It was 1636 I believe when it happened. Oh sorry I seem to have missed something. Well, I should start by saying that I haven't always been like this. No, not like this at all. I was a happy child, sure I stole for a living in the lower end of the London markets but I cannot recall a single flow of tears from that time so I am forced to assume that it was indeed a happy time. I, along with a small band of other misfits, lived out our younger years on the street. Prancing out of the way of carriages of the wealthy begging a handout, scattering the geese and ducks driven to market on foot by farmers' sons and daughters. I was not a lowlife thief I only stole to get by; food, clothing. Not more than I could carry and nothing that couldn't be eaten or worn. But the way I became like this was by means of my afore mentioned liking for mischief. I was not more than 8 years of age when it happened. Another scamp had bestowed on me the knowledge of pick-pocketing and I decided as it was a public execution day to practice on the wealthy and packed together in the main square in lower Regency (the name escapes me now but I can still see it in front of me if I try). They were men mainly to be hanged for crimes of murder and theft of monies and other things. Some nobleman and his guards had caught them. The crowd bayed for blood and as the gallows trapdoor was released for the first time I reached for a large golden watch that had caught my eye. The owner of it was not paying attention and surely would not miss it. I was careful not to forget to pull the pin upon which it hung. So that it's large owner would not be alerted by the wrench of the fob chain as I ran away with the watch that was still attached to him. I pulled out the pin and the gold watch chain chinked softly on the watch I now held in my hand.
The town crier called out the name of some poor unfortunate that was to be hanged next, "for theft of two loaves of bread and a pork pie."
"STRING THIS ONE UP AS WELL!" the cry came from behind me and I was lifted into the air by the scruff of my neck. The gold watch shattered as it hit the cobblestones and a cry rose up from the rather fat owner of it. I was handed down over the heads of the crowd to the gallows. The crier stood by the hangman and the prisoner. I looked out to the crowd and saw the other guttersnipes picking pockets and stealing much more than two pounds and a pork pie. I also saw the fat former watch owner pushing through the crowd with his guards. The hangman much to my dismay fitted a noose around my neck and I was pushed off the gallows platform. I began to see white spots in front of my eyes and I became aware that they were fading. The landowner whose watch I had snatched had ordered the hangman to cut me down and when he had refused, one of the guards had instead. I was pulled up onto a horse and conveyed through the crowd. I was thrown into a black carriage and the landowner got I behind me. The carriage started driving away with a sudden jolt and I found myself thrown into the lap of a woman.
"I send you for your grotesque amusement and you come back with a child? What am I to think?" the woman cried in alarm. "It's a dirty gutter child!" she pushed me away.
"It stole and broke my pocket watch," the fat man bellowed, "and I believe she should work it off rather than hang for it."
"I weren't going to break it sir, honest. I only meant to get food for it." I began to plead. At the sound of my voice the woman reached out and took me into her lap again. Voluntarily this time.
"Hubert. She's so young and small." She poked my side hard with her bony fingers, "and thin. I won't have this one dying in your filthy mines. She's to stay with me, I have always wanted a little girl of my own."
The fat man began to get angry and very red in the face, " why should you have want of a little girl. You have four strapping boys that any woman ought to be proud of."
To my immediate horror the woman ignored him, "what's your name, little one?" she dabbed at the dirt on my face with her pocket-handkerchief. It was white with flowers embroidered on it before it touched my face but it became an ugly gray/brown color by the time she'd stopped.
"Ain't got one." I said not really knowing what a 'name' was at that point.
She laughed and the fat gentleman laughed too, "what are you called child? What do your family call you?"
The look I must have had on my face was priceless, I didn't have the faintest clue what they were talking about.
I thought hard about it, "I dunno. The others call me, *#$@!*#. But what's a family?"
At my terrible language the woman swooned and went into a faint, the gentleman cringed and ordered the coach to stop. The woman was assisted by the fat gentleman and coachmen into the fresh air. While I was dragged from the carriage without the slightest idea of what was wrong by another coachman.
The woman recovered and was soon put to rights by means of a small hip flask the gentleman appeared to have on hand. The coachman was not at all pleased by what had come over the woman and neither, I was to find, was the gentleman.
"COME HERE CHILD!" he bellowed at me. He bent low and put his hands on my shoulders, "you're not to say things like that or you'll upset M'Lady terribly. Do you understand?"
I shook my head and wondered what was wrong with the words I had said. I had heard them often enough myself and thought they to be the language of all folk. I was very much mistaken. Well, the coachmen sniggered behind the fat gentleman who obviously didn't believe me. They didn't snigger when he demanded a whip of one of them. It wasn't a stock whip, merely a switch of birch to keep the skittish horses in line at night. But the cry of the woman when it came sailing down on the back of my outstretched hand would have argued otherwise. 'M'Lady' seized the switch from 'Hubert' and beat him until tears were streaming down her own face crying, "you beast!" at regular intervals. I found myself gathered up in a rush of silken skirts and carried off down the lane on foot. The coachmen and 'Hubert' ran behind and tried to convince 'M'Lady' that it was better for herself and the child to ride in the carriage while he rode with his guards who were still on horseback and had not stirred throughout the whole 'incident' as M'Lady began to refer to it.
"Come, dismount here." M'Lady called to one of the guards and he dismounted and bowed in front of her. M'Lady pushed him aside and climbed up onto his horse, I sat in front of the saddle and she rode sidesaddle as was custom for her. I had never been on a horse before and I began to panic clinging for dear life as we gently trotted along.
"For the sake of the child, Beatrice. Come back here and ride in the carriage." Hubert called. Calm as the sea before a storm Beatrice swung the horse around and dismounted by Hubert's side kicking up mud onto his smart green jacket. She reached up and lifted me off the horse and into the carriage. "I don't need the carriage but for the sake of the child I shall ride in it. If you dare climb into this carriage after me I shall get out and carry the child home."
Hubert scoffed to his men who themselves were not sure what to make of this urchin of whom M'Lady was so fond. "All the way from London to Newcastle? Surely not. Now don't be silly." He attempted to climb in after her.
Beatrice took my hand and opened the other carriage door. She saw to it that Hubert was thoroughly embarrassed in front of his staff. She walked, head held high, in front of the carriage carrying me for the better part of 5 miles before Hubert repented and rode up behind one of his guards. When we climbed into the carriage and everything was right again. Beatrice pulled down the blinds and confided, "I couldn't have lasted much longer than that, saints be praised you're so light. Or I never would have managed. Now what are we to call you?"
I'll admit to not hearing much of the ensuing conversation, as I was very tired by my day's adventures. When I woke it was because the carriage had stopped and I was thrown forward. Beatrice picked me up and I snuggled into her corseted bosom. She carried me into a great house twice as big as the square in which I had nearly been hanged that morning. She carried me up the stairs and into a large bedroom all by herself and gave the staff strict instruction that no one should tend me but her. I fell asleep to the sound of her and her husband's voices outside my door arguing.
"You have no idea where she's come from. She could be a gypsy child."
"Rubbish! Have you ever seen a gypsy child with hair or skin so fair? Oh no she's not a gypsy Hubert Darling. But now we are her family and you shall have to learn to live with that."
"Very well. What are you going to call it?"
"I was thinking of Lucinda Elizabeth Louisa Mary Cassandra Darling."
"Lucy Darling it is then."
* * *