Category Archives: Courtship

The Missouri Peer-Importing Company: 1903

COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE IN U.S.A.

[“The following Resolution has been passed by the Senate of the State of Missouri. Resolved—That the Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence be instructed to take into consideration the necessity and importance of the passage of a law providing for the taxation, branding, and licensing of foreign lords and noblemen, both real and genuine, bogus and fraudulent, found running at large in the State of Missouri, and proving severe penalties for the violation of the said law, to the end that the young women of Missouri may be protected and fully warned against engaging in speculation of so risky and dangerous a character.” –New York World.]

In the following handbill, left at the door of a fair correspondent in Missouri, we seem to trace the culminating cause of the above scare:

THE MISSOURI PEER-IMPORTING COMPANY.

This Company was formed to meet the ever-increasing demand for lords and noblemen in the State of Missouri and U.S.A. generally.

Absolutely no risk run by our customers!

Ladies dealing with us are assured of fair treatment and prompt delivery.

Without fear of contradiction we affirm that our Peers are superior in rank and pedigree and in position in their own countries, to any noblemen now on the market.

Every lord supplied to our customers is branded with the State Stamp, and no goods that are not up to the Government standard are retailed at our stores.

Our stock of British Dukes is the finest in the world, and at the Missouri Exhibition we were awarded the Gold Medal for this rare and beautiful type of goods.

A choice selection of belted Earls is always on view in our showrooms.

We highly recommend our “B.B.B.” or British Baron Brand. These may be had in three styles—English, Irish, or Scotch. We do a large business in these goods with people who like a good article but cannot afford the more costly brands. As, however, the supply is limited, customers are advised to purchase early.

We have a very cheap line in French Counts, which we are offering at prices to suit the smallest purse. Such of these goods as we sell bear the Government imprint, though personally we do not care to recommend them, having had frequent complaint regarding their quality.

We beg leave to observe that the lowest-priced Peers—such for instance as Polish Counts—we do not stock, as in very few cases have they been found satisfactory. We venture to urge upon our clients the advisability of paying a somewhat higher price and ensuring quality.

Peers delivered to any address in U.S.A. free of duty and carriage paid.

The following are samples of the testimonials which we are receiving daily:

The Marchioness of Fitz-Portcullis (nee Miss Polly Porker) writers; “Your Marquis is simply lovely—and so intelligent. Please send two more, as I want them for birthday presents for my sisters. Am going to England shortly.

“Yours sincerely,

Polly Fitz-Portcullis.”

A Countess (who desires to be anonymous) writes: “Earl recently received and gives every satisfaction. Have shown him to friend who bought Russian Prince last year, and she says she wished she had heard of your Firm then, for she certainly would have tried one of your Earls.

“P.S.—Please send me French Count suitable for presentation to elderly maiden aunt. Was delighted with Irish Baron.”

Punch 8 April 1903: p. 240-241

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a noble, but impoverished Peer,  must be in want of a wife in possession of a good fortune. The daughters of Colorado mining magnates, Chicago pork packers, and New York rail millionaires, often known as “Dollar Princesses,” were sent to elite finishing schools, were presented at Court, and made lavish debuts during the London Season, all in the quest for a Title. Like Consuelo Vanderbilt, the young ladies longed for love and the glamour and the gold of the aristocratic life, but many found only a false glitter.

To Mrs Daffodil’s unsophisticated mind, it all rather savours of the parade of young persons for the patrons’ delectation in the parlour at Madame Zoe’s discreet establishment in Curzon Street. One gathers that, in many cases, the interest of the titled gentlemen in their amply-dowered brides did not last much longer than such encounters.

 

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.

 

Halloween Charms: 1903

apple peel

A young woman tosses an apple peel over her shoulder to divine the initial of her future husband.

Halloween Charms

Young men, who wish to decide their fate on Halloween should dress in their best, walk to the candy store about 7 p.m., purchase a box of the most expensive dainties, and go to the home of some girl. Be sure that you select the home of the one you imagine to be the bright particular star of them all. After asking for her, put your hat and stick within convenient reach, assume a pleasant smile, and when she appears give her the candy. Along with this say as many sweet things as come into your head. Then repeat slowly but distinctly these words: “Will you marry me?” If she answers “Yes” your fate is fixed.

A quaint old custom for girls who wish to peer into the future is to walk down the cellar stairs backward at midnight, holding a candle in the hand and peer into a mirror. There the face of the future husband possibly will be seen. An improvement upon this custom is for the girl to walk into the kitchen and secure a juicy apple pie. Return to the parlor, holding the pie carefully before you. Take a knife and cut it into quarters. Put one quarter on a plate, pour over it some rich cream, lay a spoon beside the pie and hand it to the young man, saying at the same time: “I made this pie myself.” This beats the cellar stairs and mirror experiment about ten miles. It is a certain augur of the future.

Throwing an apple peeling over the shoulder is another odd old custom for Halloween observance. The peeling is supposed to curl into a letter representing the initial of the future husband’s name. A better test than this is to let the young man see you idly scribbling. You write your first name and then his last name. Thus, if your first name is Lucille and his last name is Miggleberry, you would write “Lucille Miggleberry.” Naturally, he will want to see what you have written. Then you must blush and seem confused and try to tear of the paper. DO NOT TEAR IT UP. After due reluctance, let him see what you have written, coyly explaining that you just wondered how the names would look together.

Burning a paper on which is written the name of the adored one is also a favorite charm for Halloween. This is popularly supposed to bring him to his senses. A much surer plan, and a more sociable one, is to invite him to spend the evening, and also to ask another man—a handsome man who is tolerably smitten with you himself. Contrive to send the second man home earlier than the adored one. This is said to work well indeed.

Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 30 October 1904: p. 33

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Other Hallowe’en customs included hiding a dime, a ring and a thimble in a cake or a dish of mashed potatoes. The person finding the ring will soon be married. The one who gets the thimble will be a spinster. And the finder of the dime will never lack for money.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that there was often some sleight-of-hand involved in cutting the cake or dishing the potatoes. There were still other rituals involving mirrors at midnight and various rhyming charms at windows.

Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to how a religious feast  celebrating the dead emerging from their graves to wander the earth became a festival of divinatory practices to identify one’s future spouse. One supposes it is a manifestation of that vulgar expression, “sex and death,” so amply represented in these latter days by the many “naughty nurse” Hallowe’en costumes.

Mrs Daffodil has written of other, darker Hallowe’en superstitions and of Queen Victoria’s celebration of Hallowe’en at Balmoral.

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 Romance of Certain Old Clothes: 1868

blue ivory robe a la francaise5

THE ROMANCE OF CERTAIN OLD CLOTHES.

I.

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century there lived in the Province of Massachusetts a widowed gentlewoman, the mother of three children, by name Mrs. Veronica Wingrave. She had lost her husband early in life, and had devoted herself to the care of her progeny. These young persons grew up in a manner to reward her tenderness and to gratify her highest hopes. The first-born was a son, whom she had called Bernard, in remembrance of his father. The others were daughters—born at an interval of three years apart. Good looks were traditional in the family, and this youthful trio were not likely to allow the tradition to perish. The boy was of that fair and ruddy complexion and that athletic structure which in those days (as in these) were the sign of good English descent—a frank, affectionate young fellow, a deferential son, a patronising brother, a steadfast friend. Clever, however, he was not; the wit of the family had been apportioned chiefly to his sisters. The late Mr. William Wingrave had been a great reader of Shakespeare, at a time when this pursuit implied more freedom of thought than at the present day, and in a community where it required much courage to patronise the drama even in the closet; and he had wished to call attention to his admiration of the great poet by calling his daughters out of his favourite plays. Upon the elder he had bestowed the romantic name of Rosalind, and the younger he had called Perdita, in memory of a little girl born between them, who had lived but a few weeks.

When Bernard Wingrave came to his sixteenth year his mother put a brave face upon it and prepared to execute her husband’s last injunction. This had been a formal command that, at the proper age, his son should be sent out to England, to complete his education at the university of Oxford, where he himself had acquired his taste for elegant literature. It was Mrs. Wingrave’s belief that the lad’s equal was not to be found in the two hemispheres, but she had the old traditions of literal obedience. She swallowed her sobs, and made up her boy’s trunk and his simple provincial outfit, and sent him on his way across the seas. Bernard presented himself at his father’s college, and spent five years in England, without great honour, indeed, but with a vast deal of pleasure and no discredit. On leaving the university he made the journey to France. In his twenty-fourth year he took ship for home, prepared to find poor little New England (New England was very small in those days) a very dull, unfashionable residence. But there had been changes at home, as well as in Mr. Bernard’s opinions. He found his mother’s house quite habitable, and his sisters grown into two very charming young ladies, with all the accomplishments and graces of the young women of Britain, and a certain native-grown originality and wildness, which, if it was not an accomplishment, was certainly a grace the more. Bernard privately assured his mother that his sisters were fully a match for the most genteel young women in the old country; whereupon poor Mrs. Wingrave, you may be sure, bade them hold up their heads. Such was Bernard’s opinion, and such, in a tenfold higher degree, was the opinion of Mr. Arthur Lloyd. This gentleman was a collegemate of Mr. Bernard, a young man of reputable family, of a good person and a handsome inheritance ; which latter appurtenance he proposed to invest in trade in the flourishing colony. He and Bernard were sworn friends ; they had crossed the ocean together, and the young American had lost no time in presenting him at his mother’s house, where he had made quite as good an impression as that which he had received and of which I have just given a hint.

The two sisters were at this time in all the freshness of their youthful bloom; each wearing, of course, this natural brilliancy in the manner that became her best. They were equally dissimilar in appearance and character. Rosalind, the elder—now in her twenty-second year—was tall and white, with calm gray eyes and auburn tresses; a very faint likeness to the Rosalind of Shakespeare’s comedy, whom I imagine a brunette (if you will), but a slender, airy creature, full of the softest, quickest impulses. Miss Wingrave, with her slightly lymphatic fairness, her fine arms, her majestic height, her slow utterance, was not cut out for adventures. She would never have put on a man’s jacket and hose; and, indeed, being a very plump beauty, she may have had reasons apart from her natural dignity. Perdita, too, might very well have exchanged the sweet melancholy of her name against something more in consonance with her aspect and disposition. She had the cheek of a gipsy and the eye of an eager child, as well as the smallest waist and lightest foot in all the country of the Puritans. When you spoke to her she never made you wait, as her handsome sister was wont to do (while she looked at you with a cold fine eye), but gave you your choice of a dozen answers before you had uttered half your thought.

The young girls were very glad to see their brother once more; but they found themselves quite able to spare part of their attention for their brother’s friend. Among the young men their friends and neighbours, the belle jeunesse of the Colony, there were many excellent fellows, several devoted swains, and some two or three who enjoyed the reputation of universal charmers and conquerors. But the homebred arts and somewhat boisterous gallantry of these honest colonists were completely eclipsed by the good looks, the fine clothes, the punctilious courtesy, the perfect elegance, the immense information, of Mr. Arthur Lloyd. He was in reality no paragon ; he was a capable, honourable, civil youth, rich in pounds sterling, in his health and complacency and his little capital of uninvested affections. But he was a gentleman ; he had a handsome person ; he had studied and travelled ; he spoke French, he played the flute, and he read verses aloud with very great taste. There were a dozen reasons why Miss Wingrave and her sister should have thought their other male acquaintance made but a poor figure before such a perfect man of the world. Mr. Lloyd’s anecdotes told our little New England maidens a great deal more of the ways and means of people of fashion in European capitals than he had any idea of doing. It was delightful to sit by and hear him and Bernard talk about the fine people and fine things they had seen. They would all gather round the fire after tea, in the little wainscoted parlour, and the two young men would remind each other, across the rug, of this, that and the other adventure. Rosalind and Perdita would often have given their ears to know exactly what adventure it was, and where it happened, and who was there, and what the ladies had on; but in those days a well-bred young woman was not expected to break into the conversation of her elders, or to ask too many questions ; and the poor girls used therefore to sit fluttering behind the more languid—or more discreet—curiosity of their mother.

II.

That they were both very fine girls Arthur Lloyd was not slow to discover; but it took him some time to make up his mind whether he liked the big sister or the little sister best. He had a strong presentiment—an emotion of a nature entirely too cheerful to be called a foreboding—that he was destined to stand up before the parson with one of them; yet he was unable to arrive at a preference, and for such a consummation a preference was certainly necessary, for Lloyd had too much young blood in his veins to make a choice by lot and be cheated of the satisfaction of falling in love. He resolved to take things as they came —to let his heart speak. Meanwhile he was on a very pleasant footing. Mrs. Wingrave showed a dignified indifference to his “intentions,” equally remote from a carelessness of her daughter’s honour and from that sharp alacrity to make him come to the point, which, in his quality of young man of property, he had too often encountered in the worldly matrons of his native islands. As for Bernard, all that he asked was that his friend should treat his sisters as his own; and as for the poor girls themselves, however each may have secretly longed that their visitor should do or say something “marked,” they kept a very modest and contented demeanour.

Towards each other, however, they were somewhat more on the offensive. They were good friends enough, and accommodating bedfellows (they shared the same four-poster), betwixt whom it would take more than a day for the seeds of jealousy to sprout and bear fruit; but they felt that the seeds had been sown on the day that Mr. Lloyd came into the house. Each made up her mind that, if she should be slighted, she would bear her grief in silence, and that no one should be any the wiser; for if they had a great deal of ambition, they had also a large share of pride. But each prayed in secret, nevertheless, that upon her the selection, the distinction, might fall. They had need of a vast deal of patience, of self-control, of dissimulation. In those days a young girl of decent breeding could make no advances whatever, and barely respond, indeed, to those that were made. She was expected to sit still in her chair, with her eyes on the carpet, watching the spot where the mystic handkerchief should fall. Poor Arthur Lloyd was obliged to carry on his wooing in the little wainscoted parlour, before the eyes of Mrs. Wingrave, her son, and his prospective sister-in-law. But youth and love are so cunning that a hundred signs and tokens might travel to and fro, and not one of these three pairs of eyes detect them in their passage. The two maidens were almost always together, and had plenty of chances to betray themselves. That each knew she was being watched, however, made not a grain of difference in the little offices they mutually rendered, or in the various household tasks they performed in common. Neither flinched nor fluttered beneath the silent battery of her sister’s eyes. The only apparent change in their habits was that they had less to say to each other. It was impossible to talk about Mr. Lloyd, and it was ridiculous to talk about anything else. By tacit agreement they began to wear all their choice finery, and to devise such little implements of conquest, in the way of ribbons and top-knots and kerchiefs, as were sanctioned by indubitable modesty. They executed in the same inarticulate fashion a contract of fair play in this exciting game. “Is it better so?” Rosalind would ask, tying a bunch of ribbons on her bosom, and turning about from her glass to her sister. Perdita would look up gravely from her work and examine the decoration. “I think you had better give it another loop,” she would say, with great solemnity, looking hard at her sister with eyes that added, “upon my honour!” So they were for ever stitching and trimming their petticoats, and pressing out their muslins, and contriving washes and ointments and cosmetics, like the ladies in the household of the vicar of Wakefield. Some three or four months went by; it grew to be midwinter, and as yet Rosalind knew that if Perdita had nothing more to boast of than she, there was not much to be feared from her rivalry. But Perdita by this time—the charming Perdita—felt that her secret had grown to be tenfold more precious than her sister’s.

One afternoon Miss Wingrave sat alone—that was a rare accident—before her toilet-glass, combing out her long hair. It was getting too dark to see; she lit the two candles in their sockets, on the frame of her mirror, and then went to the window to draw her curtains. It was a gray December evening; the landscape was bare and bleak, and the sky heavy with snow-clouds. At the end of the large garden into which her window looked was a wall with a little postern door, opening into a lane. The door stood ajar, as she could vaguely see in the gathering darkness, and moved slowly to and fro, as if some one were swaying it from the lane without. It was doubtless a servantmaid who had been having a tryst with her sweetheart. But as she was about to drop her curtain Rosalind saw her sister step into the garden and hurry along the path which led to the house. She dropped the curtain, all save a little crevice for her eyes. As Perdita came up the path she seemed to be examining something in her hand, holding it close to her eyes. When she reached the house she stopped a moment, looked intently at the object, and pressed it to her lips.

Poor Rosalind slowly came back to her chair and sat down before her glass, where, if she had looked at it less abstractedly, she would have seen her handsome features sadly disfigured by jealousy. A moment afterwards the door opened behind her and her sister came into the room, out of breath, her cheeks aglow with the chilly air.

Perdita started. “Ah,” said she, “I thought you were with our mother.” The ladies were to go to a tea-party, and on such occasions it was the habit of one of the girls to help their mother to dress. Instead of coming in, Perdita lingered at the door.

“Come in, come in,” said Rosalind. “ We have more than an hour yet. I should like you very much to give a few strokes to my hair.” She knew that her sister wished to retreat, and that she could see in the glass all her movements in the room. “Nay, just help me with my hair,” she said, “and I will go to mamma.”

Perdita came reluctantly, and took the brush. She saw her sister’s eyes, in the glass, fastened hard upon her hands. She had not made three passes when Rosalind clapped her own right hand upon her sister’s left, and started out of her chair. “Whose ring is that?” she cried, passionately, drawing her towards the light.

On the young girl’s third finger glistened a little gold ring, adorned with a very small sapphire. Perdita felt that she need no longer keep her secret, yet that she must put a bold face on her avowal. “It’s mine,” she said proudly.

“Who gave it to you?” cried the other.

Perdita hesitated a moment. “Mr. Lloyd.”

“Mr. Lloyd is generous, all of a sudden.”

“Ah no,” cried Perdita, with spirit, “not all of a sudden! He offered it to me a month ago.”

“And you needed a month’s begging to take it?” said Rosalind, looking at the little trinket, which indeed was not especially elegant, although it was the best that the jeweller of the Province could furnish. “I wouldn’t have taken it in less than two.”

“It isn’t the ring,” Perdita answered, “it’s what it means!”

“It means that you are not a modest girl!” cried Rosalind. “Pray, does your mother know of your intrigue? does Bernard?”

“My mother has approved my ‘intrigue,’ as you call it. Mr. Lloyd has asked for my hand, and mamma has given it. Would you have had him apply to you, dearest sister?”

Rosalind gave her companion a long look, full of passionate envy and sorrow. Then she dropped her lashes on her pale cheeks and turned away. Perdita felt that it had not been a pretty scene; but it was her sister’s fault. However, the elder girl rapidly called back her pride, and turned herself about again. “You have my very best wishes,” she said, with a low curtsey. “I wish you every happiness, and a very long life.”

Perdita gave a bitter laugh. “Don’t speak in that tone!” she cried. “I would rather you should curse me outright. Come, Rosy,” she added, “he couldn’t marry both of us.”

“I wish you very great joy,” Rosalind repeated, mechanically, sitting down to her glass again, “and a very long life, and plenty of children.”

There was something in the sound of these words not at all to Perdita’s taste. “Will you give me a year to live at least?” she said. “In a year I can have one little boy—or one little girl at least. If you will give me your brush again I will do your hair.”

“Thank you,” said Rosalind. “ You had better go to mamma. It isn’t becoming that a young lady with a promised husband should wait on a girl with none.”

“Nay,” said Perdita, good-humouredly, “I have Arthur to wait upon me. You need my service more than I need yours.”

But her sister motioned her away, and she left the room. When she had gone poor Rosalind fell on her knees before her dressing-table, buried her head in her arms, and poured out a flood of tears and sobs. She felt very much the better for this effusion of sorrow. When her sister came back she insisted on helping her to dress—on her wearing her prettiest things. She forced upon her acceptance a bit of lace of her own, and declared that now that she was to be married she should do her best to appear worthy of her lover’s choice. She discharged these offices in stem silence; but, such as they were, they had to do duty as an apology and an atonement; she never made any other.

Now that Lloyd was received by the family as an accepted suitor nothing remained but to fix the wedding-day. It was appointed for the following April, and in the interval preparations were diligently made for the marriage. Lloyd, on his side, was busy with his commercial arrangements, and with establishing a correspondence with the great mercantile house to which he had attached himself in England. He was therefore not so frequent a visitor at Mrs. Wingrave’s as during the months of his diffidence and irresolution, and poor Rosalind had less to suffer than she had feared from the sight of the mutual endearments of the young lovers. Touching his future sister-in-law Lloyd had a perfectly clear conscience. There had not been a particle of love-making between them, and he had not the slightest suspicion that he had dealt her a terrible blow. He was quite at his ease; life promised so well, both domestically and financially. The great revolt of the Colonies was not yet in the air, and that his connubial felicity should take a tragic turn it was absurd, it was blasphemous, to apprehend. Meanwhile, at Mrs. Wingrave’s, there was a greater rustling of silks, a more rapid clicking of scissors and flying of needles, than ever. The good lady had determined that her daughter should carry from home the genteelest outfit that her money could buy or that the country could furnish. All the sage women in the Province were convened, and their united taste was brought to bear on Perdita’s wardrobe. Rosalind’s situation, at this moment, was assuredly not to be envied. The poor girl had an inordinate love of dress, and the very best taste in the world, as her sister perfectly well knew. Rosalind was tall, she was stately and sweeping, she was made to carry stiff brocade and masses of heavy lace, such as belong to the toilet of a rich man’s wife. But Rosalind sat aloof, with her beautiful arms folded and her head averted, while her mother and sister and the venerable women aforesaid worried and wondered over their materials, oppressed by the multitude of their resources. One day there came in a beautiful piece of white silk, brocaded with heavenly blue and silver, sent by the bridegroom himself—it not being thought amiss in those days that the husband-elect should contribute to the bride’s trousseau. Perdita could think of no form or fashion which would do sufficient honour to the splendour of the material.

“Blue’s your colour, sister, more than mine,” she said, with appealing eyes. “It’s a pity it’s not for you. You would know what to do with it.”

Rosalind got up from her place and looked at the great shining fabric, as it lay spread over the back of a chair. Then she took it up in her hands and felt it—lovingly, as Perdita could see—and turned about toward the mirror with it. She let it roll down to her feet, and flung the other end over her shoulder, gathering it in about her waist with her white arm, which was bare to the elbow. She threw back her head, and looked at her image, and a hanging tress of her auburn hair fell upon the gorgeous surface of the silk. It made a dazzling picture. The women standing about uttered a little “Look, look!” of admiration. “Yes, indeed,” said Rosalind, quietly, “blue is my colour.” But Perdita could see that her fancy had been stirred, and that she would now fall to work and solve all their silken riddles. And indeed she behaved very well, as Perdita, knowing her insatiable love of millinery, was quite ready to declare. Innumerable yards of lustrous silk and satin, of muslin, velvet and lace, passed through her cunning hands, without a jealous word coming from her lips. Thanks to her industry, when the wedding-day came Perdita was prepared to espouse more of the vanities of life than any fluttering young bride who had yet received the sacramental blessing of a New England divine.

It had been arranged that the young couple should go out and spend the first days of their wedded life at the country-house of an English gentleman—a man of rank and a very kind friend to Arthur Lloyd. He was a bachelor; he declared he should be delighted to give up the place to the influence of Hymen. After the ceremony at church—it had been performed by an English

clergyman—young Mrs. Lloyd hastened back to her mother’s house to change her nuptial robes for a riding-dress. Rosalind helped her to effect the change, in the little homely room in which they had spent their undivided younger years. Perdita then hurried off to bid farewell to her mother, leaving Rosalind to follow. The parting was short ; the horses were at the door, and Arthur was impatient to start. But Rosalind had not followed, and Perdita hastened back to her room, opening the door abruptly. Rosalind, as usual, was before the glass, but in a position which caused the other to stand still, amazed. She had dressed herself in Perdita’s cast-off wedding veil and wreath, and on her neck she had hung the full string of pearls which the young girl had received from her husband as a wedding-gift. These things had been hastily laid aside, to await their possessor’s disposal on her return from the country. Bedizened in this unnatural garb Rosalind stood before the mirror, plunging a long look into its depths and reading heaven knows what audacious visions. Perdita was horrified. It was a hideous image of their old rivalry come to life again. She made a step toward her sister, as if to pull off the veil and the flowers. But catching her eyes in the glass, she stopped.

“Farewell, sweetheart,” she said. “You might at least have waited till I had got out of the house!” And she hurried away from the room.

Mr. Lloyd had purchased in Boston a house which to the taste of those days appeared as elegant as it was commodious; and here he very soon established himself with his young wife. He was thus separated by a distance of twenty miles from the residence of his mother-in-law. Twenty miles, in that primitive era of roads and conveyances, were as serious a matter as a hundred at the present day, and Mrs. Wingrave saw but little of her daughter during the first twelvemonth of her marriage. She suffered in no small degree from Perdita’s absence; and her affliction was not diminished by the fact that Rosalind had fallen into terribly low spirits and was not to be roused or cheered but by change of air and company. The real cause of the young lady’s dejection the reader will not be slow to suspect. Mrs. Wingrave and her gossips, however, deemed her complaint a mere bodily ill, and doubted not that she would obtain relief from the remedy just mentioned. Her mother accordingly proposed, on her behalf, a visit to certain relatives on the paternal side, established in New York, who had long complained that they were able to see so little of their New England cousins. Rosalind was despatched to these good people, under a suitable escort, and remained with them for several months. In the interval her brother Bernard, who had begun the practice of the law, made up his mind to take a wife. Rosalind came home to the wedding, apparently cured of her heartache, with bright roses and lilies in her face and a proud smile on her lips. Arthur Lloyd came over from Boston to see his brother-in-law married, but without his wife, who was expecting very soon to present him with an heir. It was nearly a year since Rosalind had seen him. She was glad—she hardly knew why—that Perdita had stayed at home. Arthur looked happy, but he was more grave and important than before his marriage. She thought he looked “interesting,”—for although the word, in its modern sense, was not then invented, we may be sure that the idea was. The truth is, he was simply anxious about his wife and her coming ordeal. Nevertheless, he by no means failed to observe Rosalind’s beauty and splendour, and to note how she effaced the poor little bride. The allowance that Perdita had enjoyed for her dress had now been transferred to her sister, who turned it to wonderful account. On the morning after the wedding he had a lady’s saddle put on the horse of the servant who had come with him from town, and went out with the young girl for a ride. It was a keen, clear morning in January; the ground was bare and hard, and the horses in good condition—to say nothing of Rosalind, who was charming in her hat and plume, and her dark blue riding coat, trimmed with fur. They rode all the morning, they lost their way, and were obliged to stop for dinner at a farm-house. The early winter dusk had fallen when they got home. Mrs. Wingrave met them with a long face. A messenger had arrived at noon from Mrs. Lloyd; she was beginning to be ill, she desired her husband’s immediate return. The young man, at the thought that he had lost several hours, and that by hard riding he might already have been with his wife, uttered a passionate oath. He barely consented to stop for a mouthful of supper, but mounted the messenger’s horse and started off at a gallop.

He reached home at midnight. His wife had been delivered of a little girl. “Ah, why weren’t you with me?” she said, as he came to her bedside.

“I was out of the house when the man came. I was with Rosalind,” said Lloyd, innocently.

Mrs. Lloyd made a little moan, and turned away. But she continued to do very well, and for a week her improvement was uninterrupted. Finally, however, through some indiscretion in the way of diet or exposure, it was checked, and the poor lady grew rapidly worse. Lloyd was in despair. It very soon became evident that she was breathing her last. Mrs. Lloyd came to a sense of her approaching end, and declared that she was reconciled with death. On the third evening after the change took place she told her husband that she felt she should not get through the night. She dismissed her servants, and also requested her mother to withdraw—Mrs. Wingrave having arrived on the preceding day. She had had her infant placed on the bed beside her, and she lay on her side, with the child against her breast, holding her husband’s hands. The nightlamp was hidden behind the heavy curtains of the bed, but the room was illumined with a red glow from the immense fire of logs on the hearth.

“It seems strange not to be warmed into life by such a fire as that,” the young woman said, feebly trying to smile. “If I had but a little of it in my veins! But I have given all my fire to this little spark of mortality.” And she dropped her eyes on her child. Then raising them she looked at her husband with a long, penetrating gaze. The last feeling which lingered in her heart was one of suspicion. She had not recovered from the shock which Arthur had given her by telling her that in the hour of her agony he had been with Rosalind. She trusted her husband very nearly as well as she loved him; but now that she was called away for ever she felt a cold horror of her sister. She felt in her soul that Rosalind had never ceased to be jealous of her good fortune; and a year of happy security had not effaced the young girl’s image, dressed in her wedding-garments, and smiling with simulated triumph. Now that Arthur was to be alone, what might not Rosalind attempt? She was beautiful, she was engaging; what arts might she not use, what impression might she not make upon the young man’s saddened heart? Mrs. Lloyd looked at her husband in silence. It seemed hard, after all, to doubt of his constancy. His fine eyes were filled with tears; his face was convulsed with weeping; the clasp of his hands was warm and passionate. How noble he looked, how tender, how faithful and. devoted! “Nay,” thought Perdita, “he’s not for such a one as Rosalind. He’ll never forget me. Nor does Rosalind truly care for him; she cares only for vanities and finery and jewels.” And she lowered her eyes on her white hands, which her husband’s liberality had covered with rings, and on the lace ruffles which trimmed the edge of her night-dress. “She covets my rings and my laces more than she covets my husband.”

At this moment the thought of her sister’s rapacity seemed to cast a dark shadow between her and the helpless figure of her little girl. “Arthur,” she said, “you must take off my rings. I shall not be buried in them. One of these days my daughter shall wear them—my rings and my laces and silks. I had them all brought out and shown me to-day. It’s a great wardrobe—there’s not such another in the Province; I can say it without vanity, now that I have done with it. It will be a great inheritance for my daughter when she grows into a young woman. There are things there that a man never buys twice, and if they are lost you will never again see the like. So you will watch them well. Some dozen things I have left to Rosalind; I have named them to my mother. I have given her that blue and silver; it was meant for her; I wore it only once, I looked ill in it. But the rest are to be sacredly kept for this little innocent. It’s such a providence that she should be my colour; she can wear my gowns; she has her mother’s eyes. You know the same fashions come back every twenty years. She can wear my gowns as they are. They will lie there quietly waiting till she grows into them— wrapped in camphor and rose-leaves, and keeping their colours in the sweet-scented darkness. She shall have black hair, she shall wear my carnation satin. Do you promise me, Arthur?”

“Promise you what, dearest?”

“Promise me to keep your poor little wife’s old gowns.”

“Are you afraid I shall sell them?”

“No, but that they may get scattered. My mother will have them properly wrapped up, and you shall lay them away under a double-lock. Do you know the great chest in the attic, with the iron bands? There is no end to what it will hold. You can put them all there. My mother and the housekeeper will do it, and give you the key. And you will keep the key in your secretary, and never give it to any one but your child. Do you promise me?”

“Ah, yes, I promise you,” said Lloyd, puzzled at the intensity with which his wife appeared to cling to this idea.

“Will you swear ?” repeated Perdita.

“Yes, I swear.”

“Well—I trust you—I trust you,” said the poor lady, looking into his eyes with eyes in which, if he had suspected her vague apprehensions, he might have read an appeal quite as much as an assurance.

Lloyd bore his bereavement rationally and manfully. A month after his wife’s death, in the course of business, circumstances arose which offered him an opportunity of going to England. He took advantage of it, to change the current of his thoughts. He was absent nearly a year, during which his little girl was tenderly nursed and guarded by her grandmother. On his return he had his house again thrown open, and announced his intention of keeping the same state as during his wife’s lifetime. It very soon came to be predicted that he would marry again, and there were at least a dozen young women of whom one may say that it was by no fault of theirs that, for six months after his return, the prediction did not come true. During this interval he still left his little daughter in Mrs. Wingrave’s hands, the latter assuring him that a change of residence at so tender an age would be full of danger for her health. Finally, however, he declared that his heart longed for his daughter’s presence and that she must be brought up to town. He sent his coach and his housekeeper to fetch her home. Mrs. Wingrave was in terror lest something should befall her on the road; and, in accordance with this feeling, Rosalind offered to accompany her. She could return the next day. So she went up to town with her little niece, and Mr. Lloyd met her on the threshold of his house, overcome with her kindness and with paternal joy. Instead of returning the next day Rosalind stayed out the week; and when at last she reappeared, she had only come for her clothes. Arthur would not hear of her coming home, nor would the baby. That little person cried and choked if Rosalind left her; and at the sight of her grief Arthur lost his wits, and swore that she was going to die. In fine, nothing would suit them but that the aunt should remain until the little niece had grown used to strange faces.

It took two months to bring this consummation about; for it was not until this period had elapsed that Rosalind took leave of her brother-in-law. Mrs. Wingrave had shaken her head over her daughter’s absence; she had declared that it was not becoming, that it was the talk of the whole country. She had reconciled herself to it only because, during the girl’s visit, the household enjoyed an unwonted term of peace. Bernard Wingrave had brought his wife home to live, between whom and her sister-in-law there was as little love as you please. Rosalind was perhaps no angel; but in the daily practice of life she was a sufficiently good-natured girl, and if she quarrelled with Mrs. Bernard, it was not without provocation. Quarrel, however, she did, to the great annoyance not only of her antagonist, but of the two spectators of these constant altercations. Her stay in the household of her brother-in-law, therefore, would have been delightful, if only because it removed her from contact with the object of her antipathy at home. It was doubly —it was ten times—delightful, in that it kept her near the object of her early passion. Mrs. Lloyd’s sharp suspicions had fallen very far short of the truth. Rosalind’s sentiment had been a passion at first, and a passion it remained—a passion of whose radiant heat, tempered to the delicate state of his feelings, Mr. Lloyd very soon felt the influence. Lloyd, as I have hinted, was not a modern Petrarch; it was not in his nature to practise an ideal constancy. He had not been many days in the house with his sister-in-law before he began to assure himself that she was, in the language of that day, a devilish fine woman. Whether Rosalind really practised those insidious arts that her sister had been tempted to impute to her it is needless to inquire. It is enough to say that she found means to appear to the very best advantage. She used to seat herself every morning before the big fireplace in the dining room, at work upon a piece of tapestry, with her little niece disporting herself on the carpet at her feet, or on the train of her dress, and playing with her woollen balls. Lloyd would have been a very stupid fellow if he had remained insensible to the rich suggestions of this charming picture. He was exceedingly fond of his little girl, and was never weary of taking her in his arms and tossing her up and down, and making her crow with delight. Very often, however, he would venture upon greater liberties than the young lady was yet prepared to allow, and then she would suddenly vociferate her displeasure. Rosalind, at this, would drop her tapestry, and put out her handsome hands with the serious smile of the young girl whose virgin fancy has revealed to her all a mother’s healing arts. Lloyd would give up the child, their eyes would meet, their hands would touch, and Rosalind would extinguish the little girl’s sobs upon the snowy folds of the kerchief that crossed her bosom. Her dignity was perfect, and nothing could be more discreet than the manner in which she accepted her brother-in-law’s hospitality. It may almost be said, perhaps, that there was something harsh in her reserve. Lloyd had a provoking feeling that she was in the house and yet was unapproachable. Half-an-hour after supper, at the very outset of the long winter evenings, she would light her candle, make the young man a most respectful curtsey, and march off to bed. If these were arts, Rosalind was a great artist. But their effect was so gentle, so gradual, they were calculated to work upon the young widower’s fancy with a crescendo so finely shaded, that, as the reader has seen, several weeks elapsed before Rosalind began to feel sure that her returns would cover her outlay. When this became morally certain she packed up her trunk and returned to her mother’s house. For three days she waited ; on the fourth Mr. Lloyd made his appearance—a respectful but pressing suitor. Rosalind heard him to the end, with great humility, and accepted him with infinite modesty. It is hard to imagine that Mrs. Lloyd would have forgiven her husband; but if anything might have disarmed her resentment it would have been the ceremonious continence of this interview. Rosalind imposed upon her lover but a short probation. They were married, as was becoming, with great privacy—almost with secrecy—in the hope perhaps, as was waggishly remarked at the time, that the late Mrs. Lloyd wouldn’t hear of it.

The marriage was to all appearance a happy one, and each party obtained what each had desired—Lloyd “a devilish fine woman,” and Rosalind—but Rosalind’s desires, as the reader will have observed, had remained a good deal of a mystery. There were, indeed, two blots upon their felicity, but time would perhaps efface them. During the first three years of her marriage Mrs. Lloyd failed to become a mother, and her husband on his side suffered heavy losses of money. This latter circumstance compelled a material retrenchment in his expenditure, and Rosalind was perforce less of a fine lady than her sister had been. She contrived, however, to carry it like a woman of considerable fashion. She had long since ascertained that her sister’s copious wardrobe had been sequestrated for the benefit of her daughter, and that it lay languishing in thankless gloom in the dusty attic. It was a revolting thought that these exquisite fabrics should await the good pleasure of a little girl who sat in a high chair and ate bread-and-milk with a wooden spoon. Rosalind had the good taste, however, to say nothing about the matter until several months had expired. Then, at last, she timidly broached it to her husband. Was it not a pity that so much finery should be lost?—for lost it would be, what with colours fading, and moths eating it up, and the change of fashions. But Lloyd gave her so abrupt and peremptory a refusal, that she saw, for the present, her attempt was vain. Six months went by, however, and brought with them new needs and new visions. Rosalind’s thoughts hovered lovingly about her sister’s relics. She went up and looked at the chest in which they lay imprisoned. There was a sullen defiance in its three great padlocks and its iron bands which only quickened her cupidity. There was something exasperating in its incorruptible immobility. It was like a grim and grizzled old household servant, who locks his jaws over a family secret. And then there was a look of capacity in its vast extent, and a sound as of dense fulness, when Rosalind knocked its side with the toe of her little shoe, which caused her to flush with baffled longing. “It’s absurd,” she cried; “it’s improper, it’s wicked”; and she forthwith resolved upon another attack upon her husband. On the following day, after dinner, when he had had his wine, she boldly began it. But he cut her short with great sternness.

“Once for all, Rosalind,” said he, “it’s out of the question. I shall be gravely displeased if you return to the matter.”

“Very good,” said Rosalind. “I am glad to learn the esteem in which I am held. Gracious heaven,” she cried, “I am a very happy woman! It’s an agreeable thing to feel one’s self sacrificed to a caprice!” And her eyes filled with tears of anger and disappointment.

Lloyd had ‘a good-natured man’s horror of a woman’s sobs, and he attempted—I may say he condescended—to explain. “It’s not a caprice, dear, it’s a promise,” he said—-“an oath.”

“An oath? It’s a pretty matter for oaths! and to whom, pray?”

“To Perdita,” said the young man, raising his eyes for an instant, but immediately dropping them.

“Perdita—ah, Perdita!” and Rosalind’s tears broke forth. Her bosom heaved with stormy sobs —sobs which were the long-deferred sequel of the violent fit of weeping in which she had indulged herself on the night when she discovered her sister’s betrothal. She had hoped, in her better moments, that she had done with her jealousy; but her temper, on that occasion, had taken an ineffaceable fold. “And pray, what right had Perdita to dispose of my future?” she cried. “What right had she to bind you to meanness and cruelty? Ah, I occupy a dignified place, and I make a very fine figure! I am welcome to what Perdita has left! And what has she left? I never knew till now how little! Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

This was very poor logic, but it was very good as a “scene.” Lloyd put his arm around his wife’s waist and tried to kiss her, but she shook him off with magnificent scorn. Poor fellow! he had coveted a “devilish fine woman,” and he had got one. Her scorn was intolerable. He walked away with his ears tingling—irresolute, distracted. Before him was his secretary, and in it the sacred key which with his own hand he had turned in the triple lock. He marched up and opened it, and took the key from a secret drawer, wrapped in a little packet which he had sealed with his own honest bit of blazonry. Je garde, said the motto—“I keep.” But he was ashamed to put it back. He flung it upon the table beside his wife.

“Put it back!” she cried. “I want it not. I hate it!”

“I wash my hands of it,” cried her husband. “God forgive me!”

Mrs. Lloyd gave an indignant shrug of her shoulders, and swept out of the room, while the young man retreated by another door. Ten minutes later Mrs. Lloyd returned, and found the room occupied by her little step-daughter and the nursery-maid. The key was not on the table. She glanced at the child. Her little niece was perched on a chair, with the packet in her hands. She had broken the seal with her own small fingers. Mrs. Lloyd hastily took possession of the key.

At the habitual supper-hour Arthur Lloyd came back from his counting-room. It was the month of June, and supper was served by daylight. The meal was placed on the table, but Mrs. Lloyd failed to make her appearance. The servant whom his master sent to call her came back with the assurance that her room was empty, and that the women informed him that she had not been seen since dinner. They had, in truth, observed her to have been in tears, and, supposing her to be shut up in her chamber, had not disturbed her. Her husband called her name in various parts of the house, but without response. At last it occurred to him that he might find her by taking the way to the attic. The thought gave him a strange feeling of discomfort, and he bade his servants remain behind, wishing no witness in his quest. He reached the foot of the staircase leading to the topmost flat, and stood with his hand on the banisters, pronouncing his wife’s name. His voice trembled. He called again louder and more firmly. The only sound which disturbed the absolute silence was a faint echo of his own tones, repeating his question under the great eaves. He nevertheless felt irresistibly moved to ascend the staircase. It opened upon a wide hall, lined with wooden closets, and terminating in a window which looked westward, and admitted the last rays of the sun. Before the window stood the great chest. Before the chest, on her knees, the young man saw with amazement and horror the figure of his wife. In an instant he crossed the interval between them, bereft of utterance. The lid of the chest stood open, exposing, amid their perfumed napkins, its treasure of stuffs and jewels. Rosalind had fallen backward from a kneeling posture, with one hand supporting her on the floor and the other pressed to her heart. On her limbs was the stiffness of death, and on her face, in the fading light of the sun, the terror of something more than death. Her lips were parted in entreaty, in dismay, in agony; and on her blanched brow and cheeks there glowed the marks of ten hideous wounds from two vengeful ghostly hands

1868.

Stories Revived, Henry James, 1885: pp. 311-340

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A long ghost story, but a memorable one, and with the always agreeable additional frisson of fashion.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a ghost who ordered a hat, a haunted coat, the ghost with one shoe, and the haunted garden party dress.

You will also find fashionable horrors in the short story “Crape,” found in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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 Banshee of Hillstock Road: 1914

THE BANSHEE OF HILLSTOCK ROAD.

Hillstock-road was about the last place in the world that a self-respecting banshee or other supernatural visitant might be expected to patronise. It was not even in Ireland, but in the North district of busy, smoky, up-to-date unromantic London.

Grendoran Villa, Hillstock-road, was rented by Mrs. O’Shea, an Irish lady of good means, and immense antiquity —as regarded family. Mrs. O’Shea was the widow of a general officer, as she took good care to inform her neighbours, upon whom she looked down with justifiable contempt as being principally composed of business people. None of the O’Sheas had soiled their hands with trade; but in Mrs. O’Shea’s native country there were those so ill-natured as to whisper that the late General O’Shea had found means to escape from his creditors by marrying the heiress of a wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant.

The household of Grendoran Villa consisted of the stately widow, an orphan niece, and two servants—one a confidential maid, who had lived with Miss Molly Dowd before her marriage to the aristocratic and impecunious Major O’Shea. Honor Carroll was a character in her way, but under a sharp manner and tongue hid a warm heart and much fidelity. She had served the Dowds from her youth, and was as careful to preserve her mistress’s status as was that lady herself. Until very recently, Honor had never disputed Mrs. O’Shea’s will, except by the grumbling which had become habitual with her; but now there was a difference of opinion between mistress and maid, and Honor held her own obstinately, for the happiness of Katherine O’Shea, whom the old woman idolised, was at stake. Katherine was not an O’Shea at all, but merely a Dowd, being the only child of Mrs. O’Shea’s brother; but on the death of her parents, her aunt had adopted her and given her the grander name. She was a typical Irish girl, sad and merry by turns, with a wholesome horror of restraint, and but little reverence for authority. She was pretty, with dark eyes and hair, small features, and a remarkably bright and clear complexion. The girl had no nonsense about her, and cordially detested her aunt’s snobbishness. She had a special reason for rebelling against the enforced gentility of her position, as it had led Mrs. O’Shea to refuse her consent to the proposal of Katherine’s lover—a young man in every way a suitable match for her, but to whom the General’s widow objected on the score that he and his people were “mere tradesfolk.”

Honor Carroll had taken the side of the young people, and uttered her protests with no uncertain voice, and her remarks were as thorns in Mrs. O’Shea’s side, for the home truths she advanced were incontrovertible.

It was a dull November afternoon, not by any means the sort of day one would select for an al fresco conversation; yet Katherine O’Shea and Henry Plavell were standing under the leafless elm trees at the end of the garden, and apparently perfectly unconscious of either cold or damp. Very frequently the young man paid these visits, safe from the observation of the mistress of the house. Honor, while scolding Katherine briskly for meeting her fiancé, secretly kept watch that Mrs. O’Shea did not come upon the scene unawares, and at the time of which we are speaking she was on duty.

The sound of the drawing-room bell warned her that Katherine would probably be asked for by her aunt; and the old servant trotted down to the lovers’ meeting-spot, and, without any preliminaries, began:

“Shure, an’ Miss Katherine, isn’t it a shame fur ye to be meandering down there wid Master Flavell, an’ ye know that the mistress is dead agin him comin’ at all?”

“Don’t be cross, Honor,” replied Katherine, with an unconcerned laugh. “If I am not to receive my visitors properly inside, I’ll take good care to enjoy myself out here.”

“It’s cowld enjoyment, I’m thinkin’,” muttered the old woman; “but in wid ye now, fur the drawin’-room bell’s rung, and the mistress is shure to be wantin’ ye.”

“I expect it’s you she is wanting, Honor,” remarked Henry Flavell. “Don’t you think Miss Katherine might stay out a little longer?”

“Bedad! I do not, Master Flavell,” answered Honor, sharply, “an’ it’s yerself ought to be above matin’ her on the sly.”

“Did you never meet anyone on the sly yourself, Honor?” laughed the young man.

“Ach! Go along wid ye,” grinned Honor, her eyes brightening up with some merry thought of her girlhood. “Better fur ye to persuade the mistress to let ye court Miss Katherine straight out. Och! Murder! Ay she isn’t at the winder! I towld ye how it would be.”

Henry Flavell dodged behind the tree in very undignified style, while Katherine and Honor walked towards the house.

Mrs. O’Shea never for a moment dreamt that Henry Flavell would dare enter her grounds after she had forbidden him the house; therefore, her suspicions were not roused, and she only scolded Honor for not having more sense than to be out that cold day without something over her head.

It was the evening of the same day, while Honor was helping her to get ready for bed, that Mrs. O’Shea began to hold forth upon the presumption of a person in “young Flavell’s position” attempting to pay his addresses to her niece.

“An’ a fine young man he is, whin all’s sed an’ done,” put in Honor, sturdily. “Faith! I see no great harm ay Miss Katherine an’ he made a match ay it.”

“How dare you, Honor!” exclaimed Mrs. O’Shea, with a withering look at her maid. “My niece shall marry as well as I did, or remain an O’Shea all her life.”

“An” herself no O’Shea at all, but Dennis Dowd’s daughter,” muttered Honor. “Arrah! marm, shure, why do ye be brakin’ Miss Katharine’s heart fur sich nonsense? Isn’t Mr. Flavell’s big warehouse twinty times grander nor the shop Miss Katherine’s father- God rest his sowl!—had?”

“Honor!” screamed Mrs. O’Shea. “If you ever dare to mention that shop, or let Miss Katherine know of it, I’ll send you back to Ballymorty. Have you no respect for me at all?”

“I’m not likin’ to see the young people crossed,” maintained Honor.

“They shall never marry while I draw breath.”

“The blessed virgin grant ye may repint,” was Honor’s pious reply.

Before her mistress could retort, a weird, wailing sound came borne on the still night, and died away like a plaintive cry. There was not a breath of wind, and Mrs. O’Shea turned pale and grasped the back of the chair, while Honor devoutly crossed herself and whispered:

“The holy saints be betune us an’ harm this night!”

“It’s like a banshee,” stammered Mrs. O’Shea, when she had recovered her voice. “There’s one in our family. It’s a warning.”

“I was afeered something id cum when ye was so hard on Miss Katherine,” said Honor, improving the occasion. “Ay yer tuk, marm; shure, nothing can kape the two from marrying.”

“I am only doing my duty,” remonstrated Mrs. O’Shea, faintly.

“We’ll see what comes ay sich duty,” sneered Honor.

“It must come three times,” remarked Mrs. O’Shea, referring to the banshee.

“Oh, divil doubt it! It’ll come,” was the servant’s comforting reply.

And sure enough, the following evening, about the same hour, the uncanny, unaccountable, prolonged wail came again; and Mrs. O’Shea, trembling and unnerved, accepted it as her summons. Honor Carroll, while admitting that it was the banshee, hazarded the remark that if approaching death were sent as a punishment for crossing the young people, speedy repentance on the part of Mrs. O’Shea might turn back the judgment.

Mrs. O’Shea was too fond of her present existence to care to change it, unless that was absolutely necessary; and she there and then made a solemn vow that if she were spared until the morrow, she would give her consent to the mesalliance in the hope of propitiating the banshee.

She did not sleep that night, but she lived through it; and to the great surprise and joy of Katherine and Henry Flavell, the old lady wrote a formal acceptance of the young man’s proposal,

It need not be explained that the supposed banshee was nothing more supernatural that the sound emitted by the new motor cab invested in by Mr. Flavell, senior.

Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, 19 August 1914: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Although she is not fond of dialect stories, Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously at that extraordinarily abrupt and unsatisfactory denouement in the worst tradition of the “and then I woke up” ghost story ending.  Mrs Daffodil, and, doubtless, the redoubtable Honor Carroll, would have been much happier if there had been a banshee. Mrs O’Shea would have been found dead in her bed and young Katherine would not only have been free to marry the man of her heart, but would have inherited the O’Shea fortune.  Even after years of respectable widowhood at Grendoran Villa, there should have been a substantial sum left from the labour of that wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant. Honor Carroll, after a period of luxuriant mourning, might have stayed on to help with the children or retired to Ireland with a generous legacy. As a bonus Henry Flavell would have been free from the plague of a snobbish mother-in-law.

That is what Mrs Daffodil calls a happy ending.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Miss Bonnington’s Bathing Boots: 1907

Digital Capture

Perhaps at a more fashionable watering place Miss Bonnington’s boots would not have created the slightest stir, but at Silver Beach the first question asked the newcomer on the piazza was “Have you seen Miss Bonnington’s boots?” and a negative reply was to admit a truly recentness of arrival.

There was nothing remarkable about the boots save that they were of nile green waterproof material laced high upon the calf. At a resort where stockings, or at the best the sort of canvas slipper to be had at the drug store for a quarter, were considered sufficient, the appearance of Miss Bonnington on the sands at the bathing hour was the signal for the gathering of a crowd of the curious.

Natalie Bonnington professed an indifference to the curious gaze of the hotel patrons and the natives. She could not help being aware of the excitement she created, yet she did not discard the boots.

Ridley told himself a dozen times that he did not love Miss Bonnington because of her boots. In honest truth, he could not tell whether or not he loved the girl.

Aside from these odd bathing boots, her attire was most demure. She affected the simplest dresses— and looked better in them than the women who wore silks and satins all out of harmony with the weather.

Her manner matched her garments, for she was demure almost to a point of affectation and never a roguish twinkle marred the calm serenity of her full, lustrous brown eyes.

Those eyes were Natalie’s greatest charm. Ridley loved to lie on the warm sands in the afternoon, sounding the placid depths of her liquid orbs. At such times he was sure that he was in love, and he was — until he remembered the boots.

It was in this uncertain frame of mind that he took to dressing early for his bath, and then running up the sands, around the point well out of sight of the crowd around the boots. Not until he felt sure that she had gone back to her dressing room did he venture to return, but even with this expedient his heart continued to be torn by uncertainty.

But it was to the boots that he owed the final answer to his questioning heart. He was running along the sands on his way back to the bathhouses when, on the turn of a point he discerned a huge sun umbrella.

Projecting below the edge he could see Miss Bonnington’s boots beside a mound of sand that covered the extremities of her companion. Just as he passed, scarcely making a sound in his bare feet, he heard a kiss; a loud, undeniable smack.

It was not the sort of a kiss he imagined some day bestowing upon the arched curve of those red lips when he should have at last decided to speak.

He had mentally rehearsed the scene over and over again, now in a dark comer of the piazza, again under the sunshade, but always in his dreams the scene had ended in her whispered “Yes” and his lips had touched hers, tenderly, reverently, in the first kiss of love.

That Miss Bonnington should seek a secluded part of the beach on which to indulge her osculatory tendencies was intolerable. He was a man easily swayed by little things and the loudness of the smack had sickened him, while at the same time his loss told him how truly he had loved the girl.

He dressed as rapidly as possible and sought his room. He was too miserable to mix with the others. He wanted to be alone where he could think it all over.

His room seemed blurred with images of the past. He could see the yellow sands and himself beside Natalie questioning the limpid clearness of her eyes. He could see the piazza in the soft moonlight and the wrapt look upon her face as he quoted poetry to her.

Then he vanished before the image of the afternoon with the boots beneath the sunshade and that smack reverberating like the noise of thunder in the solitude of his soul.

By evening he had pulled himself together and he even dressed for the regular Wednesday night hop, but he kept carefully away from Natalie until late in the evening, when he ran across her standing pensively in a corner of the piazza, watching the reflection of the moon across the broken waters.

Her face brightened at his approach and she impulsively put out her hand to stop him.

“I have not seen you all day,” she cried. “Have you been ill?”

“I was a little upset,” he answered, constrainedly.

“Is it trouble?” The soft eyes beamed their sympathy.

“In a way,” he agreed. “I saw something this morning that rather upset me. Around the point,” he added, meaningly.

“Ah, yes,” she mused. “You go far up the beach to bathe.”

“Way beyond the crowd,” he confirmed. “I like it better there.”

“You must take me some morning,” she said. I have never been to the point. Is it not absurd?”

“You have not been to the point?” His lip curled in scorn. Probably she would deny the scene of the morning.

“I should like a quiet swim,” she said, softly. “Do you know that I have just found out why the beach is so crowded.”

“Yes?” He wondered what she would tell him now.

“It is because of my boots,” she said, with a rippling laugh. “Do you know that people came to see my bathing boots. Of all the foolish things of which I have ever heard. It seems they were almost what you call a sensation.”

He smiled in spite of himself. Her mother was a Russian, and at times her odd expressions were delightfully quaint. One might almost believe that she was sincere in her declaration of the new discovery.

“The boots are a little—individual,” he agreed. “I could recognize them anywhere.”

Natalie did not observe the emphasis upon the last word. “They were very comfortable,” she said, musingly. “And the people were so disappointed when I did not wear them this morning.”

“You did not wear them this morning?”

“I gave them to the maid, who makes the bed. With $100 I could not give her as much pleasure. Is it not odd, her love of color?”

With beaming face he caught her hand.

“Natalie,” he cried.

The rest of the scene passed off as he had planned it, even to the whispered “Yes,” and that reverential first kiss. Miss Bonnington’s boots had served their turn.

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 6 October 1907: p. 29

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has nothing but scorn for a young man with such a vivid imagination and no appreciation for bespoke footwear. First he builds a sand-castles-in-the-air romance despite having never spoken to the girl, then his hopes are dashed to bits by a beach umbrella and a “smack.”  One imagines Shakespeare rewriting the plot of Othello with bathing boots instead of a handkerchief.

Exotic European novelties for the beach were often reported, but seldom seen in the States, so perhaps Miss Bonnington’s boots did cause a sensation.

Brilliant Bathing Boots Please Paris

Silk on Velvet Footwear Impracticable, of Course, or It Wouldn’t Be Attractive

Paris Fashionable shoemakers are already being besieged with orders for the new bathing boots which have been the rage at the Riviera and Monte Carlo baths. These silk and velvet boots are brilliant in color, the most conspicuous being orange boots lined with purple, white lined with red, and green lined with yellow.

In accordance with the theory that whatever is fashionable must be unpractical these boots are not laced, but are of the slip-on kind, so that once in the water they are sure to slip off.

Bootmakers contend that the bathing boot must be wide and baggy around the leg, so as to permit freedom of movement, while fitting the foot like a glove, and while the impartial spectator may agree with their arguments he is obliged to doubt the practicability of the principle.

Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 26 March 1920: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil has written before on the theory and practice of bathing footwear in Shoes for the Surf.

 

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 Story Successfully Told: 1875

A STORY SUCCESSFULLY TOLD

Pretty, plump Mrs. Archibald Steele wrote the following paragraph in one of her letters to her husband the other day:

“John must come down here at once, whether you can spare him or not. Our dear little Laura is greatly taken with a tall, thin young man, with a hooked nose and thin lips, called Stuyvesant.  It is whispered about the hotel that he is a very good match, and has the veritable blue blood of the old Dutch governor in his reins. I must say it has a queer way of showing itself, for the young man is as pale as a specter; and dressed in that white duck, with his sunken eyes and bilious skin, is enough to frighten one. I have grown to hate him, while Laura is growing to be quite the contrary, I am afraid. All the evening he leans up against the wall, never dancing or opening his mouth, save to give vent to some hateful, sarcastic criticism upon the scenes around him, and yet dear little Laura’s eyes–as, indeed, all the other pretty eyes about–are perpetually beseeching him for attention. In the daytime he is always with a long black horse, that covers more ground with its legs while it is going than any other animal that I ever saw. When Laura goes out to drive behind it, and vanishes out of sight with the bony creature, I tremble to think how dreadful it would be if our dear little girl would ever be part and parcel of this wretched man and his beast. So I think John had better come down at once. I quite long to see his handsome face and hear his honest voice, and I think it is about time that John should tell his little story to Laura and have thing settled comfortably.

Mr. Archibald Steele smiled when he put the letter of his wife in his waistcoat pocket, and, picking up the morning paper, scanned through his gold-rimmed spectacles the news of the day. Finding nothing therein to refine the exceedingly satisfactory condition of his affairs, he put it down, smiling as only a prosperous, contented down-town merchant can smile. He was one of those happy exceptions to the ordinary rule of mortals, with whom everything went well. His whole experience was an exclamation point to that effect. If he ventured a little hazardously in trade, fortune trimmed her sails to favor him. If he set his heart upon anything relating to domestic felicity, all the elements of art and nature conspired to bring it about. So when he stepped to the door of his office and beckoned to a young man with a strip of commercial paper in his hand and a pencil behind his ear, with the general air of briskness and shrewdness about him that betokened a successful down-town merchant embryo, Mr. Steele smiled the third time, with the air of one who was not at all afraid of any bilious, blue-blooded obstacle that might be thrown in the path of  domestic happiness which he firmly agreed had been arranged by an Omnipotent hand.

“John,” said Mr. Steele, closing the door of his private office, and looking upon his young clerk benevolently, “I’ve got an order from Mrs. Steele which I wish you would attend to.”

“Certainly, sir,” said John; “shall I go out and get the articles myself?”

“Why, the fact is, John,” said the merchant, enjoying his joke more and more, “it’s only one article–a rather bulky one. It was bargained for a long time ago. I think you will have to go down with it, John.”

“Down to the seashore!” said John, getting a little hot and flustered; “is it a very valuable parcel, sir?”

“Well, perhaps your natural modesty may depreciate its worth, John. Mrs. Steele and I think a good deal of it, and Laura, too, I am sure does. The commodity is yourself, John. Mrs. Steele wants you to go down and take a little holiday there.”

When the name of Laura was mentioned the young man’s face grew more flustered and hot than before.

“You are very kind, sir,” he said, “and Mrs. Steele is more like an angel than a woman.”

“Rather solid and plump for that,” interposed Mr. Steele, but liking the phrase nevertheless.

“But it is a simple madness,” pursued John, “to dream of further happiness than I enjoy now–your affection and that of your wife–my position here; I don’t dare, I can’t hope for anything more. Oh, Mr. Steele, I can’t tell her my story. She would turn from me with horror and aversion. She is so young, so beautiful. Let me at least enjoy the present.”

“And in the meantime some cadaverous, bilious, blue-blooded scoundrel will carry her off from us all.”

Then John’s face grew pale and stern. “If there is the slightest feeling upon her part for–for any one else, then, indeed, Mr. Steele, my case is hopeless.”‘

The commercial paper fluttered from his hand, the pencil fell from his ear, and he leaned his head against the desk and trembled.

“Why, who would suppose you could be such a coward?” said Mr. Steele, impetuously. “You shall go down with me this very day.”

All the way to the seashore John’s face wore the look of one who had resolved to storm a deadly breach, but who did not hope to survive the attempt.

Even the ocean, when it confronted them, wore a threatening look. Upon the horizon a pile of clouds formed a background, wan and gloomy, a great black mist lay in the zenith, and a dense, red vapor almost touched the water.

“A very nasty sea,” said Mr. Steele.

John snuffed it in, his eyes dilating and his head high in the sea-scented air. A tramp on the hard, wet sand, and, like a meteor, a long black horse swept by, disappearing in the mist, leaving for John the memory of a charming head, crowned with blonde curling hair, two kind eyes bent upon his own, and a white waving hand extended in salutation.

“John,” said Mr. Steele,” did you see the face of that man? I count upon your saving Laura. Did you see his thin, cruel lips and treacherous eyes?”

“I only saw Laura, sir,” said John, simply.

Later on Mr. Archibald Steele and his plump, pretty wife were alone together in their private parlor. Her dimpled hand lay lovingly in his, and her shapely head, fresh from the hands of the coiffeur, rested recklessly on his shoulder.

Suddenly the door opened, and there was heard the rustle of silken drapery.  A still shapelier little head, and fresher from the hands of the coiffeur, all unrumpled by the audacious hands of mortal, peeped in at the door. Laura was pale: her little white hands were clasped together and her musical voice trembled.

“Oh, papa, mamma, come directly! Mr. Stuyvesant ventured too far, and—and–”

“Was drowned?” said Mr. Steele, with a queer combination in his voice of pity and relief.

“No, no; how can you suppose so dreadful a thing? He was rescued, but is very weak and ill. He has asked for me, and may I go? Will you not come with me, mamma? Oh, do, I beg of you. Can’t she, papa?”

Her blue eyes filled with tears: her little feet seemed wanting to fly through the corridors.

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Steele. “Let him wait till he is able to come to you or me. Either the man was drowned or he isn’t. Because he was imbecile enough to risk his life, that is no reason for your being the talk of the hotel.”

Laura raised her eyes proudly.

“No danger of that, papa; and besides, every one is occupied now with the one that rescued him.”

“And what madman was that?” said poor Mr. Steele, who could not reconcile himself to the present condition of affairs.

“I don’t know–a stranger, I believe. I was so interested in Mr. Stuyvesant I forgot to ask.”

“Bah!” said Mr. Steele, getting upon his feet and walking to the door. “I’ll go and find out all about it. Do you stay here till I return.”

Before he had gone far, Mr. Steele heard from the excited guests several different versions of the affair; but one and all agreed that the rescuer could be nothing less than a champion swimmer.

“A regular water-dog!” said one to Mr. Steele; and as the merchant had heard this epithet but once before in his life, and that on an occasion of vital interest to himself, he sought out the hero of the hour, and found, to his unbounded astonishment, it was John Waters himself! He was quite enveloped in the flounces and furbelows of pretty and sympathetic women, who insisted upon knowing every half second if he was sure he felt strong and well, and how in the world could he buffet those dreadful waves in that grand, heroic way, and how I he manage to drag poor Mr. Stuyvesant to the shore?

John, like any other hero of the hour, enjoyed this adulation, but looked anxiously at Mr. Steele when he approached.

“Hum,” growled that worthy merchant; “a pretty fellow, you, to interfere with other people’s plans! How do you know he wanted to be rescued?”

“He appeared anxious that way, sir,” said John. “He wrapped himself about me like a devil-fish. I thought at one time we’d both go down together. There ought to be a school for teaching people how to be saved. It’s the easiest thing in the world; the water itself is an accessory if you manage it right.”

“Oh, do tell us how, Mr. Waters, please,” chorused the pretty and women; and as John began his lesson Mr. Steele slipped away.

“Oh, papa,” began Laura, “how is Mr. Stuyvesant?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask,” he replied “I was interested in the fellow that dragged him ashore. He’s an old friend of ours. The way we made his acquaintance was on. such an occasion; he saved a lady from drowning.”

“Why, papa, “said Laura, “he must be a splendid fellow.”

“Magnificent!” said Mr. Steele. “You see, we had traveled over considerable of the world together, your mother and I, while you were yet a baby; and we found it rather odd one morning to discover that having crossed the ocean and the Alps, loitered in the Highlands, traveled thence down the Mississippi valley, across the American desert to California, and back again by another route, your mother had never been up the East river as far as Morrisania. It seemed so absurd to have neglected this home excursion, that we determined upon it at once. The morning was wet, but we didn’t mind it. Your mother looked prettier in a water-proof and with a shovel hat tied down under her chin, than most women would in a ball gown. She wasn’t a bit afraid of rain or mud. She was a little too reckless; for, getting ashore to see the institution for vagabond boys, her foot slipped off the plank, and she disappeared.”

Mr. Steele stopped a minute; his voice faltered; the plump little hand of his wife slipped into his own; he clutched it, and went on again.

“One minute I saw her as neat and trim a little figure as ever graced a waterproof and shovel hat, and the next she was gone.”

“Gone!” cried Laura. “Gone where?”

“Into the water, child: into the hungry green waves that surged up to take her away from the fondest heart in the universe; and if it had not been for one of those very vagabond boys, who had been lurking there for a chance to escape from the island, you would have lost us both, my dear; for I made an agonized plunge after her, though I am ashamed to say I cannot swim a stroke, and should only have gone to the bottom like a plummet of lead: but an official standing by caught and held me, and cried out that Johnny Waters had her safe; and presently that vagabond boy came up with your sweet mother on the other side of the boat, and the officer cried out: ‘He’s a regular water dog, that Johnny Waters!’ and these were the very words a guest here used in relation to John a minute or so ago.”

“John!” cried poor bewildered Laura, “our John? Mamma? My mamma? Was mamma the lady? Was John the boy? And is it John, our John, that saved poor Mr. Stuyvesant?”

“The very same John, our John; he’s always on hand when there is any trouble or danger.”

“Oh, mamma! mamma!” cried Laura, forgetting all the years that had passed since the accident, and crumpling both the coiffeured heads in the most reckless manner.

“Papa,” she then said, “we must go and find John; I want to tell him how much—I–”

“Yes, dear;” said Mr. Archibald Steele, and all the way through the corridor and into the parlors of the hotel with his plump and pretty wife on one arm and his beautiful daughter on the other, he sailed.

But John was still surrounded by the pretty and sympathetic women, who had cruelly deserted the blue-blooded descendant of the old Dutch governor, lying in his most graceful and languid of attitudes on a neighboring lounge–the descendant, not the governor—and had flocked, one and all, to the handsome and heroic founder of the school for teaching people the way to be rescued from drowning…

John was almost hidden in flounces and laces; but when his eyes met Laura’s he plunged out of those costly billows with his usual ease and trepidity. There was something in Laura’s eyes that he had never seen there before–a tempting languor, a bewitching shyness, a bewildering splendor that steeped his soul in a mad, sweet hope.

Laura stopped one moment to whisper to her mamma, and John gasped out to Mr. Steele:

“If I dared–if I only dared to tell her–”

“I have told her myself!” said the merchant.

“That I was a pauper, without home or friends?”

“I told the story in my own way, John,” continued Mr. Steele, “and I flatter myself I told it successfully; do not spoil it, if you please. I have managed the past and the present; do you look out for the future, John.”

And John did. Laura walked through the parlor that night the envied of all the pretty and sympathetic women and brave and appreciative men that congregated there.

The Head-light [Thayer KS] 8 October 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is rather extraordinary to find a successful down-town merchant so eager to marry his only ewe-lamb to a confidential clerk in his establishment. And a confidential clerk, mind you, with no visible antecedents. The sack for the clerk and the convent or remote boarding school for the daughter are the more usual outcome.  But this is, after all, sea-side fiction, when anything can happen and swift endings must be contrived to fit the penny-a-word limit set by the fiction editor.

 

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.

Only Three Months: 1877

 

courting couple 1896 British Library

Courting Couple, 1896, British Library

Only Three Months.

[Danbury News.]

They had been married about three months. The boy from the store appeared with a note from her husband. She clutched the precious missive with an eager hand, tremblingly opened it and read:

“Dear Wife: Send me a pocket handkerchief. John.”

She went slowly to the drawer to get the desired article, and while looking for it she came across the following note, dated two weeks after their wedding:

“SUNLIGHT OF MY SOUL: You will have to send me a handkerchief. Your bewitching eyes so turned my head this morning that I forgot to take one with me, for which I shall kiss the sweet face of my own a thousand times when I come home. In two hours and twenty minutes it will be twelve o’clock, and then I can come to my beautiful rose. I long to fly to you. A thousand kisses I send thee, my fairy wife.

“Yours tenderly, John.”

She sighed, gave the boy the handkerchief, and sighed again

The Highland Weekly News [Hillsboro OH] 2 August 1877: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The sad change from lover to carping husband was frequently remarked upon in the press, usually in the “Wit and Humour” section:

We heard a man complain about the weight of his baby the other day, and to our certain knowledge that same man used to hold the mother of that baby in his arms hour after hour after the fond parents of said girl had gone to their virtuous couch.

Elevator [San Francisco, CA] 12 September 1874: p. 4

“How lovely the period of engagement.”

“Yet how paradoxical; after marriage it comes to a full stop.”

Blue Pencil Magazine, 1900

Before Marriage: “Excuse me, George. Did my parasol hurt you?”

“Oh, no! my dear. It would be a pleasure if it did.”

After Marriage: “Great Heavens! There was never a woman under the sun that knew how to carry a parasol without scratching a fellow’s eyes out. And there never was a man that knew enough to walk on the right side of a woman with a parasol. There isn’t any right side to a woman with a parasol!”

The Winston Leader [Winston-Salem NC] 4 December 1883: p. 4

He calls her darling before they are married, but after he has been paying her bills for a while he calls her dear.

News-Journal [Mansfield OH] 22 September 1921: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical 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.