Authors: Raya Black
Dr. Denton’s Asylum for Little Girls
Copyright 2014 Raya Black
Table of Content:
The carriage bounced along the bumpy road, the breaking of rocks and dirt the only sound between the awkward silence inside. Lord and Lady Pevin sat sourly on one side of the carriage while they very pointedly avoided the gaze of their errant niece, Marissa Brignall.
Marissa, for her part, was also avoiding the gaze of her uncle and aunt. Having been orphaned at fourteen, she had lived the past five years with her very reluctant guardians, Lord and Lady Pevin. They had never been a friendly relation to Marissa. Lord Pevin had been the elder brother to Marissa’s father, a well-respected and popular barrister. He had felt that as the elder brother, he should naturally be entitled to
of the respect and
of the popularity. When it was not the case, Lord Pevin became quite sour.
Lady Pevin had never liked Marissa’s beautiful mother, Margaret. So gay and fair, she was always the beauty in whatever party they were in. Lady Pevin never approved of Margaret’s forward ways either. She disapproved of Margaret encouraging her daughter to pursue education rather than finishing school. And she had never approved of such a modern and ill-cultured name like Marissa.
So when Marisa Brignall landed on the doorsteps of the Pevins, it was safe to say the welcome was quite chilly. But Marissa had kept quiet and had endured all manners of remarks and cruelty without reaction. She knew that if she just waited till she was of age, there was a ladies’ college in the north that she could apply to. With her inheritance, she should be able to live quite peaceably up there, away from disapproving eyes and turned up noses.
But upon her nineteenth birthday, her aunt and uncle surprised her by announcing her betrothal to a Sir Edgar Garrison, a man twice her age but not her intelligence. He was a known drinker and gambler and was slowly whittling away at the sizable fortune his father had left him. But none of this mattered to Lord and Lady Pevin. All they saw was the quick influx of property and funds that they would gain once Marissa was married off.
But now at nineteen, she refused to take anymore of their orders. She pulled out her acceptance letter from her ladies’ college and made her own surprise announcement: she would
be getting married. She would instead be continuing her education.
Her aunt and uncle had flatly refused. When she reminded them of her inheritance, they reminded
that it was left to the approval of her guardians in how she may use the funds. “It was meant as a dowry to marry you off, not to fill your head with rot, you silly little twit!” her uncle had yelled.
So infuriated, Marissa could hardly speak. But she knew her mind. She refused to marry Sir Edgar. So when the old man came to call on her the next day, she threw a scene and threatened to run rampant in the streets detailing his gambling debts and his alcohol consumption to every townsperson who would listen if he married her. Shocked and frankly, frightened, Sir Edgar called off the betrothal and spread word of Marissa’s madness, scaring off any eligible bachelors who might have come calling next.
Lord and Lady Pevin could not believe the absolute mess Marissa had made of such a fortunate alliance with the Garrison family. And for a girl with no title or real family to speak of! But inspiration stuck Lord Pevin when he heard of the rumors of the mad Marissa Brignall. Deciding to capitalize on the gossip, Lord Pevin made his final decision. He sent out a few inquiries and received the appropriate invitations. Within the week, he told Marissa to pack her things. He would be sending her away.
Marissa had been thrilled at the announcement. She had won! She would finally be free of the Pevins for good now! They must have seen how it would be beneficial to not only her but to them to use her inheritance for her education. After all, didn’t they want her out of their hair as much as she wanted to be out of it?
So as the carriage moved bumpily along, she sat, counting down the hours till she was finally able to breathe a breath of fresh air, free of their stinging treatment.
Several hours later, Marissa was jerked awake as the coachman reared the horse to a stand. “Whoa, now,” he called out, pulling the carriage to a slow and steady stop. Marissa blinked and looked out the window. This didn’t look like the north. With the wide sloping greens and large trees grouped in the distance, this looked more like the rolling hills of the south!
Lord and Lady Pevin stepped out and Marissa followed suit. She looked up to find herself in front of a modest sized brick building with a large stone sign above the entryway reading, Dr. Denton’s Asylum.
An asylum! Where was she? Marissa looked frantically around. “Where are you taking me? Where is this?” she cried out in panic.
But her uncle firmly set his jowly jaw and gripped her tightly by her upper arm and pulled her forward. “We’re where insolent little girls like you end up when they aren’t grateful for what they are given!” he muttered to her. Marissa tried to dig her feet into the gravel but was no match for her uncle’s brute strength.
Stepping into the clean entryway, they were greeted by a well-swept wooden floor, covered in a plush rug. Several wooden chairs lined the entryway and a woman in a plain black dress with a white apron greeted the party.
“Lord and Lady Pevin, I may presume?” the woman asked.
Lord Pevin nodded. “You may. And this is my errant and stupid niece, Marissa Brignall.” He gave Marissa’s arm a good shake in case the nurse didn’t know who he was referring to.
The nurse smiled, her face thin but not unkind. “Of course. Please follow me into the office and Mr. Tinson will be right in,” she said, motioning towards a door to their right.
Lord Pevin dragged Marissa in and Lady Pevin sat delicately on one of the leather chairs inside. A large mahogany desk stood in the middle of the room with an impressive number of charts on top. Behind it were two gleaming bookcases filled with important sounding titles.
Soon there was a knock at the door followed by a small-framed man. He smiled as he entered, immediately shaking Lord Pevin’s hand. “Good afternoon! Good afternoon!” he cried as he sat down, apparently ecstatic to have guests in his office.
Lord Pevin raised a brow at the excitable little man. “Are you Dr. Denton?” he asked, doubtfully.
The man’s laugh tinkled like a bell. “Oh heavens no! I’m Mr. Tinson! I just take care of all the admittances for new patients. Dr. Denton is working in the Big House with other patients right now,” Mr. Tinson explained pleasantly.
Hearing the word ‘patient’ bandied about gave Marissa a cold shudder. “I’m not a patient! I refuse to be a patient in this—”
“Shut up, girl! Shut it!” her uncle growled at her, squeezing her arm till she cried out.
“Oh, please, Lord Pevin! Don’t injure the girl!” Mr. Tinson cried out in concern.
Both Lord and Lady Pevin and Marissa looked at Mr. Tinson in surprise. No one had ever come to Marissa’s defense before. Mr. Tinson himself looked quite surprised at their blank expressions.
“Err...now, let’s see, Marissa Brignall, age 19, father and mother both deceased,” Mr. Tinson read from a chart. Marissa felt a cold wash of fear to know that there was already a chart prepared in her name. How could her uncle and aunt do this to her!
“Now what would be the reason for admittance?” Mr. Tinson asked, his pleasant smile back on his face.
His uncle seemed a little perplexed at this question. He had assumed he could just drop off his errant niece and be done with her.
“Well, she’s insolent and stubborn,” he started. “We had made an excellent betrothal for her which she cried off like a lunatic.”
“And she’s disobedient, haughty, and too independent,” Lady Pevin interjected, obviously eager to show off her niece’s worst qualities.
Mr. Tinson shook his head in sympathy. “Oh dear, too independent, you say,” he murmured writing notes into the open chart.
Encouraged, Lady Pevin continued, “Oh yes. The most bullheaded child I have ever seen! And from a female too! She has yet to recognize her role as our ward and has refused to show gratitude for the kindness we have given her over the years.” Lady Pevin delicately fanned herself. “Kindness that was
required, mind you.”
Marissa could feel her anger boiling over. Kindness! Her aunt had once locked her in a room for a week with nothing but bread and water because she had spilled a glass of wine at dinner. Kindness, they said! Indeed!
Lord Pevin watched the tiny Mr. Tinson suspiciously. “This
the Denton Asylum that is funded by Duke of Wainwright, am I correct?”
Mr. Tinson smiled widely. “Oh yes. His Grace has been a most generous and giving patron for Dr. Denton’s Asylum. He has helped to create a place to foster the troubled young woman and to even rehabilitate them.”
Lord Pevin’s eyebrows rose in shock. “Rehabilitate, you say? So some of the ladies return to good society?”
Mr. Tinson nodded eagerly. “Oh most assuredly. Of course, mind, not
do. But the ones that are discharged leave for very happy and well-matched marriages.”
Lord Pevin thought about this new bit of information before shaking Marissa’s arm again. “Hear that, girl? Maybe if you behave yourself and learn some proper manners for a lady you can come back into decent society. Maybe we can even ask Sir Edgar to reconsider you,” he said, eyes agleam with the possibility of joining his fortunes with Sir Edgar before it was all gambled away.
Lady Pevin coughed delicately. Mr. Tinson turned his attention politely to her. “Will we be seeing the renowned Dr. Denton today?” she asked, fanning herself.
Mr. Tinson regretfully shook his head. “I’m afraid the doctor is all tied up at the Big House today and will be for the rest of the day.”
Lady Pevin looked confused. “The Big House?”
“Yes, you see, we’re in the Little House. Initially new patients are kept separate from the other patients so as not to disturb their progress in recovery. We keep new patients here until we see fit to move them to the Big House out back. You’ll have noticed our much larger building across the lawn?”
They had. Behind the modest brick building, they had seen the plain but well built columns and moldings of a larger building up a sloped hill. Marissa had wondered if that was just a close neighbor.
“This is why we are
selective in who we admit into our asylum since we can only house one new patient at a time. But your application came with quite excellent recommendations so we sat fit to see Marissa today,” Mr. Tinson said, smiling kindly at Marissa as if this was to be taken as a compliment.
Lord Pevin puffed his chest. “I should hope so,” he said, feeling important for having the ability to conjure up good recommendations. Marissa wanted to scream in frustration. She knew the only reason why her uncle had gone to all the trouble of sending her to an apparently exclusive asylum was so that he could return to town and boast that he had done the best that he could for his mad niece. The town would be sure to pour its sympathy and respect all over him.
Mr. Tinson smiled quite ambiguously as he looked over Lord and Lady Pevin with a very shrewd eye for such a jolly fellow. It was a bit unnerving and Marissa could feel her uncle and aunt shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
Breaking the odd moment, Mr. Tinson nodded and slapped the chart close. Standing, he motioned back towards the door. “Well it sounds like Marissa will be a perfect candidate for our asylum. Please, follow me out and you can say your farewells outside.”
Out on the gravel, Lord and Lady Pevin looked relieved as Mr. Tinson spoke to another woman in a white apron. It was done. They were finally free of Marissa. Hardly able to contain their happiness, Lord Pevin nodded and said gruffly, “Behave yourself. You’re lucky to end up in such comfort here.”