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Punch, or the London Charivari. Volume 93, September 10, 1887

by Various

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The story which I have to tell is more than strange. It is so terrible, so incredible, so entirely contrary to all that any ordinary reader of the London Journal or the "penny dreadfuls" has ever heard of, that even now I have some doubt in telling it. I happen, however, to know it is true, and so does my husband. My husband will come in presently with his narrative. There! that ought to make you curious. A very good commencement.

My early life was uneventful. I was a foundling. I was left with two old ladies (I fancy I may work them up some day into "character" sketches) by a perfect gentleman, who, after giving them £200, went away the next morning to Vienna for ever. He left with these two old ladies a little wardrobe full of clothes, but there was not a mark, nor so much as an initial, upon a single thing. They had all been cut out with a sharp pair of scissors.

This again ought to excite your curiosity. Bear it in mind. Mysterious parentage—no mother, no marks, and father gone to Vienna for ever.

The two old ladies kept a school, in which I first was a scholar, then a teacher. There I remained until I was seventeen, when I was tall and strong for my age, and looked more like three or four and twenty. One day one of the old ladies said to me—

"Now, my dear, I will tell you what we are going to do. We are going to sell the school, and buy a little cottage at Bognor. It doesn't face the sea, and just holds two. So, as we have considered you more or less our own daughter, we are going to kick you out. Now don't let's talk any more about it to-day, but tell us to-morrow at breakfast, like a dear good girl, that we are going to do what you wish."

"I shall tell you to-morrow," I answered, firmly. "I'll pretend to think the matter over with all my might and main, until to-morrow morning, and then give you an answer as solemnly weighed, and as carefully set out, as a Saturday afternoon essay."

So I was kicked out.

I became a governess in the household of Mrs. Cowstream. That household consisted of the master, whose manner was what old ladies in Lincolnshire call "rampageous," the children, who were, beyond doubt, hopelessly dull, and the mistress, who was colourless.

Nothing particularly happened save my dismissal (after receiving a salary of about a thousand to twelve-hundred a year) within six months. With about four-hundred pounds in hand I went to the Charing Cross Hotel.

I feel I am a little plot-less. So far: foundling, old ladies at Bognor, aimless engagement by Mrs. Cowstream and advertisement for the Charing Cross Hotel. All good in their way, but not quite enough. I want an incident. I have it.

Having untold gold, I thought I would buy some gloves in the Tottenham Court Road. I entered an omnibus, was much struck by an old woman who sat next me, bought the gloves, was arrested as a thief for passing false money and saved from penal servitude for life by old woman. Come, there's action for you! Still, I don't know why it is, but we don't seem to get much "forrader."

The old woman hurried me about from place to place feeding me simply on grapes and bonbons. For some reason I was not allowed to know where I was. I didn't want to, and not caring a brass-farthing for the selfish old ladies at Bognor, it mattered nothing to me whether they heard from me or not. After a time the old woman asked me to sign this with my blood.

"In consideration of seven pounds a week, I agree to sell my dreams between sunset and sunrise, the payment ceasing on my death, and my dreams, if any, immediately becoming only, and unconditionally my own."

I broke out laughing and signed it....