Category Archives: Children

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

CHRISTMAS IN THE CRIMEA.

“The Crimea is the home of a country estate within pleasant driving distance of the city of Baltimore, belonging to Mr. Thomas Winans of Russian railway fame.

Close by the suburban mansion is a cottage, or rather, an elegant and commodious playhouse, which Santa Claus erected in a single night for the Winans children about twenty years since. Grace Greenwood, a frequent guest of the family, says of it:

“The small mansion was constructed in sections, and the furniture manufactured to order in town; everything marvelously complete. The children knew nothing of it. There was nothing on the lawn before their windows when they went to bed on Christmas Eve, but while they slept there were mysterious arrivals of wagons and workmen from Baltimore, and great doings by moonlight and lamplight. All night they worked, the carpenters and upholsterers, and at dawn gathered up their traps like the fairies and as silently stole away. In the morning the mother going to take the children, happened to look out on the lawn, and with an excellent imitation of innocence, exclaimed at the surprising sight, and then of course, the children ran pell-mell to see what the marvelous thing could be, and beheld the charming little villa, gay and bright, its windows flashing in the sun, and a fancy flag floating from its tower. The edifice was not of such fairy proportions that they could not keep house in it handsomely, and entertain their little friends and mamma and even papa, if he could stoop a little and make himself as small as he comfortably could. Washington Letter to N. Y. Times, May 4th, 1874.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A charming fancy!  Not unlike the parents who assemble toys and bicycles on Christmas Eve, only rather on a more extravagant scale.

The Winans residence on the Crimea Estate, known as Orianda House, still stands.  The children’s villa was a miniature replica. One can judge by the photo-gravures of the elaborate mansion how charming it must have been. Mrs Daffodil is told by the caretaker that the structure survived until the 1950s, but it has now vanished. However the mansion is open for visitors and events. Here is more information on the house and the Winans family.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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.

What the Draper Sees at Christmas: 1903

WHAT THE DRAPER SEES.

(From the Red Letter.)

Christmas Eve: fine, bright, frosty weather; for a time hatred, malice, and uncharitableness seem to be dying away. Some purses are heavy. more are light, but the hearts of their owners seem alike touched by thoughts that bring all that is best in them to the surface.

Fathers, who perhaps in the ordinary way would seek employment at the public-house to-night, assist their wives with the shopping. Plum puddings are a recognised Christmas institution, but in many families new pinafores for the little girls are almost as much so.

“I want to see some pinafores,” says a customer. Then going to the shop door, she sings out, “Come in, Joe.”

Joe appears doubtfully but when the pinafores are produced his shyness wears off, and his interest is keen. Nellie’s eleven, Marjorie’s eight, Jane is three, and baby’s 9 months. “We want one for each of them.” says the mother. They look at several.

“I say, mother, wouldn’t Nell look fine in that?” says Joe.

“Too dear.” says the careful housewife.

“’Ow much?” asks Joe.

The price quoted, and the generous father declares it is not a ha’penny too much. The selection is completed, and away they go happy. A minute or two after Joe reappears alone–left his stick, he says. “I say, show me some haprons, quick, miss, to fit the missus.” He buys a good one, and, cramming it into his pocket, goes out flourishing his recovered stick, left for the purpose.

Later his wife will dodge in and purchase a tie for Joe, bright enough to dispel a fog of the “London particular” variety.

Such is the pleasant scene enacted again and again in many a fancy shop on Christmas Eve, telling of a fund of affection which seldom finds expression.

Bashful young men appear to buy gloves, fur necklets, or silk ties for their sweethearts. Many come for gloves with no idea of size. One blushing swain informed me that her waist was 23 inches, but didn’t know her size in gloves. A few years ago girls were fond of buying braces and tobacco pouches, which they would embroider with their own fair hands for their beloved ones, but these are not so greatly favoured now, mufflers and silk handkerchiefs having replaced them. And. indeed, generally in present giving there seems to have been a movement in favour of the useful as opposed to the purely ornamental.

One Christmas Eve incident to close with. I was once employed in a shop the proprietor of which his assistants generally spoke of as the “Curmudgeon”–a name his character apparently justified. Just as we were close upon closing time a poor woman in widow’s weeds who had been a good customer in happier times came in and asked for pinafores. There had been a great rush of business, and all the cheap ones of the size she required had been sold. Her eyes tilled with tears to think that her little one must be disappointed.

Just as she was going the “Curmudgeon” came forward with a pinafore, saying. “This has been badly inked. and if it is of any use you may have it for six-pence.” The widow went away happy. The “Curmudgeon” had deliberately inked one of the best pinafores, knowing that she would not accept a big reduction as a matter of charity.

I am persuaded that the half-sovereign he gave me that night was meant to close my lips about the incident, but I refused to be bribed, and his name is no longer the “Curmudgeon.”

Waikato [NZ] Times 24 December 1903: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is always pleased to hear of kindly and generous fathers and husbands and of Scrooge-like employers who show unexpected flashes of liberality in the Christmas season. One hopes that the missus was pleased with her apron and Joe was delighted with his brilliant cravat. The Curmudgeon receives a reverential tip of a figurative cap for his delicate handling of a situation that called for the nicest diplomacy.

A “movement in favour of the useful as opposed to the purely ornamental,” was certainly all to the good. Young men groaned under the weight of the fancy-work inflicted on them by industrious young ladies and longed for a misfit holiday gift exchange where one could trade six pairs of nicely embroidered slippers for a serviceable jacket or cap. Even better would be if the ladies would not send the fad du jour done up in tissue. Mrs Daffodil shudders as she remembers a certain “singing fish” that was all the rage one Christmas.

THE CHRISTMAS FAD. 

I would put forth a yearning prayer

That these, the loving ones, and fair,

Who keep unworthy me in view

As one for Christmas presents due.

Might each, though generously inclined.

A separate inspiration find.

One year with handkerchiefs I’m showered.

The next by neckties overpowered:

Again more slippers than I’d need

Had I been born a centipede.

Another year, both maids and wives

Embower me in paper knives.

Then gloves came in, pair after pair

 Of every sort— from everywhere—

And smoking caps, whose sizes strange

From infants’ up to giants’ range!

Sweethearts, I pray you. list to me!

Whatever gift is said to be

The proper thing to send— the “fad”—

If you would make my poor heart glad

And cause my bosom joyous swells—

Don’t send it–please, send something else.

Feilding [NZ] Star 24 December 1901: p. 8

Of course, some gentlemen, driven to extremes by an excess of fancy-work might do as this man did:

For this man, who as a terrible fellow with the girls, no less than seven fair creatures manufactured pairs of slippers, all delicious things of embroidery, ribbons and velvet, and presented them to the lucky favorite at Christmas.

This was an embarrassment of riches, and the wretched man, having picked out the finest pair for his own use, quietly placed the remaining six pairs of slippers in the show window of a drygoods store downtown for sale. And they fetched fancy prices, I am told.

Pittsburg [PA] Dispatch 7 May 1890: p. 4

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.

Christmas Gifts for the Destitute: 1904

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR POOR CHILDREN

Six children were left destitute in one of the few poor families in a wealthy and fashionable suburb. It was near Christmas. A benevolent lady, Miss Scripp, had the children on her mind, but was not able personally to do much to gladden them at the joyful Christmastide for she herself was not rich. Her neighbors were, however, and Miss Scripp determined to make a canvass among them and secure gifts of food, clothing, and money—anything that could be spared from a wealthy household to make Christmas merry for the Hobb children.

Miss Scripp gave notice to her neighbors of her charitable intention. All the ladies replied that they would rejoice to contribute. Two days before Christmas Miss Scripp sent a boy around with a pushcart to make collections. He returned with an assortment of bundles as large as that of a laundryman on Monday morning and not unlike it in outward appearance.

With pleased anticipation, Miss Scripp had the boys carry the parcels into her pretty little dining room. Then she began to overhaul their contents. She began with the largest parcel. She uttered an exclamation of disappointment, vexation, even, as there unfolded before her the remains of that ivory white chiffon gown which had done duty at parties two winters for Mrs. J. Van Blinker De Whytte. Its multitudinous flouncings hung in festoons; its accordion plaiting was battered and bulging like an antique umbrella; its front was stained with particles of feasts ranging from heavy dinners of state to after theatre “snacks.”

“How can that be cut down into warm coats and stockings of the poor little Hobbs?” murmured Miss Scrip as she laid it aside with a deep sigh.

Few of the parcels were marked with the name of the donor. Evidently the fair and generous givers wished to do their alms in secret. It may have been that, but Miss Scripp concluded as she proceeded to go through a pile that they were ashamed to be known and for this reason had refrained from attaching their names to their respective donations. Unfortunately for this amiable precaution, however, Miss Scripp recognized most of the articles. Mrs. Thrifty had sent her old rain coat. It was out of fashion; it was also bedraggled; it also let the rain through in spots. Again Miss Scripp shoved the unpleasant article aside, with a sigh, and murmured:

“How can I make that available for keeping the poor little Hobbs warm?”

Miss Florence De Whytte sent a pair of pink satin slippers run over at the heel. She tucked into the tiny toe of one of them a necktie of her brother’s that had been worn so long it could never by any possibly be used again. Mrs. Pynchem sent, indeed, a woollen rug. It had lain at the threshold of her husband’s bedroom almost time out of mind. It had become worn into holes just where each of Pynchem’s substantial feet had pressed it, so that more than once he had tripped upon it and come near falling. Opportunely the very night before the boy called with the collecting pushcart Mr. Pynchem had said, with divers unconventional expressions, that if he ever found that old rag there again he would “histe” it out the front window. Thus perforce Mrs. Pynchem removed it, skilfully working it off on charity. But the gem of the collection for the destitute little Hobbs was Mrs. Sparing’s last winter’s calling hat. It had been a perfect dream when the milliner first turned it out, all silken, spangled gauze, and radiant rainbow tinted panne, with a sparkling buckle that had become so tarnished that Mrs. Sparing could never use it again. In this pristine perfectness there had been likewise real ostrich plumes upon that calling hat, but these Mrs. Sparing had prudently ripped off that she might have them renovated for another winter.

Such were some of the items in Miss Scripp’s charity collection for the destitute Hobb children’s Christmas.

Tabitha Sourgrapes.

The Rockford [IL] Daily Register-Gazette 24 December 1904: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One is rather reminded of Dicken’s Mrs Jellyby and her despised tracts. And of the many useless items made and urged upon visitors to charity bazaars.  One hopes that Miss Scripps sold the hand-cart of useless items to the rag-and-bone man for a goodly sum and was able to purchase the desired goods herself. 

Mrs Daffodil will charitably assume that the donors wished to remain anonymous because of the Biblical injunction: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.”  

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.

Snap-shots at the Beach: 1894

LITTLE GIRL’S CAMERA.

What She Did With It, and What Some Other Girls Might Do.

She was the loveliest little figure, wandering about the big hotel galleries or sitting by herself on the sand, very neatly but plainly dressed, and just 14 years old, she told me. When we became more or less friendly, for I used to ask her to come sit under my big beach umbrella, she explained she had come to the seaside for her health. which any one could plainly see, and that she came alone, because to pay her board and traveling expenses was all a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother and elder sister could manage.

It weighed on her tender conscience that she could do nothing to help them bear the burden of her summer’s outing, that the doctor had said was so necessary, and we talked it over often under my beach umbrella, until she made a great discovery. She had been given by her kind-hearted doctor a little eight-dollar snap shot camera, and one day, having taken a dozen photographs of my favorite sand seat, our party under the umbrella, clever glimpses of the bathing beach and our two dogs, my brother guaranteed to buy every one of the dozen at 80 cents each in order that she could have the photographs developed, printed, and mounted.

Now it cost her $1.45 to have them made ready for the sale, but as she sold the whole dozen to us for $3.60, her profits amounted to $2.15. But her camera only held twelve films, and a fresh roll cost 65 cents, so in the end she had cleared just $1.60. It didn’t seem very much, yet it was only the beginning, for our pictures proved so satisfactory we told others on the beach about it, and before the week was over she had more orders than she could fill. Everybody wanted to be taken over and over again, and our little photographer found that she could clear a profit of 13 cents on every picture she made. Since she could not afford to buy the necessary outfit for printing and mounting the photographs herself, they had to be sent to a factory, where all that was done for 12 cents per picture; as her camera held only enough films for one dozen photographs, costing 65 cents for the dozen, these items took a great deal off of her earnings. Yet she managed to clear $7 for her first week and $9 the next, nearly enough to meet the expenses of her board at the hotel, she told me delightedly.

It was very seldom she was not able to average $7 a week for the eight weeks she stayed at the beach, for every day new people came who wanted their pictures taken, and at length the kindly hotel proprietor paid her $25 to make a series of pictures in and about his hotel to be used as illustrations for his season’s prospectus and guide book.

She could hardly believe the money was her own, so great a sum did it appear, half enough to pay the big doctor’s bill her illness had cost, with $5 over to supply some materials she wanted for a new project This last was her own idea–to make pretty souvenirs and sell them to visitors. They were hand made albums of half a dozen bristol board sheets fastened together with stout silk cords, and then buying a printing frame and sheets of prepared paper she would make blue prints and mount them herself on the bristol board.

These albums gave the most picturesque and interesting views about our summer resort, and some of them had pasted to the sheets carefully pressed samples of the prettiest wild flower and seaweed found on shore or in the fields. Her albums cost her a great deal of patience and some outlay, but she sold nearly a dozen of them for $4 apiece, and the result was another $25 profit When at last she bade us farewell and packed up her little camera it was a rosy, happy face that turned homeward again. By her own exertions she had paid her board nearly the whole of her eight weeks’ stay and had helped with the big bills at home. The picture-taking had kept her out of doors every fair day; in search of pretty nooks and subjects, wild flowers and novel scenes she had taken many long walks, and ever busy and interested with her camera she grew as well and strong as she had ever been.

“I shall be a professional photographer when I grow up,” she solemnly assured me, patting her well-worn little camera with loving hands, “and I wish I could tell some other girls who want to make a little money how I made mine, for I think photography is just the sort of work that would suit girls, don’t you?”

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 5 August 1894: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a rosy picture of a city child sent to the sea-side to recover her health. One hopes that the enterprising young woman did not have a relapse when she returned to the privations and worries of home and grew up to become a celebrated professional photographer, well-able to keep her mother and elder sister in comfort.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a young woman who made a career photographing pets.

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.

Mrs Daffodil’s Mothers Day Greeting

 

For her readers in the United States, Mrs Daffodil wishes all fond Mamas the very happiest of days!

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 Adventure of the Little Wax Figure: 1895

wax headed baby doll

The Adventure of the Little Lay Figure.

Amongst the many strange things which have befallen me in my career as Court dressmaker, I do not think any experience is more peculiar and out of the way than the one which I am about to relate. I allude now to the “Adventure of the Little Lay Figure.”

By degrees, the difficulties which had beset me in the outset of my career were one by one overcome. I was obliged to take new premises. My show-rooms were wonders of beauty and elegance. I engaged many apprentices, and was, in short, busy from morning till night, and perhaps I ought to add, from night to morning again.

The story which I am going to tell began at a late hour one evening. I was busy helping to arrange the skirt of a very splendid Court train, and was giving eager directions to one of the most experienced of my work women, when a message was brought to me to the effect that a gentleman wished to see me on urgent business in my show-room.

“He begs of you to go to him at once, madam,” said the girl who brought me the message.

My mouth was full of pins, and I held a pair of sharp scissors in my hand as I listened to her.

“Whoever the gentleman is, he looks in an awful taking,” she continued.

“Well, I’ll go to him,” I replied. I ran downstairs and entered my showroom. A tall man in an overcoat, and holding his hat in one hand, was pacing up and down in front of some of my daintiest dresses. A pretty pale blue frock for a little girl of ten, which was to be sent home that evening, seemed in especial to rivet his attention.

As I entered the room, he stooped and took a portion of the fabric between his finger and thumb. “You are Miss Ross?” he interrogated.

“Yes,” I answered. “You have made this?’’ he continued.

“Yes,” I replied again.

“It is in the height of the fashion, I hope?’’

“It is,” I said. “I have copied it from last week’s fashions in the __.” I mentioned the name of our leading journal of fashion.

The gentleman bowed slightly. “It appears to be the correct sort of thing,” he said, “not that I know anything really about such matters. My name is Forrester. I live about eight miles out of town. I require the services of a competent dressmaker without a moment’s delay. My carriage is waiting at the door. Can you come with me at once?’’

“Not to-night,” I began.

Mr. Forrester interrupted with an impatient wave of his hand. “Money is not of the slightest object to me,” he said. “I will pay you any sum you like to ask. Let your work go. This is an affair of life or death. I require your immediate services, and feel sure that you cannot refuse them to me. You will reach my house in an hour and a half. With the assistance that will be given you, you will probably do what is required in a few hours, and I will undertake to send you home as soon as ever your task is done.”

“I can send an able assistant,” I began.

“Pardon me, I must have someone I can trust. I like your face, and am willing to employ you in this most delicate matter. Will you come immediately or not? If you say no, I must seek instant assistance in another quarter. Now, is it yes or no?”

As he spoke I looked straight up at my queer visitor. He was a man of about thirty-five, his eyes were dark, and his hair and sweeping moustache were raven black. He looked like a man who had gone through a great mental storm, but there was something frank and even pleasant about his expression which impelled me not only to sympathise with him, but to like him.

“It is very awkward for me to go,” I said, “but the call of trouble cannot be refused. You must give me five minutes to get ready and to give a few directions to my workwomen, then I will be with you.”

“I am exceedingly obliged to you, Miss Ross,” he answered; he sank down on the nearest chair and uttered a heavy sigh of relief. I rushed away, and at the end of the appointed five minutes was again by his side.

“I am ready now,” I said, “but before we start it may be well for me to know something of  the sort of services which are required of me. I presume I am expected to assist in the making of an important dress. Is it for an old, a middle-aged, or a young lady?”

He gulped down a sort of choking sensation in his throat before he replied.

“The dress is for a child,” he said, “for quite a young child. It must be very soft and pretty, and above all things, fashionable.”

“Is the child dark or fair?” I asked.

His face grew whiter than before.

“The child is fair as an angel,” he said, bringing out the words with difficulty.

“Then perhaps it would be well for me to take some suitable stuffs with me,” I said.

I opened some drawers as I spoke, made a hasty selection from a lovely assortment of soft silks and crêpons, wrapped them up in brown paper, put them into a bag which I carried in my hand, and then followed Mr. Forrester to his carriage.

A footman in livery and powder opened the door for us.

“Tell Jenkins to drive home as fast as ever he can,” said Mr. Forrester to the man. We started forward immediately at a rattling speed, and in an incredibly short space of time found ourselves outside London and on a high road, which I could see in the moonlight was smooth and flat, and commanded a level sweep of country. We drove on for three-quarters of an hour without my companion addressing a single word to me. At the end of that time he broke the silence abruptly.

“I have asked you to come with me,” he said, “to execute a most strange and unusual task. The fact is, my wife has just gone through a terrible illness. Her health in consequence is in a very precarious, I may say dangerous, condition. Her life hangs by a thread, and a very slight shock would kill her. The means which I am about to employ, and in which I seek your assistance, seem the only possible ones to prolong a most valuable and precious life. Dressmaking is not accompanied by such grave issues as a rule, but this case is altogether exceptional.”

“I wish you would tell me frankly what you want me to do,” I said, nettled and somewhat alarmed by his mysterious words.

“I find it difficult to tell you,” he replied; “have a little patience, and you will soon know.”

There was such despair in his voice that I forbore to question him further, and soon afterwards we reached some gates, which were immediately flung open, and the horses plunged down a long avenue overshadowed by trees.

“Remember,” said Mr. Forrester, as we approached the hall door, “that money is no object—no object whatever. The mission I ask you to undertake for me is of so delicate a character that there are few women to whom I could entrust it. I feel sure, when you know all, that you will regard it as a secret. Here we are at last, thank heaven. Now, Miss Ross, have the goodness to follow me.”

We had drawn up at the entrance to a large mansion. A footman ran down a tall flight of steps to open the carriage door, and Mr. Forrester helped me to alight.

“Is Austin in the nurseries, James?” asked the master of the house.

“Yes, sir; Mrs. Austin told me to tell you that she was in attendance and was waiting for your arrival,” answered the footman.

“Very well. Please follow me, Miss Ross.”

We found ourselves in the stately entrance hall, but my host did not give me a moment to look around me. He hurried me down some long corridors and up some richly carpeted stairs, then down other passages and up other stairs, until we drew up at last outside a red baize door.

Here he paused for a second.

“Mrs. Austin can explain better than I can the peculiar services which are required of you,” he said. He opened the door as he spoke, and ushered me in. I found myself in a cheerful and beautiful room. A bright fire burnt in the grate. Wax candles and lamps added to the pleasant effect. The walls were hung with lovely pictures of childhood in many forms. A rocking-horse stood in one corner. A doll sat dismally up in a little arm-chair and stared at me with two round black eyes. The expression on that doll’s face seemed immediately to get on my brain. I turned away from it with a sinking of heart which I could not account for. A middle-aged woman, whose eyes were red as if she had been weeping, came eagerly forward when we appeared.

“I have brought Miss Ross, Mrs. Austin,” said Mr. Forrester. “She is an excellent dressmaker, and will do exactly what is required. See that she gets what assistance is necessary for her work. Miss Ross will be occupied all night, but I should wish to see her before she leaves in the morning.” Here Mr. Forrester turned and bowed to me; the next moment he had vanished.

“Will you take off your bonnet and cloak, Miss Ross?” said Mrs. Austin. I did so without speaking, and with hands which trembled slightly. There was evidently much tragedy in the mysterious affair in which I was called to play a part, and steady as my nerves were, they began to be affected.

Mrs. Austin stood quietly before me. She looked at me earnestly. Her lips were firmly set, but the red rims round her eyes showed the strong control in which she was keeping her emotions.

“Now what am I to do?” I asked. “Your master says I am to make a dress in a great hurry for a child; where is the child?”

“In this room, my dear. Follow me immediately if you please. Oh, you needn’t be frightened; it is nothing infectious.”

I followed the woman with a beating heart. The next moment I found myself in a room where a shaded light was burning, and where another woman, who looked like a trained nurse, was seated by a cot. Even in the darkened light I could dimly notice the outline of a child’s form. She lay perfectly still; her breathing was fast and hurried. The room had that faint, intangible smell which generally accompanies severe illness.

“Why am I brought to see a sick child?” I asked of Mrs. Austin in a whisper.

“Hush, don’t speak; you will know all in a moment,” she replied; then she turned to the trained nurse.

“This is the dressmaker, nurse,” she said. “Will it do Miss Dorothea any harm for Miss Ross to take one good look at her face and figure?”

The nurse shook her head in reply.

“Nothing will harm the child now,” she said; “she is dying fast. Dr. Norton was here not an hour ago, and he does not think she will live to see the morning.”

The woman spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. She took up a candle as she spoke, and motioned to me to approach the little bed. I did so, and looked down at the most beautiful child’s face I had ever seen. Already, however, it looked like a face cut out in wax, so deadly white were the cheeks and lips, so sunken the eyelids which sheltered the closed eyes. The child lay absolutely motionless, her feeble and hurried breath being the only signs that she lived. Her quantities of magnificent golden hair were flung high over the pillow. I gazed at her in pained astonishment. What was the mysterious mission which I was called upon to perform for this dying child?

“You have seen her,” said Mrs. Austin; “you notice that she is fair; observe her figure too; she is slender, very slender. Now, nurse, here are a pair of scissors; if you will cut off the hair, I think we can go immediately to work.”

“I will bring you the child’s hair in a few moments,” replied the nurse. “Miss Ross had better begin her task directly. I will follow you in a few moments into the day nursery.”

We left the room. I sank down on the nearest chair in the outer apartment.

“This frightens me,” I said. “I cannot imagine what task I am expected to perform.”

“Oh, you’ll be brave enough,” said Mrs. Austin; “it isn’t for you to flinch when we have to go through with it. Now listen to me. I’ll tell you the tragedy of this house in a few words. The dying child we have just come from is the heiress to all this splendid old place—not that that matters—what am I talking of? Wealth is of little matter in a supreme moment of this kind. Now listen to me, Miss Ross. My master, Mr. Forrester, is the most devoted husband and father in the world. A month ago there were no happier people on earth than Mr. and Mrs. Forrester and the dear child whom God is taking away from us.

Six weeks ago Mrs. Forrester became very ill. How she took the infection no one knows, but she suddenly developed the most awful form of smallpox.”

I could not help starting; the terrible words pressed like ice against my heart.

“You needn’t be frightened,” said Mrs. Austin. “Precautions of so perfect a nature have been taken that there is not the faintest risk of infection for any one in the house. For days my poor lady lay truly at death’s door; then her disease took an extraordinary turn—she became possessed with an almost insane longing to see her child. She had always been the most unselfish of mothers, and I can only conclude that the illness slightly turned her brain. No persuasions, no arguments had the least effect upon her; she moaned and cried for the child day and night; she said she did not want to touch her, but see her by some means or other she must and would. The doctors at last became quite alarmed, and said that her recovery depended on indulging this craving. After thinking matters over, they devised a plan by which the mother could see the child without risk to the little one. An air-tight window was introduced into Mrs. Forrester’s dressing: room; this dressing-room communicated with another room which was hastily fitted up as a sort of study for the child, and through this window day after day during her convalescence the mother has gazed at the child without the child seeing her, or knowing that she was there. As soon as the window was made, and Mrs. Forrester’s wish could be gratified, she began rapidly to get better; but on Monday last Miss Dorothea developed acute pneumonia, and, as you have just heard, her recovery is hopeless. To tell Mrs. Forrester the truth at this juncture would, the doctors say, bring on such a relapse that either her life or her reason must be the forfeit. She is anxiously counting the hours when she can again clasp the child to her heart, and knows nothing whatever of the terrible illness which is going to take the little one from her. The doctors are nearly distracted, and as to Mr. Forrester, you may imagine the state of his feelings. An idea, however, has occurred to the medical men, which they think may possibly be successful. What they want is time—time to allow Mrs. Forrester to get up her strength sufficiently to bear the blow of her child’s death. She is already fearfully anxious and suspicious at not having seen the child since Monday morning, when the illness first began. The nurses and doctors have put off her questions, and have tried to avert her suspicions in all kinds of ways, but I am told that to-night the poor lady is in a frantic state of unrest and misery—in short, Miss Ross, we have not a moment to lose.”

“I will do all in my power,” I said. “I don’t know in the least what I am to do, but you may be sure when you tell me I will do my very best.”

“Your work is straightforward enough,” replied Mrs. Austin. “Mr. Forrester has had a little wax figure made to resemble the child in all particulars. The child’s own hair is to be put upon the little figure, and you are to dress it. There are some peculiarities about Miss Dorothea which I will specially point out to you; all these you will carefully copy in the little effigy which is to represent her. The little figure is to wear a perfectly new and fashionable dress, which Miss Dorothea was to put on the next time her mother saw her, and which, of course, was never made when the child became so dangerously ill. Mrs. Forrester has always been most particular with regard to the child’s wardrobe, and knew that she was to wear a specially charming and fashionable frock when next she saw her. Now you know what you have got to do —you are to make a beautiful and becoming frock, and you are to give such a life-like air to the little figure, that when my poor lady sees it through the window, she will never guess that it is not Miss Dorothea herself. The figure can be seated with its back slightly turned to the window, and we hope that my poor mistress will never notice the terrible deception practised upon her.”

When I clearly understood what my work was to be, I sat perfectly still. My feelings of astonishment almost stunned me.

“Why don’t you speak?” said Mrs. Austin, giving me an anxious, dissatisfied glance.

“I have been thinking,” I replied, brisking up and rising to my feet as I spoke. “What you have told me has amazed—yes, and terrified me. I promise to do my best; oh yes, you may be sure of that, but  forgive me for saying I think your scheme has little chance of success.”

“It shall succeed,” interrupted Mrs. Austin.

“God grant that it may, if by it your poor lady’s life is saved; but have you not thought of the frightful risk? Remember you are playing with edged tools —you are going to practise this deception on a mother. I remember my own mother; I do not think the most perfect wax representation of one of her children could for a moment have deceived her. You say that Mrs. Forrester is to gaze at the little figure through a window.”

“Yes, yes; she has often since her illness looked at Miss Dorothea in the same way.”

“But the real Miss Dorothea has moved,” I said; “children are never still. The mother has watched each familiar gesture; she has seen the little face wearing many expressions. Now the wax figure—”

“We have thought of all that,” interrupted Mrs. Austin. “The little wax effigy is supplied with wires which will cause certain involuntary movements; the figure will wear the child’s own hair, and will be placed with its back to the mother. She will not dare to call to it, for she would not for worlds let the child see her poor scarred face until it is better. She has promised faithfully never to speak to the child when she looks at it through the window, and I do not for a moment believe she will break her word. In a few days now she will be free from infection, but until then nothing would induce her in her saner moments to risk frightening the child in any way. Oh, I know it is a terrible, terrible risk, but we are forced to run it. God grant that it may succeed.”

“I can fervently echo that prayer,” I responded; “and now let me set to work. I have brought some beautiful materials for children’s frocks with me, and will do my very best to dress the little figure so that the mother may be pleased.”

“We have a workroom all ready for you just beyond this nursery,” said Mrs. Austin. “My mistress’s maid and I will assist you all night. A hairdresser will also be in the room busily converting the child’s own hair into a little wig. Now come; we have not too much time.”

I followed Mrs. Austin, and a few moments later had begun my task. All night long I worked, directing my assistants and manufacturing with their aid one of the most lovely children’s dresses I had ever made. As the dress grew under my fingers I thought of the dying child who would never wear it. There was an ethereal quality about her little face which haunted me. As I worked I seemed to see her with her white wings, in the dress which the angels would give her to wear. I cannot tell why, but the whole tragedy of this most pathetic and terrible story seemed to get into the tips of my fingers, and to help me to fashion the white which I was making. It is impossible for me to describe exactly its particular cut and design. I only know that it looked like no other dress I had ever made. Even now, when I think of it, a lump gets into my throat and a dimness comes before my eyes. As the night wore on, I began to feel a tender affection for the poor little lifeless figure I was clothing. I had only seen the child in illness. When I looked at her sweet face, she was lying under the grey and awful shadow of death, but the little representation of her had been cunningly contrived to resemble the child in health. The colouring on its face was very faint, but the large eyes were blue and rich in their depths, the lips were slightly parted, there was the faint dawning of a happy smile in the expression. The hairdresser worked hard and without a moment’s intermission at the wig of golden hair. When it crowned the little head of the figure, I could not help exclaiming at the lifelike appearance it gave it.

As the hours flew on, my queer work fascinated me. I forgot that I was due in London at an early hour in the morning; my own affairs, my many orders, sank into insignificance. I thought of nothing but the dying child, and the mother who would surely die or become mad if she knew the truth.

When the dawn broke in the winter sky, the hairdresser and I had completed our work. The little figure was clothed in exact representation of the living child. Mr. Forrester was hastily summoned to look at it. His visible start and the colour which rushed over his face, leaving it the next moment deadly pale, were proof sufficient how well we had succeeded.

“You have done splendidly,” he said, coming up to me and speaking in a hoarse voice; then he hastily left the room to hide his emotion.

I had done my task, and under other circumstances would have returned to town, but at this moment there came a knock at the door, and Mrs. Austin went hurriedly to open it. She was absent for some little time talking to someone in the passage, then she returned to me.

“What is to be done now?” she said. “Nobody could have performed their part better than you have done, Miss Ross, and it would be unreasonable, more than unreasonable, to expect anything further at your hands.”

“Not at all,” I said. “I am much, I am deeply interested. In short, if your master will permit me, I should like to stay here until after the experiment of showing the wax figure to your mistress has been tried. I cannot rest until I know if it has been successful.”

“It must be successful,” said Mrs. Austin. “I can’t look at the little figure sitting by that table so natural and life-like without the tears springing to my eyes. Somehow it seems as if she must turn round and speak to us, sweet lamb; but dear, dear, I’m forgetting the new worry.”

“What is that?”

“My poor mistress has been in a very fretful and queer state all night. I have just seen one of the nurses, and she says that she has had a terrible time with her. There is really little or no doubt that the smallpox has slightly affected my mistress’s brain, and now nothing will satisfy her but to have a dress, which was not finished when she took ill, tried on, in order that she may wear it to-day when she looks at the child. It is blue velvet, and Miss Dorothea had taken a fancy to it, so I conclude that is the reason why the wish to wear it has got upon the poor lady’s brain. The nurses know nothing about dressmaking, nothing will induce Simkins, the lady’s maid, to go near my mistress, and—“

“You want me to go?” I interrupted.

“Would you be dreadfully afraid? The doctors say there is little or no infection now from the disease, and you could fit her in a new room into which she is to be moved this morning.”

I hesitated. In this critical moment, was the slight risk to my own life of much value?

“I will go,” I said, “and be vaccinated when I go back to town to-night.”

“Miss Ross, may heaven reward you. You are the bravest woman I ever met.”

“Tell me one thing before I go,” I said; “for it may not be safe for me to see you again. How is the child this morning?”

“Alive, but sinking fast. Oh, God, help the poor mother; if through your assistance, Miss Ross, we keep the terrible truth from her for a week, she will probably have strength to bear the blow when it really falls.”

“Pray give me some breakfast,” I said. “I will go to Mrs. Forrester immediately afterwards.”

“Come this way; what a good woman you are! We can never forget what you are doing for us.”

I had something to eat, and immediately afterwards was conducted to a large bedroom, where Mrs. Forrester and the two nurses, who waited on her day and night, received me. The poor lady herself sat behind curtains, which partly concealed the ravages which the terrible complaint had made on her face. The nurses were very cheerful and practical women. The blue velvet dress lay on a large table in the middle of the room. The skirt was completely finished, but the body required to be taken in and altered, as Mrs. Forrester had shrunk much during her illness. I went about my task in a matter-of-fact spirit, very different from that with which I had worked at the little white dress in the night. Mrs. Forrester talked while I pinned and altered; her dark and beautiful eyes had a slightly vacant look, but she was interested in her dress, stroking down the soft folds of the velvet with her emaciated white fingers. One of the nurses assured me that she would not be permanently marked by the smallpox, and would be quite as beautiful as ever after a time. All her talk while I fitted and arranged the dress was about little Dorothea.

“Be as quick as you can, Miss Ross,” she said many times. “My little girl must be beginning her studies now, and I am quite pining to look at her. It is some days since I have seen her. The child begged for a holiday, and has not been near the study. You see, she does not know that I look at her through the air-tight window, but you cannot guess how I long to see her. My heart is quite starved for another sight of my precious little darling. Nurse, when did you say that I should be quite free of infection? When do the doctors think it will be safe for me to kiss the child? To-morrow, nurse? Do they think it will be safe for me to kiss her to-morrow? Oh, pray don’t think of my poor scarred face; she won’t mind that, my sweet one. I may see her to-morrow, may I not, nurse?”

“Perhaps by the end of the week, dear madam, scarcely to-morrow,” answered the nurse.

“Oh, I have not patience to wait; how cruelly long the time is. Miss Ross, I see that you are a very accomplished dressmaker. You are making this dress fit me most beautifully. How did it happen that you were in the house?”

I thought for a moment, then I said boldly:

“I was sent for to make a new dress for Miss Dorothea.”

“That is delightful; I am most particular about the child’s clothes. I hope it is a pretty dress.”

“It is beautiful.”

“Is it finished?”

“Yes; she will wear it when you see her.”

Soon afterwards, my task being finished, I left the room. The reports from the child’s nursery were just the same; she was alive, and that was all; no one had a shadow of hope about her. Mrs. Austin, whose cheeks were the colour of peonies in her excitement, whispered to me that the little wax figure was now in the study, and that the mother would soon go to the window of her dressing-room to look at it. She left me almost immediately after giving me this information, and I found myself alone. A burning curiosity suddenly seized me to gaze at my own handiwork. There was no one by. I felt sure that I could find my way to the study. I determined to go there to take one good look at the effigy of the child. I stole away on tip-toe, found the room, and went in. by a table. I must own that I had never seen before, either in wax or marble, so lifelike a representation. One arm was pressed on the table, the small dimpled hand was supporting the child’s cheek. From where I stood, the profile could be slightly seen; the rich golden hair fell partly over the little hand, and cast a life-like shadow on the fair face. The clockwork within the figure had been evidently wound up, and it stirred now and then in the most absolutely natural manner.

“That little figure would deceive me,” I said to myself, “but can it take in a mother? That is the question which is so soon to be decided.”

I was still gazing at my own work, when a faint sound caused me to hide quickly behind a screen which happened to be in a part of the room. From there I could see without being seen. I saw the lady in her blue velvet dress come up to the window and look in with a long, earnest, hungry gaze. For a moment she was absolutely motionless. I kept looking at her, too fascinated, too intent to move. Was she satisfied? Would she go away after a time without detecting the awful sham which was being played upon her? She gazed on; she stood as if rooted to the spot. Suddenly, to my terror, I saw a new look come into her eyes, a suspicious, watchful look; it grew and deepened, the eyes filled with fear; the next instant she had left the window; the next, she had rushed into the room.

“I am here, Dolly, my darling—I am here. I must kiss you—I can’t live without kissing you,” she exclaimed. She made a long stride towards the little figure, and clasped the lifeless wax image to her breast. The next terrible moment shriek after shriek filled the room. I can never forget that sound. I can never forget the look on that woman’s face. She had spurned the little figure, which lay prone on the ground, and incoherent, wild, and mad words began to pour in a torrent from her lips. Mrs. Austin and Mr. Forrester both rushed on the scene. They did not notice me; from the first no one had seen me. I don’t know what impulse came over me just then, but I have felt since that I was guided by a Power higher and greater than my own. As if there wings to my feet, I ran from the room. I burst open the door of the night nursery where the dying child lay.

“Give her to me,” I said to the nurse. “Wrap something warm round her, and give her to me at once. She lives; perhaps she will not die; perhaps she will recover. At any rate, give her to me, at once . . . this moment. . . . It is the only chance.”

The woman stared at me as if I were mad. I did not mind her; the strength of a dozen women seemed to have got into me. When the nurse tried to prevent me, I pushed her aside. Quick as thought, I wrapped a warm blanket round the child, and rushing down the passage, carried her into the room where the poor mother was raving madly.

“Here she is,” I said, “your own child, your very own. She lives; take her, save her —let your great love save her—oh, I believe it will.” I put the child into Mrs. Forrester’s arms. The moment she lifted it she stopped muttering. The little one opened her sleepy eyes and gazed full up at her mother. She saw no scars, no ugliness in the well-loved face. She put up her hot hand to stroke it. Mrs. Forrester turned and bore her quickly out of the room.

The mother herself nursed the child back to life and health. Little Dorothea never took the smallpox.

The Woman at Home, “Stories from the Diary of a Court Dressmaker,” L.T. Meade, 1895: pp.  434 -444

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who has something in her eye, can add nothing to this tale.

That grim and grewsome [sic] person over at Haunted Ohio shared a strange story one Halloween about a ghastly wax effigy of a child with a less happy ending.

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.

 

No Fare for the Doll: 1890

Kestner lord fauntleroy doll

JD Kestner porcelain doll. Former Ruby Lane listing.

NO FARE FOR THE DOLL

Innocent Childhood Utterly Disconcerts a Washington Car Conductor.

A rather small girl of perhaps eight summers got on board an F street car the day before yesterday, says the Washington Critic, with a doll thrown over her shoulder as big as a four-year-old child, under the weight of which she positively staggered.

It had on a real little boy’s hat and it was not until the passengers had had time to observe the fixity of its round-eyed stare and the unnatural hue of its porcelain complexion that they realized it was not an actual infant.

It even had on a thick coat for protection against the weather, made in the latest fashion, and its hair hung in golden ringlets over its shoulders.

The little girl seated herself near the forward end of the vehicle and placed the doll beside her in the attitude of looking out of the window, as children do, kneeling upon the seat. Presently the conductor came along for fares and she handed him a single ticket.

“You must pay for your little brother, too, if he is to occupy a seat. That is the rule of this line.”

“But this is not my brother,” replied the small girl, sitting with one hand holding onto the doll, which was still apparently engaged in gazing out of the window.

“Well, he maybe your cousin, for all I know; but yer gotter pay fer him unless you take him on your lap.”

“All right,” said the small girl, philosophically. “I’ll take him.”

And with that she lifted the doll into her lap, so that it faced the conductor, who, after gazing at it for eight seconds by the watch, rushed out upon the platform amid the tittering of the other passengers, and in his agitation, recorded four extra uncalled-for fares.

The little girl got off at Ninth street, the doll over her shoulder, and staggered towards Pennsylvania avenue.

The Evening World [New York NY] 4 June 1890: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Porcelain dolls, particularly the “character dolls” by German firms, were extraordinarily life-like, with their exquisitely-painted complexions, glass eyes, and real eye-lashes. Even a doll-collecting enthusiast like Queen Mary had some difficulty distinguishing life from art.

Boy Like Doll Surprises Queen.

London, March 6. A boy she mistook for a doll gave Queen Mary a surprise at the British Industrial Fair. Six-year-old Basil Stoddart was dressed in white shirt and Highland kilt and told to stand at attention when Queen Mary came along. He stood for 10 minutes, so immobile he fooled her Majesty. Then she said: “Oh, I am sorry. I thought you were a little doll.” Said the “doll” politely but firmly, “No, I am Basil.”

The Ottawa [Ontario Canada] Journal 7 April 1939: p. 13

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.

The Modern Mother: 1928

 

the modern flapper mother The Decatur Review 18 March 1928

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers who celebrate it a very happy, and perhaps less strenuous, Mothering Sunday.

Although the clarity of the cartoon is not of the best, this was one of Ethel Hays’s spritely cartoons, from 1928.  She was widely known for her “Flapper Fanny” cartoons and her book illustrations.

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.

The Deadly Chewing Gum: 1885

chewing gum seller 1894

The Deadly Chewing Gum.

Some people are continually advocating the cause of total abstinence and waging  war upon the hard cider when it stirreth itself aright in the Venetian glass But they do not seem know there is a vice equally as bad as that, which stings like a centipede and bites like a dose of Jamaica ginger, holding in its grip some of the fairest young ladies of our broad republic, and as I said before I deem it my duty to expose to the world some of the ravages made in our best families by that grim monster who enters into the very heart of our domestic fabric under the name of “Chewing Gum.”

I once knew a black-haired girl with great, liquid, laughing, pleading eyes that looked like a big white daisy with a black spot in the centre, and breath like a clover-fed Polled-Angus heifer. She could have more fun than anybody at a church social or roller skating-rink carnival, and her merry laugh filled the house with more mirth, soulful song and silver-plated melody than any amateur opera company that ever stopped at the entrance to the Grand Canyon. All the boys were “dead gone” on her, and she was mashed on several herself. But in an unguarded moment she commenced nibbling at and chewing her mother’s beeswax. This did not long satisfy her. The cruel thralldom had begun. Whenever she felt depressed, all broke up, or statu quo, as the case might be, there a nothing that would remove her ennui and fill the dark, fathomless aching void in her system, which was situated under the south end of her red corset, but the conscience-deadening, soul-destroying debaser of girlhood—beeswax. From this she gradually sunk lower and lower; became more debased and reckless, till she finally could not shake off the chains that bound her, and there was hardly an hour that she was not under the baleful influence of spruce gum or taffy on a broom-straw.

If she could not get spruce-gum to assuage her mad thirst she would chew on the rubber top of a lead pencil or strings out of an old elastic suspender.

She gradually pined away until she wouldn’t average over twelve ounces to the pound. She could no longer sit on one foot and be happy.

Life to her was filled with mahogany-colored gloom, lit up with only wax Christmas tree candles, and seemed but a rickety rusty waste of stub-toed grief. At last she took an overdose of gum overshoes and tar-roofing one day and her soul glided off for the land where hot-house plants never freeze.

If this little sketch will help any young girl in the community to shun chewing gum like she would the soft dude of the cultured East, and induce her to lead a better and nobler life in the future, it will have accomplished a mission for which the writer is truly thankful in advance.

Salt Lake [UT] Evening Democrat 23 May 1885: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A powerful and cautionary testimonial!  Not for nothing did mothers everywhere caution their children not to swallow gum. It was a mere step from chewing gum to chewing tobacco and from thence to the craving of strong drink.

 

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.

Genevieve, Whose Husband was Domestic: 1909

evenings at home 1919

Genevieve Whose Husband Was Domestic.

“I have been home fully fifteen minutes, Genevieve,” growls James. “Fully fifteen minutes, and here it is after 5 o’clock and no sign of dinner. You just getting home, too! I should think the entire day to yourself, galivanting about  was enough without staying out to such an hour! Where have you been?”

“Why, James, after I got the work done, I had to go down town to get your shirts ordered and to see about the children’s underwear for winter. Then I got a pattern for Jimmy-boy’s little coat that I’m going to make out of your old one. I hurried all I could and there’s plenty of time to get dinner. I’m not—so—very–tired.”

Genevieve has been dragging about the shops all afternoon with two babies. She always does, because James is certain that a good mother and a truly domestic woman would prefer to take care of her own babies, so they never kept a maid. “Useless extravagance,” said James, and he was a well-paid man, too. So domestic was James, besides. Quite the beau ideal of all Genevieve’s friends whose husbands were so depraved as to belong to lodges and smoke cigars and commit such like atrocities.

“How on earth you women find amusement in that eternal shopping! There, there. Let it go, say no more about it! Just get dinner right away. I’m hungry.” Shopping! And she got the children’s winter flannels and ordered James’ shirts, and had to run in an itemized account of her wild expenditure! Um!

“No, no,” continued sweet James to Jimmy-boy, aged three years, “no, no. papa’s tired. Run on out into the kitchen to mamma!”

Well! Jimmy-boy had been toddling about after mamma all afternoon and he was tired, too! So was mamma.

“Wa-a-yah-ow!” remarks Jimmy-boy.

“Genevieve, take that child out into the kitchen and get his coat off. Can’t you see he’s tired to death? Some people have no consideration for children,” cooes James, the dear, domestic husband.

Genevieve was ever such a belle before her James came along and gurgled at her about the ideal married life. A happy little home and a dear little wife was his text. No scouting about town for him when he had such a sweet girl as Genevieve waiting at home for him. And Genevieve looked upon her friends’ husbands who stayed out to lodge meetings and asked her friends themselves how about it, and they all said with one voice, “Genevieve, there’s nothing so calculated to make a woman happy as a really, truly domestic husband.”

Mother said so, too. And father remarked that James was a man after his own heart. But father belonged to two lodges and the G. A. R., bless him, and Genevieve wondered a bit and sort of shied at acquiring a hubby so much superior to the beloved daddy of her childhood and the companionable, let’s-get-out-among-’em father of her later years who took her every single place she wanted to go when there was no one else interfering around.

But she thought it must be all right. And James adored her. She was not yet wise enough to see that James adoring her was not quite the same as James being adorable or their both adoring each other, and that those missing matters might become conspicuous by their absence in the strain and stress of wedded life.

Well! So Genevieve married James. And now there was a Jenny-girl, aged six, and a Jimmy-boy, aged three, and Genevieve did all the work, except the washing, and took care of the children evenings after James went to bed at 8 o’clock, and enjoyed a hilarious life in general.

“Where did you go this afternoon?” says James.

“To the l.adies’ Aid meeting, James,” murmurs Genevieve.

“Does that take all afternoon? Where else were you?”

“Why, I stopped at mother’s a few minutes on the way home,” murmurs Genevieve.

“John Handy said he saw you downtown without the children at about half-past 4?” And James gazed upon her with an inquiring frown.

“Yes, mother wanted me to do a little shopping for her and I left the children with her while I went.”

“What on earth did your mother want that she couldn’t get herself?” (Thoughtful husband!)

“Why, she could have got the things, but she thought I’d enjoy the walk by myself.”

“By yourself! Well, of all the unnatural ideas! A woman with her heart in the right place could not bear to be away from her babies like that!” sniffed James.

No, Genevieve does not throw the coffee pot at him. She has been trained by generations of domestic women and by a circle of domesticated friends to believe that a man who pays the bills and stays home nights is the ideal husband. It would be wrong to crack a perfectly good ideal with a coffee pot.

But some days when James inquires who it was bowed to her on the street at half past 3 o’clock that afternoon, and who she saw in the stores, and why she stopped to talk to that blessed preacher when she knew he was waiting for her to come and take care of the children so he could get his Sunday afternoon nap, and if she thinks anybody is going to look at her that she togs herself out in that silly style–some time, some time, something is going to happen to that dear, devoted husband, who never belonged to a naughty club in his life, never smoked, never drank, thinks games of chance are of the devil and stays at home every night of his life with his dear little wifie.

Because, dear little wifie is a natural born widow, anyway!

The Sunday Star [Washington DC] 21 November 1909, Part 4: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has observed that the men who are most vigilant and suspicious (has James hired one of the Pinkertons to discover who bowed to Genevieve on the street at half past 3 o’clock?) are those who themselves have something to hide. Mrs Daffodil would not be surprised to find that the domestic paragon James is a good deal naughtier than he pretends, and, in fact, has installed another family in a happy little home in a nearby neighbourhood, where he is known as a hardware drummer who spends much of his time on the road.  Some time, something is going to happen, indeed….

 

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.