Our psychological impressions state that Birdie did all her tests brilliantly and quickly, but very often with less accuracy than would have been the case had she taken the time to think quietly rather than work rapidly. She was very keen to make the best possible record. ``I am proud of being quick; nothing is hard for me; it was not hard at school.'' It was found by steadying her that she gave a more accurate performance. We diagnosed her ability as good, but her school advantages had been poor. Otherwise we noted she was a pert, talkative, responsive child, of a distinctly nervous and somewhat unreliable type. Her ideas came tumbling, one on top of another. Under close supervision she was able to control her mental processes fairly well. For instance, on the antonym test, where opposites to twenty stimulus words are called for, Birdie gave them in the remarkably rapid average time of .8 of a second, with only one failure and one error. This is an exceptional record. From this and her unexpected powers of self-control exhibited on some other tests we were obliged to conclude that her aberrational tendencies were not very deep-set. Her mental traits seemed to conform most nearly to the type designated as constitutional excitement, or hypomania. Further observation of the case confirmed us in this first view of it.
On the ``Aussage'' or Testimony Test she gave 13 items, all correct, upon free recital. On questioning, 14 more details were added, but 6 of these were incorrect. Of the 6 suggestions offered she accepted none.
Birdie immigrated from Austria with her family when she was 10 years of age. She came of a healthy family; all of her grandparents and many of her uncles and aunts are living. We get no history of any insanity, epilepsy, or feeblemindedness on either side. She is one of 7 children, several of whom have had nervous troubles. Two of the children had convulsions in infancy, but then only. One brother at 10 years old is an excessive stammerer and extremely nervous.
Birdie was born after a pregnancy during which the mother was much worried and in poor health. The father, too, was sickly at that time. The family conditions were defective on account of poverty and illness during a large share of the period when the children were born. Birdie at birth was very small and there was difficulty in resuscitation. She, however, was never seriously ill until she was 7 years of age, when she had something like peritonitis. No spasms or convulsions at any time. She was a very small child during her infancy, but walked at 8 months and talked very well indeed when she was only one year old. Developmental history otherwise negative, but all along there has been poor family control on account of ill health and the slight earning capacity of the father.
During the several months we knew Birdie she was always a most unreliable person. She repeatedly ran away from home and was lost track of. On one occasion she got as far as Omaha. By the use of elaborate, but plausible stories she always succeeded in winning the friendship of reputable people. Once she was found, after she had been away several weeks, residing in a good home in another State where the people thought of adopting her on account of her brightness. Many times she wandered about her home city and in the most active and sly fashion purloined anything she cared for. Several times when she was taken by the police she invented clever stories, without the least faltering, that seemed entirely fitted to the occasion. As the investigator said, she talked incessantly with not the slightest hesitation and was always airy and sure. No one to whom she had gone with her misrepresentations questioned her veracity-- she always came out with a clearly connected and plausible story. We noted that her parents in comparison seemed quite stupid.
Of course Birdie passed under various names. Once we recognized her picture in the newspaper representing a weary, disheartened girl who was tired walking all day long from one employment bureau to another. She stated to the reporter it was her ambition to become a model servant. When in Omaha her mental peculiarities were recognized and she was studied by a competent alienist who, however, was not willing to render a verdict of non compos mentis to the police. This was when she had run away from Chicago and had told a lot of stories all of which had turned out to be untrue. The trouble which she created in various communities by reason of her hyperactive delinquencies has not been small.
With much merriment and an excessive amount of facial expression this little girl held forth to us. It is hardly necessary to say that the account varied somewhat from day to day. She did not like it at home and did not propose to go back there. There were too many in the family. As soon as the floor was scrubbed one of the children would get it all dirty again. She had started for New York, but the old gatekeeper at the station was mean and she could not slip by him. She got along all right in Omaha, but finally she gave herself up to the police there. She thinks perhaps she might go up to the people in Wisconsin who wanted to adopt her. In any case, she can do a great deal better than Viola B. who ran away from New York and got caught, and was so much talked about in the newspapers.
Thus her story would run along at great length, Birdie in the meanwhile chuckling with the thought of her own escapades.