Afflictions of Unruly Passion Ch. 04

byPhilippaMaQuente©

"Exactly. I do not think we've been treating the whole person, here. We've been feeding them herbal mixes to treat 'malfunctions' in the brain we cannot see, much less prove are actually there. And how do we cure the spirit? Can an apothecarian concoction or a bloody electrical current touch the soul of a patient?" Silence fell. They stared. He hadn't even noticed he was standing up, but there he was, towering in his passion. Every bit of him felt alive, as he hadn't in years. Before they could stop him, he supposed, he ought to carry on. "We do not only treat the body, damn it. We do not only try to treat the mind... The hearts and souls of these people are in our hands, and we are barely keeping some of their heads above water! Why- I ask a room full of brilliant, experienced men- why?" August's earnest question was followed by the sudden slam of both his palms upon the table. Papers scattered, their proud fluttering the only source of noise for a few prolonged moments.

When the last flit of paper died, August was breathing hard, shifting his stare from one man to the next, waiting for one of them to offer an answer. It was McAlister that finally dared.

"I have an insight," the man tentatively began. He was also relatively young, but a serious thinker. As he spoke he rubbed his smooth chin with one hand. "One of my patients and I have done this, have discussed her 'condition' at length. As you said, Blackmore, from our first meeting we spoke frankly, prompted by her reasonable nature, and we have come to agree over time that what got her sent here is not, in fact, madness. I cannot 'cure' her, and I cannot release her, either, because her parents will not accept her as she is, and will only send her elsewhere if we let her go. I fear she'd wind up in a far less hospitable asylum, or worse." Blackmore looked at his compatriot with interest and respect.

"Which patient?" he queried, beginning to tidy his mess, at least what he could without stooping to the floor.

"Miss McFinn," McAlister said. "The invert." This caused some tittering in the group. Blackmore's eyebrows rose. Oh he remembered that young lady well. Much like Valentine, entirely sane; unlike Valentine, quite undisturbed by her situation. She was actually bloody cheerful.

"Ah, of course!" August nodded. "I would agree, sir, that despite what society may think about it, no, she is not mad, and she cannot be 'cured'. Her family's money is poorly spent and they haven't a care." August snapped his flattened palm toward Dr McAlister proudly. "Right here, we have a prime example! So-called 'sexual inversion' or 'homosexuality'. A mental and emotional attribute of personality that cannot be chosen, and cannot be changed! Yet she languishes pointlessly in a madhouse because her environment is toxic! Because our inflexible social structure allows no deviation from an imposed standard that simply cannot fit every person born! For God's sake, men, women have been deemed insane and locked away in bedlam for reading novels!" August threw his hands in the air. "By that standard, I haven't a scrap of sanity left!"

"Are you implying that the madness we have studied to alleviate, to cure, is sometimes- perhaps even more frequently than we think!- caused by the very social order we're trying to rehabilitate our patients for?" Cahill asked, aghast. Blackmore lanced a finger at him.

"Precisely!" he hissed. "In at least a portion of cases, I think 'insanity' is cried when an individual goes against the imposed order. Miss McFinn has no interest in a husband. How does she fit the order?"

"Your new charge is an aggressive, immodest woman who refuses to be meek," Dumfries chortled. "She does not fit the order."

"Miss Tailor too!" Connelly cried. "She's a Cockney girl suddenly thrust into polite society! Dear God, the snobbery her family must encounter!"

Blackmore nodded, beginning to smile eagerly.

"Now you've broken in!" he told them all vigourously. "When you all sit down to contemplate your wards, do so with this idea in mind. Not all of our cases will be like this, men, but at least we should rule out the ones that are! We can achieve as much wellness as possible with the right tools and needed effort!"

"How shall we implement this in the cases where our patients are unable to speak?" asked Penwood. "You know that apart from the Beddington girls, I've got Miss Rosewater to care for."

"The Beddingtons are not insane, Penwood, and they can communicate perfectly well by written word. It is not 'talking' per se, but it is just as good. Still, that those girls were sent here is another ridiculous travesty. Theirs is a physical condition that we cannot fix and it has nothing to do with their sanity." He gave his colleague a stiff look for the Beddingtons. "Now, Miss Rosewater is entirely another matter. Whatever afflicts her is what our profession was born to understand. In time, we will. However, she too communicates, it's just that we, unfortunately, don't speak her language." Miss Henrietta Rosewater, just fourteen, was a unique patient. She could not speak, read, nor write. She had difficulty looking anyone in the face, even her own parents. She did not like to be touched. When she grew frustrated she might hit things or harm herself, and she had a number of interesting fascinations that drew her so utterly she became a genius in those few magical interests. Someone had shown her how to make paper flowers at some point in her life and she made them obsessively, with breathtaking skill. That was just one of her habits that marvelled August.

"Then what do you suggest I do?" Penwood asked somewhat hotly.

"We'll sit down and discuss it, my friend, because you do bring up at least one excellent example of a patient who truly needs our help and understanding, and whose malady really is likely a product of something in the brain we do not understand. Since she is unable to help us figure it out, we must do what we can to aid her family in her care."

"If we're talking a complete upheaval of our methods, how do you suggest we implement the changes? All at once or over time?" asked Finnegan.

"For now, simply begin to engage your charges in conversation and learn about their lives in greater depth. I had planned to evaluate our progress and my methods at the five-year mark of being head doctor here, but it's no matter to start early. Once I've spoken with each of you about your cases, we will begin to implement a new program based on all of our findings and the patients' needs." Blackmore consulted his watch. It was nearing time to begin appointments, and he still had a lot of work to do. His materials were scooped up and returned by his staff. "Thank you. If there's no other questions or concerns, we are approaching the first round of the day's appointments."

"No one can say you do not take your work seriously, Blackmore," Wallace replied. "Shall we meet during lights-out?" August nodded.

"Yes. Bring whatever you can back here after the patients have been returned to their rooms. I'll sit down with all of you in the evenings until we're ready to make the changes." August stood, gathering everything together. The others also prepared to shuffle off to their offices and begin seeing patients. "Rest assured, men, I absolutely believe we are on the brink of a renaissance in our professional sphere. We can only go forward." There were some scattered chuckles and a harrumph or two, but August felt the meeting had been, overall, a step toward his goals.

He'd taken up the study of the mind to help others, and that was bloody well what he was going to do, no matter how his stodgiest colleagues felt.

Smothering the individuality, whimsy, and souls of these women could not possibly be a cure for madness. He just had to prove it. As the men left him alone with his thoughts, he smiled wickedly. Proving it with Valentine was going to be such an outrageous amount of fun.

***



Charles reported to his job and found a handful of the other orderlies in the dining hall, where the tables were being cleared of soiled linen and reset for the next morning's meal. His two friends, Wilson and Henry, immediately pulled faces of mockery as they clapped eyes on him and jogged over.

"Oi, Charlie's finally got over his fright," said Wilson. He was square-jawed and stocky, large on all fronts, his blond hair wispy in his eyes. "The doctors were all humming about your little 'incident' during breakfast, mate. You really got scared by some lunatic bitch?"

"Williamson was reporting she threw you into the wall," came Henry. "Seems like speculation based on something he overheard as Whyte was talking to a few of the others this morning." Henry had gingery hair and brows, was taller than his companions, and gawkily thin. Charles growled, angry the gossip was already poisoning his reputation. He hauled them both in close.

"Listen here, you twits. None of them know a damn thing about what happened except Blackmore, and I told him nothing important. She had a fit while I was in the room, and that was it." His hands flew in a series of violent gestures as he talked- a stabbing pointed finger, a downward fist and more. "You know how many crazies we've seen, working here. That bitch Valentine Godwin is the worst I've ever seen and she needs to be contained. I can't wait until they put her under the shock machine. Believe me, she'll get it." The others had blanched at hearing her name; they traded furtive glances at each other and back at Charles.

"Here Charlie, did you say Godwin...?" Wilson started.

"You mean Jekyll and Hyde?" Henry finished.

"Jekyll and Hyde?" Charles asked, confused.

"The cheesecake in the doll dresses wot had the curls, right?" Charles nodded.

"The entire staff's started calling her Jekyll and Hyde under Blackmore's nose. She already showed up to breakfast in her underthings, threw a fit in his office, and then turned up completely normal to dinner. Word's gotten round that she 'attacked a staff member' too. There's no sense in any of it." Henry was the most observant member of the trio, and he kept careful track of the goings-on as related to their drudging work. His explanation widened Richardson's eyes.

"Well, I suppose I don't have to explain what she did while I was with her then," he said thoughtfully.

"Did you try it on her?" Wilson asked, his emphasis purposeful. Henry's face reddened and he stepped away. He was fine to indulge in the standard gossip but valued his employment too much to become involved with the sort of... misbehaviour... his friends liked to indulge. Wilson scoffed at his retreat and put his back to the gangly lad.

"I was about to," Charles muttered low, leaning in. "But it was just like you said, she came over queer and... tried to assault me. I hadn't even the time to feel her tits. Pity too, she's damn nice on the eyes." The boy, almost twenty, kept his manner cool. He wanted to look suave to his friends, especially after he'd boasted so often of his "talent" in seducing wayward young ladies.

"You'll get the next one Don Juan," Wilson responded emphatically. "Plenty of 'em holed up in this place. I've been canoodling with a couple of deaf-mutes in the east wing..." The looming, older lad continued jabbering about his 'conquest' of a pair of patients in treatment for their inability to hear, confusing their fear of his authoritative abuse for attraction and desire. Charles grabbed his collar and gave a dark look.

"Not here," he hissed. "We can talk about this later, when the patients have gone to bed and the staff is in for the night. I came to tell you two this because I've decided that the bitch is too good a morsel to give up. I'm going to have her. I never wanted a girl under me as much as I want her, damn it."

"Good luck with that," Henry interrupted, laughing sadly. "There's rumours Blackmore's already making her a study case. Access will be restricted." He still stood apart from them, but could never quite separate himself wholly. They were... friends.

"Well, that's why I need you two," Charles spat back. "After I snatch her I'll even let both of you have a taste of her. If you're with me, put your hand in, and then let's get to work so we don't draw much more attention." The bustling maids and other orderlies were beginning to resent their laziness. Charles stuck his hand out. Wilson immediately clapped his on top. Agonising on it, feeling the pressure of their approval, Henry finally reformed the trio and added his hand to the top. After they broke apart, he turned back to the work before them with a weight of dread in his heart.

***



The heads of all the staff turned as they watched Doctor Blackmore walk briskly through the asylum on his usual round. He had never seemed so... spirited in all his years there. A wide smile had spread itself across his lips, and there was quite a spring in his step. The nurses straightened up as he approached, sure they had never seen him looking so handsome. Or buoyant. Before returning to his office he looked in on the patient body, still enjoying their afternoon. His compatriots would soon begin calling their patients in for one-hour sessions; these were stretched out over the week, one meeting mandatory for each woman per, and plenty of time for any requested or needed follow-ups.

August allowed himself one look at his girl, sitting with Annie, bent over her book while the two of them conversed back and forth. Once his attention fixed upon her hungrily, it was like she knew. Valentine picked up her head and returned his stare, and from the distance across the room, he could almost see her grin. It melted him inside, and he longed to be inside her again. A heavy breath left him. Hours yet before he could satisfy the ache to feel her in his arms.

Nodding toward her, and turning to scan the room lest he look much too interested in the wench, he found the path of his daily pilgrimage once more. Valentine's yearning seemed to haunt his step as he went on about his day as if nothing at all had changed.

Once the devious man was gone Valentine looked down at her book, where she'd scribbled a few lines about meeting Annie and not much more. Her thoughts were consumed with the memory of feeling his cock inside her at last, and the delight of coming on his tongue. The arousal he'd ignited in just a moment of looking at her with that smouldering, smug desire made her squirm. Annie must have noticed her wriggling.

"Are you comfortable? We could find a better seat."

"Oh! Fine. Just a bit restless, is all. I'm not used to this much sitting around," Valentine answered with a laugh. "I've far too much energy. Care to come out to the gardens with me?" Annie finished a stitch she was making and then set her frame down in her lap.

"There won't be much to see, yet, but a little fresh air does sound nice." Annie looked wistfully out the nearest window. "Spring's taking so long to warm up 'ere."

"Then let's go outside for a jaunt. I want to see how far the gardens extend, and how to get down to the seaside." Valentine caught the eye of a passing nurse and rose a hand to wave. The young-looking woman came over.

"Do ye need something, miss?" the white garbed, cheerful woman asked.

"May we go out to the gardens? I'd love a little fresh air and to see if anything is budding yet," Valentine queried her melodically.

"We need a bit of exercise," Annie added in. The woman nodded.

"Aye, I'll send a matron to mind ye. Put on a shawl so ye don't catch cold!" Playfully, the nurse wagged her finger at them and then left. After a few minutes, a much older but good-natured woman came, bearing a pair of warm shawls to cover them, and she led them out the back of the building to the first of the flowerbeds. Nature was indeed stirring; as if to spite the persistent grey of the landscape, some daffodils were poking out of the dun grass. Valentine and Annie rushed to examine them, squealing in glee. The girls witnessed their golden glory and left the flowers to grow in peace.

"Soon the entire hillside will be covered," the matron said behind them, wonderfully glad to see such happiness in their faces. "Down Edinburgh, the castle sits proudly atop the hill, washed in their colour this time o' year..." She breathed a sigh, joining in their affection. "Quite lovely. I went to see it every spring."

Molly, as she later introduced herself, had taken a job in the asylum as a widow to fill her time and because she liked to bathe in the sea. She let the girls run down to the shore, but kept them out of the water. "When it looks of iron, yet, it's just as cold as the metal to the fae-folk," she warned. Valentine smiled to see another storyteller in their midst. During their circuit of the gardens Molly told them what was planted in each section and when their blooms would come. She also told them stories of the tiny sprites and ethereal beings that dwelled beyond human sight in the world.

By the time the trio returned, cheeks aglow, Blackmore was seated once more in his office, filling pages furiously. He spent some time outlining his study, penning his goals and theories in expansive detail. He also finished his official diagnosis to post it on the board for all to see.

The doctor checked his watch as often as he dared, and cursed the slow crawl of the hour. Still he worked in a fever, consumed by his ideas, and eventually it was time for supper. August picked up his necessaries and bustled off once more to attend the schedule. Everyone was moved and settled in for the evening meal.

The doctor ate and conversed, monitored his woman as she did the same, and all the while he planned. Though he found the waiting excruciating, the Dominant knew that when he did touch her again, she would never forget it.

***



When it was finally time for the last meeting of the day, he was prepared to take his first move. As lights-out progressed in the patients' wings he returned to the lounge to be greeted by thick cigar smoke and the murmured greetings of his peers. With flourish August posted his missive to the mantelpiece, hanging it as a flag of declaration under a paper-weight. All would respect his choice. Valentine would be entirely his.

Gentlemen:

As of now it is my professional opinion that patient Valentine Dora Amelia Godwin must be supervised entirely by myself henceforth. Having but one introductory encounter with this patient, I can safely and immediately deem her case severe. The patient exhibits symptoms of having a dual nature; distinct personalities which I fear must be treated dutifully by one expert hand. An absolute authority is needed- rotating primary caregivers could send her into fits and disrupt any presence of healing. Coupled with this disorder of the mind, the patient also exhibits severe hysteria- the female disease of the body. I'm afraid that the combination of these illnesses makes her incredibly fragile and volatile, and I cannot, therefore, entrust her care and treatment to any other. All orders concerning Miss Godwin will issue directly from myself, and any suggestions for treatment or request for studying this particular patient must be submitted to me in writing.

Head Physician, Mistress Halifax's Home for Stricken Ladies

Dr August Henry Blackmore

9 May 1897


"I'm aware that much of this will be repetitive for you, but I wrote something more formal to copy for Madam Halifax," August informed the men once the note was up. "Now, let us work."

He sat with them and began the painstaking process of assessing his staff's ability and success while doing all he could for the women whose lives he'd sworn to improve. Daunting, but not defeating, at least not for a reinvigorated August Blackmore.

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