Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

Wanted: A Wife: 1871

woman wearing flower wreath

WANTED— A WIFE.

BY S. ANNIE FROST.

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

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

“Just fancy advertising for a husband, Anna.”

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

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

“What box?”

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

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

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

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

“What an exquisite face!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nonsense! We certainly know everybody in Hilton.”

“I don’t half like it, Lizzie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let me see the letter, Ned?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sadie! Sadie!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is some terrible mistake, father.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spectre Wedding: 1820s

the oracle 1919 ghosts

THE SPECTRE WEDDING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, yes, surely, anything you wish.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Intruder: 1908

the intruder illustration

THE INTRUDER

Roland Ashford Phillips

Although I quietly, hopefully, tried the door, I found it, unfortunately, locked. Yet on second reflection I did not wonder at it, but tiptoed across the porch to where a window, half raised made me an excellent substitute for an entrance. I noiselessly stepped into the darkened interior and felt my way over the thick, sound-muffling rugs.

I walked the length of the wide, silent hall, heading for the dining-room. I wanted a good stiff drink of brandy, and knew I should find some there. The gloom was oppressive and velvet-like, and I was compelled to seek my way slowly and carefully, hand to the wall. However, I reached the room in question, after groping blindly about, recognizing the broad, heavy-curtained doorway. It was strange that the curtains were drawn; generally they were fastened back with huge gilt cords, tied in awkward knots.

As I slipped between them and carefully drew them together behind me, the big clock on the staircase chimed rhythmically, and I marveled at the lateness of the hour. I really should have come earlier; but one soon forgets so many things when at the club.

The carpet in the dining-room was even softer, kinder than the others, and for this I was indeed grateful, for it is very annoying to disturb one’s friends in the wee hours; even the dearest of them.

I kept near to the wall and groped blindly along, for the light buttons were somewhere at hand — a complete row of them, controlling every room in the house. I suppose I must have completed a half-circuit of the room before something unreal and fear-compelling came upon me.

Even when I had reached the row of ebony buttons, and my forefinger was upon the third — the one that would light this room—I hesitated, fearful. I did not immediately understand it; I had never before had a similar feeling, and by no means am I a weak and sensitive man. Yet this moment my nerves failed me; the muscles in my finger refused to obey — refused to press the button and command the room to light.

For a long, pregnant interval I stood there motionless and undecided. Then the realization came abruptly; the sensation was identical with a light, harmless shock of an electric battery. I have often gripped the brass receivers of one and felt the sharp, not unpleasant waves twitch and creep the length of my arms and tingle in every nerve.

This, then, was the impression it gave me. But gradually, bit by bit, I felt these invisible waves swerve my eyes to one impressive spot. I might turn my head at will, but always, always magnetic-like, they swung back again in obedience to this sensitive, compelling power. Dimly at first, and then more definable, I began to understand. Mosaic-like, my brain pieced the many continuous thrills; pieced them until, abruptly, it flashed over me: Someone else beside myself was in this room.

I took a deep breath after that. How near this particular someone was and in what position, remained for me to find out. Almost mechanically my finger sought the third button again, and I ran my finger-tip thoughtfully over the smooth surface. The passing of a moment brought me to the realization that the better thing for me to do was to press the button and face whatever the light might disclose; be it man, thing or devil.

No sooner had I decided than my finger obeyed almost instinctively. A sharp, sudden click, and then a blinding flood of wondrous yellow light, dazzling and overpowering. A dozen wall-brackets leaped into life. At first I was unable to see, but waited, expectant; then slowly and definitely the objects took form, like a city through a rising mist.

The man was seated calmly in a huge, comfortable Morris chair, legs crossed and fingers lightly tapping upon the broad arm. Like myself, he was in full evening dress. His overcoat was flung carelessly across a chair; his silk hat, crushed flat, lay upon it; and at his feet, near the serving table stood a well-labeled kit-bag.

I do not know how long we watched each other. His wide, black eyes betrayed no surprise at what the light had so abruptly disclosed; and they were not of a bad sort — his eyes—rather large for a man, and well-lashed; only his mouth, thin-lipped and drooping, weakened his otherwise boldly molded features.

I instinctively waited for him to speak; and I did not have long to wait.

“Well,” he began, in a remarkably soft, well-mannered tone, “this is rather a sudden and unexpected visit.”

My finger slipped from the button where it had rested unconsciously.

“Very!” I admitted bluntly. The tapping of his fingers ceased — long, white, well-manicured they were.

“My guests generally ring before entering,” he continued. “What is it you wish?”

I could not immediately frame an answer. He must have noted my embarrassment for he continued:

“I think I have the prior right to that question.”

“And why the prior?” I queried.

His eyes narrowed; they were most unpleasant to look upon at such a time! It was plain he did not care to argue further.

“Because,” he answered cynically, “this is my house and you are an intruder.”

I tried hard, very hard, not to show my amazement; yet he must have noticed it with those piercing eyes of his, in spite of my attempted control, for he waved a hand toward a chair that stood near.

“Sit down!” he commanded, and I did not hesitate. After I had slipped into the chair and crossed my legs, we were scarcely six feet distant from each other.

“I repeat my question,” he went on coldly.

“You — you are Mr. Charles Fisher?” I asked, dry-lipped.

“Yes,” curtly, “I am the owner here.” I put my hands to the chair-arms, perhaps unconsciously following his position.

“I have heard of you — often; you are very well known — I did not expect — so sudden a meeting.” I was surprised at my own boldness.

“Evidently you had no idea of an immediate introduction, eh?” and he laughed dryly.

“To tell the truth,” I admitted undaunted, “I was unprepared.”

“I have seen you frequently at the clubs,” he went on, “yet I have never learned your name, nor the nature of your business.” This latter remark appeared to amuse him, and he chuckled to himself. After this outburst he studied my face narrowly.

“I suppose,” he began, and waved a hand vaguely about the room —“I suppose this glass and silverware interests you a great deal more than — than an introduction.”

“Possibly,” I admitted.

“But it is clumsy stuff to handle. Surely you could not have made away with much of it, eh?” He appeared interested.

“If a man knew his business,” I reflected, after a pause.

“Ah!” brightening, “then you admit that the object of your visit is robbery.”

“You are free to choose your own opinion,” I returned quickly. Again he narrowed his eyes upon me, admiring, so I imagined, my self-repose. He cleared his throat quietly.

“You seem to be very familiar with my house and its contents,” he ventured.

I smiled grimly. “And why should I not? I have been here a great, great many times. I have been to every reception save the one given to-night. Let’s see — there were house-warmings, suppers, club-breakfasts, bridge, and even, even if I remember correctly, a wedding.”

The other’s face remained perfectly immovable. I fancied he was mentally studying his lists, took the occasion to laugh outright.

“Why — why I know Mrs. Fisher well very well indeed. I have dined with her — gone to the opera and–”

“Sh-h-h-h!” he arrested, lifting a warning forefinger. “She is asleep upstairs.”

“I’ll wager she is in the blue room, eh?” I ventured boldly; yet the next moment I regretted that I had spoken so. The man’s hands tightened upon the chair-arms; his face hardened.

“See here,” he snapped, “you know too much about my family affairs. Altogether too much for — for —

“For an intruder, eh?” I finished.

“Yes, for an intruder, a thief, a common, contemptible sneak-thief. A man who will worm his way into the best society and then gloat, openly, sneeringly. Come, now, what is it you were after — cut glass, silver?”

“But,” I remonstrated, “you admitted a moment ago they were too bulky; besides, I brought nothing to carry it in. . . . And don’t you know,” I added slowly, so that my words might sting, “that Mrs. Fisher’s jewels in the small bronze box on her dressing-table would prove the more valuable to me?”

The man’s face went colorless. He slipped a hand to his inner pocket and brought out a neat, shining revolver, which he calmly put upon the chair-arm. I watched him fascinated. There was something grim and ugly about that death-dealing thing between us; and more so now, for the muzzle pointed straight for my breast. The man very deliberately placed his hand over it.

“I have resolved to turn you over to the police,” he began sternly. “I have had enough of your remarks – quite enough. I might have been lenient with you heretofore, but you have grown insulting. Meanwhile I am going to ask that you refrain from any disturbances. This beneath my hand is a late model — an automatic; and it will shoot seven times in less than seven seconds. I hope you will not be venturesome.”

His words rang sharp and chilling to my ears. There was that indefinite something about them that lent me fear; a certain tone that bespoke an utter dependence. I was conscious that he meant exactly what he said.

I rapidly conjured my brain for a possible, plausible method of escape. Could I not somehow, someway, appeal to his weakness? If so, what was it? Here was a man who, by his own admission, was a club member— a man about town. A brilliant idea flashed to me. I had caught a glimpse of a backgammon board and a dice cup on a side table. Would he agree to the proposition ? Would it appeal to him? I lost no time in finding out.

“I believe,” I began, earnestly, hopefully, “that you are a square man; and that you are willing to give me a fair, square chance to help myself.”

“Go on,” he urged.

“We shall throw the dice between us — three times. If you win, I will calmly submit to arrest; I shall say nothing about this affair. But — if I win, you are to release me. You will allow me to leave the house as a guest, by the front door, under the lights. Is it a bargain?” Twice he wet his lips; and twice he started to speak.

“I agree,” he said at last.

Upon the broad arm of the chair I threw first. The rattle of the ivory dice was the only sound. The man opposite me underwent a complete change. Life came to his eyes and cheeks; his breath quickened. I realized that the love of chance was his weakness. The revolver lay neglected upon the chair-arm. As the dice fell clicking on the wood we both bent forward, expectant.

“Eight!” he broke out impetuously, and reached for the cubes. Calmly he shook the dice cup and toppled the squares to the chair-arm.”

“Twelve!” he laughed, and brushed the dice back with a tremulous hand. “I win.” Again I shook while he watched with flushed cheeks. “Ten!” I announced quietly. He nodded quickly and gathered up the dice.

“Not so hard to beat,” he returned, as the bits of ivory rattled to the wood. A pause.

“You win!” he faltered hoarsely, as eight spots alone showed. “Your last throw— careful.”

Once more and for the last time my hand flirted the dice to the polished chair-arm. A bit of silence followed the rattle.

“Twelve!” I broke out. “You still have a chance.”

He took the dice from my hand, shook them quickly and set them hard to the wood, yet kept the cup over the result, as if fearful of the disclosure.

“The hoodoo is still with me,” he announced graciously, after he had uncovered them. “I have but eleven.”

I swept the dice away and rose slowly from the chair. Now that the night was mine I intended to make good use of it. My brain raged with half-formed ideas. One of them alone seemed feasible.

“You may go!” the man spoke up abruptly from his chair.

“And —and the lights?” I reminded.

He looked at me in surprise.

“The hall and porch are rather dark,” I explained.

“I was of an opinion that men of your profession generally preferred the dark,” he offered coolly. I was minded as he sat there, sneeringly, his thin-lipped mouth drooping, to attempt to strike him to the floor before he could shoot, but happily my better judgment prevailed, and with an effort I controlled my temper.

“Suppose — Suppose someone should see me leaving — through the window?” I argued. “It wouldn’t look just right.”

He eyed me a moment in silence, evidently weighing my words, then shrugged his shoulders. “Well,” he deliberated, “now that you are so familiar with my house and the occupants and have bested me at dice, you may switch on your own lights.”

I swayed for a second, only half believing my ears; that he should so easily, readily play into my plan at the opportune moment seemed hardly possible.

“Thank you,” I said, with assumed calmness; and with this I strode over to the row of ebony buttons and without hesitation pressed the fourth and sixth ones. The former led to the upstairs chamber and the latter to the hall.

When I turned the man was laughing. “Not so very wise as you thought, eh? The lower hall isn’t lighted.”

Although aware of this I betrayed surprise. “You’re right,” I confessed, “I have pressed the wrong button. If you will allow me–”

“Never mind!” he snapped decisively. “You’ve tampered enough for one night. I should turn you over to the police; but I have given my word — I want you to go out ahead. I’m going to follow close behind — and no foolishness; remember, I’ve the revolver and I shall not hesitate to use it.”

Still I waited. I prayed for time as a dying man might for life. “Do you know,” I hedged, “that when I came into this room I had my mind made up for something to drink — some brandy. It’s damp outside; it was a rather tiresome journey here and will be a lengthy one back.”

“Well,” he wavered, nodding finally toward the sideboard, “help yourself, but be quick about it.” I took my time moving across the room; picked up and carefully examined a number of bottles, chose one and from it filled a thin glass half to the brim.

“To the intruder!” I exclaimed, and raised the glass to the level of my eyes.

As I was about to set back the glass, something so startling happened that the man whirled about toward the drawn curtains; and I, surprised likewise, stood mute and silent watching him,

“What was that?” he faltered.

“I could not say for certain,” I returned. “Though it sounded like a footfall on the stairs. Perhaps it is Mrs. Fisher.”

His eyes narrowed. “This will never do,” he burst out.

“Never mind,” I interrupted hastily; “just inform her that — that I am a friend of yours — a club-friend. She won’t suspect.”

The sound was repeated; there could be no mistaking; it was a footfall. The man acted like a lunatic.

“You fool!” he snarled, “turn out the lights — quick!” And then without further words he sprang across the room toward the row of buttons. It was a bold move and an abrupt one; but not altogether a thoughtful one, for within six feet of where I stood the revolver lay unguarded upon the chair-arm. Before he had reached the buttons I had possessed myself of the weapon.

He pressed the button, but not the right one. Not alone was the dining-room brilliantly lighted, but the lower hall suddenly shot into a glow.

Immediately the hall curtains parted and a woman, kimono-clad, stepped softly between them.

“Charlie,” she began, “did you just arrive home? Did you want me to come down? The lights were turned on, so I thought— ”

The man against the wall turned a blank, questioning face toward me; and, in spite of the intense situation, I smiled.

“This — this is a friend of mine, Milly,” I began abruptly. “A member of the club. By a strange coincidence his name is identical with ours. We have had a quiet chat— the two of us — and a little game; he was just leaving when you came in.”

I stepped over, gathered up his coat and hat and handed them to him. He smiled as he took them.

“Thanks!” he said; and I knew it had two meanings.

I snapped on the porch lights. “Mr. Fisher will leave his kit-bag,” I interrupted, as he moved toward it. “He has something in it that will interest us.”

Only a second did his brow cloud; then he was smiling and bowing pleasantly. I preceded him down the hall.

“Good night!” I said at the door.

“Good night!” he returned, and walked away into the gloom,

Metropolitan Magazine, Vol. 29, Issue 2 November 1908: pp. 206-210

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite the failure of  the faux-Mr Fisher’s scheme, one has to admire his ingenuity and his pluck.  But to be successful housebreaker one needs more than nerves of steel and bravura bravado; one needs a reasonable amount of good fortune. His unluckiness in encountering the genuine householder instead of a fellow sneak-thief must have dismayed and disheartened him.  Mrs Daffodil would not be surprised to learn that, after resigning his clubs, he either joined the Salvation Army or went to the devil in Monte Carlo.

One does wonder how the actual Mr Fisher explained the contents of the kit-bag to his wife.

 

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.

Parson Patten and the Ghost: 1750s

LAYING A GHOST.

The following story of Parson Patten laying a ghost was told to Captain Grose, by the reverend gentleman himself.

A substantial farmer, married to a second wife, and who had a son grown up to man’s estate, frequently promised to take him as a partner in his farm, or, at least, to leave it to him at his decease; but having neglected to do either, on his death, his widow took possession of the lease and carried on the business, the son in vain urging the father’s promise, and requesting she should at least take him as a partner. In order to terrify his step-mother into compliance, he used to rise at midnight, and, with hideous groans, to drag the waggon chain about the yard and outhouses, circulating a report that this noise was occasioned by his father’s ghost, and that the dead man would not rest quietly in his grave till his promise to his son was fulfilled.

This was carried on for some time, till at length the widow, who had no relish for giving up any part of the farm, applied to Mr Patten (in whose parish the farm lay) for his advice, saying she would have the ghost laid in the Red Sea, if he could do it. Patten, though no believer in ghosts, resolved to turn this matter to his own advantage, and putting on a grave countenance, told her, that what she required was no small matter; that besides a good stock of courage, much learning was required to lay a ghost, as the whole form must necessarily be pronounced in Latin; wherefore he could not afford to do it under a guinea. The widow hereupon demurred for some time, but at length tired out with the freaks of the supposed ghost, who every night became more and more outrageous, agreed to pay the money. Patten, moreover, required a fire in the best parlour, two candles, and a large bowl of punch. These being all prepared, he took his post, expecting the nocturnal visitor.

The farmer’s son, who did not know the sort of man he had to deal with, thought he could frighten the parson, and accordingly at twelve began his perambulation. No sooner did Patten hear the chain and the groans, than he sallied forth, and, without any further ceremony, seized the supposed ghost by the collar, and commenced belabouring him heartily with a good oak sapling. Finding himself by no means a match for his opponent, the young farmer fell down on his knees, and confessed the contrivance; beseeching the parson, at the same time, not to expose him, nor to reveal it to his step-mother, who would have been glad of the pretence to turn him out of the house. The parson, on the young man’s promise never to disturb the house again, let him go, and undertook to settle matters with his step-mother.

Early next morning she came down, anxious to know what had passed the preceding night, when the parson, with a well-counterfeited terror in his countenance, told her he had been engaged in a terrible conflict, the deceased being one of the most obstinate and fierce spirits he had ever met with ; but that he had at length, with great difficulty and expense of Latin, laid him. “Poor wicked soul,” says he, “I forgive him; though great part of his disquiet is owing to thirty shillings of tithes of which he defrauded me, but which he desired, nay, commanded, you should pay; and on that condition only he has agreed to trouble the house no more. He does not insist on your completing his promise to his son, but wishes you would, at least, let him have a share in the farm.” To all this the woman assented, and Patten received the thirty shillings over and above the stipulated guinea.

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 146-7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Rev. Mr Thomas Patten, as another portion of the book above informs us, had been “chaplain to a man-of-war, and had contracted a kind of marine roughness from his voyages. He was of an athletic make, and had a considerable share of wit and humour, not restrained by any strict ideas of professional propriety…He had such an esteem for punch, that when his sermons were too long, someone showing him a lemon, could at any time cause him to bring his discourse to an abrupt conclusion, that he might be at liberty to adjourn to the public-house.”

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 61

This ingenious ornament to the C of E also lived openly with his mistress and was a terror to smugglers, especially if they did not pay tithes on their profits. He died in 1764, aged 80, to the relief of Church authorities.  He was obviously well-suited for his role as “ghost-layer.” Parsons were frequently called upon to “lay” (“exorcism” smacked too much of Papist rituals) troublesome spirits. A popular tactic was to coax, command, or conjure the spirit into a bottle, seal it, and throw it into a local pond, although it was claimed that some spirits were banished to the Red Sea. Another way to deal with a restless spirit was to put the ghost to making ropes of sand because, after all, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.

 

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 Crazy Quilt Tragedy: 1911

Domestic Tragedy.

“Lobelia!” The voice of Mr. M’Swat was high-pitched and imperative, yet had a note of vague alarm in it.

“What is it, Billiger?”

“I can’t find my neckties.”

“Your neckties? They’re scattered all over the bureau.”

“I don’t mean the ties I wear every day. I mean the others.”

“What others?”

“The—the ones I’ve worn from time to time, you know, and put away, as good as new.”

“How should I know anything about them?”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lobelia, you don’t know anything about a a—box of neckties I have kept for years in this second drawer?”

“What a fuss you are making over a box of old rags! What do you want of it, anyway?”

“I want to put a few of these in it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, madam, when you call them a lot of old rags, either. I want to know where they are.”

“Well, you needn’t go to rummaging through any more of those drawers. You won’t find them there. I can tell you that.”

The wrath of Mr. M’Swat assumed a lurid, ghastly character.

“I think I have certain inalienable rights in this house, Lobelia Grubb M’Swat,” he said. “And among these is the right to keep my neckties in my own drawer, in my own dressing case, in my own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the statutes in such case made and”—

“You needn’t tell the neighbours about it. Before I’d make all that racket about a lot of old, worn-out neckties–”

“Who told you they were old and worn out? Didn’t you hear me say distinctly they were”—

“Now, you know, Billiger M’Swat, you haven’t worn one of those old ties for years and years. What’s the use”—

‘Then you do know something about them! I thought sol Why did you try to deceive me? Why did you tell me”—

“That’s right! Accuse your wife of lying!”

“Didn’t you tell me you knew nothing about them?”

“No, sir! I said nothing of the kind!”

“Lobelia! Wife of my bosom! Look me in the eye. Where are those neckties?”

“Wh-what do you want of them?” asked Mrs., M’Swat, rather feebly.

“I simply want to know what has become of them.”

She put her handkerchief to her eye. ”

“I–I th-think it’s just mean”—

“What’s mean?”

“Here I’ve slaved away day after day, making something nice”—

“Lobelia, where are those neckties?”

“Billiger, I have made them up into the loveliest crazy quilt”—

“A crazy quilt!” he yelled. “Thunder and Ben Franklin! Woman do you know what you have done!”

“lt was nothing but a lot of old”–

Mr. M’Swat became tragic.

“Mrs. M’Swat,” he exclaimed, in a deep bass voice. “I have been making a collection of artistic neckties for ten years. Some of them cost me over a dollar. None of them less than 50 cents. You have ruined a unique, unequalled, original 75dol. collection of ties”—

“Oh, Billiger, why didn’t you tell me?”

“To make a 4dol. crazy quilt! Why didn’t you tell me?”

Husbands and wives, why will ye hide things from each other?— Chicago Tribune.

North Otago [NZ] Times 8 April 1911: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The craze for “crazy patchwork” was a long-standing one and one perhaps responsible for more marital unhappiness than any number of Vamps. Mrs Daffodil has written of the patch-work “mania” and the terrible lengths ladies would go to for “samples” to make their quilts and of their depredations on the households’ wardrobe. It was a dark time…

Truth in Jest

The girl with soft grey eyes and rippling brown hair that walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 piece sof neckties and hat linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.

Southland Times 26 January 1886: p. 4

This squib suggests that the craze even changed fashions in men’s neckties:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: p. 4

 

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

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

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 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.