Madness and Glory (36): Progress

The story of Phillipe Pinel father of modern psychiatry

Posted Jun 03, 2019

This is a wwork of historical fiction.

 Chapter 36

Face to face with Dr. Pinel, Lalladiere managed to tell him about his angry feelings. To his surprise, there was no punishment or retribution and the doctor continued to see him. One or two times a day, for short periods, they met and talked. And he continued to improve. It was not clear what part the meetings played, but he was becoming increasingly attached to Dr. Pinel, able to talk about his thoughts without great difficulty. The man was warm and giving, interested in observing only and thereby understanding and guiding. Lalladiere realized that together they were finding answers to never-before-conceived-of questions. He applied himself and more and more gained glimmers of comprehension. Above all, regardless of what he said, regardless of the thoughts or incidents he related, Dr. Pinel did not despise him. Another person, a living, breathing person, did not despise him.

He also got much pleasure and assurance from his work on the farm. Outside of the asylum for long periods, there was also little danger from Ajacis. Genevieve’s visits encouraged him. His appreciation of her statuesque allure and personal qualities jumbled together with his fear of love were beginning to separate out so he could face them. He told Dr. Pinel that he had been terrified, at the time he first became ill, that Genevieve would fall apart, become crazy herself. Not knowing the meaning or importance of that crisis or the reasons for Lalladiere’s fear of loving, Dr. Pinel simply reassured him that Genevieve surely had remained intact and sane. Often, then, he spoke at length about their conversations during her visits. Dr. Pinel, applying his principles of substituting beneficial passions for disordered ones, encouraged him, saying that Genevieve could be helpful for his sickness.

As he talked more and more about her, he began to allow himself to feel, despite constant fear about devastating consequences, more and more warmth and love. When they were together, he studied the contours of her face, listened carefully to her ideas and well-told stories, felt a long-too-unfamiliar thrill when he saw the smiling look in her eyes. He wanted to do things for her, and increasingly believed himself able to accomplish that, an exhilarating feeling. He had, above all, a sense of trusting her. Not completely, not possible yet. But the feeling of trust was growing more as talking and visiting days went by.

Genevieve watched his sensitive mouth as he talked. He somehow seemed enriched and made wiser by his descent into a world of unreality and alienation. She remembered the touch of his long, well-shaped fingers and again admired them as he rested his hands loosely on his lap. She looked now, wished, for his return, leaving the asylum and living in the world. A time when they could be together. She was, when the tragedy struck, about to be his wife, feeling virtually already wedded. Perhaps they could go back to something close to that.

She still could not fathom why his breakdown happened, harbored yet the sense of being at fault. But she was more her own woman now. In her writings, she had become more confident, putting down sharp opinions, risking trouble when they appeared currently in print. She was disturbed about the death of Robespierre, believing that, despite the crazy excesses of the reign of terror, he had forwarded the glorious liberty and equality brought by the Revolution. As for the five man Directory that came to power after Robespierre’s execution, she documented the details of its formation and raised questions about, even criticized, the members.

She got herself, as her feelings for Lalladiere strengthened, into a situation she believed she could not tell him about. The two men, Christiane Desrouches and Antoine Vaillier, who at the dinner party flirted with her relentlessly, continued to increase their attentions to her. According to her mother, both were eminently eligible, far better than the crazy man she visited. And she, despite her increasing independence, and the re-igniting of her first love, had without protest allowed each one to visit. It wasn’t because of interest in either one, though both were attractive, intelligent, and in their own ways ardently devoted to the Revolution. Nor was she intimidated by her mother who constantly insisted that she see them. It was the sting of culpability. She could not shake her feeling of blame for what happened to Lalladiere before. Despite her fervent wish to be with him, she feared she might be bad, even dangerous for him.

Lalladiere, on his side, was attending to a person unknown to Genevieve. He had never stopped doing so, but this was neither a prospective lover nor a revolutionary champion. Instead, it was the boy who had befriended him in the midst of his world of fear.

“I’ve been thinking about Jean-Luc,” he said one day to Dr. Pinel.

“Who is that person?”

“He is a boy who lives near here, in Gentilly. I met him when I ran away.”

“Yes, I remember now.”

“You do? What is it you remember?”

“Governor Pussin told me about you and that boy. Denis, the attendant, too.”

“What did they say?”

“You also followed him when you ran away the second time, went behind him all the way to the Place de la Republic where the queen was being executed.”

“I couldn’t watch that execution. A willful woman, enemy of Necker. She hated to lose royal prerogatives, any of them. But she didn’t have to die.”

“What about the boy?”

“He was happy, wonderful, full of spirit. When I was hiding in the street, he made me less afraid. And he took me home, right into his home to meet his mother and father. Where also I could rest and sleep.”

“Is this a joyous feeling, passion, toward this boy?”

“I feel,” Lalladiere hesitated—why was it still hard to say? He started again. “I feel—more than that, I believe, though he is a child, he has special discernment, that he knows more about me than I know about myself.”

“There is a bond, an exceptional bond between you?”

“I would like to have a son like him.”

“Do you want to see him?”

“I want very much to do that.”

Pinel later requested that Pussin contact Théo and Suzette Rochereau to arrange for a visit from Lalladiere. In his free comings and goings on the farm, Lalladiere had proved his reliability. Pussin told this to the Rochereaus, saying that Lalladiere was much better. When meeting their son on the street before, he explained, Lalladiere became attached to Jean-Luc, and such attachments were considered beneficial for the sick person’s recovery. Théo acknowledged that, when seeing Lalladiere in the asylum courtyard, he was surprisingly different. But he never heard of such things as beneficial visits. Everyone knew that lunatics were possessed, there was no cure, and he did not want someone like Lalladiere again in his house. Suzette intervened, insisting the idea was really quite all right. Jean-Luc liked Lalladiere from the first, saw goodness in him, and the poor man then and now clearly needed help. Finally, after Pussin remarked that Dr. Pinel himself strongly approved and actually initiated the idea, Théo relented. He felt respect for the doctor, who was cleared of the charges, and who stood there honorably in the courtyard while the group was holding him.

Several days later, Lalladiere appeared alone at an appointed time at the Rochereau’s door. Standing beside his mother in the doorway, Jean-Luc greeted the familiar man with a whoop and grabbed his arm to lead him inside. Suzette prepared cups of chocolate for three, Théo being away at work, and signaled them to the kitchen area to sit at the heavy oak table. Jean-Luc, his curiosity sharpened over time, asked questions about the asylum. How many inmates were there? Where did they eat? Did they sleep on mattresses or straw? Lalladiere answered he didn’t know how many because there were several buildings. They ate, now that all were out of chains, in a large hall together, and they slept on straw. Suzette uncomfortably tried to make conversation about the poor food conditions in Paris, the heavy increase in trafficking vehicles on their street, and also about the weather. Lalladiere responded amicably and, in each case, briefly. When they finished their chocolate, he requested, even more amicably, permission to take Jean-Luc to hear a street musician play near the center of Paris.

“Do you know your way in the center?” Suzette asked.

“I was born near there. My mother lives there still. But we shall not walk. I have money from my work to pay for a hackney cab.”

“Your mother lives there?” Her tone conveyed a sudden realization. Despite sympathy with her son’s friend, she had not quite thought of him as having a mother.

“You told me, Maman, that Guillaume had lots of trouble before, but look how he is so fine now,” Jean-Luc said. “I want very much to go hear the street musician.”

“I also would like to take Jean-Luc to meet my consort,” Lalladiere said.

“Your consort? You mean you have gotten married?” Suzette now sounded incredulous. No one indicated any connections with friends or family when he was taken away from there before.

“No, not exactly. Almost. I intend to be.”

“When I first saw him hiding, I knew he was lonely,” Jean-Luc said, nodding at Suzette. “So everything is good now, right?” he said to Lalladiere, smiling.

“I suppose it will be all right,” Suzette said. “The people at the asylum told us you were much improved and could be trusted. Théo did tell me you spoke good in the asylum courtyard. But you must both be back before nightfall.”

“Thank you, citizenness. Maybe—,” Lalladiere started, as he turned to give a delayed response to Jean-Luc. “Maybe it is all good, and maybe it isn’t. We shall see.”

Suzette hesitated, puzzled by Lalladiere’s response. But she knew Jean-Luc cared well for himself on his own, and he already had moved halfway out the door. As Lalladiere stood up to follow him, she put her hand on his arm, asked the exact location of the street musician, the name and address of the consort. When he got to giving Genevieve’s full name, she, looking impressed, asked whether it was the well-known government deputy’s family. Lalladiere confirmed it was. She nodded and walked the two of them to the door, waving goodbye to her son when they got out into the street,.

The street musician, who was entertaining a fairly large crowd when Lalladiere and Jean-Luc arrived, was singing and accompanying himself on the violin. He stood on a light wooden platform in front of a large tapestry showing pictures of storied personages of his songs. He sang about heroes of the Revolution, amorous liaisons, and the marvels as well as antics of ancient gods and goddesses. Nothing remotely liturgical was included. It was a lively performance, and many of the listeners, well-dressed bourgeois as well as humbly clothed Parisians, made rhythmic movements and chanted harmonically or, without embarrassment, unharmonically along with the musician. Lalladiere recognized many of the representations, including those of gods and goddesses, painted on the tapestry, and he provided background and explanations to an excited and appreciative Jean-Luc.

The boy became quite animated with the music. The skillful violinist accompanied one of the pieces, the story of the god Pan and Syrinx, with a lively gigue imitating the rhythm and pitch of Pan’s playing of pipes. Jean-Luc, entranced, began dancing vigorously on the surrounding cobblestones. Giving himself room as he rotated about with abandon, he jumped back a short distance from Lalladiere and all the others standing there. While breathlessly kicking out his feet, he suddenly found he had gone too far. Right at his side, bearing down on him, was a large carriage led by two galloping horses.

The driver, seeing Jean-Luc immediately ahead of the horses, attempted mightily to rein them in. But it was too late, the momentum of their very fast gait plunged them toward where the boy was dancing. Lalladiere, head already turned to follow Jean-Luc’s movements, instantaneously took in the situation. He dove reflexly without a moment’s hesitation toward the prized boy, and with an unbroken swooping motion encircled him in his arms. They rolled together, forming a large ball with Lalladiere cushioning Jean-Luc’s body until they landed at the side of the horses’ path.

The horses continued past the spot of Jean-Luc’s misreckoned dancing and then stopped. The driver got off to check on whether boy and man were all right. Both were lying on the pavement, breathing very hard, bodies jerking with fright and beginning relief. Jean-Luc, who recovered first, turned toward Lalladiere and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Jesus, what a turnaround! You now are my rescuer. Saved me from getting crippled, or maybe even killed.”

“Yes, I am so very, very glad. Are you hurt?”

“No, not a bit.” Jean-Luc said, standing up and brushing off his clothes.

“I liked watching you dance.” Lalladiere said with a small smile, also getting rid of dirt as he got up. “That was a gigue to shake the grapes off the vines of Pan himself. But you must be more careful.”

“These are dangerous times, my father keeps telling me,” the quick-witted boy joined in. “Who in the world would think it could be dangerous to dance in the street?”

“It’s probably because you forgot,” Lalladiere said, still smiling more broadly, “to honor the Revolution by singing the new song La Marseillaise.” A return of humor was one of the best rewards of increasing sanity. “Come on. Let’s go see Genevieve Raston.”

As they walked on together—it was only a short distance to the Raston’s rue d’Anjou house, no betrayal of Suzette’s trust regarding mode of transport—Jean-Luc asked about Genevieve. He wanted to know who she was, and with the openness, yet unhampered, of youth, he asked about Lalladiere’s feelings about her. Lalladiere attempted to answer in kind, telling his young friend that she visited him regularly at the asylum, he had loved her deeply before, and he believed he loved her now. Because he was officially allowed to go out that day, he wanted, although he had not told her in advance, to see her at her home, show her his improvement. Jean-Luc said he was glad to see Lalladiere’s change.

“Why,” he asked, “were you so frightened when I first saw you hiding in the street.”

“I don’t really know. But I always thought I did bad things and had to pay for them.”

“Son of a dog,” Jean-Luc said, laughing, “if I had to pay for all the bad things I did, I’d be very, very poor. Far poorer even than I am.”

Lalladiere laughed too.

He remembered well the exact appearance and location of the Raston house. Coming to the door, he knocked briskly. Rochelle soon opened it, and was immediately taken aback to see him. She knew Genevieve regularly visited him at the asylum but was not at all prepared to see him at the house that day together with—even more surprising—an unknown young boy. More disconcerting, she had come to the door from the parlor room where the two men, Desrouches and Vaillier, were sitting by the fire, drinking mocha coffee with Genevieve.