Independent of hospitals and almshouses, but subjected to the surveillance of the State, it comprised all the conditions of comfort and salubrity essential to establishments of this description designed to receive an opulent _clientele_.
It would have been difficult to find a more agreeable situation than that of Healthful House. On the landward slope of a hill extended a park of two hundred acres planted with the magnificent vegetation that grows so luxuriantly in that part of North America, which is equal in latitude to the Canary and Madeira Islands. At the furthermost limit of the park lay the wide estuary of the Neuse, swept by the cool breezes of Pamlico Sound and by the winds that blew from the ocean beyond the narrow _lido_ of the coast.
Healthful House, where rich invalids were cared for under such excellent hygienic conditions, was more generally reserved for the treatment of chronic complaints; but the management did not decline to admit patients affected by mental troubles, when the latter were not of an incurable nature.
It thus happened--a circumstance that was bound to attract a good deal of attention to Healthful House, and which perhaps was the motive for the visit of the Count d'Artigas--that a person of world-wide notoriety had for eighteen months been under special observation there.
This person was a Frenchman named Thomas Roch, forty-five years of age. He was, beyond question, suffering from some mental malady, but expert alienists admitted that he had not entirely lost the use of his reasoning faculties. It was only too evident that he had lost all notion of things as far as the ordinary acts of life were concerned; but in regard to subjects demanding the exercise of his genius, his sanity was unimpaired and unassailable--a fact which demonstrates how true is the _dictum_ that genius and madness are often closely allied! Otherwise his condition manifested itself by complete loss of memory;--the impossibility of concentrating his attention upon anything, lack of judgment, delirium and incoherence. He no longer even possessed the natural animal instinct of self-preservation, and had to be watched like an infant whom one never permits out of one's sight. Therefore a warder was detailed to keep close watch over him by day and by night in Pavilion No. 17, at the end of Healthful House Park, which had been specially set apart for him.
Ordinary insanity, when it is not incurable, can only be cured by moral means. Medicine and therapeutics are powerless, and their inefficacy has long been recognized by specialists. Were these moral means applicable to the case of Thomas Roch? One may be permitted to doubt it, even amid the tranquil and salubrious surroundings of Healthful House. As a matter of fact the very symptoms of uneasiness, changes of temper, irritability, queer traits of character, melancholy, apathy, and a repugnance for serious occupations were distinctly apparent; no treatment seemed capable of curing or even alleviating these symptoms. This was patent to all his medical attendants.
It has been justly remarked that madness is an excess of subjectivity; that is to say, a state in which the mind accords too much to mental labor and not enough to outward impressions. In the case of Thomas Roch this indifference was practically absolute. He lived but within himself, so to speak, a prey to a fixed idea which had brought him to the condition in which we find him. Could any circumstance occur to counteract it--to "exteriorize" him, as it were? The thing was improbable, but it was not impossible.
It is now necessary to explain how this Frenchman came to quit France, what motive attracted him to the United States, why the Federal government had judged it prudent and necessary to intern him in this sanitarium, where every utterance that unconsciously escaped him during his crises were noted and recorded with the minutest care.
Eighteen months previously the Secretary of the Navy at Washington, had received a demand for an audience in regard to a communication that Thomas Roch desired to make to him.