On the appointed Monday we were ready to accompany my aunt to the madhouse.
Whether she distrusted her own unaided judgment, or whether she wished to have as
many witnesses as possible to the rash action in which she was about to engage, I cannot
say. In either case, her first proceeding was to include Mr. Hartrey and Fritz Keller in the
invitation already extended to the lawyer and myself.
They both declined to accompany us. The head-clerk made the affairs of the office serve
for his apology, it was foreign post day, and he could not possibly be absent from his
desk. Fritz invented no excuses; he confessed the truth, in his own outspoken manner. "I
have a horror of mad people," he said, "they so frighten and distress me, that they make
me feel half mad myself. Don't ask me to go with you--and oh, dear lady, don't go
My aunt smiled sadly--and led the way out.
We had a special order of admission to the Hospital which placed the resident
superintendent himself at our disposal. He received my aunt with the utmost politeness,
and proposed a scheme of his own for conducting us over the whole building; with an
invitation to take luncheon with him afterwards at his private residence.
"At another time, sir, I shall be happy to avail myself of your kindness," my aunt said,
when he had done. "For the present, my object is to see one person only among the
unfortunate creatures in this asylum."
"One person only?" repeated the superintendent. "One of our patients of the higher rank, I
"On the contrary," my aunt replied, "I wish to see a poor friendless creature, found in the
streets; known here, as I am informed, by no better name than Jack Straw.
The superintendent looked at her in blank amazement.
"Good Heavens, madam!" he exclaimed; "are you aware that Jack Straw is one of the
most dangerous lunatics we have in the house?"
"I have heard that he bears the character you describe," my aunt quietly admitted.
"And yet you wish to see him?"
"I am here for that purpose--and no other."
The superintendent looked round at the lawyer and at me, appealing to us silently to
explain, if we could, this incomprehensible desire to see Jack Straw. The lawyer spoke
for both of us. He reminded the superintendent of the late Mr. Wagner's peculiar opinions