I was born at Number Nineteen, Tummill Street, London. My mother died when I was five years old. She died fifteen minutes after my sister Polly was born.
As my father worked from morning till night, he had no time to look after Polly and me, so he married again soon.
He married Mrs Burke, who was much younger and more good-looking than my mother.
But I did not like my stepmother and she did not like me. So we began to hate each other; but she did not show her hatred when my father was at home.
She beat me very often and she made me work very hard. From morning till night she found work for me to do. I looked after the baby. When she was awake, I took her for a walk, carrying her in my arms, and she was very heavy. I cleaned the rooms, went shopping, etc. There was always work for me to do.
One day a woman came to see my stepmother and they drank a lot of gin. All the money that my father had left for our dinner was spent. When the woman went home, my
stepmother said to me in tears, “Oh, what shall I do, Jimmy, dear, what shall I do? Your father will come home soon, and mere’s no dinner for him. He will beat me cruelly!
What shall I do, what shall I do?”
I was sorry for her, she had tears in her eyes, and she called me “Jimmy, dear” for the first time. I asked her if I could help her and she said at once, “Oh, yes, you can help me! When your father comes home in the evening,
Jimmy, dear, tell him that you lost the money he left for our dinner.”
“How could I lose it?” I asked in surprise.
“You can tell him that I sent you to buy some food.
Suddenly a big boy ran against you and the money fell out of your hand and you could not find it. That will be very easy to say, Jimmy, dear, please, say it to уour father!”
“But he’ll give me a good beating for it!” “Oh, no, he won’t! I shall not let him beat you, you may be sure! Here is a penny for you, go and buy some sweets with it!”
So I went off and spent my penny on sweets.
When I came back and opened the door, my father was at home waiting for me with his waist-belt in his hand. I wanted to run out of the room, but he caught me by the ear.
“Stop a minute, young man!” he said.
“What have you done with the money?”
“I lost it, Father,” said I in fear and looked at my stepmother.
“Oh, you lost it! Where did you lose it?”
“In the street, Father. Ask Mrs Burke, she knows!”
I told him what my stepmother had asked me to tell him. I was not much surprised that he did not believe my story.
But my stepmother’s words surprised me very much.
“Yes, he told me the same thing,” she said, “but he is a liar! He has spent your money on sweets. I can’t beat him, he is your child, but you can give him a good beating!”
And she stood by while my father beat me with his belt till the blood showed. I hated my stepmother so much now that I wanted to see her dead.