The Spirits and “The Servant Problem:” 1892

The age-old Servant Question.

The age-old Servant Question.

ONE OF MR. STEAD’S “PRACTICAL GHOSTS”

The following account has been handed to us by a correspondent. The details are trivial enough in themselves, but by no means unworthy of consideration as indicating watchful care on the part of those who acted as guardians of the family.

The narrative is given as it was sent. It is evidently written with a strong sense of the protective guardianship of unseen friends, and will interest many of our readers, and perhaps set some “Cui bono?” critics thinking:

A short time since I lost my cook, and knowing the difficulty of obtaining servants immediately before Christmas I decided not to try as I had a temporary helper, so excellent in every way that I deemed it wiser to wait till after Christmas. This woman, whom we will designate Mrs. B., was a quiet, seemingly respectable, married woman, who came to my bedroom every morning for orders and executed them in the most satisfactory manner. I must here mention that I was confined to my room with a sprained ankle, and so my daughters had to give all extra small orders and look after the general comfort.

A week passed, and so pleased was I that I had B.‘s husband to dinner on Sunday, and wrote to a country friend desiring her not to trouble about me as I was settled, feeling half inclined to continue with Mrs. B. until we should leave this house. On the Monday she came as usual to my room. I asked her how she felt, as she looked peculiarly heavy, and I imagined she had a headache, but she said she was quite well and we had a few pleasant words, in which she thanked me for my kindness to her husband. On Tuesday the same distinguished politeness marked our proceedings.

An hour afterwards, up came my elder daughter to say that her own father, my first husband, had seized her hand and told her. “That B. is a beast, don’t let her worry your mother.” I laughed at the idea and bade her tell him he must be mistaken. At twelve o’clock both my daughters went out for their daily constitutional, but in less than five minutes my younger child (who is a very strong psychic) rushed up to me, saying that neither she nor her sister found it easy to walk, but her legs actually refused to move, and her hand was seized and she wrote on her dress, “Go back! Go back!” They came back, got pencil and paper, and again the same spirit wrote, “Don’t leave your mother, that beast B. will go and abuse her and upset her.”

Now, to my shame be it recorded, I was quite cross, and said “Really, this is too ridiculous. A quiet, orderly woman like that: I am afraid, my dear, you are getting fanatical.”

However, as they had already arranged that one should go out one half-hour, and the other the next, so that one remained with me. I made no further demur. Now comes the sequel. Within half an hour my elder daughter returned.

This woman B. picked a quarrel with her over nothing, and rushed up to me. My housemaid rushed after her, begging her not to come to me. But my daughter having been forewarned ran so fast as to get in front of her and then dared her to go to my room. The woman seemed quite beside herself, but my daughter’s decision quelled her. Our unseen friends then made rather sarcastic remarks upon my incredulity, and begged me to pay her and send her off, assuring me she was a drunkard and a desperate woman.

They said, “She drinks rum, and has a bottle now in her pocket,” so I followed their advice, and she went; and now comes the test of their perfect veracity. I said to my house maid. “Did you know she drank?” “No, ma’am: but on Sunday her husband brought her a bottle of something, I couldn’t make it out; it was not whisky nor brandy; it was darker, and had such an odd smell. She offered me some, and it did smell so nasty!” I think this amply proves the rum’s identity, and I presume I need make no comment on the value of our dear spirit friends’ warning, for all helped, though my first husband was the first to speak. This is not a dreamy experience, and is the more astonishing to us as we are not used to such phenomena, but rather have spiritual teachings. N.S.

Light, 13 February 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This instructive anecdote appeared in the Spiritualist journal Light. Many Spiritualists were tee-total. They might call up spirits, but they did not drink them.

“Mr Stead” was journalist and psychic researcher, William Thomas Stead , who died when the Titanic sank, but, undeterred by death, continued to deliver séance communications.

The Drunken Servant was a figure of fun to the comic papers and the terror of mistresses everywhere.  It was bad enough when the intoxicated servant was a man, but a female inebriate was not to be borne. Of course, being the sole domestic (saving the house-maid) over Christmas in a household with an incapacitated mistress might have driven the woman to drink.  Mrs Daffodil does not speak from personal experience, one understands. Mrs Daffodil, although she has had her share of trying lady employers, has found that one needs a clear head to either deal with or dispose of overly-demanding mistresses.

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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