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About the Author
As Carolyn G. Heilbrun, she is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities Emerita at Columbia University. She has served as president of the Modern Language Association as well as vice president of the Authors Guild. Dr. Heilbrun is also the author of Writing a Woman's Life, Hamlet's Mother and Other Women, The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem, and, most recently, The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty.
Read an Excerpt
"I didn't say I objected to Freud," Kate said. "I said I objected to what
Joyce called Freudful errors-all those nonsensical conclusions leaped to by people with no reticence and less mind."
"If you are going to hold psychiatry responsible for sadistic parlor games, I see no point in continuing the discussion," Emanuel answered. But they would continue the discussion nonetheless; it had gone on for years, and showed no signs of exhausting itself.
"By the way," Kate said, "I've sent you a patient. At any rate, a student asked me to recommend a psychoanalyst, and I gave her your name and address. I have no idea if she'll call, but I rather expect she will. Her name is Janet Harrison." Kate walked to the window and looked out on the raw and blustery weather. It was the sort of January day when even she,
who loathed spring, longed for it.
"Considering your opinion of psychiatry," Nicola said, "Emanuel should feel duly honored. Look honored, Emanuel!" Nicola, Emanuel's wife,
followed these discussions rather as the spectator at a tennis match follows the ball, her head turning from one to the other. Having managed to place her faith in psychiatry without withdrawing her right to criticize, she applauded the good shots and groaned at the misses. Kate and Emanuel, charmed with Nicola as audience, enjoyed the matches not only for the occasional insights which emerged from them, but also because they shared the knack of irritating without ever offending each other. Nicola smiled on them both.
"It isn't Freud himself one quarrels with," Kate said, "nor even the great body of theory he evolved. It's the dissemination of his ideas in the modern world. I'm always reminded of the story of the Japanese gentleman and the Trinity: 'Honorable Father, very good; Honorable Son, very good;
but Honorable Bird I do not understand at all.' "
"Your quotations," Emanuel said, "always enliven the conversation without in any way advancing the discussion."
"The only quotation I can think of," said Nicola, in her turn walking to the window, "is 'If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?' "
Which, as it turned out, was the most significant remark anybody made that afternoon.
Someone had chalked "April is the cruelest month" on the steps of Baldwin
Hall. Kate, unimpressed by the erudition, agreed with the sentiment.
Spring on an Ameri-
can campus, even as urban a campus as this one, inevitably drove the faculty into a mood compounded of lassitude, irritation, and fastidiousness. Perhaps, Kate thought, it is because we are getting old,
while the students, like Caesar's crowds on the Appian Way, are always the same age. Gazing at the students who sprawled, or made love, on every available patch of grass, Kate longed, as she did each spring, for a statelier, less untidy era. "The young in one another's arms," Yeats had complained.
She mentioned this to Professor Anderson, who had stopped too, pondering the chalk inscription. "This time of year," he said, "I always want to shut myself up in a dark room, with the curtains drawn, and play Bach.
Really, you know," he said, still regarding Eliot's line, "Millay put it better: 'To what purpose, April, do you return again?' "
Kate was startled by Professor Anderson, who was an eighteenth-century man with a strong distaste for all female writers since Jane Austen. Together they entered the building and mounted the stairs to the English department on the next floor. That was it, really. However expected, April was always startling.
On the bench outside Kate's office, waiting for her office hours, sat a line of students. This too was a spring symptom. The good students either vanished from the campus altogether, or appeared at odd moments to argue some abstruse point of interpretation. The mediocre, particularly the poor ones, began to worry about marks. April, stirring their dull senses,
reminded them that the time of marks was near and the B they had faithfully promised themselves dismally remote. They had come to talk it out. Kate sighed as she unlocked the door to her office, and then stopped,
in surprise and annoyance. A man standing at the window turned as she entered.
"Please come in, Miss Fansler. Perhaps I should say Doctor, or Professor;
I am Acting Captain Stern, Detective from the Police Department. I've shown my credentials to the secretary in the office, who suggested that I
had perhaps better wait in here. She was kind enough to let me in. I
haven't disturbed anything. Won't you sit down?"
"I assure you, Captain," Kate said, sitting down at her desk, "I know very little about the personal lives of my students. Has one of them got into trouble?" She regarded the detective with interest. An avid reader of detective stories, she had always suspected that in real life detectives were desperately ordinary men, the sort who coped well with short-answer exams (corrected by machine) but were annoyed by complex ideas, literary or otherwise; the sort who liked the hardness of facts and found the need for ambivalence distasteful.
"Would you be good enough to tell me, Miss Fansler, what you were doing yesterday morning until noon?"
"What I was doing? Really, Captain Stern, I do assure you that . . ."
"If you will just be good enough to answer my questions, Miss Fansler, I
will explain the reasons for them very shortly. Yesterday morning?"
Kate stared at him, and then shrugged. As is the unfortunate habit of the literary person, she already imagined herself retelling this extraordinary event. She caught the detective's eye, and reached for a cigarette. He lit it for her, waiting patiently. "I don't teach on Tuesdays," she said. "I
am writing a book, and I spent all yesterday morning in the stacks of the library, looking up articles in nineteenth-
century periodicals. I was there until a little before one, when I went to wash, and then to meet Professor Popper for lunch. We ate in the faculty club."
"Do you live alone, Miss Fansler?"
"What time did you arrive in the 'stacks'?"
"The stacks, Captain Stern, are the inner floors of the library, on which the books are kept." Why is it, she wondered, that women are always annoyed at being asked if they live alone? "I got to the library at about nine-thirty."
"Did anyone see you in the stacks?"
"Anyone who could give me an 'alibi'? No. I found the volumes I wanted,
and worked with them at the small tables along the wall provided for that purpose. Several people must have seen me there, but whether they recognized me, or remembered me, I couldn't say."
"Do you have a student named Janet Harrison?"
In books, Kate thought, detectives were always enthusiastically interested in their work, rather like knights on a quest. It had never really occurred to her before with what fervor they attacked their work. Some of the time, of course, they were related to, or in love with, the accused or murdered, but whether being a detective was their job or avocation, they seemed vehemently to care. She wondered what,
if anything, Acting Captain Stern cared about. Could she ask him if he lived alone? Certainly not. "Janet Harrison? She used to be a student of mine; that is, she took one of my classes, on the nineteenth-century novel. That was last semester; I haven't seen her since." Kate thought longingly of Lord Peter Wimsey; at this point, surely, he would have paused to discuss the nineteenth-century novel. Captain Stern seemed never to have heard of it.
"Did you recommend that she attend a psychoanalyst?"
"Good God," Kate said, "is that what this has to do with? Surely the police are not checking up on all people who attend analysts. I didn't
'recommend' that she attend an analyst; I would consider it improper to do any such thing. She came to me having already decided, or been advised, to go to an analyst. She asked me if I could recommend a good one, since she had heard of the importance of finding a properly qualified man. Now that you mention it, I don't quite know why she came to me; I suppose we are all too willing to assume that others recognize us as monuments of good sense and natural authorities on most things."
There was no answering smile from Captain Stern. "Did you in fact recommend a psychoanalyst?"
"Yes, in fact, I did!"
"What was the name of the analyst you recommended?"
Kate was suddenly angry. Glancing out of the window, where April was breeding desire all over the place, did nothing to improve her mood. She averted her eyes from the campus and looked at the detective, who appeared unmoved by April. Undoubtedly he found all months equally cruel. Whatever this was about-and her curiosity had been greatly diluted by annoyance-was there any purpose in dragging Emanuel into it? "Captain Stern," she asked,
"am I required to answer that question? I'm not at all certain of the legal rights in this matter, but wouldn't I be 'booked,' or told what this is all about, if I'm to answer questions? Would it suffice for now if I
were to assure you (though I cannot prove it) that yesterday morning until one o'clock I was involved in no way whatever with any human being other than Thomas Carlyle, whose death well over half a century ago precludes the possibility of my having been in any way involved in it?"
Captain Stern ignored this. "You say you did recommend a psychoanalyst to
Janet Harrison. Did she find him satisfactory; did she plan to continue with him for very long?"
"I don't know," Kate said, feeling somewhat ashamed of her outburst into sarcasm, "I don't even know if she went to him. I
gave her his name, address, and telephone number. I mentioned the matter to him. From that moment to this I haven't seen the girl, nor given her a moment's thought."
"Surely the analyst would have mentioned the matter to you, if he had taken her as a patient. Particularly," Captain Stern added, revealing for the first time a certain store of knowledge, "if he were a good friend."
Kate stared at him. At least, she thought, we are not playing twenty questions. "I can't make you believe it, of course, but he did not mention it, nor would a first-rate analyst do so, particularly if I had not asked him. The man in question is a member of the New York Psychoanalytic
Institute, and it is against their principles ever to discuss a patient. This may seem strange; nonetheless, it is the simple truth."
"What sort of girl was Janet Harrison?"
Kate leaned back in the chair, trying to gauge the man's intelligence. She had learned as a college teacher that if one simplified what one wished to say, one falsified it. It was possible only to say what one meant, as clearly as possible. What could this Janet Harrison have done? Were they trying to establish her instability? Really, this laconic policeman was most trying.