Category Archives: Children

Grandmere Jeanneton: 1884

grandmere

“GRANDMERE JEANNETON.”

I was smoking my after-dinner cigar and reading Figaro on the esplanade in Strasbourg, when I was accosted by an old woman who inquired in French for the nearest photographer. She wore the common dress of the Alsatian peasant, and her dusty shoes indicated a long foot journey, but under her linen head-dress fell her white hair round a face that, sunburnt and wrinkled and wearing traces of recent tears, yet was so beautiful in its expression of tender goodness and touching resignation not unmixed with a certain pride, that I involuntarily addressed her as “Grandmere,” and forgetting that I had promised a friend to await his arrival, offered to guide her to her destination.

On the road she told me her simple story. She was a widow, and lived prior to the French-German war with her married son in a village, fifty miles from Strasbourg. They were well-to-do peasants before the enemy invaded their little village; but one morning they woke to find the Prussians encamped in their fields and making themselves perfectly at home. More troops arrived the next day and the following, until the quiet village was a big camp, where the enemy heaped up the stores needed for the siege of Strasbourg.

One dark night the camp was alarmed and a magazine containing among other stores a considerable quantity of powder was found on fire, and there was no doubt that it was the work of the inhabitants. Accordingly the next morning six of the most prominent or most patriotic of the inhabitants were brought before the Prussian commander, and after a short examination that proved nothing, without further trial, were shot in the square in front of the village church. The widow’s son was one of the six victims, and his wife, who became frantic with grief over his death, was the next morning found lifeless on his grave, thus leaving her infant son to the sole care of his grandmother.

The old woman now centered all her hope and all her affection in the little boy, and as he grew up she was fully repaid, for he loved his grandmother with an intensity often found in children who die young a love that was alone equaled by his veneration of his dead parents, his adoration of “la belle France” and his hate of the Prussians, for the old woman, who loved her country dearly, and never forgot that her husband fell fighting for it at “Solferino,” and that her son was killed by its enemies, instilled, perhaps unconsciously, both feelings in his young breast.

One day, when the boy was 10 years old, a Prussian official who inspected the village school was struck with his beauty and serious air, and addressed a question to him in German respecting his parents. “The Prussians killed them,” answered the boy in French. The official colored, and in a rebuking tone asked the boy why he didn’t speak German. “Because it is the language of my country’s enemies,” answered the boy fearlessly.

The official ordered him in arrest, and he was shut up in a chamber above the school-room, where he remained until night, when he boldly leaped from the window to the ground and, as he fell in a thick copse, escaped unhurt. The boy now fairly flew to his grandmother’s house, but as he was afraid of being seen and brought back to the school if he followed the road, he crossed in through the fields behind the village.

It was in the harvest and the grapes were ripe, so old Martin, the owner of the choicest grapes in the village, kept watch with a loaded shot-gun over his precious treasures. Softly he walks over the field behind the wine-press, when he hears something force its way through the grapevines. He stops and cocks his piece. He will now catch the thief who robs him of his biggest grapes. The moon is behind the clouds, out he sees the outline of a person running fast through the vines. “Halt!” he commands but the person never heeds him. He raises his gun–a flash–a scream–a fall of a body among the grapes, and when the old man arrives on the spot, he finds instead of the supposed grape thief a little curly-haired boy whose life is fast ebbing away with the blood that flows out and mixes with the crushed grapes; his black eyes are already fixed and glassy and it is with a faltering voice he whispers: “Give my love to grandmother and tell her– father! mother! I am coming”–his hands grasp the vines tighter, he raises himself to a sitting posture, the moon coming from behind the clouds shines on the wine leaves in his curly hair, a cry rises in his throat: “Vive la belle France!”–he sinks back, his eyes closed, and the orphan boy is gone.

“And it was me–me alone–who murdered him,” complained the grandmother when she concluded her tale. Her eyes were dry, but the muscles round the corner of her mouth worked convulsively and there was a great sob in her throat. “It was all my fault, the result of my unforgiveness; holy Mary have mercy–” and the old woman ran the black beads of her rosary through her fingers, murmuring her prayers.

We arrived shortly after at our destination, the atelier of a French photographer, with whom I was slightly acquainted. I introduced my companion to him, and he, after offering her a seat, addressed some questions to her about her picture. She looked at him with wonder, and finally replied that she only wanted a picture of her boy. “Ah!” said the photographer, “a little boy, very good, where is he!” A tear dimmed the old woman’s black eye, and for answer she pointed up to heaven. “Oh!” exclaimed my friend, “dead! I do not like to photograph dead bodies, but still as monsieur brought you here I will make an exception; when did your little boy die?”

“When the grapes ripen he will have been gone a year,” replied the grandmother.

“But, my dear,” began the photographer, perplexed, when I interrupted him, and taking him aside told him the old woman’s story and how she had walked fifty miles on her old legs to procure a likeness of her dead grandchild.

“But, my dear fellow, what can I do? I am grieved, upon my word I am; but what would you have me do? I can’t photograph angels!”

A noise of romping children was now heard and two boys, about 8 and 10 years old, came running into the atelier, crying at the top of their voices: “Oh, papa, voici!”

“Hush, children!” said the parent, “go away; I am busy,” and the happy boys disappeared laughing in the next room. A sudden idea struck me and turning to the old woman, who looked wistfully at the door through which the boys escaped, I asked her if she had kept any of her little boy’s clothes. “Indeed I have, monsieur!” she answered. “I have kept everything belonging to the little dear,” and opening a bundle she carried with her she continued: “Here is the best dress and (her voice sunk to a whisper) the last I ever saw him wear.”

I now took the photographer aside and made him acquainted with my plan for “photographing angels,” and after obtaining his promise of carrying out my instructions I persuaded the grandmother to leave her grandson’s clothing in the atelier and follow me to an inn, where I left her to the care of the buxom hostess.

Two days after the photographer sent for her and on her arrival handed her a picture at sight of which the old woman began crying freely. “My boy! my own darling boy! It is the clothes I spun every thread of myself and his pretty curly hair but why does he cover his face so? Won’t he look at me?” she asked suddenly, looking up from the picture that represented a little boy kneeling in a chair with his folded hands before his face.

“Oh!” remarked the photographer, “he is saying his prayers.”

“Yes, yes, I know! he is praying for his poor old grandmere. Oh, my darling boy!” and the great tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. “God and our lady bless you, messieurs!” said she when she grew calmer. “I am now going to pray by my boy’s grave until I follow him;” and refusing all aid for her trip home, but pressing her newly found treasure fast to her brave old heart, “Grandmere Jeanneton” left us.

As to the picture, our readers have of course all guessed that the photographer dressed his oldest boy in the poor peasant boy’s clothes; and who would not practice such a deception to see the tears that rolled down Grandmere Jeanneton’s aged cheeks?

The Argos [IN] Reflector 25 December 1884: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was formerly in service in the household of Mrs Marrowfat, the society medium and shudders at the impostures by which that clever lady enriched herself at the expense of the desolate and sorrowing. And yet, somehow, Mrs Daffodil cannot bring herself to condemn the photographer who gave such consolation to the aged Grandmere who had lost everything.

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 Cats Came Back: 1911

angel cat

An article appearing in the April issue of the National Review from the pen of Capt. Humphries, once more draws attention to the subject of the apparition in visible form of deceased animals. Capt. Humphries has various stories to relate which have come within his own personal knowledge, and they are stories in several instances which can be paralleled by the records already given in earlier numbers of the Occult Review. Take, for instance, the following story of the apparition to a child of its pet cat:—

The following authenticated case (says Capt. Humphries) happened in the Midland counties of England at a house where the writer was frequently present, and from personal observation can confirm every detail, and which can also be vouched for by the mother and father of the boy. The boy was four years old, and spent much of his time in the company of a large white cat who shared his joys and pleasures. The cat died, but its death was carefully guarded from the child, when some weeks after the boy asked why it was that his old cat only came to see him at night, and that immediately after going to bed. Upon being questioned, he said “It looks much the same, only thinner. I expect, as he goes away all the day time, he has not been properly fed.’’

This, says the writer, went on at intervals for about four months.

A close parallel to the above story will be found in the issue of the Occult Review for July 1905, the narrator being the late Mrs. Nora Chesson, and the experience her own. I make no apology for reproducing it here in full. She wrote:—

Perhaps the next time that the Other World touched me, being older I was more ready to be touched, for your ordinary school-girl is a healthy happy animal, pagan to the tips of her fingers, selfish to the last cell of her brain.

I had rolled my hair up to the crown of my head, and my skirts were on visiting terms with my ankles, when the home circle was suddenly narrowed by the loss of a pet cat, a little loving creature who did not need the gift of speech, her eloquent emerald eyes were such homes of thought, the touches of her caressing head and pleading paw so naturally tender and persuasive.

Sickness of some kind had kept me to my room for a week, and I had wondered why my cat Minnie had not courted my company as usual, but accounted for her sudden indifference by a possible reflux of motherly devotion to her kittens, now about six weeks old. The first morning of my convalescence the bedroom door, which stood ajar, opened a little further and Minnie came in. She rubbed her pretty tortoise-shell tabby coat against me in affectionate greeting; she clasped my hand with ecstatic paws in a pretty fondling gesture that was all her own; she licked my fingers, and I felt her white throat throbbing with her loud purring, and then she turned and trotted away.

“Minnie has been to see me at last,” said I to the maid who brought in my lunch.   “I wonder why she kept away from me so long!”

“Minnie has been dead and buried these two days, and her kitten’s fretting itself to skin and bone for her,” said Louisa looking scared. “Your mamma would not tell you while you weren’t well. Miss, for she knew you’d take on, being that fond of the little cat.” Minnie was undoubtedly dead and buried, and a stone from our garden rockery was piled upon her place of burial, yet as undoubtedly Minnie came to welcome my return to health. Is this explicable? I know that it is true.

The Occult Review May 1911: p: 241-242

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Cats have, of course, always been associated with the mystical and the occult. They were witches’ familiars and minions of the Evil One. They were thought to turn corpses into vampires, might prove omens of death and were also believed to have the ability to see ghosts, as we have seen in this story of “What  the Cat Saw.”

So it is refreshing to find cats coming back in a benign manner, just to touch noses and purr at their friends.

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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 Charm on His Watch Chain: 1884

torquoise shell heart locket

Tortoise-shell locket with pique work. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15128/lot/205/

“COME HOME TO-MORROW, PAPA”

Half a dozen railroad conductors, running on different roads, all good friends, met in a cigar store one day last week, and smoked, and talked, and joked each other about owning the various roads they run on, “knocking down” fares, “whacking up” with the directors, etc. They are great men to “cod” each other, as the saying is, and one stylish conductor, who always dresses well had to take it pretty rough. One good natured fellow, who is a great talker, joked the stylish conductor about his diamond, and finally got sight of a little worn and dilapidated charm on his watch chain, a little tortoise shell locket with marks cut into it all over. The talking conductor said.

“O, boys, look at him? A diamond as big as a paper weight, a two hundred dollar watch and a hundred dollar chain, and a dirty, nicked, worn out, miserable locket not worth ten cents. The brotherhood of railroad conductors ought to bounce him out of the association.” The boys all joined in and said it was a shame to wear such a thing ; some proposed raising a purse to get him a new one, and one of the boys was going to take hold of the miserable little charm and pull it off. The stylish conductor stepped back with a forced smile, and took the charm in his hand tenderly and seemed to caress it, and he tried to change the subject, but the boys would not allow it, when he said.

“Boys, that is of more value to me than my diamond stud, my watch, or my position. I would not part with it for all of Alex. Mitchell’s wealth. I would not erase one of those little dents in the charm to save my right arm. I couldn’t do it, boys.”

“Oh I know what’s the matter,” said the talking conductor, as he punched the stylish conductor in the ribs with his thumb, “some girl gave it to him. I know how it is. A girl made me a present once of a grand bounce, and I carried the marks of it for years. Old softy, here, carries that cow-horn charm with the notches in, as a reminder of old love. Every notch represents a kiss eh, you old rascal?”

The stylish conductor turned away from the boys, ostensibly to light his cigar, but really to hide a tear that was trying to steal a ride on the truck of his eye-ball. He took his handkerchief and wiped his eye, and said something about a cinder in it, and then turned to the boys and said: “Fellows, I don’t want you to think I am too soft, and as the most of you have children, I guess you won’t think so if I tell you about this cheap-looking affair. I used to wear it on a silver watch chain when I was braking on a freight train fifteen years ago. We had a little flaxen-haired girl baby, a year and a-half old, and I was away so much, leaving at four o’clock in the morning and coming home late every second night, that I did not have much time to visit with the baby, except when she woke up nights with aching gums, and Sundays. Well, boys, the little baby almost cut a whole set of teeth on that miserable little watch charm. Nothing else would seem to hit the right spot on a tooth, and she would lay awake nights to wait for me to come, and pap’ was never too dirty for her to get in his lap, nestle up in the bosom covered with a greasy blouse, and be happy. Sundays her mother didn’t have to even look at her, because she was in my lap all day.

Well, one day I was up the road with a way freight, unloading some stuff at a station, the second day out, and thinking that at eight P. M. I would be home and the baby would gallop over me, when my conductor, as good a boy as ever lived, who is now a division superintendent, came along the platform as pale as a sheet, and said to me: “Boss you have got to go right home. Go get on the engine and the old man will pull her out and get you down to your house in forty minutes, and he can get back before we have this freight unloaded. Your baby is awful sick.”

Boys, I was so weak I couldn’t lift a pound. I couldn’t get on the engine without help, but we run to J. like the wind. The baby was dead when the conductor told me, and he knew it, but it was tough enough for him, poor old, pard to tell me she was sick. I found her dead, having died of convulsions in teething, and my wife frantic, while 1 felt as though a train of box cars had run over me, and I wished they had. Oh, what a blow that was. The prettiest baby that ever was, that I left two days before with a smile on her face that would soften the hardest heart, dead. She said: “Tum home morrow, papa, and baby have new toot.” As she lay on the bed, an angel, with her lips smilingly parted, enough to show some of the little teeth that had cut the holes you see in this charm, I took the charm up and kissed it, and I said I would wear it always, and I have, so far boys, and I always will.”

The stylish conductor turned his head one way to wipe his eyes, the talking conductor turned his head another way, and every blessed one of the largehearted boys had tears in their eyes as big as the stylish conductor’s diamond. They shook hands with the stylish conductor and went away. A few days later the stylish conductor missed his charm from his watch chain, when he was going away, and his wife told him she wanted to have the ring fixed that held it on the chain, and she would have it for him when he came back from his run. When he came back the boys met at his house, and after supper one of them handed him the charm beautifully mounted in gold, with only the part of tortoise shell showing where the tooth marks of the dead baby had been made, and on the back in pure gold, was engraved the word, “Darling.” The boys wanted to show that they appreciated the conductor’s feelings. How often a careless remark, in a joke, will bring out a story of heart ache that makes tears flow from eyes unaccustomed to weeping.—

The Conductor and Brakeman, Volume 1, 1 October 1884: pp 471-73

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wishes all doting Papas a very Happy Father’s Day.

To celebrate, that ghostly person over at Haunted Ohio has posted this dire story of a dead father who returns for his little daughter.

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.

 

A Bride by Telegram: 1899

1875 Gaultier bride doll

A BRIDE BY TELEGRAM

By Mrs.Whitney.

 “Send me down bride in full dress for Friday evening.

H. Smith, Walkley Station.”

That was the tenor of the telegram, Miss Betsey Blythe knew, because she read it, over forty times, if she read it once. She picked it up on the step of the telegraph office, where the lucky recipient thereof must have dropped it —and, unluckily, the address was torn off the northeast corner of the folded paper.

But Miss Betsey Blythe had not been engaged in looking after her neighbors’ business all her life to be foiled now. She wiped the street mud off the telegram with her pocket-handkerchief, put it safely into her reticule and carried it home to her sisters, Miss Arethusa and Miss Pamela Blythe.

“There,” she said, “didn’t I tell you Harold Smith was going to be married on the sly.”

“Goodness me!” said Arethusa.

“It can’t be possible,” piped Pamela. “But who can the bride be?”

“That’s the question,” declared Miss Betsey, staring back at the poll-parrot’s cage in the window. “And Friday is to be the wedding day.”

“Which Friday, I wonder?” said Miss Arethusa.

“Why, this Friday, of course!” pronounced Miss Pamela. “The day after to-morrow, of course; or it would have been a deal easier and cheaper to write instead of telegraphing. Don’t you see?”

“Friday’s an unlucky day for a wedding,” groaned Miss Betsey.

“Just like Harold Smith to get married on a Friday,” said Miss Pamela. “He’s always making fun of what he calls ‘superstitious observances.’”

“Well, I never!” said Miss Arethusa. “Who is the bride, anyhow?”

“If she’s a girl of any spirit whatever,” whatever,” tartly observed Miss Betsey, “she won’t allow herself to be telegraphed around the country like a package of dry goods.”

“Some girls will do anything to get married,” said Arethusa, with vicious emphasis.

“It’s Jessie Mordaunt. of course.” decided Pamela. “She’s been flirting on and off with Harold Smith for these three years, but I didn’t suppose he was foolish enough to fall into her trap!”

“Or perhaps it’s Marian Shelton,” added Miss Betsey. “I know they’ve been making up a new white silk dress with tablier fronts and a trained skirt at Shelton’s. Miss Needlepoint told me so herself. And I can believe any amount of folly of the Shelton family since they changed that girl’s name from Mary Ann to Marian.”

“There’s the three Misses MacKenzie, every one of ’em crazy,” suggested Miss Arethusa.

“No,” said Miss Pamela, decidedly. ”You may be quite certain it’s Jessie! Jessie’s flighty enough for anything! I think she’d rather enjoy an escapade like that!”

“And I dare say,” vindictively added Miss Arethusa, who was the eldest sister of the three, and the least addicted to favorable views of human nature, “they think it’s an unfathomable secret!”

“Walkley Station is only three-quarters of an hour from New York,” said Betsey. “Let’s go to the wedding!”

“And,” added Miss Pamela, in a chuckle, “let’s notify all our friends to go!” For the three Misses Blythe were not pleased that Harold Smith should presume to take so important a step as that of matrimony without their consent and advice. Hadn’t they known him as a curly-headed lad before he ever went into college? Hadn’t he played many a practical joke upon them, in his wild, rollicking way—and didn’t they know perfectly well that he regarded them as three sour, ridiculous, disappointed old spinsters?

And now that they had come into possession of one of his choicest, dearest secrets, it was scarcely in human nature not to be revenged, fully and entirely.

“Do you suppose she’ll go out in the cars?” asked Arethusa.

“In full dress! What nonsense,” retorted Pamela. “She’ll drive, of course, in a carriage!”

“She’ll get her death of cold.” said Miss Betsey, with a shiver. “Driving fifteen miles in ‘full dress!'”

“The idea of Harold Smith ordering her around in that majestic fashion!” cried Arethusa. “But, girls, I’ll tell you what we will do; we’ll go and call on the Mordaunts.”

Mrs. Mordaunt, a pretty, full-blown rose style of matron, was doing crewelwork. crewelwork. Jessie, her daughter, who corresponded with the rosebud in the family, was painting a vase of purple pansies in watercolors. They did not appear in the least like custodians of an important secret; looked surprised when Miss Betsey alluded to the subject of impending marriages, and said they had heard of no wedding in the neighborhood; and they stared when Miss Arethusa asked if they hadn’t had a dressmaker in the house lately.

“We always do our own sewing,” said Mrs. Mordaunt. “Jessie can fit a dress as well as Madam Mondini herself.”

“But for such a very, very important occasion as this,” smirked Miss Arethusa.

“We never have any important occasions,” laughed Jessie. “Look, Miss Blythe, do you think my pansy petal as deep a purple as the original?” And when the three old maids had, last, taken their departure, Jessie looked at her mother in amazement mingled with mirth.

“”Mamma,” said she, “what do those old women mean?”

“I think, dear,” said Mrs. Mordaunt, “that they are the least bit unsettled in their minds–just a little crazy, you know.”

And the Misses Blythe went away, ex changing mysterious glances, and whispering to each other—

“They cannot deceive us!”

The Misses Blythe told everybody they could think of always in strict confidence,  of course. Everybody repeated it to everybody else, and by Friday evening the train to Walkley Station was full.

To Miss Betsey Blythe’s infinite disappointment, the Smith house, a pretty, old-fashioned mansion with a pillared front, a garden full of clipped box monstrosities, and an octagonal conservatory, built out from the south end, was not lighted up after any extraordinary fashion. Mrs. Smith, Harold’s mother, a dimpled old lady, in a white lace cap and gleaming gold spectacle-glasses, was knitting, half asleep, when the three Misses Blythe were ushered in, followed by a crowd of other acquaintances.

“Oh!” said she, rubbing her eyes to make sure that it was not a dream, “this is a surprise party, is it? I’m sure I’m delighted to see you! Only it’s a pity Harry isn’t at home!”

“My good soul,” said Miss Arethusa Blythe, shaking her finger, “it’s no use trying to deceive us. We know all about it!”

“All about what?” said Mrs. Smith.

“About the wedding!” cried out the company in chorus.

“Whose wedding?” demanded Mrs. Smith.

“Why, Harold’s, to be sure!” they responded.

“But Harold isn’t going to be married,” said Mrs. Smith. “He isn’t even engaged! Good gracious! What can have put such a thing into people’s heads?”

“It’s the telegram,” said Miss Pamela.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Mrs. Smith in despair.

“Well, if you won’t believe me, you will, perhaps, believe your own eyes,” said Miss Betsey Blythe, with dignity, as she drew the telegram from her pocket, and, carefully straightening out its creases, held it up before Mrs. Smith’s spectacle glasses.

“Dear me!” cried Mrs. Smith, at last comprehending a little of this curious network of cross-purposes, “it’s Bella Smith’s big doll!”

“What!” shrieked Miss Arethusa, Miss Pamela and Miss Betsy in chorus.

“What!” more wildly echoed the rest of the assemblage, crowding eagerly around.

“Mrs. Helena Smith’s little daughter across the street,” explained Mrs. Smith. “It’s her birth-night party, and an immense doll, dressed as a bride was forwarded by express this afternoon! I saw it myself –a perfect beauty, with veil and wreath, white satin boots, buttoned by knobs of pearl, and long-wristed white kid gloves, entirely complete! And you thought–you really imagined that my Harold was going to be married secretly and had telegraphed to New York for his bride!”

The old lady broke out into a fit of soft, sweet-sounding laughter, which shook her as if she had been a mold of jelly. Everybody else laughed, too, except the three Misses Blythes. They only looked blank.

“But now that you’re here,” added hospitable Mrs. Smith, “you’ll stay to tea, all of you? But you must! The down train doesn’t leave until ten, and you’ll be half starved, now that there is no wedding feast for you. Oh! I insist upon your staying to tea.”

The biggest tea-kettle in the house was put over to boil at once; seven pounds of coffee were put into the pot, and the maids ran, one to the muffle and crumpet store and cake bakery, the other to the oyster stand, which, luckily, was not yet shut up for the night. And kind Mrs. Smith entertained her unexpected guests with gracious politeness.  But there was no wedding and no bride, except little Bella Smith’s wax bride across the street, and the three Misses Blythe went back to New York sadder and wiser women. And what was perhaps the most desirable result, they resolved to adhere, thenceforth, to the eleventh commandment.

The Daily Herald [Delphos OH] 21 September 1899: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Eleventh Commandment, in case Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ theological educations have been neglected, is “for every one to mind his (or, more aptly, her) own business.”

 

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.

 

Making Her Father’s Grave: 1879

orphans decorating their fathers' graves

Decoration Day at Philadelphia: Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, 1870s

Making Her Father’s Grave

A Pathetic Scene Witnessed in an Ohio Cemetery

[From the Sandusky (O.) Register.]

A little girl with tangled locks, peeping from under a calico hood, clad in a dress of chintz, loitered behind us as the great dusty crowd moved out of the gates of Mount Adna the other day after they had scattered their flowers and done honor to the dead. Dreamily she gazed after them, her eyes filled with a far away look of tenderness, until the last one had disappeared and the rattle of the drums had died away. Then she turned and vaguely scanned the mounds that rose about her, clutching still tighter the fading bunch of dandelions and grass that her chubby hand held. An old man came by and gently patted her curly head as he spoke her name, but she only shrank back still further, and when he told a passing stranger that the little one’s father had died on shipboard and been buried at sea, there was only a tear drop in the child’s eye to tell that she heard or knew the story.

When they were gone she moved on further to a neglected, empty lot, and, kneeling down, she piled up a mound of earth, whispering as she patted it and smoothed it with her chubby hand: “This won’t be so awfully big as the others, I guess, but may be it will be big enough so that God will see it, and think that papa is buried here.” Carefully she trimmed the sides with the grass she plucked, murmuring on: “And may be it will grow so that it will be like the rest in two or three years, and then maybe papa will sometime come back and”–.

But she paused, as though it suddenly dawned upon her young mind that he rested beneath the waves, and the tear-drops that sprang to her eyes moistened the little bunch of dandelions that she planted among the grasses on the mound she had reared. When the sexton passed that way at night as he went to close the gates, he found the little one fast asleep, with her head pillowed on the mound.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 30 October 1879: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian mourning was built around a fixed and ideal ritual: an edifying death-bed, preparing the loved one’s body for the grave, the funeral, and then the burial in a quiet, green cemetery beneath a headstone with a touching inscription, where the family could visit, plant flowers, weep, or picnic. Decoration Day was an important holiday for the bereaved. Graves were tidied and planted and the dead were remembered.

Those whose loved ones never returned: whose bodies were either not identified or were buried on a distant battlefield felt a sense of incompleteness beyond their personal loss: they had also been deprived of essential parts of the mourning ritual.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a person whose Great-Great-Great Grandfather was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Family lore says that his head was shot off so that his body was never identified and was buried as an “Unknown” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  The man’s daughter never turned away a tramp, believing it might be her father come back.

 

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.

A King’s Foster-Mother: 1910

Mrs Ann Roberts King George V nurse

KING’S NURSE POOR

Foster Mother of George V Living in Dire Poverty.

 LONGS FOR HER OLD HOME

Hopes Sovereign She Mothered Will Provide for Her.

SACRIFICED HER OWN BABE

Daughter Died While She Was in Attendance on Great Britain’s Future Ruler.

 

 Is Living in Poverty.

Special Dispatch to The Star.

PITTSBURG. Pa., September 10. Mrs Ann Roberts, foster-mother of George V, King of England, has been discovered in poverty here. Mrs. Roberts lost one of her own babes through her attendance upon the infant prince. The royal physicians and retainers would not inform her of own child’s Illness for fear the milk with which she was nourishing the future King of England might become feverish and do him harm. Mrs. Roberts at the suggestion of friends, is writing the English sovereign of her condition and asking some recognition at his hands for what she did for him as an infant. Mrs. Roberts Is the mother of Capt. Henry A. Roberts of the Volunteers of America. She is a native of Wales. She has been living for the past several years with her brother, Richard W. Edmunds of Nunnery Hill, North Side. She was a member of the royal household of Great Britain for ten months and three days. Her own child died in the night without her knowing that she had even been ill. Mrs. Roberts is the only woman in the world who ever nursed the King of England,  including his own mother.

Husband a Tradesman.

Mrs. Roberts went from Bethesda, North Wales, when quite a young girl to seek service in London. She was eventually married there. Her husband was a respectable tradesman, residing close to Buckingham Palace. They were happy and prospered. Among their friends were some of the most influential Welsh people in London. Among these was a Mrs. Jones, then of 20 Hills street. Knightsbridge, also a Welsh woman. Mrs. Jones was a great favorite with the late Queen Victoria, under whom she held authority to select and engage all the domestics for the royal nursery. Mrs. Roberts was then a comely young matron, of splendid physique, and in the enjoyment of perfect health and a robust constitution, which had been developed while romping as a girl over the rock-bound and heather-clad hills of her native Wales.

Mrs. Roberts was at that time about to become a mother. She knew, as did all Britain, that the then Princess Alexandra had similar expectations. Mrs Roberts had a dream in which it appeared to her that she had been selected to nurse the expected child of royalty. Within a day or two thereafter, not then knowing the full extent of Mrs. Jones’ authority, Mrs. Roberts called on her and related her strange dream, and told her also of her seemingly impossible ambition. The surprise of Mrs. Roberts may be imagined when Mrs. Jones informed her that if it was her wish she would then and there appoint her to the position, provided, of course, that the royal physicians approved of her choice.

Passed by Royal Physician.

After the birth of her child, a beautiful girl baby. Mrs. Roberts was ordered by a royal messenger to call on Dr. Farr, one of the royal physicians, in Harley street. Mayfair, who, after a thorough examination and many questions as to family history, pronounced Mrs. Roberts to be in every way fitting to become the foster mother of a royal prince. Mrs. Roberts then applied for permission to spend a few days at her old home in Bethesda, in order that she might see her brothers and sisters and visit the graves of her parents. She had intended to leave for Wales the last day of May, 1865, but becoming uneasy lest her services might suddenly be called for, she hesitated, changed her mind, and finally abandoned the trip.

“It was well that I did so,” said Mrs. Roberts, relating the strange story of her entrance upon royal service, “for on the night of June couriers were sent to Bethesda to fetch me at once. Mounted messengers scoured the hills around my old home all of that night in search of me. My people in Wales, who knew nothing of my appointment, were thrown into consternation and terror. Royal couriers implied nothing but terror to them. They probably concluded that their poor Ann had committed some terrible crime.

“All of this time I had remained in London, and the city bulletins had informed me of the state of affairs I reported for duty at 10 o’clock on the morning of June and began immediately to nurse and to mother the little baby prince, George. I had left my own child in the care of an older sister, who was to manage the household and dairy business for my husband while I was away. A few days after my departure my own baby was taken ill. It pined for its mother, but I was not acquainted with the fact. One of the doctors of the royal household called to see her each day. The child died on the eighth day without my even knowing that she had been ill.

Blow a Cruel One.

“I will never forget the hour that I was told that my beautiful child was dead. The cruel news brought me to my knees on the floor of the royal nursery. The splendor of my surroundings appeared to me as so much dross. It seemed to me that I had been turned into a block of cold marble. The loss of my own beautiful child had that effect upon me regarding the little prince that I soon grew almost to believe that he was truly my own child. I was kept in this position just about one year. When my services were no longer required King Edward, then Prince of Wales, sent for me from the nursery to tell me that I had not only won his own esteem, but that of his beautiful Alexandra, and that I was also esteemed and respected by the royal household.

“When I arrived in my own home once more, after nearly a whole year of absence, it was to find that fortune had withdrawn her smiles and that my husband’s business had been ruined. A cattle disease, then raging, had killed nearly all of our good cows, and every penny that we had saved during our time of prospering had been expended in a vain attempt to stem the disastrous flood. On the very afternoon that I arrived a butcher delegated from the cattle commissioners also arrived to kill the last two remaining cows of what had been an excellent dairy. These appalling conditions at home caused me to decide at once to take up nursing as a profession. I immediately arranged to lay out the money I earned In the royal service in a course of nursing and midwifery. In due time I won my diploma in both branches, and nursed among the noble and the great of Great Britain for thirty-five years.”

Nursed Many Notables.

Mrs. Roberts’ old friend, Mrs. Jones, was again able to help her by securing for her the appointment to nurse and foster the first born of the Princess Christian, at Cumberland Lodge. Windsor. Windsor. The popularity of Mrs. Roberts was at once securely established through her connection with the royal nursery. In the years that followed she nursed the Duchess of Abercorn. the Duchess of Iniskillen, the Countess Lutzow, Lady Vivian (now Lady Swansea), the Lady Church and many other among the noble dames of Britain. She has served at Windsor Castle, where to Welsh people of a few centuries ago entrance was far easier than exit; at Marlborough House, Balmoral Castle. Buckingham Palace, Osbourne, Osbourne, Sandringham and Cumberland Lodge in the discharge of her professional duties.

After this long tenure of service Mrs. Roberts at last became so deaf that she did not feel longer competent for the work and declined to take on any new cases. She was then appointed to the Royal Maternities Charities Society, an institution organised by the then Princess Alexandra, now the beloved Dowager Queen of England, and controlled by her and a committee of London ladies. This position Mrs. Roberts held for several years, when, owing to her advanced age and the dangers and hardships of obeying calls In the poorer districts of London at all hours of the night, she resigned of her own accord, the secretary saying to her that she was leaving with an exceptional record of success and that her name should always remain on the roll call of the society. It is a source of great pleasure to Mrs. Roberts now to know that her name remains living and green in the heart of the field wherein she laboured so long and so diligently.

Longs for Native Land.

“Your United States is a great country,”  continued Mrs. Roberts, “but, after all, you will not blame me when I say that I prefer my native land, and it seems to me that there should be a place for me over there. I cannot feel as my brother does here. He has been here for many years: his children have grown up here, and his family and all of his ties are here. But my heart is over there, where now reigns the young prince whom I nursed. Were I over there now I would be entitled to the old folks’ pension, but don’t you think she who nursed the reigning king is entitled to something more than such a pittance? You have possibly read how truly noble and generous the young King of Spain is acting toward his old nurse. He provides for her every comfort, and she is made much of by court and people. Do you think my Prince George would do less for his old nurse? I refuse to believe it.”

Mrs. Roberts wears a heavy gold brooch that was personally presented to her by the then Princess Alexandra upon the occasion of her leaving the royal nursery. The princess told hereupon that occasion that she would be privileged to refer to the little prince, now king as “my boy.” King Edward, then Prince of Wales, presented her at the same time with a heavy gold watch, which she also now has. There is an Inscription on the inside of the back cover which reads: “To Mrs. Roberts, in remembrance of H. R. H. Prince George.”

Has Brooch From Victoria.

She also has another brooch, presented to her by the late Queen Victoria upon the christening of Prince George. On being called to Osborne on another occasion Mrs. Roberts was presented by the queen with two beautiful photographs, with her signature, one of herself and one of the deceased prince consort, informing her at the same time that they were the best photos ever taken of both. These Mrs. Roberts left with a relative on the other side. She says that as poor as she is their weight in gold would not buy them. She did not care to subject them to the hazards of travel. Mrs. Roberts states that when Sir Arthur Bigge is appointed keeper of the privy purse she intends to appeal to him for a statement of her case to the king. She believes that Sir Dighton Probyn, who held this position under the late lamented King Edward, would never allow her protests and supplications to reach his royal master. Mrs. Roberts believes that if her petitions had been presented some action would have been taken on her case long ago. She claims to have some of Sir Probyn’s official letters now in her possession, possession, in which he is alleged to state that nothing could be done for her. Mrs. Roberts gives it as her belief that these are solely the words of a mercenary. She says that King Edward had ever a kind and grateful heart, and was always good to old servitors.

Faith in Lloyd George.

“I have served in Sir Arthur Bigge’s family,” Mrs. Roberts states. “He knows me, and I am sure he will desire to help me. The Right Hon. Lloyd George would also interfere in my behalf if I appealed to him. The greatest Welshman of us all would not suffer an old country woman who has served the same crown for which he labors so energetically to be utterly disregarded. There is only one burden to my poor old soul: I want to go back to spend my few remaining years in my native land, and to be allowed to go to my long rest in that sacred old .spot where my father sleeps.”

Mrs. Roberts was treated with every consideration by the royal household. She was several times invited upon the royal carpet. She enjoyed many pleasant chats with the late Queen Victoria. Sometimes, upon receiving Welsh newspapers, newspapers, the queen would send for her from the nursery and request her to read selections from them and to translate them. She would ask Mrs. Roberts to pronounce some Welsh words and sayings, and she would utter them after her, doing it far better. Mrs. Roberts says, than some of the young Welsh Americans whom she has met since being in this country.

Mrs. Roberts saw the queen in her grief for her beloved prince consort. On one occasion she invited Mrs. Roberts to visit the grand mausoleum wherein rests his remains. She gave Mrs. Roberts the golden key which opens the door thereto, and sent her head dresser to accompany her, graciously saying that she would meet her there at a certain time. Mrs. Roberts says she will never forget the hour she spent there with the widowed queen and the mortal remains of the consort and husband whom she had loved so deeply.

Has Met Other Royalties.

“I have been formally presented to the Empress Frederick, mother of the present Emperor of Germany, and also the Grand Duchess of Hess.” continued Mrs. Roberts. Roberts. “and I have many times attended the different ladies of the family to their balls and parties. These royal ladies know very well how to show little marks of esteem to favorite servants. I have had them more than once hand their fans to me to hold while their own ladies in waiting would be at their elbows, and, to their credit be it said. I never saw any of these ladies in waiting evince any sign of displeasure at such marked favors.

“All of Victoria’s children, with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice, were very affable and chatty with servants and dependents. The Princess Beatrice (the youngest) was brought up under somewhat different surroundings from the others. Her good father was taken sick while she was yet a child in arms, and she grew up to be the daily companion of her sorrowing mother. This, I always thought, was the reason for her being more reserved and distant than the other children.

“When I was nursing the Duchess of Abercorn the Princess Alexandra came in person to call on her friend, and was surprised and pleased to find me in attendance. It was our first meeting since my departure from her service. She greeted me warmly and shook hands with me, as would any good woman, and made inquiries as to how I was getting along. I was also all impatience to ask questions regarding the little prince and was tempted to tell her how much I should like to see him. I knew he was by this time quite a boy, big enough to romp and play with his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor.

Paid Visit by Prince.

“On leaving the princess called for me and told me that, if such was my wish, she would arrange with the Canon Dalton, then tutor to the princes, for him to accompany them on an afternoon visit to me in a day or two. They came, and I had my hands full for that afternoon. They romped and blew soap bubbles, as would any pair of ordinary healthy boys, and both had a splendid time, untrammelled by court etiquette and unwatched by tutors.

“The late Prince Albert Victor once asked his royal mother why Prince George was ‘my boy’ any more than himself. He was answered that he would be told when he became a man, and that he was to understand that Mrs. Roberts was his dear friend also, and that she had been very good to him. “When Prince George was elected chancellor of the University of Wales, at Bangor, he caused his private secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge, to send me a letter of invitation to attend the celebration. I had at that time a very important and serious case of nursing on my hands, and so sent my son to represent me. I have always regretted that I was unable to attend, for I lost there an opportunity of meeting the boy whom I love so well.

Welsh Expect Great Things.

“Have you ever stopped to think that the Welsh people have a right to expect great things from the new king? There never was a better time than the present to agitate the question of securing the representation of Wales on the national flag. I firmly believe that he suckled my own love of kin and country with his sustenance. One of the royal doctors told me at one time, when speaking of the honor connected with my distinction, that he never was quite sure which one of us was the most honored. ‘But.’ said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “let us hope that your boy will prove a good and wise man, and that he will inherit the good traits of his Welsh foster mother.’

“The doctor was an old man at that time, and a wise and good one, but at that time it was not for him or myself to see that Prince George, who was the second in ‘advance right’ claim, would ascend the throne. But since the death of his elder brother I have often found myself repeating the old doctor’s words, ‘Let us hope that he will be a good man and a wise one.’

“Often, while holding him in my arms, and thinking of the beautiful child I had sacrificed for him, I would wonder over the possibility of his succeeding to the throne, and would pray God to bless him with a kind and loving heart, so that, when the time came, if fate ordained it so, he would prove a tower of strength and a blessing, not only to his own subjects, subjects, but to the wide, wide world. His, wise and great father, and his saintly grandmother have already given us proof what England’s monarchs can do for the welfare of the world, and I feel like prophesying that King George will follow in their footsteps, with the good of mankind in its entirety as the motive principle of his actions. May God bless him.”

Evening Star [Washing DC] 11 September 1910: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Roberts is a good deal more charitable to her former employers than Mrs Daffodil would have been. Gold brooches and watches, no matter how heavy or suitably inscribed, are, indeed, dross, when it comes to the death of Mrs Robert’s daughter and the doctors’ odious decision (based on the mistaken belief in “maternal influence”) not to tell Mrs Roberts that the tiny infant was ill and pining for her mother. It is possible that the child was ill with a disease untreatable at the time, such as diphtheria, even had her mother been able to nourish her, but at least Mrs Roberts would have been there to hold the child in her last moments. For the Royal physicians, the phrase “special place in Hell” springs to mind.

In the interests of space, Mrs Daffodil will omit her trenchant remarks on the “favour” shown to Mrs Roberts by the ladies who condescended to hand her their fans to hold.

Captain Henry Roberts, Mrs Roberts’s son was incensed at the headlines about Mrs. Roberts living in poverty and issued a corrective statement:

“I was absolutely dumbfounded at receiving a clipping from some Rochester papers saying that Mrs. Ann Roberts, royal nurse, was found here in poverty…As to her being in poverty, she has always paid her own expenses, and has jewels and other gifts to her from royalty. Immediatley upon her arrival here she deposited a good sum of money and jewels in my care until she needs them. In fact, she wants us to purchase some property and make a permant home here, but we decline to do that, as she is very fond of old England and often speaks of returning there after a while.”

He stated that he gave the true version of the story to an editor who interviewed his mother, but that “distortions of the facts have since appeared in several papers.” Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 8 July 1910: p. 15

Still, Mrs Roberts’s story did come to the eye of the proper authorities and her story has something of a happy ending:

A few weeks ago Mrs. Roberts sailed again for England, and upon her arrival at London she was called upon by a representative of King George, who stated, that he had been sent to learn what could be done for her comfort. She informed him that it was her desire to have a little home of her own among the hills of her own native Wales, in Carnavonshire, and preferably on the Penrhyn estate. Lord Penrhyn was instructed to find a cottage for this purpose and to have it fitted up with all the necessary comforts and she was also told that a substantial annuity was to be settled on her. Word has already been received by her relatives in this country that Mrs. Roberts is comfortably provided for for her remaining years. Bennington [VT] Banner 13 December 1910: p. 2

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.