Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Journalist Nellie Bly - Ten Days in a Mad-House - Chapter 9 - An Expert (?) at Work


"NELLIE BROWN, the doctor wants you," said Miss Grupe. I went in and was told to sit down opposite Dr. Kinier at the desk.

"What is your name?" he asked, without looking up.

"Nellie Brown," I replied easily.

"Where is your home?" writing what I had said down in a large book.

"In Cuba."

"Oh!" he ejaculated, with sudden understanding–then, addressing the nurse:

"Did you see anything in the papers about her?"

"Yes," she replied, "I saw a long account of this girl in the Sun on Sunday." Then the doctor said:

"Keep her here until I go to the office and see the notice again."

He left us, and I was relieved of my hat and shawl. On his return, he said he had been unable to find the paper, but he related the story of my debut, as he had read it, to the nurse.

"What's the color of her eyes?"

Miss Grupe looked, and answered "gray," although everybody had always said my eyes were brown or hazel.

"What's your age?" he asked; and as I answered, "Nineteen last May," he turned to the nurse, and said, "When do you get your next pass?" This I ascertained was a leave of absence, or "a day off."

"Next Saturday," she said, with a laugh.

"You will go to town?" and they both laughed as she answered in the affirmative, and he said:

"Measure her." I was stood under a measure, and it was brought down tightly on my head.

"What is it?" asked the doctor.

"Now you know I can't tell," she said.

"Yes, you can; go ahead. What height?"

"I don't know; there are some figures there, but I can't tell."

"Yes, you can. Now look and tell me."

"I can't; do it yourself," and they laughed again as the doctor left his place at the desk and came forward to see for himself.

"Five feet five inches; don't you see?" he said, taking her hand and touching the figures.

By her voice I knew she did not understand yet, but that was no concern of mine, as the doctor seemed to find a pleasure in aiding her. Then I was put on the scales, and she worked around until she got them to balance.

"How much?" asked the doctor, having resumed his position at the desk.

"I don't know. You will have to see for yourself," she replied, calling him by his Christian name, which I have forgotten. He turned and also addressing her by her baptismal name, he said:

"You are getting too fresh!" and they both laughed. I then told the weight–112 pounds–to the nurse, and she in turn told the doctor.

"What time are you going to supper?" he asked, and she told him. He gave the nurse more attention than he did me, and asked her six questions to every one of me. Then he wrote my fate in the book before him. I said, "I am not sick and I do not want to stay here. No one has a right to shut me up in this manner." He took no notice of my remarks, and having completed his writings, as well as his talk with the nurse for the moment, he said that would do, and with my companions, I went back to the sitting-room.

"You play the piano?" they asked.

"Oh, yes; ever since I was a child," I replied.

Then they insisted that I should play, and they seated me on a wooden chair before an old-fashioned square. I struck a few notes, and the untuned response sent a grinding chill through me.

"How horrible," I exclaimed, turning to a nurse, Miss McCarten, who stood at my side. "I never touched a piano as much out of tune."

"It's a pity of you," she said, spitefully; "we'll have to get one made to order for you."

I began to play the variations of "Home Sweet Home." The talking ceased and every patient sat silent, while my cold fingers moved slowly and stiffly over the keyboard. I finished in an aimless fashion and refused all requests to play more. Not seeing an available place to sit, I still occupied the chair in the front of the piano while I "sized up" my surroundings.

It was a long, bare room, with bare yellow benches encircling it. These benches, which were perfectly straight, and just as uncomfortable, would hold five people, although in almost every instance six were crowded on them. Barred windows, built about five feet from the floor, faced the two double doors which led into the hall. The bare white walls were somewhat relieved by three lithographs, one of Fritz Emmet and the others of negro minstrels. In the center of the room was a large table covered with a white bed-spread, and around it sat the nurses. Everything was spotlessly clean and I thought what good workers the nurses must be to keep such order. In a few days after how I laughed at my own stupidity to think the nurses would work. When they found I would not play any more, Miss McCarten came up to me saying, roughly:

"Get away from here," and closed the piano with a bang.

"Brown, come here," was the next order I got from a rough, red-faced woman at the table. "What have you on?"

"My clothing," I replied.

She lifted my dress and skirts and wrote down one pair shoes, one pair stockings, one cloth dress, one straw sailor hat, and so on.