An Inconvenient Wife Part 43

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"Of course," Victor said.

"And you were aware, Doctor, of Mrs. Carelton's considerable fortune? A fortune of her own that was controlled by her husband, as well as the fortune that would come to her upon her father's death-and also be controlled by her husband, if he were still alive?"

Victor's expression became stony. "I understood she was wealthy, yes," he said. "I was unaware of the details."

"Were you?" Howe asked, and then he turned away and smiled at the jury. "Were you indeed?"


New York, Tuesday, December 15, 1885 DOCTOR CONTROLS SOCIETY MURDERESS!.

Trial of the Decade JURY TO DECIDE HER FATE.

Victor Seth: Conspirator or Master?

Yesterday testimony was heard from Mrs. Carelton's physician Victor Seth, who defined his controversial new specialization-the science of neurology-and described his personal expertise in hypnosis, a scientific procedure much like mesmerism, wherein Dr. Seth put Mrs. Carelton into a trance and controlled her "unconscious" mind. Dr. Seth admitted under oath that he could dictate Mrs. Carelton's behavior even when she was no longer in a trance, and that he could make her perform acts that might normally be reprehensible to her.

During this testimony, Mrs. Carelton sat mute, obviously still under the influence of her doctor, who had a spellbound control not just of her but of the courtroom. Her mind was clearly not her own while Dr. Seth spun his tale of control and foreknowledge of Mrs. Carelton's vast wealth. Only when he was gone from the stand did she become herself again. Her spine seemed to droop, and she was quite beside herself, so that Mr. Howe, her attorney, had to remove her from the courtroom during the lunch break.

"An Urge I Could Not Control"

When court resumed, Mrs. Carelton herself testified. When Mr. Howe asked her if she had been under the doctor's control, she said, "I don't know. I was aware I relied on him. I felt I needed him, and I didn't know why. Later, I began to understand that he had done things to ensure I would not leave his treatment. I don't know what he may have had in mind, but I do know that when I killed my husband, I was in the grip of something irresistible. It confused me, but it was an urge I could not control."

Mrs. Carelton told the jury that she loved her husband and wanted to please him, and that she had done everything in her power to be well. She had been innocent of her husband's past, had never met his parents, and believed, in the trusting manner of all gently bred women, that he loved her and desired to protect her. She said the news that her husband had used her to gain social position was "a terrible shock."

Schemer or Victim?

In closing arguments, the district attorney, Mr. Scott, argued feebly that Mrs. Carelton was a scheming woman who desired control of her fortune and conspired with her lover, the doctor, to kill her husband. This despite the fact that several witnesses, including Mr. DeLancey Van Berckel, Mrs. Carelton's father, declared she was faithful to her husband.

Mr. Howe argued the extremely compelling evidence that Mrs. Carelton was a woman in the grip of forces she could not control. Given the dishonesty of her husband in both character and mien, her forced commitment to an asylum, and the oft-repeated testimony that William Carelton was a social climber who married his wife to gain access to society circles and denied his own parents in order to achieve his ambitions, Mrs. Carelton easily could have been the victim of an "irresistible urge," or emotional insanity. Howe also told the jury that it seemed likely Mrs. Carelton was also the unwitting victim of a doctor who was willing to use her "extraordinary suggestibility" to achieve his own ends. "Mrs. Carelton has said repeatedly that she does not know why she killed her husband. Perhaps she didn't, but her 'unconscious' did. Her unconscious knew just what to do, because Dr. Seth told it what to do."

In either case, said Mr. Howe, with tears in his own eyes, Mrs. Carelton was not responsible for her actions and was in fact a terrible victim of injustice who should be acquitted.

Chapter 35.

I don't know how long they'll deliberate," Howe said.

It was late the next morning. The window of my father's dining room afforded me a view of clouds and thickly falling snow. My uneaten breakfast of oatmeal and cream was abandoned on the table, and my coffee cup was still full; I had taken only a single sip. Howe poured a cup for himself and sat without invitation at the table.

"You seem so certain," I said.

He smiled in the affable way that had kept most of the courtroom on his side. "Mrs. Carelton, I have to admit that it's seldom I have a case so predisposed to succeed. A husband who hid his past and committed his wife to an asylum? A doctor who admits he can control his patient? Good G.o.d"-he laughed out loud-"if they don't come back with an acquittal, I'll shoot them all myself; they'd be too stupid to live anyway."

I could not make myself smile. It was true, everything he'd said. I had known it myself, sitting in that courtroom, listening to the testimony. I had seen sympathy on the faces of the jurors as I told my story complete with tears and unbearable anguish. But I had spent too long in a world made by other people; I was afraid to hope for freedom now.

"I don't know if I can bear to wait another moment," I said.

Harris came to the door. "Madam," he said. He held out a note. His hand shook slightly, though his expression was as impa.s.sive as ever. "I believe it's quite important."

Before I could take it, Howe reached for it. "From the court," he said, with an I told you so look. He tore open the message. "The jury's back," he said after scanning it. "We'd best go."

My hands trembled. I pressed them hard into my stomach and tried to take a deep breath. It wouldn't come; it felt as if my lungs had frozen. A shallow sigh was all I could manage. Papa came down at that moment. He took one look at me and his face went ashen.

"They're back," Howe told him.

"Then we must go," Papa said. "We must go now."

It seemed to take forever to reach the courtroom. The stairs of the Tombs were covered with ice; my thin boots slipped; my feet were numb with cold. Howe took a firm hold on my elbow and led me into the building while Papa followed behind. Then we were once again in the overheated room, with its smells of wet wool and sweat and steaming bodies. Now I smelled the deeper odors, the ones that lingered in the hard wooden seats, in the scarred floor. The scent of must, of fear, of lingering sorrow. I would not have thought those things had a smell, but they did. I puzzled why I had not breathed them before today.

The courtroom was full again. I wondered how all these people had known to come. Had they been waiting outside in the snow and ice for word? Who had told Daisy Hadden? It was not yet noon; how had she managed to pull herself from bed? How had Millie known? There she was. Her mouth trembled when I looked at her. The little stuffed bird on her hat dipped and moved as if it were singing a bright song or an elegy, I could not tell. There were newspaper reporters, Miss Adler among them. She smiled at me as I pa.s.sed. In the front, at the prosecutors' table, sat a dour Mr. Scott.

"You see?" Howe whispered into my ear, nudging me slightly. "Even Randolph knows when he's beaten."

I didn't see Victor anywhere. I had not expected to.

Howe led me to the table. Mr. Blake was already there. I had never seen him smile, but he did now. Howe eased his corpulence into the chair beside me and watched as the jury was marched in. I felt him studying each one of them. I could not make myself look, afraid I would see the result on their faces, not wanting to know, not yet.

Howe took my hand and squeezed it. He bent to say something to me, but just then the judge came in, and we were bade to stand. When we were seated again, the judge addressed himself to the jury: "Have you reached a verdict?"

The foreman-a graying, spindly man who was impeccably dressed, a warehouse owner, I remembered-nodded. He rose and handed a paper to the bailiff, and we all watched that paper as it made its way across the room into the hands of the judge, who read it and pa.s.sed it back. The pressure built in my skull; the sounds in the courtroom were a meaningless buzz.

"Will the defendant please rise," the judge directed, and I had a fleeting thought that he meant me, but I was paralyzed. Howe rose and took my arm, lifting me gently to my feet. I swayed into him as the judge commanded the foreman to read the verdict.

"We . . . jury . . . find the defendant . . ." The words were like music, lifting and falling through the buzz in my ears. I caught one and then another, like a conversation barely heard amid the traffic of Broadway. ". . . not guilty by reason of temporary insanity."

My knees gave. I fell into my seat. There was whooping all around me. My father leaned over the bar to rest his hands on my shoulders. Howe was beaming, shaking Mr. Blake's hand so hard I wondered if it might not come off.

I was free.

I let my attorney and his a.s.sistant and my father surround me. I didn't smile at Daisy Hadden, I did not even nod in Millie's direction. Reporters crowded around, shouting, begging for a word. Howe puffed out his chest dramatically and said, "Justice has been done. Mrs. Carelton's days of suffering are over!"

The walk out of the Tombs into the icy, snowy streets to my father's waiting carriage was the longest one I had ever made.

Jimson smiled at me and helped me inside. When I was seated, he tucked a thick wool blanket around my legs, and I was bundled and warm again, like a child. When he backed out, my father came inside. The smell of his cologne was overpowering in the small s.p.a.ce, more overpowering than he was. How shriveled he looked, I thought. How weak.

Howe leaned in. "Mrs. Carelton, should you ever find yourself in trouble again-"

"I trust that Lucy's troubled days are over," Papa said firmly. "We appreciate all you've done, Mr. Howe, but I doubt we'll be seeing you again."

The door was closed in Howe's face. I felt the shudder of the carriage as Jimson climbed onto the box, the lurch as the horses pulled into streets so rutted and icy and jarring that we rocked back and forth against the walls.

Papa sighed. "Well, thank G.o.d that's over." He shook his head. "Time to get on with things, I suppose. We'll want to decide what to do about that house of yours. I've thought about selling it. G.o.d knows it'll just sit there empty and useless unless we do. But I suppose that can wait a few days. Once everything is back on course-"

"Back on course?" I laughed.

"What is it?" he asked, frowning. "During the trial, it was best to be about-couldn't have everyone thinking you were guilty-but now I think we should keep to ourselves for a bit. Give people time to forget. A trip to the country. I've made arrangements for us to leave the day after tomorrow-had them made just in case, you know. It'll be good for you to be coddled, I think. Yes, I do think so. I've been corresponding with a doctor-Weir Mitch.e.l.l, in Philadelphia. He believes it would be best if you rest. Plenty of bed rest and good, rich food. Cream and b.u.t.ter and the like. No thinking at all, no more drawing or reading or any of that nonsense-you'll be yourself in no time." He patted my knee through the thick blanket and my heavy skirts. "I'll take care of you now, my dear. You've nothing to worry about."

I regarded him clearly. "This is what we shall do," I said. "There is a ship leaving tomorrow for London. The Lysander. You will send Harris to procure me a ticket. A first-cla.s.s cabin. I will be on it in the morning, and I will stay away for some time."

I saw shock in his expression. His mouth moved as if he might speak, and then he swallowed before he said, "A ship? Certainly not! We will do as Dr. Mitch.e.l.l suggested."

"I will not be seeing another doctor," I said calmly, adjusting the blanket. "I am a married woman, Papa. A widow. I have control of my own fortune, and I will do as I please."

"You will not-"

"Papa, I ask you to remember what happened to the last man who told me no." I gave him a pleasant smile and was rewarded by my father's dawning comprehension. I rested my head against the seat. "I'll require the ticket by this evening. But I think I won't have dinner with you tonight, Papa. This has all been quite draining. And I've so much packing to do if I'm to make the ship."

At last his words were gone. I reveled in the silence.

Early the next morning I stood waiting at the front door. My trunk was already packed and tied onto the carriage in the street. The ticket had been purchased; I held it tight in my hand. On the table in the hall was a vase full of roses, sent by Mr. Howe, along with a telegram of congratulations. It was the only one I received. From my friends there was only quiet, and that would continue, I knew. In spite of my acquittal, I was too scandalous to receive in New York City.

I tapped the ticket against my gloved hand. Harris came into the hallway. "Your father begs your understanding," he said, "but he cannot leave his breakfast just now. He sends his best wishes. He expects that you will write."

I smiled and opened the door onto a world swirling with white. It was a week until Christmas, and the maid had festooned the front gate with greenery, which was sagging beneath the weight of snow. A carriage was emerging in Washington Square from the fog of snow like a ghostly vision. Before me, Jimson waited.

I got into the carriage and settled myself and watched the pa.s.sing scenery as we made our way to the transatlantic docks on the Hudson. I did not expect to see these places again soon.

When we arrived, the docks were alive with people arriving and departing, men shouldering trunks. I said good-bye to Jimson and paid a porter to carry my trunk to my cabin, then I made my way there myself, up the gangplank, past the staff, who waited at the top with friendly smiles, who did not know who I was or where I'd been, only that I held a first-cla.s.s ticket.

Someone showed me to my cabin. It was like all the others I'd occupied since I'd been old enough to travel. A bedroom, a sitting room with a settee and a polished dining table and lovely plush chairs. I threw off my cloak and sank into one. This was where I would stay until the ship was well under way. There would be no one waiting to bid me good-bye from the docks, no one who cared if I was gone. No one to see the flexing of my wings.

There was a knock on the door. I felt a rush of excitement, a pull of desire like gravity. I went to the door and opened it, and there he stood.


"You took your time," I said.

"My appointments calendar is full," he said. "I had to tell them all I'd been called away. They will have to wait until I return."

"If you return," I said, and I stood back to let him in.

He smiled. "Oh, I'll return," he said. "And you will too. Someday." He reached for me, and I went into his arms, feeling that pull tighten and hold when he put his hand in my hair and kissed me and whispered, "I told you it would work, Lucy, didn't I? What a remarkable creature you are."

"Yes," I murmured back. "We are so clever."

"I love you, Lucy," he said. "Just think of how we will be together," and I smiled. He was so confident. He still thought he could control me, and I wanted him enough to let him believe it. For now. Yes, we would be together for now.

Until the day I cut the thread that bound us.

Also by Megan Chance:.


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An Inconvenient Wife Part 43 summary

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