PREPARING FOR THE ORDEAL.
But to return to my work and my mission. After receiving
my instructions I returned to my boarding-house,
and when evening came I began to practice the role in
which I was to make my debut on the morrow. What a
difficult task, I thought, to appear before a crowd of people
and convince them that I was insane. I had never
been near insane persons before in my life, and had not
the faintest idea of what their actions were like. And
then to be examined by a number of learned physicians
who make insanity a specialty, and who daily come in
9contact with insane people! How could I hope to pass
these doctors and convince them that I was crazy? I
feared that they could not be deceived. I began to think
my task a hopeless one; but it had to be done. So I flew
to the mirror and examined my face. I remembered all
I had read of the doings of crazy people, how first of all
they must have staring eyes, and so I opened mine as wide
as possible and stared unblinkingly at my own reflection.
I assure you the sight was not reassuring, even to myself,
especially in the dead of night. I tried to turn the gas
up higher in hopes that it would raise my courage. I
succeeded only partially, but I consoled myself with the
thought that in a few nights more I would not be there,
but locked up in a cell with a lot of lunatics.
The weather was not cold; but, nevertheless, when I
thought of what was to come, wintery chills ran races up
and down my back in very mockery of the perspiration
which was slowly but surely taking the curl out of my
bangs. Between times, practicing before the mirror and
picturing my future as a lunatic, I read snatches of improbable
and impossible ghost stories, so that when the
dawn came to chase away the night, I felt that I was in
a fit mood for my mission, yet hungry enough to feel
keenly that I wanted my breakfast. Slowly and sadly I
took my morning bath and quietly bade farewell to a few
of the most precious articles known to modern civilization.
Tenderly I put my tooth-brush aside, and, when
taking a final rub of the soap, I murmured, “It may be
for days, and it may be—for longer.” Then I donned
the old clothing I had selected for the occasion. I was in
the mood to look at everything through very serious
glasses. It’s just as well to take a last “fond look,” I
mused, for who could tell but that the strain of playing
crazy, and being shut up with a crowd of mad people,
might turn my own brain, and I would never get back.
But not once did I think of shirking my mission.
10Calmly, outwardly at least, I went out to my crazy business.
I first thought it best to go to a boarding-house, and,
after securing lodging, confidentially tell the landlady,
or lord, whichever it might chance to be, that I was seeking
work, and, in a few days after, apparently go insane.
When I reconsidered the idea, I feared it would take too
long to mature. Suddenly I thought how much easier it
would be to go to a boarding-home for working women.
I knew, if once I made a houseful of women believe me
crazy, that they would never rest until I was out of their
reach and in secure quarters.
From a directory I selected the Temporary Home for
Females, No. 84 Second Avenue. As I walked down the
avenue, I determined that, once inside the Home, I
should do the best I could to get started on my journey
to Blackwell’s Island and the Insane Asylum.