Category Archives: Animals

The Pet Photographer: 1908

Bulldogs portraits The New Book of the Dog 1911

FROM BABIES TO PETS

A Western Young Woman Who Switched Specialties.

PICTURES OF CATS AND DOGS

Devoted Her Time and Talents to Babies in the West, but Found None to Photograph in New York—Then She Discovered that Pets Belonged in Flat Houses and Acted Accordingly.

From the New York Sun.

“Private photographer, specialty, dogs and cats,” is the reading on the professional card of a prosperous young business woman who makes her home in a well-kept apartment house on Riverside Drive. Having read and duly pondered the statement a reporter asked the young woman to talk about her specialty.

To begin with, I used to make a specialty of children–little babies. There are so many more children in the West than here in New York! You know, I’m from the West,” the young woman went on.  “When I first came to New York I almost starved to death the first six months. It took me just that long to catch on.

“You see, I brought the idea of making a specialty of children with me to a place where there are no children. That is, none that people care about having photographed.

“It worried me to death at first. I couldn’t make out what was wrong. Then I began to realize that instead of wealthy and well-to-do people having children, as in the West, they all had either cats or dogs.  I had a set of new cards printed and set out.

Photographs in Great Demand

“I didn’t have a bit of trouble. It was all plain sailing. Everybody wanted her cat or her dog photographed, just as in the West everybody had wanted her babies’ pictures taken.

“In less than three months after I made this discovery I had every minute of my time engaged weeks ahead, and moved from the boarding house where I had found it difficult to make both ends meet with ‘specialty, children’ to a charming apartment of my own, with money to put in the bank.

“Cats are much more easily photographed than dogs for the simple reason that they are not so restless, have fewer eccentricities, or less individuality. I have known cats intimately all my life and have only found two varieties, so far as dispositions are concerned, the amiable cat and the spiteful cat.

“As for the intellectual cat and the stupid cat, they exist only in the fond imagination of their owners, so far as have been able to see.  Every cat that I am called on to photograph, to listen to its owner, is a marvel of intelligence. When I come to make their acquaintance, it is the same old thing, either spit or purr.

“Photographing a cat of the purr variety is the simplest thing imaginable. A few gentle strokes and it will remain in any position you place it; hold a bright colored object or a bit of food over its head and it will become animated at once; put an electric mouse or bird on floor and it will crouch and make ready for a spring.  If my subject is of the spitfire variety I follow the rule of contraries.

The Indifference of Cats

“Of all the cats that I have known I don’t believe six of them care for persons, only for places. In spite of this all too evident indifference, the owners of cats are as a rule attached to them. One cat whose photograph I have made every month since I have been in the business is the most indifferent little piece of flesh and blood that I have ever seen, yet its mistress, a wealthy unmarried woman, is as devoted to it as she or any other woman could be to a child.

“Blood? No, indeed, this little cat hasn’t even the slightest claims to blood. She was a regular little guttersnipe when I was first called in to take her picture.

“The lady had picked her up in the street only two days before. The little thing had been hungry and as the lady stepped from her carriage she whined and looked up in her face. I believe she even rubbed against her skirt.

“This was taken as a great evidence of intelligence, as the lady was especially fond of cats. Being without a pet just at that time the kitten was brought into the house and fed. She found her way into the parlor and there she has been ever since.

“At the present time she sleeps in a white enameled crib beside the bed of her mistress and has four carriages and a maid especially engaged to wheel her in Central Park. As for cushions and cloaks they are almost without number, and all of the finest and daintiest material.

“The owner of this cat considers it the greatest compliment that she can pay a person is to give him a set of photographs of this little white and black pussy. She is an attractive looking little animal, because she is clean, healthy, and well fed, but as for intelligence–well she is just the common purring variety of cat, and that is all there is to her.

Gives Her Cat Jewels

“There is another woman who calls on me quite frequently to photograph her pet and who elects to give her cat jewels. She is married and requires her husband to duplicate every present of jewelry intended for herself for her cat.

“This particular cat is one of the near intelligent cats that I have met. She really appears to be proud of her bracelets and necklaces. She not only seems to take pains to lie in such a position as to show her ornaments to the best advantage, but will often annoy a visitor until particular attention has been taken of them.

“Yet I have seen that cat take as much pride in a bright ribbon bow, strutting before the mirror to admire herself and scratching my skirt until I expressed my approval, so I cannot believe what the cat’s mistress affirms, that the cat knows an imitation stone from a real one.  If a person told me that a dog could tell the difference between real and imitation, I might be tempted to believe it, but a cat–I haven’t imagination enough for that.

“To get a good photograph of an intelligent dog one has first to know a little of the dog. A dog often has as much individuality as a human being.

“I have known owners and dogs as thoroughly mismatched as some parents and children, and yet there would be a certain attachment between them. Neither would understand the other and the result would be a sort of general irritation on the part of the dog.

Cases of Cross Dogs.

“Whenever the owner of a dog reports that it is an irritable animal I get the owner out of sight when taking the dogs photograph. I have never seen a case in which a healthy dog was cross or generally irritable that the surroundings were not to blame.

“Some dogs because of their training prefer indoors, and I have taken many very good photographs of dogs in the house, but, as a rule, I prefer to take my dogs out of doors. The dog’s individuality shows to much greater advantage as a rule out of doors.

“Of course, for dog photography one must depend almost entirely on snapshots. Dogs are too restless, and, like children, their expressions come in flashes.

“Another point about dogs is that, as a rule, they prefer to be taken with children, even where they are not accustomed to children. Whenever I have a dog particularly hard to take I take him to where there are children, get the kiddies interested in having their own pictures taken and in a little while the dog is in the humor and I get him at his best.

“Of course I find a good many freaks among the owners of my dogs but nothing like the same proportion as among those who have pet cats One of the greatest extravagances that have come to my knowledge was that of a well-to-do physician.

“He is middle aged and unmarried, but to all appearances a sensible enough person; yet when his dog died he not only went into mourning but sent cards announcing his dog’s death to all his friends. He didn’t allow the blinds of his house to be opened for weeks and I understood that he had the body of his pet shipped to his home in the Southwest for burial.

Illustrated Calendar Gifts

“Yes, the dog was a blooded animal but by no means remarkable. This man’s favorite token of his esteem to his friends was a calendar of his own making illustrated with photographs of his dog. The dog was a hideous old beast so one can easily imagine the fate of the majority of his calendars.

“Of course it is common enough for women to have their dogs dressed to correspond with their own gowns. Really when women have as much money and as little to think about as the average New York woman, I can’t see much harm in it. They might devote their time and thought to better things, that is very true, but on the other hand they might do worse.

“After one comes to understand the apartment house atmosphere it is readily understood why so many persons prefer dogs to children. Kiddies are nice and I think there are few men and women who wouldn’t prefer them if they could have homes, real homes, but not in an apartment house.

“The New York apartment house is the paradise of the pet dog, and they give me a comfortable living. I should advise any photographer wishing to make a specialty of dogs or cats to start business in a city where apartment houses abound. In the average apartment house one can count on finding at least six dogs whose owners are glad to pay for their photographs if not every month at least several times a year.”

The Washington [DC] Post 8 March 1908: p. 2

Next we hear from another photographer, who has a mixed human-pet clientele:

The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.

“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug. Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.”

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.

The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One rather fears for the continuation of the species when “damp putty” is the best one can say of an infant whom popular sentiment requires to be uniformly adorable. Still, Mrs Daffodil admits—she served as a nursery maid in the early years of her career—it is a fair description of many youthful scions of even the noblest houses and expresses the unpleasant stickiness which so often accompanies childhood.

As for the ladies who dote on their pets, Mrs Daffodil suggests that, had they known the term, they would have undoubtedly been delighted to describe their animal companions as “fur-babies.”

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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The Tiger’s Teeth: c. 1900

An example of “second sight” as narrated by Mrs K.E. Henry-Anderson.

THE TIGER’S TEETH

Changing trains one day at a small country junction, I stepped into a carriage where there was only one other occupant, a young girl of twenty-three or so, whom I instantly recognised as having been one of the guests at a great garden party at a Highland house, at which I had been present some three or four weeks before. We had not spoken to one another, but in general conversation she had taken an active part, and I remembered her name, which was that of one of those fine old Highland families who have fallen on evil days, and whose home is now in the hands of the stranger. She was dark and handsome—a striking personality. On a fairly long journey, it was inevitable that we should enter into some sort of conversation, and I told her of our chance meeting.
“Ah,” she said, “I remember, you are ___, and have the gift of second sight!”
“I have a gift,” I answered, “but I have never given it a name.”
As frequently happens with people who know this about me, she pressed me to give her some evidence of it; for most people seem to think I carry it about with me, as a pedlar his pack, to be laid out for examination and discussion by whosoever asks. This is not my view of it. I cannot summon it, I cannot reject it. It comes and it compels; no effort of mind could conjure up for one instant the picture that it brings; and I might try in vain to imagine the conversation that I would hold before I met the person who evoked the power.
In the majority of cases I say nothing about it. I keep my visions to myself and play, as it were, a double part; but this young girl, with her Celtic blood, and, unknown to herself, personal magnetism, had already cast somewhat of a spell upon me. I said: “I have never endeavoured to give expression to my visions in such a distracting place as a railway carriage, but —you interest me! Let us continue our conversation, and if I feel that I can see anything I will tell you.”
This involved a dual personality. I watch myself as an outsider for a manifestation, while at the same time I give my attention to the subject of conversation with the other person. About ten minutes after this the white mist slowly enveloped her, and I saw a scene in India.
How did I know it was India? I cannot say. I knew, and that is all.
“I can tell you something now,” I said. “Listen! but do not speak to me. Ask me no questions.
“I see a jungle and a tiger-hunt. The ground is marshy and the growth is higher than my head. Other figures are indistinct, but I see one very clearly. The face of a tall, dark man with level brows—an earnest, passionate face with strongly moulded chin. He raises his gun to his shoulder; I hear the sound of the great beast in the jungle. The reeds bend, and just missing this man a great tiger shoots above him, and across the path. The man fires upwards and hits it in the belly while still in the flight over his head. He is not hurt, and you carry on your person at this moment a strange reminiscence of that scene.”
My companion’s aspect would perhaps be best described by the word scared. Without a word she unfastened her coat, put her hand inside her dress and drew out—a necklace of tiger’s teeth!
“These teeth,” she said, “were given to me by a man who cared for me, but whose affection I did not return. He begged me to wear them always as a charm, which they are believed to be in India. The tiger was shot in British Burmah under the exact circumstances of your vision.”

The Occult Review March 1905: p. 134

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Were this a story by Mr H. Rider Haggard, the tiger-tooth necklace would have instantly bent the young woman to the will of the gentleman-hunter with the strongly moulded chin. The object must have been most uncomfortable, particularly if worn virtually next the skin and would wreak havoc on the Valenciennes insertion of one’s corset cover. Mrs Daffodil purses her lips dubiously over the lady’s stated indifference to the hunter, for no one without affection for the giver would continue to wear such a penitential accessory.

In the careless days of the Empire, the shooting of wild creatures such as tigers was seen as jolly sport rather than the terrible toll on nature that it is to-day. Tiger jewellery was an expected part of the experience. Saki’s story, “Mrs Packletide’s Tiger,” takes a jocular view of the tiger-shooting indulged in by Mrs Packletide, merely to acquire a souvenir tiger-claw brooch for her social rival, Loona Bimberton.

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.

Why is the Cat Uncanny?: 1912

fairies riding cat 1894 McDonald Phantasies

Fairies riding a cat, 1894

In various parts of Europe (some districts of England included) white cats were thought to attract benevolently disposed fairies, and a peasant would as soon have thought of cutting off his fingers, or otherwise maltreating himself, as being unkind to an animal of this species. In the fairy lore of half Europe we have instances of luck-bringing cats—each country producing its own version of Puss in Boots, Dame Mitchell and her cat. Dick Whittington and his cat. It is the same in Asia, too; for nowhere are such stories more prolific than in China and Persia.

To sum up then,—in all climes and in all periods of past history, the cat was credited with many properties that brought it into affinity and sympathy with the supernatural— or, if you will, superphysical—world. Let us review the cat to-day, and sec to what extent this past regard of it is justified.

Firstly, with respect to it as the harbinger of fortune. Has a cat insight into the future? Can it presage wealth or death?

I am inclined to believe that certain cats can, at all events, foresee the advent of the latter; and that they do this in the same manner as the shark, crow, owl, jackal, hyaena, etc., viz. by their abnormally developed sense of smell. My own and other people’s experience has led me to believe that when a person is about to die, some kind of phantom, maybe, the spirit of some one closely associated with the sick person, or, maybe, a spirit whose special function it is to be present on such occasions, is in close proximity to the sick or injured one, waiting to escort his or her soul into the world of shadows—and that certain cats scent its approach.

Therein then—in this wonderful property of smell—lies one of the secrets to the cat’s mysterious powers—it has the psychic faculty of scent—of scenting ghosts. Some people, too, have this faculty. In a recent murder case, in the North of England, a rustic witness gave it in her evidence that she was sure a tragedy was about to happen because she “smelt death in the house,’’ and it made her very uneasy. Cats possessing this peculiarity are affected in a similar manner—they are uneasy. Before a death in a house, I have watched a cat show gradually increasing signs of uneasiness. It has moved from place to place, unable to settle in any one spot for any length of time, had frequent fits of shivering, gone to the door, sniffed the atmosphere, thrown back its head and mewed in a low, plaintive key, and shown the greatest reluctance to being alone in the dark.

This faculty possessed by certain cats may in some measure explain certain of the superstitions respecting them. Take, for instance, that of cats crossing one’s path predicting death.

The cat is drawn to the spot because it scents the phantom of death, and cannot resist its magnetic attraction.

From this, it does not follow that the person who sees the cat is going to die, but that death is overtaking some one associated with that person; and it is in connexion with the latter that the spirit of the grave is present, employing, as a medium of prognostication, the cat, which has been given the psychic faculty of smell that it might be so used.

But although I regard this theory as feasible, I do not attribute to cats, with the same degree of certainty, the power to presage good fortune, simply because 1 have had no experience of it myself. Yet, adopting the same lines of argument, I see no reason why cats should not prognosticate good as well as evil.

There may be phantoms representative of prosperity, in just the same manner as there are those representative of death; they, too, may also have some distinguishing scent (flowers have various odours, so why not spirits ?); and certain cats, i.e. white cats in particular, may be attracted by it.

This becomes all the more probable when one considers how very impressionable the cat is—how very sensitive to kindness. There are some strangers with whom the cat will at once make friends, and others whom it will studiously avoid. Why? The explanation, I fancy, lies once more in the Occult—in the cat’s psychic faculty of smell. Kind people attract benevolently disposed phantoms, which bring with them an agreeably scented atmosphere, that, in turn, attracts cats.

The cat comes to one person because it knows by the smell of the atmosphere surrounding him, or her, that they have nothing to fear—that the person is essentially gentle and benignant. On the contrary, cruel people attract malevolent phantoms, distinguishable also to the cat by their smell, a smell typical of cruelty—often of homicidal lunacy (I have particularly noticed how cats have shrunk from people who have afterwards become dangerously insane). Is this sense of smell, then, the keynote to the halo of mystery that has for all times surrounded the cat—that has led to its bitter persecution—that has made it the hero of fairy lore, the pet of old maids? I believe it is— I believe, in this psychic faculty of smell, lies wholly, or in greater part, the solution to the riddle—Why is the cat uncanny!

“Cats and the Unknown,” Elliott O’Donnell The Occult Review December 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really must take issue with the Great Ghost-hunter O’Donnell. It is axiomatic that if there is one person in the room who is highly allergic or antipathetic to cats, it is into the lap of that person which a cat will leap. Mrs Daffodil has never seen it fail.

That said, the idea of a spirit having a particular odour, like a flower, is a diverting one. One elderly American gentleman was queried by a “psychic researcher” after he divulged that he had smelt a ghost. He retorted “You ask me how ghosts smell. They smell like ghosts—that’s all I can tell you. How you speck they smell?”

Mrs Daffodil is fond of cats and does not consider them uncanny in the least. However, Mrs Daffodil is reminded by Mr O’Donnell’s assertion that cats can scent the approach of death of the handsome and remarkably prescient Oscar, who has foretold fifty to one hundred deaths at a Rhode Island nursing home and even has his own “Facebook” page.

Some other stories of uncanny cats are What the Cat Saw, The Cats Came Back, The Black Cat Elemental, Murder by Cat, and The White Cat

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.

 

The Rat in the Muff: 1891

How a Shrewd Though Youthful Shoplifter Utilized a Tame Rat.

“There have been many extraordinary stories told of the ingenuity of thieves in the pursuit of their nefarious calling, but a case which occurred while I was at Chatham recently beats anything I ever heard,” remarked a newly arrived Englishman to a Philadelphia Inquirer man.

“A girl was brought before the police court on the charge of robbing milliners’ shops. She was only fourteen years of age and of very innocent appearance. What puzzled the magistrate was that none of the witnesses ever saw her take anything, or at least they would not swear to it, although after she had left a shop where she had been making a purchase articles of value were missed.”

When arrested nothing was found upon her. The magistrate said he could not convict the girl on mere suspicion, and then began to cross-examine her himself in a kind, fatherly way which touched her heart, and she broke down and confessed that she was guilty, and explained her methods to the astonishment and amusement of the Court and spectators.

“It seems that she had a tame white rat which she carried about with her in a muff. She would enter a shop full of girls and women and ask the price of some article. and while looking at it contrive to drop the rodent on the floor.

“Any one can imagine the result. Those near the door dashed into the street, while the employees jumped on the counters and chairs, wrapping their petticoats tight round their ankles and ‘screamed like mad.’ as the prisoner expressed it, amid the laughter of the court, in spite of the assurances that the rat was quite tame.

“In the scrimmage she would quietly help herself to what she wanted, catch the rat, put it in her muff, apologize and walk off. The magistrate said that on account of her youth, and as she had voluntarily confessed to the thefts, he would give her one more chance and bound her over In the sum of  £50—$250 of your money—to come up for judgment when called upon.

“Of course her friends soon entered the required bonds and Mary Barton will have to find some other place to practise on the weakness of her sex. The tame rat dodge won’t work in Chatham any more.”

The Evening World [New York NY] 27 June 1891: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One hopes that the ingenious Mary fashioned a handsome collar from some of her spoils for her amiable pet. The poor creature is lucky there was not a mouser on the premises of the millinery and that Mary did not try loosing her pet in a bakery full of rodent-hardened men with peels.

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.

The Inspector Smelled a Rat: 1902

rat trap 1915.JPG

The Inspector Smelled a Rat.

The sight of vast quantities of coin has a stimulating influence on human wits, to such an extent that Uncle Sam is kept busy “coppering” efforts of geniuses to “do” the various mints. Some of the schemes devised are so smooth that the government officials are unwilling for their nature to be divulged at least until the law has been twisted into shape to fit the new form of theft. Time and again methods have been evolved for which no legal antidote is discoverable and which can only be punished by dismissal, not by criminal prosecution. One of the latter types was recently worked on a western mint, according to the report of a late arrival via the Southern Pacific. It was this way. The gold is rolled into strips from ingots in the rolling room and carefully weighed out again. The “in” and “out” figures should tally so they did until recently when a suddenly daily deficit appeared. Each evening there was a loss of $10 or $20 and the director of the mint grew hot in the collar. A personal search was made of every one leaving the room, but the shortage continued.

Finally, one day the inspector in the coinage department smelled, a rat, a real rat, which had fallen a victim to the jaws of a deadfall during the night. Although it was still early in the day, the rat asserted itself until it dawned upon the inspector that decomposition had progressed with remarkable rapidity for a one-day corpse. The trap, he knew had been emptied of another rodent the evening before, for he remembered seeing an employee pick up the thing by the tail and toss it through the small slot above the window.

A flash of intelligence came to the official, and he waited. Later a “stamper” approached the trap, remarking jocularly ‘’Nother rat,’ bent over, fooled with the trap and then tossed the creature out of the window. The inspector was out in a flash and reached the ground just in time to see a gent pick up a defunct rodent, slip it into a leather grip and decamp.

The commotion made by the inspector put the employee on his guard, and he threw no more rats.

He was soon dismissed for cause and went away damning his own laziness, for instead of getting busy and keeping a supply of fresh rats on ice, he used and reused the same fellow until he became faisandé [overripe] and put the authorities next to his game. However, he justified himself by saying that was the only rat he had found with a mouth large enough to hold $35 worth of gold. Exchange.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 2 September 1902: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil will note that, even to-day, those persons in charge of securing clients’ intimate financial details have the same difficulty in apprehending and convicting miscreants who would steal those golden “user-names” and “pass-words.”  The only thing that can be said in the favour of these criminals is that they have moved beyond rats, into “phish.”

 

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.

The Province Man’s Story of a Blizzard: 1840s

blizzard story in Winter Frolics Matildy and Bob

THE PROVINCE MAN’S STORY

“Yes, I’ve no doubt that blizzards are fearful to encounter, but I do not think they can be much worse than a downright north-easter of the Province,” said a gray-bearded New Brunswicker to a Western man, who had been relating to the few passengers of the steamer plying on the river between Tobique and St. John his experience of one of those terrible winter storms which so frequently sweep down upon the exposed people of the Northwest.

“I remember one in particular,” he said, “for it gave me a lameness that’s going to stay by me as long as I live.”

After listening to the Western man’s adventure, we were all anxious to hear that of the Province man’s, and urged him to favor us. He at last assented.

“I was eighteen,” he said, “that winter, and tough as a young buffalo. I had never been sick, and scarcely knew what it was to be tired. My father was a lumberman. He went into the logging-swamp that winter, towards the head of the Miramichi River, and left me to take care of the family, –a pretty large one, counting in all the children. I was the oldest.

“The winters are long in that part of New Brunswick, and a good deal of snow falls. At that time there were but few settlements, the one nearest to where we lived being about forty miles away; so you may know there wasn’t much going back and forth for the women-folks.

“But for that matter, there were five or six families living in our settlement, and I will say we used to have some pretty good times together. We seemed almost like one family, and when one was in need of help the others were sure to give it.

“One of our neighbors was a Mr. Moore. He married a girl who lived in the settlement next to ours, and all her folks lived there. In the winter he worked in the woods with the rest of the men, and as his children were small, he used to hire me to look after the chores that were necessary about his house.

“Well, about the middle of that winter, it was in February, I think, Matildy, that was Mrs. Moore, got word that her mother was sick, and that, if she wanted to see her alive, she must go to her at once.

“The poor woman was nearly frantic with anxiety. Her husband was in the woods, and she had no way of getting to her father’s house. I think she had not seen her mother for two years.

“‘William,’ said my mother, coming home from the Moore cabin, where she had been to spin flax and comfort the sorrowing woman, ‘I think you’ll have to go.” “‘I’m going at once, mother,’ I said, for I thought she meant that I must go to Mrs. Moore’s and attend to the chores.

“‘Not that,” she replied, surmising what I was thinking about. ‘You must go to the settlement with Matildy. How should I feel if my mother was dying, and I could not see her? Now, get your chores all done up to-night, so you can start in the morning by daylight. I’ll see to things while you’re gone.”

“But what’s to be done with the children?’ I asked.

“’They’re coming to stay with me until Matildy gets back.”

“So it was settled that I should go with Mrs. Moore, and if she did not stay more than a day or two, I was to bring her home. The sky had threatened a storm for a number of days, and I expected to get up the next morning and see a snow-storm. But it was a bitter cold morning—too cold to snow then, though the sky was still gray and heavy, showing plainly enough that there’d be a heavy fall of snow as soon as the weather was warmer.

“It didn’t take long to get the horse and sled ready, and putting on father’s moose-skin coat, we started, Matildy carrying her baby, that was not more than six months old, in her arms, swathed in a blanket of lynx-skins.

“It was scarcely light when we set off, and it was very slow travelling through the narrow, rough road. We had not got more than three miles from the settlement when it begun to sprinkle snow, and in an hour more the flakes were coming down thick and fast. A cutting wind swept through the woods, driving the snow into our faces, and it looked doubtful to me whether we should ever get to the next settlement in such a storm.

“I wanted to turn back, but Matildy would not consent to this. So I had nothing to do but whip up old Bob and get on as fast as we could.

“But the storm grew worse and worse. The wind kept rising, and the air was so thick, with the driving snow that I could scarcely see a rod beyond the horse’s head. Noon came, and we were not over ten or twelve miles from the settlement. The snow was now so deep that the horse could make but little headway through it and against the heavy wind.

“We had food with us, but we could not stop for luncheon with the storm piling the big drifts all about us. Part of the time I walked behind the sled to lighten the load, and when it got so deep that Bob–the horse—couldn’t pull through, I tramped a path; and so, tramping and wallowing, we managed to get on a few miles further.

“But towards night the horse showed signs of giving out, and we had not gone over two-thirds of the way. I can assure you, it made me feel about sick to think of being out in that storm all night. Not that I feared so much for myself, for, as I said, I was tough as a buffalo and could have found some snug corner to stow myself away in, and in the big moose-skin coat could have been quite comfortable; but there was Matildy, and the baby, poor thing, was beginning to cry. I feared they both would perish before morning.

“By jerking and encouraging, Bob was made to start again. But his strength and courage did not last, and after another half-mile of plunging and tramping he lurched over the thills into the snow and gave out entirely. All my urging couldn’t get him on his legs again.

“Suddenly I got an idea, and untackling Bob from the sled, I tied his legs together with the straps of the harness, so that he could neither get up nor thrash about. Then, drawing the sled alongside of him, I canted it up sideways, setting the stakes to keep it from turning over fully, and thus made a sort of shelter to break off the wind.

“Going into the edge of the woods, I cut a lot of fir-boughs with my big knife and made a sort of bed for Matildy and the child, snug up against Bob’s back, covering them over with the quilts and skin, tucked in warm about them; and then I covered all with another thick coat of boughs.

“Then I went on towards the settlement, fifteen miles distant, for help. It soon became dark, and I never can tell you half what I suffered stumbling along through the drifts, half blinded by the whirling snow and nearly breathless; sometimes laying down and feeling that I never could go another rod; but the thought of Matildy and the baby in the snow drove me on—and I’ve no doubt saved my life.

“When within two miles of the settlement the road came out near the river, and for the rest of the way it was mostly cleared land. But it troubled me to keep the road. I was afraid I should wander off and never find the settlement.

“But there was a Hand leading me through that night and storm that I had never known before— and it led me safe; for, after wandering around till I was so exhausted that I was about to lay down in despair, I caught the glimmer of a light ahead.

“Ah, never was a half-drowned sailor more thankful for the sight of a life-boat than I was for that little spark of light! I crawled towards it shouting with all my strength.

“It came from a little log-hut on the outskirts of the settlement, where a logger’s wife was nursing a sick child. Hearing my cries she roused her husband, who came out to my assistance.

“As soon as it began to grow light the man got one of his neighbors—for I was too badly frozen to go back with him—and taking a horse and sled, started after Matildy and the baby.”

“And did they find them alive?” asked a listener, furtively brushing away the tears. “Yes, ma’am, they did. The snow had drifted over them, and so kept out a good deal of the cold, though Matildy was considerably frost-bitten. The baby was asleep, as comfortable as though it had been at home. But old Bob was dead. The journey and the cold had been too much for him.

“That spring the people at the settlements contributed money and bought my father another horse, so we wa’n’t much the worse off,” concluded the old man, seeming to be quite unconscious of his own heroism. Youth’s Companion.

Junean County Argus [New Lisbon WI] 23 August 1883: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A breathless moment there at the end. But poor, poor Bob….

 

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.

The Swan for Christmas Dinner: 1910

A Devonshire man sent his club, just before Christmas, a fine large swan in a hamper. The hamper was addressed to the secretary, who notified the club members of the treat that was in store, and a special swan dinner was arranged. The swan came on, at this dinner, looking magnificent — erect and stately on a great silver-gilt salver. But tough! It was so tough you couldn’t carve the gravy.

A few days later the sender of the swan dropped in at the club. “Got my swan all right. I hope?” he said to the secretary.

“Yes, and a nice trick you played us.”

“Trick? What do you mean?”

“Why, we boiled that swan for sixteen hours, and when it came on the table it was tougher than a block of granite.”

“Good gracious! Did you have my swan cooked?”

“Yes, of course.”

The other was in despair.

“Why, that bird was historic,” he groaned. “I sent him up to be stuffed and preserved. He had been in my family for 200 years. He had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 8 January 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to call a gentleman a liar, but swans only live for perhaps two or three decades at best. If the swan truly had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I, he must have been frozen solid for at least two centuries.

The club secretary and members would have felt like royalty: roast swan was a feature of royal Christmas feasts from time immemorial. The Crown may lay claim to all swans in public waters; currently the Queen shares her swans with two livery companies: the vintners and the dyers; the yearly ceremony of “swan upping” divides the Thames swans between the Queen and the livery companies. Queen Victoria and King Edward VII enjoyed a nice Christmas swan. This article gives the receipt for its preparation, should you happen to have a 200-year-old swan lying about the larder.

KING’S CHRISTMAS SWAN.

Every Year One is Served at Sandringham—The Recipe.

The royal swan has ever been a conspicuous item in the Christmas menu at Sandringham. Every year the largest and plumpest young cygnet that can be obtained from the swannery on the Thames is killed.

When it leaves the hands of the special messenger at Sandringham it is taken charge of by the head cook, who personally looks after it until it is laid before the king.

Trussed like a goose, it is stuffed with a rich mixture of which the principal ingredient is ¾ of a pound of rump steak. It is finally covered with a piece of oily paper, sprinkled with flour, wrapped in a second piece of paper; and then roasted on a spit for four or five hours in front of a blazing fire.

A gravy of beef is provided to which is added a pint of good port wine. Folk who have tasted this dish describe the flavor as being half way between goose and hare. New York World.

The Boston [MA] Globe 24 January 1909: p. 48

 

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.