The Lucky Locket: 1875

Empress Josephine, Daniel Saint, Louvre

Empress Josephine, Daniel Saint, Louvre

A Lucky Mistake.

Among the strange passengers who drifted over to New York from Havre, a little while ago, was a young French girl, named Louise Dumont. Her destination was Newark, Delaware, where she had a distant female relative living, in indigent circumstances, and, as she believed, the only surviving kin she had in the world.

By some mistake, owing to her inability to understand the English language, she took a train on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and got off at Newark, New Jersey. When she was informed of her error, she bought a ticket to return to New York on the next train; but, on account of a very remarkable occurrence, she was induced to change her mind.

As the girl sat in the station, downcast in spirits, alone in a strange land and almost penniless, visions of her home in “La Belle France” crossed her mind. She thought of her mother who had recently died, of her only brother who fell with his father at Saarbruck ; and as she mused on the past joys and present loneliness, she unconsciously toyed with a large gold locket that was suspended by a strong silver chain from her neck, while tears trickled down her checks. She was a brunette of the loveliest type, and her jet black, wavy hair was arranged with such exquisite taste that it made the broad, high forehead, expansive brown eyes, and graceful, full throat, appear to the best advantage.

While Louise was abstractedly playing with her locket, there came into the station a tall and handsome gentleman, about sixty years of age. He had something of a military bearing, and his countenance indicated intelligence and refinement. The girl’s appearance immediately attracted his attention, and as he, too, was waiting for a train, he occupied the time in watching her. As he walked leisurely to and fro in the ladies’ room, he came near to where the girl was sitting, just as she opened the locket and revealed a well-known face, that was the exact counterpart of a picture that he had at home in his library. It represented the Empress Josephine, the deceased wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The gentleman immediately asked the girl, in good French, where she obtained the picture. She replied, with much simplicity, “My mother gave it to me.”

Requesting the favor of examining the locket, he took it in hand, and with the greatest astonishment, read the following inscription: “Josephine, to Hortense de Miratel, 1812.”

“My mother was a Miratel.” said he, scanning the beautiful French girl’s features closely; “and,” he added, as a light seemed to flash in upon his confused idea. “she was a sister to Hortense de Miratel, who, for some act of faithfulness to the unhappy Josephine, received this locket and portrait as a reward. My good girl, who are you, anyhow?”

The child then related her story—how her father and brother had been killed in battle, and her mother had recently died: that she had committed her to the care of the only relative that she believed to be living, at Newark, Delaware.

The gentleman then being satisfied that the girl was his own niece, disclosed his own name, Victor Provost. He had escaped from prison when a young man, having been incarcerated by the Bourbons about the time of the sojourn of Louis Napoleon in America. He fled to this country, and settled at Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, where he now lives in affluence, being interested in large coal and iron tracts in that locality. It is hardly necessary to state that the niece needed but little persuasion to accompany her uncle home. The romance of her story is increased by the fact that Mr. Provost has a son, who is a very promising young man and that he immediately became fascinated with his newly-found cousin. The old gentleman is in ecstasy at the turn things have taken, and has resolved that his son shall marry the girl as soon as possible. Of course young Provost has accepted this proposition with much joy, and orders for a magnificent bridal trousseau are now being filled by various parties in New York, for the young girl who, but a little more than a week ago, was a penniless steerage passenger in an emigrant ship.

Milan [TN] Exchange 7 January 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really. Mrs Daffodil feels like taking pen in hand and taking to task the editor of the exchange who published such rubbish. Lucky mistake, indeed! Does the editor not have fondly-loved daughters, nieces, or wards? Would he wish them to allow strange men to approach them at rail-way stations and examine their lockets? Would he desire them to be persuaded to accompany to his home a gentleman utterly unknown to them? Mrs Daffodil is naturally suspicious of the bona fides of strangers, no matter how military their bearing or refined their countenances, who approach pretty young women with plausible tales and good French. Consider the latter point carefully: why would any respectable man have a legitimate need to know French?

Mrs Daffodil sincerely hopes that the next installment of this story was not a young woman fleeing in horror from what she has discovered to be a sham wedding performed by a defrocked clergyman at the behest of a White Slaver. The trousseau hired, the “son” a brutal and cynical “client,” and the riches the fruit of  shameful industry. Who can predict the ruin when young people are led astray by this sort of degraded modern fairy tale? Mrs Daffodil will be cancelling her subscription.

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.

 

Trifles Which Try the Temper: 1892

bees-attack-1859

LITTLE WAYS.

The incurably tidy person in a home is almost as tiresome us the inveterately untidy. The one puts every possession you have into some perfectly proper place, but one which it would never have occurred to you to choose for it; the other never can spend ten minutes in any room without bestrewing it with unnecessary odds and ends— both are unreasonably trying to the temper. The friend who talks every trivial subject through and through, plagues us just quite as heartily as the person from whom no more than a bald comment on the most notable occurrence can be extracted.

Worse than either is she who repeats every remark we make, by way of answer, “The Browns were quite well, were they?” “Mrs Jones’ cold was worse, was it?” “You went to the Smiths’, did you?” till your harmless speech is transformed in your mind to a savage one.

Who does not know the worry of an acquaintance who finishes every sentence before you are halfway through it? “I had a delightful afternoon yesterday—” you begin. “—At the twopenny concert? Oh, yes, it was lovely,” your visitor says, when you did not even know there was such a thing as a twopenny concert! Or else, “I think this weather is—” “Atrocious— yes, it really is,” says your friend. You were going to say “delightfully bracing” but that is nothing.

The people whose tastes are never the same for six months together are tiresome, too. An elderly visitor, perhaps, to whom one wishes to make the house agreeable, comes to stay, and mentions that he always sleeps with his head at the bottom of the bed and his feet where the pillows usually are, and things are so arranged for him. Before his next visit one gives lessons to the housemaid, and the room is prepared amidst the gigglings of the maids in this eccentric fashion. He comes, and in five minutes rings the bell, and with upraised eye-glass inquires why his couch is thus topsy-turvied?  He has changed, and forgotten the fad of yore, but it is a “little way” that is provoking to his hostess. A lady who has travelled a great deal takes lemon in her milkless and sugarless tea. We bear it in mind, and when she comes a year later arrange and present cut lemons with pardonable pride. Alas! “Milk, if you please, and plenty of sugar,” says the dame in an injured tone before a roomful of people. Her whilom “little way” has faded from her mind.

The people who find some fault with everything you do, whose praise always has the sting of a “but” at the end which transmutes the whole into a reproof, the people who ask your advice, request addresses, patterns, information, lists of books, and never take any scrap of all for use, are provoking. The acquaintances who talk of what has befallen Augustus, Wilhelmina, Lady Flora, Basil, Cyprus, Amelia, or Lord Eustace, as if you knew all about them, when you have no faintest idea of their personality, plague you much. The girl who never seems to enjoy any amusement you provide for her, and who never observes such small courtesies as writing to acknowledge a gift, or recording her safe return after a visit, the one who covers sheets of paper with accounts of the merest trifles, the person who is effusively friendly at one time and apparently forgets your name at another: all these things provoke one to disproportionate wrath.

Bruce Herald, 24 June 1892: p 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So many things these days provoke one to disproportionate wrath, although “disproportionate” is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Mrs Daffodil recently spoke to a businesswoman who, twice in the space of a single day, was forced to spend an hour negotiating a network of electronically-voiced operators, only to find, in the end, that the department she required was closed.  Why, she wonders, was it not possible for the mechanical gate-keeper to explain that important detail at the very beginning of the conversation? She has penned a strong letter to the Times and to the companies involved, but, of course, such trifles matter only to those who are obliged to waste their valuable time dealing with the incompetent.

In the 10th century, a Japanese court lady named Sei Shonagon kept a delightfully waspish diary, including a list of “Hateful things.”  A few excerpts show that there is nothing new under the sun:

One is in a hurry to leave, but one’s visitor keeps chattering away. If it is someone of no importance, one can get rid of him by saying, “You must tell me all about it next time”; but, should it be the sort of visitor whose presence commands one’s best behavior, the situation is hateful indeed.

A man who has nothing in particular to recommend him discusses all sorts of subjects at random as though he knew everything.

One is in the middle of a story when someone butts in and tries to show that he is the only clever person in the room. Such a person is hateful, and so, indeed, is anyone, child or adult, who tries to push himself forward.

One is telling a story about old times when someone breaks in with a little detail that he happens to know, implying that one’s own version is inaccurate — disgusting behavior!

One is just about to be told some interesting piece of news when a baby starts crying.

Mrs Daffodil would be fascinated to hear what “little ways” provoke her readers to wrath. Mrs Daffodil believes that the proper term in the States is “pet peeve,” which seems both utterly inadequate and yet apropros for the ordeal of being “pecked to death by ducks.”

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.

 

A Baby in Mourning: 1889

Baby with mourning bows. http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+47559

Baby with mourning bows and a black petticoat http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+47559

A BABY IN MOURNING

TRAPPINGS OF WOE WHICH WERE DECIDEDLY OVERDONE

The wearing of black fabrics, especially of that particularly somber black fabric known as crape, as emblematic of mourning has long been a much-mooted question. Even those who have taken a decided stand against such as would abolish the custom, on the ground that in too many cases it savored of mawkish sentiment, have agreed that its excessive use is revolting. Perhaps a more aggravated case of revolting excess in this direction was never witnessed than that which was necessarily endured by a carful of passengers on a Sixth-avenue L train yesterday.

A woman, whose face was lit up with more than ordinary intelligence, got on the car at Fifty-ninth-street with two children, a girl about four years old and a babe in arms. Under different circumstances the hearts of those who saw this mother must have gone out in kindly sympathy, for she was young and a widow, as was evidenced by the fact that her dress was of the deepest black and her headgear a long crape veil, reaching far below her waist. The three should have formed a most attractive group, for the children were unusually bright and pretty, but it is doubtful if the passengers, judging from the expressions on their faces, ever looked upon a picture that filled them with greater disgust. The mother’s “weeds” should and would have commanded respect, in spite of their superabundance, had it not been for the fact that she advertised her bereavement by arraying her little ones in costumes which, because of the contrast, were even more somber than her own.

The little girl, whose hair was so golden that it seemed as though the sun was streaming through it, had not a touch of color about her, except that which came from her hair and bright blue eyes. Her dress was of black cashmere, with a heavy drapery of crape, and she wore a black hat, also trimmed with crape. Even the little pin that fastened her somber dress at the throat was of jet, and she carried a black-bordered handkerchief. The climax was reached, however, in the clothing of the babe in arms, a swaddling robe of unrelieved black crape, the little head covered with a baby’s cap of the same material. The effect was positively ghastly, and there was a sign of relief when the widow and her two little ones left the car.

New York [NY] Times 5 August 1889: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: How very unkind of the passengers to be “disgusted” by a bereaved lady with two very small children!  To be fair, there was much controversy over whether it was healthy to put children into full mourning. Crape was considered depressing to health and spirits in adults and it was feared that the effects would be magnified in vulnerable, impressionable children and infants. Despite this, it is possible that the widow was pressured by an officious mother-in-law or well-meaning friends to clothe her little ones in black as a mark of respect for their departed father. There was much anxiety among the bereaved about “correct” mourning, Common sense was sometimes sacrificed on the altar of propriety.

A child's mourning dress, c. 1882. It shows signs of being hastily made. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/50734/

A child’s mourning dress, c. 1882. It shows signs of being hastily made. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/

No Crape for Children

It is fortunately no longer the custom, as a general thing, to put little children into black, and even when it is done crape is no longer employed, even as trimming, and black cloth coats and hats and black ribbon sashes are the greatest concessions that are made. The St Paul [MO] Daily Globe 13 January 1895: p. 13

A child's black velvet dress. This was a mourning dress for a little boy, Travers Buxton, who wore it on the death of his mother in 1871. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/658369

A child’s black velvet dress. This was a mourning dress for a little boy, Travers Buxton, who wore it on the death of his mother in 1871. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/658369

Official Court Mourning: The children all wear black sashes on their white dresses; black gloves, black veils, and black ribbons on their straw or Leghorn hats. La Belle assemblée: or, Bell’s court and fashionable magazine, 1824

A child's half-mourning dress and bolero c. 1850-60 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1362562

A child’s mourning or half-mourning dress and bolero c. 1850-60 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1362562

Young persons, or those who are in mourning for young persons, frequently wear a good deal of white, as for instance, white ribbons, handkerchiefs, and white gloves sewed with black: very young children, only wear white frocks and black ribbons. The Workwoman’s Guide, by A Lady, 1838

Children are, as a rule, dressed in white when they are placed in mourning, as so many people feel that black is out of harmony with their tender years and bright feelings, which can happily be only temporarily damped. Bruce Herald 7 April 1899: p. 6

And then the girl remembered that she had seen a baby downstairs decked out in crape and black ribbons, and she knew that this must be Jacky’s baby sister. How could this mother be so very foolish?  Star 26 January 1901: p. 1

For more details on Victorian mourning see The Victorian Book of the Dead and posts on this blog labeled with the topic “mourning”.

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 Slaves of the Carriage: 1904

THE SLAVES OF THE CARRIAGE.

Those who are “to the manner born,” i.e., who have ridden in a carriage since they were in their nurse’s arms, may consider a carriage to be as natural a portion of their being, as a centaur might esteem his equine extremities. They ride in a carriage just as little children born in boats paddle on the water. But commend me to those who only attain such a luxury after their teens are over, as forming a most curious species of human zoology, and one which we think has never been viewed under the particular phase we allude to.

We continually read and hear of new made fortunes, the professors of which delight in flaunting in a carriage and four, and splashing their humbler neighbours, and so forth—but what we more especially point to, is that gradual process of absorption by which, instead of the owner governing the carriage, he or she invariably becomes its very humble servant. Talk of the slave of Aladdin’s lamp! What were his quickly performed tasks compared to the daily round of drudgery performed by the slave of the carriage?

Like many an exacting taskmaster, the carriage promises fair at first, but so soon as it has put its grappling-hook upon you, see if it does not ride you to death, should you submit to its exactions.

Let us illustrate our assertion by an example. We all know that there is, as Shakespeare has told us, a ” tide in the affairs of man”—and when a man of business has entered into a prosperous vein, there often happens to be an under current of dissatisfaction in his wife’s mind at that particular juncture, which leads her to brood continually over the unpleasantness of being condemned to cabs, and perhaps omnibuses, while Mrs. Gadabout, her near neighbour, is riding in her brougham. And now that dear Charles is getting on so nicely, why should she not have some sort of vehicle, as well as Mrs. G.?

Accordingly she opens her batteries. Being well aware that Mr. Atkins is rather a practical man, owing to his business habits, she does. not waste any shot by dilating on the wish of eclipsing her neighbours in the Square, and cutting a dash, or anything of that sort—but launches the sort of missiles she thinks best calculated to take effect upon his particular idiosyncrasy. She complains of the hecatombs of kid boots that are sacrificed by persons going out on foot. It is much cheaper in fact to ride.

“Then get into an omnibus,” was Charles’ natural suggestion—men being proverbial for not seeing further than their nose.

“Yes, I daresay!” sneers the lady, adding in a tone of irritation: “I had a silk dress completely spoilt the last time I tried one of those elegant vehicles, by a man in dirty boots passing by me to get to his place. Now, seriously, Charles, can you, who are so good an accountant, maintain that it is economical to sacrifice a dress worth five guineas, to save a pair of boots worth fifteen shillings, to say nothing of my losing a sovereign between the ill-joined boards?

“To be sure not, my dear,” said Mr. Atkins, who was deep in his newspaper, after a late dinner.

There he would have let the matter drop; but his better-half had no notion of any such thing, and observed in an off-hand tone: “It is easy to say ‘to be sure not,’ but what can one do, when one has no carriage?”

“Take a cab,” came out oracularly, after a certain delay, from the depths of the double sheet.

“Yes—a cab with a broken window, so as to catch a cold that will entail a doctor’s bill heavy enough to have lasted me for six month’s pin-money! Besides, they say cabs carry patients to the hospital; now, would you have me risk dying of the typhus fever, Mr. Atkins?”

“No! why should I?” said Charles, staring in astonishment, for he had not closely followed the thread of her argument, adding with the sincere wish of atoning for his want of attention: “Here’s an advertisement about a disinfecting fluid, that is to be sold at the oil shops—perhaps that would meet the emergency?”

“Pshaw!” said his wife, falling back upon her crochet, as she perceived it was no use pushing matters any further that day.

But she has not given up her point. By dint of seeking, she finds a case that bears upon the grievance, viz., an inquest on a person who died of the small-pox, caught from the cushions of a cab. She shows it to her husband—exultingly, we were going to say—observing, “Cabs are dangerous conveyances!”

“And walking is more healthy,” he chimed in.

“But not for persons of weak constitutions, like myself.”

“My dear, you can take a fly whenever you please. Flys never convey hospital patients.”

“The driver’s gloves always look soiled,” objected the lady; “besides, you can never deceive anybody into the belief it is your own brougham.”

“I didn’t say you could,” retorted Charles, looking up from his paper; “but you were dilating on the danger of cabs, and I merely suggested how to avoid them.”

Mrs. Atkins quickly perceived she had nearly let the cat out of the bag, and altered her tactics by turning to some other subject. But of course she resumed her favourite topic at no distant period. It was like those cut-and-come-again grievances that Members of Parliament serve up session after session, when the weather is too sultry and the House too lazy to attend to real business. Mrs. Atkins was determined to get the carriage bill to pass, if steady perseverance could effect it. Another time she told her husband that she had followed his advice and taken a fly to pay a round of visits. Then she proceeded to work upon this tema, like composers of variations; only with this difference, that while they seek to make the subject attractive, she endeavoured to show up all its worst features. She hated above everything to hold any tenure at so much an hour. She declared it spoilt all her pleasure to be reckoning up whether she should encroach upon another hour or not. She felt so mean while making such calculations! Those who kept their own carriages know none of these annoyances!

“No—but their coachman sell their corn and starve their horses,” observed Mr. Atkins.

“Still, it is very delightful to drive about as long as you like, and not to have to think about hours and half hours,” sighed the lady; “and I daresay it is cheaper in the end, for I missed I don’t know how many small parcels I put into the coach pocket, and one of them contained several yards of Chantilly lace.”

“You must inform the master of the livery stables,” said the husband, “and if he does not offer some compensation, I shall speak to my solicitor.”

“Oh,” cried the lady incautiously, “but I’m sure it is not the coachman, nor the livery stable people, for I missed the parcels in the middle of the day. It must have been some thief who took it out of the fly, while I was in a shop, and the coachman’s attention engaged elsewhere.”

“If so,” said Mr. Atkin’s, laughing, “you only prove that a private carriage would offer no better guarantee against pickpockets. Mrs. Atkins bit her lip at being again caught at fault; still she was not to be daunted.

The daily drop of water wears away the stone in the long run, as the wisdom of nations has never ceased repeating, since the world was peopled—and by dint of instilling into her dear Charles’s ear (for only half his attention was given to what she said, the other half being devoted to his newspaper) that a carriage was the first necessity of life, he began at length to think there must be some truth in such oft repeated an assertion. Besides, owing to the dreamy semi-attention with which he listened, there was this advantage gained, that her frequently illogical arguments were lost sight of, while the more plausible ones floated to the surface of his memory. Thus, one favourite argument was that, if she had a carriage, she would no longer require an expensive journey out of town every season, as she could take the most delightful drives in the environs of London, which would answer the purpose quite as well—nay, better still, as she would not have to leave her “dear hubby,” or to subject him to the annoyance of continually coming to and fro by the railway, supposing she chose a watering-place within a reasonable distance.

The result of her strenuous efforts were at last made apparent by the merchant’s summing up the debates in these delightful words: “Well, Fan, you shall have your carriage.”

Carriages in a Park, Alexander Ritter von Bensa, http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/207868

(c) National Trust, Wimpole Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Accordingly a most elegant carriage was purchased. It had been built for a nobleman’s chere amie, as the coach-builder told Mr. Atkins confidentially, but had been returned upon his hands, owing either to some caprice or some quarrel. The lining of pale amber brocade was of the most costly description. The vehicle having been used only twice at most, as the maker declared, was, he maintained, quite as good as new, though he let it go—at “so very low a figure”—which “low figure” was of course a mere figure of speech.

In order to launch the new purchase with some degree of éclat, Mr. Atkins determined to take a holiday, and go to the races. He joined a set of friends, who had their hired vehicles, and as he promised luncheon for them all, he was of course the great man of the party. A number of glasses of champagne were emptied to the health—we were going to say, of the new carriage—-we mean to its owners, and long might they enjoy it, and so forth! Atkins felt considerably elated, and almost tearfully expressed his obligation to his dear wife for showing him the right road to happiness, which the bystanders mistook for a demonstration of conjugal affection, while he alluded to her teazing him into keeping a carriage. The only little drawback that ruffled him was, that a number of fashionable popinjays stared impertinently at his wife, as they passed by. They looked and smiled and nodded in a way he did not like, and which was not by any means respectful to—the carriage! Mrs. Atkins simpered and blushed, and began to entertain the pleasant conviction that she was looking uncommonly well that morning. Altogether the day passed pleasantly, and his friends thought Atkins had done things handsomely, and the copious libations of champagne extinguished whatever sparks of jealousy his new carriage would otherwise have kindled in their bosoms.

Next morning at breakfast, the man servant inquired with solemn importance, for what hour his mistress wished the carriage to be ordered. James looked three inches taller than the day before. Wholly unprepared for the question, Mrs. Atkins hesitated, coloured a trifle, and said at random “one o’clock.” James fidgetted about the room, and wiped the sideboard, and then ventured to ask whether his “missus” would lunch at twelve?  She had forgotten luncheon, but quickly answered: “Say two o’clock for the carriage.”

The carriage! Those two words seemed like so much sugar upon her lips!

Presently, however, James came back rather ruefully, with a message From the coachman, stating that the carriage was so dirty owing to the dusty roads, and to some “gents as were larking” having frolicsomely pelted it with eggs, and other remnants of a feast, on their return home, that he was afraid it could not be ready for two o’clock. Moreover, one of the panels had been ” scratched most awful,” James added, and it was probable the coach-painter would have to be put in requisition.

The new owner of the carriage looked rather annoyed. Instead of going off to his counting-house, to make up for the time lost during yesterday’s holiday, he had to go to the stables, where he relieved himself by scolding the coachman, who was not in fault. The coachman let him work off his passion like so much steam, and then said quietly, that the carriage must go to the coachmaker’s, to which his master assented, and then hurried away to the city, wishing the carriage, the races, and the frolicsome individuals who had made free with his property, all severally at Jericho.

In a few days the new plaything was restored to its owners, and Mrs. Atkins drove out for a round of visits to exhibit her new acquisition to her friends and their servants. The next day she paid more distant visits, and the day after, went shopping—and all this was very pleasant. On the morrow of the third day, however, in reply to James’s daily query, she said she did not require the carriage.

“Why not take a turn in the park?said her husband; “such spirited horses as ours require frequent exercise.”

So because they were spirited, his wife must take exercise, in order to exercise them. But the words “our horses” had still all the charm of novelty, and Fanny laughingly agreed that she would go.

In the park she was again stared at, just like at the races, by the male equestrians and pedestrians too—while the female equestrians tossed their heads somewhat disdainfully as they passed her, though evidently peeping at her stealthily, when they thought themselves unobserved. Mrs. Atkins fancied her carriage excited envy, and her fair face a still larger share of admiration. This conduct was repeated every time she drove through Rotten Row, till she began to think the gentlemen rather obtrusive in their admiration, and the ladies most impertinently haughty. For though they might be of high birth, still “Mr. Atkins paid his way, and that was more than many of their husbands did.”

At last she complained to Charles, and though he declared it was all her fancy, he was at last persuaded to come home an hour earlier, and take a drive through the park with her. But however inclined to be credulous, the merchant could not help seeing that neither his wife nor his equipage met with the respect he considered they were entitled to. Presently he was hailed by a gentleman of his acquaintance who moved in a more fashionable sphere than himself, and seeing him rein in his horse as if desirous of saying a word to him, Mr. Atkins desired the coachman to stop. The gentleman asked a business question of the husband, as if to account for detaining the wife, and then, without waiting for the reply, whispered: “Get that lining changed, Atkins; it is not fit for your wife.”

“Not fit? Why, she thinks it charming;” and he was going to appeal to Mrs. Atkins to confirm what he said, when his adviser added: “Not fit she should ride in the carriage in which Anonyma paraded about only two months ago.”

And the gentleman bowed and rode on.

There was the explanation of the “nods and becks and wreathed smiles” of the men, and the contemptuous looks of the women! Atkins wiped the perspiration from his brow, and bid his coachman drive home in double quick time.

“Already?” said his wife.

“We must have this confounded lining altered,” said Atkins, who forthwith expounded the tremendous error they had fallen into.

Fanny was rather mortified to think it was not her good looks that had caused all the commotion on the race-course and in the park, but simply the suspicion that she was that which she was not. Mr. Atkins rated the coach maker soundly, when the latter reminded him he had stated the case as it was, on selling the carriage, adding, by way of comment, that those sort of articles were rather sought after than not.

The carriage was now re-lined, and as Fanny was a blonde, she was consoled for the loss of the amber brocade by the pale blue lining substituted for it. People ceased gazing and whispering, and she could drive all over London without exciting any notice.

Again she resumed the horse-in-a-mill existence of heretofore, and worked the carriage most diligently. And now the slavery began in good earnest. When you have a carriage, you must ride in it, unless you wish your coachman to contract idle habits, to say nothing of the horses. Only not having increased her acquaintance in proportion to this demand for perpetual motion, Mrs. Atkins need have paid three visits to one from each of those friends who had no carriages themselves. This would have been against all etiquette, and therefore could not be done. Neither can one be continually shopping short of possessing the wealth of a Rothschild; so that, taking a drive, formed, after all, the staple occupation of her existence. It was harassing and wearisome, nay, often provoking, to leave her elegant drawing-room—though, on the other hand, it was a pleasant reflection that the invariable answer to all visitors who called during her absence, would be, Missus has gone out in the carriage;”—for servants, being generally as proud of the carriage as their mistress, are sure to volunteer this piece of intelligence, even if not instructed to do so.

Another remark I have made relative to the slaves of the carriage, is, that however weary of their Sisyphus-like round of drudgery, it never occurs to them to cast off the burden for a few hours by lending their vehicle to a friend who has none of his or her own. If ever they chance to lend it, be sure it is to those who have three or four carriages and plenty of horses at their disposal. Neither do your thorough-faced slaves of the carriage make use of it themselves to go to theatres or parties, when the comfort of one’s own carriage is most valuable, from the apprehension of some fancied injuries that may be sustained either by the horses or the vehicle. Of course, when it snows or thaws, their horses must not be exposed to such weather. Nota bene, that the coachman does not come in for the slightest share of the solicitude extended to both horses and carriage. In short, the pretty plaything is more for show than for use; and it furnishes a vast deal of information too; the slaves of the carriage never allowing a quarter of an hour, at a moderate computation, to pass by without some allusion to “the carriage.” The lady talks of the vehicle, and the gentleman of the horses. If the lady happens to be a widow, she then talks of both.

By the time the season was over, Mrs. Atkins was thoroughly tired of her slavery, and began reminding Charles it was time to go somewhere. But her husband in turn reminded her how she had expatiated on the economy the carriage would effect in their household, by precluding the necessity of going into the country, as she could drive to all the prettiest spots round London—and seeing that times were hard, and the carriage had cost a good deal, he considered she had better carry out the plan she had herself proposed.

Thus fairly caught in her own trap, Fanny had not a word of opposition to offer, though she wished she had been far enough before she had said anything so silly, as she now considered it. Not caring to go to the park when “all London” was out of town, she proceeded to try the effects of her once favourite scheme, but not with the success she had formerly anticipated. As between the hours of luncheon and dinner, she seldom went beyond ten miles out, it came to pass that within a fortnight, she had been all the rounds forming the different outlets of London—and then there was nothing for it but to begin afresh, and go over the same ground again. How she longed for a railway by way of change! She looked fagged and grew fretful, and the sight of the carriage became almost hateful to her. Still she toiled on, as slaves of the carriage will. At last she could stand it no longer, and suddenly found out that her health required more walking exercise, when having gained over the doctor as an ally, she proposed a new bargain to her husband, viz., to lay down the carriage and resume their annual trip to some watering place.

The merchant, who had not had an opportunity of getting tired of the family plaything, having only once enjoyed the convenience of being fetched from his counting-house in the city by his better half (for, of course, “those spirited horses were not to be trusted in the city”), was rather surprised at hearing her take up the very converse of the arguments she had used but so short a time before; nevertheless, he cheerfully consented, on the express condition that she would not repent the moment she was back in town. Accordingly, the horses were sold, the coachman dismissed, and the carriage put up at the livery stables, to be used only when wanted, with job-horses. Three days afterwards Mrs. Atkins was inhaling the sea breeze on the beach of a pleasant watering place, and derived a satisfaction from walking which she had never before experienced. Like all slaves of the carriage, she had acquired an inveterate habit of talking about her favourite vehicle—nor could this be completely eradicated. It was, however, modified to this formula: “When we kept our carriage “—so, and so.

I always thought there was great sense in the abdication of that which had become a most harassing luxury—like a wise king who doffs his crown when it weighs too heavily on his head—but for one monarch, and for one slave of the carriage, who break through their trammels, how many thousands are there who whirl round and round in the same wearisome circle as the squirrel in his cage, and never cease till death stops the way!

The Rose, the Shamrock and the Thistle, A Magazine. Vol.1, June 1904

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What an intriguing thought: that possessions somehow became tainted with the owner’s soiled glamour! If that were the case, pawnshops and discreet jewellers would be soon be out of business…  Mrs Daffodil cannot help but wonder at how that gentleman of Mr Atkins’s acquaintance garnered his information. But the carriage-maker was correct about the fascination Anonyma’s class held for the public. This excerpt comes from a longer piece about the French demi-mondaine:

The Comte Un Tel, if he do not afficher himself too openly with Liane de Lancey [undoubtedly Liane de Poucy], is none the less proud of his position of protector; replies to those smiles with a smile, replies to those winks with a wink, and, in one well-known case, actually considered it a fine thing to have been ruined by a demi-mondaine who was then most á la mode.

How respectiful is our bow when first we are presented to Mdlle. Liane de Lancey! We say—Madame. We would enjoy the honour of handing her into her carriage. True, if we be in other society, we bow discreetly, even look away; but we are not annoyed at being accused of knowing “cette femme”.

The Saturday Review 31 October 1903: p. 542

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.

“Kiss My Wife or Fight Me”: 1862

Kiss My Wife or Fight Me.

There are few married men who are not averse to seeing their wives kissed, but an exchange relates the particulars of a case in which a newly wedded Benedict felt himself insulted because his wife wasn’t kissed. The bridegroom in question was a stalwart young rustic, who was known as a formidable operator in a free fight. His bride was a beautiful and blooming young girl, only sixteen years of age, and the twain were at a party, where a number of young folks were enjoying themselves in the good old fashioned pawn-playing style. Every girl in the room was called out and kissed, except B., the beautiful young bride aforesaid, and although there was not a youngster present who was not dying to taste her lips, they were restrained by the presence of her herculean husband who stood regarding the party with a sullen look of dissatisfaction. They mistook the cause, however, for suddenly he expressed himself.

Rolling up his sleeves he stepped into the middle of the room, and in a tone that secured marked attention, said: “Gentlemen, I have been noticing how things have been working for some time, and I ain’t half satisfied. I don’t want to raise a fuss, but—“

“What’s the matter, John?” inquired half a dozen voices. “What do you mean? Have I done anything to hurt your feelings?”

“Yes, you have; all of you have hurt my feelings, and I’ve just got this to say about it. Here’s every girl in the room has been kissed near a dozen times a piece, and there’s my wife, who I consider as likely as any of ‘em has not had a single one to-night; and I just tell you now, if she don’t get as many kisses the balance of the night as any gal in the room, the man that slights her has got me to fight—that’s all. Now go ahead with your play!”

If Mrs. B. was slighted during the balance of the evening, we did not know it. As for ourselves we know that John had no fault to find with us individually, for any neglect on our part.

Newark [NJ] Daily Advertiser 28 October 1862: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Kissing games, with their delightful transgression of normal social restraint, were, as one might expect, exceedingly popular. In this case, a particularly mirthful frisson was added to the programme:

A new seaside sensation is the “kissing game,” in which a blindfolded gentleman is to be kissed by a lady, whose name he is to guess. The kissing, however, is done by a beardless gentleman, and when various ladies are named by the blinded victim as the authors of his felicity, the merriment naturally grows intense.

Mirror and Farmer [Manchester NH] 3 October 1874: p. 6

Things, of course, might go wrong with such a fraught frolic:  broken marriages, fatal transmission of smallpox and diphtheria, hat-pin stabbings, and clerical fisticuffs when objections were made to a kissing game at a church social: all are found in the historical record.  Mrs Daffodil was also struck by the extraordinary number of deaths associated with the entertainment and it is refreshing to find that Mr B. was not about to add to their number.

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.

 

A Toy Cannon at Antietam: 1862

Miniature Cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis. http://moconfederacy.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/43279EF6-D46F-42B1-981D-055826964540

Miniature workable cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis. http://moconfederacy.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/43279EF6-D46F-42B1-981D-055826964540

A WAR RELIC

How a Boy Fought and Lost His Life at Antietam

[Philadelphia Times]

General Hector Tyndale Post No. 160, of this city, has been presented with a small brass cannon, which is apparently a toy, but it has a historical interest.

It was used at the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, with deadly effect. It was drawn from Sharpsburg while the battle was in progress by a boy sixteen years of age, who lived in the vicinity, and who, like old John Burns at Gettysburg a year later, went into the conflict on his own responsibility. He took a position on an elevation and with his little cannon faced the enemy and poured load after load of deadly missiles from the muzzle of his miniature cannon into the ranks of the Confederates. The young hero fought for hours in the ranks of the Union army. Among the hundred thousand men with whom he fought there was not one with whom he had any personal acquaintance.

While thus engaged he was shot, it is believed, by a rebel sharp-shooter. When found he was lying upon his face, with his body across the little gun. After his death the cannon was kept until recently, when it was sold for old brass and brought to this city with other old metals. A comrade of the Tyndale Post, who is an extensive metal broker, learned the history of the little piece of artillery, then dirty and corroded, and presented it to the society. It has been cleaned and brightened up and looks like new. It is about three feet in length and has a bore of less than two inches.

Xenia [OH] Daily Gazette 3 August 1886: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Battle of Antietam of 17 September 1862, was the bloodiest single day in the American Civil War. Over 500 cannons were deployed with terrible effect. Participants dubbed it “Artillery Hell”  for the fire that rained down from the artillery batteries on the heights. One can have no conception of the infernal noise of the battlefield.

Toy cannons were a popular amusement of the young.  While many were designed to fire wooden projectiles, a surprising number were designed to be actually fired, to deadly, sometimes fatal effect. For example, in 1901, 244 persons across the United States were injured by toy cannons over the Fourth of July holiday.

Mrs Daffodil has, alas, not been able to corroborate this touching story of youthful soldiery, nor locate the original cannon.

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 Haunted Vicarage: 1840s

An oak coffin-shaped box with mahogany lid. Lid with diagonal split, and hinged around pin. Metal studs nailed around edges of coffin and lid.

An oak coffin-shaped box with mahogany lid. Lid with diagonal split, and hinged around pin. Metal studs nailed around edges of coffin and lid.

The Haunted Vicarage

We had been engaged eight years, Martin and I, ever since I was seventeen and he twenty four and the ‘living’ for which we have been patiently waiting had not yet been offered to him. Martin was still a hard-working curate in the smoky town where my father resided, and those kind friends who are always ready to play the part of Job’s comforters began to ‘hope that Eleanor’s long engagement would end in marriage after all.’

Great, therefore, was our satisfaction when a country vicarage was offered to Martin. The nomination came so strangely too. The living had first been offered to one of his college friends, a much older man than Martin, but as Mr Brown wrote to say that he felt that a younger man would do better justice to the work of a scattered country parish, and that he had therefore mentioned Martin to his friend the patron ,who was ready to offer him the living, it is needless to say this offer was thankfully accepted. The income was a fair one, at least to our modest views, and both of us looked forward to a residence in the country as only dwellers in a murky town are capable of doing. We felt quite touched by Mr Brown’s self-abnegation in declining Heathhurst for himself, at least until we saw the place.

I am writing now of the days of my youth, some fifty odd years ago Travelling was then a more difficult and expensive business than it is nowadays, and our slender means did not justify our making a long journey by coach to ‘prospect’ our new abode before settling there. Martin had agreed to take the furniture of the Vicarage at a valuation from the executors of the former incumbent (who had been an old bachelor and an invalid, and had resided as little in his parish as possible without provoking episcopal censure), and the price asked for ‘plenishing’ was so very moderate that Martin was willing to risk paying it without inspection of the articles named. Our quiet wedding, followed by a few weeks’ honeymoon at the seaside, then took place, and we left for our new home.

Both of us were looking forward to a life of activity and usefulness. We reached Heathhurst with some difficulty —it appeared to be off the track of every line of coaches; but at last our post-chaise lumbered into the village at the close of a summer’s day. My first impression of the place was that of dampness. The straggling village was low-lying and even on this July evening mist gathered heavily over the sluggish stream which meandered through the valley. The church stood on slightly higher ground, and the Vicarage nestled against the churchyard wall. As its name implies, Heathhurst was surrounded by magnificent woods, now gay with the glory of their summer foliage, but this added to the prevailing dampness of the atmosphere. As we found in our subsequent excursions in the neighborhood, the soil abounded in what the country folk called ‘ground springs,’ unexpected little water courses which bubbled up after rain, and converted a portion of the woods and pastures into veritable morasses. The scenery around was pretty, but as I looked at my new home I understood why Mr Brown, who had attained an age when people consider the possibility of rheumatism, was so willing to transfer Heathhurst to his ‘dear young friend.’

However, here we were, and both young and strong, and ready to make the best of things. The Vicarage was a roomy old house, and its furniture was of a solid old-fashioned description, far better than we had expected to find it. Martin would have abundant exercise for his zeal in bringing his parish into something like decent order, to judge from the neglected condition in which poor old Mr Hamilton had allowed it to fall, and after the first shock of arrival (and disillusion) was over we set ourselves resolutely to work. Sanitary science was less studied some half-century ago than it is now, and even the discovery that the churchyard itself formed, as it were, one side of our kitchen (the house being built against the churchyard wall) did not alarm us on health grounds, though the circumstance explained the persistent damp which oozed through the kitchen wall on this side. We had brought an old servant with us from my father’s house, and this maid and a girl from the village comprised our domestic staff.

For the first few weeks we were both so busy, I unpacking and arranging within doors, Martin organising his parish arrangements, that we had no time to think of other matters, But as we became settled in the home I noted a dejection in our faithful maid’s demeanor. One day when I was remarking how Mr Hamilton had neglected the parish, Sarah ‘spoke out,’ as she phrased it.

‘Oh, ma’am, ’tis easy to talk of neglection, but as Susan says, ‘tisn’t everyone as can live at Heathhurst Vicarage.’

Susan was the rosy -cheeked village girl imported to assist our factotum.

‘The house is rather damp, certainly,’ I said; ‘but so is all the neighborhood. We keep up good fires, and we are all well enough.’

‘Ah, I wish it was nothing more than damp that’s wrong here,’ sighed Sarah.

Then came out a long story. It appeared that the proximity of the churchyard was supposed to be objectionable, not on grounds of health, but for other causes. Some occupants of the burial ground–notably a certain squire deceased many years back were said to ‘walk,’ or at least to rest uneasily in their graves. Knocks and sighs, and other unpleasant sounds were said to be heard in the Vicarage kitchen, especially during the autumn and winter months and these occurrences prevented any good cook consenting to tenant the servants’ premises, and were said to have induced Mr Hamilton to spend so much of his time at a place ten miles away, driving in on Sunday to perform the usual church services.

Summer waned early that year, and the winter came in unusually wet and windy. There was much illness in the village, and Martin was overworked visiting the sick. We, too, were busy at home, for the local doctor lived a long way off, and Sarah’s experience was often of value in carrying out his directions regarding invalids. She and I were often out all day, tramping long distances to carry nourishing food and simple medicines to our poorer parishoners.

There was literally no society at Heathhurst. The population consisted of a few farmers and their laborers, the former being little better educated than the latter. Ten miles away was a pretty country town, but we seldom went there, as we had not conveyance, unless we borrowed or hired a farmer’s gig. A great depression sometimes settled on me as I sat in the Vicarage parlour and looked over the damp, dripping landscape. It rained almost continuously for weeks, and I contracted a chill which clung about me and affected my health. Then—was it fancy?—I began to think that there really were odd noises in the house. Susan had occupied all her hours of leisure in relating various ghost stories, local and otherwise, to Sarah, who conscientiously retailed them to me with all the certainly of unquestioning faith. Then Susan herself discovered that she was ‘feared to remain at the Vicarage come the winter,’ and departed to seek another service.

Martin, who had scoffed at the story of ghostly visitation, asserted that it was the dulness, not the noises, that led Susan to weary of her place, and to enter the service of an adjoining farmer, where as he remarked, ‘the girl has all the farming men to flirt with, and no old servant like Sarah to scold her.’

But anyway Susan left, and we had great difficulty in supplying her place, finally being reduced to take an orphan from a distant workhouse, who couldn’t be expected to indulge in the luxury of ‘nerves.’ Betsy was a stolid-looking young person with an abnormal appetite; but the Vicarage kitchen was too much for her after a week or two. She came to me one morning in floods of tears beseeching to be sent back to the workhouse. ‘For them knocks and groans behind the kitchen wall, ma’am, is more than I can stand.’

‘It’s the old Squire,’ remarked Sarah, grimly; ”tis his vault that lies nearest to our kitchen, and I tell Betsy it’s a warning to her—as tells so many lies every day—to see how the wicked do not rest even in their graves,’

‘He’ll bust in some day, I know he will,’ sobbed Betsy, ignoring the personal application of Sarah’s remark. ‘Please, ma’am, you and master is very good to me, and I never had such a sight of good victuals before, but I can’t—I can’t abear them noises.’

‘What are the noises like?’ I asked, for though, sitting alone in the evening when Martin had been called out to baptise a dying child or visit a sick person, I often fancied I heard odd sounds, they were not of the distinct and terrible kind described by Betsy.

‘He rummages about in his grave,’ sobbed the girl, ‘and he sighs, and he groans, and then he raps, raps, raps agin our wall.’

‘Sarah, you cannot believe all this?’

‘I believes my ears,’ remarked Sarah, ‘and hearin’ what I have about Squire Parsons I don’t wonder he does sigh and groan. Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am, I don’t hold that reading any form of words over a grave makes the wicked rest easy in it.’

Sarah was, as I have before remarked, a sturdy Methodist, and only attended our church because there was no other place of worship within ten miles. The woman was superstitious, and yet courageous, but her superstition was more infectious than her courage, believed in the restlessness of the defunct Squire as firmly as did the New English Puritans in the certain existence of the Salem witches, and was prepared to confront the perturbed spirit as Cotton Mather did the supposed emissaries of Satan.

‘If the Squire comes, he comes,’ said Sarah, with grim resolution.

‘I’m thankful to say I’m better prepared, having been converted many years ago, to see a ghost than Betsy is. But it’s my thinking that the old Squire is obliged to keep his own side of the wall while pious folks are in the kitchen, and it’s just that makes him so mad. Now, if Betsy sat there alone, seeing that Betsy tells lies, which is one of the greatest of sins—‘

But Betsy was not inclined to put her virtue to the test, and departed back to the union, nor did we attempt to supply her place.

Sarah was willing to face the noises alone. I think Martin, fully occupied out of doors, scarcely thought about the matter as I did. He believed that the Vicarage, like all old houses, was full of odd noises probably due to rats which were exaggerated by the superstitious fears of the servant. But to myself, now out of health, and a good deal alone owing to Martin’s multifarious occupations in the parish the ‘fancy’ which I might have laughed at in days of health and spirits became a real terror. I myself had never heard the full noises; they only occurred in the kitchen itself but I thought about them, and dwelt on the subject till I became so unwell and nervous that Martin urged me to go to my father for a visit to recruit myself. But I would not leave my husband, neither was I strong enough to undertake a long journey at this time of year. The local doctor prescribed tonics, and asked if I had no friends who could come and stay with me and cheer me up. But I had led a very retired life owing to my father’s bad health I had no sisters, and my few girl friends were now married and scattered. My stepmother—I had lost my mother in infancy—was a kind woman, but too much occupied with father to be able to pay a visit.

Martin and the Doctor comforted themselves with the reflection that by-and-by more cheerful noises than the supposed knocks and groans might resound in the old Vicarage.

‘Of course Mrs Fleming is inclined to be nervous and fanciful just now,’ said the Doctor to my husband, ‘but when the baby comes we shall hear no more of the noises in the kitchen. That superstitious old servant of yours will be too busy to notice them.’

Kind and devoted as Sarah was, I could hardly have had a worse companion at this time. Strong in her religious convictions, she sat day after day in her kitchen, like a sentinel on guard, singing hymns in a cracked voice in the evening, and apparently deriving a grim enjoyment from the very idea that she was carrying on a successful struggle with the restless sinner on the other side of the wall. But I, ailing and lonely in the parlour above, would shiver and cower with nervous terror as I fancied I caught some sound, like a knock or a sigh, which might be the wind, and might be the Squire.

One evening in December—how well I remember it still!—a veritable tempest raged and shook the house. Martin had been summoned to the deathbed of a parishioner at a distance, and so bad was the weather that I had urged him to accept the proffered offer of a bed at the house, instead of returning through the winter night. He had been reluctant to leave me so long, but finally consented; indeed, he could hardly have found his way back in the storm of wind and rain. I was so solitary that, little as I liked the idea of entering the kitchen, I made up my mind to descend and speak to Sarah, whom I found tranquilly knitting by the fire. The kitchen looked so cheerful in the ruddy glow of the logs that I lingered awhile after I had given the order which I had made the pretext for my visit. Suddenly ‘rap, rap, rap’ sounded loudly on the wall behind me, followed by a long-drawn gurgling sound. I screamed with terror, but Sarah was calm.

‘Eh, ma’am, but he’s worse than ever to-night,’ she remarked ‘I’m thinking maybe ’tis the day of the month when he died, or something like that; but I never mind.’ But here the noise recommenced, so loudly and wildly that even the resolute woman grew pale. ‘Come away, come away, Miss Eleanor,’ she exclaimed, clutching my arm; but as she spoke came a rending sound; the wall of the kitchen burst open, a rush of water filled the room, and oh horror! a large black coffin sailed out of the aperture in the wall, and fell with a crash on the floor! I knew no more!

I was ill for many, many weeks, they told me afterwards, and Martin expected to lose his wife as well as his child. When I gradually awoke to consciousness I was not at the Vicarage, but at the house of a kindly neighbour, where the doctor had advised my being carried as soon as I could be moved on a mattress.

It was long before I recovered the shock of that awful night; long before I could even hear the explanation of that terrible apparition. It was a simple enough story after all. The churchyard, like the rest of the neighbourhood, had its ‘ground spring.’ One of these had sprang up in the vault of the wicked Squire, and actually floated the coffin, for years when the spring was full the water had been striving to burst through the wall, and the leaden coffin had acted as a kind of battering-ram, Hence the odd noises (always worst at the wettest times of the year), hence the terrible catastrophe.

We never returned to Heathhurst Vicarage. A friend of my father happened to have a living fall in his gift, which he offered to Martin, and some months after my illness we removed to the pretty south-country Rectory where I have passed the rest of my days, first with my husband, then with my son. Homebury Rectory has been ‘noisy’ enough during the last half century, tenanted by our merry healthy children and grandchildren; but the ‘knocks’ were of a different description from those that froze our blood at Heathhurst.

The patron of that latter living, who was a kindly and liberal man, was so horrified at the occurrence which so nearly cost me my life that he pulled down the old Vicarage and rebuilt it on higher ground, so that the present vicar’s family are not exposed to the risk of the irruption of coffins into their kitchen. But I shall never forget my residence in that haunted Vicarage home fifty years ago.

Southland Times 18 June 1892: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A salutary lesson, indeed, about the importance of well-drained soil. Modern builders would surely not be so careless as to abut a kitchen against a churchyard wall with all its attendant unpleasant effluvia. Mrs Daffodil does not usually attend the cinema, but she has been told that this story echoes the plot of a “horror” film called Poltergeist, which exaggerated the number of coffins and pictured mummified corpses emerging from their graves. One coffin was certainly bad enough for the unfortunate Eleanor.

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.