Tag Archives: Cruel orphanage

Lonely Lucy [1976]

Published: Spellbound: #01 (25 Sep. 1976) – #10 (27 Nov. 1976)

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jordi Franch

Plot

The splash page of the first episode of this story immediately establishes that it is set in the days of highwaymen. It’s also set in the days of lingering witch superstitions, as our protagonist Lucy Pilgrim is to find out.

Lucy’s mother has just died and her cruel aunt and uncle have a bombshell for her: her mother adopted her as a baby after she was found abandoned, and her real parents are unknown. Aunt and Uncle don’t want Lucy and are taking her to an orphanage. At least they allow her to retain her bracelet, which has strange marks her adoptive mother never explained. It brings Lucy comfort, and we can guess it’s the key to finding her true parents.

On the way to the orphanage their coach is held up by a highwayman, Gentleman John. When John see how the cruel relatives are making Lucy sit outside the coach with the driver in drenching rain and without any rain protection, he is appalled at their treatment of her. He forces them at gunpoint to take Lucy’s place and has Lucy take their place in the coach. John also reacts oddly to Lucy’s bracelet. He allows her to keep it, saying “Where you’re going ‘tis best kept hidden” and wishes her luck.

The orphanage is just as cruel as Lucy’s aunt and uncle. Even the other children in the orphanage pick on her once they see she comes from a higher-class background, there are a few kinder exceptions. Their bullying grows worse when they see Lucy is left-handed. They call it the mark of evil and brand Lucy a witch. When Lucy faints from her ill-treatment, the staff throw water over her and throw her out on the street for a while, anticipating she will come crawling to be let back in.

Instead, Lucy runs away and bumps into Gentleman John again. John and his horse Midnight got shot in a clash with some soldiers. Lucy, who has been taught nursing by her adoptive mother, tends to both of them. John is outraged to hear what people are calling her because she’s left-handed, but unfortunately for Lucy that’s not the end of it. John also needs food, and the only way Lucy can get it is…to go back to the orphanage. She also finds they’re looking for her as the Governors are coming. She pretends to have fallen ill from the way they treated her earlier, which gets her special treatment and good feeding – with a bit of blackmail she applies on them while the Governors are around. Once they’re gone, Matron has Lucy sleep in the outhouse as punishment for the trouble she caused.

At least the outhouse makes it easier for Lucy to slip back to John. John is recovering, but Midnight is suffering from infection and needs special care. Lucy insists on using the orphanage as the place to get food and supplies from despite its cruelties, as she refuses to use John’s dubious highwayman contacts on principle.

But when the resident black cat seems to protect Lucy from the children’s bullying and becomes friendly with her, her witchy reputation escalates to the point where the children actually believe she’s a witch and become really frightened of her. Matron decides Lucy has to go. She has Lucy boarded out to another position – and pocketing her wages – so she will make a profit into the bargain.

Trust Matron to have Lucy boarded out to a coal mine, with all its horrors, dangers and dreadful working conditions. And again rumours spread that Lucy is a witch once her fellow workers see she is left handed. At least Lucy is not far from John and can slip away to tend to Midnight, who is on the mend. She stays on at the coal mine because she fears running away will lead her pursuers to John. But she gets into big trouble when she speaks out at the colliery owner, Mr Tranter, when his nasty daughter insults her. Tranter orders that Lucy be roundly beaten in front of everyone, much to the delight of his daughter – and then straight back to work without any medical treatment. None of the workers offer Lucy any sympathy because of her left hand, and she’s on the brink of collapse.

But one of John’s men has seen everything and makes a full report to him. John retaliates by holding up the Tranters. But instead of robbing them he deprives them of their coach so they have to make a very long walk, and warns them to repent how they mistreated the “left-handed lass”.

Repent? If they had any brains they would realise there was a link between Lucy and the highwayman and have her arrested. Instead, when word gets back to the mine, the idiots actually think Lucy used witchcraft to summon Gentlemen John! Well, at least their fear prompts them to release her from the mine (so that’s the end of Matron’s profit there) and she is free to nurse Midnight. However, she begins to wonder if John actually knows something about her past because of the way he reacted to the bracelet when they first met. And now there’s no sign of him.

So Lucy goes in search of John, and fortunately Midnight is now well enough for Lucy to ride her. Unfortunately the constables spot her riding John’s horse, so now she is wanted as his accomplice. She traces John to a derelict inn, and is horrified to see he is in league with some cut throats. They are planning a big gold bullion robbery, which John is going along with rather reluctantly as he does not like their talk of murder. They just say, so what? They will be hanged anyway. John says he won’t help them without Midnight, so for this reason Lucy decides not to reveal herself or Midnight to him. She heads out to Hartford Hall, where John said he was hanging around, but hears some talk that suggests Hartford Hall has a sinister reputation.

Then gypsies steal Midnight and threaten to put a curse on Lucy when she tracks them down. She decides to use her left-handed reputation to her advantage and claims she has her own powers with it. When she puts on a witchcraft act with their fierce dogs they fall for it and return Midnight. But as they do so, they say that’s no wonder she has such powers above the ordinary with that bracelet of hers. But they refuse to elaborate and tell her to get the hell out.

As Lucy nears Hartford Hall she hears more sinister rumours about it: it has been taken over by “nameless forces” ever since a tragedy occurred there. She reckons John started those rumours to scare people away from the place. At Hartford Hall she finds John, and tells him what she overheard, and tries to talk him out of it. Instead, he holds her prisoner and leaves her in the care of Nursie Kate.

When Kate sees Lucy is left-handed she says someone very dear to her and John was too. She also says John is a Robin Hood type – he steals only ill-gotten wealth and does not keep it for himself. Lucy tries to escape from the hall and warn someone about John’s plot, only to fall into a deep pool of water and John finds her. He pulls her out and takes her back to Kate for nursing. Kate also reacts strangely to the sight of Lucy’s bracelet.

Lucy falls asleep and dreams of a woman, and she calls her “mother”. Lucy explores the hall and finds a portrait of the woman. The woman in the portrait is left-handed and wears the bracelet, and Lucy realises the woman must be her mother. She then overhears a conversation between John and Kate and learns that John is her father! Her mother had been a gypsy, and her tribe never forgave her for marrying the non-Romany John. When the mother died giving birth to Lucy, John could not bear to set eyes on his infant daughter. So Kate handed her over to the gypsies, who must have abandoned her.

Lucy tries to escape again and give warning, but gets into trouble when she tries to climb a ledge. John saves her. He says he turned to being a highwayman because he was “crazed” by his wife’s death. He knew from the first who Lucy was, but her disapproval of him being a highwayman prevented him from revealing himself to her. He agrees to give up being a highwayman if Lucy will live as his daughter, and she says she knew he was not a highwayman at heart.

Thoughts

The splash panel of the highwayman in the first episode would immediately have anyone hooked into this story. There is something so romantic about the highwayman (though I’m sure the reality must have been very different), and possible spooky connotations as the highwayman is often associated with ghosts and hauntings. The story has a lot to keep the reader engaged. It’s a tight, engrossing plot with a heroine who not only suffers cruelty but also superstitious prejudice, a mystery to be solved, fugitive elements, exploitation, dastardly plots, and an animal to be nursed back to health. The heroine is determined to keep up her nursing of Gentlemen John and his horse even when she is collapsing from a hard day’s work at the mine or enduring the severities of the orphanage. But will she be cut down by a witch-hunting mob or something the way they think about her being left-handed?

The scary thing is, this story is not far wrong in the superstitious prejudice Lucy encounters because she is left-handed. In earlier centuries, being left-handed really could get you accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Lucy also has other skills that could also get her accused of witchcraft, such as her skills with nursing and herbal remedies, the way she handles the gypsies’ dogs, and how the black cat at the orphanage befriends her. It is fortunate for Lucy that she was born too late to become a victim of the witch persecutions themselves or be charged with witchcraft, but the witch superstitions still linger among the lower and less educated classes. And they are enough to make Lucy’s life an additional misery to what she suffers at the orphanage and the coal mine. If not for those superstitions regarding her left hand Lucy would have some helpers and friends among her fellow victims at those places. Ironically, that same reputation also helps Lucy to get out of those same situations by making her oppressors too frightened of her to bother her much further.

From the moment we meet Gentleman John and the kindness he shows Lucy we know he is not a bad sort, even if he is a highwayman. He’s the hero in the story while everyone else Lucy meets (the aunt and uncle, the orphanage staff and children, the coal mine people, the gypsies and the cut throats) is villainous, and he dishes out comeuppances to several of them. We have to wonder why he is a highwayman at all and what made him one when he clearly has no criminal mind. It isn’t hard to guess that it’s something to do with Lucy’s the bracelet from the way he reacts to it, and unlocking the mystery of the bracelet will also unlock the mystery of the highwayman. Like Lucy, we want him to give up being a highwayman, especially when he starts plotting something downright criminal with the evil conspirators. It is at this point we begin to despair of him, and even more so when it looks like he will proceed with the plan when Lucy catches up with him. It becomes even more imperative to unlock that mystery.

It’s certainly a bombshell when Gentleman John is revealed to be Lucy’s father, and he rejected her as a baby because of a bad reaction to his wife’s death. However, this being the reason for him becoming a highwayman sounds less plausible if he using it as a form of crusade, to get ill-gotten gains off unsavoury types. Some other explanation would have worked better, such as him being cheated and robbed by an unscrupulous type who got away with it. But it’s a relief all around when Lucy finally succeeds in getting her father to stop being a highwayman. Let us hope the law does not catch up with him all the same.

 

The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie [1974]

  • The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie – Mandy:  #378 (13 April 1974) – #395 (10 Aug. 1974)
  • Reprinted – Mandy: #681(2 February 1980)  – #699 (7 June 1980) [First 2 episodes, title is Hateful Hattie!]
  • Reprinted as Hateful Hattie! – Mandy:  #1060 (09 May 1987) – #1077 (05 Sep. 1987)
  • Other Appearances:
    • The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie – Mandy Annual 1976

Plot

In 1905, the girls of Birch House Orphanage are treated cruelly, except for Hattie Taylor, who gets privileges by toadying up to the staff. This particularly maddens Tilly Tucker, an outspoken girl, who leads the chant of “Hateful Hattie” at the dinner table. When they are  overheard by Matron’s second in command, Miss Winters, Tilly takes the full blame and also hits Hattie as she knows she is to be punished anyway and wants to make it worthwhile. Tilly is beaten and locked in the cellar with no food, but a hooded figure leaves her some food and ointment for her bruises. Telling the other girls about this, she nicknames her helper as the “Angel Ghost”. Nobody would suspect that their secret helper is actually Hattie. The only reason Hattie is the staff’s pet is so she can help the other girls, while the staff think she is on their side. Unfortunately because the girls don’t know this, they give “Hateful Hattie” a hard time both by name calling and physical attacks. Hattie won’t tell on them as she doesn’t want to get them in trouble, but of course they think its because she is scared of them.

Life can be difficult for Hattie, she dislikes having to pretend to be nice to the staff and endure the girls’ hateful looks, so she is glad when she is sent on an errand. She goes to the Willoughbys home, who want to arrange to visit Birch House in the hopes of finding an under-nursery maid. Away from Birch House, Hattie can be her genuine pleasant self and after meeting her, the cook recommends Hattie for the job. Having seen the house, Hattie is excited by the prospect as everyone seems happy and well looked after. But being selfless she feels she is needed at Birch House more and turns the job down. She looks for a good candidate herself, knowing the Willoughbys want a cheery girl, she considers Polly at first. She would fit in at Willoughbys but Hattie also realises she has strong spirit and has the ability to last at Birch House. Meanwhile, Florence is more sensitive so Hattie concludes she needs job more and sets out to make sure she gets it. She manage to get money from the matron, and uses it to buy Florence a brooch, then Florence looks naturally happy when Mrs Willoughby comes and succeeds in getting the job.

Hattie continues to help the girls in her role as “Angel Ghost” and also manipulating things in their favour as “Hateful Hattie”. She gets a sick girl Lizzie sent to cellar by claiming she beat her even though it was Tilly. The cellar isn’t much warmer than their dormitory and by providing her with blankets and food, it gives her time to rest and recover from her cough. She helps a girl Mary to get glasses by appealing to the Matron’s greed, telling her Mary could sew good embroidery that they could sell on. She gets Grace new boots that fit, by selling her own. Things don’t always work out, when she tries to manipulate the Matron to not send Alice to the “nightmare house” for spilling coal, she gets a slap herself. She later discovers Matron  she has toothache and is restless, which explained her particular moodiness but it means Hattie is unable to slip in and get the keys from her room. There is nothing she can do to help Alice the night she is locked in the cramped, dark, dog kennel and Alice comes back nearly catatonic. None of the Angel Ghost’s gift seem to help bring her out of this state, until she gets the idea to get her a mouse as a pet she can hide. More problems arise, when a new young girl, Victoria, arrives, Hattie not being able to stand her tears, comforts her but this means Victoria thinks she is friend, Hattie knows this will make her an enemy of others so she needs to turn Victoria against her. This proves difficult as Victoria is loyal to Hattie. The Angel Ghost pays Victoria a visit, saying it was her that made Hattie kind to her, then later Hattie herself  tells Victoria she is stupid and a liar for making up stories about the Angel Ghost, this has the desired effect of ending Victoria’s friendship.

While Birch House is a miserable place, there is something the girls can look forward to as every summer they go hop picking in Kent. Of course Matron and Miss Winters still try to take the joy out of the trip. Firstly, Matron decides Lucy, a new girl is too small and weak to come, luckily Hattie persuades her that she could earn money by gaining the sympathies of other pickers. When they arrive in Kent, Farmer Frost, is as bad as the Birch staff. He gives them huts away from everyone else, therefore any beating won’t be heard. They are also to be locked in at night, the window is stiff and rusted and Hattie is put in charge to make sure no-one tries to open it. By purposely burning herself on stove, she gets some oil and figures Tilly will be smart enough to sneak it from her and use it on the window, so they are able to sneak out and have fun. She also makes sure they get to the summer fair, which works out better than she expected with the arrival of Lady Gilchrist (who is friends with a patron of the orphanage), who treats them to rides at the fair.

Meanwhile, Lucy has gotten the attention of another picker, Mrs Brown, who wants to give her a home. Matron refuses as she wants to keep making money off her. Hattie’s facade drops as can’t hide her hate for Matron’s greed and denying Lucy a loving home. She luckily manages to pass it off as pins and needles, as she knows, if she is to help Lucy, she must keep her temper. It’s a difficult case and she gets a scolding when she tries to push things too quickly. Slipping a note to  Lady Gilchrist’s granddaughter, Caroline inviting her to the dance on the last day of hop picking, she hopes she would be able to help. Matron is not pleased to hear she is coming to dance as she will have to let girls go too, otherwise it might raise questions. By good fortune, Lady Gilchrist comes with Caroline and after hearing the Browns story, she talks to Matron about letting them adopt Lucy, a request she can hardly refuse if she wants to stay on the right side of the gentry.

Returning to Birch House, Matron continues to show how heartless she is, in a particular cruel punishment, after slipping on some polish, that Amy, had left out while scrubbing the floor, she burns the last mementos Amy has of her family. Nothing the Angel Ghost does can get her back to her cheery herself, she even tries to rouse her spirits, as Hateful Hattie by making her angry, but that fails too. She has one other idea, as Angel Ghost she asks Alice, to give Amy her mouse to cheer her up. This idea works as planned, Amy doesn’t want to take Alice’s mouse but says she will borrow him until she feels better. By pretending to be cheerful for Amy, she will get into the habit and also start to treat Alice as a little sister, bringing comfort to them both.

A problem arises when Hateful Hattie gets some competition with the arrival of Creeping Clara. But while Hattie’s behaviour is just an act, Clara really is sly and enjoys telling tales, getting the others  punished. She also tries to get Hattie in trouble as she wants to usurp her place as staff pet. As luck would have it a visit by a patron, Lady Tarrington, provides a solution. She is a tough employer and is looking for a scullery maid, Hattie tricks Clara into fawning over her, so she is taken on for the job. Hattie gets a small reprise from Birch House, when her and Maggie are taken on as extra help for two weeks at the Fitzpatrick house. While she still has to be Hateful Hattie around Maggie, with the help of a lost kitten, she helps Maggie get a permanent job there. When she returns she helps out two sisters Ruby and Ellen, by getting Ruby to be a good influence on Ellen, so she has to control her temper.

With such poor living conditions, it’s no surprise when a number of girls develop colds. Vicky gets it the worse and she struggles to get out of bed in the morning, Hattie knows she won’t be able to slip out for medicine until that night. As punishment for dropping her bowl at breakfast, Vicky is made clear the drive of snow and sent to the cellar at night. Hattie manages to get her hot drink while she’s outside and later gets her medicine but her sickness is getting worse. When Matron and Miss Winters go to check on her, in her fever Vicky talks of the Angel Ghost. Not knowing that the Matron is ready to catch the Angel Ghost, Hattie arrives that evening to check on Vicky. The Matron and Miss Winters are shocked to find the Angel Ghost is Hattie, and not Tilly like they suspected. This makes them even more mad, for she has made fools of them. They give her a severe beating and plan to return to beat her, until her spirit is broken, then they will farm her out to hard task mistress. When Miss Winters comes back to give Hattie her second beating of the night, Hattie is ready and  she slips out with Vicky. Getting to police station, she tells her story before collapsing. They are taken to hospital and a week later a policeman along with the girls comes to visit.  Matron and Miss Winters have been arrested and Birch House has new staff. Hattie can now return to a happy house with the friendships of the girls, no longer will she need to be “Hateful Hattie”.

Thoughts

Thanks to Derek for clarification on the title, the 1987 reprint was just called Hateful Hattie!. Oddly enough the 1980 reprint was also called Hateful Hattie! but only for the first two episodes, perhaps it was used to make the reveal of Hattie’s true intentions more surprising.

There are plenty of stories set around Victorian times, where the heroine would don a  disguise to help poor children,  such as The Seeker, Lady Sarah’s Secret, The Hooded Angel and Shadow of the Backstreets, but they were often in a position of privilege unlike Hattie who is in the same position as those she helps. There has also been protagonists that have acted like they are on the side of the antagonists in order to be in a better position to defeat them, which earns them animosity of those they are secretly helping, such as Callous Cassie and Detestable Della. But again Hattie has it worst, because not only does she get verbal abuse, the girls also physically abuse her, something that she has to hide from the staff as she doesn’t want them to get into trouble. Of course the girls aren’t to know that she is actually an ally, and when we meet “Creeping Clara” we see someone who is actually deserving of such treatment.

A good contrast to Hattie’s methods is Tilly. She is the leader and open protector of the girls but her upfront manner doesn’t help as it only riles the staff more. While her heart is in the right place, usually speaking out just earns herself a beating as well as the other girl.  Hattie tries to counteract this at times, like knowing when Tilly offers to do Lizzie’s work, they would get caught, Hattie plays her hateful self saying she will tell on them unless the both do their share. Hattie does also use Tilly to her advantage, knowing she is smart, she sets thing up so that Tilly can help others. For example, when she gets the oil for the window and when she pretends she doesn’t want food, she knows Tilly will share it out. When it is revealed Hattie is Angel Ghost, Tilly is the first to say they’ll be friends now and as two warmhearted girls, I suspect they become close friends.

While none of the staff at Birch House are very pleasant, it is Matron and Miss Winters that are the worst. As antagonists, they are vile with no redeeming qualities. The Matron is greedy, wanting to make sure she can get as much from the orphans as she can, she has no concern for their well being, she doesn’t care if Vicky dies and has shown even with her “favourite” Hattie, she can hit her too, just because she is in a bad mood. Miss Winters follows suit and has no objection to dishing out punishments. The punishments such as beatings, locking girls in cellar without food is bad enough, but they go even further than that. The small cramped dog kennel,  nicknamed the “nightmare house” is even worse than the cellar, and traumatizing for the girls as evidenced by how Alice is, when she returns from a night in it. Anyone who shows any bit of cheerfulness is quickly beaten down and they show how heartless and maliciousness they can be, by burning Amy’s last photos of her family. Above all they do not like to be outsmarted or made fun of and if Hattie had not escaped, she would have suffered a terrible fate. After their discovery of Hatty, the plan is to send her to a hard taskmaster, but I’m unsure if Hattie would have made it that far, as Miss Winters returned to give her a second  beating of the night, who knows if she would have survived that. It is a relief that Hattie does escape and Matron and Miss Winters get what they deserve.

 

Lady Sarah’s Secret [1979]

    • Lady Sarah’s Secret – Emma:  #61 (21 April 1979) – #69 (16 June 1979)
    • Reprinted – Judy: #1500 (8 October 1988) – #1508 (10 December 1988)
    • Reprinted (as Judy classic) – M&J: #308 (4th May 1997) – #315 (May 24 1997) [last issue has 2 installments]
    • Artist: Hugo D’Adderio

Plot

In 1840, Lady Sarah Cragston is out riding when she nearly runs down a girl. She is surprised to find out the girl has runaway from the local orphanage which her father is governor of. Sarah doesn’t listen to the girl’s claims of mistreatment, believing her to be an ungrateful wretch and takes her back to the orphanage. She does however become suspicious when the Bonneys that run the place, are keen to get rid of her. She insists on looking around and is appalled by the conditions. Later she tries to tell her father about what she saw and at first she thinks he shares her outrage but he is only upset that she went to orphanage and forbids her from going there again. Later while talking to a maid, Sarah learns that the orphanage used to be a mansion called Fell Grange, until the daughter of the house, Elizabeth Sturgesse, was tragically killed while out riding. There is a legend that Elizabeth’s spirit appeared  to help those in need  and she became known as “The Dark Lady of Haunted Hill”. Lady Sarah decides it is time for the Dark Lady to reappear and  finds old riding gear and dark wig to become the part.

Lady Sarah’s first act is to free the runaway she met earlier, who had since been beaten and locked in the cellar. She first runs into the Bonneys, Mr Bonney is terrified of the ghost but Mrs bonny shows less fear and has to be dragged inside by her husband. The girl, Ellen Rumble, is very grateful and even more so when Sarah arranges it so she can hire her as personal servant.  Ellen makes a good ally as she can tell Sarah about the inner workings of the orphanage. She helps Sarah when she does some investigative work to see where Mrs bonny gets the food for the orphanage, she obviously buys the good stuff for herself and the orphans get the cheap, poor quality stuff. Sarah buys supplies for the orphans and sets out a feast for them. Then in the guise of the Dark Lady, she warns the Bonneys to start feeding them properly.

At this point Mrs Bonney’s original confidence of ghosts not being able to harm them, seems to be waning. The Bonneys even foolishly put bars on the cellar door to keep the ghost off. Of course while that would be no use against a ghost, it does pose a problem for Sarah, as she now needs to find another way to access the orphanage. Ellen does know of one  successful runaway who said she had aunt in Crampton. Sarah manages to track her down and find out about a secret passage. Then using a potion that was given to her father by a sea captain, she is able to temporarily paralyze the Bonneys in order to stop them abusing cripples. These things further convince the Bonneys that she is a supernatural being with powers.

Next Sarah finds out that the money her father provides for a doctor, actually goes to a charlatan doctor who gives the sick children coloured water, so him and the Bonneys make a tidy profit by not giving proper medicine. Sarah and Ellen go searching for a legitimate doctor to treat a very sick girl. They find a doctor name Sturgesse and this seems like a good omen so Sarah hires him. The Bonneys are surprised by Dr. Sturgesse’s visit and by his name. Adding to their stress further is when asked who sent him, the doctor points to Sarah who is watching close by dressed as the Dark Lady.

When a letter arrives from the Bonneys to her father, saying the price of coal has increased, Sarah is suspicious of a scam. She is proved right when visiting the orphanage she hears the Bonneys plan to forge bills. While returning home, her father sees her near the orphanage and is very angry, he doesn’t want her anywhere near the orphans in case she catches something. While she says she will stay away, that night she is back again as the Dark Lady to see if she can find out what the Bonneys are doing with the money they keep. She finds Mr Bonny hosting a card game and she takes a risk haunting them. While she does startle the men, one of them knocks over a lamp and starts a fire. While they are putting out the fire, Sarah escapes, but one on of the men, Harry, hears her coughing and therefore believes there is no ghost. Harry visits Lord Cragston the next day to talk about the occurrences at the orphanage. Sarah whose throat is still irritated by the smoke can’t stop herself coughing, which leads Harry to accuse her of being the ghost. Lord Cragston doesn’t believe such things and kicks him out but he is concerned by Sarah’s coughing and sends her to an aunt to recover. This is a further worry for Sarah as this will mean the Bonneys will not believe in the ghost now, but Ellen keeps up the legend as she sneaks out and plays the Dark Lady in her stead.

While out riding Sarah sees the parish clerk beating on a young girl while bringing her to orphanage, that night worried about this outspoken new girl Sarah sneaks into the orphanage to check on her, but Ellen has a sense of foreboding. That night the Bonneys have visitors who are concerned about the “hauntings” – the parish clerk and Mr Calver, the justice of peace. Ellen goes to warn Sarah about the arrivals, but the secret panel to the passage closes and they are forced to hide. While they do manage to slip out, Sarah accidentally leaves a riding glove behind. The Justice of Peace sees the girls riding off in the distance, he suspects there is no ghost and wants to investigate the orphanage further. Meanwhile Mr Bonney has found the riding glove and also now knows there is no ghost and that it is Lady Sarah that has been behind everything. He goes to Lord Cragston with this news, who is troubled by this, but still doesn’t believe Sarah that anything wrong with the Bonneys. He is forced to listen with the sudden arrival of Mr Calver with Mr Holmes, a government inspector of children’s work conditions. They want Sarah to testify against the Bonneys. At the inquiry Ellen also testifies but the other orphans are too scared to. One exception is Crissy, the outspoken girl, who shows the beatings on her back. Lord Cragston, apologizes for being unaware of what Bonneys were doing and promises to get suitable replacements. A few weeks later with the kindly Jacksons in charge, Sarah can put away her Dark Lady costume.

Thoughts

When we first meet Lady Sarah she is not too concerned for the orphans, going so far as to bring back the runaway to orphanage by tying a rope around her waist and calling her an “ungrateful little wretch”. It is likely that this initial attitude is influenced by her father.  He doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of the orphans seeing them as brats, of little use and potentially infectious rather than what they actually are – children. We are not told how Sarah’s mother died but it may be a factor in Lord Cragston’s fear for his daughter’s safety and that she may catch some illness from being near the orphans. He doesn’t seem to be intentionally cruel, as he does believe the orphans are being provided for and that the “good” Bonneys are training the brats to be useful to society. But his claims of ignorance of the Bonneys wrong doings, isn’t good enough when his own daughter has told him of their cruelty and he doesn’t bother to investigate further.

Like I said Sarah seems to have a similar attitude to her father, until she sees the actual living conditions of the orphans and is horrified. It is fitting then, that the first person she helps is that same runaway she brought back. In quite a contrast to their first meeting, after her rescue of Ellen, Sarah attends to her injuries, no longer feeling above those poorer than her. In return for this kindness Ellen becomes a loyal companion to Sarah. In other stories such as “The Seeker” or “The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie”, the protagonists pretend to be mean spirited in real life to keep their secret, so it makes a difference here that Sarah speaks up for the orphans even when she’s not in costume and also that she has an ally to confide in.

Using the legend of the ghost, is also an interesting angle. Through her father’s local history books, Sarah learns about deeds that  the “Dark Lady” supposedly did, which she uses to help her own cause. It would seems most people are familiar with the legend, but whether those events were real, exaggerated or perhaps someone playing at the ghost, like Sarah did, we never know for sure. It could be interesting if different people use the guise of the Dark Lady whenever she is needed. While many people fear her, Mrs Bonney initially shows her toughness, not fearing the ghost, it certainly seems to be her that’s in charge, as Mr Bonney fears his wife’s wrath as well as the ghost.

The art is gorgeous and very detailed, I particularly like the details in the clothes. Also the use of the shadows and perspective when Sarah is doing her haunting, makes her a very intimidating presence. While a lot of the panels are standard size, when given more room with wider panel D’Adderio takes advantage doing some lovely work as demonstrated in the opening panel.  It is another strong story from the short lived Emma comic and with the classic artwork and captivating story, it’s no surprise that this was reprinted in Judy and as a Judy classic in M&J.

Children of the Night

Plot

The evil Aunt Mabel runs an orphanage for homeless children where she shuts out sunlight on them, making them blind by day but able to navigate in the dark. This is so she can send them out to steal at night. When justice catches up with Aunt Mabel, the children are taken in by the generous and wealthy Mrs Rigby, who is given one month to reform them.

children of night

Notes

  • Artist: John Woods

Appeared

  • Children of the Night –  Bunty: (?) – #1200 (10 January 1981)

The Healing Hands of Hanni

Plot:

Hanni Todd, a gipsy orphan had a great gift for  healing animals. The local animal doctor feared Hanni would take away all his customers, and had forced her to go into an orphanage where Hanni pined for her freedom. Mistress Crow, the matron of the orphanage, over-worked and under-fed the children, and used the orphanage funds for herself. One day Hanni was sent to treat a horse that  belonged to Sir Oliver Christy, a man of great influence. She decided that if she could cure the horse, and earn Sir Oliver’s gratitude, she would tell Sir Oliver what was going on at the orphanage.

healing hands of hanni

Notes:

Appeared:

  • The Healing Hands of Hanni – Mandy: #467 (27 December 1975) – #480 (27 March 1976)

 

Betty V. Bumble

Plot:

In Victorian times, Mr Bumble is the Parish beadle in charge of Grimstone Orphanage. He is a cruel man who makes life a misery for the orphans. Then Betty Briggs, his housekeeper’s niece, arrives. It is Betty V. Bumble as Betty constantly finds ways to help the orphans while giving Mr Bumble a hilarious comeuppance every week.

Betty v Bumble

Notes:

 

Appeared:

  • Betty V. Bumble – Judy:  #1092 (13 December 1980) – #1101 (14 February 1981)