Island of the Mad – Laurie R. King

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND I STOOD shoulder to shoulder, gazing down sadly at the tiny charred corpse. “She should never have left us alone,” I told him. “She had no great choice in the matter.” “There’s always a choice.” “Strictly speaking, perhaps. But it’s best that she disappear, at least for a time. Even putting aside the death penalty, I cannot see her thriving in prison.” I had to agree. “She is probably better off in Monte Carlo.” And so saying, I snatched up the smouldering pan and tipped my attempt at a chicken dinner into the rubbish bin. Our long-time housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, had recently abandoned us, selfishly choosing freedom over being tried for murder—and thereby risking our lives to my poisonous culinary skills. “Cheese sandwiches, then? Or shall we walk up to the Tiger?” He glanced at the kitchen clock. “Do you suppose Tillie might have a table, up at the Monk’s Tun?” — Three hours later, we were making our leisurely way towards the gate in the stone wall encircling our house. I had pocketed a torch as we left, but the midsummer sky held enough lingering brightness that we did not need it as we returned across the Sussex Downs. Tillie had outdone herself, with a perfection of cool dishes on a warm afternoon: subtle lettuces, an iced soup, cold meats, hot rolls, and a strawberry tart the likes of none in the land.

The one drawback was, the Monk’s Tun had begun to collect a reputation. Not that I begrudged Tillie her success—although I might wish we had not chosen to stop in the same night as a carload of Young Things on their way up from Dover. Not that they were drunk, merely festive; nor were they loud, exactly, merely difficult to ignore. They were my age—in fact, two of them I dimly recognised: a young man with dark Byronic curls who had been the year before me at Oxford, and a girl whose face appeared in the illustrated Society pages of the newspapers. My eyes kept going to them, two sleek girls in Paris frocks, two clean, tanned lads in casually worn suits that would have cost Tillie’s bar-man a year of his salary. The second time Holmes had needed to repeat something, he craned around to look at the table of merrymakers on the other side of the old room. “Friends of yours?” “Good heavens, no.” “Then why are you watching them so closely?” “I wasn’t. Not really. Just—they seem like an alien race, down here in Sussex.

Don’t you think?” His grey eyes fixed on me, but before he could speak, Tillie came up to greet us, and the next course arrived, and the moment was lost. However, Holmes never forgot anything. When he pushed open the gate an hour later, he said, “Russell, do you regret the choices you made?” Little point in pretending I didn’t understand. “Regret? Never. I might occasionally wonder what life would have been, had things been different, but it’s mere speculation. Like…like trying on a dress I’d never actually wear, just to see what it feels like.” He closed the gate and worked the latch. We picked our way through the grassy orchard, hearing the faint texture of sound from the hives—drones cooling their homes from the day’s heat. Near the house, the sweet odour from the old-fashioned climbing rose drew us forward. Mrs Hudson had planted the flower, long before I knew her.

Mrs Hudson, now gone away, to…But before yearning could overcome me, the night was broken by the jangle of the telephone bell. Neither of us hurried to catch it. And neither of us suggested, when the machine ceased its clamour before we were halfway through the kitchen, that we ask the Exchange to restore the connexion. Instead, Holmes pulled a corkscrew from the drawer and a bottle of chilled honey wine from the cooler. I fetched a pair of glasses from the cupboard. We left the door open, to chase away the aroma of cremated chicken, and settled into our garden chairs. The night smelled of blossoms and honey. The low pulse of waves against the Sussex cliffs obscured the sound from the hives. The wine was cool, but faintly sad as its summer freshness faded, giving a hint of bitterness to come. And the telephone rang again.

At this time of night, the sound was ominous. With a sigh, I put my half-empty glass onto the stones and went through the terrace doors. I spoke our number by way of greeting, to be answered by a voice from the local Exchange. “Evening, Mrs Holmes, sorry to ring so late but the lady said it was an emergency, so I told her I’d keep trying you. And the girl at the Monk’s Tun said you’d left there. Do you want me to connect you again?” Life in a rural area is rich in many things, but privacy is not one of them. “Hold on a moment, I’ll get Holmes.” The word emergency generally summoned Sherlock Holmes. But to my surprise, she said the woman had asked for me. “Did she leave a name?” “She said to tell you it was Veronica Fitzwarren.

” Ronnie. Oh dear. I pulled up the chair we kept near the telephone, and sat. “Yes, you’d better put me through.” — Ronnie Fitzwarren—she’d been Lady Veronica Anne Beaconsfield when we met in 1917— was my oldest friend on this side of the Atlantic. My very first morning at Oxford University she stepped into my rooms and took charge of my life, turning what might have been three years of solitary academic pursuit into a time of exploration, community, and occasionally fun. On the surface, we had little in common: Ronnie was short, round, vivacious, an English aristocrat down to her Norman bones, not greatly interested in her books, and dedicated to a series of Good Works. I, on the other hand, was tall, thin, aloof, of mongrel blood, and far more interested in the academic elements of human beings than the personal. Ronnie taught me the meaning of friendship: once she’d laid claim to me, we were bound together. After University, however, our lives had drifted apart—until, on the eve of my twenty-first birthday, we happened to meet.

At the time, I had just begun to realise how torn I was between a life of independence and a life with Sherlock Holmes. The conundrum was brought into greater focus in the time that followed by Ronnie’s interest in a woman religious leader with some dubious connexions—and, by Ronnie’s attachment to a troubled young demobbed officer with a weakness for hard drugs. I’d dragged Holmes into the case, a mutual involvement that brought us together in unforeseen ways, revealing a surprisingly generous side to the man who had been my informal tutor since I met him at the age of fifteen. * Holmes coaxed, cajoled, and bullied Miles Fitzwarren into sobriety, turning him from a man so befuddled he’d mistaken Ronnie’s dead father for her sciatic uncle, to a man serving His Majesty’s government with honour and distinction. Ronnie married Miles in 1921. Their son was born the following year. Two years after that, an Irish sniper’s bullet left her a young widow with a small child and a complicated financial situation—and yet, far from my stepping up to be a faithful friend in her time of need, the past year had found me mostly absent from England, and from her life. Letters, quick visits, and presents to the child did not assuage my guilt: she’d rescued me; I’d abandoned her. The word emergency in Ronnie’s situation could mean nothing good. But my friend seemed in no hurry to tell me about it.

Instead, the familiar voice launched into cheery exclamations over how long it had been and was it as warm in Sussex as in London. Then she asked, rather pointedly, if I thought the Exchange had left the line. Following the giveaway clicks, Ronnie’s voice went more sober. “Mary, I actually phoned you a couple of hours ago—I didn’t know the woman would continue to try you. It could wait till morning…” “I’m glad to hear it’s not drop-everything urgent, but since you’ve reached me, why don’t you go ahead and tell me about it? Is it Simon?” The child was occasionally sickly, but in summer? “Simon? No, he’s super, why? Oh, I mean, I know why, but no, he’s doing marvellously. I’m sorry you missed his birthday party last month. Mother hired a pony ride—she found this funny little man with ponies down in Brighton and Simon climbed right up, never a hesitation, you should have seen it…” I waited through a proud mama’s recitation of genius, studying the room, wondering if Holmes might rid it of Mrs Hudson’s homely touches, wondering if Ronnie would notice if I gently laid down the earpiece to go fetch my wine glass—which was no doubt serving as a swimming pool for midges. When Ronnie paused for a breath, I hastened to interrupt. “That all sounds perfectly super. So if not Simon, what’s the trouble?” “Do you remember my Aunt Vivian?” “The one—” I stopped to reach around for a diplomatic word, but Ronnie wasn’t bothered.

“In the loony bin, yes.” “I only met her the once, but it was…” “Terrifying?” “Memorable.” My old friend laughed sadly at the understatement. “I know. Well, she’s vanished, into thin air.” — A solid twenty minutes later, I removed the telephone receiver from my numb ear. Five more minutes passed before I stood and went back through the terrace doors. As I approached, Holmes stretched out an arm and removed his clean handkerchief from the top of my wine glass: no drowned midges. “That was Ronnie Beaconsfield—Fitzwarren, rather,” I told him. “Her aunt has disappeared.

” “The mad one?” “Yes.” “Wasn’t she in Bedlam? Escape from there is not an easy matter.” I glanced over at him, but his face was in shadow. “Holmes, that sounds oddly like the voice of experience speaking.” He did not reply, which meant that here was yet another episode in his life he had neglected to mention—probably because there was something embarrassing about it. “No, in fact, she’d been given a week’s home leave, with a nurse in charge, in order to celebrate her brother’s—her half-brother’s—fiftieth birthday. The Marquess of Selwick? Vivian and the nurse were headed back to the asylum on Friday, but they never arrived.” “And your friend wishes you…?” “To look into it, yes. She has a young child, so her movements are somewhat restricted.” “The child hasn’t a governess?” “Only a few days a week.

The widow’s pension Ronnie gets doesn’t leave her with many luxuries.” “Veronica Beaconsfield is living on an Army pension?” “Ridiculous, I know. But I suspect that her uncle the Marquess made some bad investments, since he’s never moved back to the London house since the War—ironic, considering that Ronnie’s father was something of a financial genius—and the other uncle, on the mother’s side, married an American who’s rather tighter with her dollars than he anticipated. Neither are keen on providing Ronnie an allowance to live in her own place in London. I’m sure it’ll be sorted out in the end, but until then…” He grunted. I took another sip from the too-warm wine. Peace returned. As did the midges. Holmes gathered the near-empty bottle and the glasses and took them into the house, leaving me to listen to the sea and think about beehives, and carefree Young Things, and Ronnie’s mad aunt. As I remembered it, Vivian Beaconsfield had always demonstrated a particular antipathy for her half-brother Edward, Lord Selwick.

I was pretty sure that most of her overt violence had been aimed at him. Perhaps her willingness to celebrate the anniversary of the Marquess’ birth had been a sign of healing. Or had it been something else? * The Beaconsfield case is described in A Monstrous Regiment of Women; the meeting and apprenticeship of Russell and Holmes are found in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and Mary Russell’s War. Chapter Two 1922 THE LADY VIVIAN BEACONSFIELD WAS the third and youngest living child of William Reginald George Beaconsfield, Seventh Marquess of Selwick. The Marquess had married twice, with sons Edward and Thomas by his first wife, then Lady Vivian with his second. Edward, the heir, was sixteen when his little sister came along, thus nearly entirely fledged from his native Surrey nest. His brother, Thomas, was only fourteen, and though both had been at boarding school when Vivian was born, Thomas was the one who returned home during the long holidays, the one who was actually interested in running the estate. As I remembered, from various things Ronnie had said over the years, Lord Selwick—her Uncle Edward—had no interest in the countryside until he had been forced to return during the War, preferring the bright lights and the halls of power to bucolic Surrey. Vivian’s mother died of a fever in the winter of 1912, when her daughter was twentyone. The following year, the aged Seventh Marquess faded away as well, and Edward inherited the title and lands.

The new Marquess was happy at Selwick Hall in London and the family château in the south of France, leaving his brother to oversee things in Surrey. Thomas Beaconsfield—now with a lesser title of his own, Earl of Pewsley, a reward for steering some very important men away from some very costly financial mistakes—came to be known by the jocular nickname of “Lord Waterloo” for his idiosyncratic habit of commuting up and down between London and Surrey. He was often joined on these journeys by his wife, who was active on various Arts ventures, and Ronnie, who came to Town for tutoring. But they went home each night to Selwick, and to Vivian, his fragile younger sister. Then came the War. Despite his title, his age, and his responsibilities, Thomas Beaconsfield enlisted, and volunteered for the Front. There he died, a bare twelve months later. His wife and sixteen-year-old Ronnie were bereft. His twenty-four-year-old sister was devastated. Vivian had always been eccentric, and vulnerable—even physically so, being delicate of bone, pale of hair and skin.

Her coming out in 1910, at the alarmingly late age of nineteen, had been a trial for all concerned, and she fled London even before the Season was at an end, with no sign of a ring or even an agreement. She spent some weeks in Europe before returning to her refuge in the country, there to remain. Selwick having no master and London being under attack, Edward had little choice but to return home. Ronnie and her mother spent much of their time away, burying their grief in war work and grim preparations for University exams. The Marquess had moved their things into the east wing, that he might take up residence in the main house. His sister, Vivian, was moved to the women’s side as well. That disruption, added to the deaths of both parents and brother and the long absences of sister-in-law and niece, seemed to push Vivian’s eccentricities into something darker. The servants’ reports of her behaviour grew more and more alarming—her habitual country walks would extend long after sunset; her shyness grew into a pathological avoidance of former friends. There were occasional outbursts of temper that would be followed by unnatural, almost cringing withdrawal. She grew ever thinner, would pick at her finger-nails until they bled, bit at the corner of her mouth, nervously pulled locks of hair.

Ronnie and her mother, coming back from London in June to help with harvest chores, found a quivering and nervous woman. One day, the maid discovered a sharp little kitchen knife in Vivian’s pocket. The next afternoon Ronnie came upon her, weeping uncontrollably in the morning room. A few days after that, one year to the week after Thomas’ death, Vivian tried to murder the Marquess with a fireplace poker. Her first committal to a private institution was voluntary, lasting three months. Vivian returned home, rested and eating, seeming restored to sanity. In a few weeks, the darkness began to return. It became a pattern: irritability, silence, the first signs of chewing at the edges of her body, then an outburst—invariably against Edward, which even he agreed was something of a blessing, since he was the one most able to defend himself. Committal would follow, as she acknowledged that she was in need of a “rest.” This went on for three and a half years.

Then came the fifth such cycle, in 1920. Instead of attacking her half-brother, Vivian went after herself, using another purloined knife. A chambermaid found her. The next committal was not voluntary. By this time, Vivian Beaconsfield had exhausted the patience of private hospitals. For some ungodly reason—a mix-up? Her brother’s pique?—she was taken to Bedlam, London’s home for the mad since the fourteenth century. Her sister-in-law was appalled, her brother refused to speak her name—but strangely enough, Bedlam of all places saved her life. One’s first reaction to the name—which in fact was Bethlem Royal Hospital—was a queasy horror: Bedlam as a charnel-pit of cries, filth, brutality, the chaining of inmates, and visitors in Regency silks paying to be amused by the inmates’ antics. However, even by Dickens’ time, the humane treatment of the insane had made enormous progress. Now, Bedlam housed the educated mad, from schoolmasters to seamstresses, with a handful of talented artists for whom the outside world was too much.

Nonetheless, the hospital’s image was softened neither by its location in a rough district south of the River, nor by its hulking grey appearance. I admit, despite my intellectual knowledge of improvements, my thoughts of the place tended towards Hogarth’s image of writhing and half-naked lunatics. Still, Ronnie felt that her aunt was happy there—that yes, the blood in Lady Vivian’s veins might run a shade bluer than that of the other inmates, but she seemed to have found her peers. Ronnie took me once to visit her aunt. It was a wintry October afternoon in 1922, and not an ideal time to be crossing London with an infant in arms. Still, my old University friend was determined to introduce her young son to his great-aunt, and asked me to accompany her—why, I was not sure, other than my being one of her few friends who might not be shaken to the core by a trip to Bedlam. But as we motored through the rough streets of the South bank, I noticed how closely Ronnie held the child, and how warily she eyed the windows. Perhaps I was more of a bodyguard—certainly more so than the whitehaired driver. Bedlam was tucked behind high stone walls, the better to keep the wandering mad on one side and any tormenting onlookers on the other. The hinges screeched as the iron gates were pulled open by the guard, an aged fellow who looked barely adequate to corral young Simon, much less several hundred of London’s mad.

Inside the walls, the dark and dirty stones of Southwark gave way, unexpectedly, to a garden: trees, lawn, a flower bed neatly mulched over for winter. Over to our left, some well-bundled women walked along a path-way, giving no indication that they were even aware of the gates, much less eager to flee through them. Had it been a sunny morning, the stone façade might have given off an air of dignity, even welcome, but as we circled around to park, it simply…loomed. Four storeys high, with sixty or more windows on each floor, centred around a portico with columns resembling massive bars and a high dome that looked like a stone tea-cosy. The portico, ten steps above the drive, faced north, putting the entranceway in shadows. Even young Simon protested, although that could have been a reaction to the slowing of the motor. Ronnie wrapped the blankets around him as the driver came back to open the door. Bitter air rushed in—along with a high, drawn-out wail from the building itself that raised the hairs on the back of the neck. Ronnie gathered her soft armful and dashed up the steps, with me hastening to follow her through the columns to the hospital doors. Inside, visitors were greeted by two immense stone carvings of male nudes, one cringing but hopeful, the other stretched in agony and bound by chains (named, I later found, Raving Madness and his brother, Melancholy).

But the air was warm, as were the greetings of the staff, and smelled less of the expected despair and cabbage than it did of coffee and furniture polish. The porter, a nurse, and soon the hospital superintendent himself appeared, greeting Ronnie as an old friend and making much of the tiny creature, yawning and stretching in her arms. Our coats were taken, our hats (and their pins) laid aside, and we were ushered across a hallway to what looked like a Victorian sitting room, with solid furniture, marble statues, potted palms, ancestral portraits, and comfortable chairs dotted with crisp white antimacassars. A radiator ticked on one side and a fire crackled on the other; the curtains were drawn back from high windows that looked out on a neatly tended garden. Despite the cold, three women strolled the paths, one of whom appeared to be carrying on a learned debate with an invisible friend. The nurse who had brought us in lingered to coo over the lad, clearly tempted to prise him bodily from his mother’s grasp. Before open battle could break out, an older woman in a grey dress stepped through the doorway, her authority sending the attendant scurrying back to work. This woman Ronnie had no hesitation about, freely plunking the armload of blankets into the experienced hands, then turning to introduce me. It was the hospital matron, competent, iron-willed—and with an unexpected trace of humour at the back of her eyes. The sort of person no young mother would hesitate to entrust with her progeny—or her beloved aunt.

“How is she?” Ronnie asked once the initial fuss over the five-month-old was over. “A bit sad,” Matron replied without hesitation. “Her favourite nurse has just left to be married, and a patient she was friends with was moved to a private hospital nearer her family. But she’ll be much cheered to see you.” “I’m so sorry, I should have come sooner, but—” “Child, that’s not what I was saying. Indeed, you’d have worried her by coming here in a…vulnerable state. Your letters have been quite pleasure enough.” Ronnie looked at the child in Matron’s strong arms. “She will be fine with him, won’t she? I needn’t…” “Worry about the little mite?” Matron gazed at the pink face with affection, then transferred him easily back to Ronnie’s care. “She’ll be perfectly fine with him.

She’s in a good phase at present. Even when she’s not, the only person she tries to hurt anymore is herself.” With this sorry pronouncement, Matron left us alone with our thoughts and the child. In a few minutes, the door opened, and in came two women. One was a tall, blackhaired Sister in a dark blue uniform with stiff white collar, cuffs, and belt. Her right hand grasped the other woman’s arm—which might have brought to mind control, straitjackets, and shackles except that there was a degree of what almost seemed like affection in the gesture. I did not know if she showed that respect to all her patients—Vivian had to be one of the most high-ranking patients she would ever treat—but to my eye it looked more like helping a myopic friend across an uneven floor than it did controlling a certified lunatic. Once inside the Sister let go, allowing Vivian Beaconsfield to continue across the room towards her niece. At first glance, my eyes interpreted the figure as Ronnie’s ancient grandmother: tiny with age, white-haired, kept upright by the nurse’s assistance. Certainly she was small—and she did look older than the early thirties I knew her to be, with thin, somewhat greasy pale blonde hair scraped back against her head.

She wore normal day clothes, somewhat out of date and with the dullness of coarse laundry soap. It also lacked the belt its side-loops intended. However, the woman herself seemed neither worn nor particularly dull. Vivian greeted Ronnie with warmth, acknowledged my introduction with a hand-clasp, then bent over the infant with all the proper exclamations. She looked less mad than tired, like a woman recovering from a long and dreary fever. Aunt and niece settled on chairs before the fire to examine young Master Fitzwarren in all his splendour, and were soon oblivious to the world. The nurse remained near the door, which might have been a hospital requirement, although she did not appear impatient or eager to get away. I moved over to her side. She was nearly as tall as I and only a few years older, with short, neat dark hair—short hair perhaps being an advantage to those working with the aggressively insane. She wore no more makeup than I did, not even to lessen the prominent mole along her jaw-line.

I nodded towards the Beaconsfields. “I don’t imagine your patients get to see many children.” “You’d be right there.” Her accent was London, although I’d have said to the north of the River and some miles west. “A sweet world it would be if the mad could be put in charge of the nursery.” I smiled at the image, and held out a hand. “Mary Russell. I’ve known Ronnie since University.” “Rose Trevisan. I’ve known Miss Beaconsfield since she arrived.

” Miss Beaconsfield, I noted, rather than Lady Vivian. Socialist doctrine, hospital policy—or simple ignorance of titles? Her own name sounded Cornish, but her black hair and olive skin suggested that her people were of a more recent immigration. “I hope she’s doing all right here, Sister?” “You knew her before?” “I met her once, five or six years ago. That was before…” “Before her troubles descended,” Nurse Trevisan provided. “Yes.” “She’s doing well. Finding peace.” “I’m glad to hear that. Bedlam—sorry, Bethlem—has a rather dubious reputation, but Ronnie says her aunt is happy here.” The nurse smiled.

“An evil reputation can be a protective wall. Those who imagine a vicious dog behind a fence don’t climb over and discover the spaniel.” It was a startling thought. The wail that had greeted our arrival was far from contented —but before I could say anything stupid, “Miss Beaconsfield” looked up from her greatnephew and called her attendant over to admire him. We took tea, an oddly normal ritual undermined in part by the pre-buttered scones (rendering knives unnecessary) and institutionally sturdy tea service (which, if broken, would have nothing resembling a sharp edge). The conversation flowed nicely when it ran through the safe territory of books and babies: Ronnie kept her aunt well supplied with reading material, and Vivian’s memories of an infant Ronnie were fond. When those streams ran dry, it was up to Ronnie to supply news, there being little point in asking what her aunt had been doing. Politics was too complicated, mutual friends too few— although when Ronnie happened upon the topic of a formal wedding she’d attended a few weeks before, Vivian’s face came alive, and she wanted to know every detail of dress and music and the foods served. Eventually, Ronnie’s grasp of the details grew thin, and Vivian sat back with a tiny sigh. The garden outside was fading in the dusk, and Nurse Trevisan—who had remained in the room, reading a book in the corner—took out her watch.

As she stood, we heard raised voices from the hallway outside, building in fury to a scream and a scuffle, then silence. Ronnie bit her lip, not looking at her aunt, but the older woman reached out to take her hand. “Dear child, a disrupted mind is not a pretty thing. I thank you for not coming in recent months. The memory of my dishevelled hair would forever lie between us.” Ronnie gave out a noise that was halfway between a sob and a laugh, and gripped her aunt’s hand. “Oh, Auntie Viv, I’ve missed you so, I wish I…I could do something for you!” “Nonsense! Your letters have been life-savers. I treasure the photographs you have sent. Those are the world to me.” “But, isn’t there anything you need? Would you come and live with Simon and me? Oh, anything at all, Auntie, just ask.

” “Ronnie, dear, I need to stay at Bethlem for a time. I’m safe here. Although if you’d like to send me a present, I’d adore a pot of your mother’s damson preserves, when she makes some. If you posted it to Nurse Trevisan, she could dole it out to me.” She glanced across the room at the nurse, who smiled back at her. “Oh—and I nearly forgot!” She patted at her garments until she heard a crinkle, and pulled out a folded drawing. “This is for the young man. Not terribly colourful, but all I have is a regular pencil. Ah—perhaps if you send me some pastels, I might do a better one for his nursery wall.” When Ronnie unfolded the paper, her face went soft with delight.

She held it up for me to look at: a black-and-white Pierrot with ruffled collar and rounded hat. His expression was bashful yet mischievous, perfect for a child’s room; my hand wanted to smooth away the fold lines across his face. Ronnie let me hold it as she prepared to depart, bundling the boy, embracing her aunt, taking her leave of Nurse Trevisan. It was near-dark outside, the motor a rumbling oasis on the forecourt, and I laid the drawing on the seat to help Ronnie climb in with her arms full of child and blankets. As we drove through the gates of Bedlam, back into the streets of London as if we were crossing over from a calm island, young Simon began to raise protests that sounded eerily like the voice of madness. I folded the drawing and tucked it away in Ronnie’s handbag. When she’d got the boy settled, she remarked, “Aunt Vivian used to do the most beautiful watercolours. We have some at home—that one of the cottage, that I have in my sitting room?” “Yes, I remember. I wonder if she’s started again? I imagine it would do her good.” “I hope so.

Mummy says Auntie Viv closed her sketch-books the day Daddy died, and hasn’t touched them since. She’ll be so happy to know that Auntie Viv’s drawing again.” Drawing, yes—although I had to think that Pierrot was a rather mixed image for a child’s room: a too-trusting, isolated figure of derision, rejected by his love and mocked by his betters, the most poignant of the commedia dell’arte characters. And what on earth had the woman meant by I’m safe here?

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