Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

The Lawyer and the Ghost: 19th-century

secret drawer

A secret drawer in the desk. popularwoodworking.com

THE CASE OF MRS. ROGER BLACK.

A Mr. Roger Black, a plain man, living in Kentucky, had just paid for a small house, which he had hitherto rented, and, returning home, told his wife, showed her the receipt for the sum—two thousand dollars—though more regular papers were to be made out next day, and, as far as she knew, he then went at once to his stable, where, some hours later, he was found dead, having been kicked in the head by a horse.

When the first horror was over, and Mr. Black’s funeral had taken place, the widow naturally looked for the receipt, but could not find it. Having incautiously mentioned this fact, the person who had sold the property denied having received any money from Mr. Black, and insinuated that Mrs. Black uttered a falsehood when she declared that her husband had done more than talk about buying the place. In proof of this, he showed a document, only half completed, and declared that Black had said: “let it wait until I think it over “—and that, for his part, he had been very willing to wait.

The widow naturally fought for her rights, but had no case.

She had no witnesses, and the lawyer who had the interests of the other side in charge brought witnesses to prove that Mrs. Black was the victim of hallucinations—thought that her mother’s spirit sat at her bedside when she was ill, and had held spiritual circles at her house. Believing in an alleged medium, who was afterward exposed, and in warnings of Mr. Black’s death, in the shape of raps on her head-board.

People who could not believe Mrs. Black capable of trying to defraud anyone, readily leaned to the idea that she was the victim of delusion, and the poor woman, who could not prove the truth of her statement to anyone, was also aggrieved by being supposed insane.

The night before the decision took place, she gave up all hope and went early to bed, taking her two little ones with her.

She could not sleep, but lay there weeping, wondering how she could feed her children, from whom their hard-earned home was to be wrested. There was a public clock not far away, and she heard it strike, nine— ten—eleven—at last twelve—then, weary with her sorrowful vigil, her eyes closed.

She lay in a deep and heavy slumber, when she was aroused by heavy blows upon her outer door. As she was alone in the little house, she felt alarmed, and, pushing up the window, leaned out and asked who was there.

To her surprise, the voice of the lawyer who was working against her replied:

“It is I—come down, Mrs. Black; I must speak to you.”

Accordingly, she dressed and went to the door. In the cold, gray dawn, they stood there together, and she saw that something moved him strongly.

“Mrs. Black,” he said, at last, ” to-night, as I lay in bed, I thought that your late husband came into my room, and stood looking at me. I do not believe in such things as apparitions, you know; but I could not fancy it a delusion when he spoke—’you are helping that man to rob my wife,’ he said; ‘I did pay him the money. We were to have a lawyer make out papers next day. I showed wife the receipt and then put it in my mother’s old bureau, up garret, where I keep other papers, in the secret drawer—get it.’

“Then,” said the lawyer, “a light by which I saw him, faded—I got up and came to you.” The widow shook her head—” I am afraid you have been having hallucinations now,” she said; “poor Roger never would have put the receipt there. To be sure, there is a secret drawer—I will go and see—come up.”

She led the way up to the garret, in the corner of which stood a broken, old bureau. There was a so-called secret drawer between two manifest ones. She touched the spring—a number of yellow papers lay there and some Daguerreotypes. Amongst them was a large, white envelope.

“That is it!” Mrs. Black cried, drew it forth, opened it, and—behold! the receipt.

“Mrs. Black, you have but to bring that receipt to court to-morrow,” the lawyer said, slowly; “my client is a rascal.

“If I may ask you a favor—it is this—that you will keep the secret of my vision, it would greatly injure me to have it known. But I do not think that you are anxious for revenge?”

Mrs. Black held out her hand to him.

“You have done me a good turn by coming here,” she said, “and I promise.”

“I wonder my poor husband went to you—I should have thought he’d come to me instead—but you acted right, and I’ll never tell.”

She never did, while the lawyer lived. After he died, she no longer felt bound by the promise she had made him.

I do not vouch for this story. It was told me as a true one; but it resembles very closely a tale in an English periodical many years old. However, it is an illustration of my idea that lawyers are employed by spirits who have legal affairs to settle before they can forget the troubles of this world. 

The Freed Spirit, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894: pp 183-186

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There is a popular idea that the legal profession is composed exclusively of vultures, sharks, and other unpleasant creatures, preying on the unfortunate. It is refreshing to find a lawyer happy to do a good turn, even if it is at the urging of a spectre. One does wonder why the ghost came to the lawyer, but perhaps he thought the lawyer’s disinterested position would offset the unpleasantness over Mrs Black’s unorthodox supernatural views.

We have previously read of a similar case where a lawyer witnesses a ghost’s return in the story of The Will and the Ghost. But if, as Miss Dallas suggests, spirits employ lawyers, where are the bills sent? Are said bills for “chill-able” hours? Or do such lawyers work “pro-boo-no”? [Mrs Daffodil must apologise. That person over at Haunted Ohio, so reprehensively fond of puns, must have crept into Mrs Daffodil’s rooms in a shocking invasion of privacy and added those last two sentences, as the manuscript sat in the type-writer.]

 

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 Dreamer, by Saki: 1914

saki as young man

The Author, H.H. Munro as a supercilious young (k)nut. https://americanliterature.com/author/hh-munro-saki/

The Dreamer

It was the season of sales. The august establishment of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had lowered its prices for an entire week as a concession to trade observances, much as an Arch-duchess might protestingly contract an attack of influenza for the unsatisfactory reason that influenza was locally prevalent. Adela Chemping, who considered herself in some measure superior to the allurements of an ordinary bargain sale, made a point of attending the reduction week at Walpurgis and Nettlepink’s.

“I’m not a bargain hunter,” she said, “but I like to go where bargains are.”

Which showed that beneath her surface strength of character there flowed a gracious undercurrent of human weakness.

With a view to providing herself with a male escort Mrs. Chemping had invited her youngest nephew to accompany her on the first day of the shopping expedition, throwing in the additional allurement of a cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she hoped he might not have reached that stage in masculine development when parcel-carrying is looked on as a thing abhorrent.

“Meet me just outside the floral department,” she wrote to him, “and don’t be a moment later than eleven.”

Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through early life the wondering look of a dreamer, the eyes of one who sees things that are not visible to ordinary mortals, and invests the commonplace things of this world with qualities unsuspected by plainer folk – the eyes of a poet or a house agent. He was quietly dressed – that sartorial quietude which frequently accompanies early adolescence, and is usually attributed by novel-writers to the influence of a widowed mother. His hair was brushed back in a smoothness as of ribbon seaweed and seamed with a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being a parting. His aunt particularly noted this item of his toilet when they met at the appointed rendezvous, because he was standing waiting for her bare-headed.

“Where is your hat?” she asked.

“I didn’t bring one with me,” he replied.

Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.

“You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are you?” she inquired with some anxiety, partly with the idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which her sister’s small household would scarcely be justified in incurring, partly, perhaps, with the instinctive apprehension that a Nut, even in its embryo stage, would refuse to carry parcels.

Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy eyes.

“I didn’t bring a hat,” he said, “because it is such a nuisance when one is shopping; I mean it is so awkward if one meets anyone one knows and has to take one’s hat off when one’s hands are full of parcels. If one hasn’t got a hat on one can’t take it off.”

Mrs. Chemping sighed with great relief; her worst fear had been laid at rest.

“It is more orthodox to wear a hat,” she observed, and then turned her attention briskly to the business in hand.

“We will go first to the table-linen counter,” she said, leading the way in that direction; “I should like to look at some napkins.”

The wondering look deepened in Cyprian’s eyes as he followed his aunt; he belonged to a generation that is supposed to be over-fond of the role of mere spectator, but looking at napkins that one did not mean to buy was a pleasure beyond his comprehension. Mrs. Chemping held one or two napkins up to the light and stared fixedly at them, as though she half expected to find some revolutionary cypher written on them in scarcely visible ink; then she suddenly broke away in the direction of the glassware department.

“Millicent asked me to get her a couple of decanters if there were any going really cheap,” she explained on the way, “and I really do want a salad bowl. I can come back to the napkins later on.”

She handled and scrutinised a large number of decanters and a long series of salad bowls, and finally bought seven chrysanthemum vases.

“No one uses that kind of vase nowadays,” she informed Cyprian, “but they will do for presents next Christmas.”

Two sunshades that were marked down to a price that Mrs. Chemping considered absurdly cheap were added to her purchases.

“One of them will do for Ruth Colson; she is going out to the Malay States, and a sunshade will always be useful there. And I must get her some thin writing paper. It takes up no room in one’s baggage.”

Mrs. Chemping bought stacks of writing paper; it was so cheap, and it went so flat in a trunk or portmanteau. She also bought a few envelopes – envelopes somehow seemed rather an extravagance compared with notepaper.

“Do you think Ruth will like blue or grey paper?” she asked Cyprian.

“Grey,” said Cyprian, who had never met the lady in question.

“Have you any mauve notepaper of this quality?” Adela asked the assistant.

“We haven’t any mauve,” said the assistant, “but we’ve two shades of green and a darker shade of grey.”

Mrs. Chemping inspected the greens and the darker grey, and chose the blue.

“Now we can have some lunch,” she said.

Cyprian behaved in an exemplary fashion in the refreshment department, and cheerfully accepted a fish cake and a mince pie and a small cup of coffee as adequate restoratives after two hours of concentrated shopping. He was adamant, however, in resisting his aunt’s suggestion that a hat should be bought for him at the counter where men’s headwear was being disposed of at temptingly reduced prices.

“I’ve got as many hats as I want at home,” he said, “and besides, it rumples one’s hair so, trying them on.”

Perhaps he was going to develop into a Nut after all. It was a disquieting symptom that he left all the parcels in charge of the cloak-room attendant.

“We shall be getting more parcels presently,” he said, “so we need not collect these till we have finished our shopping.”

His aunt was doubtfully appeased; some of the pleasure and excitement of a shopping expedition seemed to evaporate when one was deprived of immediate personal contact with one’s purchases.

“I’m going to look at those napkins again,” she said, as they descended the stairs to the ground floor. “You need not come,” she added, as the dreaming look in the boy’s eyes changed for a moment into one of mute protest, “you can meet me afterwards in the cutlery department; I’ve just remembered that I haven’t a corkscrew in the house that can be depended on.”

Cyprian was not to be found in the cutlery department when his aunt in due course arrived there, but in the crush and bustle of anxious shoppers and busy attendants it was an easy matter to miss anyone. It was in the leather goods department some quarter of an hour later that Adela Chemping caught sight of her nephew, separated from her by a rampart of suit-cases and portmanteaux and hemmed in by the jostling crush of human beings that now invaded every corner of the great shopping emporium. She was just in time to witness a pardonable but rather embarrassing mistake on the part of a lady who had wriggled her way with unstayable determination towards the bareheaded Cyprian, and was now breathlessly demanding the sale price of a handbag which had taken her fancy.

“There now,” exclaimed Adela to herself, “she takes him for one of the shop assistants because he hasn’t got a hat on. I wonder it hasn’t happened before.”

Perhaps it had. Cyprian, at any rate, seemed neither startled nor embarrassed by the error into which the good lady had fallen. Examining the ticket on the bag, he announced in a clear, dispassionate voice:

“Black seal, thirty-four shillings, marked down to twenty-eight. As a matter of fact, we are clearing them out at a special reduction price of twenty-six shillings. They are going off rather fast.”

“I’ll take it,” said the lady, eagerly digging some coins out of her purse.

“Will you take it as it is?” asked Cyprian; “it will be a matter of a few minutes to get it wrapped up, there is such a crush.”

“Never mind, I’ll take it as it is,” said the purchaser, clutching her treasure and counting the money into Cyprian’s palm.

Several kind strangers helped Adela into the open air.

“It’s the crush and the heat,” said one sympathiser to another; “it’s enough to turn anyone giddy.”

When she next came across Cyprian he was standing in the crowd that pushed and jostled around the counters of the book department. The dream look was deeper than ever in his eyes. He had just sold two books of devotion to an elderly Canon.

http://haytom.us/the-dreamer/

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil hopes that her readers were not unduly burdened with dreamy nephews or parcels during their week-end holiday shopping.

Adela Chemping’s fear that Cyprian was going to be “what they call a Nut” refers to a slang term for an idle chap-about-town, also spelt “knut,” as in this 1914 comic song.

GILBERT THE FILBERT

(Arthur Wimperis / Herman Finck 1914)

I am known round town as a fearful blood,

For I come straight down from the dear old flood,

And I know who’s who and I know what’s what,

And between the two I’m a trifle hot.

For I set the tone as you may suppose,

For I stand alone when it comes to clo’es,

And as for gals,

Just ask my pals,

Why everybody knows

I’m Gilbert, the Filbert, the knut with a “K”,

The pride of Piccadilly, the blase roue.

Oh, Hades! The ladies who leave their wooden huts

For Gilbert, the Filbert, the Colonel of the Knuts.

 

You may look on me as a waster, what?

But you ought to see how I fag and swot,

For I’m called by two, and by five I’m out,

Which I couldn’t do if I slacked about.

Then I count my ties and I change my kit,

And the exercise keeps me awf’ly fit,

Once I begin,

I work like sin,

I’m full of go and grit.

I’m Gilbert, the Filbert, the knut with a “K”,

The pride of Picadilly, the blase roue.

Oh, Hades! The ladies who leave their wooden huts

For Gilbert, the Filbert, the Colonel of the Knuts.

Mrs Daffodil knows that all of her readers will wish to hear this music-hall persiflage; here is a gramophone recording from 1915.

 

 

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.

 

An Unpleasant Meeting over Shawls: 1877

An Unpleasant Meeting.

Not long ago two ladies stood at the shawl counter of one of the two leading dry goods stores in St. Louis. They were unknown to each other, but were each intent in the examination of shawls. One of the ladies was finally handed something that struck her fancy. She turned the article over and over, with admiring eye upon it, and asked its price. She was told what is was, and with a sigh laid it down again. ‘I like it,” said she; ‘it suits me perfectly, but I can’t afford it. My husband tells me that we must retrench as much as possible.’

The sympathetic saleswoman was about replacing the shawl upon its shelf when the other lady spoke: ‘You do not intend to take the shawl, then, Madame?’

‘No,” was the response.

‘Then I think I’ll take it. It suits me, too, and I was only waiting for your determination.’ Then, turning to the saleswoman, the last speaker told her to do up the purchase, adding, ‘Charge it to Mr. ___.’

The effect the name had upon the lady who was unable to buy the shawl was electric. ‘That’s my husband!’ she shrieked, and there was a scene upon which the curtain did not fall at once by any means.”

Kentucky Advocate [Danville KY] 16 February 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil had thought to commend the two ladies for not falling into a petty squabble or even fisticuffs over the shawl, as some women do at the bargain counter and that curious ritual known as the Running of the Brides, but when a husband is at the centre of the squabble, one really can do nothing more than retire to a safe corner to watch the altercation and possibly lay a wager on the 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 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 Fall of a Fall: 1865

CURIOUS EXPOSURE

The feminine appendages known as waterfalls are daily increasing in size and weight by the use of a variety of articles known as padding by many of the fair sex, who wish to obtain a “fall” of elegant proportions. The New York Sun tells of an occurrence which happened to a young woman in that city on Monday, which could induce females to be exceedingly careful in selecting suitable articles for the “filling” on their hairy appendages, which should also be properly attached to their head gear. Miss Essex, a well-dressed young woman, residing in Greenpoint, was standing at the corner of Thompson and Canal street, waiting for a car, when a man—a painter to all appearance—bearing a short ladder on his shoulder, rapidly turned the corner, and not judging the distance right, came near striking the lady on the head with an end of the ladder he was carrying. As luck would have it, or perhaps ill-luck, the ladder missed the woman’s head, but struck her “waterfall,” detached it from the back hair, and caused a general discharge of the contents which combined the following articles: Two curled hair puffs; one piece of mourning crape; two dark-colored pincushions, and one black worsted stocking. These article had previously been carefully covered up by the slender locks of the maiden. Amid many expression of regret the man commenced to pick up the padding, for the purpose of returning them to the wearer, who retreated in great confusion, without waiting for her dry goods. A little boy was sent after her with the late “fall,” but he lady refused to recognize them. The reporter gave the boy a dime for one of the pincushions, and intends to keep it as a specimen.

Western Reserve Chronicle [Warren OH] 20 September 1865: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is frankly shocked that the lady did not have the wit to keep her hair-combings in some convenient receptacle on her dressing-table so she could have a “rat” made to relieve her from the necessity of packing her water-fall with pin-cushions and stockings. If one is superstitious, one might say that her contretemps with the ladder was due entirely to the use of the mourning crape, which must be disposed of after the period of mourning lest something unfortunate befall.

For more on the perils of chignons and falls, see this post on “Dis-tress-ing News About Chignons.”   If one is in the mood for hair-piece humour, see this post about Chignon Satire.

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 Four Red Devils: 1890

When I first came to the city and went into Mr. Maltby’s law office as a clerk I had seen nothing and knew nothing but that which could be seen and heard in one of the very smallest of all country villages. I had read enormously, for my parents would rather have been without bread than without books and magazines, and were besides very comfortably well off, but of the festivities of great cities, the balls, operas, concerts and receptions, I knew nothing by experience, and of course I fancied them much more delightful than they really were. What was my joy, then, when Mr. Maltby, coming into the office one day, placed a handsome envelope before me!

“My girls and boys are going to give a masquerade party,” he said, “and they want me to ask you. They expect to have a jolly time. You’ll rig up in something you know—you can get it at a costumer’s—and wear a mask until supper time. You’ll come?”

“Thank you! I shall be delighted,” I said, and all day long visions of happiness danced through my head, and I could hardly wait for the closing of the office, so anxious was I to secure my costume. For I had had brief notice; the ball was to be that very night, and I fancy it was only a good natured afterthought of Mr. Maltby to ask “young Tom,” as he always called me, having known my father intimately as “Tom” at school.

The envelope was addressed to “Mr. Thomas Parsons,” in correct form of course, and rather proud I was of it. Later on I inclosed it in an envelope to my mother, that she might see into what elegant society her son had fallen, dropping it into a lamp post box on my way to the costumer’s.

I had seen one, I remembered—a room on the second floor over a hairdresser’s shop. The word “costumer” was painted on the long, narrow sign under the windows, and between them was a fanciful figure in ballet costume holding a little lace mask before her face—Columbine of the pantomimes perhaps.

I discovered the house again after some little losing of myself in cross streets, and, climbing the steps, entered a square room, where a man was stitching on a sewing machine and four girls were working away on masses of gauze and silk as though they had no intention of stopping that night.

A fat lady, who seemed to be the owner of the place, advanced to meet me, and listened to me with a solemn countenance. “A masquerade ball,” said she. “At an elegant house? Oh, to be sure. You must get yourself up well for that, a young gentleman like you. I wouldn’t advise you to hire a domino, I wouldn’t It’s wery common, is a domino. A King Charles would be elegant, but we haven’t one to-night. There is a Harry VIII, but, bless you, it’s too big—far too big.”

“There’s the red devil, ma’am,” said the man at the machine.

“There is, and a handsome devil, too, if I say it that designed it—a handsome devil. A club of four gents ordered them, but only three came for them. They said the other one was obliged to leave the city, and the fourth is on my hands. You can look at it. Looking costs nothing, and it’s a very handsome devil indeed. Get it out, Mat, get it out, and let the young gent look at it”

A red cloth costume, with a cloth tail, horns and mask was produced. On its bosom was embroidered an ace of spades. A black cloak belonged to it, and was fastened ever the breast with a cord. It struck me favorably. “Cost price you shall have it at, to get your custom,” said the lady, “and cheaper than hiring it, for you’ll be asked to a great many masquerades, no doubt, and what could be more elegant?”

She seemed to know all about it I knew nothing. I paid her what I presume was a fine price for the red devil and carried it away with me. Shortly I attired myself in the costume and sent for a cab. I was an object of interest in the small boarding house where I dwelt and was admired and wondered at in the front parlor to my heart’s content.

“You’ve got stylish friends!” said young Spruce, who was in a dry goods store, “if you know the Maltbys. I should go in for one of the girls if I were you. They’re pretty and will have lots of money. I wish I had the chance you have.”

All this was flattering but time was flying and the cab at the door. I entered it, and soon found myself in the Maltby parlors.

Mr. Maltby and wife were receiving everybody.

“How do you do, Mephistopheles?” Mr. Maltby said. “You’ll find some more of the family in there. Ha! ha! hat I’ll lay a wager you are Captain Jones.”

Evidently he did not know me for young Tom Parsons.

I strutted in in as military a fashion as possible, and made my way through the crowd, admiring the kings and queens, contadinas and court ladies, Martha Washingtons and Spanish senoras, until at last I espied a figure which I at first fancied must be my own reflection in a looking glass. It was another red devil, in no particular different from myself, except that an ace of clubs was embroidered upon his bosom where the spade appeared on mine. As he came near enough for me to notice this alight difference the demon paused.

“How did you get here?” he said, with an oath that I had always been taught to consider as vulgar as it was profane. “I thought it was all up with you.” He evidently took me for a friend. I knew enough of masquerade halls from a literary point of view to feel that it was my duty to carry on the mystification.

“Ask no questions,” I said, solemnly. He nodded and walked away. Shortly two other demons approached, exactly like myself again, and like the other friend also, save that one had a heart, the other a diamond embroidered on his bosom.

“It’s Dick, by heaven!” said he of the heart. “How did you do it?”

I laughed sardonically. This was going to a masquerade ball indeed.

“We’d better separate just now,” said the demon of the diamond, “and dance with some of the girls. There’s the music.”

I had taken lessons is dancing in my boyhood, and when the master of ceremonies, a tall gentleman, attired as Don Quixote, approached me and asked me with whom I would dance, I indicated a pretty peasant girl in white sleeves and a laced bodice, and being led up to her and introduced as a great unknown, asked for her hand in the next lancers, as I had been taught to do it at Miss Pirrot’s academy. I had no idea that the little peasant was one of the Misses Maltby but I certainly had chosen the nicest dancer and the liveliest talker possible. She put me down for three dances more, and promised to go to supper with me.

“But suppose another demon comes to me? How shall I know you from your brother?” she asked. “Behold the ace of spades!” said I. “The others are diamonds, clubs and hearts.”

“I’ll remember,” she answered.

Then I resigned her to a grand Turk, who walked away with her, and I danced with a stately person, all black lace and gold stars, with a little golden crescent on her head, who told me she was Night.

So the evening wore away until it was nearly 11 o’clock, and a smell of coffee began to fill the house.

I was about to cross the room to speak to my peasant girl, when a hand touched my arm.

“Don’t engage yourself to take any girl down to supper,” said a voice in my ear. I turned: it was the devil with the heart on his bosom who had addressed me.

“You want her yourself, do you?” I asked.

A little further on the demon with a club touched me.

“This way,” he said. ‘I’ve got a word for you. The trick must be done at supper time. If a girl gets her hooks on you it’s all up. Keep out of the way.”

“The tricks of a masquerade,” I thought. I turned away to face the demon with the diamond.

“There is no one in the library,” he said. “Get there somehow without being noticed we must have a talk. Don’t be seen following me.”

No doubt some joke was afoot. I bowed to my peasant girl and went to the library, after a pause or two on the way in order to distract attention. The other three demons were already there. One of them—the one with the diamond on his bosom—produced several keys.

“Mag is a jewel,” he said. “They’ve all been tried; everything is worth scooping. Gas turned off in the side street opposite the church. The bath room window opens on it, Bill and Dick down there to catch the sealskins, shawls and such. When they begin to march in to supper, pitch in.” He gave us each a key, and in order to examine the numbers on them, removed his mask for a moment, revealing a villainous countenance—the face one would expect of a professional thief, and this I knew he must be.

The four demons had bought their costumes for the purpose of entering the house at a time when it would be easy to rob it. The servant, “Mag,” was a confederate, and had provided them with cards of admission, and had tried the keys at odd times.

“How the devil you got here, I can’t think,” the leader of the band said to me as he replaced the-mask. “I saw you nabbed with my own eyes. ‘Good for six months,’ says I. Counted you out of this game.”

I gave a queer laugh under my mask. “I say,” I whispered, gruffly. “I’ve got to get rid of that girl or she’ll be hunting me up to go to supper.”

It was the most unlikely thing for a young lady to do but these men did not know that. They only bade me “make haste about it.”

“You’re the third floor,’ said the ace of clubs.

“Ay, ay,” said I.

Away I went, but not to the side of my peasant girl. It was Mr. Maltby whom I sought. In his ear I whispered.

“I am Tom Parsons. Don’t think I’m joking. Thieves are in the house. Send for the police. The girl Maggie is a confederate.”

Mr. Maltby stepped into the hall and touched a call that was placed there. I was still at his elbow. “The signal for the operations is to be the march to supper,” I said.

Mr. Maltby turned to the musicians. “Another set of lancers,” he said. “The cook is behindhand.”

The lancers were played. Meanwhile I caught the faithless Maggie on the kitchen stairs and flirted with her, showing her my keys by stealth.

“There’s a watch of cook’s in the mansard room,” the girl whispered. “A good gold one, and a ring or two on the cushion, if they are worth looking after.”

“You are worth looking after, anyhow,” I said, taking off my mask, for I saw the officers of justice enter the door “and I’ll try to do it” The girl smothered a shriek. There was a sound of scuffling in the library, and three red devils walked out of the house, each attended by a member of the police. A little later another called for Maggie. It was all very quietly done; only the servants guessed what was going on.

I went down to supper with my little peasant girl, who unmasked the loveliest face possible, and who was no other than the youngest Miss Maltby, whose name was Theresa, and after the other guests were gone the family made me a hero.

My story was pronounced a wonderful one, and assuredly I had been the means of saving Mr. Maltby from great loss and mortification. From that day I was an intimate friend of the family, and Theresa is now my wife. The red devil costume still hangs in a wardrobe of my room, and I occasionally put it on to amuse the children, though I have, it so happens, never attended another masquerade ball —Mary Kyle Dallas in Fireside Companion.

Aberdeen [SD] Daily News 25 February 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Clothes do make the man, as young Tom found to his profit. Mephistopheles was considered a dashing choice of costume. In Right Ho, Jeeves! Mr P.G. Wodehouse wrote amusingly about Jeeves recommending that devilish character to the shrinking newt-fancier Gussie Fink-Nottle, who wishes to attend a fancy-dress ball in order to impress Madeline Bassett.

Bertie Wooster narrates:

The spectacle before me was enough to nonplus anyone. I mean to say, this Fink-Nottle, as I remembered him, was the sort of shy, shrinking goop who might have been expected to shake like an aspen if invited to so much as a social Saturday afternoon at the vicarage. And yet here he was, if one could credit one’s senses, about to take part in a fancy-dress ball, a form of entertainment notoriously testing experience for the toughest.

And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you–not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles–this involving, as I need scarcely stress, not only scarlet tights but a pretty frightful false beard…

Bertie asks what Jeeves has against Pierrots:

“I don’t think he objects to Pierrots as Pierrots. But in my case he thought a Pierrot wouldn’t be adequate.”

“I don’t follow that.”

“He said that the costume of Pierrot, while pleasing to the eye, lacked the authority of the Mephistopheles costume.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Well, it’s a matter of psychology, he said…. Yes. Jeeves  is a great believer in the moral effect of clothes. He thinks I might be emboldened in a striking costume like this. He said a Pirate Chief would be just as good. In fact, a Pirate Chief was his first suggestion, but I objected to the boots.”

Sadly, far from emboldening him, Gussie’s Mephistopheles costume proves an unmitigated disaster. But one is pleased to find that the demon suit allowed young Tom to press his suit with Theresa.

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 Lipperley Necklace: 1870s

So many of Peter Lely’s languid-eyed ladies wear strings of luminous pearls. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lely#/media/File:Frances_Teresa_Stuart_by_Lely.jpg

THE LOST NECKLACE.

We all have our ambitions. That of Andrew Andrews, the great dealer in jewellery and bric-a-brac, was to be acknowledged the finest judge of precious stones and antique work to be found in the trade. He worked early and late to obtain this reputation, and by dint of perseverance and a few clever hits, much expenditure of money and not a trifle of burnt fingers during his apprenticeship, he succeeded in his desire. His knowledge was allowed on all hands to be supreme, his taste impeccable, his flair undeviating. No stone of value, no piece of goldsmith’s work, no specimen of cinquecento art, was quite sure of its repute until it had been passed through the alembic of his judgment; and what he had once stamped with his approval, and consented to sell with his name attached, was sent out into the world with a certificate of merit that was worth a small fortune to its possessor.

With this ambition of being known for accurate connoisseurship, was naturally that other of getting hold of all the most famous stones and pieces of bric-a-brac that he could induce the present owners to throw into his hands. If he knew of any precious bits belonging to a decayed family of former notables, needing money more than heirlooms, or to a young scapegrace who cared more for a month’s spree than for all the rare gems, and cabinets, and pictures, and pottery mouldering down at the dull old home, Andrew Andrews went round and round that quarry like a dog scenting a cache, and never rested until he had got the thing he wanted, for he gave good prices when it suited his purpose. He knew how to bribe so as to create the desire to sell; and he even sometimes bought at a loss that he might keep up his character as the indefatigable collector of unique valuables, in whose private parlour at the back of the shop you would find things not to be had anywhere else in the world. All the same, he ground down the poor devils who sold for need, till he took pretty well al the gilt off their gingerbread, and made the transaction for them rather a loss than a gain. As, however, nothing succeeds so much as success, he got his own way nine times out of ten; and Andrew Andrews was known far and wide as the man to whom to go if you wanted to buy a good thing irrespective of cost, or to get rid of one on favourable terms, if your needs were not pressing, and you were dexterous in the art of angling.

Now there was one thing which Andrew Andrews wished above all in the world to get hold of. This was the famous pearl necklace which had belonged to the beautiful Lady Lipperley, of doubtful fame—that Lady Lipperley who had been one of the beauties of Charles the Second’s court; whose portrait Sir Peter Lely had painted as “Venus rising from the sea,” and whose main article of attire in that portrait was this famous pearl necklace which Andrew Andrews coveted as if it had been the elixir of life itself. As pearls and as a necklace this jewel was unique_ The centre drop alone was worth a King’s ransom; the pearls were well-nigh priceless; and the fame of possessing this splendid and unapproachable treasure was of more value in the eyes of Andrew Andrews than half his fortune. This pearl necklace haunted him. Night and day he thought of it, and devised schemes as to, first, its discovery and then its possession. He was willing to pay royally for this royal treasure if only he could secure it; and, as it was, he spent no small sums in trying to find out where it was. For there was something of a tradition as to the strange way in which it had disappeared from view ; and, though known to exist—for the pearls had never come into the market—it was not known where. Hence Andrew Andrews was in his right, as well as following the custom of the trade, when he employed agents and spies, to whom he offered a generous com‘mission, should they bring him within measurable distance of Lady Lipperley’s world-famed necklace.

One day a stranger came into the office where Andrew Andrews transacted his business, examined his books, and offered his wares. He was looking now over his correspondence with young Vaurien, who had a few good things left in his ancestral home, for which the connoisseur was in treaty, when a tall, well-conditioned, handsome-looking man, with a military air and a good address, walked straight through the front shop, disregarding the shopman’s inquiries as to what he wanted, and came full upon Andrew Andrews in his sanctum sanctorum.

“Good morning, Mr. Andrews,” he said, speaking with an easy, off-hand air, like a man accustomed to the world and not afraid of his company. He spoke, too, with a slight foreign accent, like an Englishman who had been many years abroad, and who has thus, by long contact, acquired a certain genre, as things which have lain near coffee, or musk, or tobacco, become impregnated with the foreign odour of their neighbour.

“Good morning, sir,” said Mr. Andrews, with a sharp glance that took in the whole personality of the visitor, from the well-brushed hair, just beginning to thin on the temples, to the well-cut coat fitting like a second skin on the handsome back, and the perfect boots in which a couple of small and nicely-shaped feet were encased.

“You deal in gems, cinque-cento work, jewellery, majolica—bric-a-brac, in a word! ” said the stranger, whose dark eyes were roving round the place like an owl out a-mousing, or a hawk hovering above a dovecote.

Mr. Andrew Andrews bowed in assent.

“Your name is well known all over the world,” continued the stranger, in his careless, off-hand way. “At all the art sales in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, you are a greater authority than the greatest man of the place, and what Mr. Andrew Andrews, of London, approves of has a cachet of its own, and one that goes beyond its own merits.”

As he spoke, he took off his glove and carelessly stroked his moustache. On his hand glittered and played in the changing light an incomparable cat’s-eye. Never since he entered the business had Andrew Andrews seen such a magnificent specimen of this strange stone. He looked at it with the connoisseur’s admiration, the collector’s fascination; but the stranger did not notice that rapt regard. He was thinking only of his moustache, which he had evidently the trick of stroking as some men play with their watch-chains, and others twirl their sticks, with two fingers as a pivot.

“You have a fine cat’s-eye there,” said Andrews abruptly.

The stranger laughed in a half-pleased, half-deprecatory way.

“Yes, it’s well enough,” he said; “but I have finer things than this. Here is a gem, for instance, that has not its fellow in the world,” he added, taking off his other glove, and showing the most exquisite engraved emerald; “one of the finest and purest of the finest and purest periods of antique gem engraving.”

“You are rich,” said Andrews, with a covetous glance.

“Think so? What do you say, then, to this?” laughed the stranger, taking from his breast pocket a small box, wrapped in many envelopes. When he came finally to the contents, he showed the connoisseur a pear-shaped pearl of the most perfect shape and colour.

Andrews held out his hand for the jewel, but the stranger kept it back with the instinctive action of a man who has gone about the world, and rubbed shoulders with his kind so long as to have dropped by the way all false modesty as well as trust, sensitiveness, and inconvenient belief in human honesty. He only showed it, lying in the box which he held tightly in his own hand; and he did not allow Andrew Andrews to touch it or examine it closely.

“That is worth something, if you like,” he said, as he re-enfolded the box in its multifarious wrappings, then put it back in his breast pocket, rather ostentatiously buttoning up his coat as he did so.

“It is fairly fine,” said Andrews, cautiously.

It was not his way to be enthusiastic over the property of others which he might have to buy. He turned the mirror round only when he had to sell.

“Fairly fine!” echoed the stranger with marked contempt. “I believe it is ‘fairly fine’ with a vengeance! I should have thought a man of your judgment and experience would have pronounced a more fitting verdict than this, Mr. Andrews. I like that! Fairly fine! Well, I suppose it is, and something more the back of that.”

“You did not give me time to examine it, sir,” said Andrews, a little sulkily.

“Time enough for an expert like yourself to have seen its merits,” answered the stranger, hastily, and somewhat haughtily. “The drop of the necklace which belonged to Lady Lipperley—which Sir Peter Lely painted in his famous picture of “Venus rising from the sea”—which all the world knows of—which has been engraved and described scores of times—surely it does not need a very close examination to decide on the merits of such an incomparable jewel as that! However, I did not come here to discuss my pearl; I came to ask if you have still in your possession that famous Limoges snuff-box which belonged to Richelieu, and from him passed down by various stages to Madame Récamier, and then to young Vaurien, who sold it two years ago at the Hotel Drouot, where you bought it? Is it still in your possession?”

“The drop of the Lipperley necklace!” murmured Andrew Andrews. He was too much astounded, absorbed, overcome, to listen to the rest. The pearl necklace which he had set his heart on having ; and here was the drop—the famous drop—within reach of his hand!

“Well, Mr. Andrews,” said the stranger, sharply; “have you that snuff-box?”

“The snuff-box! What snuff-box?” asked Andrews, recalled to himself, like a sleeper suddenly awakened.

The stranger looked at him with frank surprise.

“Why, Mr. Andrews, what has come over you?” he said, with a light laugh. “One would think you had been struck by some demon. We should say so in my country. What has happened to you! What is it?”

“Nothing,” said Andrews, trying to laugh as lightly as his visitor, but making a sorry kind of business of it. “I was only a little surprised when you told me that that pearl was the drop belonging to the famous necklace of Lady Lipperley. It is a thing I have wanted all my life to see, but I have never been able to trace it. I did not know who had it.”

“No? then you could not have gone very far,” laughed the stranger.” “It has been in the possession of our family for generations.”

“Of what family?” asked Andrew Andrews, anxiously.

“The Von Rascalliz of Pesth,” said the stranger.

“But how the deuce did it travel there?” said Andrews.

“Oh, the itinerary is easy to trace,” said the stranger. “A Rascalliz was Ambassador at the Court of Anne-— don’t you remember?—when most of the Beauties of the Merry Monarch had gone to the shades below, and their fortunes were in some instances of no more value than their good looks. Lady Lipperley’s exchequer was one of those which had run dry. She sold the famous pearl necklace to my ancestor, Maximilian von Rascalliz, and we have preserved the precious heirloom from that day to this. I have the original deed of transfer written in the Latin of that period. Queer stuff that Latin!” he said, laughing again. “I question if Cicero would have fathered it.”

“Have you the necklace here in London?” asked Andrews.

“Surely!” answered Von Rascalliz; “I never travel without it. Besides, to tell you the truth, I thought of offering it to your Queen. It seems a pity that such a splendid jewel should belong to an old bachelor like myself. It ought to adorn a Court!”

“Could I see it before you offer it?” said Andrews, trembling like an aspen leaf.

“Well — yes — under restrictions,” answered Von Rascalliz, looking at the collector as a policeman looks at a probable burglar. “You can see it, certainly, Mr. Andrews; but you understand, don’t you, that the thing is rather too valuable to be handed about to Tom, Dick, and Harry indiscriminately? If you see it, it must be at my hotel and under my conditions.”

“Certainly, certainly, sir,” said Andrews, wiping the perspiration from his upper lip; “at all events, let me see it before you offer it to her Majesty.”

He was impolitic in his eagerness. He felt that he was; but this was one of those occasions which come only once in the life of a man, and he might be excused if he showed too plainly how much the matter interested him.

“But the snuff-box?” said Von Rascalliz, who took the whole affair with consummate coolness.

“No, I have not got it; I sold it last week.”

On which the polite Hungarian gave vent to something in an unknown tongue which, if it were not swearing, was a very good imitation.

The next day Andrews went to the hotel indicated, where he found Von Rascalliz, the pearls, the deed of transfer, and a gentlemanlike-looking man, who was called by the host mon cher, and who said, incidentally, that he, too, having heard of the famous necklace, had come to open negotiations for it on behalf of the fabulously-wealthy Mrs.___, who made it her boast to carry the revenue of a nation on her shoulders. Indeed, things had gone very far when Andrews came in, and it was only by dint of a handsome personal commission to mon cher that he was able to stop the sale of the pearls there and then. He did stop it, however, and took a day and a night to reflect on the possibility of his own purchase. Von Rascalliz promised to wait his decision before either offering the necklace to the Queen, or concluding with Mrs. ___ ’s agent. But he must make that decision quickly. Time pressed, and that estate in Hungary wanted the owner’s supervision.

The ball rolled according to the collector’s will. He had longed for this moment with a passion known only to those who have dreamed for years of a quasi-impossibility. When their dream is suddenly fulfilled, they lose their heads. And Andrews lost his. He bought the pearl necklace at a tremendous sacrifice; but he had attained his desire, and the world envied while it applauded him. He spent a few thousands in advertising his treasure, which he set at a figure that would handsomely recoup his outlay; and all London flocked to see the historic necklace that Andrew Andrews, the great bric-a-brac and art collector, had bought at a price which made cautious men wink.

Among the rest came a little snuffy, shuffling old fellow, who had more knowledge of art and stones and gems in his little finger than Andrews had in his whole head. He was a queer, Bohemian, gin-drinking old chap; but if he were sober he knew a good thing when he saw it, and spotted a forgery as unerringly as a retriever brings in a bird. He looked through the gilt bars of the glass case where the famous necklace was lying; and as he looked he might be seen laughing greatly to himself.

“Splendidly done!” he said, half aloud. “A real work of genius! Ought to succeed; and don’t wonder it fetched that ass, Andrews! Best thing of the kind I have ever seen; and if Andrews were not such a bumptious fool, I would leave him to find it out by himself. But he wants a lesson, and by the Lord Harry, he shall have it! ”

The next day the little snuffy old man called on Andrews with a bundle of discoloured old plates and torn sheets of letterpress under his arm.

“Andrews,” he said, bluntly, “you have been taken in this time. That necklace is no more the Lipperley necklace than it is the Koh-i-noor, It is a forgery, sir; wonderfully well done—but only a forgery after all.”

“You are drunk, Snooks!” said Andrews, contemptuously.

He was a coarse kind of man to his social inferiors, though an oily-tongued fellow enough to his superiors.

“Sober as a judge, Mr. Andrews, and a better judge both of pearls and their forgeries than you are,” retorted the old fellow. “Here, see what these old descriptions say; look at these cuts. “Where the deuce were your eyes when you bought this for a genuine pearl?” he added, pointing disdainfully to one of the beads, which had a small, microscopic, manufactured flaw. “Test that bead, and my life on it you will find it false. And so they all are. You have been done, sir, done; and your famous Lipperley necklace is worth only the price of a good bit of Palais Royal jewellery.”

It was in vain that Andrews swore and raved, abused Snooks like a pickpocket, and vowed he would have the life of that infamous Von Rascalliz. Facts are facts, and historic pearls can be proved as well as titles, and deeds of transfer in dog Latin can be forged as well as banknotes and old poems. And the fact here was, as Snooks had said, that Andrews had been taken in and done for with masterly success by one of the cleverest workmen of the great Palais Royal house of ___. There was no help for it. The thing was undeniable, and the ruin of his far-famed reputation stared him in the face. And this was a thing he could never survive.

He took his decision heroically. Better lose his money than his character for accuracy of judgment—better lie to the world like a man than be smothered in ridicule. What Snooks had discovered others might discover, and when the thing got wind, where then would be his pride of place as the great art collector, his purity of repute as the unfailing judge and critic?

That night the necklace was missing from its case, and the case itself was found broken to pieces in the shop. In the morning, when they came to open the place, the assistants saw the floor strewed with broken glass, the gilt bars bent and broken, and that the pearls had disappeared. Nothing else had been abstracted—only the famous Lipperley necklace, for which Andrews had paid so royally, and which he expected to sell so handsomely. There was a hue and cry, of course; the police were called in, and all the servants were subjected to the most rigorous cross-examination, which resulted in nothing; and then Andrew Andrews advertised his loss extensively, and offered a gigantic reward to whosoever should bring the necklace to his place. But neither advertisement nor offered reward produced any good effect. The missing pearls never turned up, and to this hour the mystery of their disappearance is unsolved. Only Snooks suspects, and Andrews knows, what became of that famous Lipperley necklace, each pearl of which would have made an era in the life of any jeweller to whom it might have been offered. But if hammers could speak, that hammer in Andrews’ private sanctum could tell its own tale; and that well fed, handsome, polyglot Greek swindler, feasting his accomplices at Bignon’s, would have continued the disclosures made by that general smash.

Truth, Vol. 11, 22 June 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  How many literary allusions this story of bejewelled hubris suggests!  “Pearls goeth before a fall.” “Pearls before swine.” The Biblical “pearl of great price” and the man who sold all he had to possess it. And, of course, the most apropos, “pearls mean tears.”

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.

Capers of Some Clothing Cranks, As Told by a Talkative Tailor: 1881

A TALKATIVE TAILOR

Strange Revelations of the Sartorial Trade.

CAPERS OF SOME CLOTHING CRANKS.

The Painful Self-Denial Which makes Kearny Street Fashionable

Traits of the Tough.

“I should say that a tailor’s life in San Francisco is a hard one,” said a well-known and popular knight of the shears to a Chronicle reporter the other day.

The communicative craftsman was standing in his doorway, whence he could see in all directions gorgeous signs such as “Pickle, the Tailor,” “Sowfine, the Solid Tailor,” “Rosenheim, the Ready Tailor,” “Bosenheim, the Boss Tailor,” etc.

“You see,” said the loquacious but rather disconsolate Sartorian, “what competition there is in our business. The town seems to be populated with tailors, and you will observe that none of them show any of the mawkish delicacy about parading their profession that prevailed when a tailor was supposed to be but a small fractional part of a human being. Instead of regarding themselves as the ninth part of a man, they act as if they considered themselves equal to any twenty-nine ordinary storekeepers. Look at their electric lights and the portraits of themselves that they stick on the walls. It’s a good thing for the originals that most people here can read, or their portraits would make them think that the police had begun to use the dead-walls of the town for the Rogues’ Gallery.

“But the competition among the tailors themselves is not the worst thing in the trade,” said the disgusted knight of the shears. “It’s the cranks who patronize us that shorten a man’s life, and make him lenient toward all murders.

THE EXPERT FIEND.

“Here’s one of them just coming,” whispered the tailor, as a shabby genteel young man with the weird history of cheap lodging written on his lank jaw, sauntered into the store and addressed himself to one of the salesmen.

“That’s what we call the expert fiend,” said the tailor, nodding his head towards the visitor. “Watch how he paws the cloths. He is an assistant bookkeeper in a toothbrush factory at $17 a month, and never wore a fine suit of clothes in his life; but he knows more about cloth than my best salesman, who has spent a lifetime in the business. When he is getting measured he will give the cutter a fill about wanting the suit in a hurry for a reception on Nob Hill, but a dressmaker’s soiree on Natoma street is about his fit. Just hear him talk about what he used to do in the East and the distance this one-horse town is behind New York. He can’t get anything here like in the East. Just watch how the salesman will get to his collar,” said the tailor, as he gleefully jingled several half-dollars in his pocket and proudly eyed his assistant. The latter, after showing the expert enough cloth to dress the whole police force, Captain Kentzel [a famously stout police officer] included, whipped out a piece with a great display of animation.

“Ah! Here you are, sir,” said he, with a triumphant flourish of the goods; “something nobby and durable. The only piece left. Sold the rest of it to the French visitors. Genuine imported goods, and the very latest pattern. Let you have a suit for $45, as it’s the last piece in the house.”

The effect of the salesman’s sudden earnestness was a prompt sale. As the captured expert was led away to the recesses, where the cutter lay in wait for him with his remorseless shears, the proprietor chuckled audibly.

“That piece of goods just sold,” said he, “is about the worst in the house. It went on the vaudoo counter months ago, and I was thinking of sending it to the Orphan Asylum as a Christmas gift. We always keep such goods for the expert fiend, and, at the right moment, yank it out and nail him. It takes a man of some experience to know just when to show the expert the piece of cloth he wants to get rid of, but the competent salesman never slips up.

THE DRY GOODS MEN’S WATCHES.

“No, sir. The expert fiend is our Injun. We scalp him just as we do his first cousin, the dry goods fiend, who thinks because he handles a few domestic lines of goods that he knows all about the trade. His ignorance wouldn’t make so much difference if he was willing to pay like anyone else, but he wants to get the best in the house for little or nothing and a discount, because he is in the trade. He generally winds up by leaving his watch as security and sauntering around for a month or two with a door-key or a chronometer. I have a dozen dry goods men’s watches in my safe now and more on the way. If you say anything in your paper about this business, please state that the dry goods man wants more and pays less and pays it more unwillingly than any man in town, except the lawyer. No, sir; we have no use for dry goods men as customers.”

“You don’t do much a credit business,” said the reporter, “or your collection of watches would not be so large.”

“I do none. Mine is a second-class business. The tailors of this town are of three orders. The first class is supported by Nob Hill and does a credit trade exclusively. The second class is supported by a business section of the town and does a cash business. The third class is kept up by Tar Flat and does a cash business. It is the style for the young bloods about town to boast how they hang up their tailor, but you can bet even money every time on the tailor not getting left. Of course there are dead beats who get away with almost any one, but whenever a fellow begins to lay around the store and drop in of a morning to ask after his health, the tailor gets into his shell.

THE INSTALLMENT PLAN.

“I will give you the true business how these lords in disguise that you see every afternoon on Kearny street get their good cloths. Getting a new suit is no sudden idea with them. When one of these aristocratic young men wants a suit he comes in and states his case plainly. He is perhaps working in a barber-shop at $7 a week, or more likely doing nothing, and of course his word is very bad. He has no credit at all, in fact. He picks out the cloth for his suit, and pay what he can as a deposit. If the tailor was to go and make the suit, the fellow would never take it unless he got a reduction of about 50 per cent, but the tailor, unless he is very green in the business, insists on a remittance every week until about two-thirds of the price of the suit is paid in dimes and quarters, when he cuts the suit and proceeds to make it. It generally takes about four months to make one of these suits, and when there are only about $5 or $10 due on it the finishing touches are given. About a week before the suit is ready the owner assumes a hauteur that freezes his companions, and announces that he is going to invest in a new suit. He extorts the last installment from some confiding female friend, and next week blooms out in all the glory of the loudest suit in the market and breaks the boys all up. Nobody except the tailor ever knows how much the young man denied himself and how many petty larcenies he had to commit before he could amaze the street with his style. He never does get much style though, for the tailor regards him as his legitimate prey, and shoves on him all the old flash patterns that the expert fiend won’t buy. He gets very nearly as badly treated as the sample fiend, who is a full brother to the expert fiend.

THE SMART SAMPLER.

“The sample fiend, having made up his mind to get a new suit, resolves to get the best of the whole trade, and goes down to the wholesale house and gets a sample of the goods he wants. Then he starts out among the retail stores. He is not the man to be fooled. Oh, no! He strolls in and looks at the goods, prices them all, and when he thinks you are quite unprepared, he shoves the sample under your nose and inquires how much can you make a suit the same as that for. We get to such a customer as that at once. The salesman takes the sample and pretends to look at it thoughtfully for some moments, and then says:

“’Now this is very find goods—very fine. In any other store in town, they would charge you $50 for a suit of that; but as we have a big line of the goods, brought from the East, we can afford to make it for $45.’

“This generally fetches the sample fiend as he pays his money and goes off chuckling to himself over his smartness. Instead of getting ahead of us five dollars, though, he loses three times that much. The prices of suits are graded on the work put into them, and we can make more out of a $45 suit than a $50 we cut from the same piece. When the sample fiend goes out, the salesman quietly marks opposite the price of the suit on the books, ‘undersold $5,’ and the trimmer plans the work accordingly. Fifty cents is saved on the vest. The coat is given to some poor workman, and the pantaloons are cheaply trimmed; so the smart sampler gets his suits so badly strung together that the first breeze that strikes it blows all the buttons off. The sample fiend is generally old enough to know better than to try and beat a San Francisco tailor.

THE FEMALE INVADER.

“He is as much behind the age as the man who brings his wife with him to select a suit. The average tailor would as soon see the Devil coming into his store as a woman, and I never heard of but one salesman who got even with the sex. One day a man and his wife came in and pulled around all the cloth in the store before the woman found anything to please her. When the man stepped up to be measured the salesman whispered to him so that he could be heard all over the store;

“’This is a very embarrassing position for me, sir.’

“’Why so?’ asked the much-married customer.

“’Because,’ said the malicious salesman, ‘I don’t know which of you I’ve to measure for the pants.’

The loquacious tailor paused to exchange greetings with a motherly-looking lady who passed out of the store with a pale-faced young man, possessing all the characteristics of the embryo “tough.’

“There,” said the tailor, “is a specimen of a customer we often have. That young man is the son of respectable parents, and his mother has a fond hope that some day he may go to the Legislature or own the biggest coal yard in the Tenth ward. The salesman has his work cut out for him to please the pair. The mother would like to dress the lad in broadcloth, like a divinity student, but nothing but the toughest of tough suits will suit him. Twenty-five-inch spring-bottom pants is the height of his ambition, and he has to get them or the suit will never be paid for. If we were to follow the old woman’s instructions the lad would steal off to some hoodlum store, and get rigged out in the highest style of Tar Flat—skin-tight pants, double-breasted, low-cut vest and sack coat with gold-shot buttons and three-inch braid. The salesman has to make the old lady believe that the boy will be dressed for a funeral, but the lad has to be convinced that he will be the envy of Tar Flat in his new suit. Of course it is business for us to respect his wishes, and when he gets into his new clothes every policeman in town will shadow him.”

THE HOODLUM TRADE.

“Have the second-class stores much of the hoodlum trade?” asked the reporter.

“No, the hoodlum trade is almost confined to the hoodoo stores, where the salesman is a big tough, dressed in the height of the hoodlum fashion. The salesman spends his evenings in the social headquarters of Tar Flat drumming up trade for his establishment. When a suit is finished the news is sent all over Tar Flat and the natives assemble as soon as possible at the tailor store. No hoodlum ever does anything so reckless as to fit on a new suit without the moral assistance of at least six companions. If the new garments have the proper depth of braid and the regulation “spring” the owner is allowed to accept them, and all hands adjourn to the nearest beer saloon, where the tailor does the honors. The hoodlum tailor periodically gives a prize dance, at which the tough salesman acts as floor manager and the cappers of the establishment as the reception committee. The hoodlum tailor finds it hard work to keep his customers, for everything depends on how he stands with the leaders of the gang. Any insult to a prominent tough, such as the reduction of the spring of his pants or the depth of the braid of his coat, is likely to cost the tailor his entire trade. In former years the hoodlum trade was done by one shop, but latterly, owing to the rivalry between Tar Flat and North Beach and the Mission, the trade is divided. It keeps constantly shifting. The true tough never estimates the cost of a suit in dollars. His basis of valuation is a five-cent glass of beer, and when he figures on a garment he judges of the amount of pleasure it will cost him. I once had a customer of that kind who came in and selected a $45 suit and would have paid a deposit if one of his crowd had not figured up how many five-cent beers it would cost him. When the astonished tough was informed that the suit would deprive him of 900 glasses of beer, besides what the barkeeper might stand, he was paralyzed, and went off reflecting sadly on the vanity of dress.”

A POINTER.

There is one thing to be said in favor of the tough, and that is that he knows what he wants and is willing to pay for it. In this respect he differs greatly from the doctors and the lawyers, who can discount even the dry good man in shuffling away from their bills. In the long run, though, the tailor gets ahead of them.”

It would seem to me,” said the reporter, “that the tailor gets ahead of most people.”

“Not always,” said the confiding knight of the shears. “The tailor has his honest instincts like any one else, and I can give you this pointer: When an unassuming citizen comes into tailor store and says ‘I want a suit and am willing to pay so much for it,’ he generally gets the worth of his money, as things go. He always proves a great deal better than the smartie who comes in for the express purpose of showing us how little we know about our business, and how much he can teach us.”

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 18 December 1881: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is always a pleasure to hear from a trade “insider,” who can do the dialect. This “confiding knight of the shears,” in an interview richly laden with the vernacular, opens a window into a hitherto mysterious world.

For example, most of Mrs Daffodil’s readers will have an idea of what a hoodlum is. An 1897 dictionary of slang adds the interesting information that

In San Francisco hoodlums, are a class of young fools, corresponding in some degree to the English ‘Arries. The hoodlums, walk the streets arm in arm, upsetting everything in their passage “just for the sake of a lark.”

Spring-bottom pants are wide-bottomed trousers cut on the pattern seen in the tailor’s diagram above. One young man recollected: “I remember one spell in Silverton that we were having our trousers cut with so much spring on the bottom that only the end of our toes were exposed.”

There are subtleties of class-linked location—Nob Hill, Kearny Street, and Natoma Street—implied by context, but now mostly lost to all but the most assiduous historians. Tar Flat, on the other hand, was, as it sounds, a refuge for the “tough.”

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.