She Paid the Bill: c. 1900

white hearse with ponies

She Paid the Bill.

“No, I haven’t any news of importance for you,” said M. J. Cullen, the undertaker, “but I can tell you a mighty nice little story, the truth of which my books will verify. It is about the noble action of a little girl who came to me about fifteen years ago. She was then about twelve years of age, and despite the fact that her outward appearance suggested parental negligence, she appeared to have a noble and honest heart. It was about seven o’clock of a cold July evening when she walked into my office almost frozen and crying bitterly. She asked to see me, and when I made myself known she stopped crying and told me a very pitiful story, that would soften the heart in the coldest of persons.

She said she lived near my stable; that her father was a drunkard and her mother was dead. She and a little brother seven years of age, of whom she thought the world, were cared for by the neighbours when the father was on a spree, and despite the father’s misconduct the little girl could not be induced to leave him. She kept the house and prepared the meals. She bore her lot philosophically and tried to be happy, but her whole peace of mind was almost wrecked when after about two weeks’ sickness her little brother died. He was her pet, and the two were much attached to one another.

She again burst into tears, and between heavy sobs she said that on account of her father’s evil ways there was no money in the house, and she did not know how her little brother could be buried. She had been told that the city would bury the remains, but when she looked into the manner in which such a burial would be performed—that the coffin would be a plain pine box and that instead of a hearse a waggon would take him to the cemetery she became almost frantic, and would not allow it. She then pleaded with me to bury her brother. She wanted him to have a white coffin, a white hearse, with white horses, and his remains to be taken to the cemetery. Crying bitterly, she said, ‘I will give you my word of honor to pay you as soon as I get the money.’

I was much touched by the story, and went to the home of the child and there learned the truth of her statement. The dead boy was laid on the bed, which was neatly made up by the little girl. I immediately took charge of the funeral, and complied with the every wish of the child; I never expected pay, and, although I thought of the story for some time after, I never expected to see the child again.

Not long since, while seated in my office, a handsome, well-dressed young lady entered, and, addressing me by name, called me aside. She asked me if I remembered her, and I was compelled to acknowledge my ignorance. Imagine my surprise when she told me of a little ragged child of fifteen years ago. ‘I am that little girl,’ she said, ‘and I have come, according to promise, on my word of honor to pay you the bill.’ ‘I looked over the books and found the account, and she paid it. She was married well, and her husband is a prominent and prosperous business man.”

Pauper burials and the interment of the dead in large cities, Frederick Ludwig Hoffman, 1919

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: For the poor, a pauper’s burial in Potter’s Field was as much to be shunned as going to the Workhouse. We have seen how unfortunates beggared themselves providing “decent” funerals for their loved ones and paid sums they could ill-afford into burial clubs, the resulting insurance money covering perhaps only part of the costs of a proper burial.

Here is what Mr. Wild, an undertaker, testifying about conditions in the London slums, says about the disbursement of those funds:

In benefit societies and burial clubs there is generally a certain sum set aside for the burial, which sum is, I consider, frequently most extravagantly expended. This arises from the secretary, or some other officer of the club being an undertaker. When a death takes place the club money is not paid directly: it is usually paid on the club or quarterly night following. The member dying seldom leaves any money beyond the provision in his club to bury him, consequently the widow or nominee makes application to the secretary, who tells her that he cannot give any money to purchase mourning for herself and family until the committee meets; this may be three months after the death; but, says the secretary, “give me the funeral, I will advance you a few pounds upon my own account;” so that the widow is obliged to submit to any charge he may think fit to make. I do not mean to be understood that this is always the case—I am sorry to say it is of frequent occurrence.

 Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Classes, Edwin Chadwick, 1843

Decades later, the fleecing of the bereaved poor continued:

The following is typical of what happens almost every day. A father of four children, who was insured for £7 died. The widow informed an undertaker who called at the house that she was unable to make the funeral arrangements until she had received the money. ‘Do not let that trouble you,’ said the man. You can pay when convenient.’

“The widow is still wondering how the cost of the funeral amounted to exactly £7. The secret is that the insurance agent communicated the news of the death and the amount of the policy to the undertaker, at the same time drawing the usual commission for his trouble.

“When the woman returned from the ceremony she had not a penny left in the world, and for long her children have been pinched with the want of food. How long shall these men be allowed to fleece the poor in life and rob them in death?”

Star 28 October 1905: p. 4

The young lady who found a kindly undertaker to trust her for his fees was fortunate indeed!

For other stories of undertakers and mortuary mishaps, Mrs Daffodil is pleased to recommend The Victorian Book of the Dead.  See also this previous post on the funeral arrangements for the son of a poor widow.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Lady and the Laces: 1904

A handy shoplifting suitcase.

A handy shoplifting suitcase.


Store Sleuths Tell of Shoplifting Wrinkle New to One of Them.

From the New York Sun.

This story is told among the department store sleuths of an alleged episode of this rush season. A man pushed into a crowded store, wiping his brow, and panted in the ear of one of the floor detectives:

“See that woman, George; the clever-looking one in the black dress?” indicating a woman who had just entered the store.

George saw her.

“Well,” said the perspiring stranger, “watch her; she’s the limit; she’s just come from our store. We know her; she’s been playing the game there for some time; she’ll load up like a pack horse if you give her a chance. I’ve piped her off all the afternoon, and have shadowed her up here. Watch her, I tell you.”

The woman in black approached a counter on which was a display of lace handkerchiefs, and, looking around cautiously, slipped about half a dozen of them under her cloak.

“What’d I tell you, George? Pipe her,” said the sleuth from the other store, as he nudged George in the ribs.

From the lace handkerchief counter the woman in black visited the silk hosiery counter, and then went to several others. At each she helped herself, generously and dexterously. George, with the other sleuth, followed at a convenient distance. The woman, when she started to leave the store, not only had a load under her loose-fitting cloak, but her pockets were bulging.

“Leave it to me, George. I know her game. I’ll get her for both of us,” said the visiting sleuth. “You stand here at the door.”

George stood at the door for five minutes. Then he went out into the cold world and is still looking for:

1: The woman.

2: The other sleuth.

3: A job.

The Washington [DC] Post 25 December 1904: p. A1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: An ingenious little swindle, but, as noted, it probably can only be worked once per store before word of the “new wrinkle” spreads. Floor detectives in the big stores trade notes assiduously. Mrs Daffodil has written before about ingenious shoplifters who are “Prepared to Carry off the Store,” how they are spotted, their methods, and the different types of lady kleptomaniacs.

This Parisian shoplifter seems to have chosen a unique confederate:

Dog Trained to Steal

A woman was arrested in Paris for shoplifting not long ago, and it was noticed that she carried a bright looking King Charles spaniel on her arm. The police happened to examine the pup rather carefully, and were surprised to find that it was trained to help the woman at her trade. The dog was schooled to snatch a piece of lace in its mouth and then hide its head under the woman’s arm. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 22 October 1905: p. 3

One hopes that the woman thought to steal bones or treats for her faithful companion since he took all the risk.

“They are Burying Me!”: 1815

minaiture coffin


Two clergymen at Oxford, in the early part of the present century, had agreed in writing that whichever died first should visit his friend (if such were permitted), in order to confirm his belief in the Unseen World. They were both devout believers in the intervention of angelic beings in the concerns of the present life; and had largely studied the literature of the Supernatural.

One of them, Dr W., was a fellow of his college; the other, Mr P., a bachelor, had taken a living about eighteen miles from Oxford, where he resided.

In the month of November 1815 or 1816 (for the exact date seems uncertain, owing to the deaths of those who themselves knew the circumstances), Dr W. twice dreamt of his friend P., who appeared to him in his dream, as pale and suffering great pain; and on the second appearance exclaimed, “W., they are burying me!” So vivid an impression did this dream make that he had almost resolved to ride over to the house of his friend on the morrow. However, some pressing work in college demanded his time and attention; so putting aside his half-formed resolution, he did not go, and the day passed.

In due course he retired to bed, had no dreams, and rose as usual the next morning.

He had breakfasted and was sitting near the fire reading a book, when he heard an ordinary knock at the door, such as his servant the scout usually gave, and at once, without looking round, mechanically responded “Come in.”

Suddenly he seemed to hear a distinct and hollow whisper, in his friend P.’s voice,

“W., they are burying me!”

Starting up somewhat alarmed, he found no one in the room, and no one in his adjoining chambers. The servant, on inquiry, had not been in; and no one had entered the apartment.

Coupling this occurrence with his previous dreams, he resolved to go and see his friend at once, and immediately ordered his horse. After a hard ride he came up to the clergyman’s house, where to his intense amazement he found the blinds of the windows down, and saw a plumed hearse and pair of horses waiting at the front door.

On inquiry he found that his friend had died very suddenly; that the coffin was being actually screwed down, that the mourners were in the house, and that the funeral was to take place at three in the afternoon.

Having earnestly appealed for one more sight of the features of his friend, the relatives consented to have the lid of the coffin unscrewed, when Dr W., stooping down to kiss the forehead, fancied that there were signs of life. Putting his ear to the breast and face, he cried out, “P., do you hear me? This is a trance! Surely he breathes! This is not death! He is not dead!”

A slight motion of the muscles at the corner of the mouth was the immediate response.

The body as a consequence was lifted out of the coffin and placed again in bed. Warm applications were made use of; the hands and feet were rubbed; and, though he still lay in a trance, the signs of life were unmistakable.

Three days afterwards Mr P. regained consciousness. In the earlier part of his illness (when the trance was upon him), as he asserted, he could hear the remarks of the attendants, but was wholly unable to stir. Subsequently he lost all consciousness; and by no mental effort could he remember anything.

He recovered his strength so far, as that he was able to get about again, but in enfeebled health; and resigning the active duties of his office, he lived until the spring of 1825 at Bath, where he then died. He was always extremely reticent as to the incident recorded. To a friend these were his words: “The voice of entreaty heard at Oxford may have been my spiritual voice. Of that I can say nothing, for I know nothing, . . . or it may have been the voice of my guardian angel—if so, Laus Deo!”

Glimpses in the Twilight, Frederick George Lee, 1885

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This story plays on the very real fears of being buried alive, which Mrs Daffodil has previously mentioned in this story of a young person who revived on the dissection table and this tale from a conscience-stricken undertaker. That subterranean person over at Haunted Ohio has also considered the matter in several horrid posts including “The Druggist and the Dagger” and “The Corpse Wanted Help.”

There is a good fund of college ghost stories arising from the dreaming spires of Oxford and a certain Provost of King’s College, Cambridge. See, for example, this one about a companionable ghost at Cambridge. If one were a cynic, one might suggest that some of the stories arise from scholarly gentlemen who have spent their evenings in the Common Room with a diminishing decanter of port. “Hinc lucem et pocula sacra.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


“Motto” Dresses: 1924


The “motto” dress is the latest fancy of the Parisienne. It is an outcome of and an improvement upon the fad of working blouses and jumpers with the wearer’s monogram or cypher. A “motto” gown has a charming little aphorism, or even a slang phrase, fancifully worked in the form of embroidery on the pocket, the neck scarf or the girdle or panels. Sometimes the motto takes the form of a play upon the wearer’s name, but no matter what its origin, it must be either “short and smart,” or “short and sweet,” to achieve distinction and success. Sports dresses, in particular, adorned in this way are very popular, while tea gowns and boudoir wraps often support sentimental or intimate phrases. These latter are so skilfully intertwined in the embroidery that often only those that are shown the words have any hint that they exist.

Rather on the lines of sermons in stones are the new hats worked with a motto in crystal beads. Taken usually from the heraldic motto of the wearer, they are in Latin, and written quite clearly across the front of the small black cloches. The same motto is often repeated on the sunshade by people on the Riviera. New Zealand Herald, 29 March 1924: p. 6

Such whimseys had previously been popular in the 1880s and ’90s.

The latest whim of the gilded youth is his autograph embroidered, full length, upon his suspenders. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

In bridal lingerie, the motto night-gown is the latest craze. The motto is embroidered, perhaps around the bottom of the skirt, on the cuffs, or on a shield-shaped piece in front, with a border of flowers. Among favorite quotations are: “Come thoughts as sweet as incense crushed from flowers;” “Good-night, sweet, good-night;” “Forget the world and all its cares;” “He giveth His beloved sleep;” “Sweet dreams,” etc. Godey’s Lady’s Book September 1890

A Philadelphia paper states that a belle who is shortly to be married in New York has hit on something original. She has had her dainty silken petticoat embroidered in delicately coloured silks, with verses from her favourite poets and writers. The lines are put just above the hem, so that if in crossing a muddy road the wearer were to raise her skirts an atom higher than usual a passer-by might judge at once by the embroidery on her petticoat if she were a lady of deep reading or only a lover of frivolous verse. Otago [NZ] Witness 30 January 1890, Page 41

Lady supporters of Truman-Barkley or Dewey-Warren may purchase lingerie embroidered with their favorites’ names. Register-Republic [Rockford, IL] 22 October 1948: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The best Mrs Daffodil could do is the Jacobite garter pictured at the head of this post; the 18th-century equivalent of the Truman-Dewey political contest lingerie, one imagines. She is desolate that she has not been able to find true examples of these chatty, ephemeral garments and asks her kind readers to contribute, should they know of a poetic petticoat in their local costume collection. Mrs Daffodil supposes that motto-dresses and the heraldic hats with their insufferable Latin pretensions were the precursors of the witty “I’m With Stupid” singlets often seen in the States. Even “short and sweet” is a slippery slope.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



The Avenger of Her Sex: 1890



It was a day of perspiration. Heat and humidity had joined forces early in the morning, and before noon humanity was routed, and waved the wilted handkerchief of capitulation.

A young man entered a down-town elevated station as though he owned it. No one who watched him would have been surprised had he displayed a night-key to the ticket-peddler’s booth; but he did not. He haughtily cast down the half-dime of passage and joined the limp and draggled wayfarers without.

Had he not been so aggressive in his bearing, he would have been insignificant. He was very slight; he was short; he was narrow-chested. His shoulders were drooping continuations of his arms. Sparse light hair tanned his upper lip, which was bracketed by a supercilious smile. Through gold-rimmed glasses his little eyes squinted inquisitively. His light summer coat floated unbuttoned in the breeze, as if enlarging his presence. His waist was girded by a broad, black sash.

Arthur Chumpney was his name—Mr. Chumpney, of New York City, as he often proudly proclaimed it. Time had been, and not four years since, when Artie Chumpney, Deacon Chumpney’s lad, at Chumpney’s Four Corners, Delaware County, had sufficiently individualized him.

But a maternal uncle had wrought a wondrous change. He had transplanted this rural squash, and behold! a city pickle had come forth. A real estate agent’s clerk has to be spry; and ere the warts had faded from his hands Arthur thought that he “knew it all.” No one could “do” him; he was playing ball every time!

Yet at the “Corners” he had been deemed “a pore-sperited coot that never could do nuthin’ an’ never would.” “He’s afeard of his own shadder; an’ if you speak up peart or suddent to him, he blushes awful, he’s so ashamed of hisself.”

Strange, that environment should so affect one’s nature. And yet, in the menagerie trade, a leopard is a leopard the world over, and must be sold for spot cash.

Arthur entered a car and took the only unoccupied seat. It was beside a woman who was nearer to caps than to frizzes, and who knew it. There was no artificial girlishness about her. She was gaunt and dark and sharp-featured. Her nose was long and piercing, like a double-barreled probe; her eyes asked a question, and then answered it definitely; her arms were anthropoid in length and articulation; her hands, which mittens caressed, made one crawl to look at them. In one of them she bore a reticule. Her brow was bound by a green veil. She alone seemed unconscious of the weather. Heat and humidity, when they had encountered her, had shrugged their shoulders dubiously, and had passed by on the other side.

She gave Arthur one penetrating glance, which her nose seemed to say was quite sufficient. “Humph!” she ejaculated, and it wrinkled contemptuously.

So, too, he had looked but once to be satisfied. “A curious old jay,” he muttered to himself, as he twirled the sparse hairs into skeleton shape. He lolled as comfortably and as indolently as the sticky seat would permit, his back half turned against her, his legs outstretched into the aisle, his open coat flapping upon either side. He adjusted his glasses, and taking a newspaper from his pocket began to assimilate the gossip of the day.

The train rolled, it rattled, it squeaked, it stopped. There was an influx of femininity; heated, wearied, glowing femininity, clad in the calico of labor and bearing the basket of economy. They swayed and jolted through the aisle; they hung on the straps, like so many Mrs. Surratts, as the squeaking ceased and the rolling and rattling recommenced. Here and there men, keen and alert in expression, yet whose eyes said that business and kindliness were not antagonistic, sprang to their feet with natural chivalry. But Arthur did not move. One glance he cast, to see if he might detect the bonnet of luxury. One glance sufficed. He stretched himself yet more arrogantly and continued his educational process.

“Mind your eyes!” he angrily squealed at a wan woman, with a shawl and a baby mutually involved, who had stumbled over his feet. “Do you think that patent-leathers grow on trees?”

The wan woman clung more closely to the indeterminate bundle, but answered not a word. She was used to unkind speech; it reminded her of home and husband.

But she of the gaunt elbow upon his left flushed and bustled as though heat and humidity had regained courage, and had actually attacked her. She prolonged a finger; she tapped Arthur on the shoulder.

“Young man,” she cried in buzz-saw tones, “aren’t you going to give this poor woman your seat?”

He stared in amazement over his glasses.

“I never do,” he drawled; “not if I know myself. What do you take me for? Stand yourself, if you want to; you ought to know how by this time. Ah, no; I’ve cut my eye-teeth, old lady.”

He lolled more extendedly than before; his coat flapped more widely. His eyes and nose and chin were eagerly engaged with the details of a fashionable wedding. He saw, he heard nothing.

The indignant female gave a snort of defiance, it may be of warning. “He never does!” she muttered. “I couldn’t find a better subject if I went to Harlem.”

One deft, rapid motion did that spatulated hand make from the reticule to the side-pocket of the flapping coat of the unconscious Arthur, who was mentally personating the best man. Then she sprang to her feet and gave her seat to the wan woman, the shawl, and the baby.

More jostlings, more scramblings, more rollings. Heat and humidity returned from the pursuit and ravaged the bodies of the vanquished. Arthur still stretched himself and read. The keen, alert business men swayed easily with the motion; the wearied women exhibited the centrifugal force of each curve. The gaunt and angular female, with one hand upraised grasping the strap, stood as rigid as the Goddess of Liberty enlightening the world.

But as the rolling intermittently slackened and the squeaking increased, she suddenly released her hold and fumbled through her reticule; then she uttered a series of shrill screams, which startled the alert business men, the baby in the shawl, the gyrating women, and the locomotive, which hitherto had deemed itself proficient in that line. It recalled Arthur from the wedding breakfast, where he had been doing the elegant to an American duchess.

“Oh, I’m robbed, I’m robbed!” she cried. “And by that bold, bad man.” And she pointed full the doubly-articulated finger of accusation at the agitated Mr. Chumpney.

Immediately there was a confused din which drowned the squeaking of a stopping at a station. The alert business men, the guards, the station-men pressed forward. The debilitated women screamed surprisingly, and dropped their baskets. The beshawled baby doubled its fists, grew red in the face, like the sun, and yelled. The angular female still vociferated in tin-horn tones, “It’s him! Don’t let him escape! Catch him, kill him, the rascal, the thief! Oh, my precious earnings!”

“What have you lost, madam?” inquired one of the aforesaid representatives of commercial activity.

“My all! My pocket-book! Oh, don’t let him escape!” she incessantly piped, like a siren in a fog.

“Come out of this!” shouted the guard, laying a heavy hand on Arthur’s shoulder.

“Oh, the rascal,” “the blackguard.” “the thievish jude!” “Search him!” “Oh, he’s a slick article!” resounded upon all sides.

Despite heat and humidity the excited crowd surged through the aisles and out upon the platform, following the important guard, the trembling Arthur, the spare, swarthy, and sibilant female, and unanimously crying, “Search him! Search him!”

The guard plunged his grimy hand into the pocket of the widely-flapping coat and drew forth a purse. He held it above the pressing throng.

“That’s mine; my all!” the virgin accuser cried, reaching her simian finger an amazing distance toward it.

“Excuse me , madam,” interposed the guard. “That must go with this ’ere bloke to court, and you with him. There will be a perlice along presently. I seed one come out of the saloon beyant.” And sure enough, a blue-coated refugee from English tyranny now forced his vigorous shoulders through the crowd.

“Phat’s this? Thavin’, is it? I know yez well,” he ejaculated, grasping the collar of the widely-flapping coat. “Come along wid me!”

He took the purse in his other hand, which flourished the club of authority. He dragged his victim through the jeering throng, down the stairs, followed by the angular female, who stalked after them like one of the Fates released temporarily from the thread factory.

The squeaking increased and dwindled, the rolling began. Attended by heat and humidity, the alert business men, the wan woman, the baby and the shawl hastened away, as if dreading the vengeance of a score of irate trains, which had been thus delayed by crime and its punishment.

In the meantime, what had become of the arrogance which had so completely enveloped Arthur upon his entrance into the train? At the first word of accusation it had faded away like a tissue-paper suit in a tropical storm. The four years rolled back. Again he was a barefooted boy at the corners, afraid of his own shadow, blushing for very shame of his own existence. He could not speak; his teeth chattered from trembling; his face flamed as though these fork-like fingers had raked it; the horns of his immaculate collar drooped, starchless like his backbone. His broad, black sash seemed an emblem of mourning for his own demise. He shrank in terror from the crowd. Would they kill him? Welcome the Tombs, the Island, Sing Sing, electrocution, if he might only escape from those horrible, threatening faces.

But though he was thus passive, Policeman X, who had him in charge, did not choose that he should appear so. No! He had a record to make before the pull of his “coozin, th’ alderman,” could be effective; and here was his opportunity. So once and again he gave him a forward thrust, and then—ejaculating. “Ye wud, wud yez?”—a mighty drag back again, to the admiration of the passers-by, who afterward astonished dinner-tables by accounts of a terrific struggle which they had witnessed between a burly ruffian and one of our city’s defenders.

The grim and gaunt female stalked behind this tableau of justice for several blocks; then she slackened her pace, and finally she stopped short. But her desertion was unnoticed. She watched the pair as they struggled forward into the distance. A sardonic smile revealed the artificiality of her teeth as she did so.

“A good morning’s work!” she exclaimed. “I must go and report progress.”

She hailed a convenient cab. She gave instructions, in which possibly the word “Sorosis” might have been distinguished. She was rapidly driven away.

Arthur and his exultant captor, unsuspicious that this “ dea ex machina ” had thus eloped, reached the court-house. A roundsman stood upon the stoop.

“What hev ye there, Mike?” he familiarly asked the officer.

“A snake teef. Wan of the wust of ’em. I’ve been on to him this twelve-mont’.”

“He looks it,” was the consoling comment.

They went before the committing magistrate. He was a red-faced, squatty man, seated behind a yellow-grained desk, and enveloped as to the neck with a smudgy handkerchief. Upon the desk, beside his feet, were an ink-stand and a sticky book.

“What is it, officer?” he queried, unwinding the handkerchief.

“A case of larceny from the pusson, sor.”

“Kiss the book.”

“I wull, sor;” and he added a little more stickiness to it.

“Are you the complainant?”

“Oi am, sor.”

“Then you were present at the commission of this offense?”

“Divil a bit, yer ahnor, no more thin yerself. How cud I be? ’Twas on the illevated train, yer ahnor, above me bate. Shure, I’m no thrack-walker.”

“Silence, sir! Where is the person from whom the property was taken?”

“Oh, shure, a long, lane famale in black, for all the wurruld like the Witch of Endy, was following us but a moment sence. ’Twas she it was from whom he tuk it.”

“I must discharge this man. There is no evidence on which to hold him.”

“Phat, yer ahnor! Whin he sazed her by the two wrists and wrastled it from her like the thavin’ blaggard that he is, shure!”

“Did you see him do it?”

“Av coorse, yer ahnor, I was not there, but I’ll swear to it just the same.”

“Young man,” said the magistrate, turning to the stricken Arthur; “what have you got to say for yourself?”

“If you please, sir, if you please,” he faltered, with trembling lips, “I want to go home. Do let me. I know nothing about anything. I was sitting quietly in my seat on the train when a crazy woman yelled at me, and then they all rushed for me, and some one pulled a purse from my pocket, and then this officer threw me about the street as if I were a sponge on a string. Look at my new clothes, sir! And I’m sore all over.”

“’Tis a loy, sor. He was thryin’ to escape. I mak’ the charge agin’ him, sor.”

“Let me see that purse.”

Policeman X handed this corpus delicti to the magistrate. He opened it.

“Why, there’s nothing in it!” he exclaimed, in disappointed tones.

But hold! In the innermost compartment he found a roll of paper. He unfolded it, and read aloud as follows:

“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:—This young man is not a thief, he’s a hog. He did not take the purse, he took a seat and kept it. He was thus guilty of rudeness and lack of consideration toward frail womankind. I have punished him for it as I shall punish others. Hereafter I trust that this experience will teach him that to a true man every woman is a lady, and entitled to his chivalric service. Place aux dames!



“You are discharged, sir,” said the magistrate to Arthur. “But let this be a warning to you.” And his feet resumed their extra-judicial position upon the desk.

From that day Arthur Chumpney was a changed man. He was scrupulously polite to wan women with babies and shawls; he was obsequious to females of gaunt visage and long hands. He seldom rides on elevated trains. When he does, like a traveled trunk, he uses a strap. As he says to himself, standing is good enough for him every time.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, 15 November 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Like so many Mrs Surratts,” refers, heartlessly, to the alleged co-conspirator in President Lincoln’s assassination, who was executed by hanging. The cryptic word “Sorosis” is the name of the first all-female club in New York. It was founded in 1868 by Jane Cunningham Croly, or “Jennie June,” her journalistic pseudonym. She also founded the Women’s Press Club of New York. While she supported the rights of women, she held the position that financial independence, job competency, and economic equality were more important than gaining the right to vote.  She was herself married, and, unusually, continued to work after producing three children. She credited her husband with the advancement of her career, which progressed after he hired her at the New York World. “Place aux dames!” means “[Make] room for the ladies.”

Mrs Daffodil is aware that the transcription of a comic “stage-Irish” dialect was practically de rigueur when writing about an Irish police-officer named “Mike.” Nevertheless, like the rest of the dialect stories of the past, its vogue has long since passed and the fastidious reader of to-day may wince while reading it.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Selling Corsets Door to Door: 1890

He Arouses Intense Indignation Among the People in the Lower Part of the County.

Intense indignation has been caused of late among the people of Newport, Sayre’s Neck and neighboring localities, by the fact that a certain tall individual who has been selling corsets, &c., to the ladies and was supposed to be a woman has been found to be none other than a man in female attire.

He canvassed only the outskirts of the towns and in the course of his work gained access to the apartments of the ladies without difficulty, where with modesty skillfully assumed and with gentle touch skillfully acquired he adjusted to their forms the various articles of dress desired by them.

At the residence of Mr. John Fisher, near Newport, Mrs. Fisher had her suspicions awakened in regard to the supposed woman and hurriedly returned to her husband and paid for the article. After the canvasser had gone she told her husband of her belief. At another house a woman saw, as the “saleslady” stopped to fasten a shoe string, the bottom of his pantaloons. The various purchasers in that locality, having their attention called to it, are certain that the supposed woman was a man, and should the scoundrel make his appearance there again he will meet with a “warm reception.” Among other things a shower of scalding hot water is promised him by the indignant housewives.  

Bridgeton [NJ] Evening News 5 May 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Ladies in the cities could apply to their corsetière to be fitted for intimate articles of apparel. Persons in the rural districts were forced to take “pot-luck” at the local dry-goods store or, in the hope of a better fit, submit to the gentle ministrations of a door-to-door canvasser.  To judge by the many reports of disguised corset “salesladies,” this was a startlingly nationwide problem.

The ladies of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are indignant over a report that a peddler who recently visited that town, selling corsets and fitting them on the bodies of customers, etc., has since turned out to be a man dressed in feminine apparel. The young ladies out there don’t like to have a young man give them fits.

Daily National Republican [Washington DC] 19 July 1866: p. 2

For more tales of 19th century corsetry, please look under the “Corsetry” subject heading.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.





Kings Who Have Seen Ghosts: 1911

The Flying Dutchman, Charles Temple Dix.

The Flying Dutchman, Charles Temple Dix.


Living Kings Who Have Seen Phantom Apparitions.

(By EX-ATTACHE in the New Orleans “Times-Democrat.”)

King George is the only living ruler who can boast of having actually seen the spectral ship known as the “Flying Dutchman.” Indeed, there is no record of any anointed of the Lord having ever seen it in the past, although some of them were, like him, sailors by profession.

George, it may be recalled, as a midshipman made a tour of the world on board the warship Bacchante with his elder brother, the late Duke of Clarence, and the story of the voyage, as recorded in the diaries of the young princes, was published some time afterwards in a book entitled “The Cruise of the Bacchante.” In it is to be found the following paragraph taken from George’s diary:

“At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light, as of a phantom ship, all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as it came up on the port bow.”

This encounter of the Bacchante with the phantom ship took place in the southern latitudes of the Atlantic, and, although this uncanny apparition, so


is held to presage death and disaster to those who set eyes thereon, yet nothing untoward seems to have happened to mar the success of the remainder of the cruise of the warship bearing on board the two princes, one of whom is now Great Britain’s King.

That the Flying Dutchman should have been seen by George and his brother, as well as by all the officers and men of the watch of the Bacchante, and the apparition made a matter of official record in the ship’s log, is a remarkable circumstance. For it is, perhaps, not one in a thousand of the vessels that sail the southern extremity of Africa, from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean or vice versa, who can boast of having seen the craft, which, according to some, is commanded by the Dutchman, Van der Decken, and according to others by a German noble of the ancient and historic house of Van Falkenberg.

There are three other kings now living who share with King George the distinction of having witnessed spectral apparitions—namely King Frederick of Denmark, King Gustav of Sweden, and King Haakon of Norway. The experiences of the three monarchs in question occurred at Stockholm some eighteen or twenty years ago, when the then Crown Prince of Denmark, now King Frederick, was paying a visit with his wife and children to the late King Oscar. The present Queen of Denmark, at that time crown princess, is a Swedish princess and a niece of Oscar.

One day during the stay of the Danish royalties King Frederick, who is perhaps the most level-headed and matter-of-fact of now-reigning sovereigns, happened to enter a room for the purpose of getting some article which he had forgotten there earlier in the day, but backed out of it, pale and trembling, declaring it was full of armed men who had forced him to retire. He added that they were


On another occasion Prince Charles (now King Haakon) was writing letters in a saloon illuminated by lamps and a number of wax candles, when, suddenly raising his eyes from the paper, he caught sight of a man arrayed in eighteenth century costume, standing at the other side of the table and gazing fixedly at him. Prince Charles jumped up from his seat, with the intention of starting round the table and throwing himself upon the intruder, who, retreating to the wall, vanished from sight.

Nor was this all. On the last night of the stay of the Danish visitors, the then crown prince and crown princess of Denmark were seated at a table with King Oscar and his eldest son (now King Gustav) playing whist. The expression on the Swedish Crown Prince’s face suddenly attracted the attention of the other players. He had become as pale as death. His cards had dropped from his hands and his eyes protruded even more than usual as he gazed into vacancy.

King Oscar, thinking his son had become ill, seized him by the shoulders with the object of rousing him, whereupon Crown Prince Gustav exclaimed that he had caught sight of the blood-stained apparition of some unknown person standing at the other side of the table, and that it afterwards had


Of course all this may sound ridiculous and childish to ordinary people who do not believe in the supernatural. But even they would experience an uncanny feeling if forced by circumstances to reside in a house which had been the scene of a suicide or murder. Of all the royal palaces of Europe, there is none that has been the scene of so many tragedies as that of Stockholm. Its foundations, more than one thousand years old, may be said to be literally sodden with blood. To such an extent has it always had the reputation, even in former centuries, of being haunted, that it has been twice entirely razed to the foundations and reconstructed, with the object of dislodging the supposed ghosts.

Star, 5 August 1911: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One wonders if persons of royal blood haunt and are haunted more frequently than commoners. Mrs Daffodil has previously written about the apparitions of Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Jane Seymour, Queen Catherine Howard, Mary, Queen of Scots, wailing of death from the Tower of London, Queen Draga’s ghost, and a haunted Danish royal castle, which gives a fuller account of King Frederick’s vision.  The files of the Society for Psychical Research are bulging with tales of many other royal apparitions including the White Lady of the Hohenzollerns, who terrified the superstitious Kaiser, and the many haunted royal palaces in Britain and Scotland. The stories from Glamis Castle alone (the home of the late Queen Mother) would fill a substantial volume. Mrs Daffodil has heard modern-day “ghost-hunters” say that their talent for “seeing ghosts” runs in their family. Perhaps Queen Victoria, the “Grandmother of Europe,” passed along something more than the haemophiliac gene to her progeny.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.