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Francis James Child
Francis James Child, a-ponderin'


Child Book

Lessons learned while reading the ballad collection of Francis James Child.

by David Kessler

     Dear Francis,

     I don't know what else to do so I'm writing to you; you're my last hope.  My sister recently told me that she was pregnant and that I was the father.  We had always taken care not to be caught and now my shame was going to be public.  You can probably see where this is going; I killed her.  Only now my mother seems suspicious.  She found some blood on my clothes and wants to know what happened.  My question is, what's the right way to tell her?

     About to board a ship.

     Dear About to board a ship,

     The important thing to remember is to break it to her gently; you can never tell when something like this could be taken out of context and blown out of proportion.  I suggest you explain the situation in stages: Explain the blood away easily at first.  Tell her, for example, that you had to kill one of your hunting dogs.  (You sound like you might have hunting dogs.)  Then, to let her know there could be more to the story, explain that it was actually your horse that you killed.  The subject of death having thus been innocently introduced, you should be able to sit back and wait for her to remark on the inconsistency of your story.  Now play the dutiful son answering her questions, increasing the seriousness of the explanation incrementally.  From your horse, move to an aged relative (does your grandfather live nearby?), and finally to the truth.
     You have now proved your love for her by being both truthful and gentle.  She should be willing to help you explain things to your father or, if that is not an option, to settle your affairs before you board that ship, never to return.
     Bon Voyage.

     Francis J. Child

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