New 44 Scotlanda Street Chapter 62: Stockholm Syndrome

They took the Duke back to the house at Nine Mile Burn where Elspeth had remained up, anxiously awaiting their return. Matthew had promised to telephone her once the mission was accomplished, but in the excitement of the rescue he had forgotten to do so. He might have thought of Theseus, who famously returned from Crete without replacing his black sail with a white one – a mistake that led King Aegeus to believe his son was dead, and to kill himself in his misery. But he did not, and he only remembered the promised call when he was minutes away from home, and it was too late. Elspeth half-expected him to forget – men were like that, she thought ­– ­but she certainly felt growing concern until the lights of the car appeared through the rhododendrons to tell her that Matthew was safe.

44 Scotland Street
44 Scotland Street

“We’re back,” announced Matthew, peeling off the balaclava that, in his excitement, he had failed to remove.

Elspeth fussed about the Duke. She had prepared hot chocolate and cheese sandwiches, which she now offered to him.

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“The Duke is very tired,” said Matthew. “He needs to get to bed. He can take his hot chocolate and sandwiches with him.”

James took his uncle to a spare bedroom where a bed for visitors was already made up.

“We can talk tomorrow, Uncle,” James said. “You should get some sleep now.”

The Duke nodded. He had said very little in the car on the way back, and James sensed that he was in no mood for conversation. James seemed tired, too, and so they decided that discussion of the night’s events could wait until the next day, when the light of day, and a chance to hear the Duke’s side of the story, might make everything clearer.

Matthew and Elspeth slept in. It was Josefine’s turn to deal with the triplets and they were already dressed and had left for their play group in West Linton. Elspeth had been relieved to discover that Josefine drove, as this meant she could do her share of taxi-ing the boys to and from the village hall where their play group met.

James was also up and about, as was the Duke. James had made him breakfast, and the Duke was now finishing a slice of toast spread with Dundee thick-cut marmalade. He rose to his feet as Elspeth came into the kitchen.

“We jumped the gun for breakfast,” the Duke said. “James said you wouldn’t mind …”

“Of course not,” Matthew reassured him. He noticed that the Duke was wearing clothes that he had seen on James, and he remembered that they had brought him to the house the previous evening clad in pyjamas and dressing gown.

The Duke smiled. “My garb is unusually fashionable,” he said. “Cool, even. Thanks to James.”

“Not everyone’s uncle could carry that sort of thing off,” said James.

Elspeth busied herself with preparing boiled eggs while Matthew sat down at the table with James and the Duke. “Well,” Matthew began. “Here we are.”

The Duke nodded. “Indeed.” He looked at James. “James, you might …”

“We’ve had a chat,” said James. “Uncle has explained everything.”

Matthew waited. Elspeth half-turned around, an egg in her hand, poised above the pot.

“It was Gaelic immersion,” James went on. “Pàdruig was determined that Uncle should learn Gaelic.”

“I wanted to,” said the Duke. “I’ve always liked the Gaelic language.”

“Yes,” said James. “I know that. But he took it too far. He started to force you. And he had no right to lock you up.”

“It was perhaps a bit extreme,” mused the Duke. “But language immersion is, by its very nature …”

Elspeth interrupted him. “It was an outrage.”

The Duke stared at the floor. He looked embarrassed, thought Matthew – rather like a person who has done something foolish and finds it hard to explain his actions. “I found it hard to resist,” he said. “Pàdruig is very persuasive.”

“Stockholm Syndrome,” muttered Matthew.

They all looked at him. “What?” asked James. “Stockholm?”

Matthew hesitated. “It’s a condition,” he explained. “Not Stendhal Syndrome, of course. Different.”

Elspeth remembered Matthew talking about Stendhal Syndrome after Angus had described to him Antonia Collie’s unfortunate episode in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Surrounded by great art, she had begun to breathe heavily, feel flushed, and had eventually succumbed to artistic overload.

“When I first heard about it, I found it hard to believe,” Elspeth said, “that Stendhal Syndrome actually existed. But it does, apparently. And this … this Stockholm Syndrome – what does it entail?”

The Duke looked up, with the interested expression of a patient about to hear his diagnosis.

“It’s identification with a captor,” said Matthew. He had not intended to air his suspicions in the Duke’s presence – his muttering had been unintentional. But now he could hardly refuse, and the Duke himself appeared to be interested.

“I’m no expert,” he said.

“Do go on,” the Duke encouraged. “I don’t mind in the slightest.”

“Well,” Matthew continued, “I’ve read a little bit about it. I can’t remember where, but it piqued my interest, I suppose. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome because of an early case of it in Sweden. A bank robber took hostages and the hostages eventually seemed to side with him. They declined to give evidence against him when he was eventually arrested.”

The Duke’s eyes widened.

“And then,” Matthew said, “there was Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was kidnapped and then joined her captors, doing their bidding, signing up, effectively. That was Stockholm Syndrome, or so it seems.”

The Duke continued to look thoughtful.

“She was eventually pardoned by President Clinton,” said Matthew.

The Duke looked up. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Elspeth looked at him with sympathy. “Of course you didn’t.”

James agreed. “You were the victim, Uncle. You weren’t immersing anybody in Gaelic – you were immersed.”

“I still want to learn the language,” said the Duke, looking miserable.

“Quite right,” said Matthew. “It’s very important that Gaelic is kept alive. It’s just that Pàdruig was trying to force you. He had no right to lock you up.”

“He meant well,” said the Duke.

“You’re free now,” said James. “You’re free to speak English or Gaelic – as you wish.”

“I didn’t really make much progress,” said the Duke.

Matthew smiled. “No harm done then.” But even as he reached this cheerful conclusion, he was wondering about the psychological implications. Discreetly, he switched on his phone and navigated to his music streaming programme. Kenneth McKellar – there he was. And there, too, was Jimmy Shand and his Band. He touched the screen and Jimmy Shand’s band sounded through the phone’s speakers – distant, tinny, but immediately recognisable.

The Duke looked up. His lower lip quivered. He began to breathe deeply.

Matthew glanced at Elspeth. “We need to get him to a doctor,” he whispered.