The Last Word- A Mental Hospital Attendant Contributes Telling Evidence. (Follows previous session) All rise.
Judge (to Jury) This will be the final day of hearing evidence for all the charges brought against the Book Involution-An Odyssey.
Prosecution Counsel: I call the final prosecution witness Mrs Danvers. Mrs Danvers you were Matron at Sheerstoke Hospital when the Author was admitted were you not?
(Getting close to insane, this trial. Still, more interesting! Court Reporter)
DANVERS Not Matron, no. They was no matrons then. I was Ward Sister, and good at me job , though I say it meself…
PROS Can you tell the Court the nature of Sheerstoke Hospital?
DANVERS. Not much to tell. It was for the terminally insane, them as was no hope for. We just kept them safe from theirselves, drugs and…other things. I was good at it because I never judged them, never. They was life’s unfortunates…
PROS. Do you remember when the Author was admitted? How did that come about?
DANVERS. I wasn’t on duty when she come in. It was the middle of the night. She was admitted on a Police Order. By the time I came on duty she was already in a security cell, and chained to the bed…
PROS Before we get on to the sordid detail, can you clarify for the Court the nature of a Police Order?
DANVERS It meant there was no way out, or not for long. Them on Police Orders have to be returned wherever they run to, there’s nothing like bail for them is thought a danger to theirselves, or others…
Judge. To Counsel. Would you both approach the Bench. To Prosecution Barrister. Can you clarify the reasons for calling this witness who is clearly unable to offer any opinion on the merits of the Book on trial?
PROS M’lud. The Book is accused of a callous disregard of the Author in pursuit of its single minded self-importance. This woman is a critical witness to that degrading consequence.
Judge Who was responsible for taking out a police order to commit her?
PROS It was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons who summoned the police. Judge For what circumstance had he encountered her?
PROS. She had appealed to him for help. They had had previous correspondence.
Judge Why was he not called as a witness instead?
PROS He refused to appear. This was the best I could do to expose the callousness of the Book. The agents seem to me irrelevant.
Judge ( to Defence) Do you have any objection to this witness?
DEF None whatever. Bring it on.
PROS Mrs Danvers. Can you clarify why the Author was chained up?
DANVERS She tried to run away see, even got as far as the porter’s lodge afore they brought er back, struggling like a ferret in a sac. Even escaped from a locked cell. Had no choice see…?
PROS. From your experience was escaping a common event?
DANVERS. Not common, no. Most are very sedated, and some, the catatonics, just sit and mope lookin at their feet, don’t they? This one was different, a right obstinate kipper, thin as a whip but strong as they come…Had to chain er up…
PROS What was your opinion of her condition?
DANVERS Mad as the rest. Just a bit original an’all. She kep on whirling round or dancing like she had invented Spring; and when we let her out into the open ward she just lay under the bed with the covers all down, so we couldn’t get at her…
PROS Why was that, do you think?
DANVERS Don’t need to think. She refused to take any drugs. Pills never had any effect, even when we made er swallow in front of us, she’d go and spit them out, and injections? Well, whenever I was going to stick in a syringe she just rolled over. Number of needles I wasted! That’s why we had to think of different clinical options.
PROS A hopeless case, would be your opinion?
DANVERS Worse than hopeless, a roight pain-in-the-backside, ‘scuse me French.
PROS Did you know she had written a book before being admitted? DANVERS A book? Never! She couldn’t stop long enough for a simple conversation, not even a how’s yer father. Must have got that all wrong. Never a book!
PROS No further questions.
Counsel for the Defence/ Mrs Danvers have you ever read a book?
DANVERS Me? Who’s got time for books? Maybe when I retire I could try a book, rather take up crochet or go to the Bingo…
DEF Did the patient have any visitors?
DANVERS. Twiggy? Never. None of them had visitors. Nobody wants to know people in that ward. The forgotten-and-good-riddance lot we called them. But now you mention it she did get one phone call and I was a fool to let her take it…’
DEF You called her ‘Twiggy’ Why was that?
DANVERS Best to ignore who they think they are, give em all a nickname, saves remembering… and she was thin; it suited.
DEF Why were you a fool to let her talk on the phone?
DANVERS Well it gave her a hope of getting out. Somebody outside missed her. Never should have called her to the phone, but we get accused of keeping them prisoners so sometimes it’s better to…
DEF Who was it called her? Do you remember?
DANVERS I think it was the gentleman who was here last time. He and his wife came to get her out. Bad mistake. We had the operation all lined up for two days later.
DEF What operation?
DANVERS They reckoned shock treatment wouldn’t have any effect because she wasn’t depressed, so they was planning a lobotomy, not both sides, I think, just the one. Anyway she managed to get herself discharged, sly you see…must have got wind…
DEF How did she manage to be sly, as you called it?
DANVERS Well she wrote to a psychiatrist she must have known of, and he came to talk to her and then he authorised her to be discharged.
DEF So she could write and post a letter? What followed?
DANVERS She gave him some names and he said these people could come and fetch her. The couple said they would look after her. Nearly as mad as she was…
DEF How so? Mad?
DANVERS Well maybe not mad but certainly reckless. They listened to the psychiatrist and nodded and said yes a lot, and then the wife hands out the car keys and, this is not a word of a lie, they asked her to drive them home! Like they thought she was normal! I saw her setting off at the wheel, and I thought, that’s going to be three casualties within the hour…
DEF But as we heard last time they all survived. Was she ever returned?
DANVERS Not that I heard.
DEF That fact does not occasion a change of mind about your diagnosis?
DANVERS. If you knew what I do you wouldn’t even ask! You would not believe how clever the insane are, fool a lot of people they do.
DEF I suppose it’s difficult to distinguish the really clever when they are camouflaged in the middle of so many clever catatonics. No further questions.
Judge (To Jury) This concludes the evidence. We will hear the closing speeches from both Prosecution and Defense in due course. I would ask that you retire to consider what you have heard. This witness has certainly added weight to the charge upon the book of a callous disregard to the Author’s welfare.
You heard the plea in relation to this charge: (That this book, Odyssey, was not present when these distressing events occurred). That may indeed be the case, however the skeletal structure of an earlier draft had already been written and it could be argued that this treatment simply added to the Author’s determination to re-write it. After all, stripped of even the assumption of sanity, there is not much left to lose. If anything it adds further weight to the prosecution’s case.
On the other hand the Defence is likely to argue that being committed to a mental hospital by a man who is unwilling to give evidence, to defend his responsibility calls into question the safety of any diagnosis, particularly as the Author managed her discharge without help, and without any medication.
I would ask that you set aside the details of this harrowing incarceration and give attention only to the responsibility of the book as materially contributing to it. It is a moot point, but the Author has repeatedly stated that the Book Wrote Her Life, and given that assertion we must consider elements of that life which included a narrow escape from a lobotomy by being timely and devious!
All rise. All images Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons A Circus Queen, timely Absurdity- Francisco Goya http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_Goya_y_Lucientes Bedlam Chained to Bed This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Walls of Bedlam This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.