Sunday, 2 April 2017

Dr. Marlow's Home for the Sanity-Challenged: Part Three - Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

25th October 1889


My first month here has presented many challenges, but I am doing my best to overcome them. 

Originally, I believed that the presence of indoor plumbing here would be of great benefit to us, but instead, it has become a burden due to the constant malfunctions - which, of course, I have to repair. I am not naturally gifted in regards to mechanics and construction, so this chore takes a great deal of time: often the majority of my evenings.

Under normal circumstances, one would simply hire someone to perform this task, but the Asylum's money is so limited, that is simply not an option. My meagre wage allows us all to survive, but it is not enough to permit a comfortable lifestyle. Almost all of the funds left to us by Dr. Marlow have been spent on food and other daily necessities, and despite frequent letters to my former employer, he refuses to provide more money. As such, life here must be led with a "make do and mend" mindset.

However, despite our financial woes, not everything is doom and gloom. I am happy to report that great progress is being made in terms of the inmates' social interaction.  

Mr. Claymore, our rough-and-tough boxer, has begun to show a softer side - particularly when he is in the presence of a certain Miss Rococco.

From my discussions with the young lady, it appears that Mr. Claymore overheard her while she was rehearsing one of her songs in the parlour. From that moment on, he has become somewhat enamoured with her - attempting to woo her, and displaying other flattering behaviours. 

Initially, I was concerned that Mr. Claymore's interests might lead Miss Rococco back to her former risqué pursuits - but she claims that she has not yet reprociated his feelings.

"Thrill of the chase, guv," she told me. "You've gotta play with 'em a little before you let 'em have their way."

I, too, have begun to spend some time with those around me. As I was practicing chess yesterday evening - an attempt to stimulate my neglected intellect - I was apporached by Ms. DeMille.

"Might I join you, Dr. Tripp?"

Having never been one to turn down the request of a lady, I immediately gestured to the seat opposite mine. As she began to skilfully play the pawns and knights to block my moves, she engaged me in conversation.

"It is most refreshing to be in the company of another noble individual," she remarked. "One finds it quite jarring to forever spend one's time amongst ruffians and common criminals. Do you not agree, Doctor?"

"To be frank, Ms. DeMille," I told her, "I myself was not born to the upper classes."

"Oh? Were you not?"

"Indeed not. My father was a haberdasher, who learned his trade on a market stall. Atter some years, he was able to open a small shop in the town where I was born - and soon became a great success, amassing some wealth. Through his hard work and frugality, he was able to pay for my education, and this allowed me to pursue the study of medicine. However, I have never forgotten my humble origins... and I am grateful for the good fortune that has so blessed my life."

I expected my new-found companion to scoff at my story. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when a small smile began to cross her lips.

"I suppose even the dirtiest soil can occasionally produce a rose," she said. "Still - you are a gentleman, Dr. Tripp. I pray you, do not lower yourself to the level of the rabble we are forced to dwell with."

A cutting remark, perhaps... but still, she is at last bonding with someone. 

Similarly, Sister Marie, who has long favoured a life of isolation, has also begun to come out of her shell. Whilst she still spends time alone each day - moments she devotes to her prayer and worship - she has slowly started to interact with her fellow inmates. 

When she witnessed Mr. McManus playing darts in the hall the other afternoon, she watched the activity with some interest... and after a while, the gentleman invited her to join him. When she explained that she was not familiar with the sport, McManus acted as her tutor - and soon, it became apparent that she had something of a hidden talent for it.

On the subject of Mr. McManus... I recently discovered that he has unfortunately relapsed into his life on crime. Last week, in the small hours of the morning, I was roused from my sleep by a loud thudding sound coming from the hallway. As I went out to investigate, I discovered that McManus had lost his footing on the staircase as he was attempting to sneak back into a sleeping cell. In his hands was a large cloth sack.

"McManus?" I called out, alarmed. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Pray pardon me, sir," he replied. "It was the compulsion. I couldn't resist it any more."

"You mean you have been committing acts of theft?"

"I... I have, sir."

"What is that you're holding?"

Like a schoolboy who has been discovered engaging in acts of mischief, McManus meekishly held the sack out to me.

"I sold the stolen goods to an acquaintance of mine near the docks, sir," he explained. "He offered me a good price. I thought you could use the money, sir... to better support us here."

I looked at him, greatly shocked.

"You... you wish for me to have the money?"

McManus nodded.

"Aye, sir. For the Asylum."

I was hesistant - but alas, I must confess, tempted. Dear reader, I know it is immoral to profit from criminal acts... but my daily earnings were a pittance, and eight individuals - myself included - were depending on me to keep them alive.

I reached out to McManus, who handed me the sack in a silent gesture of understanding. Upon opening it, I discovered that the money he had received in this one night for his ill-acquired wares was roughly equivalent to three weeks of my wages.

Instantly, I was overcome with a great sense of fear and guilt, as though I may be being watched by unseen eyes. I closed the bag hastily, and clutched it tightly to my body.

"No-one is to know of this," I told McManus firmly. "And as soon as you can find honest work, you are to pursue it."

"Aye, sir."

"Very well. Retire to your bed. This matter shall go no further."

He obeyed my instructions immediately. As for myself, I hid the bag in a nearby cupboard, and then felt a great compulsion to go and wash my hands - an attempt, I believe, to cleanse myself of my guilt.   

I had committed a grave sin - but had done so in order to help bring salvation to others. As I lay awake in my bed, I could overhear Sister Marie whispering her prayers in the cell opposite. Silently, I offered up my own intention: that the understanding Lord of all would have mercy on my soul - and that of the tomented McManus.

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