Porcelain (Part 23)

Upon receiving them, Harriet stood for several minutes with the closed folders in her hand as Mr. Holmes’ assistant stood on the porch, a look of worry on his face.  He was used to people immediately opening the photos when they were delivered, eager to look upon the portraits and, at least for the most part, remark upon the skill exhibited in their execution.  Harriet’s reaction, a long, quiet pause with a troubled look of reflection on her face, was atypical enough to give him some worry that the old woman may be as unstable as her daughter.  The display put on by Olivia the previous day, and the aggressive action needed to get her under control, had been a new experience for him and not one that he cared to be involved with again.  To his relief, Harriet’s eyes cleared and she carefully opened the folders, giving all the usual, and in his eyes anyway, proper reactions.  He departed with a tip of his hat and Harriet walked back into the house still looking at the photo of her granddaughter.

Olivia remained asleep in her room with the doctor sitting in a chair outside the door, dozing off from a long night of keeping vigil over his patient.  She had awoken several times since he sedated her at the portrait session, seemingly becoming more and more able to fight her way out of the stupor brought on by the drugs he administered.  He had already informed Harriet early that morning that if Doctor Fitzsimmons were not already scheduled to arrive later in the day he may have needed to take more drastic action with Olivia.  It had already been necessary for him to physically hold her in bed on several occasions and he had only managed to get her back to sleep about twenty minutes ago.  Harriet sat down quietly, not wanting to disturb him, and pulled Claudia onto her lap to show her the portrait.

The young girl smiled and poked at it, although her grandmother quickly pulled it out if her reach, not wanting the clarity of the image to be marred by Claudia’s rather dirty fingers.  After a few minutes the young girl’s babbled talking awoke the doctor, who smiled and waved when Harriet turned the photo around for him to look at.  A sharp knock at the door got him up out of his seat with a whispered “I do hope this is who we have been waiting for.”  Several seconds later Doctor Fitzsimmons, a tall thin man with an elegantly trimmed silver beard,  walked into the sitting room.  Putting her granddaughter down and carefully tucking the two photos into a drawer by her chair, Harriet rose to greet him.

“Thank you so much for coming doctor.  I’m sure it has been a long journey.  Would you like some tea?”

Removing his jacket and hat, he replied while reaching into his medical bag.  “That would be fine ma’am.  I will, however, go to see the patient immediately.  Doctor?”

The two men walked into Olivia’s bedroom without another word, and although she was thanked when the tea was delivered, Harriet considered Doctor Fitzsimmons to be a rather gruff and unlikeable medical man.  She liked him even less when he emerged back into the sitting room.

“She’s in poor condition madam, more mentally than physically, although I would say that I believe she will stay fairly docile for what remains of her life.  It would be important to manage her interactions with people as she should not be placed into any kind of a stressful situation.  Those are likely to elect another of her outbursts.  You may want to consider placing her into a facility for the mentally deranged.  And the girl, this girl,” and he pointed toward Claudia who sat on the floor with her doll, “the situation with her must be settled very soon.  Doctor Warren tells me she is to be sent away?”

Harriet took several deep breaths before answering, her inclination to bluster fading away as she did so.  Finally, she folded her hands together and replied.

“Before we go on, tell me just what exactly is wrong with her doctor.”

“As I said, she is mentally unstable and deteriorating physically, likely as a result of that mental condition, and will be a fair amount to deal with until she passes.  It is probably too much for someone of your age.”

Harriet took another deep breath.  “Again doctor, tell me what is actually wrong with her.  I can ascertain her current condition well enough on my own, and having you tell me of it hardly helps me understand her illness.”

“Madam, this is a medical matter and Doctor Warren called me in to review this case, which I have done.  He has improperly medicated her obviously; however, given his general lack of experience in these matters he did well enough.  His general assessment, that her mind has broken with reality, seems correct and I have given him guidance in her further care if you do choose to keep her in this home.  Although again, I would suggest that she be removed to a more appropriate facility.”

“Perhaps you misunderstand me.  How did she become ill?”

Now it was the doctor’s turn to take a deep breath.  “These are medical matters as I said, and I have consulted with Doctor Warren on them.  He will be able to care for her.”


“Listen madam, you ask far too many questions.  It if satisfies your curiosity then I will tell you that she likely is suffering some kind of neurotic condition associated with her pregnancy or the birth of the child.  Doctor Warren advised me that you had related some disturbing tales involving the delivery and her condition during it.  That break may well have hidden itself for years, with recent events or some unknown other condition finally causing this decline that has become so obvious recently.   Also, he tells me you are a homeopath?”

“I am.”

“Then I shall hope that none of your concoctions, whatever they may have been, aided in her deterioration.  You will do well to watch yourself.”

Harriet had not seriously considered punching anyone in quite a long time, and she found herself enjoying the thought in this moment.  Once the doctor left, giving her a curt nod before stepping out the door, she sat back down slowly while considering what had been implied by his last statement.

…to be continued