Published: Jinty 20 May 1978 – 26 August 1978. Not to be confused with “Day and Knight” (1984), Princess/Tammy
Translations/reprints: None known
Pat Day’s mother abandoned her four years earlier and never bothered with her since. Pat is now happily fostered with the Hargreaves, has a foster-brother named Terry, and she has just qualified for the school county swimming team.
Then Pat’s mother, now remarried as Mrs Knight, successfully applies to get her back. Pat protests that she doesn’t want to go back to her or leave the Hargreaves. Mrs Hargreaves can’t believe social welfare is allowing it after how the mother treated Pat before, but it’s no use. The Hargreaves have no rights, not even visitation rights. Pat has to go back to her mother. Terry gives her a parting gift: his precious Chinese coin, which he has turned into a pendant for her.
But Pat soon finds out her mother only wanted her so she, her new husband and stepsister Janet could get a council flat. Neither parent cares about Pat, and Janet bullies her and makes her life a misery. Ironically, it is soon obvious that the parents aren’t particularly good to Janet either.
Later, Pat finds out Janet is the school bully and hated by the whole school. Moreover, Janet is the unbeaten school swimming champion. She thinks she’s the greatest. And she does not like the threat Pat poses to her there. She also intercepts and destroys a letter the Hargreaves send to Pat. All Pat has now are swimming and the coin pendant.
School is of little help because once the girls realise Pat is the school bully’s stepsister, they want nothing to do with her. Moreover, Janet cunningly poisons them against Pat by pretending to act nice to her at their expense. One girl, Laura, sees through this trick, but can’t convince the others.
However, the girls cheer when Pat beats Janet at swimming (finally) and gets a place on the swimming squad. Soon Pat is impressing the swimming teacher with her diving and swimming capabilities. But Janet is furious over her humiliation and is playing dirty tricks to get revenge. Her first is getting Pat lumbered with a paper round, on pretext of the family needing extra money. As planned, this cuts into Pat’s time for her swimming coaching.
The only drawback to this plan is that Janet has to do the round as well. Meanwhile, the man hiring Pat lets his daughter Cheryl accompany Pat on the first round. Cheryl is afraid of water and can’t swim, and Pat offers to teach her. She and Cheryl become friends, much to Janet’s chagrin. At school, Laura guesses the real reason why Pat got lumbered with the paper round. She still believes Pat is not like Janet, but again nobody is listening to her.
Cheryl’s dad hears about the coaching problem and offers to pay Pat to teach Cheryl to swim. So Pat can now get her coaching and Janet gets lumbered with the paper round. And Dad says she has to do it or feel the back of his hand. Ha, ha!
A package arrives for Pat from the Hargreaves, with money and a lovely swimsuit, but Janet steals it and shows it off in front of Pat at Cheryl’s swimming lesson. When Pat sees Janet in the swimsuit she finds it odd, because her foster parents were going to buy her a costume like that. Janet takes advantage to taunt her that not hearing from them (because she intercepts the mail) shows how much they care for her. This really hurts Pat, and Janet loves it. She pulls other nasty tricks, such as shaking Pat off the diving board and trying to poison Pat’s mind against the Hargreaves. Cheryl is more suspicious about the origins of the swimsuit and tries to convince Pat that Janet is just being spiteful and bullying, but Pat is still fooled by Janet’s phony kindness to her.
At home, Mum gives Pat a letter; it came with the parcel and Janet overlooked it. Once Pat reads it she realises what Janet did. Pat confronts Janet, says she now sees Janet for what she is, and takes her swimsuit back.
The parents slap both of them for fighting. Both Pat and Janet cry over it. Janet’s trying not to, but Pat can hear it, and she now realises why Janet is the way she is. But she’s had enough and is also scared she will end up like Janet because of those parents. So she runs back to the Hargreaves. However, the police are there when she arrives and take her back to the Knights.
To the police, Mum puts on a good show of loving mother who was worried sick over Pat running off. But once they’re gone, Mum hits Pat for running off, and spills her guts over how she really feels about Pat. She never loved Pat or her father, never wanted Pat at all, and only got her back so they could get the council flat. Otherwise, she would have been quite happy never to see Pat again. But now they’re stuck with each other, she says, and there’s no escape. There is little doubt that lumbering herself with the daughter she never cared for, just to qualify for the flat, is turning Mum’s unfeeling towards Pat into downright hate.
After this frightening scene with her mother, Pat starts cracking up. It begins with outright rebellion. When Janet tries to steal Pat’s swimsuit again, she cuts it up rather than let her take it. She smashes crockery, threatens to wreck the flat, and defies her mother when she tries to force her to eat. This looks like the beginning of a hunger strike because Pat refuses to eat all day. Then she turns to depression, thinking the whole light has gone out of her life and there is no escape from her miserable home life. She is snappy to the other girls at school. Again, Laura correctly guesses what’s wrong. At the school gala Pat refuses to dive and just bombs off the diving board. Worst of all, she shoplifts a bracelet from a store, not realising security caught her on the store camera.
Suddenly, Pat is struck by guilt and wants to return the bracelet, but not eating all day is catching up and she feels faint. A policeman sees this and takes her home, where her parents give her a terrible beating for breaking the crockery. However, Cheryl discovers this when she comes to the door to enquire after Pat. She realises Pat’s parents are mistreating her.
Even Janet is shocked at the state Pat is in after the beating, and it’s the start of a whole new relationship between them. The parents force Pat to stay home until the injuries heal as they don’t want the teachers to see them and ask questions. They force Janet to stay home as well, to make sure Pat does not go to school. Janet protests that this means missing the swimming competition, but Dad clouts her: “If you don’t want to end up like her, you’ll do what you’re told!”
Seeing Janet’s new-found sympathy, Pat agrees to stay at home – but then remembers the bracelet. She slips out to return it, disguising her bruises as best she can with a scarf and dark glasses, but her attempt to return the bracelet goes wrong. What’s more, security recognises her from before and alerts the staff and police.
They don’t believe Pat was trying to return the bracelet. But then the police remove her glasses and scarf and see she is a battered child. The police realise she needs serious help and offer to do so. However, Pat is overcome by shame and runs off.
Meanwhile, at school, Janet is beginning to redeem herself. She threatens to menace a girl but stops when she sees how terrified the girl is, just like Pat, and makes a kind offer of help with swimming instead. This surprises everyone and Laura realises the change in Janet. Janet further redeems herself when she leaves the swimming to go home and check on Pat.
By now, Pat hasn’t eaten for two whole days. At the canal, lack of food, the beating and running from the police take their toll and she collapses. She falls into the canal, hasn’t the strength to swim, and she’s got cramp and blacking out. Someone needs to rescue her or she’ll drown.
Cheryl has been following Pat about the beating, and now she’s the only one to help. The trouble is, she can’t swim and is scared of water. Nonetheless, she bravely goes in to save Pat but soon realises it’s beyond her. Janet sees how foolhardy Cheryl is and tells her to get out fast. Janet rescues Pat herself.
In hospital, Pat goes into a coma for three months. Despite this, she has horrible nightmares about her ordeal and her mother separating her from the loving Hargreaves forever. But when she wakes up from the coma, she finds everything has been sorted out. The store did not press charges over the bracelet. Janet and Cheryl helped the police inquiries about the battering. The parents were prosecuted and given suspended sentences. Pat returns to the custody of the Hargreaves, who are adopting her now. Pat’s swimming coach is arranging special coaching for her in her own town, and now Pat couldn’t be happier.
As for Janet, she’s now the heroine for saving Pat and her redemption is complete at school. She has taken over giving Cheryl swimming lessons. Cheryl’s brave attempt at rescue had clearly been the first crucial step she had to take to overcome her problem with water. Mind you, Janet still thinks she’s the greatest! Pat and Janet are reconciled and all is forgiven. There’s still rivalry between them at the swimming gala, but it’s friendly. Janet is staying on with her parents, who weren’t quite so bad to her, and is hopeful they will treat her better because social welfare is watching.
“Knight and Day” is cast in the mould of the Cinderella theme, a common formula in girls’ comics, but goes against it in several ways. In so doing, it depicts a far more realistic and grimmer picture of the horrors of domestic child abuse. First, the heroines in the Cinderella serials are usually resilient and refuse to broken by the cruelties they are subjected to. They come up with ways to fight back, usually with a little secret or talent of some sort. But not in the case of Pat. From the outset, her only response is to cry a lot. She still clings to her swimming and pendant for comfort and hope, but on the whole she is far less resilient than most Cinderella-type protagonists such as Bella Barlow. There can be little doubt it stems from her being damaged by her mother’s initial neglect, and the damage is exacerbated by her being forcibly removed from the home where she was loved and happy.
Second, when Pat finally fights back, it is first by standing up to Janet and then running off, then lashing out and hunger strike, and even a mutinous act of shoplifting. But then depression sets in. Pat loses all fight and hope, and self-inflicted food deprivation is not helping. Her will is just about broken. This is quite surprising as it’s not normally how Cinderella heroines in girls’ serials react. Sure, they can get depressed and demoralised, but they usually bounce back somehow. On the other hand, it is pretty close to how things would be in real life with an abused child, which makes the story very realistic indeed.
Third, Pat may be the worst-off daughter, but it’s a surprise to see the parents don’t spoil Janet or treat her as the favourite at Pat’s expense, which is usually the case in similar serials e.g. “Make-Believe Mandy”, also from Jinty. In fact, they’re not fit parents for Janet either. For example, Janet comes home soaked to the skin from the paper round, but they don’t care and haven’t even left any breakfast for her: “We’re not your bloomin’ servants. Make your own.” And the only thing for that is a slice of stale bread. They also clout Janet as much as they do Pat, although they don’t go as far as to beat Janet all over.
Finally, the parents use both girls for their own advantage, not just the ill-used heroine. They use Pat to get the council flat. None of the money either girl earns from the paper round or the swimming coaching goes to them, as it should. Instead, the parents pocket it all. The pretext is that the parents are hard up. There may be some truth in this, but it is still blatant exploitation. The girls should at least have some of it.
We get some secondary characters who are more perceptive of what is wrong. Laura correctly guesses at every turn what is going on. Unfortunately she can’t be of further help because all the other girls overrule her and even threaten her with Coventry if she speaks to Pat. So she gets little development as serious help for Pat and takes no part in the resolution of the story. That part belongs to Cheryl, whose attempts to help Pat help her to overcome her own problem: her water phobia. Cheryl also witnessed the beating, which would be of immense help to Pat.
Social welfare and the police are, as usual, depicted as totally useless and until the near the resolution of the story. Up until then they are totally fooled by Mrs Knight’s phony acts of concerned mother and don’t listen to Pat’s protests.
We wish the parents could have been given a proper jail sentence instead of a suspended one, but presumably it was because they could take care of Janet. As it is, they would have lost their council flat because they no longer qualify, and now have the stigma of abusive parents.
We agree with Pat that it’s no wonder Janet is such a bully with those parents of hers. Although she does not show it, it is clear she is also miserable with her home life. Her response to it is toughen up in order to survive, not cry miserably all the time like Pat: “[Crying] won’t do any good. You’ve just got to learn to survive…keep your nose clean,” is her advice to Pat after the beating. But for all this acting tough, it is obvious that Janet is full of hurt from her parents’ treatment, and she’s taking it out on the girls at school with behaving hard and tough and bullying. So, although Janet is mean, spiteful and bullying, she is a more sympathetic character than is usually the case for wicked stepsisters in Cinderella-type serials. It’s not just Pat we want rescued from the situation; it’s Janet too. If something is not done about her unfit parents and dysfunctional home life, she will spiral down a very dark path indeed, as Pat begins to once her ill-treatment gets too much. Not to mention have no chance of redemption from her spiteful bully behaviour.
It would take a horrible shock for Janet to realise that bullying’s not the way, and she gets it when she sees the horrific beating Pat gets from her parents. Though they had frequently slapped both girls, they had never gone that far before. Janet would be terrified by this; after all, suppose they do the same to her? They even threaten her with it. This is the turning point for Janet, and it’s realistic because it’s credible.
As is often the case with bullies and dysfunctional children, the parents are Janet’s bad behaviour. Both of them are selfish, unfeeling, abusive people. They clearly deserve each other but are not at all fit to be parents. Even after Janet grows hopeful her relationship with her parents will improve, we seriously doubt they will show her any genuine love because they’re just not the loving type. We rather wish the Hargreaves could take Janet too.
Ironically, if Janet had been on the right side of things instead of a bully, she would have been the resilient Cinderella heroine we expect in a girls’ serial. In fact, she would have been a much stronger one than usual as she is not given to tears and has learned the hard knocks of being tough in order to survive. We would have cheered the story for having a heroine like this all the way.
Note: The unknown artist of this story has not been linked to any other serial or title at IPC, and this was his/her only story for Jinty. It is presumed the artist was a guest artist from DCT. If anyone has any information about the artist or other serials he/she drew, it would be much appreciated.