Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

Mrs Bungay and Undertaker Toombs: 1882

1870 hearse and horses

Bungay’s Experiment

By Max Adeler.

Bungay, the real-estate agent over at Pencader, suspected that Mrs. Bungay didn’t care as much for him as she ought to. So one day he went up to the city after leaving word that he would be gone two or three days. While there he arranged with a friend to send a telegram to his wife, at a certain hour, announcing that he had been run over on the railroad and killed. Then Bungay came home, and, slipping into the house unperceived, he secreted himself in the closet in the sitting-room, to await the arrival of the telegram and to see how Mrs. Bungay took it. After a while it came, and he saw the servant-girl give it to his wife. She opened it, and as she read it she gave one little start. Then Bungay saw a smile gradually overspread her features. She ran for the girl, and when the servant came Mrs. Bungay said to her:

“Mary, Mr. Bungay’s been killed. I’ve just got the news. I reckon I’ll have to put on black for him, though I hate to give up my new bonnet for mourning. You just go round to the milliner’s and ask her to fetch me up some of the latest styles of widow’s bonnets, and tie a bunch of crape on the door, and then bring the undertaker here.”

While Mrs. Bungay was waiting she smiled continually, and once or twice she danced around the room, and stood in front of the looking-glass, and Bungay heard her murmur to herself:

“I ain’t such a bad-looking woman, either. Wonder what James will think of me?”

“James!” thought Bungay, as his widow took her seat and sang softly, as if she felt particularly happy. “Who’n the thunder’s James? She certainly can’t mean that infamous old undertaker, Toombs? His name’s James, and he’s a widower; but its preposterous to suppose that she cares for him, or is going to prowl after any man for a husband as quick as this.”

While he brooded, in horror, over the thought, Mr. Toombs arrived. The widow said:

“Mr. Toombs, Bungay is dead; run over by a locomotive and chopped all up.”

“Very sorry to hear it, madam; I sympathize with you in your affliction.”

“Thank you; it is pretty sad. But I don’t worry much. Bungay was a poor sort of a man to get along with, and now that he’s gone I’m going to stand it without crying my eyes out. We’ll have to bury him, I s’pose, though?”

“That is the usual thing to do in such cases.”

“Well, I want you to ’tend to it for me. I reckon l the Coroner ’ill have to sit on him first. But when they get through, if you’ll just collect the pieces and shake him into some kind of a bag and pack him into a coffin, I’ll be obliged.”

“Certainly, Mrs. Bungay.  Funeral to occur?”

“Oh, ’most any day. P’rhaps the sooner the better, so’s we can have it over. It’ll save expense, too, by taking less ice. I don’t want to spend much money on it, Mr. Toombs. Rig him up some kind of a cheap coffin, and mark his name on it with a brush, and hurry him with as little fuss as possible. I’ll come along with a couple of friends; and we’ll walk. No carriages. Times are too hard.”

“I will attend to it.”

“And, Mr. Toombs, there is another matter. Mr. Bungay’s life was insured for about twenty thousand dollars, and I want to get it as soon as possible, and when I get it I shall think of marrying again.”

“Indeed, madam!”

“Yes; and can you think of anybody who’ll suit me?”

“I dunno. I might. Twenty thousand you say he left?”

“Twenty thousand; yes. Now, Mr. Toombs, you’ll think me bold, but I only tell the honest truth when I say that I prefer a widower, and a man who is about middle-age, and in some business connected with cemeteries.”

“How would an undertaker suit you?”

“I think very well, if I could find one, I often told Bungay that I wished he was an undertaker.”

“Well, Mrs. Bungay, it’s a little kinder sudden; I haven’t thought much about it; and old Bungay’s hardly got fairly settled in the world of the hereafter; but business is business, and if you must have an undertaker to love you and look after that life insurance money, it appears to me that I am just about that kind of a man. Will you take me?”

“Oh, James! fold me to your bosom!”

James was just about to fold her, when Bungay, white with rage, burst from the closet, and exclaimed:

“Unhand her, villain! Touch that woman and you die! Leave this house at once, or I’ll brain you with the poker! And as for you. Mrs. Bungay, you can pack up your duds and quit. I’ve done with you; I know now that you are a cold-hearted, faithless, abominable wretch! Go, and go at once! I did this to try you, and my eyes are opened.”

“I know you did, and I concluded to pay you in your own coin.”

“That’s too awful thin. It won’t hold water.”

“It’s true anyhow. You told Mr. Magill you were going to do it, and he told me.”

“He did, hey? I’ll bust the head off of him.”

“When you are really dead I will be a good deal more sorry, provided you don’t make such a fool of yourself while you’re alive.”

“You will? You will really be sorry?”

“Of course?”

“And you won’t marry Toombs? Where is that man Toombs? By George, I’ll go for him now! He was mighty hungry for that life insurance money! I’ll step around and kick him at once while I’m mad. We’ll talk this matter over when I come back.”

Then Bungay left to call upon Toombs, and when he returned he dropped the subject. He has drawn up his will so that his wife is cut off with a shilling if she employs Toombs as the undertaker.

The Elocutionist’s Journal. A Repository of the Choicest Standard and Current Pieces for Readings and Declamations.June 1882: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only imagine the hilarity when this was presented as a parlour recitation.

Jealous husbands shamming death are nothing new in the annals of fiction as we previously saw in “Mr Mathias Rises from the Grave,” And a very sick man thought, as Mr Bungay did, that his wife was utterly heartless because he overheard her discussing not wearing the appropriate mourning.

Perhaps the best we can say is that many wives lamented their late lords and masters rather less than those gentlemen expected.

Comforting.

Jones (sick): My dear, what will you do if I should die?

Mrs. Jones: Is your insurance all paid up?”

Jones: Yes, dear.

Mrs. Jones: I’d have the loveliest mourning gown that’s ever been seen on this street!

Barbour County Index [Medicine Lodge KS] 25 November 1908: p. 2

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 Rose from the May-Queen’s Crown: 1892

 

A Rose from the May-Queen’ s Crown.

“Oh dear! oh dear! What can it be he wants? If I could only tell! For he does want it so!” Margery wrung her hands in her impotence. To think she could not help him—not help him, who had been so good, so good to her!

She fell down on her knees at the bedside.

The old face upturned on the pillows could not turn to look at her thus. The restlessness grew in the haggard eyes, that seemed the only thing alive in the poor stricken body bound fast by paralysis.

“Dear Mr. Gregory, if you could only speak one word—could only tell me what to do for you!”

“One thing you must not do, Miss Margery,” said Dick Strafford’s voice, from the other side of the bed; “you must not take your face out of his sight. I can see my uncle grows more troubled when he loses sight of you.”

As she rose to her feet at his bidding, the young man looked full at her with that in his eyes, which showed a quite sufficient appreciation of the old man’s whim.

But Margery was not heeding Dick. All her thoughts were bent on poor Mr. Gregory, lying there these three days, with that hunger in his look—motionless.

“No, not quite!” cried out Margery suddenly, replying to her own thoughts. “See, his poor fingers are moving, moving. Not his hand—only his finger-tips. Oh, do you think life is coming back into them? Oh Dick, shan’t we send and have the doctor here again at once?”

In her earnestness, she did not notice how she had called his name; but Dick glowed with what appeared to her an eager hope; and no doubt was so, though not what she thought.

“Look at him, Miss Margery. If eyes could speak, his seem to me to say he does not want the doctor; he does want you.”

“The poor hand—the dear hand, that has always been doing deeds of kindness. Always,  always!”

With a little inarticulate murmur of tenderness, such as one uses to a child, she put her hand on the now useless one.

More and more his fingers strove to stir under hers. What his lips could not, his eyes tried hard to tell her. So often did they glance from Margery to the small table at the bedside, that Margery touched one by one the things that stood upon it, hoping to come at his meaning.

Not the cooling drink; not the medicine phials—the bit of paper and pencil for jotting down the directions the doctor had given her?

The paper, the pencil?

His look of relief was so instantaneous, that Margery caught at it eagerly.

“Oh, do you think he could write what he wishes, if I could guide his hand?” she asked Dick, who brought her a book to put under the bit of paper on the bed.

Dick brought the book, indeed; but he looked more than doubtful, as once more she knelt down at the bedside, and put her soft hand over the restless withered one.

Yes, she was not mistaken. Slowly, and with difficulty, under her guidance a few straggling, hardly legible words were traced upon the paper:

“Watch-chain key desk will—”

There the pencil fell from the relaxing fingers. For an instant those disconnected words seemed to stare blankly out of the paper with no meaning for the two young heads bent wistfully above them.

Dick tapped his forehead significantly, standing where the old eyes could not see him.

“He’s wandering,” the gesture said plainly enough to Margery.

But the girl shook her head.

“Do you know where his watch and chain were put?” she asked quickly.

They were found presently, in the dressing case where they were laid three days ago, when at the close of her May ball, Margery came up as May Queen in her white dress and rose crown, to say good-night to the invalid giver of the May ball, her father’s old friend, and so-called guardian of the penniless orphan girl. She came up, to find him fallen in the doorway between his two rooms, half hidden by the portière; rigid and motionless in that death-in-life paralysis.

A small gold key on the watch-chain proved the key to the mysterious writing. It unlocked the desk on the writing table in view in the outer room; and as the lid flew up, there was disclosed a half unfolded paper: “Last Will and Testament—”

“That is what he wants,” began Margery, eagerly; then stopped and drew her breath short and hard, as her eyes fell upon a line of figures in the body of the will. $100,000—

“$100,000 to my nephew Richard Stafford; the rest of my property, real and personal, to be divided equally between my nephew Oliver Dean, and Margery—”

Margery read no more. With a hot blush for her inadvertence in reading anything at all, and a dim sense of wonder at the terms of the will—(for was not Oliver Dean considered old Mr. Gregory’s favorite; and was not old Mr. Gregory’s modest fortune generally estimated at somewhere about a hundred thousand?)— the girl lifted the paper from its place.

“It must be this, that your Uncle Gregory wants—” she was beginning.

The words stopped suddenly upon her lips. The color flew into her face that the next instant was strangely pale; for as she lifted the paper, her eyes fell upon something lying under it. A dead rose from the May Queen’ s crown! The May-Queen herself, and Dick Stafford looking over her shoulder into the open desk, knew it at a glance. A whitish-brown, withered Cherokee rose with its glossy green leaves.

Dick Stafford had reason good to recognize it; since he had been at some pains to send for these same hedge row blossoms, from the girl’s old home, for that occasion of the May party.

There it lay now, under the old man’s will, in the locked desk, the key of which had never been out of the old man’s possession until this moment, when he had signified his wish to have the will brought to his bedside.

The keen eyes of the old man were watching both the young people from his pillow. They were not conscious of the scrutiny; they were only conscious each of the tense look in the other’s face.

Then slowly, still not lowering his eyes from Margery, Dick Stafford stretched out his hand for the dead rose and thrust it into his breast pocket. Margery turned cold, shivering, as he did it. How furtively he did it; how guilty he looked, she said to herself with a sinking heart.

No one but Dick and she had had Cherokee roses; and what had Dick been doing at that desk?

That desk; of which he had appeared to be so profoundly ignorant, when together they looked over poor Mr. Gregory’s scrawl.

Meanwhile, Dick was regarding her with a sort of wrathful pity in his troubled eyes. Was the child mad, that she had done this thing? Had women no sense of right and justice in their unselfishness? Those two last ciphers of the 100,000 were squeezed together, as if they had been inserted afterwards. Was the child mad—in her desire to help him, Dick Stafford, to more than a paltry $1,000 left him in the will; had she not scrupled not only to defraud herself, but also Oliver Dean, who had always been considered the old man’s favorite nephew? Had she tampered with the will, leaving her rose there unawares, a silent witness against her?

He thrust it out of sight; breathlessly, not knowing what was possible to do,— only not to betray this child, who could not have known what she was doing!

As for Margery, her brain was reeling with the wild thoughts pressing on her.

Was Dick Stafford mad, that he had done this thing? Was it because he had done this thing, that he would not understand the poor old man’s writing just now? Surely, surely, he could not have added those two cramped, wedged in ciphers, and so enriched himself! It seemed clearly impossible; and yet—and yet—

That, word took Margery’s breath away; with the swift memory of Dick’s tirades against poor young men wooing rich girls, and her secret consciousness that if he had not been poor, and she with expectations from the old man who had been as a father to her, Dick would long ago have spoken. And the dainty, glossy-leaved Cherokee rose she had fastened in his buttonhole, the night of the ball—

Margery turned sharply away, as he thrust it in his breast. With fire in her eyes, but a deathly pallor in her face, she moved back to the bed, the will in her hand. She could not deny the command, the entreaty, in the old man’s eyes. She had laid it, folded close, under his hand. But he would have it unfolded; how could she deny him that, either? She opened it, and held it out to him, slowly, reluctantly; yet she would not meet his eyes as he read it; nor herself read in them the story of Dick Stafford’s sin. She turned aside, and busied herself with arranging the phials on the stand beside the bed.

The click of the door presently startled her into glancing over her shoulder at it. It was Dick leaving the room. As she turned back, the restless fingers were still moving, moving, as though they vainly strove to reach the pencil. The restless eyes met hers again; not to be gainsaid.

Dick had gone; no harm need be done she told her quailing heart. She flung herself down on her knees at the bedside; she put the pencil once more into the helpless fingers, guiding them. Ah, how she watched for the irregular, hardly legible words they formed with so much difficulty! Her breath came fast; there was a mist before her eyes.

“Pair young fools. Will all right. Oliver’s rose.”

Margery laid her hot cheek against the weary hand, from which she drew away the paper, and hurried to the bell, pulling it vehemently again and again.

As the door was opening:

“Send Mr. Dick here—at once, at once, do you hear?” she cried to the servant she supposed answering her summons.

But this was Dick himself; who came hastily forward and took her in his arms, seeing her changing color.

She broke into a tearful laugh.

“‘Pair of young fools—'” she cried: “Pair of young fools!'”—and thrust the penciled paper on him.

“Pair of young fools!” This May day a year later, the words were spoken again; this time by old Mr. Gregory himself.

For after all, he recovered sufficiently to explain how he had had knowledge of Oliver Dean which caused him to alter his will by the addition of the two ciphers to convey the bulk of his fortune to Dick Stafford; who, he knew, would then be sure to marry Margery. It was the shock of that discovery of Oliver’s unworthiness, which was the cause of the paralytic seizure a moment after altering the will; and the old man fallen in the doorway between his two rooms—speechless—had seen Oliver enter, go to the open desk; the rose stolen from Margery, to provoke Dick’s jealous anger, dropping into the desk from his lapel as he lifted the will from its place. Then something had drawn the young man’s eyes to the prostrate figure staring at him; he had flung back the will, letting the spring lock slam to, and fled.

“The will might bide its time,” said Mr. Gregory; meanwhile, he would give his blessing to this pair of fools, upon this their wedding day.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, May 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The plot might have been cribbed, Mrs Daffodil suggests, raising her eyebrows censoriously, from Mr William Shakespeare’s Othello, save for the murders and suicide in one and the happy ending in the other, of course. “Pair of young fools,” scarcely covers the idiocy of two young persons in love that they can, on such slender “evidence,” assume the worse of the Beloved.

The maddest merriest day of all the glad new year, indeed…

Mrs Daffodil is also thinking hard thoughts about the kindly Mr Gregory who easily could have left the bulk of his fortune to Margery, rather than to a jealous young man who the old gentleman assumes will marry the dear girl, worn out from watching at his bed-side. Why does no author ever write a story in which Dick inherits, then jilts the comparatively-portionless Margery for high life in London?

A similar strain of brutal realism may be found in these previous posts on Tennyson’s “The May Queen” Adapted for Inclement Weather and The Ideal May-Day; The Actual May-Day.

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 anecdote

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.

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

“I have just seen Mrs. Janes,” said Mrs. Simmons’ niece as she sank wearily into a chair. “She had a new dress on. I don’t think I’d like it a bit if people copied my clothes.”

“You are not very clear in your remarks,” laughed Mrs. Simmons. “But you remind me of an incident in my girlhood that was almost a tragedy. There was a dress I designed all by myself. It was a mighty pretty girlish gown. I wore it to some entertainment at school and when the girls admired it I told them I had designed it myself and I thought it was the prettiest dress in the world.”

“I’m sure it was lovely,” said her niece.

“Three weeks after I first appeared in it,” Mrs. Simmons continued, “one of the girls whom I liked least came to me with a sort of triumphant manner and said she thought I had been boasting that my brown dress was my own design and therefore the only one of its kind. I defended my statement and she finally believed me, but told me that she had seen a white-haired woman wearing a dress of the same style. I was heartbroken and tried to think she was mistaken, but when I asked our dressmaker about it she said the woman had seen my dress and had come in and offered her such a good price to make one like it that she had done so, hoping I would never know about it.”

“Oh, the poor child!” cried her niece. “I was just wondering about whether I’d better tell what Mrs. Janes said. But I don’t know that you would mind after all.”

“Mrs. Janes is a very pleasant woman,” declared Mrs. Simmons.

“It wasn’t much,” said her niece. “She had on a new dress and she very evidently expected me to notice it, so I obligingly admired it. It was really very pretty, so I could do so truthfully, but Mrs. Janes said it did not compare with one her sister had just had made. She said that her sister had met you somewhere or other in a lovely dress that she liked extremely. She said it was one of the dresses you got in Paris last summer and was therefore just at the height of style here now, so she had her dressmaker copy it from her description.”

“That is very flattering,” said Mrs. Simmons dubiously. “It Is nice to have people like your things but I’d a little rather they didn’t copy my Paris dresses. I don’t remember where I wore that gown that Mrs. Janes saw it. Did she describe it at all?”

“She said it is dark blue with a line of red near the neck, and it has some kind of drape on the hips. She says her sister copied it exactly and is telling everybody it is a model by somebody or other in Paris. Mrs. Janes always adds that it is a copy of the model, and her sister tells people that now and makes it sound as if it were really a better thing than the original gown.”

“I never said my dresses were anybody’s model,” protested Mrs. Simmons. “Some woman at the boarding house over there told me about an inexpensive dressmaker, and I went to her to have these two dresses made, that is all. They aren’t anything much, I just wanted to get something there. But I can’t think where either of those two women saw that dress, for I have worn it only twice, and to places where they don’t go. I’ve been saving them, as I said, to use this spring.”

“Mrs. Janes said she saw it when you had it on at a meeting of the guild,” said her niece. “But her sister saw it before that and asked her to notice particularly how the sleeves were made when she saw you next, as she had forgotten them when, she saw you at Mrs. Dunbar’s mah jong party.”

“But I didn’t wear that Paris dress to Mrs. Dunbar’s. Let me think—oh yes, I did wear that blue dress with red pipings. Well, well, so Mrs. Janes’ sister copied it did she?”

“Yes, she did!” cried her niece. “And I should think you’d be awfully sore at her for it, too—your new Paris gown!”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind a bit,” chuckled Mrs. Simmons. “You see, I gave that dress to the janitor’s wife only yesterday.”

“You didn’t! And you have worn it only twice'”

“Oh, I have worn it a great deal. I had made it over three months ago from an old thing I got just before the war and I hoped it would last, but I am getting too plump for it, not to say, fat. That dress never even heard of Paris! I wonder If I haven’t some more old clothes with the Paris look?”

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 23 March 1924: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have read in “The Lightning Adaptors of Fashion,” how Miss Billie Burke copyrighted her stage dresses so that they would not be copied. And the shockingly brazen methods of the copyists of French couture designs were exposed in “Fashion Pirates.” The practice was not confined to professionals as we see in the confessions in ‘Things I Steal,” and “The Very Worst Thing.”

Copying was, to many ladies, a harmless practice, particularly if they did not think too long or hard about the ethics of the thing. Yet there was a danger in adopting French fashions—one which was rarely mentioned in the press:

A bit of warning advice may be inserted here for the American woman shopper who believes that all French styles must needs be extreme. The absolutely sensational things now and then launched by the French dressmakers are nothing but advertisements, and they are never worn by French ladies, only by the conspicuous beauties of doubtful reputation, who are hired to display the novelties at some public function like the spring races at Auteuil or Longchamps. While it may be a temptation to copy a startling hat or gown, it is really the part of wisdom to select the quieter modes, which are just as artistic and more appropriate and which lead to no embarrassing ambiguity as to the social classification of a good-looking well-dressed American woman.

The French woman of accepted position is the model for the American woman to follow in copying French fashions. All American women intend to do this, but the majority of them make bad mistakes and innocently do themselves harm. But it is almost impossible to make the American woman realize this.

Pittsburgh [PA] Daily Post 5 July 1912: p. 8  

For what shall it profit a lady, if she shall gain an entire French wardrobe, and be mistaken for a conspicuous beauty of doubtful reputation?

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 anecdote

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.

 

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 Blazing Ghost of Cardiff Town: 1903

wicker man burning

THE BLAZING GHOST OF CARDIFF TOWN.

By Howard R. Garis.

(Copyright 1903 by Robert Howard Russell.)

Never had peaceful Onondaga valley been so disquieted. The people of the town of Cardiff, from one end to the other were talking of the wonder which exceeded even the sensation of the historic Cardiff Giant. This time, instead of a giant it was a ghost, and such a wraith as never had been heard of before. The Headless Horseman was a mere baby compared to it, and Puritanical broom-riding witches were not horrible enough to be mentioned in the same breath. Truly the Cardiff ghost was an apparition most fearsome.

The spirit had first appeared to Abe Crownheart, who kept the Pine Tree as the Cardiff hotel was known. He was driving home one night from Tully, a village at the south end of the valley, when near the bridge, over the brook that runs through Enberry Took’s place, the spectre rushed out and pursued Abe. He reached home with his horse all in a lather of foam, and himself dripping wet in a perspiration of fear. For a few minutes after reaching the bar-room he could only gasp and pant.

“What ailes ye, Abe?” asked Bill Hounson. “Ye act as ef ye’d seen suthin.”

“So–so I have,” panted Abe, looking to see if the door was tightly shut. “I seen somethin’ mortal eyes never beheld since the world began. Jest’s I was passin’ Enberry’s bridge, a spirit, all blue flame, wavin’ its arms of fire, an’ waggin’ its head started down the hill after me. It chased me clean to Dave Tupmans place, the horse goin’ lickity-split al the while.” “Fer th’ love o’ tripe!” exclaimed Bert Bailey. “D’ye s’pose ’twas a real ghost?”

“I don’t care ’bout seem’ any realer,” said Abe.

“Sure ye hadn’t bin adrinkin any hard cider?” asked Bill Hounson.

“Say.” exclaimed Abe, earnestly, “I only wish it was that kind of a ghost I’d seen. This wasn’t nothin’ of that sort. It was as tall as the church steeple, and as big ’round as a hogshead. It was all on fire from head to foot, I tell you, wavin’ its flamin’ arms, and runnin’ with feet and legs all blazin’, and its head wobblin’ from side to side. Then there was the most awful smell, jest like a burnin’ lake of brimstone.

Abe’s terror was so genuine, and his fright so real, that it was communicated to his auditors. Though they hardly believed Abe had seen a ghost, they were sure he had been near something rather hair-raising. So, when the crowd in the tavern broke up a little later there were many anxious looks cast on all sides in the darkness, as the farmers made their way to their homes.

It was only two nights later that Enberry Took reported that he too had seen the ghost. It was even worse than Abe had described it, Enberry said. Closely following this came confirmation from Truem Wright and George Bennett, who told at the hotel one night how they had both been pursued by the flaming spirt, which had run after them quite a distance. Then there was no doubt about the Cardiff ghost. From one end of the village to the other the story went, carrying terror with it. Women were afraid to go out in the yard after dusk, children would not linger on the road from school, and even the farmers hesitated about journeying on the highway after supper. Nothing was talked of save the spirit, and when, three weeks after Abe had first seen it, Dr. Rood, driving home from visiting a patient, was pursued so closely by the spectre that the leather top of his buggy was scorched by the wraith’s burning arms there was intense excitement.

There was no disputing the fact that the ghost burned with real fire, for the leather of the carriage was shriveled by the heat, and the varnish was blistered. Clearly something must be done.

Enos Rasher, chairman of the town selectmen called a public meeting in the hall over Truem Wright’s grist mill. The case of the blazing ghost was gone over from the time of its first appearance, and then Enos stated the object of the gathering, which was to find a means of getting rid of the spectre.

“Who’ll undertake th’ job?” asked Enos. ”There’s no use agoin’ outside, el we kin git th’ work done t’ hum,” he went on. “Me ‘n th’ selectmen’s come t’ th conclusion that we kin offer a reword o’ twenty shillin’ t’ th man who rids Cardiff o’ th’ terrer.”

The chairman waited, but no one came forward to offer himself as a ghost-layer.

“This thing ought to be done scientific,” said Abe Crownheart, rising in his seat. “None of us has had any experience gittin’ rid of ghosts. Mebby it’s easy work, and then agin mebby it’s hard but we ought to have some one look after it what knows how to go about it. I move we hire a regular ghost exterminator, and pay him a decent day’s wages.”

The motion was seconded by several and the selectmen, accompanied by Enos, withdrew to another room for a consultation. At the close of the conference the chairman announced that the reward would be increased to $50.00 and an advertisement was to be inserted in a Syracuse paper, offering that sum to whoever would dispell the ghost.

The meeting broke up and the next day Enos Rasher took the stage for the distant city of Syracuse to have the advertisement inserted. That night the ghost was seen again by Enberry Took, whose house was nearest to where the spirit appeared. Enberry saw it, dimly luminous, floating along the hillside, and he double-locked the doors, burning a lamp all night, even sitting up with his family till morning broke.

From then on Cardiff was in a state of unrest. No one ventured near the spot, and even the Onondaga Indians, at the Castle reservation, near the town, would not pass along the road which the ghost sometimes crossed. Soon communication between Cardiff and Tully, the nearest town of any size began to fall off. The Tully people said they did not care to come to Cardiff, for the ghost might hear about them, and conclude Tully was a better place for his operations than Cardiff, transferring himself accordingly which contingency the Tully people did not care in the least to have occur. In a little while the lack of intercourse was felt, and, when the Tully Councilmen voted their town shut to and quarantined against the Cardiff folks, the inhabitants of the latter place concluded rightly that it was the last straw.

“Why,” announced Truem Wright to a group of indignant Cardiffites at the Pine Tree, “they couldn’t treat us no wuss ef we was a sufferin’ from th’ plague. Suthin’s got to be done about it, that’t all.”
Meanwhile the ghost continued to show itself. Nothing else was talked of in the town. Signs, telling of the reward were posted all over, and, one day at noon, Porter Amidown, the constable, tacked one on the fence opposite the place where the ghost most often made its appearance.

“I calcalated mebby th’ ole sinner might take notice on’t” remarked Porter, “‘n seein’ ‘s how he wan’t welcome ’round here, he might light out.”

Thus far no professional ghost-layers tried their hand at earning the $50 True, now and. then a traveling fortune hunter, a confidence man or a seller of novelties, would offer to tackle the job. One look at the spirit from a safe distance, in the fields on a dark night, was sufficient. Once a peddler, a bold swaggering enough fellow, when telling at the bar of the Pine Tree, how he would lay the ghost, fled at the first sight of the flaming figure. He never returned to claim a choice collection of jewelry he had left behind at the hotel.

In all of its wanderings the ghost had done no harm, save to scorch Dr. Rood’s carriage. It seemed as if the spectre was some unhappy wraith which, unconsumed by the fire that burned it, was doomed to haunt the place. Various explanations were given of the ghost. Some said it was the spirit of the original Cardiff Giant; others that it was the soul of some Onondaga, Indian, who had murdered his sweetheart and was wandering restlessly about the earth to expiate his crime, until the ruler of the Happy Hunting Grounds decreed that he might enter there.

A month had passed, and still the ghost held forth. The people were beginning to despair of being rid of it. One night, about an hour before sunset, when the stage from Syracuse arrived at the Cardiff post office, a stranger alighted. He was tall and thin, of dark complexion with a small black moustache. He inquired for Enos Rasher, chairman of the select men, and when the latter was found digging potatoes in the garden, the stranger introduced himself as Professor Roger Ascott.

“Wall, what kin I do fer ye?” asked Enos.

The professor silently held out a Syracuse paper and pointed to the advertisement of a ghost-hunter wanted.

“Oh,” said Enos rather dubiously, offering his hand. Then he added with more fervor. “Wall, I’m real glad t’ see ye. Are ye a real ghost-hunter?” “It is my sole business,” answered the professor, and he extended a card reading: “Professor Roger Ascott, public and Private Ghost-Layer. Spirits of all kinds dispelled with neatness and dispatch. All kinds of spectres done away with. Haunted houses a specialty. Low rates and prompt service. A trial solicited.”

“I guess you’re th’ feller we’re after,” commented Enos, after he had read the card twice. Then he told the professor all about the Cardiff ghost.

At the close of the tale to which the professor listened gravely and with attention, he said,

“Hum. Can you take me to where the spirit is seen most? I would like to get an idea of the topography of the location by daylight.”

“I’ll tel ye how t’ git thar,” replied Enos, impressively, “but ‘s fer ‘s goin’ thar’s concerned–” He paused, and the professor smiled. From a hill back of his house, however, Enos showed the scientific ghost-hunter the stamping ground of the spirit.

“Have none of you examined the neighborhood?” asked the man of science. “Perhaps the—ah–the phenomenon can easily be accounted for on natural grounds.”

“It may be, it may be,” said Enos, slowly, “but none on us calcalite on goin’ nigh ’nuff t’ see. From all accounts th’ thing’s ’bout ‘s unnatural ‘s any one ever hearn on.”

“Hum,” said the professor. “I may as well tell you that I am not after the $50, for I hunt ghosts as much for my own pleasure as for any other reason. Still I have my expense, so I usually accept a small fee. That is why I speak of low rates on my cards. If I was in the business regularly and for profit, I would have to charge more than $1,000 for getting rid of this ghost for you. Blazing ghosts are the most expensive kind there is. But as I said I am not after money.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” answered Enos, “’cause we went down purty deep in th’ treasury when we offered th’ $50. So I wish ye good luck with this job, ‘n th’ money’ll be paid over prompt.”

After securing explicit directions how to reach the haunts of the spirit the professor left Enos and trudged off in the gathering twilight.

Had any one watched him they would have seen the professor, after reaching the place, moving about and sniffing the air, as a dog does on the scent of game.

“Curious, curious,” he muttered, “um!” I wonder if–and yet how can it be? Still,” he went on, “it is natural, most natural.”

Then he moved about in a circle, still sniffing the air in deep breath. He seemed to be trying to get on the track of something. At last he appeared to have located it, for he uttered a cry of success, and hurried off up the hill.

He returned to the hotel in time for supper and found a curious throng waiting for him. To all questions he replied nothing, telling the people to have patience. Even this little hope seemed to cheer every one up, and thy felt better than they had in many weeks. They had begun to despair that the ghost would ever be laid, and, though they thought they might  get used to it in time, still it was likely to be an inconvenience for quite a period.

When it was dark the professor went to his room and came back presently. There was a suspicious bulge to his right hip pocket, but no one said anything about it.

Professor Ascott started off, followed by a crowd of men, all of whom, how ever, remained near Bert Bailey’s house, refusing to go any further. So the investigator proceeded alone.

For an hour the waiting crowd stood silent in the darkness.

“There tis!” exclaimed Enos Rasher, suddenly.

The others looked, and there, sure enough, was the ghost. It towered high in the air, with outstretched arms, a figure of bluish flame, flickering and blazing. A form of terrible fire, visible half a mile away. It appeared to be about twice as large as a man.

“I guess the professor’ll have all he bargained for,” commented Abe Crown heart.

There was a silence for a moment, while the watchers saw the ghost slowly move along toward the road.

Suddenly the stillness was broken by a revolver shot, followed by two more. Then it was observed that the ghost quickly turned and ran up the hill. A sliver of red flame from the revolver followed it, and then came the sound of another shot. The spirit was seen to stop and stagger. It tried to maintain an upright position during a fierce struggle.

“Th’ perfessor’s fightin it!” exclaimed Enos, and the excitement among the watchers was intense. The next instant the ghost fell to the earth.

“By the Great Dutch Cheese, th’ perfeesor’s downed it.” cried Porter. The group of men waited, not knowing what would happen next. The spirit was now only a bluish, burning flickering spot on the side of the hill, seemingly consuming itself with its own fire. The silence which now prevailed strained the nerves of the waiting men almost, to the breaking point. They scarcely breathed. All were wondering what had become of the ghost-hunter.

Then out in the darkness, came the sound of footsteps on the road.

“Thar comes th’ Perfessor.” said Enos.

“’N some un’s ‘ith him.” added Porter. “He must be bringin’ in the ghost.”

In another minute two figures were dimly observed emerging from the blackness, and one was that of Professor Ascott. who had tight hold of another man.

“Gentlemen, the Cardiff ghost,” announced the man of science. Enos, Porter and the others peered at the captive.

“Silas Waydell!” exclaimed half a dozen.

“The same,” answered the owner of the name, “and I must say your ghost-layer here is an expert.”

To the scores of questions for an explanation Professor Ascott returned evasive replies, until he reached the hotel. There he turned the prisoner over to Constable Amidown.

“I do not know on what charge you can hold him, unless it might be getting money under false pretenses,” said the professor.

“How’s that?” asked Enos.

“Well,” the ghost-hunter went on, “he has been digging sulphur on Mr. Enberry Took’s land, and selling it. He confessed to me. Of course he did it under the pretense that he was a ghost, and so he obtained money under false pretenses.

“You see, gentlemen,” proceeded the professor, “as soon as I went to the place and smelled sulphur I knew I must be on the right track.”

“Why, that was the sulphur spring on Enberry’s land ye sniffed,” explained Enos, “it’s bin thar fer year.”

“Exactly,” said the professor, “and where there is sulphur water there must be sulphur. I investigated and found a fine deposit on the hillside, from which a considerable quantity had been taken.

“Then I suspected the truth, that some one, not entitled to it, had made the discovery, and had invented the ghost to keep curious people away. Am I correct?” he asked of the prisoner.

“Right you are, professor,” said Silas. He did not seem worried about his arrest. He was a man of peculiar talents and well known in the locality as a person about whom curious stories had been told, none pointing to his honesty.

“But what was th’ ghost?” asked Enos.

“Simply a big scarecrow of wood, coated with sulphur,” answered the professor. “Your friend here would carry it on a long pole, after setting fire to the sulphur, and so would frighten travelers. He got too near the doctor’s carriage and scorched it. After displaying the ghost he would hurry back, dig out some sulphur and cart it away. As soon as I saw the flaming figure I knew what made it burn, and a few shots from blank cartridges brought Silas to a stop. You probably saw him drop the scarecrow when I had caught him after a chase. So that is the end of the blazing ghost of Cardiff town.”

“Wall, perfessor, you’re a wonder.” commented Enos, and the others agreed with him.

The professor went back home the next day. Silas was sent to jail for a short term, a charge of stealing sulphur being the only one they could prove. But the best part of it all was that the sulphur mine on  Enberry Took’s land turned out so well that he not only had enough money to pay off the mortgage, but sufficient to make him comfortable in his old age. So he and others blessed the Cardiff ghost that discovered the sulphur.

The Semi-Weekly Messenger [Wilmington NC] 21 April 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A rare example of a happy ending associated with that pungent mineral. More usually some benighted soul is carried off in a stench of sulphuric smoke by the Devil. Or a corpulent nobleman, who has been doing himself too well at the port, is forced by his physician to drink glasses of sulphurous swill at the spa.

That ghost-hunting person over at Haunted Ohio observes that sulphur and its attendant smells are often found at sites where petroleum is drilled and tells of a similar fiery ghost in Pennsylvania.

 

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 anecdote

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.

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

“I have just seen Mrs. Janes,” said Mrs. Simmons’ niece as she sank wearily into a chair. “She had a new dress on. I don’t think I’d like it a bit if people copied my clothes.”

“You are not very clear in your remarks,” laughed Mrs. Simmons. “But you remind me of an incident in my girlhood that was almost a tragedy. There was a dress I designed all by myself. It was a mighty pretty girlish gown. I wore it to some entertainment at school and when the girls admired it I told them I had designed it myself and I thought it was the prettiest dress in the world.”

“I’m sure it was lovely,” said her niece.

“Three weeks after I first appeared in it,” Mrs. Simmons continued, “one of the girls whom I liked least came to me with a sort of triumphant manner and said she thought I had been boasting that my brown dress was my own design and therefore the only one of its kind. I defended my statement and she finally believed me, but told me that she had seen a white-haired woman wearing a dress of the same style. I was heartbroken and tried to think she was mistaken, but when I asked our dressmaker about it she said the woman had seen my dress and had come in and offered her such a good price to make one like it that she had done so, hoping I would never know about it.”

“Oh, the poor child!” cried her niece. “I was just wondering about whether I’d better tell what Mrs. Janes said. But I don’t know that you would mind after all.”

“Mrs. Janes is a very pleasant woman,” declared Mrs. Simmons.

“It wasn’t much,” said her niece. “She had on a new dress and she very evidently expected me to notice it, so I obligingly admired it. It was really very pretty, so I could do so truthfully, but Mrs. Janes said it did not compare with one her sister had just had made. She said that her sister had met you somewhere or other in a lovely dress that she liked extremely. She said it was one of the dresses you got in Paris last summer and was therefore just at the height of style here now, so she had her dressmaker copy it from her description.”

“That is very flattering,” said Mrs. Simmons dubiously. “It Is nice to have people like your things but I’d a little rather they didn’t copy my Paris dresses. I don’t remember where I wore that gown that Mrs. Janes saw it. Did she describe it at all?”

“She said it is dark blue with a line of red near the neck, and it has some kind of drape on the hips. She says her sister copied it exactly and is telling everybody it is a model by somebody or other in Paris. Mrs. Janes always adds that it is a copy of the model, and her sister tells people that now and makes it sound as if it were really a better thing than the original gown.”

“I never said my dresses were anybody’s model,” protested Mrs. Simmons. “Some woman at the boarding house over there told me about an inexpensive dressmaker, and I went to her to have these two dresses made, that is all. They aren’t anything much, I just wanted to get something there. But I can’t think where either of those two women saw that dress, for I have worn it only twice, and to places where they don’t go. I’ve been saving them, as I said, to use this spring.”

“Mrs. Janes said she saw it when you had it on at a meeting of the guild,” said her niece. “But her sister saw it before that and asked her to notice particularly how the sleeves were made when she saw you next, as she had forgotten them when, she saw you at Mrs. Dunbar’s mah jong party.”

“But I didn’t wear that Paris dress to Mrs. Dunbar’s. Let me think—oh yes, I did wear that blue dress with red pipings. Well, well, so Mrs. Janes’ sister copied it did she?”

“Yes, she did!” cried her niece. “And I should think you’d be awfully sore at her for it, too—your new Paris gown!”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind a bit,” chuckled Mrs. Simmons. “You see, I gave that dress to the janitor’s wife only yesterday.”

“You didn’t! And you have worn it only twice'”

“Oh, I have worn it a great deal. I had made it over three months ago from an old thing I got just before the war and I hoped it would last, but I am getting too plump for it, not to say, fat. That dress never even heard of Paris! I wonder If I haven’t some more old clothes with the Paris look?”

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 23 March 1924: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have read in “The Lightning Adaptors of Fashion,” how Miss Billie Burke copyrighted her stage dresses so that they would not be copied. And the shockingly brazen methods of the copyists of French couture designs were exposed in “Fashion Pirates.” The practice was not confined to professionals as we see in the confessions in ‘Things I Steal,” and “The Very Worst Thing.”

Copying was, to many ladies, a harmless practice, particularly if they did not think too long or hard about the ethics of the thing. Yet there was a danger in adopting French fashions—one which was rarely mentioned in the press:

A bit of warning advice may be inserted here for the American woman shopper who believes that all French styles must needs be extreme. The absolutely sensational things now and then launched by the French dressmakers are nothing but advertisements, and they are never worn by French ladies, only by the conspicuous beauties of doubtful reputation, who are hired to display the novelties at some public function like the spring races at Auteuil or Longchamps. While it may be a temptation to copy a startling hat or gown, it is really the part of wisdom to select the quieter modes, which are just as artistic and more appropriate and which lead to no embarrassing ambiguity as to the social classification of a good-looking well-dressed American woman.

The French woman of accepted position is the model for the American woman to follow in copying French fashions. All American women intend to do this, but the majority of them make bad mistakes and innocently do themselves harm. But it is almost impossible to make the American woman realize this.

Pittsburgh [PA] Daily Post 5 July 1912: p. 8  

For what shall it profit a lady, if she shall gain an entire French wardrobe, and be mistaken for a conspicuous beauty of doubtful reputation?

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 anecdote

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.

 

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 Phantom Husband: 1850s

1842 belgian mourning card woman and tomb

THE PHANTOM HUSBAND

Anne T. Wilbur

If you should go some day to Taille, you would not fail to visit the Fontaine and Sables, where, as in the times of the patriarchs, the most beautiful women and the prettiest young girls of the neighborhood repair together at sunset, with their hands on their hips and pitchers on their heads. There, among the most alluring, and especially the most coquettish of these Burgundian Rebeccas, you will notice one whose white coif surrounds a face more alluring and more coquettish than all the others, while her short petticoat of violet stuff, and her elegant scarlet corselette, reveal a foot and a form unrivalled in the neighborhood. This is the Beautiful Vintager. She has no other name in the village, though she has already changed her name more than once; for after having been simply the daughter of the fisherman Yves, she became first Madame Pennil, and afterwards—but she is now a widow, and we must not anticipate events.

A widow at twenty-two! a rich widow! and a marriageable widow! Catherine could not fail to be courted by the handsomest young men and the wealthiest farmers of the village. So, though she sincerely regretted her poor young husband, borne to the cemetery of Taille eighteen months after their marriage, Catherine found herself obliged to forget him now, in order not to throw into despair the numerous suitors who disputed for her hand, to the detriment of all the young girls in the neighborhood. After having hesitated for several weeks between these impatient rivals, her choice was nearly fixed, according to the secret impulse of her heart, on a young widower, of the simple name of Martin, whose good mien and sincere love nobly atoned for his poverty.

“I am rich enough for two,” said the young widow gaily; “I may prefer the most tender heart to the best filled purse.”

And Martin already accompanied his future bride to church on Sundays, in the face of his disappointed rivals. But man proposes, and God disposes. This proverb applies here better than in most other cases; for Heaven opposed by a miracle the tranquil love of Martin and Catherine.

“Ah, mistress,” said one evening to the latter, her servant Marinette, returning terrified from the Fontaine-aux-Sables, “if you knew what has just happened to me!”

“What, my dear? You seem frightened.”

“With good reason, I assure you. Imagine that being left alone at the well, after the departure of the villagers, I suddenly perceived behind me, as I turned to go away—guess who?”

“Martin?”
“O, you think only of him! But it was another, whom you have forgotten for a long time; your deceased husband, my mistress! Maitre Pennil in flesh and blood!”

Catherine uttered a cry of horror, and almost fainted.

“Are you very sure of it, Marinette?”

“I saw him as plainly as I see you, with the long beard that he had when he died, and the white shroud in which you wrapped him with your own hands. Besides, even if I had not known him, he told me who he was.”

“He spoke to you? Holy Virgin!”

“During a quarter of an hour—with a voice! a voice from another world. ‘Marinette,’ said he, ‘go and announce to Catherine that you have seen me, and that she shall soon see me in her turn!’”

“I shall see him also? Merciful Goodness!”

“Listen; it is he who speaks: ‘This evening, between eleven o’clock and midnight, I will appear to her in her chamber to inform her of my will and that of God in her approaching marriage. Let her not be terrified at this visit, it is for her interest that Heaven permits me to make it!” The phantom vanished as it finished these words; and I ran, more dead than alive, to fulfil its terrible errand.”

It will be readily imagined in what anxiety the expectation of such an event plunged poor Catherine. Convinced that her husband would return as he had said, she passed the day in prayer, and saw night arrive with terror impossible to describe. Shut up in her chamber, and with Marinette beside her, she counted the hours until morning, without seeing appear the phantom announced.

New anxieties during the day following; new precautions at the return of evening; new waiting with Marinette for the formidable hour of midnight. Suddenly at the moment the two women raised their pale faces from the bed to listen to the strokes of the midnight bell, they involuntarily drew back beneath the clothes, with a stifled cry on hearing a knock thrice repeated at the door of the chamber.

“Just Heaven!” said Catherine. “This door is shut! must we then open it for the ghost?”

“I hope not,” replied Marinette, “phantoms doubtless do not need keys to enter where they have business. But hold! hold!” added she, raising herself timidly, “it is already beside us.”

The young woman turned, not without seizing both hands of her servant, and trembled from head to foot, at sight of the spectre whose portrait Marinette had traced. It was indeed her husband, such as death had made him at his last hour, and as nearly as time and the darkness permitted her to recognize him. From the long black beard to the white shroud, nothing was wanting.

“Catherine!” said the phantom, in a voice which had nothing human, while a bony arm issuing from the winding-sheet extended solemnly towards the bed, “Catherine! thou seest that I am Jean Pennil, formerly thy husband, and now an inhabitant of the other world. I have returned to earth to announce to thee that thou mayest, without offence to my memory, replace me in thy heart by espousing another man. But, as I wish that thou shouldest be happy with my successor, I must name him who deserves the preference among thy numerous suitors. It is the good Jonas, son of the sacristan of the parish, and the most constant of our friends. He alone is worthy of thy hand and can ensure thy domestic felicity. Promise me then to choose him among all, if thou wouldst please God and thy faithful husband.”

After having listened to the commencement of these words with terror, the young woman heard the end with much more pain, and it was necessary that the summons should be repeated in an imposing manner, before she could stammer, falling back on her bed, the promise demanded.

The speaker then congratulated her on her submission, and disappeared, after having repeated that her happiness would be her reward.

“Well,” said Marinette to her mistress, as she saw her fallen back on her pillow. A sigh from Catherine was her only reply, and this sigh was followed by a thousand others until the next morning. The pious widow did not doubt the wisdom of her husband’s counsel any more than the reality of the apparition; but she could not believe that Jonas was calculated to render her happy in the bonds of a second marriage.

The son of the sacristan of Taille was indeed one of the warmest and most assiduous of her admirers; he was equal to many others in fortune and influence, and Martin himself was his inferior in these; but she did not love this Jonas; she thought him disagreeable, and believed him to be neither frank nor devout. Endowed, in fact, with a double skill in love and in business, which had acquired for him in the neighborhood the reputation of a rogue, Jonas did not possess the confidence of the young men any more than the sympathy of the young girls, and he had allowed himself to calumniate his rivals to the beautiful vintager. We may imagine, therefore, the invincible repugnance which Catherine experienced to obey the commands which her husband had returned from the other world expressly to utter in favor of Master Jonas. Unfortunately she had given her word to the phantom, who might come to remind her of it daily, or rather nightly; and in this cruel perplexity she dared neither banish the young widower nor accept the son of the sacristan. All that she could do was to gain time by telling both that she had not yet decided. But this poor resource could not last long, and a new incident took place which compelled her to decide.

“Your husband has appeared to me again,” said Marinette, on returning one evening from the fountain, “he has commissioned me to tell you that you have not obeyed the orders which God has transmitted to you by his mouth. ‘That she may no longer doubt my will and my mission,’ added he in a severe tone, “let her repair this night to my tomb at the village cemetery. I will come out of the grave before her, and will repeat again what I have already told her in her chamber.’”

Whether the widow dared not disobey this new injunction, or whether she had really some doubts on the apparition of her husband, she had the courage to be punctual, with her servant at the fearful rendezvous assigned. At eleven, while all in the village were reposing, they took together the road to the cemetery. The nigh was cold and gloomy, not a star shone in the sky, and the moon showed her timid crescent only now and then between dark clouds. Arrived at the gate of the funeral enclosure the two women paused, chilled with terror, and asked themselves, pressing closely together, whether they had courage to proceed. The spectacle which met their eyes might have terrified persons more intrepid than they. The cemetery lay extended in the obscurity, with no other, visible limits than the white grottoes excavated here and there in the dark walls. The floating foliage of the willows and cypresses veiled and uncovered by turns their fantastic spots, so that it seemed as if a multitude of ghosts were flitting in the distance. In the midst rose the charnel-house, the last place of deposit of the skulls and bones which the earth yielded to the gravedigger when there was no longer upon them food for worms. The pale gleam of a funeral lamp shone through a bronze grating, casting around sinister rays on the green turf furrowed with new graves, or the little crosses with white inscriptions, and on the sombre squares of box ornamented with emblematic flowers. No sound disturbed the silence of this fearful spot, except the sighing of the wind among the leaves, the rustling of the latter against the tombstones, the buzzing of an insect on the grass, and at a little distance, and at regular intervals, the scream of an osprey on an isolated tree.

What was most frightful for those females was that they must traverse the whole enclosure to reach the tomb of Pennil. They therefore hesitated a long time before resolving to go on, and the servant was obliged to encourage the mistress, in order to revive her resolution. Then they resumed their walk, and stumbling at every step over graves, turning at the slightest sound, supporting each other with their arms and voices, they reached, breathless, the termination of their fearful walk.

“I am here, Pennil,” said the young woman, piously kneeling before the black cross on which was traced the name of her husband.

“It is well!” replied a subterranean voice. “I am here also!”

In fact, the ground was immediately agitated, and opened to give passage to a body; and the same ghost which Catherine had already seen, rose at once before her. It shook its shroud thrice, fixed on the widow a sparkling glance, and commenced, according to its promise, to repeat the things it had said in her chamber. But scarcely had it pronounced a few words than it stopped and started, as if the terror it was imposing had suddenly reached itself. Involuntarily imitating the movements of the phantom, the two females looked around in their turn, and immediately fell, with a shrill scream, at sight of the horrible vision which froze them with terror.

Three spectres more frightful than the first, had risen from three neighboring tombs. Three others, more monstrous still, appeared at the same instant in an opposite direction, then three others followed, at the extremity of the cemetery. Nine menacing cries resounded at once, as many arms were extended from the ghosts, with a threatening gesture, and, darting at the same signal, with unanimous imprecations, ran together towards the one which still stood on the grave.

“Impious wretch!” cried a voice.

“Profaner of our tombs!” added another.

“Cowardly impostor, and sacrilegious monster!” cried a third and fourth. “Thou shalt expiate thy crime, and the dead will avenge themselves!” repeated the others in chorus.

The spectre thus attacked—strange circumstance!—began to tremble from head to foot in its shroud, and quickly forgot everything to attempt to flee. But seized and arrested at the first step, it could only roll on the ground and ask for mercy.

“O ye dead!” it cried, with clasped hands, and in a tone which was no longer sepulchral, “O ye dead! pardon me, I entreat! in pity pardon me!” “No,” replied the phantoms, “no pity! no pardon | Thou hast violated the tomb and the shroud; the tomb and the shroud shall be thy punishment!” And, without listening to the cries of the unfortunate man, they wrapped him in his own shroud, and fastened him in it so closely in every direction that his most convulsive efforts could not succeed in disengaging him from it. When this useless struggle had exhausted his last strength, and the nine spectres had finished their pitiless work, two of them went to the charnel-house to get the spade and pickaxe of the gravedigger, and began to dig the earth, while the others were preparing to deposit their victim in it. But, at the moment they were about to fill it up, the two women, who had until then remained petrified with horror, at last found in this very horror strength to flee from the sight of this frightful execution.

On the morrow, at daybreak, all the inhabitants of the village passed in terror before the great door of the church. A body was deposited there, immovable and wrapped in a white sheet.

For a long time no one dared approach, each persuading himself that it was a dead body taken from the cemetery. But at last some young people, less timid, disengaged the shroud from its fastenings, and the morning air striking on a face that had nothing cadaverous about it, restored to himself a poor fellow, in whom they immediately recognized Jonas, the son of the sacristan.

Universal hootings pursued to his dwelling the unfortunate ghost, in the simple apparel of a dead man, and the telegraphic tongue of the gossips circulating the adventure from mouth to mouth, everybody knew in less than half an hour for a league round, the fantastic receipt of Master Jonas to ensure the dowry of rich widows.

As for the phantoms who had so cruelly chastised him, the sacrilegious fellow long believed, with all the superstitious of the place, that they were genuine ghosts; but Martin, his happy rival, at length made known the truth.

Some indiscreet words of the beautiful vintager, at the first appearance of the phantom, had led Martin to watch and discover the wonderful invention of Jonas, and he secretly arranged with eight young fellows of the village the trick which was to unmask the impostor.

Six weeks afterwards, Catherine Pennil became Catherine Martin, and the adroit Marinette having proved that her accomplice had commenced by being her lover, compelled him to pay for her services by espousing her.

Ballou’s Monthly Magazine October 1855: Vol. II. No. 4 Whole No. 10. pp. 314-317

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil does so enjoy a happy ending, especially one involving ghosts, tombs, and shrouds. It was kind of the “phantoms” to let Jonas live, although one expects that his was an unhappy existence unless he relocated to try his wiles on the widows of some other village. The text is ambiguous about Marinette’s role in this little farce. If Jonas was her lover, why would she agree to help him marry her mistress?

Mrs Daffodil has written before of a jealous husband who decided to “return from the grave” to trap his “widow” with a lover. It had a much grimmer outcome.

 

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 anecdote

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 Baron and the Devil: 1838

the devil

A QUEER CASE FOR THE LAW.

In 1838, M. le Baron de Cormann, an opulent German noble, inhabited the chateau of his ancestors, situated in the environs of Weima. An excellent sportsman, and a redoubted smoker, the baron was at the same time one of the ugliest mortals Germany ever produced. Notwithstanding this circumstance, he was an admirer of beauty in others, and conceived a lively passion for Mademoiselle de Reischberg, daughter of a neighbouring castellane, whose antique domicile constituted nearly his whole property. A formal demand of the lady’s hand was made by the baron, and the father, delighted with the prospect of such a match, hastened to give the suitor an assurance of his assent and best wishes. It was not so, however, with the young lady, who, herself endowed with extraordinary charms, could not endure the looks of the baron, and had, besides, long ago given away her heart to one of her cousins, a handsome cavalier, in contrast with whom the baron made a very sorry figure. On this account the assiduities of the latter, and the commands of the father, produced no effect. Mademoiselle de Reischberg conclusively declared that she would never give her hand to any man so thoroughly ugly as the Baron de Cormann.

One evening she was tempted, by new intreaties on the part of the suitor, to repeat the preceding declaration even more energetically than before. The downcast baron afterwards wended his way home. He sat down by his blazing fire, called for a pipe and ale; and, betwixt the curling whiffs from his only source of consolation, he exclaimed passionately–“I would give myself to the Old One himself to be as good-looking as that confounded cousin!” In his energy the baron—who, it will soon be pretty evident, was something of a simpleton—spoke aloud; indeed, he almost roared out the words. After the ejaculation, he smoked on vigorously, every blast-like puff giving indication of the storm within. How long he sat absorbed in this occupation, it is impossible for us to say; but certain it is, that when he laid down the pipe, and the fumes around slowly floated away, he saw before him, to his great surprise, an odd-looking personage, but black all over, in countenance and clothes. “You have been heard,” said this personage; “sign this paper, and by to-morrow morning you shall be beautiful in the eyes of all the world, though unchanged in your own.” Stupified—almost out of his senses—M. de Cormann sat staring without motion. “Sign “repeated the figure; “I am never invoked in vain, and you shall find my words to hold good ” The thought of Mademoiselle de Reischberg crossed the baron’s brain. Great was the temptation. He took the pen, and again hesitated, being in a state of unspeakable confusion of mind. Then, as if determined not to trust himself with reflection, he hurriedly signed the paper. The stranger lifted it, bowed, and disappeared.

After this proceeding, which had taken place so rapidly that the baron had had scarcely time for connected thought, he sat in silent dreamy stupor through several long hours. With strange feelings he retired to bed, half afraid of the past, and half eager for the dawn, that he might prove the reality of the promised metamorphosis. Morning broke, and the baron arose. He dressed himself, and perceived no change in his appearance; but he had no sooner descended the staircase than the reality of a change was made manifest. Two servants stood in waiting, and the instant that they cast eyes on their master, they started back in great surprise. “Gracious powers! how much my lord is improved in looks! what a noble figure! how beautiful a countenance!” The baron’s heart beat thick with exultation. He went out for further proof, bending his course to the mansion of M. de Reischberg, which was close to his own. Two men met him, and they, also, started to behold him. “How noble is my lord’s figure!” cried one. “What a charming countenance!” cried the other; “surely he is much altered!”

These and such like ejaculations confirmed the baron in his impression of the reality of the metamorphosis; and he proceeded, without delay, to the house of M. de Reischberg. Here the crowning stroke was given to his triumph. Mademoiselle de Reischberg appeared equally surprised and enchanted with his form and looks. She seemingly could not conceal or restrain her admiration, and the handsome cousin appeared to be driven out of her thoughts at once by the new and irresistible charms of his rival. Striking while the iron was hot, the baron intreated her to reward his long devotion by consenting to be his. The lady hesitated—the cousin seemed to pass, for a last time, across her thoughts; but the baron pressed his request, and the lady gave her consent.

In passing homewards on that happy day, the baron received additional though superfluous proofs of the change in his looks, from the remarks of various persons who came in his way. When before his own fire, a pipe and ale were again called for to heighten the delightful cast of the baron’s ruminations. Long he smoked, gazing on the blaze; but at length he laid down the pipe. Then did he first become sensible of a startling fact. His sable visitor of the preceding evening was again before him. “If you fulfil the intention you now entertain of leading Mademoiselle de Reischberg to the altar,” said the stranger solemnly, “you will die on its steps.” As he spoke he disappeared.

The Baron de Cormann lay for a long time in a swoon after this fearful announcement. When he regained his senses, and could reflect on what had passed, great was his vexation, and greater his terrors. He could not conceal from himself the fact, that, since his visitor had been able to fulfil one promise so effectually, the same being could not fail to fulfil with equal certainty the menace just made, or at least to foresee the future. He saw that the fiend, if fiend it were, had “paltered with him in a double sense,” but the evil was irremediable. Preferring life to every other consideration, the baron, ere long, took a decisive resolution. He wrote to the Reischbergs, announcing his altered resolutions respecting marriage, and, in short, declining the honour of the young lady’s hand. On the following morning he jumped into his carriage, and drove off for Paris, after leaving precise orders with an agent to sell his chateau and property at Weima without delay.

It was in the end of 1838 that the Baron de Cormann reached Paris, where he took a handsome hotel in the Rue Dominique. A month or two after his settlement there, he was presented with an acceptance of his own for 120,000 francs, purporting to have been granted by him while in Germany, and a demand was made upon him for payment of the same. The holder of the acceptance, and the requester of payment, was the already-mentioned handsome cousin of Mademoiselle de Reischberg, now become her husband.

The baron was struck dumb by this demand. Never, in the course of his life, was he aware of having signed any such obligation either to the nominal holder of the one before him, or to any person else. Yet he could not deny that the handwriting of the presented bill was his own; it was certainly his signature. Nevertheless, in the consciousness that he really owed no such debt, he refused payment. Immediately afterwards, he went to consult an acute legal friend. After relating the circumstance to that gentleman, and repeating his confident assurance that he never signed, to his knowledge. the obligation in question, though unquestionably his signature was there, the lawyer asked if he never, while in Germany, signed any paper without knowing its contents? The baron thought for an instant, and blushed for his folly. The remembrance of his strange visitant came across his mind with all the attendant circumstances. He compelled himself to tell his legal friend the whole affair.

The acute lawyer saw through the mystery at once. The baron had been ugly at Weima, he was ugly at Paris, and he had never been aught but ugly anywhere. The handsome cousin had so suborned his domestics as to acquire a knowledge of every movement, even of every word of the baron, in his own establishment; and being near the spot, perhaps in the house, on the evening of the baron’s rash ejaculation respecting a change of personal appearance, he had taken advantage of the circumstance, when it was reported to him, to victimise de Cormann in a double and truly diabolical way. By the connivance of the treacherous servants, and one or two other persons, Mademoiselle de Reischberg included, the poor baron had been thoroughly imposed upon, and, in some respects, he was not undeserving of it, seeing that he credulously consented to attempt success in his suit by such means as those described. The conspirator of a cousin, it is probable, imagined that the baron would pay the sum rather than incur the ridicule of a full disclosure.

The affair, says our French authority, came to a trial, and a celebrated Parisian advocate was engaged for the baron, the note for 120,000 francs being lodged, in the interval, in the safe hands of Messrs Rothschild. We regret that we have heard nothing of the issue of the case, and can only hope that the law prevented the poor credulous baron from being ultimately tricked out of his money by the unscrupulous young lady and her cousin. The moral seems to be—never sign any document of whose purport you are not fully acquainted.

Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, 20 August 1842 Number 551: p. 247

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the notion that the “poor credulous Baron” should be pitied. Instead of improving his character and perhaps going in for a wardrobe make-over or spot of cosmetic surgery, the man signed a pact with the Devil. Not, one fears, a gentleman with whom one would wish to link one’s lot in life. In addition, when he declined “the honour of the young lady’s hand,” the Baron opened himself to a breach-of-promise suit. Mrs Daffodil considers that he got off cheaply at 120,000 francs.

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 anecdote

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.