The Face in the Mirror: 1870s

bride at mirror single

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR.

“Oh, Aunt Cassie, do you really intend to give it to me? That lovely antique mirror, with the frame of twisted coral, and the delicious old Neptune sitting with his trident, all in tarnished gold, on the top? Oh!” cried the bride-elect; “I would rather have that than all my other wedding presents put together. It will be so beautiful in my new drawing-room.”

Aunt Cassie, a silver-haired little old lady in black silk, and antiquated gold ear-drops, shuddered. “You are welcome to it, child,” she said. “I never liked the thing since–since I saw your uncle’s reflection in it the night before the news came of his death in Canada. The house servants say it is a ‘haunted glass.’”

“But, Aunt Cassie,” reasoned Letty Latrobe, “that was all your imagination.”

“Do you think so?” said Aunt Cassie, quietly.

And so the old mirror was carried up to the blue saloon, and put up with the bride’s other presents in the place of honor, where its dim surface reflected sets of silver, jewel-boxes, ivory toilet sets, glove-holders, and piles of rare lace and delicate embroidery. Miss Latrobe’s new maid, a handsome woman, with long gold ear-drops, and a scarlet bandanna handkerchief twisted around her head, viewed it with rapture. “I declare, miss,” said she, “I never saw such a glass in my life. I came into the room not thinking, like, and when I looked up–laws, miss; there was me a-pickin’ up the laces, and you standin’ behind me, all in your wedding dress”

“I!” cried Letty. “In my wedding dress! There you are mistaken, Ruby. I never have put on my wedding dress yet. Don’t you know it isn’t lucky?” The maid looked around with a startled glance.

“Then it was she,” she said, as if to herself. “And I can’t get away from her, do what I will.”

“Ruby,” exclaimed Letty, “what are you talking about?”

“Nothing, miss,” said Ruby. “It’s a way I’ve got, living a good deal by myself, talkin’ out just what my thoughts is.”

But after that Ruby avoided the old mirror.

Down stairs in the servants hall that very evening she made herself very sociable, and asked various questions about Miss Latrobe’s new bridegroom.

“He’s a brave, handsome gentleman,” said Phillis, the cook, warming to the subject as she brandished a stew-pan over the fire. “A bit older than our young missy, but–”

“Oh!” said Ruby. “Older, eh? A military gentleman, now?”

“Bless me,” said Phillis, “however did you know?”

“I think I heard it mentioned upstairs,” said Ruby. “A captain in the army, with a scar over one temple, as you’d hardly notice if you didn’t know of it.”

“Well, I declare,” said Phillis.

“Speaks very soft and has eyes as bright as diamonds,” said Ruby. “Yes, it’s the sort of a gentleman that the young ladies like. So the wedding is to be next week, and I suppose they’ll travel abroad. Dear, dear; it’s fine to be a young lady like Miss Latrobe, now, isn’t it?”

The next day when Letty was dressing in her room, she took a fancy to try the effect of a sort of old-fashioned pearls, which had been the wedding gift of her mother.

“Ruby,” said she, “go and get my pearls out of the blue velvet case on the little mosaic table.”

Ruby came back presently with a scared look.

“I can’t find ’em, miss,” said she.

Letty jumped up with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders.

“You must be blind,” said she. “I’ll go myself.”

There they lay perfectly in sight, close to the old mirror. With girlish interest Letty fastened the drops into her ears and clasped the string around her neck; and as she looked smilingly into the glass she became vaguely conscious that another figure stood there a little behind her, mantled in a soft haze, as if of distance–a young girl in orange blossoms and bridal veil, with something in her hand, which Letty at first construed to be a sparkling hilted dagger, held up to strike.

Involuntarily she recoiled.

“Ruby,” she called out to her maid. “Ruby! who is there? How dare you let anyone into the room while I am dressing, Ruby?”

The girl hurried in with a startled face.

“Did you call. Miss Latrobe?” said she.

“Ruby, come here,” cried Letty. “Stand close beside me. Look into the glass.”

“Yes, miss,” said Ruby, with the still troubled face.

“Do you see nothing, Ruby?”

“No, miss,” said Ruby, shivering and clasping her hands together very tight.

“Nor I, either, now,” said Miss Latrobe. “But it was there just now.”

“What, miss?”

“Tell me truly, Ruby,” said Letty, putting both hands on the girl’s shoulder, and looking into her face with large, terrified eyes. “Look at that glass. Do you see nothing there? Have you ever seen anything there?”

Ruby shrank back and burst into tears.

“It’s a young girl, miss,” she sobbed, “in her wedding dress, and a stiletto in her hand. It’s my young mistress, miss, as I lived with five years ago, at Malta, as was married to Capt. Hayes.”

Letty’s face grew pale. “Captain Hayes,” she repeated. “Married to him! Married to my betrothed husband! Ruby, think what you are saying!”

“If I was to be murdered for it, miss,” cried the girl, sinking on the floor, and covering her eyes with her bands. “I couldn’t say no different! Ask him if he remembers Anita Valloti, the commander’s daughter at Malta! Ask him if he knows anything of the mad-house at Madapolo Heights! There I’ve told it all now!”

“But, Ruby, what do you mean?” gasped Miss Latrobe,

“Ask him,” the girl reiterated, shaking and quivering all over in what seemed like a perfect tempest of fear and horror.

Letty sank down among the wedding presents, with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders, and looked with a pale horror into the antique mirror. There was nothing there now but her own fair reflection. “Ruby is dreaming,” she said to her self. “All this is a waking nightmare, neither more nor less.”

Capt. Hayes came that afternoon, dark, brilliantly handsome, full of wit, and for the moment his presence dissipated the dark clouds of suspicion which were beginning to settle around Letty Latrobe’s warm young heart.

“Oh, Robert,” she cried brightly when dinner was over. “I have received ever so many exquisite presents since last you were here. Do come into the blue room and look at them.”

All unconsciously she led him into the long apartment with the antique mirror at its end.

“First of all,” she said, “Aunt Cassie Revere gave me this. It is over two hundred years old, and”- –

She paused with a cry of terror. Close behind their two reflections was that of the pallid girl in the bridal dress and veil, holding the glittering-hilted dagger above her head. And in the same second she saw how deadly white and haggard Capt. Hayes’s face had become.

“Robert,” she cried. “what does this mean?” Then suddenly, remembering the maid’s words, “it is Anita Valloti, the commandant’s daughter at Malta! Robert, what is this terrible secret that you have hidden away from me?”

**

There was no wedding at Magnolia Hill that golden June. Ruby, the maid, revealed it–how Captain Hayes had wooed and won the beautiful young Spanish girl at Malta: how he had afterward become wearied of her childish loveliness, and seizing eagerly upon the pretext of some slight incoherence of manner or conversation, had incarcerated the poor little human butterfly in a private asylum on Madapolo Heights, some leagues from the city. Nor, confronted with all this evidence, did the captain dare to deny the story of his guilt.

Therefore there was no wedding in the lonely homestead. And instead of going on her bridal trip with Captain Hayes, Letty Latrobe persuaded her father to take her to Malta, and visited the famous Maison de Sante at Madapolo.

“I should like to see it for myself,” she said, softly.

Fra Antonio, one of the gowned brotherhood in attendance, looked a little surprised when they asked for La Signora Hayes, or as her name was entered there, “La Signorina Anita Valloti.”

“Did you not know?” he asked. “The poor young signora is dead. She died on the nineteenth of last June.”

The nineteenth of June! Mr. Latrobe and his daughter looked at one another. It was on the nineteenth of June that they had seen the strange reflection in the antique mirror–it was on the nineteenth of June that the marriage at Magnolia Hill was broken off.

So they laid fresh roses on the simple cross that rose above the poor young thing’s last resting-place, and came away with wet eyes and tender hearts.

The Saturday Evening Press [Menasha WI] 20 April 1882: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A narrow escape for Miss Latrobe and possibly a narrow escape from plagiarism charges for the author, who seems to have been heavily influenced by  Jane Eyre.

 

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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