Category Archives: Crime

Rosette Smiled in the Glass: 1889

all is vanity charles allen gilbert 1892 mirror

All is Vanity, Charles Allen Gilbert, 1892

THE HAUNTED MIRROR.

It was early morning, and Thomas, Lord Rosendale’s valet, has waited on his master’s American guest to see what he desired him to do for him.

Thomas was too well-bred to appear to notice anything remarkable, but there certainly was something odd in the gentleman’s manner, and he had not the look of one who had enjoyed refreshing slumbers. Twice he seemed on the point of propounding a question–twice he checked himself. At last just as the man turned to leave the room, he spoke;

“Thomas!”

“Yes, sir,” said Thomas; turning towards him again.

“No matter, Thomas.”

“Very well, sir.”

Thomas had his hand on the lock of the door this time, but again the gentleman spoke:

“Thomas, I have been awake all night.”

“My lord will regret to hear it,” said Thomas, too respectful to appropriate the information.

“Something very odd disturbed me,” continued the gentleman. “Have you any reason to believe that any of the woman servants have lost their senses?”

“Any of the maids, sir?” said Thomas. “Oh, no, sir. My lady’s own maid is a most sensible person. So is the young lady’s, extremely respectable and settled, indeed. As for the cook and–oh, no, sir. I am sure none of the maids are out of their senses, sir.”

“One of the maids kept me awake all last night.” said the American.

“One of the maids, sir?” cried Thomas.

“Yes. Thomas,” said the gentleman. “She kept running into my room at least every half hour to look in the glass and admire herself.”

“She came out of that door,” and he pointed to one in a corner, “and walked straight up to the mirror; the light from the night lamp fell upon her face; she seemed to catch my eye in the glass each time and smiled at me as she did so. I only saw her once in the mirror, but it was very pretty, though very pale. She wore a short quilted skirt, a little black bodice and full white sleeves. She had a gold cross tied around her neck by a black ribbon and wore a little cap on her black braids a very young girl with a perfectly French face, Thomas. Do you know her?”

“If I have the honor of understanding you, sir, the young person came through this door?” he asked.

“Yes,” said the American.”

“More than once, sir?”

“About once an hour from midnight until dawn.”

“She was young, pretty and French-looking and wore a quilted skirt, a bodice and a cap, sir?”

“Exactly, Thomas.”

“And smiled at you in the glass where you saw her face? I understand she did not look toward you as she passed, sir?”

“Right, Thomas.”

“May I beg you to do me the favor of looking into this room, sir?”

The gentleman followed Thomas to the door through which he asserted that the young person had passed and saw nothing but a square closet about twelve feet square, with no door save the one that opened into a large room, and high in the ceiling a little window through which a bird could scarcely have flown. It contained no furniture whatever.

“You will acknowledge, sir, said Thomas, very gravely, “that an ordinary person must have remained here if she had entered, as you think she did, sir, and that we should now find her here, sir?”

“There must be a secret door—or–or something!” cried the American. “I am not mad, and I was wide awake. I–”

“Yes, sir,” said Thomas, still more solemnly. “As I remarked, an ordinary young person could not have contrived to disappear; but I am well aware that the young person you have seen is not an ordinary person, sir. She has been an apparition, for more than 200 years.”

“An apparition!” cried the American gentleman.

“Yes, sir,” replied Thomas; “an apparition, sir. I think you have seen Lady Rosendale’s gentlewoman, Rosette, sir. It is ten years since she was seen before, to my knowledge, but she has been seen very often. Yes, sir, it must have been Rosette.”

“I should like to hear more about Rosette.” said the gentleman.

“Yes, sir,” said the valet. “This is a very old family, and they have lived on this estate for a long while since the time of Queen Elizabeth. I believe, sir–and about 200 years ago there was a Lord Herbert–my present master is Lord Herbert, as you know; it is a favorite name in the family who was a very gay, wild young nobleman, and was a great admirer of the ladies, sir, as gay young noblemen  generally are. However, by the time he was thirty he married and settled down, as one might say; and having travelled with his wife on the continent, he came home, and began to be very much thought of and respected. So was his lady, too, sir, though she was not handsome, and was very haughty.

One thing, however, the English servants did not like; she brought a foreign maid with her from France–a girl named Rosette, and as pretty as a picture.

My lady thought all the world of her, and would never let any other woman be about her in her room, and of course, the people were jealous and talked against Rosette, and the women began to say something about the way my lord looked at her. Though, to be sure, women will be suspicious. However, that may be, my lady loved  her, and I think she thought too much of herself to be jealous of her maid, until one day, sitting before her glass, Rosette combing her hair for her, she heard her husband coming into the room. Her back was towards him, and they forgot the mirror; and so, sir, she saw in it without stirring both their faces; and she saw the girl smile at her husband and she saw him smile back her, and she did not need to see any more. Ladies are very quick, sir, as we all know. She understood everything, but she never stirred, and she never said anything to him—no, nor to the maid, sir.

This was her room, sir. In that little closet Rosette had her bed, to be ready if she called. But one morning my lady’s bell rang furiously, and the maid who answered it was told to do my lady’s hair, for Rosette had gone back to her native country. All the time she was doing it the girl thought she heard a faint moaning sound and was frightened and went back to the rest, pale and trembling; and before night it was very well known in the house that the little closet there was not only locked, but nailed up.

There was a coldness between my lord and my lady and they kept very much apart; but she had told him, also that Rosette had returned to France and no one ever saw the girl again.

After that my lord seemed to take up his wild ways again, in a measure, and drank a good deal and my lady lived very much alone. She never had a regular maid and she was harsh to those who waited on her. There never were any children, but they both lived to be very old indeed, and at last my lady died in this very room and was buried in the church yonder. You may see her tomb there–Lady Maud Rosendale, aged eighty.

My lord was as old as she by that time; but as soon as the funeral was over he went into my lady’s room and stood a long while before the locked and nailed closet door.

Then he said to himself, ‘I cannot die until I know,’ and ordered it to be opened. They sent for the blacksmith to do it, and all the while my lord sat in his great arm-chair, staring before him. There were hundreds of nails in it. People said afterwards that all my Lady Maud’s life there used now and then to be a little sound of hammering in her room when she was alone, but they were all out at last and the lock was forced, and my lord arose and tottered into the closet.

A bed stood there still and some gowns hung on the wall, and over the bed one was lying with cords twisted about it. Then they looked closer and the maids began to scream, and one old woman who remembered Rosette had called out her name, and my lord turned his pale old eyes upon them like a ghost and said, ‘God forgive me and have mercy upon both their souls!’ and held out his hand to be helped back to his own room which he never left again.

It wasn’t much they found–only a few bones and an ornament or two, but it was plain that the girl had been tied hand and foot and bound to the bed and left there to die—if she were not murdered outright by the jealous lady. As for the smile, my lady, he talked of that in a wandering kind of way on his death-bed. So it came to be known. But ever since, sir, whenever there is going to be misfortune in the family, whoever sleeps here in this room sees Rosette come out of her closet and smile in the glass. No one ever sees her face, only its reflection.

She was seen before one young lady—it is two generations ago, sir—eloped with a very inferior person.

She was seen before my master’s father died and before my master’s brother was killed at the Crimea. I hope no trouble will follow now, sir.”

“I trust not,” said the American. “Perhaps it would be best not to mention this to any one.”

“Very well, sir, said Thomas, and left the room.

As for the American, he slept elsewhere the next night. He had no admiration for ghosts, even the family ghosts of noblemen, and he had no desire to see Rosette smile at him in the glass again. The smiles of a phantom of 200 years standing are more awesome than bewitching.

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 22 December 1889: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really… After the sad story of the gruesome end of young Rosette, and Thomas’s observation that tragedy invariably followed in the wake of Rosette’s apparition, we are fobbed off with a mere “he slept elsewhere the next night.”

A shocking decline in journalistic standards….

The least we might expect was the death of an old factor, believed to be the illegitimate son of a previous Lord Rosendale, in a remote cottage on the estate, if not the demise of Lord Rosendale himself, found dead in his bed with a look of stark, staring horror on his face. Mrs Daffodil considers the whole thing a travesty of missed opportunities.

 

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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A Deadly Valentine: 1896

jealous woman's revenge illustrated police news

A Deadly Valentine

W.J. Lampton

The colonel had received a valentine, and as he looked it over and read its pretty verses he handed it to the writer.

“From a lady?” smiled the writer.

“Yes, from my wife. She never forgets,” and the colonel’s face wore the look of a sweetheart’s.

“Surely,” said the writer, “no better valentine could be than that.”

The colonel took it again and held it in his hand tenderly

“When she and I were married,” he began, in a reminiscent way, “we went to a post in the far west, where as a lieutenant, that was thirty years ago, I was stationed. Not far away was a town of the class not uncommon at that time, and chief among its well-known characters and prominent citizens was a man known as ‘Bug’ Thornton. He was a bad man and the barkeeper in the leading hotel of the town. The landlord of the hotel had a daughter of twenty-five or thereabouts, who was by odds the best-looking woman in town and a very nice girl, barring the fact that she was in love with Thornton.

“At first he was flattered by the favor in which he stood with the young woman, but her attentions in a few months wearied him, and he made her wildly jealous by devoting himself to the cashier of the Golden Lion restaurant, a young woman who owned a half interest in the business and was considered a good catch. This occurred about valentine season, and when the day came around the landlord’s daughter received a comic valentine, setting forth those things do, the delightful attractiveness of a jealous woman. The accompanying verse was more galling than the picture, and the girl was frenzied by it.

“It was no unusual matter for Bug Thornton to have a scrap once or twice a day with the rough characters who frequented his saloon, and every now and then he added a feature to the bill by shooting somebody or getting a shot himself, though, up to that time, escaping with slight wounds. Late in the afternoon of St. Valentine’s day he tried to put a gang of miners out of his place, and the whole crowd surged out into the street in front of the hotel. There the shooting began. And it lasted long enough for those not interested to get into what shelter first presented itself.

“I ran into the hotel, and as I did so, I noticed, Mollie, the landlord’s daughter, sitting by a window, with the shutters half-closed, looking at the fight. When it was over three men were dead on the ground and the others had disappeared. One of the men was Thornton, and, as I knew him, I ran to him first and lifted him up to see how badly he was hurt. As I raised him up with my arm under his back a bullet fell from his coat into my hand. I thrust it into my pocket without thinking, and helped carrying him into the house. Of course, the town was considerably excited over three killings at one time, and as all sorts of rumors were flying about I hurried to the post to let my wife know I was all right. Young husbands, you know, think first of their wives. When I found her and told her the story she became very nervous and asked about Mollie. I told her I had seen the girl at the window during the fight, and that made her worse.

“Then I became provoked and said Mollie hadn’t anything to do with it. Then my wife told me that she had seen Mollie at noon, and she had told her she was going to send Bug Thornton a valentine he would not forget, and that very day, too. That night I went back to the hotel and found that Thornton had received a bullet in the arm and one in the thigh, but the one which had done for him had gone square through his heart. I also found Mollie in a raving delirium. With all this going on around me, there wasn’t any wonder that I should forget the bullet I had put in my pocket, and there’s no telling when I would have remember it if it had not dropped on the floor that night when I took off my coat to go to bed.

“My wife picked it up and asked me what it was. Then I remembered, and quietly took it from her without saying. She insisted, and as she showed signs of hysteria about it, I told her it was the bullet that had killed Bug Thornton. She grabbed it from me, held it close to the light and then collapsed in a dead faint. She became conscious in half an hour or so, but I had to sit up all night with her, and the post surgeon was also in attendance until nearly daylight. By daylight things were quieter, and I took a look at the bullet. It was a .44 long and was not much roughened by the deadly work it had done. As I turned it over in my  hand, thinking what a fatal effect so small a bit of lead could have, I notice da mark on it, and taking it out where I could see better I found on it, scratched deep with a large needle, evidently, one word and part of another: ‘My Valen–.’ That told a dreadful story and explained my wife’s hysteria.

“What to do now I scarcely knew. Mollie had shot Bug Thornton, that was circumstantially proved by my wife’s testimony and the words on the bullet, but no one knew it save myself and wife. No one knew so much as that I had the bullet, except my wife. We had both known Mollie and respected her, and it seemed to be something awful to give her over to the law when it was so easy to let it all go to the credit of the miners in the night. After an hour’s thinking I was so near hysteria myself that I went to the doctor for something to quiet my nerves.

“At 9 o’clock I started into the town, leaving my wife asleep under the influence of opiates, and half way there I met a messenger coming for my wife to come to the hotel, as Mollie had shot herself and was dying. I turned the messenger back and hurried on to the hotel. When I reached her room she was dead, and near her on a table lay a .44-caliber revolver. It was the same one that had sent Bug Thornton his fatal valentine, but I didn’t go around looking for any more bullets. I had already found one too many.

“It was a positive relief to my wife when I told her as carefully as I could that Mollie was dead, and we talked it all over, coming to the conclusion that the girl had seated herself at the window, half concealed, with the object of killing Thornton when he came out to go to his supper, and had marked the bullet in the strange freak of a crazy woman. That her shot had been so true was a piece of chance or luck, or retribution; whatever you may call it, although she was not unskilled in the use of firearms. None the less was it chance that the fight in the street should have taken place at the time it did?”

“What did you do with the bullet?” inquired the writer.

“Dropped it into Mollie’s coffin when my wife and I went to see her for the last time. And,” concluded the colonel, “neither of us ever told our story of the tragedy until five years ago, when the last member of Mollie’s family died and was buried in the same graveyard where the bodies of Mollie and Bug Thornton lie moldering in the clay.”

Evening Star [Washington DC] 15 February 1896: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Comic” or “vinegar” valentines were the bane of the holiday. Although we may be baffled as to why a caricature and an insult should deserve any notice whatsoever, despairing lovers often took these vile missives entirely too much to heart.  That Schadenfreude-ish person over at Haunted Ohio has written of some of the tragedies that ensued in “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacres,” and “My Fatal Valentine.” Mrs Daffodil urges any of her readers who suffer unrequited love to have a trusted friend open your Valentine’s Day post and burn any unpleasant communications.

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 Black Alpaca Coat: 1905

man's 1905 coat

Concerning a Black Alpaca Coat

By J.C. Plummer

(Copyright, 1905, by Daily Story Pub. Co.

“Sandy,” said Captain Pole, as he shifted his tiller so as to pass a barge towing down the bay, “you’d better ask Kate Haggerty to have you when we get to port.”

“There’s na hurry,” replied Sandy ‘McDougal, mate of the schooner Ajax, enjoying his pipe.

“Go ahead,” retorted the skipper, pettishly, “you’ll wake up some morning and see another chap living off Kate’s money.”

“She’s na got it yet,” expostulated Mr. McDougal.

“But she’ll have it when her uncle dies and he’s old as the hills.”

“Hoots, only seventy and men are living longer than they did,” said McDougal, “it’s little saprised I’d be if he lives to be ninety.”

“Well,” remarked the skipper, “if you don’t want a wife with ten thousand dollars, all right.”

“There’s na hurry,” insisted McDougal, “if I’d marry her now I’d have to sapport her, mebbe, for ten years before her uncle dies.”

Dennis Haggerty, stevedore, was worth at least ten thousand dollars and his only relative was Kate Haggerty. There was no scarcity of women in the world forty years back, but Dennis and his brother Michael must, perforce, fall in love with the same girl and she chose Michael. Dennis never forgave them and carried his resentment to the second generation, never noticing their daughter, Kate, not even when, her parents dying very poor, she started out to make her living. Kate, thirty years old, plain as to face and expert in sordid economy, only knew she had an uncle because people told her so. She gave no heed to the news when she did hear it and went on earning a very scant living with very hard work.

Now, Captain Pole knew something. He and Fergus McNeal were witnesses to Dennis Haggerty’s will which left all he possessed to Kate Haggerty.  McNeal had immediately sailed on a voyage to Australia and the skipper, practically, was the sole possessor of the secret. He knew Kate and liked her so he did some thinking. “Kate’s getting old,” he mused, “and in looks she’s more like a barge than a racing yacht, but there’ll be plenty of good for nothing fellows to marry her when they know she’ll have ten thousand dollars. They’ll spend every cent of it for her.”

Then he apprised Sandy McDougal, his mate, of the secret and introduced him to Kate.

“He’s too stingy to ever spend her money,” soliloquized the skipper, “and he’ll make her a good husband.”

Sandy courted cautiously.  Kate, with a dowry of ten thousand dollars, was very attractive, but his characteristic stinginess made him hesitate about incurring the expense of a wife until the dowry was possessed. As to Kate, who had never had a beau, she dreamed dreams and watched for Sandy’s coming eagerly.

The inexpensive courtship, for Sandy never spent a copper on Kate, dragged on like a voyage through the calm belt and Captain Pole chafed.

McDougal was overlooking the tarring down of the schooner’s rigging when the skipper came aboard much excited.

“Old Haggerty’s sick,” he whispered to Sandy, “he’s pneumony and he’s too old a man to get well. Now’s your time, Sandy.”

For a moment Sandy wavered then he said, “He may get wull, there’s na hurry.”
Captain Pole coupled Mr. McDougal’s name with an adjective and went gloomily below.

Captain Pole’s watch was a massive machine to which he lay great store and when it became out of order there was only one watchmaker in the city who was permitted to repair it. After his abortive effort to excite Mr, McDougal to action he glanced at his watch and found it stopped.

“I’ll take it to Smoot,” he said, and he left the schooner, scowling at the immovable McDougal, who was still working on the rigging. The skipper had left his watch with Mr. Smoot and was about to depart when he remembered that Dennis Haggerty lived directly opposite the watchmaker. He glanced across at the house and then he rubbed his eyes and stared.

It was not the evidence that Mr. Haggerty was having some repairs done to his front steps that caused him to stare, but attached to the bell pull was a streamer of crape.

He hastened back to the schooner.

“He’s dead,” he gasped.

“Ye na mean it?” exclaimed McDougal.

“There’s crape on the door, that’s a landsman’s flag at half mast. Get your best rigging on and come, there’s not a minute to be lost.”

Mr. McDougal was soon attired in his best black suit of clothes and the two set out for Miss Haggerty’s boarding house.

“Now,” said the skipper, “if she says yes, you ask for an early wedding day. When this here news gets out there’ll be a lot after her,” and, he added, with unnecessary candor, “most anybody can beat you in looks.”

Miss Haggerty was at home and would see Mr. McDougal in the parlor. Captain Pole chose to await on the street the result of his mate’s suit and walked up and down in front of the house. Presently McDougal came to the door and beckoned to the skipper.

“Well,” said that gentleman, as he reached McDougal, “is it all right?”

“I have na asked her yet,” replied McDougal nervously. “Are ye sure ye did na make a mistake in the house.”

“No,” roared the skipper, “it was Dennis Haggerty’s house. Hurry up, man, or you’ll lose the chance.”

In a half hour’s time McDougal came out.

“We’ll be married in a week,” he said. “The landlady is a witness of the engagement. I nope ye’re na wrong in the house.”

Captain Polo was aroused early in the morning by Mr. McDougal, whose countenance showed great menial perturbation.

“Ye’ve ruined me,” said he, shaking his fist at the skipper.

“What’s the matter?” exclaimed the captain.

“It was na crape on the door,” howled McDougal, “the man who was fixing the steps hung his black alpacy coat on the bell-pull.”

The skipper whistled.

“I’ll na marry her,” shrieked McDougal, “I’m sweendled.”

“Then,” retorted the skipper, with difficulty repressing a roar of laughter, “she’ll sue you for breach o’ promise. The landlady is a witness you know.”

The next week Mr. McDougal and Miss Haggerty were married in the most inexpensive style and five years later Captain Pole, witnessing a parade of the United Irishmen, marked with surprise how sturdily old Dennis Haggerty bore the banner.

The Western News [Stockton KS] 9 March 1905: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In this modern era, we have no conception of the alarm and despondency caused when crape was seen fluttering ominously from the door knob or knocker to announce a death. That chronicler of crape over at Haunted Ohio has written of the “crape threat“: a campaign of textile intimidation, and tells in The Victorian Book of the Dead about a young man said to have been shocked to death by learning of the death of his father via the crape on the door.

As for Miss Haggerty, Mrs Daffodil regrets that Captain Pole interfered.  Barge-like Kate may never have had a beau, but Sandy hardly seems the stuff of dreams. We may hope that she got her money’s worth out of her unwilling husband. And when she at long last inherited her uncle’s money, Mrs Daffodil hopes that she showed Sandy the (crape-hung) door.

 

 

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 Inspector Smelled a Rat: 1902

rat trap 1915.JPG

The Inspector Smelled a Rat.

The sight of vast quantities of coin has a stimulating influence on human wits, to such an extent that Uncle Sam is kept busy “coppering” efforts of geniuses to “do” the various mints. Some of the schemes devised are so smooth that the government officials are unwilling for their nature to be divulged at least until the law has been twisted into shape to fit the new form of theft. Time and again methods have been evolved for which no legal antidote is discoverable and which can only be punished by dismissal, not by criminal prosecution. One of the latter types was recently worked on a western mint, according to the report of a late arrival via the Southern Pacific. It was this way. The gold is rolled into strips from ingots in the rolling room and carefully weighed out again. The “in” and “out” figures should tally so they did until recently when a suddenly daily deficit appeared. Each evening there was a loss of $10 or $20 and the director of the mint grew hot in the collar. A personal search was made of every one leaving the room, but the shortage continued.

Finally, one day the inspector in the coinage department smelled, a rat, a real rat, which had fallen a victim to the jaws of a deadfall during the night. Although it was still early in the day, the rat asserted itself until it dawned upon the inspector that decomposition had progressed with remarkable rapidity for a one-day corpse. The trap, he knew had been emptied of another rodent the evening before, for he remembered seeing an employee pick up the thing by the tail and toss it through the small slot above the window.

A flash of intelligence came to the official, and he waited. Later a “stamper” approached the trap, remarking jocularly ‘’Nother rat,’ bent over, fooled with the trap and then tossed the creature out of the window. The inspector was out in a flash and reached the ground just in time to see a gent pick up a defunct rodent, slip it into a leather grip and decamp.

The commotion made by the inspector put the employee on his guard, and he threw no more rats.

He was soon dismissed for cause and went away damning his own laziness, for instead of getting busy and keeping a supply of fresh rats on ice, he used and reused the same fellow until he became faisandé [overripe] and put the authorities next to his game. However, he justified himself by saying that was the only rat he had found with a mouth large enough to hold $35 worth of gold. Exchange.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 2 September 1902: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil will note that, even to-day, those persons in charge of securing clients’ intimate financial details have the same difficulty in apprehending and convicting miscreants who would steal those golden “user-names” and “pass-words.”  The only thing that can be said in the favour of these criminals is that they have moved beyond rats, into “phish.”

 

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 Swan for Christmas Dinner: 1910

A Devonshire man sent his club, just before Christmas, a fine large swan in a hamper. The hamper was addressed to the secretary, who notified the club members of the treat that was in store, and a special swan dinner was arranged. The swan came on, at this dinner, looking magnificent — erect and stately on a great silver-gilt salver. But tough! It was so tough you couldn’t carve the gravy.

A few days later the sender of the swan dropped in at the club. “Got my swan all right. I hope?” he said to the secretary.

“Yes, and a nice trick you played us.”

“Trick? What do you mean?”

“Why, we boiled that swan for sixteen hours, and when it came on the table it was tougher than a block of granite.”

“Good gracious! Did you have my swan cooked?”

“Yes, of course.”

The other was in despair.

“Why, that bird was historic,” he groaned. “I sent him up to be stuffed and preserved. He had been in my family for 200 years. He had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 8 January 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to call a gentleman a liar, but swans only live for perhaps two or three decades at best. If the swan truly had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I, he must have been frozen solid for at least two centuries.

The club secretary and members would have felt like royalty: roast swan was a feature of royal Christmas feasts from time immemorial. The Crown may lay claim to all swans in public waters; currently the Queen shares her swans with two livery companies: the vintners and the dyers; the yearly ceremony of “swan upping” divides the Thames swans between the Queen and the livery companies. Queen Victoria and King Edward VII enjoyed a nice Christmas swan. This article gives the receipt for its preparation, should you happen to have a 200-year-old swan lying about the larder.

KING’S CHRISTMAS SWAN.

Every Year One is Served at Sandringham—The Recipe.

The royal swan has ever been a conspicuous item in the Christmas menu at Sandringham. Every year the largest and plumpest young cygnet that can be obtained from the swannery on the Thames is killed.

When it leaves the hands of the special messenger at Sandringham it is taken charge of by the head cook, who personally looks after it until it is laid before the king.

Trussed like a goose, it is stuffed with a rich mixture of which the principal ingredient is ¾ of a pound of rump steak. It is finally covered with a piece of oily paper, sprinkled with flour, wrapped in a second piece of paper; and then roasted on a spit for four or five hours in front of a blazing fire.

A gravy of beef is provided to which is added a pint of good port wine. Folk who have tasted this dish describe the flavor as being half way between goose and hare. New York World.

The Boston [MA] Globe 24 January 1909: p. 48

 

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 Book-Keeper’s Christmas: 1903

A Real Christmas Story

In a large New York business institution says the December World’s Work, there was an employee whose Christmas gift had the saving grace of individual consideration. He was a book-keeper, nearly 40 years in harness, and he had been overlooked in former years of fatness in Wall street, except for a customary and unvarying $10 gold piece. Several days before Christmas last year, the office became agitated with rumors of an unprecedented flood of good fortune. The old book-keeper tried to keep calm, but his hopes ran riot, and the day before Christmas found him in a nervous flurry. He saw his fellow employees called into the cashier’s office one by one, each returning with a sealed envelope. The bookkeeper waited for his summons, but it came not. Even the office-boys emerged, biting new gold pieces to test them, and the roll was complete an hour before the book-keeper summoned courage to send in an inquiry whether a mistake had been made in the case of Mr. Blank, and whether an envelope had been overlooked. The answer was:

“There is no envelope for Mr. Blank, but the president wishes to see him for a moment.”

The book-keeper saw only one interpretation. This meant his discharge for failing efficiency. He fairly tottered into the sanctum, a pitiful figure of panic and fear.

“Sit down, Mr. Blank,” said the president. “I have omitted your name in the list of Christmas rewards for faithful service, and I regret that the bank will have to find another man to fill your position after tomorrow. Compose yourself, sir, tears are undignified in this office. You should know better after being here for so long a term of service. Don’t go—I have a few words more to say before you leave. The directors have decided to retire you on full pay for the rest of your life, and the year’s salary will be paid to you in advance. This does not establish a ruinous precedent, for employees with 38 years of faithful service to their credit are not sprinkled very plentifully through Wall street.”

Our Paper, Volume 19, Massachusetts Reformatory (Concord, Mass.), 1902

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If employees with 38 years of faithful service are not very plentiful, neither are employers who retire said employees on full pay ad infinitum.  Still, Mrs Daffodil suspects that the callous way in which the good news was communicated to Mr Blank was calculated to bring on shock and, with a bit of luck, heart-failure. Then the bank would have had a clear conscience at its charitable effort without having to pay out much more, perhaps, than funeral expenses.  The office boys were right to bite their gold-pieces. A firm who would spring such a surprise on an honoured employee is not to  be trusted.

 

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.

Death in the Pot

there is death in the pot.JPG

On the first Sunday in the year 1749, Mr. Thomas Lilly, the son of a farmer in the parish of Kelso in Roxburghshire, a young man intended for the Church of Scotland, remained at home to keep the house in company with a shepherd’s boy, all the rest of the family, except a maid-servant, being at church. The young student and the boy being by the fire whilst the girl was gone to the well for water, a venerable old gentleman, clad in an antique garb, presented himself, and after some little ceremony, desired the student to take up the family bible which lay on a table, and turn over to a certain chapter and verse in the Second Book of Kings. The student did so, and read—“there is death in the pot.”

On this the old man, with much apparent agitation, pointed to the great family pot boiling on the fire, declaring that the maid had cast a great quantity of arsenic into it with an intent to poison the whole family, to the end she might rob the house of the hundred guineas which she knew her master had lately taken for sheep and grain which he had sold. Just as he was so saying the maid came to the door. The old gentleman said to the student, “remember my warning and save the lives of the family!” and that instant disappeared.

The maid entered with a smiling countenance, emptied her pail, and returned to the well for a fresh supply. Meanwhile young Lilly put some oatmeal into a wooden dish, skimmed the pot of the fat and mixed it for what is called brose or croudy, and when the maid returned, he with the boy appeared busily employed in eating the mixture. “Come, Peggy,” said the student, “here is enough left for you; are not you fond of croudy?” She smiled, took up the dish, and reaching a horn spoon, withdrew to the back room. The shepherd’s dog followed her, unseen by the boy, and the poor animal, on the croudy being put down by the maid, fell a victim to his voracious appetite; for before the return of the family from church it was enormously swelled, and expired in great agony.

The student enjoined the boy to remain quite passive for the present; meanwhile he attempted to shew his ingenuity by resolving the cause of the sudden death of the dog into insanity, in order to keep the girl in countenance till a fit opportunity of discovering the plot should present itself.

Soon after his father and family with the other servants returned from church.

The table was instantly replenished with wooden bowls and trenchers, while a heap of barley bannocks graced the top. The kail or broth, infused with leeks or winter-cabbages, was poured forth in plenty; and Peggy, with a prodigal hand, filled all the dishes with the homely dainties of Teviotdale. The master began grace, and all hats and bonnets were instantly off; “O Lord,” prayed the farmer, “we have been hearing thy word, from the mouth of thy aged servant Mr. Ramsay; we have been alarmed by the awful famine in Samaria, and of death being in the pot!” Here the young scholar interrupted his father, by exclaiming— “Yes sir, there is death in the pot now here, as well as there was once in Israel! Touch not! taste not! see the dog dead by the poisoned pot!”

“What!” cried the farmer, “have you been raising the devil by your conjuration? Is this the effect of your study, sir?” “No, father,” said the student, “ I pretend to no such arts of magic or necromancy, but this day, as the boy can testify, I had a solemn warning from one whom I take to be no demon, but a good angel. To him we all owe our lives. As to Peggy, according to his intimation, she has put poison into the pot for the purpose of destroying the whole family.” Here the girl fell into a fit, from which being with some trouble recovered, she confessed the whole of her deadly design, and was suffered to quit the family and her native country. She was soon after executed at Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the murder of her illegitimate child, again making ample confession of the above diabolical design.

Signs Before Death: A Record of Strange Apparitions, Remarkable Dreams, &c, John Timbs, 1875

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A curious story for St Andrew’s Day.  Mrs Daffodil wonders why supernatural gentlemen so often appear in “antique garb:” ancestral  ghosts in clan plaids, the Gentry in gold-laced coats, His Satanic Majesty in black velvet, and, apparently, an aged angel**. Are there no fashionable tailors in the Afterlife?

To be Relentlessly Informative, the turning over the pages of the Bible as a form of divination is well-known in supernatural circles. It is also known as bibliomancy, although the Holy Book is not a requirement. M.R. James used it to great effect in ‘The Ash Tree,” where Mr Crome tries to discover the secrets of the ash tree by the “old and by many accounts superstitious practice of drawing the sorts.”  But in this case, it appears that the venerable gentleman, rather than opening the Book at random, “cribbed” to deliver the life-saving message.

 

**Spoiler Alert: We find in a second part of the story that the “angel” is Mr Lilly’s dead grandfather, who kindly directs him to a treasure.

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.