"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This curious little melodrama was reported in the “Los Angeles Herald,” September 11, 1909:

PARIS, Sept. 10--A strange lost child is perplexing the Paris police. An American mother is claiming the girl as her daughter, but the latter disclaims her mother. The girl is 6 years old, but talks with astonishing volubility. She happened to call on a policeman voluntarily one day, but as she could not speak any apparently known language, he took her to the police station, where all the experts and interpreters at first failed to understand what the girl wanted.

Finally it turned out that she spoke some sort of Armenian dialect, and an interpreter was found. The child said she had been taken away from her grandmother's home in Syria by a strange woman, who wanted to take her to America, and who, in fact, brought her as far as Paris. The little girl said she had taken the first opportunity to run away from the woman. The police were astonished at the fluency with which the girl talked, and were about to send her temporarily to a home when the strange woman of whom she had spoken appeared and said the child was her daughter. "I am not your daughter," retorted the little one.

"I know my mother. She is very different from this person." The police were seriously embarrassed. They put off the inquiry for the day to obtain a second interpreter, for the mother, or alleged mother, herself speaks a strange mixture of English and French.

As soon as the two were again confronted with each other the precocious child threw up her hands and looked at the young woman in horror. "She is not my mother," she exclaimed.

The woman said she was born in Marseilles, but went to New York when very young. She married an Italian in New York when she was 14 years old and had this child. Her husband died the day the child was born. She kept the baby for one year, then sent her to be taken care of by the child's grandfather in Syria. Having heard that the grandfather had died, she went to Syria to secure the child.

On the way the little girl showed a vicious temper and did all the mischief she could. On reaching the Lyons railway station in Paris she sat down in the waiting room and fell asleep. During that time, she alleges, the child took the bag in which she had all her money, amounting to some $600, and gave it to some strange woman, who disappeared. When she woke she slapped the child, who then ran away into the street, and did not know what had become of her child until she saw her picture in the papers.

The child, who does not understand a word of her mother's language, was then told what she had said, and denied it all. For a whole hour the little one contradicted it in every detail.

She insisted the woman was not her mother. Until three weeks ago she had never seen the woman. It is not true her grandfather is dead. She knew her real mother very well, for she left Syria only a year ago, and was married again in a town not far from Jerusalem. She added: 

"This woman came one day to my grandfather's house when I was alone. She told me my grandfather was waiting for me in the train.

“I got in and he was not there. The train started away, and I cried, and wanted to go back. Then the woman beat me, and the train went on. At Beyrouth she took me on board a big steamer and we went to Port Said, Alexandria, and Marseilles.

“As soon as we got to Paris I took the first chance and ran away from her. I do not want to be with the woman any more. She has beaten me and made me suffer. I want to go back to grandpapa. She says my name is Annette.

It is not true. I am called Marianne." 

After this both the alleged mother and the child had a fit of crying, and between the two contradictory statements the police are unable to make out the truth. Curiously enough, however, the child is wonderfully like the woman who claims to be her mother.

Although the story above was published in a number of newspapers in both Europe and America, I was unable to learn how the mystery of the child’s true identity was resolved.

[Note: @JimChaffeeEM on Twitter found this story from the New York Sun, which states that this woman apparently "bought" the child for use as a servant!]


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