Billy and Clementine Valentine were the siblings of not-so-nice Clyde Valentine who worked every single day near the town of Placerville trying to make his fortune in gold. Clyde’s wife had died from a sickness that had swept the area and his elder daughter Charity Valentine had been sent to work in Sacramento. Clyde found very little time for his young children and most days they had to fend for themselves.
Billy tried to be like a father to young Clementine but it was hard to keep track of his young sister as she ran like the wind because of her very large feet. She was slim like a feather and lighter than air but her feet were so large they were the talk of the town. Each morning Billy would take out his pocket watch given to him by his late Grandfather and at the stroke of 9 he and his sister would bring the ducks down to the water’s edge. The river ran hard and fast and both were quite careful not to get near the edge less they find themselves carried down the river- to everlasting eternity.
One day they decided to bring the last crusts of bread and a few tablespoons of jam to eat by the water. Their father had been gone for a few days and Billy and Clementine hoped he would be back soon with much needed supplies. Their father Clyde had been known to bring his findings of gold to town and sell them for spirits and they hoped he kept his wits about him as they were almost out of edibles.
It looked like some sort of parade that day as Billy and Clementine ran towards the water with their ducks leading the way. Some would recount years later that the sun was shining and there was a brisk wind that blew all day. The story-tellers told different versions of what they thought happened to the Valentine children that very sunny day. Did Clementine Valentine lose her footing by tripping over scattered wood or was she just trying to get their bread back from one of the ducks that stole it. One thing is for certain; and all the tales agreed it; was the size of her feet that sent Clementine into the foaming brine of the water.
Chattering tales whispered that when Clementine Valentine slipped into the river that day, all her brother Billy could see were her ruby lips blowing bubbles in the water. Some said that no matter what he did; Billy was no match for the swift current, her large feet, and he finally lost sight of his fair sister Clementine. Some said the very next day he tired to find his father and as he followed the river into town he spotted a small whirlpool of bubbles which was rumoured to probably be the last of young Clementine.
Billy found his father that very same day in a tavern near the canyon drinking beer and lots of wine. When he told him what had happened his father began to grieve over Clementine. Clyde Valentine shouted to everyone that it was his fault and he should join his daughter – and sure enough; he jumped into the river screaming,
“Dreadfully sorry Clementine!”
As Billy Valentine watched bubbles flow to the top of the water he felt such relief that he would no longer have to suffer from the evasiveness of Dad. He turned around quickly when he heard a loud noise and realized it was just his “dear-departed” sister Clementine coming out of hiding. They looked at the river together and suddenly began to sing with sinister smiles:
“Oh my darling, oh my darling,
Oh my darling, Clementine!
Thou are lost and gone forever,
But dearest Dad is finally gone this time!”
And to this day the stories continue, and even though the song has ended; the melody and Clementine still linger on.
“Dreadfully sorry Clementine!”
The moral of this story is never believe what you hear- unless you saw it yourself!
Photos by Linda Seccaspina
Sweden’s the Sweptaways- I love them so much I added their other video Wuthering Heights