Doctor, she wont do hardly anything I tell her, she-”

“There is no such thing as a ‘stubborn’ insane person, Nurse Ruth. A man or woman bereft of reason is perfectly incapable of such. The only stubborn people of the world are sane, and to understand this is your job. Now, leave us alone for a minute. Seen as how I am here, I may as well utilize this opportunity to try to assess Anne again.”

“You shan’t be assessing anybody, least of all me. And I’m not bloody well insane,” I tell him as Ruth leaves, slamming the door behind her.

Ruth.

Fat-Ruth.

It has a certain ‘ring’ to it, or ‘roll’. A dumpy, lardy, big Fat-Ruth roll.

“Put out your tongue, please, Anne,” the ‘doctor’ says, approaching me slowly.

“I don’t want to, you beast,” I say. I’m really in trouble here.

“Anne. You must show me your tongue. I am a doctor.”

“My tongue is perfectly fine, you fiend. The only thing wrong with my tongue is that it is having to be used to talk with you,” I say, closing my mouth and pursing my lips together tightly.

He sighs and looks about him, before making his way over to my bed and sitting, putting his head in his hands.

“Yes, you may very well cast your eyes upon the ground, you despicable creature. How dare you lock a Lady in a cell, and pretend to be a doctor, in order to look upon her tongue?”

He moves to pull something out of his pocket, and I move quickly: far too fast for him to catch me.

“Anne-“

“A-ha! You never imagined this did you, you wobbly eyed fish!” I am over the other side of the cell, facing him, brandishing my chamber-pot. I hold it above my head. “It is full, stinking, filthy, dirty full, and I shall throw it upon you unless you give me the key.”

His puffy-fish eyes wobble a little more, practically standing on stalks out of his face.

“I can smell them,” I say. My arms are starting to ache.

“Smell what?”

“Your eyes, you sea-creature.”

“My eyes?”

“Yes, your eyes. Your horrible, beady eyes. Fish eyes. I should imagine you’d like to cut mine out and make chairs out of them. I simply refuse to put my tongue out.”

He starts writing on a long, slender notepad, evidently that which he pulled out of his pocket before I retrieved my weapon.

“Can you stretch out your arms for me, Anne? Perhaps wiggle your fingers a little?”

Whilst I’m holding a chamber-pot? What a stupid question.

“No. I shan’t do anything you ask of me. Is that my ransom note?”

“No, Anne. It is-“

“It is, I know it is. Why else would you be writing upon a pad? I hope that the ink leaks out of your pen, all over your disgusting, cheap-smart clothes.”

He frowns, ignoring me, continuing to write, occasionally wiping an invisible piece of dust from his lap.

“Have you ever taken any drugs, Anne?”

I ignore the question.

“Give me the key.”

“No, Anne. I can’t give you the key.”

“Give it to me!” My voice rises, my throat starts to close up. “Give it to me right NOW, give it to me, give it to me! Give it to me, give it to me-“

The door opens with a bang, hitting itself upon the wall. Some yellow paint falls onto the floor in a pile. I want it.

“Doctor! What on earth is she up to now-“

I launch my chamber-pot.

Time stops for a moment.

I giggle.

“Oh, my!”

The ‘doctor’ runs to Fat Ruth’s aid.

“Doctor! Ohhhhhhh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhhhhhhh!!!!”

I am in hysterics. The laugh simply won’t stop and it comes with force, pushing my voice up my windpipe and out into the air in dancing, happy tones. It forces me to bend over, such is it’s vigor and wait, something is shining next to my foot.

A shard.

Before I can grab it, hands pull my arms behind me sharply, and I am thrown to the floor. My giggle stops in a huff sort of sound, and I can’t breathe right. The odor of faeces invades my nose.

“Nurse Ruth!”

“What, Doctor? What? You want me to let this little wretch hack us both to death?”

“She would not have harmed us, she is-“

“She would! Why is this lunatic not at Broadmoor?”

“Because of her father, Nurse Ruth…“

My father? Broadmoor? Lunatic?

The hands let go of me, and they, as well as I, are covered in my ilth.

“Get the gloves, Nurse Ruth,” he says, wiping at his trousers that now, I laugh, have something on them to be wiped off.

“How about the dress?”

“Yes, fetch the dress then. Right away.”

What are they talking about? The ‘doctor’ looks at me forlornly from a few feet away, blocking the door.

“I am sorry to have to do this, Anne,” he says, leaving, as Fat-Ruth comes back, holding a brown sack.

“Do what? What is that?”

“A restraint. For imbeciles like you,” Fat-Ruth says, and launches herself upon me with astonishing speed, making me wonder if earlier, she just watched me run for amusement.

“Let me go, let me go, let me GO!” I shout and I shout and I shout. My voice is heard by everyone but acknowledged by no-one.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Dr George Savage

October 16th, 1885

Royal Bethlem Hospital

There is nothing in the world more soothing than a strong cup of coffee coupled with a light read. I consider the newspaper in front of me longingly for a moment before pushing it aside, and open Lady Stanbury’s case file.

Emotional side of Lady Stanbury uncontrolled, a tendency to mood swings, verbal and physical violence, marred by restlessness. Hallucinations ceased, yet delusions very much in force. Attempted to escape this morning, disturbing other patients and frightening staff. Threw a full chamber-pot of faeces over an attendant. Reached for a broken shard, unknown whether she harbored intention to do harm. To remain in isolation until behavior improves. Currently restrained in strong clothing for as short a period as necessary; whilst she is a danger to herself and others. Lunacy Commissioners informed.

The law requires that during the first three months of a patient’s admission, I make an entry into this book every week. After that, once a month, and after that, once every three months. However, given my newest patient’s current behavior, I find myself writing inside it much more often than required, as I do not wish to incur a twenty pound fine.

Gone are my mornings of a good, hearty breakfast accompanied by news of lighter matters.

I finish the paragraph and blow on the paper, the ink drying perfectly. That should make the commissioners happy. A tidy read portrays an organized hospital.

I tap my pen against the desk, thinking.

Prescribing Croton Oil.

Attention to the bowels can be of great service to these particular patients, though in Lady Stanbury’s case I am eager to examine her uterus. Yet…

Patient will not let me perform a physical assessment. Hydrotherapy may be useful in calming her enough for me to do so, slowing the blood flow to her brain and thus decreasing mental and physical activity.

To review patient afterward.

A loud knock on my office door startles me, causing me to drop my pen.

“Yes?”

“Doctor?” Nurse Ruth leans through the gap. “Sir, Lord Damsbridge, and a Mr Stanbury are here.”

“Send them in, please. And bring the tissues, too, as this will stain.” I’ve asked her before to knock more quietly.

She peeks at the widening ink-stain and grimaces, turns on her heel, and exits the room. Seconds later the aforementioned gentlemen enter.

I glance at the paper. If I am unable to read it, it can still be put to use.

I throw it over the ink stain.

“My Lord, Mr Stanbury. Good morning to you both.”

“And to you, Doctor,” says Lord Damsbridge, shaking off his umbrella. His eyes search my office.

“In the corner-”

He deposits it in the stand before I can finish.

The recently bereaved husband stands back and off to one side with his hands in his pockets. His face is as grief stricken and apt to the occasion as his stance as he glares at the certificates upon my wall.

“Mr Stanbury, I don’t believe we have met.”

“Indeed not. And I must say, I would rather have preferred it stayed that way.” His gaze moves toward me as he answers, but his body remains still.

Generally, people dislike meeting me. The policemen because they believe I ‘save’ guilty men and women from the gallows.  The patients, because they are terrified I’m going to throw them in a cell and let them starve. The relatives, because they don’t understand why their loved ones are locked away from society. Other doctors, who sneer in disdain at alienists.

It would affect a lesser man than I, of that I have no doubt.

“I agree. It is most unfortunate that this has occurred, and I offer you my most sincere condolences.”

He grunts in acknowledgment, nodding.

“Excuse my son-in-laws’ rudeness, Doctor,” says Lord Damsbridge, helping himself to a chair. “Stanbury, sit.”

“Oh, I’m not at all offended, My Lord-”

The Earl interrupts me.

“Well, you should be. A true gentleman should know how to act despite, or perhaps, because of his grief.” He stops, and peers around the chair. “Stanbury, I’m not going to tell you again.” He turns back to me, and offers a small, secret smile. “I keep telling him Doctor, an attitude like that doesn’t exactly inspire endearment from others.”

Mr Stanbury shoots a look of hatred towards the back of his father-in-laws head, but acquiesces.

“My apologies. I fear I am not myself. My wife did murder my baby less than two weeks ago, so you’ll have to excuse me.” His anger is palpable.

“Completely understandable, Mr Stanbury. Now, could I offer you gentlemen a coffee?”

“Yes-”

Lord Damsbridge interrupts his son-in-law.

“Something stronger would be more appropriate at this time. Whiskey, perchance?”

I glance at the large grandfather clock, left here by my predecessor. I assume he’s referring to the meetings impending subject matter, as opposed to the hour, as the hands show only nine and twenty.

“Well, of course. I’m sure Nurse Ruth can fetch some, that woman can find anything given half a chance. She should be back momentarily, as I spilled-”

I stop.

It’s best I keep my inherent clumsiness to myself.

“You were saying, Doctor?”

Opportunity presents itself in the personification of my attendant, as she knocks on the door and peers questioningly at me through the gap.

“Yes, come in, Nurse Ruth. I was saying, gentlemen, that when you let women into a mans domain, they tend to get carried away with their curiosity. Take this one here, for example: liked the look of my pen, and decided to write a note to her husband with it. And look at what she did!” I remove the newspaper with a flourish. “This is solid oak, gentlemen. Ruined, by romantic sentimentality in a flash.” I press my finger into the ink pointedly.

Her mouth drops open, but she quickly recovers.

“Yes, I am such a stupid woman,” she says, the sarcasm lost on the two men. She shakes the tissues in her hand, and advances. “Here, let me clean that.”

I wave her away.

“No, Nurse Ruth. I shall buy a new desk. You can repay me by finding our gentlemen here a bottle of our finest whiskey.”

“Certainly. Nice to meet you, My Lord. Mr Stanbury.” She curtseys, and leaves the room quietly, shutting the door with a small click.

“Women,” I say, laughing.

“Quite,” says Lord Damsbridge.

I reach into the desk and pull out Lady Stanbury’s folder.

“Right. I requested your company today so I may learn more of Lady Stanbury: her habits, friendships, personality, etcetera, in order to start appropriate treatment. This is a two way discussion, and I welcome any questions from you both.” As they nod in synchrony, Lord Damsbridge more so than the other, I continue onward with the speech I give to the relatives of every new patient admitted.

“Let me allay any fears you may have with regards to Lady Stanbury being in, dare I say it: a lunatic asylum.” I raise my eyebrows in an imitation of mock horror. “Forget the histrionic stories that  old wives exchange on street corners about madmen being chained to the walls. This is the nineteenth century gentlemen, and our field of expertise is much more advanced than that which prescribed the inhumane and inexperienced treatments of yesteryear.”

“Though it remains true that the people in here are lunatics, does it not, Doctor?” Mr Stanbury says, spitefully.

“Well, yes – some of them, but Bethlem is a place of rest where anyone suffering mental deficiency can come to be treated. We even have people admit themselves voluntarily, of their own will.” I sift through the drawer of my desk again, and pull out a form. I put the paper in front of the gentlemen and reach for my pen. Ah, it is covered with ink. I fumble discreetly for a spare whilst the men read over the sheet. “Cast your eyes over the writing at the top.” Aha. A pen. I pull it out and tap it over the paragraph I want them to read. “It says: ‘All persons, of unsound mind presumed to be curable, are eligible for admission into this hospital for maintenance and medical treatment’”.

“Presumed ‘curable’?” Lord Damsbridge asks, eyebrows raised.

“Yes,” I say, pleased he focused on that word. “She can be cured completely.”

“Cured of what, precisely? What is wrong with her? Why did she kill our eight week old son?” Mr Stanbury says, his jaw set tight.

“She-”

We are interrupted by the door opening, and Nurse Ruth makes her way inside carrying a silver dish. Atop lay a crystal decanter, three glasses, and a bottle of Tullamore Dew.

“Good choice,” says Lord Damsbridge, lifting the whiskey and pouring two generous measures. Handing one to Mr Stanbury, he looks at me.

“For you, Doctor?”

“I’m a coffee man, myself.”

He frowns, disapprovingly.

“But I do enjoy a little indulgence from time to time,” I lie, as he fills a third glass.“Yes, I would like one after all, thank you.” I lift the golden liquid to my mouth, loathe to taste that which leads to perversion of the mind. I sip it tentatively, and it travels down my throat like liquified nails.

Mr Stanbury has drank his fill before I lifted the glass to my lips.

I swirl the liquid, and place it on the desk.

“To answer your question, Mr Stanbury, your wife is suffering from a mental illness called ‘Puerperal Mania’. I believe you have both heard this term before, at the time of her first assessment shortly following her arrest on October 5th, 1885. I stand by that diagnosis. Puerperal Mania, in Lady Stanbury’s case, is the cause of her insanity. Just as others may go mad because of epilepsy, or alcohol, or fever; pregnancy and childbirth has caused Anne to become temporarily insane.

“My Lord, Puerperal Mania tends to have an element of inheritance. Indeed, it is the chief cause: pregnancy itself being only a secondary factor. How did your wife fare after giving birth? Can you remember whether she displayed any signs of seeing to the baby too much, or too little? Did she retreat to her bed and sleep at unusual times of the day, or suffer insomnia of a night-”

He interrupts me.

“My wife died in childbirth, Doctor. She never got the opportunity to even hold her daughter.”

I make a note.

Patient may have dwelt upon the misfortune of her mother – whom expired during labor, contributing to stress and anxiety during her own pregnancy. Clear precipitating factor. Unknown whether mother might have suffered from puerperal mania – the possibility remains: in which case the patient had a strong disposition towards insanity.

“Right. Mr Stanbury, did your wife display any of those signs I just mentioned during or after the pregnancy? Did she act strangely in any way, or was it only after having the child she became unstable?”

“Nothing seemed amiss until after our son was born,”  he says.

“My Lord?”

“I barely saw her during her confinement, Doctor, though I hear she kept well enough.”

“How was your relationship with your wife, Mr Stanbury?” Puerperal mania has more social aspects than other forms of insanity, and I have to consider the kinship of Lady Stanbury not only to her child, but to her home and her husband.

“It was fine,” he says, crossing his arms. Despite his statement to the contrary, his body language betrays his words. I make a mental note to return to this at a later date, when I am alone with him.

Possible relationship difficulties – to follow up on this.

“How was the birth? Did she cope well?”

“She suffered badly,” Mr Stanbury says. “The doctor eventually gave her Chloroform.”

Recent research established that anesthetics can bring on an attack of insanity. My pen is now moving continuously across the cream page.

“And was there a copious amount of blood? Did she haemorrhage?”

Lord Damsbridge winces. Mr Stanbury says that he wouldn’t know: he wasn’t present in the room for the birth, and it wasn’t something he thought to ask.

Insanity appears to have developed following parturition; no marked insanity before expulsion of the baby. Pronounced emotional state may have been brought on by the pains of labor, and compounded by the intake of Chloroform. Unknown amount of blood loss, but possibly she could have become anaemic. 

“How was she towards you after the birth, Mr Stanbury?”

“She was normal, at least initially she seemed to be, but as time went by she became restless. She wandered the house at night unable to sleep, checking on John constantly. Occasionally she would wake him just to check he was still breathing…” He opens his mouth to say more, but stops mid-sentence.

“Yes?” I prompt him.

He fidgets.

“Well, that’s the thing, Doctor. She was very protective towards John. I don’t understand. How she can change from being so over-bearing and affectionate, to…” He stops and clears his throat. “To being the person to cause him harm? She worried about dirt, for heavens sake!” Tears well up in his eyes, threatening to fall, and underneath the angry exterior I see a man filled with grief, and love. He discreetly removes a handkerchief from his top pocket, and continues onwards, dabbing at his eyes. “How can she, a mother, hurt her own baby? Why?”

“Quite,” Lord Damsbridge adds. “That’s the part we don’t understand. People go insane all the time, but they don’t go around killing others, least of all their own flesh and blood.”

This is the hard part for me to explain, and I make the decision to keep it simple.

“Puerperal mania is almost always directed at the child. It is the nature of the beast, unfortunately. It is a special type of insanity. The woman in question invariably believes that for one reason or another, the child is better dead, but the mother, in these cases, is not accountable for her actions.”

“I think she damned well should be held responsible.” Mr Stanbury says..

“What, Stanbury…would you prefer your wife to be dead too?” Lord Damsbridge says, his face turning a deep shade of red. “Is that how you plan on punishing her?”

“Of course not! How dare you suggest such a thing, I simply-”

I sense this is a disagreement they’ve had before, and try to halt the situation before it develops into a domestic dispute.

“Gentlemen?” I start to rise slowly from my chair. They stop arguing, and stare at me. “I don’t wish to keep you, and I realize there have been very difficult things discussed this morning. Perhaps we do better to meet again at a future date: say, in a weeks time?”

Mr Stanbury sniffs, looking at the floor. Lord Damsbridge also remains silent.

I push my chair back.

“So, gentlemen, once again, I thank you for coming here today-”

“I would like to see her,” Lord Damsbridge says suddenly, standing and looking me in the eye. “Immediately. Stanbury,” He nudges his son-in-law; the dispute evidently forgotten or swept aside for later. “Get up. We are going to see your wife.”

Oh dear.

“My Lord, we don’t normally allow family or friends to visit with the patients at this stage. We remove them from their home environment for good reason. I fear that seeing you both will only do her harm.”

“No, Doctor, removing my daughter from those that she loves, and placing her in a lunatic asylum, alone, compounded with the loss of her child, will be doing her ‘harm’. Seeing her father and her husband will lift her spirits, and assure her of our love for her. I would strongly suggest that our ongoing support will only serve to boost her morale.”

Spoken like a true layman. And of course spoken like a true Earl, who somehow managed to get his daughter into Bethlem as opposed to Broadmoor; where she should by rights and by law, been sent.

Evidently, he does not appreciate that her insanity alone saved her from the gallows.

“My Lord, your daughter is still suffering the effects of puerperal mania, and I fear, delusions. We could arrange a day for you to visit her, in a week or so-” I say, faltering in my attempt to reinforce my opinion.

“I demand to see her now, Doctor. It is a dreadful thought for me to imagine her re-awakening to reason inside a madhouse, side-by-side with maniacs and lunatics. I beg you not to forget who I am, or the contributions I make to this very hospital.”

I sigh. My point exactly.

“Very well, gentlemen. I do wish that I had had time to better prepare you, for I fear that you will be shocked when you see her. But if you insist.” I reach down and ring the bell on my desk. Within a second, my attendant appears, almost falling through the doorway. She quickly rights herself, smoothing her skirts and blushing.

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Nurse Ruth, Lady Stanbury’s father and husband would like to see her right away. Can you please make sure that she is ready to receive them?” I roll my eyes to the side, minutely, and she catches my meaning.

“Why, of course Doctor! Let me go and prepare her. I’ll be back in two shakes of a lambs tail!”

I sit back in my chair, gesturing for the two men to do the same.

“Here, another glass, gentlemen? In a few moments, you can see for yourself how Lady Stanbury fares.”

Lord Damsbridge refuses my offer, whilst Mr Stanbury thirstily accepts.

This time, it is I who downs my drink before he lifts his from the table.

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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