Category Archives: Courtship

Spoken Between the Courses: 1905

SPOKEN BETWEEN THE COURSES

Mr. Bounderby’s wife had not said a word to him since they sat down to dinner, except to remark that the weather was exceedingly warm. Casting a covert look at her across the fish he noticed two deep and ominous lines between her eyebrows.

“Brace up, Bounderby!” he said to himself, and forthwith swallowed a great goblet of wine without drawing breath.

“My dear,” he began, “You seem rather distrait this evening.”

“I—I am far from well, Archibald,” faintly. “The doctor”—

“Ah!” Bounderby drags his chair close to the table and assumes the attitude of a man about to catch a cannon ball in his bare hands. “Why, my dear, I think I never saw you looking so well before.”

“That Is because I have taken pains to conceal my sufferings. Doctor Borax assured me that I am falling rapidly, and nothing short of a trip to Switzerland would save me,” whisking a dainty bit of cambric across her eyes.

“Huh! He doesn’t consider my chances of failing when he gives such expensive prescriptions. Besides, you are the very picture of health.”

“That is the most dangerous sign of all. Nature’s last rally before the end. I feel it here! Here!” Clasping her bosom convulsively and staring at the ceiling.

“Well, now if it is us bad as that,” replies the unsympathetic brute, “I shouldn’t risk the journey. But apart from financial reasons there is another why you shouldn’t go.”

“How can there be any other?”

“Heh? Oh, to be sure! Why, business wouldn’t permit me to go with you, and as for straggling off alone in your feeble health”—

“Oh, I have arranged for all that. Dear mamma will accompany me.”

“Take the old ca — old lady with you? There’s double expense!”

“But what (tragically) does a paltry sum of money weigh against a life?”

“As you say (musingly), what does a paltry sum of money weigh against a life? I give it up.” He relapses into deep thought and then returns to the charge. “But think, Celestina, how people will talk if you spend the summer away from your husband.”‘

“And for idle gossip would you hold me here to perish at your feet?”

Bounderby, in a brown study, rouses at the last words.

“Perish? Feet? Whose feet? Certainly not! But, my love, are you not the least bit selfish? Of course I can deny you nothing, but a man needs woman’s companionship more in summer than any other time,” (He sighs deeply.) “It is then that love’s romance is renewed and the most holy sentiments of the soul awakened. Ah, me,” and bows his head on his breast.

His wife regards him curiously, even with some alarm.

“Since you are bent on going” — after a pause— “better this summer.”

“And why this summer more than another?” icily.

‘There is— er — a possibility I shall not have to spend the silvery evenings alone,” his coward eyes downcast.

“Archibald Bounderby,” nibbling nervously on her handkerchief, “I insist on your explaining your meaning.”

“Oh, it’s nothing that could interest you, my dear. Fact is an old friend of ours has asked me to look her up a house in the neighborhood. It will comfort you when in foreign climes to think that I have a pleasant place to spend the evenings. Won’t it, darling?”

“And might I ask who this person is?” twisting her handkerchief to shreds and displaying ill-concealed emotion.

“Why, certainly, my dear. Of course, you have not forgotten— the former Miss Gabster— she’s a widow now.”

“You mean the creature with dyed hair that angled so shamelessly for you before we were married?” her voice rising shrilly.

Bounderby swallows a chuckle mid shakes hands with himself effusively under the protection of the table. “I certainly knew the lady very well before marriage, but what of that? It will make it all the easier to renew the acquaintance.” The craven Bounderby dares not raise his shameful head, and an ominous silence follows. A servant enters with the next course, removes the remains of the fish and himself.

“Well, my dear, and what are you thinking about?” he asks. She seems to be writing on the table with a fork. Then she gulps hard, as if a croquet ball had lodged in her throat:—

“I— l have been thinking that, after all, it is selfish of me to consider my own happiness first. Wha— what If you should fall ill whe— when I am away,” with a look as if confronted by some horrid vision.

“And your health, my dear,” hardly able to repress his unholy glee.

“Archibald (with tragic gravity), a wife’s place is at her husband’s side. I shall remain.”

Victorious in his villainy, the arch-hypocrite says to himself as he imprints a chaste kiss on his wife’s brow, “Archie, old boy, you were born to be a diplomat!”

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 30 April 1905: p. 30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The summer pilgrimage of the Little Woman to some Beauty Spot while her lord and master remained toiling at home in the summer heat was a convention which inspired many jokes and saucy sea-side postcards. We have seen the rules for gentlemen who preferred to think of themselves as “slipping the leash” rather than abandoned by wife and chicks. Mrs Daffodil has mentioned the Summer Girls who posed as married ladies to avoid mashers. Gentleman, too, posed as “grass widowers” as we see in this cartoon.

knew his way about mourning cartoon

Algy: No bereavement, I hope, dear boy? I see you’re in mourning. Neddy: Oh, no, nobody dead. Fact is, I’m off to Rotorua for a week. I want the girls to take me for a widower, and then I’m sure of a good time.

 

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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Thirteen at Table: 1876

Thirteen at Table.

The Wistarias give the nicest dinner in the Empire City. Their cook is a cordon bleu, a person whose soul lies in her art, who sends up a hot dinner, not one of those greasy, half-cold, unwholesome meals, that sour the temper and the stomach at one and the same moment.

The wines are of the rarest vintages, and always in good condition, the champagne being iced to a delicate coolness, refreshing to the palate after the highly spiced entree, and the claret at that mild warmth which the knowing ones irreverently term “the Sabbath calm.”

The table, too, is always laid to caress the eye; the light coming from wax-candles, with a mild radiance, while the silver and Dresden and flowers bespeak refinement, taste, aestheticism.

Wistaria was a large man, with a melancholy visage and a melancholy manner. He had a habit of looking out into the future with dreamy eyes, as if he was perpetually engaged in watching for the coming of some person or other, like Sister Anne in “Bluebeard.”

Mrs. Wistaria is a very elegant woman, well-read, gracious, and just that class of hostess who makes her house feel to her guests as though it was their own and not hers. By a graceful witchery she reverses things, acting as the guest, while in reality, the chatelaine.

There is one daughter of the house, and one son. Wynnie Wistaria is a bright girl of eighteen, with a murderous pair of black eyes, and lips ruddier than a cherry. Her teeth flash like diamonds, and her figure is one that Rossi would like to drape his luminous colored garments upon.

The son, Geoffrey, is a “swell,” a member of the Megatherium Club, a curled darling, who does Paris in Spring and Newport in the Fall. He is not a bad young fellow, but requires a lot of sitting upon.

Mr. Wistaria is a banker, lives in a palatial residence on Fifth Avenue, and is muchly trusted and respected.

I, James Hartopp, of the firm of Hartopp, Price & Hartopp, brokers, am twenty-eight years of age, tall, not bad-looking, wear my beard, and my share in the firm averages twenty thousand a year.

I met the Wistarias in Italy, in the Spring of ’76. We did Rome, Naples, and Venice together, and before we reached the Mount Cenis Tunnel on our return to Paris I found my heart had deserted to the colors of the piquant, fascinating, winsome Wynnie.

Why should I bore the reader with a physiological analysis of the condition of my feelings up to or subsequent to this palpitating period. Forbid it, ye gods! Olympus knows what I suffered and how I suffered, it is past now—the hopes, fears, agonies, distractions and—but I must not anticipate.

I received an invitation to dinner at No. — Filth Avenue for the 13th of April, 1876. The date is well engraven upon my memory.

At half-past seven o’clock I found myself in the superb drawing-room, and the first arrival.

I had a good minute to caress my beard to a point, to arrange the bow of my white choker, to adjust the pin of the bunch of flowers in my buttonhole, to wipe a speck of dust from my varnished boots, ere Wynnie appeared.

Didn’t she look lovely in diaphanous muslin, in a thousand rills and frills, and fringes and rosettes, and had she not, à deux mains, the bouquet that I had sent her during the day—a bouquet the size of a plum-pudding!

A few moments of delicious dalliance, and her mother rustled in, attired in all the finery of brocaded satin and rose-point and flashing diamonds.

“Ah, Mr. Hartopp. it’s so nice of you to be early— ‘on time,’ as the railway officials say. Punctuality is the soul of—dinner. By-the-way,” she added. ” a word in your ear,” taking me into a bay-window and letting down the lace curtains.

I did not know what was coming. She looked grave. My position toward Wynnie was doubtful. That I was an aspirant to her hand was true, but as yet I had not played my last stake, and there was another player at the same game—a Mr. Horace Upton.

This Upton was an Englishman and a snob. He could see nothing in America; Niagara was “an awfully jolly” jet of water; the Rocky Mountains were beastly; the country was uncivilized, and the cities were nothing but shanties and lager-beer saloons.

The fellow was born with a sneer, and his civility was an impertinence.

The Wistarias tolerated him on account of his great wealth, his father being the possessor of immense coal-mines in Westmoreland, and on account of the letter of introduction which he brought—an earnest recommendation from Lord Dacres.

Wynnie, on occasions, was singularly gracious to him, at others icy. I hated him “all along the line.”

“We shall be thirteen at dinner to-day, Mr. Hartopp; please do not take any notice of it, as Mr. Wistaria is singularly superstitious about this number. Little Bertie Marcy may come in to set us all right, but at this hour I have only just discovered the fact. I could ask no one.”

“Permit me to drop out, Mrs. Wistaria.”

“By no means, you, indeed! We could not possibly get on without you. You talk better across a table than any gentleman of my acquaintance. So you see I could not possibly spare you.”

This was intensely gratifying. There is no oil like subtle flattery—no incense so delicately pungent.

“l mean to mention the fact to my guests as they come in.”

“Would it not be better to trust to chance?”

“I do not care, in Mr. Wistaria’s present state of health, to trust anything to chance.”

The guests came floating and rustling in, and I observed Mrs. Wistaria imparting a word of caution to each.

Mr. Horace Upton arrived. He was the last comer, having the audacity to come at eight o’clock, being invited for half-past seven.

“I can do anything but be punctual,” he observed. “It’s a sort of institution that’s fit for you commercial people. We don’t recognize it in Belgravia.”

“I presume there is some punctuality in the coal pits,” I cut in, red-hot with anger.

Screwing his glass into the corner of his eye, he regarded me from head to foot as if I were some stuffed arrival of an extinct species.

“Ah!” he said.

I had the glorious triumph of taking Wynnie in to dinner. Oh, what an ecstatic thrill vibrated through me as, leaning—yea, leaning, not placing the tips of her fingers upon my coat-sleeve, but pressing her dainty little hand softly downward, and drawing close to me, until l became enveloped in the magic folds of her piquant toilet.

The soup was delicious. It was bisque a l’ecrevisse. When a man arrives at five and twenty he takes to his dinner. It is the budding of the flower that at fifty will give perfume to his life. The salmon cutlets were a study in their pinks and browns and creamy whites, while the Steinberger Cabinet wherewith they were washed down was fit for the table of Kaiser Wilhelm himself. At the entrees, the conversation becomes well turned on; all ice thaws upon the appearance of the cutlets, sweetbreads, and those poems in culinary art that appeal to the senses at this particular period of the ceremony. The accompanying champagne, too, set the tongue a-wagging, and the “whole machine” commences to “go.”

Mrs. Wistaria kept somewhat anxiously gazing at her husband, who sat at the foot of the table, silent, save when spoken to by Mrs. Spype Bodaby, who was on his right, or Mr. Duplex Sincote on his left. Mrs. Bodaby kept chatting to him in a chirpy but colorless manner, and his look was straight out through the windows, on to the avenue, or, for that matter, over to the North River or Jersey.

There was a silence—one of these strange lulls which seems to descend with the softness of snow.

No person seemed inclined to break it. Wynnie was trifling with a petal from one of the flowers of her bouquet. I was gazing rapturously at her shapely hand with its rosebud nails. The remainder of the company seemed more or less absorbed. I shall never forget that silence. I have been to the great Derby race, and felt the hush at the start.

I have been in the Corrida del Toros at Madrid, and have held my breath as the bull rushed forth to his doom.

And I have been at No. __ Fifth avenue, and have known the silence that for one brief moment held us on that I3th day of April, 1876.

Mr. Horace Upton broke it.

“By Jove,” he drawled, “we are thirteen at dinner.”

Mrs. Wistaria had omitted to warn him.

A dull, dead, ashen color seized the host’s face as if in a closing grip, stretching over it like the shadow of death.

Clinching his hands together, and with set teeth, he murmured:

“Thirteen! Can this be true?”

Mrs. Wistaria started to her feet, as did also her sister, Mrs. Penrose Gibbs.

“Certainly not,” cried Mrs. Wistaria, boldly flinging herself between Mr. Gibbs, a very small, inoffensive little man, whose wife rolled him bodily off his chair and beneath the table, “we are but twelve.”

Mr. Wistaria, still in the same attitude, counted, with glowing eves, the number of the guests.

“Twelve!” he muttered, a ray of relief flashing across his face, to be dispelled as quickly, as he hoarsely demanded, “Where is Gibbs?”

“Here,” uttered that unconscious personage, emerging from beneath the table, at the other side, though.

“Gad! I see it all now,” and, plunging his face in his hands, his fingers through his hair, our host seemed shaken by some terrible convulsion.

“George, dearest George, this is folly!” cried Mrs. Wistaria. “Madness! No person attaches the slightest feeling to dining thirteen.”

“I wish I could dine thirteen every day with such a dinner as this,” said Gibbs.

“We dined thirteen at the Stubbs’ several time last year as their ten married daughters with their husbands were stopping there, and we are all alive and well,” chirped Mrs. Spype Bodaby.

“I dined with thirteen fellows at the Star and Garter at Richmond, last year, and, by Jove, I’m the only one alive to-day

This speech came from Mr. Horace Upton, and a savage joy vibrated through me. He was nailing the coffin lid on his hopes.

Wynnie sprang to her father’s side, gently placing her arm around his neck. Mr. Wistaria’s hands were still closed upon his face, his fingers clutching his hair. Wynnie caressingly endeavored to remove them, but the grip was as firm as steel. The livid cheeks immediately beneath the ears were visible, as was also the ashen-hued chin.

A tremulous shudder passed over the man. We were all now dazed, helpless, confused.

Suddenly Mrs. Wistaria uttered a piercing shriek.

“Fly for Doctor Bribston! Help! Help!” she cried, in frenzied accents.

I was horrified to find a great stream of blood pouring down Mr. Wistaria’s chin—pouring in a bright, red rivulet.

I assisted in placing him upon the sofa, in a recumbent position, but in vain did we endeavor to remove his hands from his face.

When Doctor Bribston arrived, he cast one rapid glance at the prostrate form, grasped the pulse, laid his hand upon the heart, and shook his head.

Mr. Wistaria was dead.

He had died of heart disease.

During one of his sojourns in England, be had had his fortune told by a gypsy. This woman, after having examined his line of life, suddenly cast his palm from her, covering her face with her hands.

“Never!” she exclaimed, with a fierce solemnity— “never dine thirteen at table if you can avoid it, for you will die at the table.”

This strange prophecy sank into his very soul, and never would he sit at the table with this doomed number.

It was a strange coincidence. Very strange.

* * * *

I am married to Wynnie.

My wife and I dine out a good deal, and we entertain in proportion, but never shall I make one of thirteen

l have lost several good dinners through this superstition, call it what you will, but the ghastly recollection of that 13th of April, 1876, with all its other dark history can never be erased from my mind.

Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours, Volume 25

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  And a very happy Friday the 13th to all of you!

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.

Plaster Casts of Their Pretty Faces, a Summer Fad: 1888

plaster cast life mask anna pavlova

Plaster life-mask of the face of ballerina Anna Pavlova. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1113998/mask/

The Latest Fashionable Folly.

Some few of the summer girls before gathering their butterfly raiment about them for flight left souvenirs of themselves with the business-tied young men who remain in the city. These souvenirs were neither more nor less than plaster casts of their pretty faces, and as the fashion in which these casts are obtained is by no means a pleasant one they must be judged to have displayed heroism worthy of a better cause. A cast, they argue, has no more significance than a photograph, while it is a much newer method of giving a token of one’s regard. The damsel who designs to honor any friend masculine after this mode send for one of those swarthy, under-sized Italian modelers who abound in certain quarters down town. The little man attends in the lady’s boudoir and a studio is extemporized. This means that some convenient sister or girl friend hold her hand and calms her rising terrors while the victim is laid back in a reclining chair or extending on a table.

The hair is snooded up carefully and covered that no touch of plaster may come near it. Then some variety of sweet oil is rubbed upon the skin, tubes of one description or another are put into the nostrils and the mixture is poured on. It does not take many minutes for it to set nor many more for it to be got off, discovering the summer girl very commonly in a state bordering on hysteria and as glad to be released as if she were jumping from a dentist’s clutches. There is no real discomfort attending the operation, the oil preventing any adhesion of the skin and the castee soon recovers sufficiently to describe the whole thing as “real fun,” and to discuss the number of copies of her countenance she will have made from the mold.

A bachelor’s den, in case the bachelor chances to have a number of girl friends, presents an interesting appearance just now. Rows of white faces look down from the mantel, more stand around on tables or bookshelves. Some are set in plaques, some hung up in frames. Some, it grieves one to record, are not treated with due consideration, one irreverent dog of a youngster, for instance, turning the plaster mask of his best girl over and using the reverse side for an ash tray.

The Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 29 July 1888: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Irreverent dog, indeed. Mrs Daffodil appreciates that the summer girl feels a life-mask to be more of a “speaking likeness” than a photograph. Still, even the most skillful modeller cannot hide their shuddersome resemblance to a death mask. Unless one’s beloved bachelor has some strange tastes indeed, one feels that a portrait in tasteful evening costume would more effectively call the girl friend to the bachelor’s mind.

The photograph at the head of this post is a cast-plaster life-mask of ballerina Anna Pavlova. Here is a bronze cast taken from the plaster mold:

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 Solo Bridal Tour: 1875

 

honeymoon couple on moon

A Kentucky Bridal Tour.

[From the Courier-Journal.]

There came one day to a little inland town in Kentucky a young rural couple who had just been bound by the “silken bonds.” Their destination was the depot, and the bridegroom was evidently quite impatient for fear the train should arrive before he could reach the office. Buying one ticket, they stood on the platform until the train had stopped. When they entered the car the bridegroom found his bride a seat, kissed her most affectionately, and bade her “good-bye,” and going out, seated himself on a box and commenced whittling most vigorously. He watched the train out of sight, regret depicted on his face, when a bystander, thinking the whole proceeding rather strange, resolved to interview him. Approaching him carelessly, and chewing a straw to keep up his courage, he said:

“Been getting’ married lately?”

“Yes,” said he, “me and Sallie got spliced this mornin’.”

“Was that her you put on the train?”

“Yes,” with a sigh.

“A likely lookin’ gal,” said our questioner. “Anybody sick, that she had to go away?”

“No;” but here he grew confidential. “You see me and Sallie had heard that everybody when they got married took a bridal tour. So I told Sallie I hadn’t money enough for both of us to go, but she shouldn’t be knocked out of hern. So I jist brought her down here, bought her ticket, and sent her on a visit to some of her folks, and thought I might get some work harvestin’ till she got back.”

That afternoon found him busily at work, and when in a day or two after Sallie got back, he welcomed her cordially and affectionately, and hand in hand they started down the dusty road to their new home and duties.

Reading [PA] Times 19 August 1875: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has written before about perfect and problematic honeymoons, but never about a solitary bridal tour.

A most considerate bride-groom, not to “knock” his wife out of a honeymoon treat, which suggests that we may feel quite sanguine about the future happiness of the union.

 

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 Plain Man on His Honeymoon: 1713

A wedding banyan (or “silk night-gown”) c. 1729, of the sort the bridegroom complained of. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1140120.1

No. 113. Tuesday, July 21, 1713

___Amphora coepit

Institui, currente rota, cur urceus exit?

Hor. Ars Poet. Ver. 21

[Why dwindle to a cruet from a tun?   Simple be all you execute, and one!]

When you begin with so much pomp and show,

Why is the end so little and so low?

Roscommon

I last night received a letter from an honest citizen, who, it seems, is in his honeymoon. It is written by a plain man, on a plain subject, but has an air of good sense and natural honesty in it, which may perhaps please the public as much as myself. I shall not, therefore, scruple the giving it a place in my paper, which is designed for common use, and for the benefit of the poor as well as rich.

Cheapside, July 18.

“Good MR. IRONSIDE,—I have lately married a very pretty body, who, being something younger and richer than myself, I was advised to go a wooing to her in a finer suit of clothes than I ever wore in my life; for I love to dress plain, and suitable to a man of my rank. However, I gained her heart by it. Upon the wedding-day, I put myself, according to custom, in another suit, fire-new, with silver buttons to it. I am so out of countenance among my neighbours, upon being so fine, that I heartily wish my clothes well worn out. I fancy every body observes me as I walk the street, and long to be in my old plain gear again. Besides, forsooth, they have put me in a silk nightgown and a gaudy fool’s cap, and make me now and then stand in the window with it. I am ashamed to be dandied thus, and cannot look in the glass without blushing to see myself turned into such a pretty little master. They tell me I must appear in my wedding suit for the first month, at least; after which I am resolved to come again to my every day’s clothes, for at present every day is Sunday with me. Now, in my mind, Mr. Ironside, this is the wrongest way of proceeding in the world. When a man’s person is new and unaccustomed to a young body, he does not want any thing else to set him off. The novelty of the lover has more charms than a wedding-suit. I should think, therefore, that a man should keep his finery for the latter seasons of marriage, and not begin to dress till the honey-moon is over. I have observed, at a lord-mayor’s feast, that the sweet-meats do not make their appearance until people are cloyed with beef and mutton, and begin to lose their stomachs. But, instead of this, we serve up delicacies and coarse diet when their bellies are full. As bad as I hate my silver-buttoned coat and silk night-gown, I am afraid of leaving them off, not knowing whether my wife won’t repent of her marriage, when she sees what a plain man she has to her husband. Pray, Mr. Ironside, write something to prepare her for it, and let me know whether you think she can ever love me in a hair button.

“I am, &c.

“P. S. I forgot to tell you of my white gloves, which, they say, too, I must wear all the first month.”

An embroidered gentleman’s cap, worn with undress, c. 1700-25 Perhaps the “gaudy fool’s cap,” the bridegroom referenced above. http://collections.lacma.org/node/214537

My correspondent’s observations are very just, and may be useful in low life; but to turn them to the advantage of people in higher stations, I shall raise the moral, and observe something parallel to the wooing and wedding suit, in the behaviour of persons of figure. After long experience in the world, and reflections upon mankind, I find one particular occasion of unhappy marriages, which, though very common, is not much attended to. What I mean is this: every man in the time of courtship, and in the first entrance of marriage, puts on a behaviour like my correspondent’s holiday suit, which is to last no longer than till he is settled in the possession of his mistress. He resigns his inclinations and understanding to her humour and opinion. He neither loves, nor hates, nor talks, nor thinks in contradiction to her. He is controlled by a nod, mortified by a frown, and transported by a smile. The poor young lady falls in love with this supple creature, and expects of him the same behaviour for life. In a little time she finds that he has a will of his own, that he pretends to dislike what she approves, and that, instead of treating her like a goddess, he uses her like a woman. What still makes this misfortune worse, we find the most abject flatterers degenerate into the greatest tyrants. This naturally fills the spouse with sullenness and discontent, spleen, and vapour, which, with a little discreet management, make a very comfortable marriage. I very much approve of my friend Tom Truelove in this particular. Tom made love to a woman of sense, and always treated her as such during the whole time of courtship. His natural temper and good breeding hindered him from doing any thing disagreeable, as his sincerity and frankness of behaviour made him converse with her, before marriage, in the same manner he intended to continue to do afterwards. Tom would often tell her, “Madam, you see what sort of man I am. If you will take me with all my faults about me, I promise to mend rather than grow worse.” I remember Tom was once hinting his dislike of some little trifle his mistress had said or done; upon which she asked him how he would talk to her after marriage, if he talked at this rate before? “No, Madam,” says Tom “I mention this now, because you are at your own disposal; were you at mine, I should be too generous to do it.” In short, Tom succeeded, and has ever since been better than his word. The lady has been disappointed on the right side, and has found nothing more disagreeable in the husband than she discovered in the lover.

The Works of Joseph Addison: 1868 p. 127

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Tom Truelove has the correct view: Begin as you mean to go on. One young bride found herself (mercifully, perhaps) disabused almost immediately:

What is the whole duty of a bridegroom when, after the wedding and the breakfast, he finds himself alone with his bride in an empty railway compartment? One would imagine that a few terms of endearment, and possibly an occasional caress, would not be considered quite out of place. This seems to have been the opinion of a young lady who was married at Accrington, the other day, to a Mr. John Smith. The blushing bride had not been married before, but she was naturally surprised and distressed by the proceedings of her husband. They had scarcely left Accrington, when Mr. Smith settled himself in a corner, yawned once or twice and fell into a deep slumber. It is possible that Mr. Smith in repose is not a pleasing spectacle. It is possible that Mrs. Smith was merely hurt by the stolidity of his demeanour under conditions favourable to cheerfulness, not to say enthusiasm. But it is certain that, for one or both of these reasons, the maiden slipped, quietly out of the carriage at the first station, leaving behind her only a slip of paper attached to Mr. Smith’s coat tail, and bearing these words: “Tired of matrimony. Had enough of it and gone home to my ma. Mary.”  Evening Gazette [Pittston, PA] 2 January 1888: p. 1

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 Mermaid Look: 1840s

the mermaid Howard Pyle 1910

A STORY OF THE SEA

Mary Kyle Dallas

“Do I believe in mermaids ?” said old Captain Saltwater, stirring his punch and beaming upon us from the fragrant mist which arose from the great glass before him. “Do I believe in mermaids? Of course I do. Long ago, when I went to sea as a cabin boy, I’ve heard them singing many and many a moonlight night so that I could scarcely lie still in my hammock, and have watched over the side oftener than I can tell you for the gleaming of their white arms and the floating of the sea-green hair they are so proud of. They’ve left off troubling me now, for I’m old and tough as sea water can make me; and even if it was of any use, they wouldn’t think me a prize worth capturing; but then when my heart was soft and my cheek like a peach with the down upon it, they could never leave me alone, but were always beckoning and singing to me. If I hadn’t had a good old mother that I was too fond of to forsake for any flesh and blood woman in the world, let alone a mermaid , I’ve no doubt I should have been among the coral caves to-night instead of here, my dears.

“Mermaids! bless you, you’re not half up to their arts; they have a way (I’m sure of it) of getting rid of the fishy part of ‘em and coming out on land for all the world like Christian women. I’ve met them miles and miles away from the ocean, looking as modest and blushing as much as they could if they’d been what they seemed to be. But I knew them; nothing could deceive me. I always saw the sea in their eyes. Blue eyes, and very pretty ones; but when you least expected it, that deep sea-green would rise from behind them or creep over them somehow, and you would see the mermaid look in a moment.

“It was a kind of natural instinct with me, and I never could teach any one my secret. Ah! I wish I could have taught it to Ralph Hawthorne, but he always laughed at me whenever I spoke of such things. He hadn’t been brought up a sailor, d’ye see, but had been to college, and learnt to explain everything away until he believed nothing. Corpselights he called ‘ electricity,’ and ‘Mother Carey’s chickens’ a superstition; and as for the sea serpent, he actually had the audacity to tell old Tom Pipes, a man who had sailed salt water for 40 years, that he must have dreamt he saw it close to the rock of Gibraltar, because the creature was fabulous. The sea serpent fabulous! He might as well have told old Tom he lied.

“Howsomever, the lad’s education was to blame for these things, and he was to be pitied for not being taught what he ought to have known, and I was just as fond of him as though he had been my own brother. Son, is more like it—for he was very young and there was years between us. He was the best messmate when he was off his hobby that I ever met with, and he made the Cousin Kitty ring again with the old sea songs he was so fond of singing on bright moonlight nights.

“The Cousin Kitty was the ship in which we sailed, and of which he was part owner. I had named her after a little cousin of my own, who half bewitched me when I was a lad, and I was as fond of her as I could have been of her namesake, the living cousin Kitty, if it had been written in Life’s log book that I was to be moored alongside of her. I could never have borne that a man I did not like should be part owner of that vessel.

“Our first voyage together was to the East Indies, and we had terrible weather coming home; and were in scenes that proved what stuff the men were made off. Ralph came out pure gold, and showed that college hadn’t spoiled him, and we were fast friends from that time; for when I like a man, d’ye see, I stick to him, and I liked Ralph more than I can tell.

“He had hair that clung in great black rings all about his neck and temples, an olive skin, and eyes such as I have never seen on any other living thing except a seal. You may laugh, but though they talk about gazelle’s eyes in poetry, they don’t compare with those of a seal—great, brown, loving, imploring things, with a soul behind them as sure as I’m a sinner.

“He was so handsome, that when we passed the reef where the mermaids lay in wait, I used to be afraid to see him looking down into the water. Those creatures are bold for all they’re shy, d’ye see, and I didn’t know but that they might make a spring at him and carry him off by main force if stratagem failed them. Perhaps they were daunted by his great brown eyes, for he never even heard them sing.

“Well, my dears, Ralph Hawthorne and I had sailed together four good years, and he was as dear to me as my own son could have been, when coming across from Liverpool to New York we met the very worst storm that the Cousin Kitty had ever weathered through. I never quite gave her up, but there were moments when I began to think that I and my good ship would be lying beneath the water together before the sun rose over it. For it was in the middle of the second night that the storm was at its worst, and with pitch-black water all around and a sky blacker yet overhead, we were beaten and rocked and driven as though the air were full of unseen demons.

“We had passengers on board, and though they were all fastened down below we could hear the women’s shrieks above the roaring of the wind and the breaking of the waves. Women, d’ye see, were never meant to leave dry land. I’d rather see anything on board of a vessel than a woman.

“By dawn the storm had abated, and the Cousin Kitty had acted like a queen, so Ralph and I went down to cheer the passengers up. When we told them we were out of danger, they squalled for joy, just as they had squalled for fear a little while before. The women folks were sulky with me, because when they were at their loudest the night before I beat upon the doors with a belaying pin, and told ’em if they didn’t hold their tongues I’d let the ship sink just to drown their voices. But they all clustered about Ralph as though they wanted to kiss him, and he, the rascal, looked at them out of his great seal-brown eyes as though he were in love with every girl on board.

“Somehow he quieted them, and those who were sick went back to their staterooms, and those who were well enough sat down to breakfast, and there was as much peace as could be expected with petticoats on board at all. Well, when we had settled that job we went on board again. The clouds were clearing off, and there seemed to be a prospect of pleasant weather, but straight ahead of us we saw a sight that made my heart ache—the wreck of a handsome vessel stranded on a rock, and going fast to pieces. We saw no one upon her; all hands had left her, we supposed, for the boats when she began to part. She had been a handsome French-built vessel, and the name upon her side was L’Esperance. It made me think of the Cousin Kitty, as the sight of another man’s dead child makes a man think of his own living one, and I wondered who the captain was, and how he felt when he left his hope to go down into the dark waters without him. For L’Esperance means Hope, you know, my dears, better than I do, and it was awful to see that bright word written in golden letters above the broken hulk that hadn’t so much as an anchor left to it.

“Doubtful as it seemed, we thought there might be some poor soul clinging somewhere to the wreck, and Ralph Hawthorne and I with half a dozen hands went out in a boat to look at her. It seemed plain in a few moments that she was quite deserted, and we were going back to the Cousin Kitty again, when Ralph frightened me by springing upon the boat and over the side in a moment.

“’The mermaids have got him at last!’ I shouted, but before the words were out of my lips he was swimming alongside with something white in his strong young arms.

“’Take her, for Heaven’s sake!’ he cried, and then I knew that it was a woman whom he held, and a drowned one, for if she had been living she would have clung to him until she dragged him down along with her to Davy Jones’s locker. They will do it; you can’t save a woman from drowning unless she is senseless. Well, we took the poor thing on board, and after a deal of fuss, with all the lady passengers in the way, pretending to help and doing worse than nothing, brought breath back to the poor little body. The first use she made of it was to scream for ‘mon père’ and ‘Alphonse,’ until I began to think we were wrong in bringing her to life and misery, for there was little doubt but that the two she called for were sleeping amongst the seaweed together.

“In a day or two she grew quieter, and then she told us in pretty broken English such a pitiful little story of the white-haired old father and the young lover soon to be a husband, and the storm and the darkness and the awful separation. She made me cry like a baby, and Ralph Hawthorne’s eyes were browner and more seal-like as he listened.

“She came on deck before the voyage was over every afternoon, and used to sit looking down into the water for hours and hours together. The lady passengers made a pet of her, and Ralph Hawthorne was like a brother to the little thing.

“As for myself, I had resolved that she should never want a friend while I lived. So when we arrived at the end of our voyage I took her to my sister Margaret, and told her the story. I was old and had no children, and Meg took a fancy to the girl, so when I sailed again I left her safe in moorings, and she kissed me as a daughter might when we parted. Adele she said was her name, and she would call me Monsieur le Capitaine, which I, not being French, didn’t like.

“I never in all my life knew Ralph to be so silent as he was upon that voyage. He was not himself in anything except that he did his duty, as he always did, like a man. I puzzled over the change more than I can tell you. At last, as he sat in the moonlight one night, looking at the sparkles on the dark waves, I went to him and said,

“’What has been the matter with you all this time, Ralph?”

He looked up with a start, and made no answer at first, but after a while he opened his lips and uttered one word only. That one word was ‘Adele.’

“I understood it all now, and I laughed as I slapped him on the back.

“’So it’s Adele,” said I. “Well, you’ve been sly enough about it. So you’re to take my little beauty from me, are you?’

“He shook his head, and looked up at me with his great seal-like eyes.

“’No,” he said, “she will not say I may. Her heart is with that young lover of hers who was lost when L’Esperance became a wreck, and she cares nothing for me.’

“’Nonsense,’ I answered; ‘I never heard of a woman being constant to the living, let alone the dead.’

“’She will be,’ he said, and his eyes wandered to the dark waves again, and he did not speak another word.

“I said no more at that time, but when we were at home again I went to see my little French daughterling and talked to her about it. At first she sobbed for poor Alphonse, but by-and-bye she dried her eyes and owned to liking Ralph, though she did not love him.

“’Liking is enough,’ said I; ‘love will come when you are spliced, and as I stand in the place of a father to you, I think you ought to do as I say, and make Ralph Hawthorne happy.’

“I spoke as I did because I knew that French girls were used to having their matches made for them by their parents, and that the speech would have great weight with her.

“She took my hand and kissed it. ‘ I must obey,’ she said, ‘but I shall never, never be happy with Monsieur Ralph; my heart is in the ocean with Alphonse.’

“I said nothing, for d’ye see I thought the speech meant nothing but a little woman’s coquetry.

“They were married in six months, and I sailed for the first time for years without Ralph Hawthorne. When I came back he brought his wife to see me. She was beautiful in her white dress, with her golden hair coiled in great braids about her shapely head, but she was very pale and her long lashes drooped as sadly as ever over her large eyes. That was one peculiarity about those eyes of hers. They were so shadowed that I never had been able to tell what color they were. Now, when I bent over her, and had both of her little hands in one of my own, she lifted them and looked full at me for the first time. The sight froze my blood. They were blue and beautiful, but out of them, over them, from behind them I could see the sea. It was there as plainly as the eyes themselves was that delicate sea-green shadow, and I knew all at once. The story of the shipwreck was a lie; ‘Alphonse’ and ‘mon père’ were fictions. It was a preconcerted plan hatched amongst the coral reefs. Ralph Hawthorne’s wife was a mermaid . Instead of kissing her I flung her from me.

“’I know you,’ I cried before I knew what I was saying; ‘go back to the sea from whence you came, you French mermaid; you belong there.’

“And she uttered a scream, and crying, ‘Ah, mon Dieu! if I only could,’ fell fainting to the floor.

I thought it was all over between Ralph and I after that, for he told me I was mad, and bade me leave his house, but I wouldn’t go.

“’No, my lad,’ I said, ‘no, you’ll need your old friend more with a mermaid for a wife than you would if you had married a flesh and blood Christian woman.’

“After a while, when she had come out of her swoon, and was lying white and beautiful as any water lily in his arms, Ralph made it up with me, though d’ye see I had to perjure myself by saying it was all a joke (as though she didn’t know better). My excuse is that I did it for the lad’s sake. So I stayed and went to the house often after that, and though I watched Ralph’s mermaid wife I must say I saw no harm in her. So I said to myself, ‘A reformed mermaid ought to be encouraged,’ and next time I came from sea I brought her a lot of shells and china enough to stock her pantry. She never seemed to care for the china, but she would sit for hours with the shells in her lap, dreaming over them and holding them to her ear to hear the roaring of the sea. She said they brought it close to her, and I suppose they did. But she was very mild and sweet, and if I could have seen a child of Ralph’s upon her bosom I think I could have forgotten that she was a mermaid . But two years passed by, and no baby came to look up into her sea-blue eyes with seal-like brown eyes like those of Ralph, and I was not quite at rest with all her sweetness.

“On the 25th of June—no matter in what year—the Cousin Kitty sailed for France, and Ralph Hawthorne and his wife were on board her. She it seems had longed to see her native land again (all pretence I knew), and Ralph told me with tears in his eyes that she would die if she did not go to the France she loved so dearly. I could have told him that it was the sea for which his wife pined, and which she could live without no longer.

“I tackled her with it the first day she came on board.

“’You don’t care for France, Adele,’ said I; ‘you are pining for the ocean, I’m certain.’

“’Yes,’ she answered softly; ‘but, dear monsieur, do not tell Ralph, for it would grieve him, and he is too good to grieve.’

“’Never fear,’ said I. ‘Somebody or other says, where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise, and he was right. I’ll say nothing to the lad.’ And I kept the mermaid ‘s secret.

“Ralph went as a passenger this time, and spent every moment in petting his lily of a wife. Hour after hour he would spend reading to her, her head lying on his shoulder all the while, but I never saw her lay it there voluntarily. She was obedient to him, but as cold as the water from whence she came. The old merman of a father, who got up the match among the coral reefs, had made a mistake. The love was all on Ralph’s side. The ocean was as calm all the way, until what I shall tell you came to pass, as though oil had been poured upon it, and she was always looking down into the water with her sea-green eyes, and her skin grew more and more transparent and her little wrists smaller every day.

“At last, one bright morning, we came in sight of the very rock upon which we had seen L’Esperance stranded three years before, and from the foot of which Ralph Hawthorne had picked up his mermaid wife. We were becalmed there, and such a calm I never knew. There was not breeze enough to lift a thistledown, and sky and water were both red-hot. The moon looked like a copper shield, and all night long it was so bright that you could see every object as plainly as at daybreak. On the first of these awful nights Adele came to me, as I stood leaning over the side, and said, in her own clear voice,

“’Monsieur, will you tell me if those are the rocks?’

“’The rocks?’ I asked, pretending not to understand her, though I did.

“’Where the ship struck—where L’Esperance went down,’she said, and I answered,

“’Yes.’

“’I thought so,’ said she, ‘for listen, monsieur: a moment ago I saw Alphonse, white and wan, with seaweed tangled in his hair, beckoning to me from the water yonder.’

“She looked so wild and spirit-like as she spoke, that I was not sure but that she would melt into the sea until I had her by the arm, and felt solid flesh and bone beneath my fingers.

“’Go to your stateroom, child,’ I said; ‘you are feverish.’

“But all the while she was colder than an icicle, and I knew it. Adele went to her stateroom and lay there all night. The next day she did not rise, but Ralph was not alarmed, for she said she was not ill, but only weary. I knew then, as I know now, that she wanted to keep out of the temptation, which the sight of the sea was to her.

“All this while we were becalmed within sight of those fatal rocks, and the sun went down upon the second day without the prospect of a breeze.

“It was night. Twelve bells had struck, and the watch on deck were changing places with those who had been sleeping. I was too anxious to rest, and stood talking to the man at the wheel. My back, you understand, was toward the staterooms, and I was only aware of what had happened when he let go the wheel, and shouted, in a horrified voice,

“’She’s overboard!’

“’Who is overboard?’ I screamed.

“But the men, who were rushing to let down a boat, could not tell me. A female figure had been seen to glide, ghost-like, across the deck and spring wildly over the side in an instant.

“I went straight to Ralph’s stateroom—the pillow beside him was empty—and I wakened him from the last sweet sleep he ever knew to tell him that Adele was gone.

We never found her body. I never thought we should, for d’ye see we could not get at the coral caves under the sea; but I only spoke a few words of comfort to poor Ralph; it was no time to vex him, his heart was sore enough already. Adele had left a note upon her pillow with Ralph’s name upon it, and in it were these words:

“’Forgive me, you who have been so kind to me. I sin in leaving you only less than in ever having given myself to you while my heart was in the sea. I have seen Alphonse by our bedside every night. Yesterday he beckoned to me from the water. He waits: the very ship stands still that I may go. I dare not stay. Adieu, and forget me.’

“This was all. We had no need to linger near those rocks longer, for a breeze sprung up the moment she was gone, and by daylight we were miles away—miles from those fatal rocks, and my own handsome lad lay raving on his pillow, and did not even know me as I bent above him.

“We made the voyage, and were on our homeward way, and still there was no change in him. With his beautiful eyes for ever open, he babbled of Adele, always, always of the mermaid he had nursed in his warm bosom.

“Again on our return we neared the rocks where L’Esperance had stranded, and once more we were becalmed. The ship was waiting for something, and I guessed what it was, for Ralph grew weaker every day.

“At last, late in the summer afternoon, I heard him utter my name in his own dear voice, and flew to him.

“His eyes were glazing, but they turned lovingly towards me, and he stretched out his hand.

“Good-bye, dear friend,” he said. “I am going to the sea, to meet Adele,” and then his fingers tightened about mine, and bending down to kiss him I saw all was over.

“We buried him in the ocean when the moon was high above the ship, and I could fancy faces in the waves, and see white arms stretched up to catch the beautiful thing we lowered into the waves.

“When the mermaids had what they waited for they let go of the bottom of the ship, and she sailed on again.

“I’ve been upon the sea ever since, but I never care to go in that direction. It would be very hard to pass those rocks where L’Esperance was stranded, and where Ralph’s hope and Ralph, who was my own, went down to meet her wreck amongst the mermaids .”

Frank Leslie’s Weekly 2 August 1862

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A sad case of that well-known maritime disorder: Capture of the Deep.

 

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 Wreath of Orange Blossoms Bathed in Blood: 1860s

STRANGE NIGHT OF HORROR

What I Saw in the Old Upper Chamber.

The Wreath of Orange Blossoms That Was Bathed in Blood

I received an invitation from an old friend of mine, Colonel Armitage, to run down to his house in Berkshire, for some hunting and a couple of balls.

In those days I was some years younger than I am now, and, having but lately returned from India, very keen on all sorts of amusements. I wrote off a hurried note of acceptance, and speedily followed it.

I knew Mrs. Armitage slightly, and was well acquainted with the Colonel’s taste in champagne, besides which I had met, not long before, an uncommonly pretty sister of his, whom I thought it would be by no means unpleasant to meet again; so I started off in the best of spirits.

I calculated a run of two hours would give me ample time for the three miles drive from the station and to dress for dinner at 8. However, vain were my hopes. There was a break down on the line, and we only reached the station at 7 o’clock. I dashed into the carriage sent to meet me, and, arriving at the Grange, found my host alone, awaiting me in the hall, with outstretched hand and genial welcome.

I knew he was a regular martinet for punctuality, so was not surprised when he hurried me up directly to my room. It was a large and well-appointed room, with bright fire and candles.

“All right, old chap, I’ll send Reggie up to show you the way down in a quarter of an hour,” were the Colonel’s last words as he left me to my toilet. Suddenly the gong thundered through the house, and I, thinking I was forgotten, put out my candles and turned to the door—when it was softly opened and a young man appeared who beckoned to me.

I followed him into the passage, which was rather dark, and began to say something expressive of my obligation to him, but he silenced me with a wave of the hand and preceded me, with noiseless steps and averted face, along the passage. I thought this was odd, but my surprise was increased when he took an abrupt turn to the left which I did not remember, and we found ourselves in a long, low, oak-paneled corridor, dimly lighted by a hanging lamp.

I began to feel a curious sensation stealing over me and endeavored to speak, but was withheld by an undefined feeling, so followed my guide in perfect silence to the end of the corridor. He then passed through a green baize door, up a flight of corkscrew stairs and through another passage, still feeling myself impelled to follow till he stopped, opened a door and stood back for me to pass before him.

I had not seen his face before, but had observed he was above the middle height, with a good figure and rather military gait. Now, however, I saw his face; it was ashy white, with such an expression of horror and fear in his widely opened eyes as froze my blood. I again made an ineffectual attempt to speak to him, but he motioned me imperiously to enter, and I felt constrained to obey.

I found myself in an oddly-shaped room. It was evidently an unused apartment, for there was no carpet, and my footsteps sounded hollow on the boards. Between the windows, half in shadow, half in moonlight, stood a large bed. As I gazed upon it my eyes became gradually accustomed to the somewhat dim light, and I observed with a shudder that it was draped with black and decorated with tall black plumes like those on a hearse, and that there was a motionless form extended upon it.

I glance round for my guide—he was gone and the door was shut, though I had heard no sound. A thrill of horror ran through my veins, I felt an almost irresistible desire for flight, but again the inexplicable force urged me on, and I approached the bed with slow and trembling steps.

There lay a young, and, as far as I could see, beautiful girl, dressed as a bride, in white satin and lace, a wreath of orange blossoms on her head and the long white veil covering, though not obscuring her features, but oh! Horror! The front of her dress and vail were all dabbled and soaked in blood which I could see flowed from a deep open gash in her white throat.

My head swam, and I remembered no more.

Suddenly I felt a cold shock in my face, and opened my eyes to find myself on the floor, with my head supported by my kind host. As my bewildered senses reasserted themselves I remembered what I had seen, and, with an exclamation, sprang to my feet. There was the same bed, but in the bright light I saw that it was without the ghastly appendages I had seen before and was totally untenanted. Colonel Armitage began asking me questions, but, seeing that I was too much dazed to answer, he took me by the arm and half led me, half supported me, back to my own room. When there he put me into an arm-chair, gave me a glass of water and exclaimed:

“My dear fellow! What on earth is the matter with you? We sent Reggie up to you, but he came down saying you had gone. We waited ten minutes—then, thinking you had lost your way, instituted a regular search, and I found you in the old chamber, in a dead faint on the floor.

I pulled myself together, and, as collectedly as I could, told him what had happened. He listened with incredulity, and then said:
“My dear Bruce, you have been dreaming.”

“Why,” I said, rather nettled. “how do you suppose I could have dreamed myself into that room? I tell you, Armitage, that I was as wide awake as you are, and am perfectly certain that what I saw was no dream.”

“Look here,” said Armitage seriously, “don’t you go talking about this to anybody but me; of course there are stories about this house, but nobody has ever seen or imagined anything uncanny before, and it will frighten Mrs. Armitage to death if you tell her; she is awfully delicate, and I don’t want to alarm her.”

“All right,” I said, “but I wish it hadn’t happened to me. I feel frightfully shaky still.”

“Oh, nonsense! Come down to dinner; a good glass of champagne will set you to rights,” said he.

Accordingly I made an effort to shake off the depression on my spirits, and went down with him.  The bright lights, cheerful talk and clattering of plates seemed terribly incongruous, and I am afraid pretty Mrs. Armitage must have thought me quite off my head, for I could eat nothing, drank feverishly and replied at random to all her remarks, and condolences, while the dead face of the murdered girl floated before my eyes and nearly distracted me.

“I’m afraid you don’t feel at all well, Captain Bruce,” she said at last.

“Please don’t think me dreadfully rude,” I replied, “but if I could slip out unobserved, I should be most grateful.”

She signaled to Reggie, a bright-faced boy whom I begged to show me upstairs. I literally dared not attempt to find my way up alone for fear of meeting my mysterious guardian.

I went to the glass—and recoiled; I hardly knew myself. My hair lay damply on my forehead, my face as very pale, and there was the haunted look in my eyes I had seen in his.  Very soon the door opened—I started nervously; but it was only the Colonel with a steaming tumbler. “Look here,” he said, “drink this off and get into bed; you’ll be all right in the morning.” I did so, and the punch did send me off into a heavy, dreamless sleep, which lasted till my blinds were drawn up by the servant in the morning letting in fresh sunshine.

A whole day in the saddle and a splendid run, followed by a cozy game of billiards with Miss Mabel Armitage before dinner, decided me, ghosts or no ghosts, not to show myself ungrateful to my kind hosts by cutting short my visit as I had thought of doing.

The next day we spent in the covers, the ladies came out to give us our luncheon, and I came home to dress for dinner in a most jubilant frame of mind, much inclined to put my fate to the touch with Miss Mabel: hoping that, be my deserts as small as they might, I should win, not “lose it all.” Some country neighbors were expected to dinner, and I was standing in a deep window-seat with Mabel and listening to her merry descriptions of them as they were ushered into the room by the stately butler when Sir George and Miss Hildyard” were announced, and there entered—dressed in white—the girl I had seen in my dream!

I stood transfixed, and Mabel exclaimed: “Oh, Captain Bruce, what is the matter?” But I could not answer. Before my eyes rose again that darkened room, that funeral bed, and the lifeless form of her who now advanced toward me, led by Mrs. Armitage.

“Miss Hildyard, Captain Bruce.” I bowed as in a dream, but saw a look of surprise cross her face, and she glanced inquiringly at Mabel, who replied by a reassuring nod.

As soon as I could get an opportunity, I took Colonel Armitage aside, and whispered to him—“For heaven’s sake, Armitage, am I mad? That is the girl.” He shook me impatiently by the shoulder and said, “’Pon my word, Bruce, I begin to think you are. That is one of the nicest girls I know. She’s engaged to Lovett, and they are to be married soon after Easter. For goodness’ sake don’t go, and frighten her by staring like a death’s head.”

After dinner I even ventured to accost Miss Hildyard, whom I found very agreeable, with nothing in the least supernatural about her; so once more I made up my mind that I was the victim of some extraordinary hallucination, and resolved to think of it no more. Well—time passed; I was obliged to say good-by to my kind friends with much regret and returned to my duties.

One day, soon after my return, I was driving down the street with my young brother, when I discerned a figure in the distance walking before us which seemed familiar. The back only was visible, but somehow I knew that tall figure, those broad shoulders, that alert, regular stride.

As we passed he turned his face toward us, and—good heavens! It was he; my guide that terrible night at Medlicott. Was I awake or dreaming?

I stopped the cab, to my brother’s intense surprise, jumped out with what intention I hardly know, and rapidly followed him. He turned up King street and went into a house, opening the door with a latch-key and shutting it behind him. I remained hesitating—what should I do next? I decided on ringing the bell; it was answered by a decorous-looking man servant.

“What is the name of that gentleman who has just gone in here?”
“Mr. Lovett, sir,” was the reply.  I felt stunned. Surely this was more than a coincidence!

The servant looked doubtfully at me. “Want to see him sir?”

“N—no,” I stammered, quite unable to make up my mind.

A week or two passed. I had seen Mabel several times and at last had ventured on asking her that question on which all my happiness depended. I need not describe here my joy at receiving the reply I longed for from the sweetest lips that ever breathed. I implored for a short engagement, and her mother promised I should not have to wait long.

One morning I received a note from some friends asking me to come down for a ball at Ryde. As I had nothing particular to do, and Mabel was away on a visit, I accepted the invitation and went down the same day.

I found my friends had taken rooms in the hotel, and were a large and lively party. In the evening the waiter came to me and asked, apologetically, if I would mind changing my room, which was a large one, for another, as they had received a telegram from a young married couple, engaging a room for that night. Of course I consented to the change, and my things were moved.

After the ball I came to bed at about 3 o’clock in the morning, and was sitting in my open window smoking a cigar. My senses seemed preternaturally sharpened, and above the gentle rush of the waves I could hear somebody breathing in the next room. I listened intently, fearing I knew not what.

The breathing came short, almost in gasps, and I heard stealthy movements. The rest of the hotel was wrapped I sleep. I rose to my feet, feeling sure that something was wrong, when I heard a short struggle, a heavy fall, and a wild piercing scream in a woman’s voice that haunts me still. I rushed to the door, and was met on the threshold by—I knew it!—the man I had seen in my vision before. He was in evening dress, much disordered, his shirt front and right arm were stained with blood, and in his right hand he grasped a razor, from which some ghastly drops still trickled. The light of insanity shone in his eyes, and, with a demonical shriek of laughter, he flung himself upon me.

Now began a most fearful struggle for life. The maniac seemed to have the strength of ten men. However I was soon reinforced by a hurrying crowd of servants and visitors.

He was dragged from me by main force and held down by many hands, while I burst open the next door and entered. Ah! A flood of remorse came over me as I recognized the scene I had feared, nay, I knew I should see.

The moonlight pouring in at the window revealed to me the whole tragedy. There, half on, half off the bed lay that inanimate form, blood-stains all over the clothes and floor. The people who had crowded I after me stood dumb, as in a sort of stupor. I approached the bed and recognized the features of her whom I had known as Agnes Hildyard.

The rest of my story is soon told. I had to give evidence before the Magistrates as to what I had seen, and the unfortunate Lovett, who had sunk into a state of insensibility was removed to the nearest asylum pending the arrival of his friends.

I found that I had received in my struggle with him a severe wound in the shoulder, the loss of blood from which, acting upon a highly excited brain, ensued a severe illness which confined me to my room for many weeks, during much of which time I was delirious.

When at last I crept out into the sunshine I felt my youth had left me forever. I was ordered a long sea voyage, and my brave and loving Mabel insisted upon our immediate marriage. I can not enter into the vexed question of physics. All I know is that these events happened to me exactly as I have written them down, and if I did not act upon them, it was not because I had not been forewarned.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 18 July 1891: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Such psychic warnings pose a pretty problem to those who receive them: precisely how much weight should be given to portents of a dire nature? They are generally easy to dismiss as “hallucinations” or “imagination.” And, as Captain Bruce experienced, seers are often urged to refrain from describing visionary horrors for fear of upsetting the ladies. Mrs Daffodil has written before of a young lady who fortuitously broke off an engagement after her absent fiancee appeared three times in her photographs, standing behind her, holding a dagger in his upraised hand.  It was perhaps the mystic number three that decided her; a common numeral in heeded supernatural warnings. Captain Bruce, having been given only a single warning, (albeit an utterly grewsome one) could scarcely be blamed for not warning the young bride-to-be.

 

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.