Category Archives: Crime

Do You Want That Raise?: 1911

This Grafter Took Our Course

Do You Want That Raise?

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Caricature, wit and humor of a nation in picture, song and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Plus ça change…

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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Mrs Lincoln’s Bonnet String: 1865

mary todd lincoln bonnet worn to ford's theatre

The bonnet worn by Mrs. Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on 14 April, 1865, the night President Lincoln was assassinated. http://digitalcollection.chicagohistory.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16029coll3/id/2592/rec/1

MRS. LINCOLN’S BONNET STRING NOW A TREASURED RELIC IN A MISSOURI HOME

A Bit of Tulle From Headgear the Martyred President’s Wife Wore the Night He Was Assassinated Has Been Preserved and Handed Down in Family of Man in Whose Apartment the Great Emancipator Died.

Even in his lifetime mementoes of President Lincoln were carefully preserved to be passed on as heirlooms. With his tragic death these took on greatly increased significance and importance, and with the growing appreciation of the great emancipator’s place in history they have come to be among the most cherished of possessions.

One of these to which unusual interest attaches now reposes in a small pasteboard box in one of the finest ante-bellum homes in Central Missouri, the residence of Mrs. Charles Carroll Hemenway at Glasgow. It is a string from the bonnet Mrs. Lincoln wore to that fateful performance of “Our American Cousins” at Ford’s theater, April 14, 1865. A mere wisp of white tulle, it has lain all these years, folded several times and carefully protected from the light, together with a letter written by an eye-witness of the tragic scenes in which it figured. Although the bonnet string itself is of purely sentimental value, the letter throws vivid and authentic light on the closing hours in the life of the martyred President.

The bonnet string and the letter were sent in May, 1865, by George Francis of Washington, to his niece, Josephine Hemenway, who at her death, passed them on to her brother, the late Rev. Charles Carroll Hemenway, of Glasgow, Mo. It is from his widow, now wintering in New York City with her daughter, Josephine Hemenway Kenyon—widely known woman physician and editor of the Child Health page for Good Housekeeping magazine—that permission has been obtained to tell the story, perhaps for the first time in print.

Mr. Francis and his wife lived in an apartment house across the street from Ford’s theater, where Lincoln was assassinated. The President was carried to their apartment, but Mr. and Mrs. Francis had retired, so he was taken to a small bedroom at the end of the hall, occupied by a young man. Mrs. Lincoln, in her distraction, cast her bonnet aside and when she departed from the house several hours later, she neglected to take it with her. The young man, knowing that she would adopt the mourning bonnet as was the custom of the period, made no attempt to return her property. Keeping it for his own, he cut from it one of its strings which he gave to the Francis family across the hall.

WILD DAYS IN WASHINGTON.

Mr. Francis’s letter with its detailed account of the occurrences of that tragic night follows with the omission of some family news at its conclusion.

“Washington, D.C.

“May 5, 1865.

“Dear Josephine: Your letter of last week and the one in January reached me in due time. I have been on the point of writing to you for sometime back but we have had so much excitement here, so much to occupy my attention, that it has seemed as if I must be in a dream and I have hardly known what I was about.

“The fall of Richmond, the surrender of Lee’s army and the assassination of the President is all that has been thought of here. The President died in our house and we witnessed that heart-rending scene. I shall never forget that awful night, following as it did one of such general rejoicing. For a week before the whole city had been crazy over the fall of Richmond, and the surrender of Lee’s army. Only the night before, the city was illuminated, and though it has been illuminated several times just before this time it was more general and was the grandest affair of its kind that ever took place in Washington.

“THE PRESIDENT IS SHOT!”

“At the time of the murder we were about getting in bed. I had changed my clothes and shut off the gas when we heard such a terrible scream that we ran to the front window to see what it could mean. We saw a great commotion in the theater, some running in, others hurrying out, and we could hear hundreds of voices mingling in the greatest confusion. Presently we heard some one say ‘the President is shot,’ when I hurried on my clothes and ran across the street as they brought him out of the theater.

“Poor man! I could see as the gas light fell upon his face that it was deathly pale and that his eyes were clouded. They carried him out into the street and toward our steps. The door was open and a young man belonging to the house, standing on the steps, told them to bring him in there, expecting to have him laid upon our bed. But the door of our room being fastened, they passed on to a little room in the back building at the end of the hall. Huldah (Mrs. Francis) remained looing out of the window until she saw them bringing him up our steps, when she ran to get on her clothes.

“Mrs. Lincoln came in soon after, accompanied by major Rathbone and Miss Harris. She was perfectly frantic. ‘Where is my husband? Where is my husband?’ she cried, wringing her hands in the greatest anguish. As she approached his bedside, she bent over him kissing him again and again, exclaiming, ‘How can it be so! Do speak to me.’

NO HOPE FROM THE FIRST.

“Secretary Stanton, Secretary Wells and all of the members of the cabinet except Secretary Seward came in and remained all night. Also Charles Lumm, George Carter, General Augur, General Meigs, two or three surgeons and a good many others. Our front parlor was given up to Mrs. Lincoln and her friends. The back parlor (our bedroom) was occupied by Secretary Stanton. He wrote his dispatches there during the night. Judge Carter held an informal court there, and it was full of people.

“Mrs. Lincoln went in to see her husband occasionally. Robert Lincoln was with her. Reverend Dr. Gurly was there and made a prayer by the bedside of the President, and then in the parlor with Mrs. Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln was insensible from the first and there was no hope from the moment he was shot. As he lay on the bed, the only sign of life he exhibited was his breathing. About 2 o’clock he began to breathe harder and he breathed with more and more difficulty until he died. After he died, Dr. Gurly made a short prayer over him and then prayed again with Mrs. Lincoln in the parlor.

A CABINET MEETING THERE.

“A cabinet meeting was then held in our back parlor, and soon after the most of the people left. Mrs. Lincoln went soon and in about two hours after he died he was carried away to the President’s room. We saw him the last time up in the capitol the day before he was carried away.

“Things are now resuming their natural appearance, but business seems to keep very quiet….

“Your Uncle

“George Francis.

Kansas City [MO] Star 12 February 1934: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  At the head of the article, we find an image of the bonnet worn to Ford’s Theatre by Mrs Lincoln on that tragic night in 1865. The ribbons do not appear to have been removed or altered, but perhaps there was tulle over the present strings or the “tulle” was actually a bit of lace.

One is slightly uncertain of the bonnet’s provenance–it appears to have been purchased by the Chicago Historical Society in 1920, which is when the Society bought the eccentric and eclectic collection of Charles Frederick Gunther, a wealthy confectioner who amassed a wealth of historical artifacts for his own museum, including many relics of the Lincoln assassination, such as the furniture of the President’s death-chamber, as well as the purported skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden.

 

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 Wrong Cards: 1899

Visiting cards were carried in a pretty card case. This is carved mother-of-pearl c. 1860-1900 http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/178924.html?mulR=1481553220|12

Visiting cards were carried in a pretty card case. This is carved mother-of-pearl c. 1860-1900 http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/178924.html?mulR=1481553220|12

GETTING THINGS MIXED

Some Amusing Situations Resulting from People Receiving the Wrong Cards.

The harm wrought by cards is not only confined to those used for games; the once innocuous visiting card has also been perverted from innocent uses and has become quite a factor in mischief-making.

“Do the best you can for five dollars, for that is all you will get,” wrote an infatuated but impecunious youth to a florist with whom he was in the habit of dealing, and inclosing another card, told the florist to send it and the flowers to his latest inamorata, but the cards got mixed somehow, and it was the message written for the florist which the young woman received and read to her great astonishment.

“Thank you for your flowers, Mr. Smith,” she said that evening. “I think he gave a good deal for five dollars, don’t you?” and as the young man stared amazed she walked off with his hated rival, while the slow dawn of comprehension gradually enlightened her unlucky suitor as to what had occurred. Still more funny and much more disastrous was the mistake of a valet employed by a youth of upper tendom, who took the wrong box to the house of a young woman, with the envelope his master had given him, which contained a card upon which was written: “Please wear these tonight. I chose what I thought would suit you best.” But what was the astonishment and indignation of the maiden upon opening the box to find within it—a pair of trousers! That the unfortunate donor hastened to explain the terrible mistake as soon as he discovered the blunder made no difference. The story got about. Society was in convulsions of laughter and he was never forgiven. Still another card story is the following:

“Will you take my address, sir?” said a popular hairdresser and barber, as a customer was leaving the shop. The latter pocketed the bit of pasteboard handed him mechanically, and with his mind on other things, and, freshly shaven and well groomed, proceeded on his way to make a round of visits.

“I think Miss S__ is expecting you,” said the footman, as he glanced at the card given to him by this youth, “but if you will wait a minute I will see if it is all right.”

“Deuced odd,” soliloquized the visitor, as he walked into the drawing room. A second after the servant reappeared.

“Will you please walk upstairs; Miss S___ is in the front room,” he said. Thinking that the sitting-room might be upstairs the visitor followed the man unsuspectingly and not until he was ushered into a prettily furnished bedroom and saw a young lady sitting before a glass in a pink dressing gown with her hair down her back, did he realized there had been a mistake. He had given the footman the card which the hairdresser had thrust upon him. N.Y. Tribune.

The Wyandott Herald [Kansas City, KS] 30 March 1899: p. 4

A gentleman's visiting cards. National Trust Collections

A gentleman’s visiting cards. National Trust Collections

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The etiquette of visiting cards was rigidly codified and mistakes might too easily occur, as we have seen above. Here are some of the regulations for 1896:

THE ETIQUETTE OF CARDS AND CALLING

Every woman who desires to be up in the usages of good form, should, if she is not to the manner born, study the etiquette of card-leaving. The rules which govern such things are as immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, although from one season to another there is apt to be a few trifling changes.

In cities, where one has a large circle of acquaintances, visits of ceremony must necessarily be paid, but not with frequency. It is a breach of etiquette to invite anyone to a social function without having first called. Many women who cling to the rigid code of etiquette make a point of calling or leaving cards upon those persons whose acquaintance they consider desirable.

However, even this ceremony is frequently omitted by those with a long visiting-list, who save themselves time and trouble by sending invitations to an afternoon tea or reception, to all whom they wish to keep on their visiting-list: those who do not receive cards, may take it as an intimation that further acquaintance is undesirable.

Women of fashion or business find it impossible to receive on any but certain days of the week, the day being printed upon their visiting-cards; to expect to be received at any other time, unless in the case of an intimate friend, would be a mistake. [We have seen how even a doll, “Mademoiselle Frou-Frou,” had her at-home days printed on her visiting cards.]

Persons who wish to adhere strictly to the truth, object to the term “not at home,” and believe that a lady should “beg to be excused.” “Not at home” means, according to the strict social code, that one is not receiving, and is impersonal and general. To “beg to be excused” seems somewhat of a personal affront, and might appear as if some particular person’s call was not acceptable.

When a stranger arrives in a distant city, it is proper to send cards apprising friends of his or her arrival. A change of address also necessitates the despatching of cards, for where time is precious, it is annoying to make a call in vain.

When leaving cards at a hotel, the name of the person upon whom one calls should be written across the top of the card, for the reason that it might otherwise go astray.

On regular reception days it would be quite incorrect to send one’s cards by the footman; one must call in person or not at all. In this country, where there are few men of leisure, it is an understood thing for a wife to leave her husband’s cards. She should leave one of her own and two of her husband’s, the latter for the master and mistress. The custom of leaving cards on every member of a large family has fallen into disuse, although many people still adhere to it; it is proper to do so upon the occasion of the initial call, but is quite unnecessary afterward.

Upon reception days, the visitor does not send her card by the servant, but, on entering or leaving, drops it in the card-receiver, which usually stands on the hall table. After a reception or tea it is not absolutely necessary to call, as attendance at that function takes the place of a visit.

In the case of a friend visiting at the house of a person with whom there has been no previous acquaintance, the courtesy of sending a card to the hostess should be extended; it is not, however, necessary that she should appear or acknowledge it in any way.

In large cities, the hours for calling are between three and six P.M.; it would be a solecism to call during the morning hours, except on business, or in the case of extreme intimacy. It is permissible for a gentlemen who has no other time at his disposal to pay a call in the evening.

It is indispensable that a call be made, not later than a week after a dinner; the French designate this as the visite de digestion. After every formal entertainment, such as a ball, wedding, or christening, cards should be left.

Godey’s Lady’s Book January, 1896

Some visiting cards, rather less correct, were ornamented with pretty lithographs.

Some visiting cards, rather less correct, were ornamented with pretty lithographs.

And yet, sometimes sending in the wrong card was all for the best:

SENT IN THE WRONG CARD.

And There was a Glorious Mistake Which, After All, Ended All Right.

“It might not always be pleasant to be taken for someone else,” said the man who asked for an experience, “but in my case it was the most delightful incident of my life. You see, it happened in this way. I was going to visit an interior town of some size and my neighbor, old Jo Peters, who was rich and crabbed and eccentric, but not a bad sort withal, asked me to call on a sister he had living there.

“’I ain’t seen her in twenty years’ he said to me ‘and like enough she don’t care a picayune whether she ever sees or hears of me or not, but I’d kind of like to know how she’s fixed since her husband died a spell ago. You might just skirmish round and see how the land lays.’

“When I reached F__, the western town in which Peter’s folks lived I attended to my business first and then went to call on his sister.

“Now, I am not in the habit of using cards when I make a call, like swell folks but I had a business card and it struck me it would be about right to send that in to the folks and wait in the parlor to see what came of it.

“Well, such a screeching and shouting I never heard in my life and I began to think I had struck a lunatic asylum and a few minutes later I was sure of it, for three women came rushing into the room and they all began calling me Uncle Jo and hugging me within an inch of my life.

“’One at a time,’ I said, for though the mother was handsome, the girls were just peaches and cream, and it was hard for me to tell them that I was not their Uncle Jo. I had sent in his business card instead of my own and that’s how they made the mistake. The girls seemed to think it a good joke, but the widow was awfully flustrated. [sic] However, the next time I kissed her it wasn’t any mistake.”

Knoxville [TN] Journal 30 August 1896: p. 7

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 Skirt for Nothing: 1903

pink satin post2

HOW A CLEVER WOMAN GOT A SKIRT FOR NOTHING

They entered the street car, en route to the matinee, with a swish of silk petticoats and happy in the possession of the latest creations in French millinery and this season’s models in feather muffs and boas.

“What do you think of my skirt?” asked one of them, glancing down at an affair in fancy novelty silk of the latest cut which she wore.

“A dream,” replied her companion, “I have been admiring it all along. You are certainly growing extravagant, dear.”
A look of satisfaction spread over the other woman’s countenance. She lowered her voice impressively, but not enough to prevent the other passengers in that end of the car from hearing. “It didn’t cost me a cent,” she said.

“A present! You lucky mortal. I wish I had a half a dozen sisters, cousins and aunts to give me lovely things once in a while!”

“Not a present, either. Just the luckiest chance in the world,” replied the owner of the skirt with increasing satisfaction in her voice. “You see, I went out Monday to buy a skirt. I wanted something rather smart for an afternoon, something like this, in fact; but I had been so liberal with my other clothes that I really didn’t see how I could afford one. I spent the entire morning trying to pick up a bargain, and finally I went to Jones & Smith’s. I have an account there, you know. Well, I couldn’t find a thing I would look at for less than twice what I was able to give, and as it was 1 o’clock and I was cross and worried and worn out, I decided to go into their lunch room and treat myself to something dainty and refreshing, just to cheer me up.

“Well, my dear, it was too fortunate. It had looked like rain that morning, and I had put on that old green skirt—you remember, part of the suit I had made to order last autumn.

“Well, as luck would have it, it was a new waitress who took my order. She was awkward and nervous, and as she was placing my tea on the table she stumbled and spilled the whole thing, cup and all, right into my lap.

“I didn’t even wait to eat lunch. I went right down to the office and complained. The men were extremely polite when they found out I had an account there. Besides they could see that the skirt was of expensive material, and somehow—I’m sure I didn’t say so—but somehow they seemed to be under the impression that it had been made last spring. Anyhow I told them that I considered it good for another season’s wear—which was true, if only I hadn’t been seen in it a whole season already—and that it belonged to a suit which had cost me $90, and that I thought they should at least make it good to me with another skirt. And it ended in my going back and getting this dream of a skirt for nothing. What do you think of that for luck?”

“But,” protested the other woman whose face had grown grave as she listened, “Didn’t the poor girl have to stand the cost of that skirt?”

“Oh—hm—well, now, I never thought of that. Perhaps she did have to pay something; but of course they would never have charged her with the whole price of that skirt. And, then, it was entirely her own awkwardness.”

“Of course, if she spoiled your skirt—“    her friend began, thoughtfully.

“Oh, my dear, that was the best part of it,” exclaimed the piece of selfishness incarnate, with a jubilant laugh. “The other skirt wasn’t spoiled at all. You see, it was only tea. And after it was sponged off and pressed one could never tell the difference.”

Great Falls [MT] Tribune 6 December 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Selfishness incarnate” rather unstates it…. The “poor girl” probably lost her job. She was awkward and nervous because she–the sole support of her invalid mother, drunkard father, and five brothers and sisters–had landed a job after many months of searching and was anxious to make a success of it. One can be sure that the store docked her pay for the full amount of that “dream” of a skirt, just as one can be sure that, feeling that nothing mattered any more, the former waitress either went on the bottle or on the streets. Fashionable clothes have been the ruination of many a good girl….

 

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 Grateful Little Owl: 1880s


the little owl 1508

The Little Owl, Albrecht Durer, 1508, Albertina, Vienna

A Grateful Little Owl.

“The dining-room opened on a little courtyard under the Trinta dei Monti steps, transformed by me into a sort of infirmary and convalescent home for my various animals. Among them was a darling little owl, a direct descendant from the owl of Minerva. I had found it in the Campagna with a broken wing half dead of hunger. Its wing healed, I had twice taken it back where I had found it and set it free, twice it had flown back to my carriage to perch on my shoulder, it would not hear of our parting. Since then the little owl was sitting on her perch in the corner of the dining-room, looking lovingly at me with her golden eyes. She had even given up sleeping in the day in order not to lose sight of me. When I used to stroke her soft little person she would half close her eyes with delight and nibble gently at my lips with her tiny, sharp beak, as near to a kiss as an owl can get, Among the patients admitted to the dining-room was a very excitable young Russian lady, who was giving me lots of trouble. Would you believe it, this lady got so jealous of the owl, she used to glare at the little bird so savagely, that I had to give strict orders to Anna never to leave these two alone in the room. One day on coming in for luncheon, Anna told me that the Russian lady had just called with a dead mouse wrapped in paper. She had caught it in her room, she felt sure the owl would like it for breakfast. The owl knew better after having bitten off its head, owl fashion, she refused to eat it. I took it to the English chemist; it contained enough arsenic to kill a cat.”

The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe, 1929: pp. 431-432

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, one of the days of the “International Festival of Owls.” Mrs Daffodil is fond of the night-flying creatures despite (or perhaps because of) their folkloric reputation as an Omen of Death. And, like Mrs Daffodil, they are so helpful in keeping down vermin.

Axel Munthe, while he was an admirable doctor, is perhaps best known for his skill as a raconteur and for being a passionate advocate of animal rights. His passions also ran to the ladies; he seems to have fascinated a largish swath of the English aristocracy as well as at least one of the crowned heads of Europe. Plus a Russian lady and a little owl.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a pair of pet owls. You will find the first section of the two-part story here.

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 Baroness’ Jewel Box: 1870s

 

jewel casket hermann bohm

THE BARONESS’ JEWEL BOX

A Story from the German

The Baroness Rukavina Eltz was the most splendid and dashing personage in the Er Valley. Her castle near Somlyo was the finest specimen of a great residence in all that shadow of the Er Mellek [Érmellék], and she, a Roumanian by birth and a Hungarian by marriage, seemed to unite  all the brilliant characteristics of both these picturesque races.

She was a widow to begin with, and since the animal man has speculated upon the varieties of the angel woman, a widow has been pronounced the most amiable variety of the species. She was very beautiful, tall, svelte, blue eyed, black-haired , piquant, red and white, with the most scornful little mouth and the most delicate profile; her hand and foot were models, although the latter was frequently stamped when she was not pleased. She was–in the third and last place, as preachers say– very rich, and had fallen heiress to two collections of jewels which were almost fabulously valuable. A brilliant creature, the Baroness. She owned villages and vineyards and made a large income every year from her sale of Ruster, a grand wine of a pale golden hue, which had as full and peculiar a flavor as she had herself. The Baroness sent her wine to Vienna, where it was considered equal to Tokay.

Of course, she had suitors, the beautiful, sharp Baroness. They came from Transylvania and Russia, from Roumania and all Hungary, from Austria and all the German Principalities; and for the unlucky wretches about Pus Poki and the Behar Settlement, and the country gentleman of Erdioszegh, they knelt and worshipped in vain as she dashed past them on her fleet thoroughbred, for she was Diana as a huntress and the queen of the Amazons also. Her black horse Tetenyer was said to emit fire from his nostrils when he stopped to breathe.

This grand lady was afraid of nobody, loved nobody, had no friends, save the nuns at the foot of the Rez Gebirge and one old priest who seemed to be deeply in her confidence. Every year she made a grand visit somewhere–Vienna, Paris, Rome, London or St. Petersburg. She spent money like water, made everybody talk, wonder and admire, and where her splendid jewels were the envy of all the Court ladies.

Yes, she was afraid of one man, and that was her steward, Neusiedler, he who for years had managed her vast estates, her vineyards and her wheatfields, her fields and fisheries.

Neusiedler was a crouching, cross eyed, mean-looking German, married to a bold, black eyed woman, who was twice his size, and who lived in the village, near the castle, and who spent her time envying and hating the Baroness. Madame Pasteur, the French companion, and Matilde, the French maid, who never left the Baroness, thought that Neusiedler, and his wife had the evil eye and that they would some day wilt the Baroness. But Rukavina Eltz laughed at this fear, and kept on her course exultant. Still when the yearly pay day came round, and she had to look over accounts with Neusiedler, she did show what she had never shown before–fear.

Among her jewels was a splendid rope of pearl-colored pearls, the rarest thing in the whole world, neither black nor white, but pearl color, with three great emerald pendants, each as large as a small pear. The Emperor always noticed this jewel with a smile and a compliment when the Baroness Rukavina-Eltz went to a court ball at Vienna. He told her that the Empress had nothing half as handsome, and it is to be feared that the Emperor spoke also of the white, firm neck on which the necklace rested, for Rukavina-Eltz was apt to blush and look magnificently well at such moments. Then she had great chains of sapphires as blue as her eyes and some big rubies which the baron had given her (the old Baron, twice her age, who went down into Roumania for her when she was 15.) and she had diamonds, of course—every rich lady has diamonds– and a great box full of engraved amethysts and antique gems, some that Cardinal Antonelli gave her in Rome, for he, too, had admired the wild Baroness.

Indeed, if the Baroness Rukavina Eltz had ever written her memoirs, what a story she could have told! But the end of every woman’s history is that she finally falls in love, and such was the beginning of the end of the story of Rukavina-Eltz. She went to England one summer, and there was a young Lord Ronald Somerset, or a Lord George Levenson Montague, or a young Lord Howard Plantagenet (they mix them up so, these English words, they are not half so individual as our Hungarian names.) who could ride better than she could. This was a terrible blow to the Baroness and she wished herself dead.

But when at dinner the soft-voiced, handsome, tall young Englishman, Sir Lyster Howard Lyster (that was his name after all) sat next to her and talked so well and so complimentary to her seat, ‘cross country, and noticed the pearl-colored pearls, and the emeralds, with his lips, and the neck underneath with his eyes, Rukavina Eltz forgave him, and he began to talk of her home near Somlyo, and it ended in a large English party coming to the Er Valley, under the shadow of the Er Mellek, for a long summer visit. And how they raved about everything—the wine, the horses the scenery, the wild, barbaric splendor of the Baroness’ housekeeping, and how they all hated Neusiedler and his big, black-browed wife, who were invited up to the balls.

There was an English lady, one with very long teeth, and a very long noise, and very high eyebrows, and they called her Lady Louisa. She was very grand and lofty, and Madame Pasteur heard her say one day—“Do you know, dear Baroness, I think you are so very careless—don’t you know? –about those beautiful jewels of yours—do you know?”

“But who could steal them?” said the Baroness, laughing. “There are none like them in all Hungary, and no one would dare wear them, they are so rare!”

‘Ah! But some of these wild people of yours! They might swallow your emeralds, those fierce Croats, the Roumanians; and then you keep them in such open closets and boxes.” Madame Pasteur nodded her meek head, too. She had trembled for the jewels always.

But the Baroness and Sir Lyster began to think of other things and jewels; and there were moonlight rides and walks, and there were long talks and many reveries. Lady Louisa went home, they all went, but Sir Lyster came back.

And then, one evening, Madame Pasteur said afterwards that she saw Neusiedler come in and bully the baroness and she heard him hiss out the words—“Remember if you marry, you lose all. Remember the Baron’s will!”

And Rukavina-Eltz turned pale and said, “Bully, traitor, fiend,” between her shut teeth. She went off to Paris on one of her long visits, and Neusiedler squeezed the tenants and made every one miserable. The castle was shut up and black Tetenyer grew thin in his stable.

When she came back she looked older and more sedate. She went often to see the nuns at the foot of Rez Gebirge. She saw the priest also very often, and Madame Pasteur thougth she was growing devote. But she dressed in her usual dashing colors (for she was a very Roumanian at heart) and she wore one of those scarlet quilted petticoats that the English ladies wore so much; and very pretty it looked, with her dark habit and her dark dresses looped up over it. This, with a scarlet feather in her hat, looked as if the Baroness was thinking of England.

It was a miserable day, that, when Madame Pasteur and Matilda came screaming down the long corridor.

“The jewels are gone! Gone! Gone!’

The Baroness had the great bell of the castle run, and Neusiedler was sent for at once. She was very pale for she loved those pearls and emeralds.

Neusiedler was composed, every look was made to say, “I told you so;” he had always warned her about the jewels.

“What can be done?” asked the Baroness.

“Search, whip, imprison, all who attempt to leave the province,” said Neusiedler, calmly.

“Except women—I will have no women whipped,” said the Baroness.

“I am glad to hear that, “said Neusiedler, laughing his malicious laugh, “for Madame Neusiedler goes to Vienna tomorrow.”

“Ah!” said the Baroness, “you know I could not mean, at any rate, that Madame Neusiedler should be disturbed; send her in my little carriage with the three ponies to Erdiosegh.”

“Your excellency is very condescending,” said Neusiedler, bowing to the ground.

The local police sought everywhere for the lost jewels, but no traces of them could be found. The Baroness sat in a sort of stupor and looked out of the window.

“I will go to England,” said she hastily one day. “Neusiedler, some money, and arrange for me to be gone three months.”

“It is well, Madame,” said the steward.

It was a very roundabout route that the Baroness took for England. When Matilda and Madame Pasteur reached the station at Erdiosegh, they were astonished to see the Baroness dash into the ticket-office and buy tickets for Vienna, and when they arrived, all of them, at her fine hotel at Vienna, who should step out to meet them but Sir Lyster Howard Lyster.

Nothing but the well-known eccentricity of the Baroness apologized to Madame Pasteur for what followed. She commanded two dresses to be made, and that Madame Pasteur should go with her to a public masked ball at the Opera House in Vienna.

“Sir Lyster Howard Lyster will go with us!” said she, as a shade passed over the pale face of her companion.

Oh! That the lady of sixteen quarterings should be seen in such a low place! No; she was not seen! She was masked; but that she should even go! What a sacrifice of pride and of decency, Madame Pasteur thought it, as she saw the Baroness take the arm of one masked man after the other, and then go into the supper room with a party who followed a tall mask in a black domino.

A voice stuck on Madame Pasteur’s ear—was it that of Madame Neusiedler? Was it—could it be?

Yes! And as she threw back mask and hood there sparkled on her neck the pearl-colored pearls and the emerald pendants of the lost jewels. O Heaven!

“The necklace of the Baroness,” shouted the impulsive, the imprudent Madame Pasteur.

It nearly spoiled the plot, for Madame Neusiedler was among the friends and confederates. However, the tall Englishman stepped forward, and the two Viennese policemen arrested the woman.

She behaved with extraordinary coolness, and explained—“It is indeed the necklace of the Baroness, given by her to my husband for moneys which he had advanced to her. Let her deny it if she dare. I have her written acknowledgment of the money, and I have come to Vienna to sell the necklace, where it is well known.”

All gathered around the wonderful necklace, which the Chief of Police put in his breast pocket, removing the woman Neusiedler.

The Baroness went back to her hotel and allowed Madame Pasteur to pass a wretched night. She would explain nothing.

All Vienna was alive when the great case came on, and not a few ladies were glad to hear that the Rukavina-Eltz jewels were in pawn—that envied necklace.

Neusiedler came to his wife’s rescue, and told the story over again. The evidence against the Baroness was damning. She had, according to his story, lived far, far beyond her income, and he had supplied her with money. She had fabricated the story of the lost necklace, to try and cheat him, but here were her signatures,  and here was the Baron’s will, which she was about to try to disregard—his will saying that she should never marry, or, if she did, that she lost all her vast estates.

“Baroness Rukavina Eltz, what have you to say to this? What is your defense?” said the prosecuting counsel.

“Only this!” said the Baroness, holding up in her hand the pearl colored pearls and the emerald drops, the real necklace! On the Judge’s desk lay a facsimile of the famous necklace. The two ornaments looked exactly alike.

“Let an expert be brought and say which is the real necklace and which the imitation one, made in Paris, and used by me to lure this wretched and dishonest thief of a steward on to his destruction!” said the Baroness, with a flash of Roumanian fire in her eyes.

It was true! Neusiedler had been foiled; he had stolen a false necklace, which the Baroness had had made in the Rue de la Paix.

“He has been stealing from me for years; he has doubtless forged a false will of the Baron, for I have found the true one!” said Rukavina Eltz. “I could not unravel the net that he has thrown over me but for this happy thought of tempting him to steal some false jewels. Had he got the real ones, his story would have been plausible. Now, I trust justice is convinced that it is a lie!”

A dreadful noise followed this speech of the spirited Baroness; Neusiedler had fallen down in a fit. Never more would he drink the yellow tinted Ruster; never more would he return to the joys of crushing the peasantry of Somlyo—of cheating the Baroness. The Baroness had cheated him at last. Sold! Sold! Sold! With false pearls and emeralds!

It was a very grand wedding, that of the Baroness to Sir Lyster Howard Lyster, who though only an English country gentleman, proved to be richer than she and who made her a loving and a hunting husband.

The Emperor gave her away, and she wore the pearl-colored pearl with the emerald drops, now become historical.

“Ah! Madame, dear Baroness, please tell me where you have kept the real jewels all these months?” said the pious Madame Pasteur, almost kissing the hem of her mistress’ robes.

The Baroness was dressed for travelling, as her faithful adherent knelt and asked this question. She had on the quilted satin red petticoat; the scarlet of old England.

“Was it in the double locked closet of the north tower?”

“Ah, no! faithful Pasteur, thou knowest Neusiedler had the key to that!”

“Was it in the jewel case of thy great ancestress, the Roumanian Princess?”

“No. Guess again!”

“Was it in the convent of the nuns of Rez Gebirge?”

“No, Pasteur, I never gave them anything to keep but my sins.”

“Was it in the Baron’s strong box in the cellar?”

“No, my dear Pasteur, no. You have the hiding place under your finger. They were quilted into the lining of this red satin petticoat. I owe the idea to that good Lady Louisa. “See here!” and gently raising the edge of her travelling skirt, right over her left foot, the Baroness showed Madame Pasteur a neat little series of pockets, where the jewels had been safely hidden in a scarlet prison.

The Columbian [Bloomsburg PA] 19 August 1881: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A happy ending, and all due to an undergarment that proved functional as well as decorative.  Never let it be said that fashionable scarlet petticoats are good for nothing but seduction.

The Baroness must, indeed, have been magnificent to turn the head of the Emperor, married to the exquisitely beautiful and equally wild horsewoman, the Empress Elisabeth.

 

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 Valentine’s Adventure as told by a Letter Box: 1889

postman cupid

 The Queer Adventures of a Valentine: AS TOLD BY A LETTER-BOX.
 BY ELIZABETH PHIPPS TRAIN.

There is a popular and erroneous impression in general acceptance among people, that we, conglomerate atoms of inanimate nature, are, because of our passivity, senseless and uncomprehending. It is a mistake, and yet I care so little to prove our equality, in this respect, with human beings, that, were it not that I feel convinced of my own power to tell a tale superior in every respect to the quantity of unreadable trash in the shape of MSS. that is confided to my care, I should prefer to rust into my grave, rather than force myself into notoriety by demonstrating the fact by actual and incontrovertible evidence.

The story which I am about to relate extends over the space of a year, and embraces two fetes of St. Valentine. It is only a true little tale of ordinary human passions—love, jealousy, and hatred—not a powerful, thrilling tragedy with great dramatic climaxes and blood-curdling situations and dénouements, such as I read sometimes in the still watches of the night, before the critical eye of the professional reader scans them with merciless severity; but a short story of certain events in the lives of a few obscure, unknown individuals which have come under my personal observation.

It was a raw, gusty afternoon in February, the 13th day of the month, as I knew from the mass of embossed envelopes of all sizes and descriptions which had been shoved down my throat during the day. My jaws positively ached from incessant opening and shutting, and even my capacious abdomen was constantly filled to repletion, notwithstanding the kind and regular efforts of my friend, the collector, to lighten my load. The last deposit had been a box of such dimensions that, in the attempt to squeeze it into my weary mouth, the sender had nearly suffocated me, and I was sick and tired of the whole nonsensical business. The street lamps were being lighted, and the approach of night was heralded by the swift on-coming of the grey shadows of her outriders. The bare, gaunt branches of the leafless trees bent and bowed low in homage to the advent of the ebon lady, while aloft, in the dusky heavens, the faint light of a silver crescent and tiny, twinkling points of brilliancy showed that not on earth alone was honor being done her sable majesty.

I was tired to death, as I say, and was about closing my eyes, hoping that I might catch a few winks, when I heard a soft patter of steps gradually slackening until they finally came to a standstill by my side. I opened one eye slowly, and then, being rather pleased and conciliated by the prospect, unclosed the other. Before me stood, in evident hesitation, a slender, delicate maiden of perhaps eighteen years, poorly clad, but of a sweet, fair countenance, balancing, undecidedly in her hands, an envelope of the description above alluded to. There were many emotions legible on the shy, young face; a tender perplexity in the gentle blue eyes, doubt and timidity in the quiver of the pretty, curved lips, and embarrassment in the delicate flush on the transparent skin. There was apparent indecision in the action of the shabbily gloved hands which now raised the missive to my eager lips and anon drew it tantalizingly away. Evidently she could not quite make up her mind to taking the irrevocable step, and I was becoming quite fearful lest I should lose the opportunity which I desired of discovering to whom and of what nature this valentine might be, when my hopes were quite dashed by an incident which took place.

Down a side street came the clatter, clatter of a pair of high heels, a sound which, in her abstraction, the young girl failed to notice until it had almost ceased, when a loud voice proceeding from the owner of the noisy articles startled her out of her reverie.

“Hello, Annie! cold, isn’t it? Going my way or waiting for Paul Benson, eh?”

The words were accompanied by a significant wink and chuckle which not even the florid beauty of big black eyes, full, red lips and glowing cheeks could render other than coarse and vulgar. The other shrank and lost the dainty flush of embarrassment in a still, white heat of anger, and the contrast between the two girls was that of the vivid full-blown peony and the quivering mimosa.

“Neither the one nor the other, Miss Hardy,” she said, in a low, cold tone. “My way is entirely the opposite of yours. Good night,” and, slipping the missive quickly into her pocket, she passed on.

But the swiftness of her action was yet too slow for the eyes that watched her, and knowing the vacillating character of woman’s nature perhaps better than Florence Hardy, after deliberating a moment, moved into the shadow of a projecting door-way and waited. The receding figure of the girl soon diminished its swift pace, which grew slower and slower until it became a mere saunter which, after a few halting steps, stopped entirely. Evidently the anger aroused by the taunting words of the girl named Hardy had been dissipated by a more potent emotion and the temptation to send the dainty, white messenger on its way had overcome her fear of observation, for, turning suddenly, she walked swiftly back, opened my mouth with a soft but determined movement, thrust in the valentine without a moment’s hesitation and moved away.

Oh, how I longed for a voice, no matter how feeble a quality, to whisper in the small shell-like ear a warning that the black, lustrous eyes of her enemy were still watching her from the concealing door-way: I could do nothing to aid in this little romance, of whose secrets I was being made custodian, but resolved to satisfy my curiosity by a peep into the enwreathed and flower-decorated envelope which was bearing a message of love from the sweet, pure heart of the gentle maiden to some unknown and perhaps careless lover. Peering, by virtue of the privilege which I enjoy, through the cheap, thin paper of the cover, I saw— not one of the gaudy, high-colored effusions which are, on these fêtes, Cupid’ s stock in trade—but a small, square sheet of paper across one corner of which was tied with virginal ribbon a fragrant, lovely cluster of deep purple violets, while beneath, in a slender, girlish handwriting, were the following verses:
Hast ever sought a violet, love,
Deep in the forest’s heart?
Hast ever watched the tiny thing
Thus shyly growing apart?

Hast ever plucked a violet, love,
And laid it on thy breast?
Dost know the weight of perfume rare
By which its heart’s opprest?

So, like the violet in the wood,
Has grown this love of mine
For thee; I’d share its fragrance with
My faithful Valentine!

I was so interested in reading these lines that I forgot to notice the movements of the girl in the doorway, and soon the appearance of the collector warned me that I had been none too quick in mastering the contents of the envelope. He was a good-looking, jovial young fellow, with an eye to a pretty girl—as I had frequently remarked—as he pursued his duties and, while he unlocked the door of my heart, he whistled a merry tune which was broken abruptly as a loud, familiar voice accosted him:—

“Here, Mr. Jennings, wait a moment. I’ve been waiting for you the best part of an hour.”

“Good evening, Miss Hardy! What can I do for you? Got a valentine too big for the box, for your best man, and want me to put it in here?” motioning to the huge, striped ticking sack which lay on the pavement at his feet.

“No, not exactly. If I was going to send a valentine to my best man, I wouldn’t send it much further on,” with a bold, coquettish glance from the black eyes which made the young fellow color with pleasure. ‘The truth is, I want you to do me a favor. It’s rather against your rule, I guess, but twon’t do any harm, as it’s my own property that I want to get back again, and no one will be the wiser. You see”—coming quite close to him and laying a large, well-shaped and gloved hand on his arm—”I dropped a valentine into that box, an hour ago, to one of my old beaux and, come to think it over, I guess there ain’t much use in keepin’ on an old affair like that, when my feelings are all for someonè else, so I want you to get it back again. You’ll give it to me, won’t you?”

There was an eagerness in her tones which should have warned him that some deeper designs lay behind her apparently frivolous desire; and oh, how I yearned for a voice that I might testify to her base purpose! But alas! “The woman tempted me and I did eat.” Soon the dainty white envelope with its address of

“Mr. Paul Benson,

Care Messrs. Harding and Cole.

New York City.”

lay in the out-stretched hand, a few tenderly intoned thanks and Ralph Jennings’ lapse in duty had brought suffering and sorrow to one young heart, anger and wounded vanity to another, and the gratification of an evil desire to a third. By just such a trifling misdemeanor was the whole Pandora box let loose upon the world.

The next morning I was awakened early by the pressure of a hand upon my mouth, and, being very sensitive to personal influences, I felt such a shudder of repulsion at the touch, that I opened my eyes and found that the person who had so affected me was no other than the girl called Hardy. Now was my time for retaliation, and, quick as a thought, I brought my upper lip down upon her fingers with such a force that she gave a little scream, and muttering, “that vile box,” turned away. I glanced at the letter she had forced down my unwilling throat, and, to my great surprise, found the envelope the same as that she had abstracted the evening before, save for the addition of two small initials in the corner—A.C.

Determined to see if, indeed, the girl had repented of her evil act during the night, I peeped through the cover to discover if the original contents remained intact. Alas! what a change had been wrought. Instead of the dainty bunch of violets and the tender little plea for love, a coarse, common sheet of paper bore one of the vile caricatures, with its miserable attempt at versification, commonly known as “comic valentines.” Now I divined the creature’s wicked intentions, and did my best to foil it by contracting my person so that the ugly imposture fell down into my remotest corner. My efforts were in vain, however, for when the collector again made his rounds, he gathered it in with the others, and I was left, lonely and desolate, to bemoan its wretched transformation.

Days and weeks passed by, and the miserable trick played upon this little romancer so disgusted me with human nature that I quite lost my interest in reading the letters confided to my care. Often I saw the young girl called Annie pass and repass my house, and with pain and sorrow I watched the increasing lassitude and fragility of the slim, girlish frame. She probably worked in some shop, or perhaps sewed for her living— the latter I rather think, for I remember that she often carried a bundle, as of work. It was some weeks before I overcame my contempt of humanity sufficiently to care to peruse its affairs, but finally I resumed my interest in my old amusement, and one day, in May, was again made the recipient of a letter of Miss Hardy’s. Her already exhuberant manner had gained an. added boldness, and she bounced across the street and accomplished her errand with a swaggering gait and insolent air that were in great contrast to the languid pace and shy demeanor of her quiet, gentle little rival.

Ah! What a dreadful thing is this lack of speech, when one is a mute witness of wrong and evil doing! As I read the notice addressed in a coarse, round hand. to Annie Chase, I felt what a curse my dumbness had been in hindering me from righting, before it was too late, the wrong which had been committed. This was the announcement on the newspaper clipping which was on its way to the poor young sewing girl:

“Hardy-Benson. In New York City, April 19th, by Rev. Samuel Small, Florence Hardy to Paul Benson. All of N.Y.”

For a week she did not appear at all, and then, one morning, I saw her coming. Was it she, or was it her ghost , I wondered, that approached in the early morning sunshine? I could see the golden nimbus about her fair white face afar off, before I could distinguish the features or discover the terrible change in the countenance. I had thought her fading so fast that nothing could hasten the alteration; but one glance showed me the wide difference between even a feeble hope and utter despair. So wan, so white and spirit-like was the gentle, pitiful face, that I wondered there was strength sufficient in the fragile form to support it.

One night, in June, I saw the man whom she loved. It was a very warm—almost a hot—night, and she was toiling wearily up the street with a huge bundle in her arms, when, just under the light from the lamp above, she came face to face with a tall, fine-looking fellow of, perhaps, twenty-five years. The suddenness of the encounter betrayed her. She gave a soft, pitiful little cry, “Paul!” and then, her strength forsaking her, leaned against my iron frame for support. I could feel the painful quivering of the slight body, the delicacy and attenuation of the slender limbs—and he! Ah, you would have pitied him, too! the strong, stalwart young fellow, as he gazed from the height of his splendid manhood down upon the transparent beauty of the face, whose terrible alterations were so marked under the brilliant light of the lamp.

“Annie!” he cried, “My God! Annie!”—incredulously, as if he could scarce believe the evidence of his own senses, and then, as if moved by an irresistible impulse, he stooped suddenly and gathered her close to him, while, as he gazed hungrily at the altered face, I heard him mutter, “Damn her, damn her!”

For a moment she lay passively in his arms, and then her strength came back to her. She drew herself hurriedly away ere his lips had done dishonor to her pure, white cheek, and, as he whispered, “I know all, now, Annie, all; God forgive me!” she flashed one look upon him from the depths of her beautiful eyes—a look which was a blending of reproach, entreaty, forgiveness, but above all of enduring love—and fled into the darkness. This was almost the last time I ever saw her. Whether she was too ill to leave her home, or whether, fearing another similar meeting, she purposely avoided this street, I know not; but for a long, long time I heard nothing of her.

Business grows slack in the summer. People are out of town, and my burden of letters is considerably diminished. I care little to read the uninteresting epistles, made up of almost nothing, which are sent from the stay at-homes to their more fortunate absent friends. There is a stagnation of news in the hot season, too, which invests every item and accident with a fictitious value, and the cry of the newsboy dwells with undue stress upon events which, at another and busier season, he would deem quite unworthy of his notice. So it was that one hot day in August these peripatetic little venders made the air vibrate with one oft-repeated and almost unintelligible cry of—

“Ter—rible ax-dent-in a’n’ Albany hotel—woman ‘lopes from her home in N’York—the runaway couple meet with a ter-r-ible death in an elevator!”

I paid little heed to the cry until, as my old friend, the collector, stopped beside me, I heard him say to a man near by:

“Say, Jim, that’s a fearful thing about Florence Hardy.”

“What?” said the man thus addressed.

“Why, haven’t you heard? She ran away from Paul Benson with a man from Albany; they went to a hotel there, and going up in the elevator the thing gave way, and they fell from the fourth story. Fearful thing! I used to like the girl pretty well myself, at one time, but I guess she led poor Benson a life.” And the two men moved away together, leaving me horror-struck at this new event in the little drama to which I had been a sort of god-father.

Often after this I saw Paul Benson. I think he must have moved into my neighborhood, for he frequently stopped and put a letter into my mouth, addressed, evidently, to his parents, in a distant New England town, and, as I read these honest, manly epistles, I felt convinced that the writer was worthy of the love which Annie Chase had bestowed upon him. I noticed every day an increasing firmness in his tread and a more upright, noble carriage of the head and shoulders, as if a weight had been lifted therefrom. But of Annie Chase never a glimpse or a word. I could not tell whether she was living still or whether the gentle spirit had fled from too great a burden of suffering.

At last came round the 13th of February again; and again the aproaching fête was made evident to me by the superabundant accumulation of mail-matter in my interior. The eve of St. Valentine was this year quite different to that of the past. No wind howled dismally amid the bare branches; no fierce, cold blasts lay in wait about the corners to chill and buffet the wayfarer; to-night all was still and quiet, so still that every footstep was audible even at a great distance. I was becoming quite a connoisseur in footsteps and could foretell the approach of my regular contributors before they came into my range of vision. Suddenly I heard a firm, manly tread that sounded very familiar. I had guessed aright, for it was Paul Benson, indeed, who came swiftly onward in the silent night. He stopped beside me and searched for a minute in his pocket, taking therefrom a white something which he held a moment in his hands, then, glancing steadily around, he lifted it slowly to his lips and consigned it to my care. Eagerly I scanned the name it bore: “Miss Annie Chase.” She was then alive! I glanced through the paper and what did I behold! The identical valentine with its bunch of violets—faded and scentless now—and the tender little sentiment beneath which had been supplemented by an addition in a firm, masculine hand:
I thought to pluck a violet sweet,
But ere my tender clasp
Had seized the prize, it palsied grew
From the poisonous sting of an asp.

Again I’d pluck a violet sweet,
Say, has that love of thine,
Like these, thy emblems, faded quite?
Or, am I still thy valentine?

Now all this happened more than two years ago, and there has never come a reply to that valentine, neither have there been any more letters deposited within me from which I could learn the sequel of this little romance; but a week ago I saw coming slowly up the street two familiar figures, one of which pushed before it a well-blanketed perambulator in which a tiny morsel of humanity was sleeping. They were the figures of a man and woman; the former I easily recognized, but the face of the latter was so radiant and happy that in its new and unfamiliar expression I had some difficulty in tracing the sad and gentle beauty of Annie Chase.

Godey’s Lady’s Book: February 1889

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, that fatal fascinator:  “A man from Albany…”  We could not help but read the tell-tale adjectives that presaged the fall of that “full-blown peony.” “florid,” “coarse, “vulgar.”  And, frankly, anything might be expected of one who used her feminine wiles to lure an innocent postman from the Path of Duty.

But, really, Mrs Daffodil (who has read entirely too many Valentine’s pot-boilers) has lost all patience with young men who are so lacking in confidence (despite their “firm, manly” ways) that they not only throw over the girl of their heart after ostensibly receiving a rude Valentine from said Beloved, but do not even have the nerve to inquire politely if there had been some mistake at the central sorting office.  Instead, they rush off and marry someone entirely unsuitable, furnishing plot tension, and delaying the happy ending (if happy ending there is) for several pages. Paul Benson was fortunate that his Annie did not go into a Fatal Decline on hearing the news of his marriage. Personally, Mrs Daffodil would have liked to have seen her cut him in the street for his foolishness. But that would have been a waste of a florid villainess and the chatty, sentient, and sentimental post-box.

 

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.