Mary Huestis Pengilly.
The prison doors are open—I
Be this my messenger o’er land and sea.
Published by the author.
This little book is humbly dedicated to the Province of New Brunswick, and the State of Massachusetts, by one who has had so sad an experience in this, the sixty-second year of her age, that she feels it to be her imperative duty to lay it before the public in such a manner as shall reach the hearts of the people in this her native Province, as also the people of Massachusetts, with whom she had a refuge since driven from her own home by the St. John fire of 1877. She sincerely hopes it may be read in every State of the Union, as well as throughout the Dominion of Canada, that it may help to show the inner workings of their Hospitals and Asylums, and prompt them to search out better methods of conducting them, as well for the benefit of the superintendent as the patient.
December.—They will not allow me to go home, and I must write these things down for fear I forget. It will help to pass the time away. It is very hard to endure this prison life, and know that my sons think me insane when I am not.
How unkind Mrs. Mills is today; does she think this sort of treatment is for the good of our health? I begged for milk today, and she can’t spare me any; she has not enough for all the old women, she says. I don’t wish to deprive any one of that which they require, but have I not a right to all I require to feed me and make me well? All I do need is good nourishing food, and I know better than any one else can what I require to build me up and make me as I was before I met with this strange change of condition. I remember telling the Doctor, on his first visit to my room, that I only needed biscuit and milk and beef tea to make me well. He rose to his feet and said, “I know better than any other man.” That was all I heard him say, and he walked out, leaving me without a word of sympathy, or a promise that I should have anything. I say to myself (as I always talk aloud to myself when not well), “You don’t know any more than this old woman does.” I take tea with Mrs. Mills; I don’t like to look at those patients who look so wretched.
I can’t bear to see myself in the glass, I am so wasted—so miserable. My poor boys, no wonder you look so sad, to see your mother looking so badly, and be compelled to leave her here alone among strangers who know nothing about her past life. They don’t seem to have any respect for me. If I were the most miserable woman in the city of St. John, I would be entitled to better treatment at the hands of those who are paid by the Province to make us as comfortable as they can, by keeping us warmed and fed, as poor feeble invalids should be kept.