An asylum!" William said. "Is there nothing else we can try? Nothing at all?"
My husband balanced on the edge of his chair. The electric light shone on his high forehead, glinting in the gray threading through his dark hair. He was only thirty-five. The aging was due to his profession, he said. Brokering was a hard business. But I knew it was not that at all. I knew it was because of me.
"You don't want surgery." Dr. Little adjusted his round spectacles. The myriad certificates that dotted the brown toile wallpaper framed him nicely, as if deliberately placed to give weight to his earnestness.
"But if you think it's best . . ." I said.
Dr. Little turned his mild, thoughtful gaze to me. "An ovariotomy is not always successful. Your husband feels the risk is too great."
"You could die, Lucy," William said.
"But there's the chance it would work."
Dr. Little nodded. "Yes, of course. We've made great gains with surgery of this type, but I would not be so anxious to try it -- not when there is another option. Beechwood Grove is an excellent institution, Mrs. Carelton. We've had good results with hysterics and neurasthenics. A few months of enforced rest may be effective."
"A few months," William said in a low voice. "You've said six months, at least. It would encompass the entire season. What would we tell people?"
Dr. Little shrugged. "Perhaps you could suggest that Mrs. Carelton has taken an extended tour abroad."
"Lucy has always hated Europe," my husband said.
"Something else, then," Dr. Little said impatiently.
William exhaled. "I don't know. An asylum . . ."
"A private asylum," Dr. Little corrected. "You must believe me when I say this is nothing like the horror houses you've heard about, Mr. Carelton. At Beechwood Grove, all of our patients are from excellent families. We make it as homelike as possible. Mrs. Carelton would even be permitted to have many of her own things."
I looked down, unable to meet the doctor's gaze. "Perhaps it's best, William. . . ."
"No." He said it so violently that I looked up in surprise. "No. I refuse to believe this is the only way. An asylum, for God's sake. That's a place for the insane."
"Mr. Carelton, you came to me for advice; you said you had lost hope. I'm saying there is hope to be found, but it requires a great sacrifice on your part -- "
"What you're saying is that Lucy belongs with madmen and criminals," William said coldly.
"There are no criminals in Beechwood Grove."
"Madwomen. We do not accept men there."
"Madwomen, then. You would put my wife with them?"
Dr. Little looked at William, and I read the meaning in his glance. Your wife is a madwoman. It's time to acknowledge it. It's time to send her away. . . .
I could not bear to look. I felt the start of tears, and I dug my nails into my palm.
William got to his feet and pulled me to mine. "I appreciate your time and your advice, Doctor, but the season is just starting -- "
"You may regret this," Dr. Little said. "Mrs. Carelton has been unable to meet the demands of society before."
"This year will be different. We still hope that there will be a child."
Dr. Little pressed his hands together. "A child. Mr. Carelton, I'm quite sure Mrs. Carelton could not care for a child. Not in her present state."
"Perhaps a child is just what she needs," William said hopefully.
"A good long rest is what she needs. An asylum, with round-the-clock care, is what she needs. I'm sorry, Mr. Carelton, but I see no other option for your wife."
William hesitated, and then he nodded. "Again, we thank you, Doctor. Now we must wish you good day." His fingers squeezed my arm; together we turned and left the doctor's office. When we were outside, into the growing chill that sharpened the air, standing amid the noise of carriages rattling down the street, the constant movement of the city, he turned to me. "Well." He sighed. "I'm sorry to have put you through that, darling."
I was cold; I could not feel my fingers at all. "He could be right, William."
"You would prefer to be locked away?"
"No, of course not, but -- "
"There must be something else. Another way. Something we've overlooked."
"Dr. Little says there's nothing."
William ignored me. "Perhaps we should not have returned to the city so quickly. Perhaps . . . a short trip to the country? What do you think, Lucy? Do you think they would miss us?"
I did not say what I thought -- that our friends would be relieved. "No," I said, and though I tried to smile, I could not manage it. "A trip to the country would be fine."
An Inconvenient Wife
- hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Warner Books
- ISBN-10: 0446529567
- ISBN-13: 9780446529563