Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.3
"My husband was connected with many charitable institutions," the widow began. "Am I
right in believing that he was one of the governors of Bethlehem Hospital?"
At this reference to the famous asylum for insane persons, popularly known among the
inhabitants of London as "Bedlam," I saw the lawyer start, and exchange a look with the
head-clerk. Mr. Hartrey answered with evident reluctance; he said, "Quite right, madam"-
-and said no more. The lawyer, being the bolder man of the two, added a word of
warning, addressed directly to my aunt.
"I venture to suggest," he said, "that there are circumstances connected with the late Mr.
Wagner's position at the Hospital, which make it desirable not to pursue the subject any
farther. Mr. Hartrey will confirm what I say, when I tell you that Mr. Wagner's proposals
for a reformation in the treatment of the patients----"
"Were the proposals of a merciful man," my aunt interposed "who abhorred cruelty in all
its forms, and who held the torturing of the poor mad patients by whips and chains to be
an outrage on humanity. I entirely agree with him. Though I am only a woman, I will not
let the matter drop. I shall go to the Hospital on Monday morning next--and my business
with you to-day is to request that you will accompany me."
"In what capacity am I to have the honor of accompanying you?" the lawyer asked, in his
coldest manner.
"In your professional capacity," my aunt replied. "I may have a proposal to address to the
governors; and I shall look to your experience to express it in the proper form."
The lawyer was not satisfied yet. "Excuse me if I venture on making another inquiry," he
persisted. "Do you propose to visit the madhouse in consequence of any wish expressed
by the late Mr. Wagner?"
"Certainly not! My husband always avoided speaking to me on that melancholy subject.
As you have heard, he even left me in doubt whether he was one of the governing body at
the asylum. No reference to any circumstance in his life which might alarm or distress me
ever passed his lips." Her voice failed her as she paid that tribute to her husband's
memory. She waited to recover herself. "But, on the night before his death," she resumed,
"when be was half waking, half dreaming, I heard him talking to himself of something
that he was anxious to do, if the chance of recovery had been still left to him. Since that
time I have looked at his private diary; and I have found entries in it which explain to me
what I failed to understand clearly at his bedside. I know for certain that the obstinate
hostility of his colleagues had determined him on trying the effect of patience and
kindness in the treatment of mad people, at his sole risk and expense. There is now in
Bethlehem Hospital a wretched man--a friendless outcast, found in the streets--whom my
noble husband had chosen as the first subject of his humane experiment, and whose
release from a life of torment he had the hope of effecting through the influence of a
person in authority in the Royal Household. You know already that the memory of my