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Our own Penny-dreadful
by [?]


I am always coming across old manuscripts. I am not sure of the date of the following, but I fancy it must have been written for a prize, which, strange to say, it failed to secure. The only conditions were that the story should have lots of “go” in it, that the incidents should be natural, the tone elevating, and the characters carefully studied.

I ask any of my readers if this does not fulfil all these conditions? I know when it was returned to me as “not quite the style we care about,” I was extremely angry, and replied that I should very much like to see what style they did care about, if not this. They had not the common politeness to reply!

Another publisher to whom I submitted it actually wrote back that he was not in the habit of publishing “penny dreadfuls.” I was never so insulted in all my life!

However, as a specimen of the kind of story some boys read, and some editors do not publish, the reader shall have my “penny dreadful,” and decide for himself whether it has not lots of “go,” is not strictly true to nature, elevating in tone, and carefully studied. If it is not, then he had better not read it!

The Plaster Cast; Or Septimus Minor’s Million.

A Thrilling Story in Fifteen Chapters, by the Author of “Blugram Blunderbuss, or the Dog-Man.”

Chapter I. THE MURDER!

The golden sun was plunging his magnificent head angrily into the sheen of the bronze Atlantic when Septimus Minor scaled the craggy path which leads from Crocusville to the towering cliff above.

The wind came and went in fitful gusts, which now and again carried Septimus off his feet, and sometimes lifted him a foot or two over the edge of the rugged cliff in time for another eddy to carry him back.

Nature this evening suited the gusty humour of Septimus Minor’s breast.

“The crisis of my life approaches!” he said to himself, as a magnificent wave from below leapt eight hundred feet in the air, and fell, drenching him from head to foot. “I am fifteen years old next week, and something here,”–here he laid his right hand on his left side–“tells me I am a man.”

As he spoke, another wave leapt skyward, and out of it emerged the form of a man.

“Yes!” cried Septimus. “Her father!”

Septimus was the youngest of seven children, most of whom were orphans. But we digress.

“Belay there–haul in your mainslacks, and splice your marline-spike. Where are you coming to?” cried Peeler, the coastguardsman–for such, we need hardly say, was the rank of the new arrival.

“How are you?” said Sep, in an off-hand way.

“Blooming,” said the not altogether refined Peeler.

A gust of wind lifted them both up the twenty remaining yards of the cliff, and left them standing on a sheltered crag at the extreme brink.

“Spin us a yarn,” said Sep.

The setting sun cast a lurid flash over the figures of that strangely assorted pair. The next moment it had set, and nothing was visible but the reflection of the end of Sep’s cigar in the glass eye of his interlocutor.

Septimus Minor had lived in Crocusville ever since he could remember, and the coastguardsman some years longer. Hence Sep’s request.

Mr Peeler was a fine specimen of his class. He wore a sou’wester and boots to match, and round his shoulders–

But why all this minute detail concerning one who is to disappear–if he had but known it!–before that howling night–

“Twas in ’52 she grounded,” said he, transferring something from his right cheek to his left. “Hang me on the Union Jack,” (that was a nautical expression by which Peeler added solemnity to his statement) “if there was not exactly one million Spanish doubloons on board.”

Sep whistled, but immediately checked himself, and sat down on the wind to hear the rest.