Madness and Glory:(11): Making a Break for Freedom

The story of Philippe Pinel, father of modern psychiatry. Part 11.

Posted May 13, 2019

This is a work of historical fiction. Phillipe Pinel, father of modern psychiatry, was real.

Chapter 11

Later, Lalladiere went to work. Denis had stood watching the curled-up man for several minutes, addressed him by name, and at that time gotten no response. There was no more screaming, so Denis left to give the governor a warning report. Pussin, uncertain, decided he would go to see Lalladiere himself. When he got to the cell later, Lalladiere was lying flat and seemingly no longer on the verge of agitation.

“Are you disturbed, Lalladiere?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Was there something particular that upset you?”

“No more.”

“Do you feel unable to go to work?”

“No, I will go.”

“Can you get up now and go to work?”

“Yes,” Lalladiere answered clearly, slowly rising up. Governor Pussin asked some further questions about what Lalladiere had done that day, what he was anticipating doing when at work. He received short, clear, and slightly elaborated answers. Seeing no overt agitation and hearing no bizarre speech, Pussin decided it would be all right to continue the work routine. He was quite accustomed to patients shifting quickly, for no apparent reason, from maniac behavior to responsible lucidity. He believed strongly in the benefits of work, especially for patients like Lalladiere who had worked successfully previously. Now that Lalladiere was lucid, the work, he thought, would preserve and continue his shift.

Lalladiere was calmed somewhat by Denis’s presence, despite its shortness, and by the attention of the governor in his cell. He was still plagued by the damning voices and, as Denis had previously reassuringly recognized aloud in his cell, he was not in condition to carry out work responsibilities. But now, when Pussin questioned him about going to the freer environment where he worked, he realized other opportunities were presented. It was again a driving intention. Escape from what? From befouling dread, unbearable voices, undoable responsibility, lack of care. To go where? Nowhere. Anywhere. To the little boy. To his acceptance and friendship.

In the governor’s quarters, he sat at the small table in the anteroom and started his assigned work. He had recently been advanced, after having shown a capacity to work carefully in the library, to the task of copying out daily reports—number of inmates, meals served, medicines dispensed, baths. Soon, as Pussin anticipated, the occupation calmed him, focusing and organizing his attention, giving him a miniscule but needed sense of competence. As he worked, he looked up frequently to see whether he could locate Marguerite Pussin, the governor’s wife. She had been kind to him. But she, or any servant inmates working in the quarters might thwart his plan. She walked by once, glanced at him, and continued on.

His opportunity came when two woodcutters delivered a supply of heating logs. Although Marguerite Pussin first stood near the door, watching as the men brought the wood inside, she turned away at one point to lead them to a bin. In that flash of a moment, Lalladiere sprang up and was through the still narrowly opened doorway.

He ran quickly, seemingly having gained more purpose than with his escape before. He went the long route to Gentilly and, with the layout of the streets still clear in his mind, he remembered the way to the Rochereau’s house. He got all the way to the first cross-street before pausing to see whether he was pursued. No one anywhere. Marguerite Pussin had apparently not been able to find attendants quickly enough.

Seeing an oxcart moving in the direction he was going, he ran up beside. Slowing to the cart’s pace, he nodded at the indifferent driver and walked with his body slouched down so as not to be readily seen. When the cart arrived at the next intersecting street, Lalladiere peeled away into it. Quickening to a rapid walk, he stayed close to the fronts of the stone houses lining the street, looking steadily at the doorways as he passed. This time he might not need to scale the roofs, but he knew he needed to be sure accessways would be available.

Faster, you bastard, faster. You must not get caught. An insistent voice, not quite as penetrating and commanding as before.

He listened for other sounds of commotion or running on the streets behind him. His senses were sharp and intense. Despite the repetitious voice egging him on, he could hear small noises, distant oxcarts, even people shuffling around inside the houses he passed. The stone fronts of the houses were softly illuminated by the dwindling afternoon light of the sun.

It was a longer distance there than he thought. He had, running hard, covered much ground before, moved over many roofs, passed through several streets and passageways. As quickly as he could, he walked among the carts, the crowds of tradespeople and strollers. Passing numerous housefront crevices, he came to rue Elisée Recluse, the one he previously entered. Through his head flashed the immensity of his terror there, the voices of the conspirators, and then the emergence of Jean-Luc. He had heard a secret conspiracy. That weighed inside him like the other terrifying secrets in his life.

A few people walked close by. A woman was standing in a semi-open doorway. No Jean-Luc, no Rochereaus among them. He was afraid, though he remembered the location of their house, to go directly there. The father, possibly now the mother too, would immediately report him, have him sent back to the asylum. He looked around for a hidden place to wait.

Pursuers had still not appeared. No threatening forms came down the street nor, above the jangling insistent voices, were there tell-tale sounds of nearby pursuit. He entered a tall angled space between two buildings where he could squeeze back far enough to avoid being seen. Walkers nearby were streaming in both directions. The housefront crevice was not hard-to-see as before but still no one saw him push himself into the opening.

He lodged far enough back between the stone walls where, unseen, he had a good view of the street. The light there grew dimmer and he stood in almost complete darkness in the narrow space. Though he was once again pressed up tightly, almost painfully, against cold walls, he watched this time for a friend.

He is plotting against you, too. When you find him he will have you killed.

No, he didn’t believe that. Jean-Luc’s father surely wanted him dead, but the boy wanted to be his comrade. He was kind, understood him, wanted to play with him at his home. He would wait long enough and Jean-Luc would come by. And, like before, he would be alone. They could meet in the street and his father wouldn’t be there.

Hours passed, night came, the light in the street and hiding place was completely dark. No pursuers and only a few inhabitants passed by. Wedged in, leaning against the stone-cold walls, Lalladiere drowsed upright into sleep.

In the morning, he was awakened by reflected sunlight and the suddenly raucous activity of the street. Bustling people, ever-present carts, large and small dogs went by his hiding place. No one turned toward it or glanced inside. Once, a gendarme, not searching but intent on reaching some nearby destination, came close but went right past. There was no sign of people from the asylum, Denis or others.

Across the narrow street, among a cluster of walkers, he saw his outline. Jean-Luc. Then he groaned, recognizing immediately that the boy was not alone. Despite the early hour of the morning, he was walking with the dreaded Théo Rochereau. Why? Lalladiere thought in anguish. He was free and alone before. Where was the boy going together with the man who would report him, hurt him, have him sent back again?

Jump now. Jump on the persecuting man and kill him.

Lalladiere struggled against the order. No, he would not kill, no matter how despicable and low he was. He only wanted to be with the boy.

Did Jean-Luc see him this time as he passed? The curious boy had not, as he hoped, looked around or turned. He began edging out of the crevice. In a few moments, he came to the opening and was able to see father and son walking briskly down the street. He watched until they turned into another street, then came fully out and began to follow.

Despite emerging from a seemingly inaccessible place, he was completely unobserved. He walked quickly keeping them in his view.

Run, bastard, run. Your life depends on the breath, the smiles of this boy. You must find him, be near him. Run. Run.

Several people were strung out on the street before him. He went as fast as he could without attracting dangerous attention, reached the corner where they turned, and saw them halfway down a long block away. They were not walking close together. A short step behind his father, Jean-Luc looked unhappy, swinging his arms widely as he went.

They went on that way, clusters of other people going in their direction, tramping along with them for a long, tiring distance. They passed the strung-out houses and open fields southeast of Paris, through Barrière d’Italie, Clignancourt, and eventually into the meandering smelly streets near that part of the river Seine. Increasing numbers of walkers along the way entered and filled the route. Lalladiere kept his eyes on Jean-Luc. Hoping for what? To see him, talk with him, play. Once, noticing the boy’s lean but muscular shape, he even wondered whether Jean-Luc was built like him, was actually his own son. It became harder to see him. Men, women, young children—younger than Jean-Luc—were now walking in front of, beside, and behind the pair. Several came up near Lalladiere, sometimes almost close enough to jostle his arms. A large crowd, all moving in the same direction, had formed. They crossed the bridge and headed toward the rue Honoré.

All were lively and engaged. Several talked zestfully as they went, smilingly greeting new people who joined the moving ranks. Some slowed, grasping an arm or vest, waving a hand for description and emphasis about their convictions, emotions, narrated actions.

“What a glorious day, eh Robert?” said a rugged carpenter who was taking time off from work.

“I walked more than a league to get here,” Robert replied, tilting for show his mud-covered boot. “It’s a glory for the guillotine,” he added.

A number of older boys and girls moved more quickly than their parents. Getting ahead, they joined in two and threes with newly found companions. In the festive atmosphere, the ramblings, delays due to crowding and friendly sociability, all contributed to what appeared as a carelessly choreographed ceremonial progression. The varied rhythms of walking, strolling, and marching—clearly toward a goal—were accompanied by rising and lowering pitches within a din of talk, and the clacking sound of shoes against cobblestones. In the midst, in single line, moved Jean-Luc and Théo. Although difficult to see them in the crowd, Lalladiere kept a short distance behind them.

They passed from rue Honoré to rue National and into the large clearing of the Place de la Revolution. Already half-filled with crowds having come from other directions, both the entrants and occupants circled forward to position themselves as closely as possible to the centerpiece of the expanse. The tall grey wood and metal structure, the guillotine.

Théo now kept a reluctant-looking Jean-Luc closely near him as they moved quickly forward with the others. Lalladiere entered the large open area close behind them, and seeing the guillotine, he cringed.

It’s for you. They have lured you here to kill you.

He jerked around, starting back toward the accessway from the street. He brushed against a large, brawny man walking behind him. The man glowered at him. With a beckoning gesture to a small but tough looking companion, the man turned fully and moved toward him. Lalladiere broke away in a run.

He tried to keep away from people coming down the street; but, fearful and frenzied, he jostled against several.

Run, bastard, run. Keep going. They are coming after you. Go. Get away. Run.

These dislodged persons, fortunately, were all less attacking, responding only with grunts, curses, and angry looks. But he swayed far away from the last he bumped into, trying to get close to buildings ahead and avoid further mishap. He glanced over his shoulder, saw that the threatening men had not followed. He slowed to a quick walk.

He was not sure where he was going. He thought of turning back again to find Jean-Luc, but the scene at the Place de la Revolution and his continuing fear of the men, propelled him forward. Threading his way for what seemed an interminable time through the increased advancing throngs of people, he suddenly saw—

Watch out. Watch it.

Two familiar faces were there, approximately half a block away, projecting over people nearby. The peering face of Denis, and behind him the fearsome Ajacis, were both searching determinedly through the crowd.