The Young Widow.
A census-taker, going his round, stopped at an elegant brick dwelling-house, the exact locality of which is no business of ours.
He was received by a stiff, well-dressed lady, who could well be recognized as a widow of some years’ standing.
On learning the mission of her visitor, the lady invited him to take a seat in the hall. Having arranged himself in a working position, he began his unpleasant task by inquiring the number of persons in the lady’s family.
“Eight, sir,” replied the lady, “including myself.”
“Very well—your age, madam?”
“My age, sir,” replied the lady, with a piercing, dignified look. “I conceive it’s none of your business what my age might be; you are very inquisitive, sir.”
“The law compels me, madam, to take the age of every person in the ward; it’s my duty to make the inquiry.”
“Well, if the law compels you to ask, I presume it compels me to answer. I am between thirty and forty.”
“I presume that means thirty-five?”
“No, sir, it means no such thing—I am only thirty three years of age.”
“Very well, madam,” putting down the figures, “just as you say. Now for the ages of children, commencing with the youngest, if you please.”
“Josephine, my youngest, is ten years of age.”
“Minerva was twelve last week.”
“Cleopatra Elvira has turned fifteen.”
“Cleopatra Elvira—charming — fifteen.”
“Angelina is eighteen, sir; just eighteen.”
“My oldest and only married daughter, sir, Anna Sophia, is a little over twenty-five.”
“Twenty-five, did you say?”
“Yes, sir. Is there anything remarkable in her being of that age?”
“Well, no, l can’t say that there is; but is it not remarkable that you should be her mother when you were only eight years of age?”
About that time the census-taker was observed running out of the house, why, we cannot say. It was the last time he pressed a lady to give her exact age.
The “Hokey Pokey” Joke Book, 1870
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This delicacy on the part of census takers may explain some of the discrepancies found in the rolls. Ladies’ sensitivity to telling their age is, of course, proverbial and forms the bedrock of many vintage jokes or “old chestnuts,” such as this “thigh-slapper.”
But What Was Her Age.
Toward the close of a lawsuit in Massachusetts the wife of a Harvard professor arose and, with a flaming face, timidly addressed the Court.
“Your Honor,” said she, “if I told you I made an error in my testimony would it vitiate all I have said?”
Instantly the lawyers for each side stirred themselves in excitement, while His Honor gravely regarded her.
“Well, madam,” said the court, after a pause, “that depends entirely on the nature of your error. What is it, please?”
“Why, you see,” answered the lady, more and more red and embarrassed, “I told the clerk I was thirty-eight. I was so flustered, you know, that when he asked my age I inadvertently gave him my bust measurement.”
National Lumberman, 1910
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.