Category Archives: Courtship

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.

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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.

Her Fourth Husband: 1910

 

widow jones suits me button

HER FOURTH.

By M. Quad.

Copyright, 1910, by Associated Literary Press.]

“What in tarnation is this about your marrying Jim Carter yesterday?” said Henry Doty to Eunice Smith.

“We were married,” was the reply.

“But I was going to marry you myself!”

“I never knew it. You never said anything about it.”

“And you won’t get a divorce from Jim?”

“Of course not.”

“By gum, Eunice, this is using a man mighty mean! I was jest taking time to think things over, and you go off and marry. It’s a mean trick on a feller!”

“Oh, there are other girls.”

“But I don’t want ’em. I want you, and I’m going to stay single till my chance comes.”

It came in about a year. James Carter was assisting a neighbor to load saw logs when one of them broke loose and rolled over him, and he was no more. Henry Doty didn’t rejoice, but he was on hand at the funeral. He oversaw things for the widow for three or four days and then returned to his job. As he held her hand and bade her goodby he said:

“Eunice, there was something I wanted to say to you, but it slipped my mind. Mebbe I’ll think of it next time I come.”

The widow returned to her parents, and the hired man made her a call three or four times a week, but he never talked love. He simply thought love when he was alone. They’d get married when the year was up, and when they got to the Falls they’d put up at the best house and hang the expense. Fourteen months had passed, and Henry was thinking of tying a string around his thumb to make him remember to ask Eunice that question when he was suddenly told that she had married a wire fence man who was working in the neighborhood. He greased his boots and combed his hair and went over to the house to say: “Eunice, If you’ve gone and done it again I can never forgive you! You knew I was calculating to marry you myself.”

“But you never said anything about it,” she retorted.

“But I was getting ready to.”

“If you’d only said”—

“Oh, well, I’ll have to stand it, I suppose. Mebbe it’s all for the best. Mebbe the living will be cheaper by that time. I’m going to keep right on jest as I am till I get you.”

Mr. Davis, the second husband, was fat and rugged and seemed good for forty years more of life, but one can never tell about those things. He was made a very happy man by the marriage and continued in the wire fence business to make others happy. After eight months had gone by he was putting up a fence for a farmer one day when a thunderstorm came up. Mr. Davis had his hands on the wire when the electric fluid found it and shocked him to death. Queerly enough, Henry Doty was driving past in a wagon at the time and was the messenger to announce the sad news to the double widow. He realized that it was no time to speak of a bridal trip then and held his peace.

Once more the widow came back to the old home, and things went on as before. Henry returned to the habit of dropping in frequently, and he only waited for the days to pass until he could ask the question always uppermost in his mind. One evening he presented himself with a string twisted around his thumb, but when the widow called his attention to it he couldn’t remember what he had made sure not to forget. Now and then the farmer for whom he labored and who knew his thoughts would jog him with:

“Henry, the time is passing along, and the widow may step off again any day.”

“But I don’t hear of anybody being after her.”

“You don’t always hear about such things. Widows step right off without much courting.”

“Yes, I must speak to Eunice. I was a-thinking this afternoon I would.”

But he didn’t. He just let things drift on, and one Sunday evening he dropped in just after she had married the rural mall carrier on that route.

Henry was indignant and desperate.

“Why didn’t you say something!” he demanded of the bride.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Say, this is throwing a good man down powerful hard. This is the third time I’ve lost you!”

“But you’ve never said you wanted me. You don’t expect a woman to pop the question, do you?”

“All right, Eunice—all right. I can wait. Bound to get you and make a trip if I wait long enough.”

“It was just eleven months to a day that as the carrier came to a narrow place in the highway he encountered a load of hay. In trying to pass it his cart was upset, and when it was righted he was found with a broken neck. Henry Doty was coming up with a freshly killed hog in his wagon, and as soon as he ascertained what had happened he chucked the hog out of the wagon and drove back three miles with the horses on a dead run. Eunice happened to be at the gate when he  drove up, and he called to her:

“Eunice, get a pencil and write it down that I’m here on the spot.”

“But for why?”

“And that I ask you to marry me when the year is up.”

“Why. Henry, what can you mean!”

“And that we take in Niagara Falls and all of Buffalo on our wedding trip and that we love each other till death do us part”

And it was said that the fourth husband was the happiest of all.

The Hot Springs [SD] Weekly Star 10 March 1910: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The lady must have possessed considerable property or personal fascinations to “step off” as often as she did. Mrs Daffodil is not sure that someone as dilatory as Mr Doty is a wise spousal choice, but Eunice née Smith cannot say she was not warned.  She seemed to enjoy a variety of husbands and was happy enough to take her chances that the reticent fellow would never Speak his Love.

 

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.

Cupid’s Court: 1907

cupid reading 1900

CUPID’S COURT.

An Adverse Decision, an Appeal and an Oral Argument.

The judge’s daughter was perturbed.

“Papa,” she said, knitting her pretty brow, “I am in doubt as to whether I have kept to the proper form of proce­dure. In law one can err in so many little technicalities that I am ever fear­ful. Now, last evening George”— The judge looked at her so sharply over his glasses that she involuntarily paused.

“I thought you had sent him about his business,” he said.

“I did hand down an adverse deci­sion,” she answered, “and he declared that he would appeal. However, I con­vinced him that I was the court of last resort in a case like that and that no appeal would lie from my decision.”

“Possibly the court was assuming a little more power than rightfully belongs to it,” said the judge thoughtful­ly, “but let that pass. What did he do then?”

“He filed a petition for a rehearing.”

“The usual course,” said the judge, “but it is usually nothing but a mere formality.”

“So I thought,” returned the girl, “and I was prepared to deny it without argument, but the facts set forth in his petition were sufficient to make me hesitate and wonder whether his case had really been properly presented at the first trial.”

“Upon what grounds did he make the application?” asked the judge, scowling.

“Well,” she replied, blushing a little, “you see, he proposed by letter, and his contention was that the case cannot be properly presented by briefs, but demands oral arguments. The fact that the latter had been omitted, he held, should be held an error, and the point was such a novel one that I consented to let him argue it. Then his argument was so forceful that I granted his pe­tition and consented to hear the whole case again. Do you think”—

“I think,” said the judge, “that the court favors the plaintiff.”—Chicago Post.

The Worthington [MN] Advance 23 August 1907: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One shudders to think of young George (after being issued a writ of habeas corpus) approaching the bench to plead his case with the judge, although his legal manoeuvres in re the judge’s daughter suggest a man not easily intimidated, and one with Blackstone at his very fingertips.  Mrs Daffodil imagines that the judge put the gentleman under oath for a full deposition, then subjected him to a stiff cross-examination. But if the defendant has withdrawn her objections, what can a judge do but rule in the plaintiff’s favour?

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 Face in the Mirror: 1870s

bride at mirror single

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR.

“Oh, Aunt Cassie, do you really intend to give it to me? That lovely antique mirror, with the frame of twisted coral, and the delicious old Neptune sitting with his trident, all in tarnished gold, on the top? Oh!” cried the bride-elect; “I would rather have that than all my other wedding presents put together. It will be so beautiful in my new drawing-room.”

Aunt Cassie, a silver-haired little old lady in black silk, and antiquated gold ear-drops, shuddered. “You are welcome to it, child,” she said. “I never liked the thing since–since I saw your uncle’s reflection in it the night before the news came of his death in Canada. The house servants say it is a ‘haunted glass.’”

“But, Aunt Cassie,” reasoned Letty Latrobe, “that was all your imagination.”

“Do you think so?” said Aunt Cassie, quietly.

And so the old mirror was carried up to the blue saloon, and put up with the bride’s other presents in the place of honor, where its dim surface reflected sets of silver, jewel-boxes, ivory toilet sets, glove-holders, and piles of rare lace and delicate embroidery. Miss Latrobe’s new maid, a handsome woman, with long gold ear-drops, and a scarlet bandanna handkerchief twisted around her head, viewed it with rapture. “I declare, miss,” said she, “I never saw such a glass in my life. I came into the room not thinking, like, and when I looked up–laws, miss; there was me a-pickin’ up the laces, and you standin’ behind me, all in your wedding dress”

“I!” cried Letty. “In my wedding dress! There you are mistaken, Ruby. I never have put on my wedding dress yet. Don’t you know it isn’t lucky?” The maid looked around with a startled glance.

“Then it was she,” she said, as if to herself. “And I can’t get away from her, do what I will.”

“Ruby,” exclaimed Letty, “what are you talking about?”

“Nothing, miss,” said Ruby. “It’s a way I’ve got, living a good deal by myself, talkin’ out just what my thoughts is.”

But after that Ruby avoided the old mirror.

Down stairs in the servants hall that very evening she made herself very sociable, and asked various questions about Miss Latrobe’s new bridegroom.

“He’s a brave, handsome gentleman,” said Phillis, the cook, warming to the subject as she brandished a stew-pan over the fire. “A bit older than our young missy, but–”

“Oh!” said Ruby. “Older, eh? A military gentleman, now?”

“Bless me,” said Phillis, “however did you know?”

“I think I heard it mentioned upstairs,” said Ruby. “A captain in the army, with a scar over one temple, as you’d hardly notice if you didn’t know of it.”

“Well, I declare,” said Phillis.

“Speaks very soft and has eyes as bright as diamonds,” said Ruby. “Yes, it’s the sort of a gentleman that the young ladies like. So the wedding is to be next week, and I suppose they’ll travel abroad. Dear, dear; it’s fine to be a young lady like Miss Latrobe, now, isn’t it?”

The next day when Letty was dressing in her room, she took a fancy to try the effect of a sort of old-fashioned pearls, which had been the wedding gift of her mother.

“Ruby,” said she, “go and get my pearls out of the blue velvet case on the little mosaic table.”

Ruby came back presently with a scared look.

“I can’t find ’em, miss,” said she.

Letty jumped up with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders.

“You must be blind,” said she. “I’ll go myself.”

There they lay perfectly in sight, close to the old mirror. With girlish interest Letty fastened the drops into her ears and clasped the string around her neck; and as she looked smilingly into the glass she became vaguely conscious that another figure stood there a little behind her, mantled in a soft haze, as if of distance–a young girl in orange blossoms and bridal veil, with something in her hand, which Letty at first construed to be a sparkling hilted dagger, held up to strike.

Involuntarily she recoiled.

“Ruby,” she called out to her maid. “Ruby! who is there? How dare you let anyone into the room while I am dressing, Ruby?”

The girl hurried in with a startled face.

“Did you call. Miss Latrobe?” said she.

“Ruby, come here,” cried Letty. “Stand close beside me. Look into the glass.”

“Yes, miss,” said Ruby, with the still troubled face.

“Do you see nothing, Ruby?”

“No, miss,” said Ruby, shivering and clasping her hands together very tight.

“Nor I, either, now,” said Miss Latrobe. “But it was there just now.”

“What, miss?”

“Tell me truly, Ruby,” said Letty, putting both hands on the girl’s shoulder, and looking into her face with large, terrified eyes. “Look at that glass. Do you see nothing there? Have you ever seen anything there?”

Ruby shrank back and burst into tears.

“It’s a young girl, miss,” she sobbed, “in her wedding dress, and a stiletto in her hand. It’s my young mistress, miss, as I lived with five years ago, at Malta, as was married to Capt. Hayes.”

Letty’s face grew pale. “Captain Hayes,” she repeated. “Married to him! Married to my betrothed husband! Ruby, think what you are saying!”

“If I was to be murdered for it, miss,” cried the girl, sinking on the floor, and covering her eyes with her bands. “I couldn’t say no different! Ask him if he remembers Anita Valloti, the commander’s daughter at Malta! Ask him if he knows anything of the mad-house at Madapolo Heights! There I’ve told it all now!”

“But, Ruby, what do you mean?” gasped Miss Latrobe,

“Ask him,” the girl reiterated, shaking and quivering all over in what seemed like a perfect tempest of fear and horror.

Letty sank down among the wedding presents, with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders, and looked with a pale horror into the antique mirror. There was nothing there now but her own fair reflection. “Ruby is dreaming,” she said to her self. “All this is a waking nightmare, neither more nor less.”

Capt. Hayes came that afternoon, dark, brilliantly handsome, full of wit, and for the moment his presence dissipated the dark clouds of suspicion which were beginning to settle around Letty Latrobe’s warm young heart.

“Oh, Robert,” she cried brightly when dinner was over. “I have received ever so many exquisite presents since last you were here. Do come into the blue room and look at them.”

All unconsciously she led him into the long apartment with the antique mirror at its end.

“First of all,” she said, “Aunt Cassie Revere gave me this. It is over two hundred years old, and”- –

She paused with a cry of terror. Close behind their two reflections was that of the pallid girl in the bridal dress and veil, holding the glittering-hilted dagger above her head. And in the same second she saw how deadly white and haggard Capt. Hayes’s face had become.

“Robert,” she cried. “what does this mean?” Then suddenly, remembering the maid’s words, “it is Anita Valloti, the commandant’s daughter at Malta! Robert, what is this terrible secret that you have hidden away from me?”

**

There was no wedding at Magnolia Hill that golden June. Ruby, the maid, revealed it–how Captain Hayes had wooed and won the beautiful young Spanish girl at Malta: how he had afterward become wearied of her childish loveliness, and seizing eagerly upon the pretext of some slight incoherence of manner or conversation, had incarcerated the poor little human butterfly in a private asylum on Madapolo Heights, some leagues from the city. Nor, confronted with all this evidence, did the captain dare to deny the story of his guilt.

Therefore there was no wedding in the lonely homestead. And instead of going on her bridal trip with Captain Hayes, Letty Latrobe persuaded her father to take her to Malta, and visited the famous Maison de Sante at Madapolo.

“I should like to see it for myself,” she said, softly.

Fra Antonio, one of the gowned brotherhood in attendance, looked a little surprised when they asked for La Signora Hayes, or as her name was entered there, “La Signorina Anita Valloti.”

“Did you not know?” he asked. “The poor young signora is dead. She died on the nineteenth of last June.”

The nineteenth of June! Mr. Latrobe and his daughter looked at one another. It was on the nineteenth of June that they had seen the strange reflection in the antique mirror–it was on the nineteenth of June that the marriage at Magnolia Hill was broken off.

So they laid fresh roses on the simple cross that rose above the poor young thing’s last resting-place, and came away with wet eyes and tender hearts.

The Saturday Evening Press [Menasha WI] 20 April 1882: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A narrow escape for Miss Latrobe and possibly a narrow escape from plagiarism charges for the author, who seems to have been heavily influenced by  Jane Eyre.

 

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.