She Wasn’t a Dummy: 1886


Couldn’t Play Any Wooden Women on Him More Than Once.

Every old Sacramentan will remember the French millinery firm of Mme. Llanos & Co., and most of them–the ladies, especially–can recall with equal distinctness the smiling and imperturbable “clerk” of the fancy department of the madame’s establishment, Charley Dexter. A young fellow from some backwoods region of Michigan, having come to “Californy” to seek his fortune, called at Mme. Llanos’s to see his old school-mate, Charley Dexter. In those days it was the style in shops devoted to the sale of ladies’ apparel to have a number of waxen-faced lay figures all temptingly arrayed for the display of the latest novelties. It was a dull summer afternoon when Bill dropped in on his old acquaintance and found that young gentleman listlessly lolling over the counter, happily disengaged. In the course of a reminiscent conversation the country youth used some expression that apparently jarred on Charley’s fastidious ear, for he ejaculated, hurriedly, “Sh!” at the same time nodding mysteriously toward some object over Bill’s shoulder. The latter turned, and to his shocked amazement beheld a stately and fashionably dressed lady, who must have overheard his unlucky speech. Abashed and confused, he hurriedly whispered: “Great Scott! Charley, what shall do?”

“Do? Why, apologise at once!” was the peremptory response.

Clearing his throat, and with a tremendous effort, the awkward and blushing offender began “Madam, I beg–”

Here Charley deftly swung the figure around, and poor Bill saw that the joke was on him. Peace and conversation were soon renewed, and, unperceived by either, a lady quietly entered and began examining some article at the opposite counter. Just as the unconscious visitor had clinched some statement with another lapse into profanity, the horrified Charley glanced up and caught sight of the newcomer opposite. His “Sh!” and accompanying pantomime were genuine this time; but the truculent Bill was not to be sold twice by the same trick. Lifting his dust-covered “stogy,” he dealt a practiced, bucolic kick at the supposed milliner’s doll, at the same time shouting: “Can’t play any more of your ___ wooden women on me!”

Fancy can but feebly picture his horror when a lovely being fixed one terrified glance on the supposed madman, and then with a wild shriek fled into the inner sanctuary to seek protection among the pretty milliner girls and their presiding goddess. It was a question of who was most scared, for the unhappy Bill shot through the front door with equal celerity and a settled sorrow at his heart that nothing but the joker’s blood could assuage; the while Charley dropped under the counter, and rolled there In an agony of mingled mirth and remorse over an accident of which he was the innocent yet guilty cause.

Sunday Truth [Buffalo NY] 14 March 1886: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously told of  the waxen charms of The Dudes in the Shop Window.

When first introduced, the shop mannequin was a novelty. There were performers, not unlike to-day’s “living statues,” that posed in shop-windows, drawing crowds who debated their status as human or wax.

“That’s the most lifelike wax figure I ever saw,” said somebody in the crowd that had gathered in front of the display window. “It winks its eyes.”

“It has genuine eye-lashes, too,” said another.

“It’s hair is jute,” observed a third.

“Jute nothing! That’s real hair. But its mouth is too large and its cheeks are a little too red. They always overdo it when they attempt to imitate nature.”

“It’s a good imitation,” said an old gentleman, surveying the figure critically through his glasses; “the best I ever saw. But the movement of the eyes to too mechanical, and one of them is a trifle out of focus.

At this juncture the wax figure, after a brief preliminary paroxysm, sneezed violently, and the procession moved on.

Chicago [IL[ Tribune 29 April 1894: p. 38

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 anecdote

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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