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.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Lucky Locket: 1875

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      One does have one’s suspicions over the strict veracity of the tale. Recently Mrs Daffodil found this quote: “In the United States, the practice of narrating stock fictions becomes a firmly fixed social trait.” One does not like to accuse the gentlemen of the press of paltering with the truth, but the American tradition of tall-tales and “liars benches,” does put a different complexion on the narrative.
      Best wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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