Category Archives: Crime

The Noble Revenge: 1868

child pine coffin

The Noble Revenge

The coffin was a plain one—a poor miserable pine coffin. No flowers on its top, no lining of the rose-white satin for the pale brow; no smooth ribbons about the coarse shroud. The brown hair was laid decently back, but there was no crimped cap, with its neat tie beneath the chin. The sufferer from cruel poverty smiled in her sleep; she had found bread, rest, and health.

“I want to see my mother,” sobbed a poor child, as the city undertaker screwed down the top.

“You can’t—get out of the way, boy, why don’t somebody take the brat?”

“Only let me see her one minute;” cried the hopeless, helpless orphan, clutching the side of the charity box, and as he gazed into the rough face anguishing tears streamed rapidly down the cheek, on which no childish bloom ever lingered. Oh! It was pitiful to hear him cry “Only once, only once, let me see my mother.”

Quickly and brutally the hard-hearted monster struck the boy away, so that he reeled from the blow. For a moment the boy stood panting with grief and rage, his blue eyes distended, his lips sprang apart, a fire glittering through his tears as he raised his puny arm, and with a most unchildish accent screamed, “When I’m a man I’ll kill you for that.”
There was a coffin and a heap of earth between the mother and the poor, forsaken child—a monument stronger than granite, built in his boy heart to the memory of the heartless deed.

* * *

The Court House was crowded to suffocation.

“Does any one appear as this man’s counsel? Asked the judge.

There was silence when he finished, until, with lips tightly pressed together, a look of strange intelligence blended with haughty reserve upon his features, a young man stepped forward with a firm tread and kindly eye, to plead of the erring and friendless. He was a stranger but from his first sentence there was a silence. The splendor of his genius entranced—convinced.

The man who could not find a friend was acquitted.

“May God bless you, I cannot.”

“I want no thanks,” replied the stranger with ice coldness.

“I—I believe you are unknown to me.”

“Man! I will refresh your memory. Twenty years ago you struck a broken-hearted boy away from his mother’s coffin. I was that poor boy.”

The man turned livid.

“Have you rescued me, then, to take away my life?”

“No. I have a sweeter revenge; I have saved the life of a man whose brutal deed has rankled in my breast for twenty years. Go! And remember the tears of a friendless child.”

The man bowed his head in shame and went from the presence of a magnanimity as grand to him as incomprehensible, and the noble young lawyer felt God’s smile in his soul forever after.

The Olathe [KS] Mirror 5 March 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A pauper’s funeral was the final insult to the poor, who often went into debt–foolishly, said social reformers–to provide a decent burial for their loved ones. While undertakers were sometimes accused of exploiting the poor–quoting them a price for a funeral that was precisely the amount that the burial club had just paid out–they also waited years for payment that sometimes did not come.

One wonders what crime the city undertaker had committed to bring him within the shadow of the gallows. Mrs Daffodil suspects that he had a lucrative contract to provide subjects to the local medical school and, needing to fill his quota, he helped some clients  to join the Choir Invisible prematurely.

 

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

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

 

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The Purity League and the Sea Vamps: 1922

a group of rollicking sea vamps 1922

A rollicking group of sea vamps, 1922

“Protect Our Husbands from the Wiles of the ‘Sea Vamps’”

How the Purity League of Florida Has made the One-Piece Bathing Suit a Political Issue and Demands a Bathing Suit Inspector to Stop the Frolics on the Beaches.

The one-piece bathing suit has pushed its way into politics. In the next election for Mayor of St. Petersburg. Florida, the candidates will have to declare themselves without equivocation whether they are for or against the “Sea Vamps.”

It is a complicated situation. Florida is a Winter resort and the importance of the decision is a far-reaching one. The Purity League and the church element have looked on with increasing dismay at the frolicsome antics of the feminine charmers who frisk about the ocean beach in tight fitting bathing trunks without skirt, stocking or shoe.

But pleasure resorts are dependent for their business prosperity upon luring the tourists. If the news travels abroad that a bathing suit censor stalks the beach the Winter visitors, many of them, may not go to St. Petersburg Thus the hotels and rooming houses and restaurants and merchants will feel the effect of the bathing suit censor in their pocketbooks.

The question of suppressing the lures of the beguiling young ‘Sea Vamps” has become acute, because of the recent official action of the St. Petersburg Purity League. This earnest association of worthy citizens has served notice in writing upon the Mayor of St. Petersburg that the antics of the visitors on that Florida beach must be stopped.

Frank F. Pulver, the Mayor, happens to be a young man and a bachelor. When it became known that the Purity League demanded the appointment of a bathing suit inspector he was inclined to pigeonhole the letter from the league and with a few diplomatic phrases hoped to see the matter blow over.

But the newspapers printed the rather sharp demand of the Purity League and long lines of men formed at the Mayor’s office, offering their services as bathing suit inspectors. Young men and old men, tall men and short men, near-sighted men and men with acute vision, fat men and thin men, married men and bachelors offered to accept the proposed new office of bathing suit inspector without salary or fees or compensation of any kind. He was surprised at the public-spirited unselfishness of the men of the town.

Mayor Pulver, whose youthful portrait in white Winter flannels and straw hat is printed on this page, is regarded as a very eligible matrimonial catch. When he strolls on the beach many of the more attractive of the “Sea Vamps” have beguiled him with their most skillful wiles. They rather interest young Mayor Pulver.

But Mayor Pulver cannot overlook the political aspect of the situation. What would be the probable line-up of the voters of St. Petersburg on the sharply defined issue of “Sea Vamps” or bathing suit inspector?

Of course, the Purity League and the church element would be solidly behind the Mayor if he appointed a bathing suit censor. On the other hand, the younger voters among the women are, many of them, wearers of the one-piece bathing suits and they would vote against him. The young men could be counted on to vote against censorship and whispered warnings from many of the older and married men lead Mayor Pulver to think, that the bald-heads and gray beards would be likely to be against him on the one-piece bathing suit issue. And a large element of the business men would not like to risk the results of blue-law management of St. Petersburg’s beach.

So, to gain time, Mayor Pulver referred the letter of the Purity League to the city attorney, who is the Mayor’s official legal adviser, and thus then secured a legal opinion which lets Mayor Pulver out of this hole for the present.

Here Is the letter the Purity League sent Mayor Pulver:

Frank F. Pulver, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dear Sir.

The attention of this organization, the Purity League, has been called to the outrageous bathing suits being worn on the beaches around St. Petersburg. Abbreviated to an extreme, skirtless and sleeveless, young women in reckless abandon appear before young men and their elders in costumes that never would be tolerated in Christian communities.

Mr. Mayor Pulver, it is up to you to take some action on these bathing suits. You must compel the young ladies to wear stockings and skirts to their suits. You make them wear sleeves. As it is now permitted, these girls don’t care how they look on the beaches. They are half naked.

Further, this league will protect the married men in its membership from the wiles of the “Sea Vamps” even if it has to engage its own law enforcers. Members of the Purity League have gone on record in opposing the present costumes being worn on the bathing beaches, and it further urges you, Mr. Mayor Pulver, to do away with the suits named after a certain Annette Kellermann.

Give back to us the modest bathing suit and take away the shameless ones your police permit the young women of this community to wear before the men and our husbands.

Pressure is now being brought to bear with the State Legislature to compel restrictions on the abbreviations of bathing suits. We are also urging the appointment of a bathing suit inspector at all beaches.

(Signed) ST. PETERSBURG PURITY LEAGUE

By Hazel Milford Van Freedon, Secretary.

Mayor Pulver, as already said, forwarded the letter to the city attorney Mr. F. J. Mack, for advice as to the Mayor’s legal right to appoint a bathing suit inspector, and it was with a sigh of relief that the Mayor received in due time the following opinion from the legal adviser of the city, which allowed him to dodge the embarrassing issue for the present. Mr. Mack wrote as follows:

“Pursuant to your request for an opinion as to your authority to appoint a ‘ladies’ bathing suit inspector’ with authority to censor and prescribe the texture, dimensions and transparency of ladles’ bathing suits, as you have been requested to do by the Purity League.

“As a legal proposition, it is my opinion that you have no authority under the laws of Florida or the city charter to appoint such an inspector, or to confer any authority upon him.

“Under the ordinances of the city, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, and violators, upon conviction in the municipal court, can be punished.

“The married women of the Purity League who ask you to protect their husbands from the ‘wiles of the sea vamps’ can invoke the above mentioned ordinance, and if the court finds the wearing of bathing suits complained of comes within the scope of disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, the matter can thus be adjusted in court.

“It is my opinion that the members of the Police Department are not the best qualified to pass upon the sufficiency of ladies’ bathing suits, and therefore recommend that the sufficiency of said bathing suits be not tested in court until complaint is made in due form, by some of the women who are apprehensive of the consequences of ‘the wiles of the sea vamps.’

“Yours respectfully

“F. J. MACK.

“City Attorney.”

Backed up by the decision of the City Attorney, Mayor Pulver spread the disappointing news to the men of the town who had applied for the job of bathing suit inspector that there would be no such office created.

“Furthermore,” said Mayor Pulver, “I see no good reason for allowing the demand of the Purity League, even if it was within my power to appoint a censor for the bathing beach.

“I am not very familiar with water sports and, in fact, have seldom been on the beach here. But when I have been there I have never seen anything objectionable about the bathing suits worn by the girls of St. Petersburg, nor their behavior.

“It seems to me that we have as lovely girls here as can be found anywhere and just as modest maidens and I do not believe that they would wear insufficient clothing or vamp the males who go into the bay with them. I am strong for the girls. They can wear what they want to wear. They will do it anyhow, so what’s the use?

“The Purity League asked me to be its chairman but I declined and if there is anything done to require the bathers to wear stockings and long skirts and a lot of other clothing when they swim, the leaders of the League will have to take the cases into court.

“The human form is divine and judging from some of the bathers I have seen, a divinity shaped their ends for they certainly are well shaped.”

The young women who enjoy themselves on the bathing beach are indignant at the phrase “Sea Vamps,” which the Purity League has applied to them. They point out that the worthy women of the League, for the most part, belong to a generation which flourished before automobiles were invented or wireless telephones were used, or the “shimmy” had been discovered. They declare that those who complain of the bathing costumes of the girl of 1922 are out-of-date and ought to get into adjustment with modern times.

“Nowadays,” said, one of the “Sea Vamps,” “we do real hard athletic work in our water sports. Grandmother used to cover herself up from her toes to her chin and walk down and step timidly into the water and stand around for a while and then go out and call it sea bathing.

“Now things have changed. We go in for real athletic sports. We swim, dive, play water polo and all sorts of stunts and it can’t be done with skirts and pantalets and water-soaked bathing shoes. That is what the women of the League don’t seem to grasp.

“And another thing. Some of us come to Florida at the advice of our doctors to get all the sunshine we can get. The doctor advises a generous coat of tan. It’s healthy. And how are we going to get all browned up if we wear grandmother’s bathing suit?

“Of course things have changed. But that doesn’t mean that they have changed for the worst. There is nothing to get frightened about. When the taxicabs first began to appear on the streets some people were afraid to get into them. But we are all of us pretty well used to taxicabs now and nobody is shocked or frightened about them any more. The Purity League has got to get used to us girls wearing our brothers’ one-piece bathing suits just the same as they have had to get used to taxicabs.”

But the end is not yet. The Purity League feels that Mayor Pulver has evaded the issue. Miss Hazel Van Freedon, the secretary, believes if she was elected Mayor of St. Petersburg she would not dodge the issue, but would find a way to stop the vampish antics on the beach.

grandma's bathing suit purity league 1922

And another element has entered into the controversy. The Florida Art School, with Miss Edith Tabb Little at its head, has taken sides with the Mayor and declares there is nothing wrong with the one-piece bathing suit: it is cheap, shapely and artistic. The art school is chiefly horrified at. the threatening aspect of the return of grandmother’s style of bathing suit with skirts and pantalets visible beneath them. Upon esthetic grounds the art school is prepared to take the field and campaign against their sisters in the Purity League at the next election.

Meanwhile, as the Purity League announces, pressure is being brought to bear to put through a State law which will provide the authority which City Attorney Mack says the Mayor now lacks. After and when this law is passed by the Legislature the unfortunate Mayor of St. Petersburg will be forced out into the open for or against the frolicsome vamps of St. Petersburg’s famous beach.

The Washington [DC] Times 5 March 1922: p. 65

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Well. Quite.

The Purity League obviously had strong feelings on this issue, as did many communities, who hired “beach censors” to make sure that their standards of modesty were being upheld. A laudable goal, some would say. However, “The St Petersburg Purity League” was, in fact, fabricated by Mayor Pulver and publicist John Lodwick to promote interest in St Petersburg tourism. Papers ran photo-gravures of Pulver posed on the beach while pretending to inspect one-piece bathing suits. No doubt there was a gratifyingly large influx of visitors who wished to see for themselves the ravages of the frolicsome Sea Vamp.

Mrs Daffodil has posted about this issue before in A Matter of Three Inches on a Bathing Suit and Mixed Bathing and the Fall of Empire.

 

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.

Wanted: A Wife: 1871

woman wearing flower wreath

WANTED— A WIFE.

BY S. ANNIE FROST.

“I wonder,” said pretty Lizzie Thorndyke, looking up from a newspaper, whose columns had held her attention for nearly half an hour, “I wonder if any of these matrimonial advertisements are ever put in the papers in good faith? Here are no less than five, commencing, ‘Wanted— a wife.”‘

“I should think,” responded Anna Green, cousin to Lizzie, “that if a man wanted a wife very badly, his best plan was to go court one. There are plenty of nice girls to be won.”

“Just fancy advertising for a husband, Anna.”

“Can’t. My imagination cannot compass such an absurdity. But what makes you so interested to-day? I’m sure that trash has been in the papers for years.”

“Why, three of these enterprising gentlemen are modest enough to ask for photographs, and I was thinking it would be fun to send some of those in the box Bob left up stairs.”

“What box?”

“Have you never seen it? You know Bob learned to photograph just before he left for California, to be able to take views of scenery. He took lessons of the foreman at Wright & Hill’s, who were burnt out just before Bob left. Bob was at the fire, trying to save all he could, and amongst other things he rescued a box of pictures that they told him to keep. There is the greatest mix of stuff in it— copies of pictures and statues, groups, heads, and quite a lot of pretty faces.”

“But we might send some picture of a person who would get into trouble by it.”

“Oh, no! I wouldn’t send anything but a fancy head; there are plenty of those. I’ll get the box and let you see them.”

The box proved to be a treasure for passing time. It was quite large and well filled, and the two girls found the morning slipping away rapidly as they examined the contents. Suddenly Anna gave a cry of admiration.

“What an exquisite face!”

“That is one of the fancy heads,” said Lizzie, taking the picture from her cousin’s hand.

“Are you certain, Lizzie? It is very lifelike.”

“But very fanciful, Anna. Nobody in these days sits for a photograph with a wreath of field daisies and green leaves round their head, and who ever saw such hair? Why, there is enough to start a chignon factory in flourishing business.”

Anna looked again at the picture. It certainly was fanciful enough to justify Lizzie’s assertion, although the face had an animated expression rarely attained by the pencil. There was only the head set in a framework of clouds, the dimpled shoulders rising from the fleecy clusters, and the sweet face encircled by them. The regular features, exquisite mouth, and large, soft eyes were framed in masses of heavy curls, just caught from the low brow and little ears by a wreath of field daisies, grasses, and leaves.

“It is a lovely, lovely face, Lizzie, is it not?”

“Yes. I think,” said Lizzie, musingly, “that I will send this to Mr. Edgar Holmes; ain’t that the name? Yes,” she added, after a reference to the paper. “Mr. Edgar Holmes, Box No. 47, Waterford, Illinois. Illinois is a good ways from Hilton, Massachusetts, Anna, so I guess he will not come to look for the original very soon. There! how does that look?” and she tossed the picture to her cousin, having written on the margin, “Ever yours, with love, Ida.”

“But, Lizzie, suppose, after all, this should be a real portrait?”

“Nonsense! We certainly know everybody in Hilton.”

“I don’t half like it, Lizzie.”

“Oh, pshaw! You are always fussy. I mean to get some answers from Mr. Edgar Holmes & Co. It will be real fun. Here is one from California and one from New York; pick out two more pictures. O Anna, here is that hateful old maid, Matilda Truefit. I have half a mind to send her.”

“No, I won’t let you, Lizzie. Send only fancy heads.”

“Well, just as you say. Now for the letters. See how nicely I can disguise my hand,” and she wrote a few lines in a stiff, angular hand as legible and almost as unrecognizable as print.

“Anybody can see that it is a disguised hand.”

“Of course they can; but that’s of no consequence. I shall only write a few lines at first, professing deep interest and a desire for further acquaintance. You are as grave as a deacon, Anna.”

“Because it seems to me foolish, a waste of time, to say the best of it, and it may get you into trouble, Lizzie.”

“I’m not afraid. It is all for fun. I shall sign them all ‘Ida,’ and have the answers directed to the same name.”

An hour passed away, almost in silence. Lizzie wrote three letters of the character she had described, while Anna pondered over the pictures, read the newspaper which had inspired her cousin with the new piece of mischief, and perused the letters as they were finished and tossed over to her for criticism.

There were not two prettier girls in Hilton than these cousins— one a resident of the village from her birth, the other a regular visitor for the summer months. Lizzie Thorndyke was a brown-eyed, dark-haired beauty, with a short, plump figure, fair complexion, a tongue that was the terror of every dull-witted youth in the village, and a love of mischief and excitement that made her the leader in every picnic, festival, and frolic for miles around. Anna, a tall, slender blonde, was more quiet and reserved, a resident of Boston, fond of music and literature, but yet ready to enjoy heartily all the pleasures offered during a visit to Hilton in the summer months. Twice her father had taken herself and Lizzie for a trip to Niagara, the lakes, and the White Mountains; but generally Anna spent the summer in Hilton, and Lizzie a portion of each winter in Boston. Many a heedless prank originating in Lizzie’s busy brain Anna had checked in time to prevent mischief and confusion, while her own graver nature was cheered and made happier by intercourse with her lively little cousin. She sat, now, rather soberly perusing Lizzie’s daring epistles, very doubtful of the results of sending them away, yet not trusting her own powers of persuasion to prevent a freak which she saw had taken strong hold of her cousin’s imagination. The letters were all sealed and directed at last, and depositing them in the post-office being postponed for an afternoon walk. Lizzie yawned, declared she was tired to death, and threw herself upon the sofa for a nap, while Anna took up an intricate piece of knitting to pass the time before dinner. One of the letters only is of interest to our readers, and that we will follow to its destination. It was directed to “Mr. Edgar Holmes, Waterford, Illinois,” and contained the beautiful photograph of the girl crowned with field daisies. Lying upon the table, in a neatly-furnished lawyer’s office, half-hidden by a number of other epistles, it was there found by two young gentlemen, who came in chatting and laughing soon after the office-boy had brought the mail from the post-office.

“More answers to my matrimonial advertisement, Al,” said one of the gentlemen, a handsome, bright-eyed young fellow, whose sunny face spoke of a life free from care, and formed, quite a contrast to that of his companion, who was evidently an earnest man, a deep thinker, and of a grave, rather reserved nature.

“How can you tell before opening them?” he inquired, courteously, but evidently feeling no interest in the matter.

“Oh! they are so daintily enveloped and directed, and I can feel the photograph cards.”

As he spoke he was rapidly breaking open his batch of letters, whilst his companion scanned the columns of a morning paper. Suddenly a cry broke from the lips of the younger man.

“What an exquisite face! It cannot be a portrait, but it is lovely. Direct ‘Ida, Hilton, Massachusetts.’ Look at it, Al.”

Albert Clayton languidly stretched out his hand for the card, but the instant his eyes fell upon the picture the whole expression of his face changed. In the place of the look of indifference, there now flashed from his eyes a look, first of utter surprise, then bitter anger, and finally a contempt that was the strongest of all. Once he turned the card to see the name of the artist, and then slowly there gathered upon his brow and round his lip a set, determined look that it was painful to see.

“Why, Al, what ails you?” suddenly cried his friend. “One would think Miss Ida’s was a gorgon’s head.” The forced smile of answer would never have deceived a keener observer, but Edgar Holmes was satisfied with it.

“Let me see the letter, Ned?”

“Certainly. You can be reading it while I am in court. Shall I find you here when I return?”

“Yes. I shall wait for you, for I must leave this evening, you know, for home.”

“I know. I shall miss you constantly. Well, good-morning!”

Left alone, Albert Clayton, after reading the letter signed “Ida,” drew from his vest pocket a card-case, and from its folds a photograph, an exact copy of the daisy-crowned beauty. Well remembered he the day when the lovely face had been so crowned. The original of the picture was his promised wife, into whose keeping he had put the whole treasure of his love, to whom he had given a heart, which, sorely tried by suffering, had never before bowed before the charms of a woman. Educated in a different school, Albert Clayton might have been a trusting, frank nature, but he had been trained from childhood to suspect and question all around him. He had worshipped his parents, and his father, a wealthy Western lawyer, had given him love for love. When that father died, he was a boy at school, and returned for a summer vacation less than two years from the time he was left fatherless to find his mother again married, and to a man whom he had every reason to believe unworthy of any good woman’s affection. Too fully were all his fears for the future realized. His own share of his father’s property was squandered by the new guardian before he was of an age to claim it; his mother, oppressed and ill-treated, died broken-hearted; and his only sister, driven to desperation, eloped with a young scamp, attracted to her by her father’s wealth.

Orphaned and almost penniless before he was quite twenty-one, Albert was offered a home and an opportunity to continue the study of law by his father’s partner, continuing with him long after he knew that he was a mere drudge, half-paid for services his own intellect and hard study soon made valuable to his employer. The practice of his profession was not calculated to increase the young lawyer’s faith in mankind; and when, at the age of thirty, he opened an office of his own in Cincinnati, he had acquired a reputation as a shrewd, long-headed lawyer, impossible to cheat, but a hard, reserved man, devoid of affection for any one. This was the man who, coming one summer to Hilton to investigate a law case in his care, met there Sadie Elkington, the niece of his client, paying a summer visit to her aunt. Something in the pure, sweet face of the young girl, just stepping into womanhood, attracted first the world-hardened man. Watching her jealously, he found a nature open and frank, yet modest, full of all womanly grace and sweetness, and the closed portals of his heart opened, at last, to fold in a close embrace this true woman, who, in winning his love, all unconsciously had given him her own.

It was pronounced rather a dull summer at Hilton. Many of the young people were away, the cousins Lizzie Thorndyke and Anna Green were at Niagara, and picnics, drives, and dances were “few and far between.” But the month occupied by Albert Clayton in the investigation of old Mrs. Elkington’s papers flew by on gilded wings; and when he returned to Cincinnati, Sadie to her father’s home in Boston, it was with mutual promises of constancy, and bright hopes for the future.

Well did Albert Clayton remember the day when the lovely photograph was taken at his request. They had been for a long ramble in the fields, and he had crowned her with daisies, making her so beautiful in his loving eyes that he would not rest until she consented to allow him to carry away the picture of her face as he had adorned it. One year of betrothal, and the wedding day was set for a certain seventh of October, when, again absent from home on a professional visit, Albert found the face of the woman he had loved almost to idolatry inclosed in a letter answering a matrimonial advertisement.

It is impossible to describe the shock given to the fastidious, suspicious nature of this man. He had given, for the first time in many years, the confidence of his heart to another’s keeping. He had thrown aside the suspicions of all human nature, that had warped his own character, to give a trusting, perfect love to one woman. In her he had found all that his starved heart craved of gentleness, affection, and modesty. All her letters were filled with a spirit of devotion, toned down by a sweet, maidenly reserve, that had commanded his respect as well as his affection. Loving faithfully, trusting utterly, he had looked forward to his future happiness as a thing assured and certain.

And now, to find this woman, his promised wife, his ideal of modest refinement, answering a vulgar matrimonial advertisement, sending the picture, for which he had been forced to plead and petition for hours, to be the sport of an unknown man, writing a letter that was an invitation for future correspondence, and covering all only by the flimsy veil of a disguised hand, and a post-office address a few miles from home. Some friend in Hilton, probably, mailed this precious letter, and would call for the answer. Well, his dream was over. He brooded for a long time over his duplicate pictures, then, tossing one back upon young Holmes’ pile of letters, he inclosed the one he had carried over his heart for a twelve-month in a short letter, directed and sealed it, and, taking up his hat, left the office. His return to Cincinnati the same evening had been settled before the receipt of the momentous letter, so his friend was prepared for his departure, though scarcely for his abrupt and hasty farewell.

And while strangers and her dearest were thus ruthlessly destroying Sadie Elkington’s love dream and hopes of happiness, she was living her life of peaceful daily duty, making the sunshine of home, and looking forward to a future of married bliss. Already there were piles of snowy linen, daintily embroidered by her own skilful fingers, lying in readiness for the trousseau , and daily some such needlework passed through her busy hands, while she sat and dreamed of Albert, his love, and her own powers of rendering him happy. It was a very pure, unselfish love this fair young girl had given to her betrothed. With quick, womanly instinct she had read the character of the reserved suspicious man, penetrated the crust of his proud reticence, and knew that her love was to him almost his sole hopes of faith in any human excellence. She knew also, that from this hard mistrust and cynicism, it was often but one step to positive infidelity, and it was her earnest prayer that she might be permitted so to soften this noble heart as to let in upon it a fuller light and higher faith than it could ever know whilst clouded by doubts of all mankind. Sadie Elkington would have smiled had any one suggested to her that there was any sacrifice in her prospects for the future. She loved Albert Clayton with all the fervor of a first love, and it had never occurred to her to contrast her own home with the one awaiting her. The eldest of a family of nine children, she had learned early to make all the little sacrifices of her own comfort daily required from the oldest sister in a large family. Her father almost worshipped her, while her mother could scarcely endure the prospect of seeing this loving, tender daughter leave the home she had brightened so long, for one so far away. Yet hiding away their own grief, the loving parents were aiding in the preparation of a bridal outfit that was to be as perfect as ample means, taste, and loving care could make it. The mother and daughter were in the sitting-room just before the dinner hour, discussing the merits of a new collar pattern, when Mr. Elkington came to the door, holding a bundle in one hand, a letter in the other.

“There, Miss Sadie,” he said, opening the paper to unroll a piece of superb blue silk, “see if you can get a petticoat out of that. Mamma, there, will lend you some old cotton lace to trim it.”

“Not a yard,” laughed his wife. “Why, you extravagant man, this is the third Irish poplin.”

“Fully paid for by the kisses Sadie has just given me. What are you gazing at this letter for, Sadie? Women are never satisfied. Give them finery and they want flattery. Well, there is your sugar plum.”

“Sadie! Sadie!”

It was a startled cry from the mother that broke the interval of silence following the opening of the letter. The young girl tried to answer the cry, but the stiff white lips were powerless to move, and with a moan of pain she fainted, falling heavily upon the dress just received with warm, shy blushes, and representing so much thoughtful love.

Mr. Elkington took up the letter which had fallen from the nerveless hand, and while his wife was trying to restore life to the insensible girl, he was seeking the cause of her sudden fall.

“Sadie’s picture! Valueless when shared with others! Trusts her new love may prove more agreeable than the old! Shocked at her want of maidenly modesty! What does the fellow mean, mother? How dare he insult our Sadie by such a letter. Useless to answer, as he intends to leave Cincinnati at once. Well for him! He had better get beyond the reach of my horsewhip, for my arm is not yet too weak to thrash the scoundrel!”

“Hush, father; she is recovering,” said Mrs. Elkington, interrupting the passionate exclamations and bitter readings from the letter.

Sadie was, indeed, reviving, and trying to realize her own position.

“Father,” she said, as her father came to her with the fatal letter still in his hand, “what does he mean? How can he write so cruelly to me?”

“He is a rascal!” said the angry old gentleman; “a scoundrel! He has found some newer face to flatter, and tries to make you to blame for his inconstancy. Why, the letter is perfectly absurd upon the face of it. Accusing you of having another love, and giving your photograph to some one else! You, who have lived like a nun ever since Sir Jealousy condescended to bestow his regards upon you! You, who are such a model of reserve and devotion, that your own old father has been jealous fifty times of your fiancé, to be accused of a want of maidenly modesty! I should like to wring the fellow’s neck.”

“There is some terrible mistake, father.”

“Mistake! I should think there was a mistake! There was a mistake when we all believed him an honorable, upright gentleman, if he was a grumpy, sulky companion; and a grand mistake when we believed him capable of appreciating our Sadie, and making her an affectionate husband.”

“But, father, I am sure he has been deceived in some way.”

He deceived! I think it is we who have been deceived! Well, there, don’t look at me so pitifully. I won’t rave any more. Here, mother, you talk to her.” And, conscious of his own inability to talk quietly, the angry, insulted father went off to the library to march up and down, and work off his wrath in solitude. Poor Sadie! It was in vain she read the cruel letter over and over to try to find some solution of the mystery. She could not accept her father’s theory of Albert’s voluntary renunciation of her love. Some influence had been at work upon his jealous, suspicious nature, she felt convinced, though what it was, she could not divine. It was a hard blow, and her cross seemed almost too heavy to carry, but she put out of sight the pretty clothing collected with so much care, and full of such loving associations, locked up the letters that she had welcomed so eagerly, responded to so faithfully, and bravely crushing her own sorrow out of sight, was always the loving child, the devoted sister to the home circle, fully appreciating the tender care her mother bestowed upon her, and the delicacy which kept back all her father’s expressions of anger. She was not one to parade her grief or bare her heart for any eye, and the effort to appear calm and cheerful was rewarded by a real feeling of resignation. She had done no wrong, and perhaps at some future time Albert might learn how truly and faithfully she had loved him; in the mean time she would try to find happiness in her home, her parents’ love, and her friends’ society. A very dull commonplace view of the matter, perhaps, but one that required more real unselfish heroism than many an act admired by the world. Four years passed away with many changes, and Albert Clayton returned from a prolonged European trip to Cincinnati, and again opened an office for the practice of law. Amongst the many friends who came to offer him a word of welcome, he was surprised one morning to receive a call from Edgar Holmes.

“When I heard you had left Cincinnati, Al, I thought I would come for a while, and see if some of your clients would not fancy me for a substitute.”

“I hope you have done well!” said Albert, politely.

“Oh, yes, pretty well. You must drop in when you are passing and see how the old office looks. By the way, you know I am a married man, don’t you?”

“No, indeed! Did you marry Miss Elkington?”

The name seemed almost to choke him, spoken for the first time in four long years.

“Miss Elkington? Never heard of her in my life. What put that into your head?”

“I— was she not the lady who answered your advertisement for a wife?”

“O Al, I must tell you all about that. Can you listen to a long story?”

“Yes.”

“Well, about two years ago, I had business which called me to Boston, and amongst other gentlemen friends there, was one Mr. Green, who made me welcome to a very pleasant home, and introduced me to a pretty daughter and an equally pretty niece, Miss Lizzie Thorndyke, of Hilton, Mass. Miss Lizzie was in Boston purchasing her bridal finery, being engaged to a young gentleman from New York. It was not long before I noticed that the young lady avoided me as much as possible, seeming half afraid of me when thrown into my company. My business was soon transacted, but my heart was yielding to the charms of Anna Green, and I lingered in the city, trying to win an answering affection. I succeeded, and won the father’s consent to my suit. The day was set for a double wedding, the cousins wishing to be married at the same time. You look bored, Al!”

“Oh no, go on,” said Albert, who certainly did look bored.

“Well, to make a long story short, Lizzie’s fiancé, Mr. Moreton, came on from New York, preparations were going on for the wedding, and everything was pleasant, when one evening we were all seated in the parlor chatting. Amongst other subjects, the one of matrimonial advertisements came up. I saw that Lizzie looked distressed, but suspecting nothing, I laughed about my correspondent Ida, and read two or three of her last letters— warm enough they were, too— for the benefit of the party. Mr. Moreton expressed his opinion on the indelicacy of such a correspondence in no measured terms, finally declaring that he would disown his own sister if she was guilty of such a proceeding. Fancy our amazement when Lizzie, as white as ashes, started to her feet, crying out:—

“‘O Robert, don’t, don’t say so! I am Ida!’ and fell in a dead faint upon the floor.”

“But the picture?” said Albert Clayton, himself as pale as a corpse .

“That was a fancy head her brother picked up in some photograph gallery in Hilton. Are you going to faint, Al?”

“No, no,” he said, rousing himself by a great effort; “finish your story.” “There is not much more to tell. Robert, touched by Lizzie’s distress, and influenced by Anna’s entreaties, forgave her, but there came into his manner a reserve and coolness of which he, himself, I think, was unconscious, but which grated terribly on Lizzie’s sensitive, high strung spirit. For a week or two there was a sort of enforced peace, and then the engagement was broken by mutual consent, Lizzie returning to Hilton, and Mr. Moreton to New York, before the wedding day which gave me the dearest wife in the world. I was half afraid I should lose her for my share in the correspondence, but she never referred to it, and you may be sure I did not. Ten o’clock! I must go. You will come soon to see us, Al? No.— Fourth Street.”

He was gone at last. For hours Albert Clayton paced his office floor, now and then sighing out:—

“O Sadie, Sadie, can you ever forgive me?”

Then he sat down to write to her whom he had so cruelly misjudged; but letter after letter was tossed into the fire, till, finally, giving up that task, he packed a valise and started for Boston. It was not Sadie’s nature to be unforgiving when he pleaded for pardon. He should have known her better, she thought, but she made all allowance for the strong evidence against her. It was not so easy to win the old gentleman over; he growled and scolded, made sarcastic speeches, and was altogether most impenetrable, till Sadie’s pleading face and great pitiful eyes silenced him.

“You really think you can forgive him, and trust your happiness to him?” he asked.

“Yes, father,” was the quiet answer, but the expressive face lighted with pleasure.

“Well, get out your finery again, and I —”

“Will go buy more Irish poplins,” laughed his wife.

Nobody ever knew exactly how the story got to Hilton, but Lizzie— still Miss Thorndyke— found all eyes would turn upon her if, in company, any allusion was made to the advertisements headed, “Wanted, a Wife.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Strong evidence? Indeed, no matter how fastidious and suspicious his nature, the lover should have known her better and any lawyer worth his fee should have thought her innocent until proven guilty.  At the very least, he should have given her the chance to look at the “evidence” and refute it. Why did he not call upon a graphology expert? And even at this early date, fingerprints could have been revealed by iodine fumes and compared with Miss Elkington’s. One wonders how accomplished a lawyer Clayton actually was. He seems to have lacked the ability to examine the case against his beloved in a scrupulously fair manner, yet possessed the imagination of a fiend when it came to believing her guilty. Mrs Daffodil hopes that they lived happily ever after and that he devoted his life to making amends for his vile suspicions, but is not sanguine.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the imprudence of the promiscuous sending of photographs.

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 Spectre Wedding: 1820s

the oracle 1919 ghosts

THE SPECTRE WEDDING.

Mr. Martin Dupont was a Justice of the Peace in the little town of Marlburg. He had been elected to the office at the close of the war of 1812, and had acted in his present capacity for nearly nine years. Men of Mr. Dupont’s type were very common in those days, and even now one does not have to search far to find one of these self-complacent, pompous gentlemen, who delight in winning admiration from their associates, who always have at their tongue’s end a great many stories in which they played the leading part, but who are, nevertheless, very superstitious, so much so, indeed, that a glimpse of the moon over the left shoulder, or a howling dog, has power to make them melancholy for a week.

Having failed to secure for himself as large a share of this world’s goods as he had wished, Mr. Dupont was fully resolved that his two children, Henry and Margaret, should not be lacking in wealth. As for his son, he very wisely concluded that a good education, added to his natural abilities, would secure for him a place in the world: and already Henry was showing the wisdom of the plan, and by his rapid advancement in business was more than fulfilling his father’s expectations. It had always been Mr. Dupont’s desire that his daughter should marry some rich man, but Margaret had fallen in love, very foolishly, according to her father’s idea, with the principal of the Marlburg High School.

Charles Foster had several times pleaded his suit in vain before Mr. Dupont. There was no fault in the young man, Mr. Dupont rather grudgingly admitted, except that all he had to depend upon was his salary, but still no man should presume to become his son-in-law who had not money enough to support his daughter in better style than that in which she was then living, He liked the school teacher very well as a friend, but as a son-in-law that was quite another matter.

Nevertheless Charles and Margaret did not despair of their cause, although Mr. Dupont was seemingly immovable. The thought of an elopement was banished by them both as being dishonorable, and as no other plan seemed practicable, they very wisely resolved to wait until some kind fate should come to their aid. This, then, was the condition of affairs when our story begins.

Mr. Dupont’s duties as Justice of the Peace did not confine his law practice to Marlburg, but very frequently he was called away to attend various lawsuits in neighboring towns and hamlets, and it so happened that at this particular time he was engaged in a case of some considerable importance in an adjoining town. On account of the nearness of the place, it was Mr. Dupont’s custom to drive his own horse back and forth and to spend his nights at home.

One night, on account of an unusual press of business, he was obliged to remain beyond his ordinary time of leaving, and after the work was completed he yielded to the urgent invitation of his client to chat for a few moments. As they puffed away at the choice Havanas, they began to tell each other of curious exciting adventures and wonderful experiences. Time slipped away so rapidly that it was after 10 o’clock before Mr. Dupont suddenly remembered that a seven-mile drive lay between him and his home. Hastily bidding his friend good-by, he started for the hotel stable to get his horse.

The weather had changed while the two gentlemen had been chatting, and now the ominous stillness and the cloudy sky admonished Mr. Dupont that, if he wished to get home before the rain began to fall, he must hasten. Hastily throwing a quarter to the sleepy hostler, he sprang into his buggy and set out on his homeward way.

The road home was a lonely one; houses were few and far between, and a few miles out of Marlburg some lonely woods lined the road on either side, and adjoining the woods was a graveyard. As Mr. Dupont drove on into the darkness he began to become nervous, the weird stories that he had just been hearing kept flashing through his mind, a great many wrong deeds of his life came before him, magnified by the darkness and solitude, and among other things he began to wonder if he was doing just right in refusing his consent to his daughter’s marriage. In this frame of mind he approached the woods; involuntarily he tried to quicken his horse’s pace, but the darkness and the low murmurings of thunder seemed to have affected the horse too, and the sagacious brute tried constantly to slacken his pace. How lonely it seemed there, no houses, no living being–nothing but the dead in the graveyard beyond. Suddenly the, horse stopped and snorted. Mr. Dupont saw two white figures suddenly dart into the road; one stood beside his horse, and the other beckoned him to descend from his wagon. His hair rose, and his tongue seemed glued to his mouth. The silence was terrible. If those white beings would only speak; but no sound came from them. At last in desperation he stammered out:

“Who are you, and what do you mean by stopping me here in this way” “We are spirits of the departed dead,” a sepulchral voice replied, “and we have need of your services; descend from your vehicle, do as we bid you, and on the word of a ghost you shall not be harmed.”

The terrified lawyer descended and stood by the speaker’s side, while the other ghost tied his horse to a tree and joined them.

“Yield yourself entirely to us and you shall be safe,” said the spokesman. “You must needs walk far and must allow us to blindfold your eyes, in order that you may not discover before your time the way to the land of the shades. No more words must be spoken. Obey.”

Mr. Dupont was so terrified that he could not speak, and in silence allowed a cloth to be bound over his eyes; then, escorted by his ghostly companions he began to walk. It seemed to him that he would never be allowed to stop; seconds seemed ages; every attempt of his to speak was checked by impatient groans of his guides. At last, after walking half around the earth, as it seemed to him, he realized that he was being piloted up some steps and by the feeling of warmth he knew that he had left the open air.

“The Justice of Peace may be seated,” said the ghost who had done all the talking. Mr. Dupont sat down and the cloth was quickly removed from his eyes, revealing to his astonished gaze the interior of a room dimly lighted by wax candles. Every side was hung with black curtains, and on four black-covered stools facing him sat four white-robed spectres, while beside him stood another dressed like his companions. Before he had time to more than wonder at his strange surroundings, the spokesman began:

“Mr. Dupont, we have a solemn duty for you to perform. You are a Justice of the Peace in the world of the living, and a man dear to us on account of your noble life; therefore are you here. We have in these abodes of the dead two young shades recently come from the other world. Each of those died of a broken heart because a stern parent forbade them to marry What do you think sir, of such a parent as that?” Mr. Dupont wiggled about uneasily in his chair, and at last said: “I think, good shade, it was very wrong of him.”

“We knew you would,” resumed the ghost, “because you are a kind man. and one who loves his children. Now do we understand you to say that if the poor girl had been your child it would never have happened?” “Surely it never would,” replied the frightened Mr. Dumont.

“We have not misjudged you, then,” replied the shade, while the other four ghosts nodded approvingly. “We have summoned you in order that you may unite them in wedlock, so that in this world at least they may be happy. Such a marriage as this is not common among us, so we brought you here, a good justice of the peace, rather than a minister, who might have been shocked at these proceedings. You can marry them just as well as a clergyman. Now, sir, will you oblige us by marrying these two shades? If you will consent, you may depart at once to your home. Will you?”

Marry the two shades? Of course he would: anything to get away from this terrible spot. And so, without the precaution of stipulating his fee, he stammered out:

“Oh, yes, surely, anything you wish.”

No sooner had he given his consent than one of the black curtains was drawn aside and two other beings in white entered and stood before him. The other shades rose, and Mr. Dupont, not wishing to be the only one to keep his seat, rose too. The good justice had never married shades; he did not know quite how to proceed. They looked exactly alike; he did not know which was the bride and which the groom. He wished he were well out of it, and the only way to gain his wish was to proceed quickly with the ceremony, and so he began at once. In some way he managed get through, although he could not have told afterward how it was done. He turned to the bride when he said: “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife?” and to the groom when he should have addressed the bride; but at length, much to his relief, the “I do” was said by each, and the Justice finished with the “I pronounce you man and wife.”

But all was not yet over. No sooner had the words left his lips, than one of the beings before him threw aside its ghostly robe, and there, in a beautiful wedding gown, stood his daughter, Margaret. Mr. Dupont started to speak, but he only gasped, for around him stood the other ghosts; they too had thrown aside their robes and stood revealed. Could he believe his eyes? Yes, there was no mistake, he had married his daughter to Charles Foster, in the presence of his wife, his son, and three family friends; and the Justice knew enough of law to realize that the ceremony was binding. The black curtains, too, were torn down, and there they all stood in his own parlor.

There was no help for it, consequently Mr. Dupont submitted, and someway all his friends thought that he was very glad that the joke was played upon him; at any rate, in later days, as he trotted his grandchildren on his knees he never tired of telling over and over again into their wondering ears the tale of the spectre wedding. Amherst Literary Monthly.

The Garden City [KS] Telegram 15 October 1892: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Dupont must have been heavily under the influence of those weird stories not to have noticed the earthly actions of the “ghosts” such as taking care to tie up his horse and the nonsensical explanation for the blindfold. Did he not recall that in Heaven there is no marriage nor giving in marriage? Were there no earthly boots visible beneath those robes? And, even draped in black and lit by candles, why did the quaking gentleman not recognise his own parlour?

Such is the power of imagination. Mrs Daffodil and that ghastly person over at Haunted Ohio have written about persons who were convinced that they were marrying an actual spirit. See A Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost, Girl Weds a Ghost, and Too Much Prudence–Spirit Weddings.

Justices of the Peace seemed to be ready targets for ghostly clients. Mrs Daffodil has written before about a haunted JP, who married a genuine ghostly couple.

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 Spectral Shadow–The Nurse’s Story: 1880s

 

ghost in bedchamber british library 1895 cut

A Spectral Shadow.

Sir,—The following incident was related to me by a nurse whose veracity I have no reason to doubt; on the contrary, I am justified in believing anything she might tell me, knowing what I do of her character and truthfulness. The statement was as follows:—

Some years ago, I was sent for to nurse a woman, who had been engaged to attend on a lady who was slightly mentally deranged, and lived with a sister. The ladies were elderly and well off. The attendant, a powerful and rather coarse- featured woman, was very ill when I was called to her, and not expected to live, and her illness had been brought about in the following way:—

The attendant had been some three months in the house and had managed to give every satisfaction to the sister and to the doctor, but was greatly feared and disliked by the patient, who complained bitterly of the harsh and cruel treatment to which this woman had subjected her; but the sister and doctor merely put this complaint down to the patient’s state of mind, and pooh-poohed it as a delusion—the attendant strenuously denying the accusation, in which the poor lady persisted. My informant, however, gave it as her opinion that the poor lady’s complaints were justified and ought to have received the attention which, as after events proved, they did not receive and which would have averted the terrible consequences that followed.

One morning, early in June, there had been a scene in the bedroom; the lady had cried out for help and complained of her attendant’s harshness and cruelty, but the attendant said that her patient had been very violent, and must be left to her, as she was responsible, and she forbade everyone to enter the room, saying that she would soon quiet the patient if allowed to manage her in her own way. As the lady ceased her cries the attendant descended to the kitchen for her patient’s breakfast, and, taking advantage of her absence, the poor lady threw herself from her bedroom window and was picked up dead. The fright of the death simply paralysed the attendant, and as she was unable to do anything she was put to bed. She became worse, could not attend the inquest or be removed, and I was sent for to nurse her at night, another nurse remaining with her by day, we being paid by the lady’s sister.

On the sixth night, as the weather was close, I opened the windows and fastened back the door, which opened into a narrow passage about twenty feet long. My patient had been very restless and was lying in an uneasy sleep, muttering as she lay. I placed myself at a small table, where I could see down the passage I have named, then lowered the gas on account of the heat, and was reading by the dim light of a candle, when I became conscious of a sudden fall in the temperature of the room. It seemed to me that an icy, deathlike cold, such as I had never before imagined could exist, a tangible cold, had suddenly surrounded me. I rose from my chair to account, if I could, for this strange occurrence, when, as I looked down the passage, I saw a moving shadow. Unable to stir, I watched, and soon defined something in human shape, but a shadow only, approaching me. Slowly it moved, bringing with it a still colder atmosphere, and before I could utter a sound the shadow, with its unseeing eyes, walked to the bed and stood there, leaning over the foot. I then saw that it was an elderly woman, with streaming hair and features drawn with pain. She was solemnly gazing at the other woman in the bed, who, however, did not see the ghostly shadow, but continued her mutterings and restless movements.

It seemed to me that the shadow stood thus for an hour, looking intently at the sick woman, and then slowly, with a backward glance at the bed, it left the room and was lost in the shadows of the passage. As it departed the atmosphere of the room recovered its normal temperature as quickly as it had lost it.

On looking at my watch, I found the incident had lasted about eight or nine minutes. I was so terrified I went at once to the servants’ room, and one returned with me, who assured me that she had often seen the shadow, which she believed to be that of her late mistress, but she was not afraid. I found, on inquiry, that two nurses had left on account of the shadow’s visit, and as I had no wish to see it again I was relieved of night duty, at my request, and the servant took my place. The woman eventually recovered, and then the remaining sister gave up the house and left the town, and whether the present occupants of the house have ever seen the ghostly shadow that so completely upset my nerves I do not know_

Yours, &c.,

Dora de Bike.

Light 7 August 1909: p. 382

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghost who returns to take revenge on its murderer is a well-known figure in supernatural literature. This case raises questions about the efficacy of such revenge-bound revenants—were this a fictional story, the paralysed nurse would have fallen back dead, a look of stark, staring horror on her face, when confronted with the spectre of the elderly lady at the foot of the bed. Alternately she would have contracted a fatal chill from the icy, deathlike cold permeating the room.  A sadly ineffectual spectre, one fears—possibly so enfeebled by her own illness she could not successfully frighten her tormentor to death.

 

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 is Mistaken for a Shop-Lifter: 1871

baroness burdett-coutts

An Anecdote of Baroness Burdett Coutts.

By Mrs. Laura Curtis Bullard

Miss Burdett Coutts, upon whom Queen recently conferred the rank and title of baroness, is a tall, gaunt, angular woman, who more nearly resembles the traditional and popular type of the strong-minded female than any one of the prominent members of the woman’s rights party whom I have ever met.  A tolerably wide acquaintance with the leaders of this movement on both sides of the Atlantic has convinced me that scragginess is not a characteristic of the genuine “woman’s rights woman.” But in justice to Miss Coutts, I must hasten to say that her personal resemblance to the typical strong-minded female does not result from sympathy-with the sisterhood. On the contrary, she cherishes for this class the most wholesome aversion, and has taken pains publicly to disavow all participation in their sentiments, aims and purposes.

Miss Coutts is no longer young, but she has a fancy that juvenile bonnets become her—which it is scarcely necessary to say, a mistake on her part. In short, neither in person nor in dress is she the attractive woman she would be if nobility of soul, of heart and purity of character revealed themselves in personal beauty or accompanied by an instinctive knowledge of the sources of good taste which is unfortunately not often the case.

But where Miss Coutts is known no one would ever give a thought to the minor and external defects of this truly noble-souled and generous-hearted woman, whose generous  liberality is as widespread as the fact that she is the wealthiest commoner in England.

Angela Burdett-Coutts 1882 National Portrait Gallery

Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, 1882, National Portrait Gallery

Of course she is a well-known and most welcome customer at all the fashionable shops in London, but she is not so familiar a habitue of the shops of Paris. During a visit to this latter city, not long since, she learned of the death of a distant relative, and she went to purchase mourning  to the shop, the Trois Quartiers, a large dry goods establishment something like, “to compare great things with small,” our own Stewart’s. She asked for mourning dress goods, and was shown, by one of the attentive shop-men to the proper department. “Please show this lady mourning stuffs,” he said, “two-ten.”

Miss Coutts made her selection and then asked for mourning collars; the clerk who waited on her accompanied her to the proper counter. “Please show this lady mourning collars-—two-ten,” said he, and left her. From this department she went look for mourning pocket handkerchiefs, escorted by the clerk, who passed her over to his successor, with the request, “show this lady pocket handkerchiefs—two-ten.”

As she had still other articles to buy, she was escorted from counter to counter, department to department, and everywhere these cabalistic words, ” two-ten,” were repeated by one clerk to another.

Struck by the peculiarity of this refrain, asked the proprietor, as she left the establishment, “Pray what does two-ten mean? I noticed each clerk said it to the other in your shop.”

“Oh, it is nothing,” he replied; “merely a password that they are in the habit of exchanging.”

But Miss Coutts was not satisfied with explanation. Her woman’s curiosity was piqued, and she resolved to unravel the riddle. So, in the evening, when the porter,  a young boy, brought home her purchases, after paying her bill, she said, “My boy, would you like to earn five francs?”

Of course the lad had no objection to and only wanted to know in what way he could do it.

“Tell me,” said the lady,’ “what does ‘two-ten’ mean ? I will give you five francs.”

“Why, don’t you know, ma’am?” said he, evidently amazed at her ignorance; “it means keep your two eyes on her ten fingers.”

The mystery was solved at last. All the clerks of the Trois Quarters had taken the richest woman in Great Britain for a shop-lifter.

She tells the story with great gusto, and one of her friends to whom she had related it in Paris repeated it to me.

The Titusville [PA] Herald 6 October 1871: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906) was (after the Queen) the wealthiest woman in England. A practical and an energetic woman, she used her fortune for the benefit of a large range of charities including co-founding the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which became The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. While she might have fallen prey to fortune-hunters, she lived with her governess for much of her life, although she did propose to her neighbour, the Duke of Wellington, who at the time was seventy-eight to her thirty-three years. He refused her gently and they remained friends. After the death of her governess, (and a decade after the story above) she shocked the world by marrying her protégé and secretary, a young American named William Ashmead-Bartlett, who was twenty-nine to her sixty-seven. In so doing, she forfeited most of her fortune, (the terms of her inheritance did not allow marriages to foreigners)  but by all accounts she counted all well lost for love. Her husband became an MP and carried on a legacy of philanthropy after her death.

We have read of refined lady shoplifters before in Prepared to Carry off the Store, The Lady and the Laces, and The Rat in the Muff.

 

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.