Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

A Skirt for Nothing: 1903

pink satin post2


They entered the street car, en route to the matinee, with a swish of silk petticoats and happy in the possession of the latest creations in French millinery and this season’s models in feather muffs and boas.

“What do you think of my skirt?” asked one of them, glancing down at an affair in fancy novelty silk of the latest cut which she wore.

“A dream,” replied her companion, “I have been admiring it all along. You are certainly growing extravagant, dear.”
A look of satisfaction spread over the other woman’s countenance. She lowered her voice impressively, but not enough to prevent the other passengers in that end of the car from hearing. “It didn’t cost me a cent,” she said.

“A present! You lucky mortal. I wish I had a half a dozen sisters, cousins and aunts to give me lovely things once in a while!”

“Not a present, either. Just the luckiest chance in the world,” replied the owner of the skirt with increasing satisfaction in her voice. “You see, I went out Monday to buy a skirt. I wanted something rather smart for an afternoon, something like this, in fact; but I had been so liberal with my other clothes that I really didn’t see how I could afford one. I spent the entire morning trying to pick up a bargain, and finally I went to Jones & Smith’s. I have an account there, you know. Well, I couldn’t find a thing I would look at for less than twice what I was able to give, and as it was 1 o’clock and I was cross and worried and worn out, I decided to go into their lunch room and treat myself to something dainty and refreshing, just to cheer me up.

“Well, my dear, it was too fortunate. It had looked like rain that morning, and I had put on that old green skirt—you remember, part of the suit I had made to order last autumn.

“Well, as luck would have it, it was a new waitress who took my order. She was awkward and nervous, and as she was placing my tea on the table she stumbled and spilled the whole thing, cup and all, right into my lap.

“I didn’t even wait to eat lunch. I went right down to the office and complained. The men were extremely polite when they found out I had an account there. Besides they could see that the skirt was of expensive material, and somehow—I’m sure I didn’t say so—but somehow they seemed to be under the impression that it had been made last spring. Anyhow I told them that I considered it good for another season’s wear—which was true, if only I hadn’t been seen in it a whole season already—and that it belonged to a suit which had cost me $90, and that I thought they should at least make it good to me with another skirt. And it ended in my going back and getting this dream of a skirt for nothing. What do you think of that for luck?”

“But,” protested the other woman whose face had grown grave as she listened, “Didn’t the poor girl have to stand the cost of that skirt?”

“Oh—hm—well, now, I never thought of that. Perhaps she did have to pay something; but of course they would never have charged her with the whole price of that skirt. And, then, it was entirely her own awkwardness.”

“Of course, if she spoiled your skirt—“    her friend began, thoughtfully.

“Oh, my dear, that was the best part of it,” exclaimed the piece of selfishness incarnate, with a jubilant laugh. “The other skirt wasn’t spoiled at all. You see, it was only tea. And after it was sponged off and pressed one could never tell the difference.”

Great Falls [MT] Tribune 6 December 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Selfishness incarnate” rather unstates it…. The “poor girl” probably lost her job. She was awkward and nervous because she–the sole support of her invalid mother, drunkard father, and five brothers and sisters–had landed a job after many months of searching and was anxious to make a success of it. One can be sure that the store docked her pay for the full amount of that “dream” of a skirt, just as one can be sure that, feeling that nothing mattered any more, the former waitress either went on the bottle or on the streets. Fashionable clothes have been the ruination of many a good girl….


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

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


The Baroness’ Jewel Box: 1870s


jewel casket hermann bohm


A Story from the German

The Baroness Rukavina Eltz was the most splendid and dashing personage in the Er Valley. Her castle near Somlyo was the finest specimen of a great residence in all that shadow of the Er Mellek [Érmellék], and she, a Roumanian by birth and a Hungarian by marriage, seemed to unite  all the brilliant characteristics of both these picturesque races.

She was a widow to begin with, and since the animal man has speculated upon the varieties of the angel woman, a widow has been pronounced the most amiable variety of the species. She was very beautiful, tall, svelte, blue eyed, black-haired , piquant, red and white, with the most scornful little mouth and the most delicate profile; her hand and foot were models, although the latter was frequently stamped when she was not pleased. She was–in the third and last place, as preachers say– very rich, and had fallen heiress to two collections of jewels which were almost fabulously valuable. A brilliant creature, the Baroness. She owned villages and vineyards and made a large income every year from her sale of Ruster, a grand wine of a pale golden hue, which had as full and peculiar a flavor as she had herself. The Baroness sent her wine to Vienna, where it was considered equal to Tokay.

Of course, she had suitors, the beautiful, sharp Baroness. They came from Transylvania and Russia, from Roumania and all Hungary, from Austria and all the German Principalities; and for the unlucky wretches about Pus Poki and the Behar Settlement, and the country gentleman of Erdioszegh, they knelt and worshipped in vain as she dashed past them on her fleet thoroughbred, for she was Diana as a huntress and the queen of the Amazons also. Her black horse Tetenyer was said to emit fire from his nostrils when he stopped to breathe.

This grand lady was afraid of nobody, loved nobody, had no friends, save the nuns at the foot of the Rez Gebirge and one old priest who seemed to be deeply in her confidence. Every year she made a grand visit somewhere–Vienna, Paris, Rome, London or St. Petersburg. She spent money like water, made everybody talk, wonder and admire, and where her splendid jewels were the envy of all the Court ladies.

Yes, she was afraid of one man, and that was her steward, Neusiedler, he who for years had managed her vast estates, her vineyards and her wheatfields, her fields and fisheries.

Neusiedler was a crouching, cross eyed, mean-looking German, married to a bold, black eyed woman, who was twice his size, and who lived in the village, near the castle, and who spent her time envying and hating the Baroness. Madame Pasteur, the French companion, and Matilde, the French maid, who never left the Baroness, thought that Neusiedler, and his wife had the evil eye and that they would some day wilt the Baroness. But Rukavina Eltz laughed at this fear, and kept on her course exultant. Still when the yearly pay day came round, and she had to look over accounts with Neusiedler, she did show what she had never shown before–fear.

Among her jewels was a splendid rope of pearl-colored pearls, the rarest thing in the whole world, neither black nor white, but pearl color, with three great emerald pendants, each as large as a small pear. The Emperor always noticed this jewel with a smile and a compliment when the Baroness Rukavina-Eltz went to a court ball at Vienna. He told her that the Empress had nothing half as handsome, and it is to be feared that the Emperor spoke also of the white, firm neck on which the necklace rested, for Rukavina-Eltz was apt to blush and look magnificently well at such moments. Then she had great chains of sapphires as blue as her eyes and some big rubies which the baron had given her (the old Baron, twice her age, who went down into Roumania for her when she was 15.) and she had diamonds, of course—every rich lady has diamonds– and a great box full of engraved amethysts and antique gems, some that Cardinal Antonelli gave her in Rome, for he, too, had admired the wild Baroness.

Indeed, if the Baroness Rukavina Eltz had ever written her memoirs, what a story she could have told! But the end of every woman’s history is that she finally falls in love, and such was the beginning of the end of the story of Rukavina-Eltz. She went to England one summer, and there was a young Lord Ronald Somerset, or a Lord George Levenson Montague, or a young Lord Howard Plantagenet (they mix them up so, these English words, they are not half so individual as our Hungarian names.) who could ride better than she could. This was a terrible blow to the Baroness and she wished herself dead.

But when at dinner the soft-voiced, handsome, tall young Englishman, Sir Lyster Howard Lyster (that was his name after all) sat next to her and talked so well and so complimentary to her seat, ‘cross country, and noticed the pearl-colored pearls, and the emeralds, with his lips, and the neck underneath with his eyes, Rukavina Eltz forgave him, and he began to talk of her home near Somlyo, and it ended in a large English party coming to the Er Valley, under the shadow of the Er Mellek, for a long summer visit. And how they raved about everything—the wine, the horses the scenery, the wild, barbaric splendor of the Baroness’ housekeeping, and how they all hated Neusiedler and his big, black-browed wife, who were invited up to the balls.

There was an English lady, one with very long teeth, and a very long noise, and very high eyebrows, and they called her Lady Louisa. She was very grand and lofty, and Madame Pasteur heard her say one day—“Do you know, dear Baroness, I think you are so very careless—don’t you know? –about those beautiful jewels of yours—do you know?”

“But who could steal them?” said the Baroness, laughing. “There are none like them in all Hungary, and no one would dare wear them, they are so rare!”

‘Ah! But some of these wild people of yours! They might swallow your emeralds, those fierce Croats, the Roumanians; and then you keep them in such open closets and boxes.” Madame Pasteur nodded her meek head, too. She had trembled for the jewels always.

But the Baroness and Sir Lyster began to think of other things and jewels; and there were moonlight rides and walks, and there were long talks and many reveries. Lady Louisa went home, they all went, but Sir Lyster came back.

And then, one evening, Madame Pasteur said afterwards that she saw Neusiedler come in and bully the baroness and she heard him hiss out the words—“Remember if you marry, you lose all. Remember the Baron’s will!”

And Rukavina-Eltz turned pale and said, “Bully, traitor, fiend,” between her shut teeth. She went off to Paris on one of her long visits, and Neusiedler squeezed the tenants and made every one miserable. The castle was shut up and black Tetenyer grew thin in his stable.

When she came back she looked older and more sedate. She went often to see the nuns at the foot of Rez Gebirge. She saw the priest also very often, and Madame Pasteur thougth she was growing devote. But she dressed in her usual dashing colors (for she was a very Roumanian at heart) and she wore one of those scarlet quilted petticoats that the English ladies wore so much; and very pretty it looked, with her dark habit and her dark dresses looped up over it. This, with a scarlet feather in her hat, looked as if the Baroness was thinking of England.

It was a miserable day, that, when Madame Pasteur and Matilda came screaming down the long corridor.

“The jewels are gone! Gone! Gone!’

The Baroness had the great bell of the castle run, and Neusiedler was sent for at once. She was very pale for she loved those pearls and emeralds.

Neusiedler was composed, every look was made to say, “I told you so;” he had always warned her about the jewels.

“What can be done?” asked the Baroness.

“Search, whip, imprison, all who attempt to leave the province,” said Neusiedler, calmly.

“Except women—I will have no women whipped,” said the Baroness.

“I am glad to hear that, “said Neusiedler, laughing his malicious laugh, “for Madame Neusiedler goes to Vienna tomorrow.”

“Ah!” said the Baroness, “you know I could not mean, at any rate, that Madame Neusiedler should be disturbed; send her in my little carriage with the three ponies to Erdiosegh.”

“Your excellency is very condescending,” said Neusiedler, bowing to the ground.

The local police sought everywhere for the lost jewels, but no traces of them could be found. The Baroness sat in a sort of stupor and looked out of the window.

“I will go to England,” said she hastily one day. “Neusiedler, some money, and arrange for me to be gone three months.”

“It is well, Madame,” said the steward.

It was a very roundabout route that the Baroness took for England. When Matilda and Madame Pasteur reached the station at Erdiosegh, they were astonished to see the Baroness dash into the ticket-office and buy tickets for Vienna, and when they arrived, all of them, at her fine hotel at Vienna, who should step out to meet them but Sir Lyster Howard Lyster.

Nothing but the well-known eccentricity of the Baroness apologized to Madame Pasteur for what followed. She commanded two dresses to be made, and that Madame Pasteur should go with her to a public masked ball at the Opera House in Vienna.

“Sir Lyster Howard Lyster will go with us!” said she, as a shade passed over the pale face of her companion.

Oh! That the lady of sixteen quarterings should be seen in such a low place! No; she was not seen! She was masked; but that she should even go! What a sacrifice of pride and of decency, Madame Pasteur thought it, as she saw the Baroness take the arm of one masked man after the other, and then go into the supper room with a party who followed a tall mask in a black domino.

A voice stuck on Madame Pasteur’s ear—was it that of Madame Neusiedler? Was it—could it be?

Yes! And as she threw back mask and hood there sparkled on her neck the pearl-colored pearls and the emerald pendants of the lost jewels. O Heaven!

“The necklace of the Baroness,” shouted the impulsive, the imprudent Madame Pasteur.

It nearly spoiled the plot, for Madame Neusiedler was among the friends and confederates. However, the tall Englishman stepped forward, and the two Viennese policemen arrested the woman.

She behaved with extraordinary coolness, and explained—“It is indeed the necklace of the Baroness, given by her to my husband for moneys which he had advanced to her. Let her deny it if she dare. I have her written acknowledgment of the money, and I have come to Vienna to sell the necklace, where it is well known.”

All gathered around the wonderful necklace, which the Chief of Police put in his breast pocket, removing the woman Neusiedler.

The Baroness went back to her hotel and allowed Madame Pasteur to pass a wretched night. She would explain nothing.

All Vienna was alive when the great case came on, and not a few ladies were glad to hear that the Rukavina-Eltz jewels were in pawn—that envied necklace.

Neusiedler came to his wife’s rescue, and told the story over again. The evidence against the Baroness was damning. She had, according to his story, lived far, far beyond her income, and he had supplied her with money. She had fabricated the story of the lost necklace, to try and cheat him, but here were her signatures,  and here was the Baron’s will, which she was about to try to disregard—his will saying that she should never marry, or, if she did, that she lost all her vast estates.

“Baroness Rukavina Eltz, what have you to say to this? What is your defense?” said the prosecuting counsel.

“Only this!” said the Baroness, holding up in her hand the pearl colored pearls and the emerald drops, the real necklace! On the Judge’s desk lay a facsimile of the famous necklace. The two ornaments looked exactly alike.

“Let an expert be brought and say which is the real necklace and which the imitation one, made in Paris, and used by me to lure this wretched and dishonest thief of a steward on to his destruction!” said the Baroness, with a flash of Roumanian fire in her eyes.

It was true! Neusiedler had been foiled; he had stolen a false necklace, which the Baroness had had made in the Rue de la Paix.

“He has been stealing from me for years; he has doubtless forged a false will of the Baron, for I have found the true one!” said Rukavina Eltz. “I could not unravel the net that he has thrown over me but for this happy thought of tempting him to steal some false jewels. Had he got the real ones, his story would have been plausible. Now, I trust justice is convinced that it is a lie!”

A dreadful noise followed this speech of the spirited Baroness; Neusiedler had fallen down in a fit. Never more would he drink the yellow tinted Ruster; never more would he return to the joys of crushing the peasantry of Somlyo—of cheating the Baroness. The Baroness had cheated him at last. Sold! Sold! Sold! With false pearls and emeralds!

It was a very grand wedding, that of the Baroness to Sir Lyster Howard Lyster, who though only an English country gentleman, proved to be richer than she and who made her a loving and a hunting husband.

The Emperor gave her away, and she wore the pearl-colored pearl with the emerald drops, now become historical.

“Ah! Madame, dear Baroness, please tell me where you have kept the real jewels all these months?” said the pious Madame Pasteur, almost kissing the hem of her mistress’ robes.

The Baroness was dressed for travelling, as her faithful adherent knelt and asked this question. She had on the quilted satin red petticoat; the scarlet of old England.

“Was it in the double locked closet of the north tower?”

“Ah, no! faithful Pasteur, thou knowest Neusiedler had the key to that!”

“Was it in the jewel case of thy great ancestress, the Roumanian Princess?”

“No. Guess again!”

“Was it in the convent of the nuns of Rez Gebirge?”

“No, Pasteur, I never gave them anything to keep but my sins.”

“Was it in the Baron’s strong box in the cellar?”

“No, my dear Pasteur, no. You have the hiding place under your finger. They were quilted into the lining of this red satin petticoat. I owe the idea to that good Lady Louisa. “See here!” and gently raising the edge of her travelling skirt, right over her left foot, the Baroness showed Madame Pasteur a neat little series of pockets, where the jewels had been safely hidden in a scarlet prison.

The Columbian [Bloomsburg PA] 19 August 1881: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A happy ending, and all due to an undergarment that proved functional as well as decorative.  Never let it be said that fashionable scarlet petticoats are good for nothing but seduction.

The Baroness must, indeed, have been magnificent to turn the head of the Emperor, married to the exquisitely beautiful and equally wild horsewoman, the Empress Elisabeth.


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 Valentine’s Adventure as told by a Letter Box: 1889

postman cupid

 The Queer Adventures of a Valentine: AS TOLD BY A LETTER-BOX.

There is a popular and erroneous impression in general acceptance among people, that we, conglomerate atoms of inanimate nature, are, because of our passivity, senseless and uncomprehending. It is a mistake, and yet I care so little to prove our equality, in this respect, with human beings, that, were it not that I feel convinced of my own power to tell a tale superior in every respect to the quantity of unreadable trash in the shape of MSS. that is confided to my care, I should prefer to rust into my grave, rather than force myself into notoriety by demonstrating the fact by actual and incontrovertible evidence.

The story which I am about to relate extends over the space of a year, and embraces two fetes of St. Valentine. It is only a true little tale of ordinary human passions—love, jealousy, and hatred—not a powerful, thrilling tragedy with great dramatic climaxes and blood-curdling situations and dénouements, such as I read sometimes in the still watches of the night, before the critical eye of the professional reader scans them with merciless severity; but a short story of certain events in the lives of a few obscure, unknown individuals which have come under my personal observation.

It was a raw, gusty afternoon in February, the 13th day of the month, as I knew from the mass of embossed envelopes of all sizes and descriptions which had been shoved down my throat during the day. My jaws positively ached from incessant opening and shutting, and even my capacious abdomen was constantly filled to repletion, notwithstanding the kind and regular efforts of my friend, the collector, to lighten my load. The last deposit had been a box of such dimensions that, in the attempt to squeeze it into my weary mouth, the sender had nearly suffocated me, and I was sick and tired of the whole nonsensical business. The street lamps were being lighted, and the approach of night was heralded by the swift on-coming of the grey shadows of her outriders. The bare, gaunt branches of the leafless trees bent and bowed low in homage to the advent of the ebon lady, while aloft, in the dusky heavens, the faint light of a silver crescent and tiny, twinkling points of brilliancy showed that not on earth alone was honor being done her sable majesty.

I was tired to death, as I say, and was about closing my eyes, hoping that I might catch a few winks, when I heard a soft patter of steps gradually slackening until they finally came to a standstill by my side. I opened one eye slowly, and then, being rather pleased and conciliated by the prospect, unclosed the other. Before me stood, in evident hesitation, a slender, delicate maiden of perhaps eighteen years, poorly clad, but of a sweet, fair countenance, balancing, undecidedly in her hands, an envelope of the description above alluded to. There were many emotions legible on the shy, young face; a tender perplexity in the gentle blue eyes, doubt and timidity in the quiver of the pretty, curved lips, and embarrassment in the delicate flush on the transparent skin. There was apparent indecision in the action of the shabbily gloved hands which now raised the missive to my eager lips and anon drew it tantalizingly away. Evidently she could not quite make up her mind to taking the irrevocable step, and I was becoming quite fearful lest I should lose the opportunity which I desired of discovering to whom and of what nature this valentine might be, when my hopes were quite dashed by an incident which took place.

Down a side street came the clatter, clatter of a pair of high heels, a sound which, in her abstraction, the young girl failed to notice until it had almost ceased, when a loud voice proceeding from the owner of the noisy articles startled her out of her reverie.

“Hello, Annie! cold, isn’t it? Going my way or waiting for Paul Benson, eh?”

The words were accompanied by a significant wink and chuckle which not even the florid beauty of big black eyes, full, red lips and glowing cheeks could render other than coarse and vulgar. The other shrank and lost the dainty flush of embarrassment in a still, white heat of anger, and the contrast between the two girls was that of the vivid full-blown peony and the quivering mimosa.

“Neither the one nor the other, Miss Hardy,” she said, in a low, cold tone. “My way is entirely the opposite of yours. Good night,” and, slipping the missive quickly into her pocket, she passed on.

But the swiftness of her action was yet too slow for the eyes that watched her, and knowing the vacillating character of woman’s nature perhaps better than Florence Hardy, after deliberating a moment, moved into the shadow of a projecting door-way and waited. The receding figure of the girl soon diminished its swift pace, which grew slower and slower until it became a mere saunter which, after a few halting steps, stopped entirely. Evidently the anger aroused by the taunting words of the girl named Hardy had been dissipated by a more potent emotion and the temptation to send the dainty, white messenger on its way had overcome her fear of observation, for, turning suddenly, she walked swiftly back, opened my mouth with a soft but determined movement, thrust in the valentine without a moment’s hesitation and moved away.

Oh, how I longed for a voice, no matter how feeble a quality, to whisper in the small shell-like ear a warning that the black, lustrous eyes of her enemy were still watching her from the concealing door-way: I could do nothing to aid in this little romance, of whose secrets I was being made custodian, but resolved to satisfy my curiosity by a peep into the enwreathed and flower-decorated envelope which was bearing a message of love from the sweet, pure heart of the gentle maiden to some unknown and perhaps careless lover. Peering, by virtue of the privilege which I enjoy, through the cheap, thin paper of the cover, I saw— not one of the gaudy, high-colored effusions which are, on these fêtes, Cupid’ s stock in trade—but a small, square sheet of paper across one corner of which was tied with virginal ribbon a fragrant, lovely cluster of deep purple violets, while beneath, in a slender, girlish handwriting, were the following verses:
Hast ever sought a violet, love,
Deep in the forest’s heart?
Hast ever watched the tiny thing
Thus shyly growing apart?

Hast ever plucked a violet, love,
And laid it on thy breast?
Dost know the weight of perfume rare
By which its heart’s opprest?

So, like the violet in the wood,
Has grown this love of mine
For thee; I’d share its fragrance with
My faithful Valentine!

I was so interested in reading these lines that I forgot to notice the movements of the girl in the doorway, and soon the appearance of the collector warned me that I had been none too quick in mastering the contents of the envelope. He was a good-looking, jovial young fellow, with an eye to a pretty girl—as I had frequently remarked—as he pursued his duties and, while he unlocked the door of my heart, he whistled a merry tune which was broken abruptly as a loud, familiar voice accosted him:—

“Here, Mr. Jennings, wait a moment. I’ve been waiting for you the best part of an hour.”

“Good evening, Miss Hardy! What can I do for you? Got a valentine too big for the box, for your best man, and want me to put it in here?” motioning to the huge, striped ticking sack which lay on the pavement at his feet.

“No, not exactly. If I was going to send a valentine to my best man, I wouldn’t send it much further on,” with a bold, coquettish glance from the black eyes which made the young fellow color with pleasure. ‘The truth is, I want you to do me a favor. It’s rather against your rule, I guess, but twon’t do any harm, as it’s my own property that I want to get back again, and no one will be the wiser. You see”—coming quite close to him and laying a large, well-shaped and gloved hand on his arm—”I dropped a valentine into that box, an hour ago, to one of my old beaux and, come to think it over, I guess there ain’t much use in keepin’ on an old affair like that, when my feelings are all for someonè else, so I want you to get it back again. You’ll give it to me, won’t you?”

There was an eagerness in her tones which should have warned him that some deeper designs lay behind her apparently frivolous desire; and oh, how I yearned for a voice that I might testify to her base purpose! But alas! “The woman tempted me and I did eat.” Soon the dainty white envelope with its address of

“Mr. Paul Benson,

Care Messrs. Harding and Cole.

New York City.”

lay in the out-stretched hand, a few tenderly intoned thanks and Ralph Jennings’ lapse in duty had brought suffering and sorrow to one young heart, anger and wounded vanity to another, and the gratification of an evil desire to a third. By just such a trifling misdemeanor was the whole Pandora box let loose upon the world.

The next morning I was awakened early by the pressure of a hand upon my mouth, and, being very sensitive to personal influences, I felt such a shudder of repulsion at the touch, that I opened my eyes and found that the person who had so affected me was no other than the girl called Hardy. Now was my time for retaliation, and, quick as a thought, I brought my upper lip down upon her fingers with such a force that she gave a little scream, and muttering, “that vile box,” turned away. I glanced at the letter she had forced down my unwilling throat, and, to my great surprise, found the envelope the same as that she had abstracted the evening before, save for the addition of two small initials in the corner—A.C.

Determined to see if, indeed, the girl had repented of her evil act during the night, I peeped through the cover to discover if the original contents remained intact. Alas! what a change had been wrought. Instead of the dainty bunch of violets and the tender little plea for love, a coarse, common sheet of paper bore one of the vile caricatures, with its miserable attempt at versification, commonly known as “comic valentines.” Now I divined the creature’s wicked intentions, and did my best to foil it by contracting my person so that the ugly imposture fell down into my remotest corner. My efforts were in vain, however, for when the collector again made his rounds, he gathered it in with the others, and I was left, lonely and desolate, to bemoan its wretched transformation.

Days and weeks passed by, and the miserable trick played upon this little romancer so disgusted me with human nature that I quite lost my interest in reading the letters confided to my care. Often I saw the young girl called Annie pass and repass my house, and with pain and sorrow I watched the increasing lassitude and fragility of the slim, girlish frame. She probably worked in some shop, or perhaps sewed for her living— the latter I rather think, for I remember that she often carried a bundle, as of work. It was some weeks before I overcame my contempt of humanity sufficiently to care to peruse its affairs, but finally I resumed my interest in my old amusement, and one day, in May, was again made the recipient of a letter of Miss Hardy’s. Her already exhuberant manner had gained an. added boldness, and she bounced across the street and accomplished her errand with a swaggering gait and insolent air that were in great contrast to the languid pace and shy demeanor of her quiet, gentle little rival.

Ah! What a dreadful thing is this lack of speech, when one is a mute witness of wrong and evil doing! As I read the notice addressed in a coarse, round hand. to Annie Chase, I felt what a curse my dumbness had been in hindering me from righting, before it was too late, the wrong which had been committed. This was the announcement on the newspaper clipping which was on its way to the poor young sewing girl:

“Hardy-Benson. In New York City, April 19th, by Rev. Samuel Small, Florence Hardy to Paul Benson. All of N.Y.”

For a week she did not appear at all, and then, one morning, I saw her coming. Was it she, or was it her ghost , I wondered, that approached in the early morning sunshine? I could see the golden nimbus about her fair white face afar off, before I could distinguish the features or discover the terrible change in the countenance. I had thought her fading so fast that nothing could hasten the alteration; but one glance showed me the wide difference between even a feeble hope and utter despair. So wan, so white and spirit-like was the gentle, pitiful face, that I wondered there was strength sufficient in the fragile form to support it.

One night, in June, I saw the man whom she loved. It was a very warm—almost a hot—night, and she was toiling wearily up the street with a huge bundle in her arms, when, just under the light from the lamp above, she came face to face with a tall, fine-looking fellow of, perhaps, twenty-five years. The suddenness of the encounter betrayed her. She gave a soft, pitiful little cry, “Paul!” and then, her strength forsaking her, leaned against my iron frame for support. I could feel the painful quivering of the slight body, the delicacy and attenuation of the slender limbs—and he! Ah, you would have pitied him, too! the strong, stalwart young fellow, as he gazed from the height of his splendid manhood down upon the transparent beauty of the face, whose terrible alterations were so marked under the brilliant light of the lamp.

“Annie!” he cried, “My God! Annie!”—incredulously, as if he could scarce believe the evidence of his own senses, and then, as if moved by an irresistible impulse, he stooped suddenly and gathered her close to him, while, as he gazed hungrily at the altered face, I heard him mutter, “Damn her, damn her!”

For a moment she lay passively in his arms, and then her strength came back to her. She drew herself hurriedly away ere his lips had done dishonor to her pure, white cheek, and, as he whispered, “I know all, now, Annie, all; God forgive me!” she flashed one look upon him from the depths of her beautiful eyes—a look which was a blending of reproach, entreaty, forgiveness, but above all of enduring love—and fled into the darkness. This was almost the last time I ever saw her. Whether she was too ill to leave her home, or whether, fearing another similar meeting, she purposely avoided this street, I know not; but for a long, long time I heard nothing of her.

Business grows slack in the summer. People are out of town, and my burden of letters is considerably diminished. I care little to read the uninteresting epistles, made up of almost nothing, which are sent from the stay at-homes to their more fortunate absent friends. There is a stagnation of news in the hot season, too, which invests every item and accident with a fictitious value, and the cry of the newsboy dwells with undue stress upon events which, at another and busier season, he would deem quite unworthy of his notice. So it was that one hot day in August these peripatetic little venders made the air vibrate with one oft-repeated and almost unintelligible cry of—

“Ter—rible ax-dent-in a’n’ Albany hotel—woman ‘lopes from her home in N’York—the runaway couple meet with a ter-r-ible death in an elevator!”

I paid little heed to the cry until, as my old friend, the collector, stopped beside me, I heard him say to a man near by:

“Say, Jim, that’s a fearful thing about Florence Hardy.”

“What?” said the man thus addressed.

“Why, haven’t you heard? She ran away from Paul Benson with a man from Albany; they went to a hotel there, and going up in the elevator the thing gave way, and they fell from the fourth story. Fearful thing! I used to like the girl pretty well myself, at one time, but I guess she led poor Benson a life.” And the two men moved away together, leaving me horror-struck at this new event in the little drama to which I had been a sort of god-father.

Often after this I saw Paul Benson. I think he must have moved into my neighborhood, for he frequently stopped and put a letter into my mouth, addressed, evidently, to his parents, in a distant New England town, and, as I read these honest, manly epistles, I felt convinced that the writer was worthy of the love which Annie Chase had bestowed upon him. I noticed every day an increasing firmness in his tread and a more upright, noble carriage of the head and shoulders, as if a weight had been lifted therefrom. But of Annie Chase never a glimpse or a word. I could not tell whether she was living still or whether the gentle spirit had fled from too great a burden of suffering.

At last came round the 13th of February again; and again the aproaching fête was made evident to me by the superabundant accumulation of mail-matter in my interior. The eve of St. Valentine was this year quite different to that of the past. No wind howled dismally amid the bare branches; no fierce, cold blasts lay in wait about the corners to chill and buffet the wayfarer; to-night all was still and quiet, so still that every footstep was audible even at a great distance. I was becoming quite a connoisseur in footsteps and could foretell the approach of my regular contributors before they came into my range of vision. Suddenly I heard a firm, manly tread that sounded very familiar. I had guessed aright, for it was Paul Benson, indeed, who came swiftly onward in the silent night. He stopped beside me and searched for a minute in his pocket, taking therefrom a white something which he held a moment in his hands, then, glancing steadily around, he lifted it slowly to his lips and consigned it to my care. Eagerly I scanned the name it bore: “Miss Annie Chase.” She was then alive! I glanced through the paper and what did I behold! The identical valentine with its bunch of violets—faded and scentless now—and the tender little sentiment beneath which had been supplemented by an addition in a firm, masculine hand:
I thought to pluck a violet sweet,
But ere my tender clasp
Had seized the prize, it palsied grew
From the poisonous sting of an asp.

Again I’d pluck a violet sweet,
Say, has that love of thine,
Like these, thy emblems, faded quite?
Or, am I still thy valentine?

Now all this happened more than two years ago, and there has never come a reply to that valentine, neither have there been any more letters deposited within me from which I could learn the sequel of this little romance; but a week ago I saw coming slowly up the street two familiar figures, one of which pushed before it a well-blanketed perambulator in which a tiny morsel of humanity was sleeping. They were the figures of a man and woman; the former I easily recognized, but the face of the latter was so radiant and happy that in its new and unfamiliar expression I had some difficulty in tracing the sad and gentle beauty of Annie Chase.

Godey’s Lady’s Book: February 1889

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, that fatal fascinator:  “A man from Albany…”  We could not help but read the tell-tale adjectives that presaged the fall of that “full-blown peony.” “florid,” “coarse, “vulgar.”  And, frankly, anything might be expected of one who used her feminine wiles to lure an innocent postman from the Path of Duty.

But, really, Mrs Daffodil (who has read entirely too many Valentine’s pot-boilers) has lost all patience with young men who are so lacking in confidence (despite their “firm, manly” ways) that they not only throw over the girl of their heart after ostensibly receiving a rude Valentine from said Beloved, but do not even have the nerve to inquire politely if there had been some mistake at the central sorting office.  Instead, they rush off and marry someone entirely unsuitable, furnishing plot tension, and delaying the happy ending (if happy ending there is) for several pages. Paul Benson was fortunate that his Annie did not go into a Fatal Decline on hearing the news of his marriage. Personally, Mrs Daffodil would have liked to have seen her cut him in the street for his foolishness. But that would have been a waste of a florid villainess and the chatty, sentient, and sentimental post-box.


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 Tot and the Wig: 1894

toupee before and after 1898 wig


[Toronto Globe]

A couple of gentlemen were strolling through a cemetery, when one drew his companion’s attention to a stone on which was inscribed, “Little Johnnie, aged 3.”

“You may hardly credit it,” was the remark, “but Master Johnnie, before his demise, did me slap out of $800 a year, not to speak of a charming wife.”

“How on earth could a child of 3 manage that,” asked the other.

“In this fashion: As you are aware, I am quite bald and wear, for appearance sake, a wig. One hot day, being alone with the youngster, I took the thing off and gave it to him to play with for a few minutes. Well, I had proposed to and been accepted by the child’s mother’s sister, a splendid girl, possessed of property bringing about $800 a year. We were just on the eve of getting married. One day my affianced was carrying Johnnie, and the little chap suddenly began to howl for no apparent reason. He could not, of course, give utterance respecting the cause of his grief, but made signs that he wished me to hold him. When I took the child in my arms the imp instantly grabbed at my wig and pulled it off. Then my beloved perceived that the luxuriant chestnut curls which she had so often admired were not my own, and she nearly fainted. Net morning I received a note stating that she could never marry a man with a head as bare as a billiard ball. I heard subsequently of dear little Johnny’s decease. I didn’t require to use my handkerchief, I assure you.”

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 3 March 1894: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil has a nasty, suspicious mind, but she does wonder if the resentful narrator bore any responsibility for little Johnny’s demise. A mystery box of poisoned chocolates delivered to the tot? Luring the child with the promise of a puppy out into the garden where there was a forgotten well with a rotted cover? It seems a trifle suspicious that he would find himself strolling with a companion precisely where the boy was buried and, what is even more damning, call attention to the grave and the child’s perfidy…. Everyone says that murderers revisit the scene of their crimes, or perhaps their victim’s burial place.  Mrs Daffodil feels certain that a proper inquest would have revealed the hand behind little Johnnie’s untimely death.

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

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


The Virot Label: 1909


They Are Meretricious Things If They Misbrand an Article.

“You can go right on talking to father, Mr. Jerrold,” Madge Roberts said, gaily, “but I want Mrs. Jerrold to see my Virot hat.”

“I am sure, just because I happen to be a mere man, you wouldn’t be cruel enough to deprive me of a pleasure,” Mr. Jerrold retorted.

Madge dimpled, and made him a courtesy. She could not help being happy that the hat was so becoming.

“And it cost, exclusive of the label that I begged from Cousin Adelaide, exactly six dollars and seven cents,” she explained triumphantly, to Mrs. Jerrold. “Every girl I know, except one that I’ve let into the secret, really thinks it is a Virot.

“Why not let them think it is a Roberts and get the credit you deserve?” Mr. Jerrold suggested with, beneath the light words, a gravity which Madge was too absorbed to notice.

“If that isn’t a ‘mere man’ question!” she responded. “To get looked down upon by lots of people when a simple little label ca get me looked up to! I made my suit myself and it’s as a big a success as my hat—and everybody thinks it came from Hammond’s. It’s my good luck to have rich cousins who can furnish the labels of the swell shops. I’m quite willing to keep my talents in the background; it counts a great deal more to be stylish than to be talented. I must run now—and take my Virot to the recital. Goodbye, both of you!”

It was a careless scrap of talk—nothing was farther from the girl’s thought than that it would influence her life. Yet only four months later, when her father’s sudden death made it necessary for her to become a wage-earner, that winter evening returned to her in a way she was never to forget. She had gone to Mr. Jerrold to ask his influence in obtaining a secretaryship of which she had heard.

Mr. Jerrold was kindness itself, but he shook his head gravely.

“Miss Madge,” he said, “I would rather lose a thousand dollars than say what I must say, yet I should not be fair to you if did not say it. I cannot recommend you for the secretaryship because it is a position of responsibility and demands a woman of irreproachable honesty and honor. It is the Virot label that stands in the way, Miss Madge. It is not that I should not trust you as far as you saw, but –I could not be sure that you would see clearly. I will do my best to help you obtain some other position, but I could not in justice to the trust imposed upon me recommend you for this.”

Two minutes later a girl hurried down the street, her cheeks burning and her eyes full of tears. But she had learned her lesson. Youth’s Companion.

The Daily Herald [Chicago IL] 4 June 1909: p. 3

mourning hat virot paris 1902

Mourning Hat, Virot, Paris 1902

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have previously read the breathless confession of another lady who basted a Paris label into her home-made hat and yet we do not hear that she suffered by her little deception. Frankly, Mrs Daffodil is inclined to be tolerant of such minor impostures, particularly when they are perpetrated by a very young woman, the petted daughter of the house. In the hierarchy of Deadly Sins, they rank rather lower than say, Wrath or Lust, hovering around the moral level of Filching the Last Chocolate Biscuit in the Tin.

Mr Jerrold may have been kindness itself, but he seems to have had no understanding of those “careless scraps of talk”  heedless young persons are apt to utter. For one ghastly moment Mrs Daffodil thought he was going to decline to help the newly bereaved girl at all, leaving her to drudge and starve, exposed to all sorts of terrible temptations!

Certainly the gentleman was well within his rights to decline to give Miss Madge (yet who, after all, was industrious or thrifty enough to make her own suit) a recommendation for that sensitive secretaryship, but one hopes he had more congent reasons for his priggish refusal than a deceptive label from Virot.

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 Talking Dog: 1891

gypsy the talking dog


A Paris Saloon-Keeper Taken In

Too Much Faith and Cupidity.

A queer case came before a Paris police court the other day, in which a saloon-keeper named Latrouche appeared as complaining against a traveling showman called Pivot, whom he charged with swindling him out of 400 francs under somewhat strange circumstances. In the first portion of his long statement to the presiding judge, Latrouche insisted that the prisoner’s dog could talk. But the story is best told in the following stenographic report of the proceedings.

The President (to the complainant) “Well, I must say that you have a robust faith.”

The Complainant Latrouche—”But, Mr. President, the people who were in my place at the time also believed—that the prisoner’s dog talked just like a human being.”

“Well, what did he say?”

“The accused, Mr. Pivot, came into my establishment with his dog, a little brindle. Well, he sat down at a table, and the dog jumped up on a stool and squatted himself beside his master. I approached the man asked him what he wished to have. He replied, ‘a bock;’ and right then a queer voice added, ‘and a piece of veal for me!’ I was astounded, and looked about to find out where that voice came from. Pivot said, ‘Don’t be frightened, it is only my dog.’ ‘What!’ said I; your dog can talk?’ ‘Yes,’ replied Pivot, ‘I taught him to talk!’ Well you can imagine my astonishment, and, thinking that the fellow was fooling me, I said, ‘Make him speak again.’ Then Pivot said: ‘Ask him what he wants.’ Then I, not believing the thing possible, but just to see, said to the dog, “Well, old fellow, what will you have?’

‘I told you I wanted a piece of veal!’ said the dog. My wife, my children, my waiter, and all the customers exclaimed in wonder: ‘Gracious, he talks! As for me, I remained nailed to the floor, motionless as an ecce homo, until the accused remarked: ‘Well, well, why don’t you serve use?’ I got the bock and the piece of veal. I gave the beer to the individual and the meat to the dog.

“Then my wife brought me into a corner; my young ones came and my waiter also came. ‘You must buy that dog,’ said she, ‘and put up a sign, Au chien qui parle! Crowds will come and we will make a heap of money!’ My youngsters also said: ‘Oh, yes, papa, buy him!’ And my waiter remarked: ‘That is going to put an awful amount of work upon me, with all the people that will come.’

“Well, finally you bought him?’

“Yes, sir, 400 francs; but immediately after paying down my money the dog said to his master: ‘So that is what you are doing! Selling me, eh! Very well, I won’t speak another word.’

“And he didn’t speak after his master went away.”

“Not a word, not a syllable, nothing; and in the evening everybody was laughing at me. They told me that the dog’s master must have been a ventriloquist. Then I became furious at being swindled. I went to the commissary of police and told the whole story. He nearly split his sides laughing. Eight days afterward I found the thief at the Montmartre fair, where he was performing as a juggler.”

The President (to the prisoner)—”You are a ventriloquist?”

The Prisoner—”Yes, sir.”

“And you swindled the plaintiff by making him believe that your dog could talk?”

“It was he who tormented me to sell the dog. I didn’t want to sell him, because I made my living with him. Then the plaintiff said to me: ‘I’ll give you 200 francs.’ I refused. ‘Three hundred!’ said he. Then I began to say to myself that I might get another dog. The plaintiff said finally: ‘Come, I’ll give you 400 francs, with the bock and the piece of meat thrown in.’ Well, then I accepted.

“And what became of the dog?”

“Oh, he found me out again; but the gentleman can have him if he wishes.”

Latrouche—”Thank you, I don’t want your dog that can’t talk!”

The President (to plaintiff) “So it turns out that it was you that pressed the prisoner to take your money.”

Latrouche—”Because my wife told me that with the sign ‘The Talking Dog’ I would make a heap of gold as big as myself.”

The prisoner was discharged.

The Evansville [IN] Courier 21 June 1891: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A gallant gentleman, indeed, to blame the wife for his avarice and credulity!  One suspects that the aptly-named M. Pivot was not quite as reluctant to part with the animal as he testified; there are other records of mountebanks training their talented animals to find their masters after sale. The dog rebuking his master for selling him with silence was the perfect touch.

For genuinely talented dogs, please see Caesar, Jack, and Paddington Tim–dogs who collected at rail-way stations for charity, A Clever Dog Drives a Bargain, and The Dog- Caddie.

One of the footmen, who has a somewhat juvenile sense of humour, told Mrs Daffodil of an amusing “Looney-toons cartoon” about a singing frog.  He saw similarities to the story above, except there is no dog and no ventriloquist. Mrs Daffodil will let her readers decide if the comparison is apt.

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 Ghost in Brocade: 1906

ghost in brocade dressA

The Ghost in Brocade

On hoardings, in fields, on the covers of magazines, on the back sheets of newspapers, an advertisement headed “S.S.S.” appears with the regularity of the sun. Additional information is accorded to the curious by the expansion of these mystic signs into the words, “Sarah’s Salutary Sauce “–a condiment invented by Sarah Brag to tickle the palates of the epicures.

Her husband, a compositor in the office of a provincial journal, made a fortune out of it for both of them. He commenced quite in a small way by advertising it in the columns he set up, while Sarah, renting suitable premises in the town, personally manufactured her invention. The advertisements were read, the sauce was approved of, and as circles on the water its fame widened round the world. In twenty years Mr. and Mrs. Brag were almost millionaires, and having turned their concern into a limited liability company, retired to enjoy an old age of well-earned ease and comfort at Alliston Hall. “S.S.S.” did its work well, and for once fortune bestowed her favours on the deserving.

They were wholly unlike the millionaires of commerce or of fiction, these two. For they were neither anxious to get into society nor desirous of displaying their wealth with ostentation. Mr. Brag, indeed, had rubbed off some of his natural roughness whilst shouldering his way through the world, but Sarah his wife was as much a cook as she had been when she presided over the kitchen of Alliston Hall. Now she sat in the drawing-room, and could without doubt have set up as a fine lady had she so desired. But her heart was ever in the back premises, and her visits there were by no means infrequent. She remained always the uneducated, rough, warm-hearted woman, devoted to her home and to her husband. I knew her value better than anyone, save perhaps Helen; and both of us were extremely fond of her, and indeed of Mr. Brag also. They were a typical Mr. and Mrs. Boffin.

But who am I, you will ask—and who is Helen, too? Well, I who tell you this story am Geoffrey Beauchamp, an idle Oxonian and private secretary to Mr. Brag.

When I left Balliol, my father, failing in business, took his loss of money and reputation so seriously that he died of a broken heart, and joined my mother in the next world, whither she had long preceded him. Finding myself an orphan, penniless, and without a profession, I cast about for employment. I answered an advertisement for a secretary. In this way it was that I became acquainted with Mr. Brag. For three years past I have looked after his affairs—that is to say, I have written his letters, advised him as best I could, and have stood between his too kindly soul and the hungry horde of money-hunters. And he on his part has treated me more like a son than a paid servant, which I have not failed to appreciate. So comfortable at position and so kindly a friend come not to every man.

Then there is Helen. She is looked upon as the daughter of the house, as indeed she is, seeing that she was born at the Hall.

When Sir Ralph Alliston died after a spendthrift career, he left his only child without a penny. The Hall was sold, and the proceeds went to pay off the mortgages and the rest of the debts. So Helen, poor helpless girl, had no choice but to go out as a governess. But Sarah Brag soon changed all that. She remembered Helen as a child, and when the Hall was purchased by the money made out of “S.S.S.” she sought out the orphan and insisted upon her returning.

“As my own child.” explained the good soul; “seein’ that ‘J. ’ and me ain’t bin bless’d with babies. Not that I’m a lady, my dear, nor could ever have a daughter like you. But we’ll put it like that to satisfy the ‘conveniences ‘ of society.”

What could Helen do but accept an offer so kindly and so liberally made. So she came back to her ancestral home, and found existence made as pleasant for her as Mr. and Mrs. Brag could make it. Then it came about that as I was young and Helen altogether charming we fell in love with each other, much to the delight, be it said, of our patrons. Eventually it was arranged that I should be Helen’s husband, and that she should expect to inherit the substantial profits from “S.S.S.”

“And if I might advise Mr. Beauchamp,” said Mrs. Brag, beaming, “ you should take the name and arms of Alliston, by right of ‘Elen here; so that when we are dead and gone the old family will still be in the old place where they have been for Lord knows what number of years.

“Think,” cried Mrs. Brag, jubilantly, “of the ancestors you’ll have. Why there’s a church chock full of ’em—all knights and bar’nites. Fine, ain’t it?”

I agreed that it was “fine,” and with Helen’s consent, indeed at her express wish, I promised the worthy couple to take the name of Alliston when I should lead the last scion of the family to the altar.

And this was the position of affairs when the ghost came; and I do not think there were four happier people in the whole world up to that time. Lady Marian spoilt it all.

Lady Marian was the ghost’s name. She had been a Georgian beauty a couple of hundred years ago—had rustled in silken brocade in the midst of Jacobite conspiracies. Her husband had preferred King George to King James, and desirous of keeping his head and property had given her to understand as much. But it would seem that excitement was the breath of Lady Marian’s nostrils and she made the Hall a centre of intrigue, which included the midnight visits of Jesuit priests, of French emissaries from his Majesty over the water, and of sulky Squires who cursed the Hanoverian in their cups.

Sir Walter Alliston, being a jealous husband as well as a loyal subject, disapproved of his wife’s pranks, and accused her of using politics for the masking of intrigues against his honour and her own. The lady, being of high spirit, denied the accusation, and swore never again to speak to her husband. He, more furious than ever, kept a close watch upon her, and one evening found a masked gallant leaving her apartments. Without a moment’s hesitation he ran the intruder through with his rapier. When he tore off the vizor he found to his horror that the victim was Lady Marian herself, disguised for some excursion. Dying, she cursed him and his, and declared that she would haunt him and his descendants evermore.

“And she’s kept her word!” said Mrs. Brag, who told me the story, “for when Sir Walter died she walked down the picture gallery the night before. She always comes to tell when one of the family is to die. I ’eard as she was seen just before ’Elen’s father went off, and when Lady Alliston died in giving birth to that dear girl I saw the ghost myself.”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Brag! There are no such things as ghosts,” I said.

“Oh, ain’t there, but there is. I tell you, as I’m a livin’ breathin’ woman I saw the Lady Marian gliding along the picture gallery in brocade and ‘igh-‘eeled shoes, just as she were when alive.”

“Have you seen the ghost since you bought the Hall, Mrs. Brag?”

“God forbid, my dear; for if Lady Marian comes again it will only be to take away ’Elen, seein’ as she’s the last of them.”

As Mrs. Brag, with the superstition of an uneducated person, firmly believed in the warning apparition. I was not surprised on returning from a month’s holiday in Switzerland shortly before Christmas, to find her in a state of great alarm at the reappearance of her bugbear. Two weeks before my return Lady Marian, brocade, high-heeled shoes, cane and all, had twice, been seen in the picture gallery—on each occasion at the midnight hour.

Mrs. Brag was certain that it meant Helen’s death, and unable utterly to keep feeling of any kind to herself, had succeeded in infecting the whole house with her fears. Not a servant would enter the Long Gallery, as it was called, after dark; and even Mr. Brag, sceptic as he was, became uneasy when he came to think of what it might mean.

The girl herself did not look so well as when I had left for my holiday. She was pale and thin, and singularly silent. Her eyes, too, seemed unnaturally bright. After Mrs. Brag had delivered herself of the story, and had stated her intention of calling in the vicar to exorcise the ghost, I was left alone in the drawing-room with Helen.

“My darling, you look ill,” I said, clasping her in my arms; “surely you do not believe in all this nonsense.”

She shivered. “I don’t know,” she said, nervously. “Both the housekeeper and the butler have seen the ghost. Mrs. Brag is always talking about it, and really I am beginning to think there must be some truth in it.”

“Nonsense l nonsense ! All this talk and fuss has made you nervous and ill; hasn’t it, dear?”

“Yes, Geoffrey; I was quite well until the ghost came.”

I saw very plainly how matters stood. Helen was sensitive and highly strung, and Mrs. Brag’s foolish talk had wrought her up to such a pitch that the tortured nerves reacted on her delicate body. She was never a strong girl, but she was always very healthy. Worry was evidently what had made her ill. I no longer wondered that the Allistons had died when Lady Marian was rumoured to have appeared. They were a nervous race. I realised therefore that if I did not do something to exorcise this spirit, if such it were, Helen would become seriously ill, and might even die.

“It is a good thing I returned,” I said to Mr. Brag, when Helen retired to dress for dinner. “That girl will die if this sort of thing goes on.”

“I dessay, I dessay, Geoffrey; but how do you propose to stop it?”

“Find out the trick, to be sure.”

“But how do you know it’s a trick, Geoffrey?”

“I’m sure of it. Tell me, have you seen the ghost?”

“Lor’ no. I ain’t a coward, Geoffrey, but wild ‘orses wouldn’t drag me to that gallery at night. I ain’t seen it, but Parsons and Mrs. Jackson ’ave.”

“Or think they have. What they have seen is some one dressed up as Lady Marian, mark me. Or else they suffer from hallucination. Parsons is sober, I know.”

“Oh, yes; and even if he ain’t, Mrs. Jackson is. She never touches a drop to my knowledge. No, ‘tain’t drink, whatever it is.”

“And they both declare that they have seen the ghost?”

“Lor’, yes. They take their oaths they have.”

“Then it must be a trick. And if I catch the person who is playing it I’ll—well, I’ll make the false ghost a real one. Will you let me take charge of this matter, Mr. Brag?”

“Of course, Geoffrey. I was just waitin’ for you to come back. Find out what’s wrong, and knock all this stuff out of my old woman’s head. She’s mostly in hysterics o’ nights.”

“And no wonder when Helen looks so ill. Believe me, ghosts went out when gas came in. I think I shall manage to prove to you that this spectral Lady Marian is very substantial flesh and blood.”

“But she may not be,” urged Mr. Brag, somewhat dubiously. “Lots of these ‘igh families ’ave their ghosts to see ’em into the next world, I believe. Besides, who could be playin’ this wild trick?”

“Ah, that’s just what we have to find out.”

But it was not so easy to find out. I questioned Mrs. Jackson and Parsons in the most exhaustive manner. They corroborated each other’s story with such verisimilitude and wealth of detail as to leave no doubt in my mind of their good faith. Evidently they had seen a brocaded lady in the picture gallery; but, of course, it could be no such thing as a visitant from the other world. That was where they went wrong. I was certain it was someone playing a trick.

“Oh, you may laugh, sir,” said Mrs. Jackson. She was such a stiff old dame. “But I do assure you that I saw the ghost with my own eyes. I was coming through the long gallery from Miss Alliston’s room and in the moonlight it came on, clack, clack, clack, in high-heeled shoes. I could hear distinctly the rustle of the dress, and as it swept past me I smelt a perfume like that of dried roseleaves. It was Lady Marian sure enough, as I saw from the portrait in the gallery. I fainted dead away, Mr. Beauchamp, sir; and when I came to myself it was gone.”

I confess to feeling a trifle uncomfortable at all this. Then Parsons took up the story.

“I didn’t faint, sir, not bein’ a woman,” said he, “but my flesh was mighty creepy as it went past. I stared at it like a stuck pig, though it was plain enough in the moonlight. It vanished all of a sudden by the painted winder at the end of the gallery.”

“What were you doing in the Long Gallery at that hour, Parsons?”

“Comin’ from master, sir. He’d a bad cold, and I took him up some ‘ot rum and water. I wouldn‘t go to that there gallery again, sir, for all the crown jewels. It was a ghost, sure enough.”

“Oh, was it!” said I, showing plainly by my tone that I did not think it was. “Call the servants Parsons.”

In a few minutes all the domestics in the house were assembled, and a very white-faced crowd they were. Many of them would have been frightened away from the Hall had it not been that the place was such a good one. I suppose, too, it was a case in which they felt there was comfort in numbers. I harangued them pretty freely for what I termed their nonsensical fears.

“Men and women come to years of sense,” I went on, “well—I’m surprised. How can you believe such rubbish? Some one of you is playing a trick; and who it is I shall find out, so beware all of you.”

Of course they protested vehemently. But that was to be expected.

“However,” I said, “you can take this warning from me. I shall watch in the gallery myself with a straight-shooting revolver, and if that ghost appears it shall have a taste of it. I am not going to have your master and mistress and Miss Alliston frightened by this silly trick.”

Again they all protested. But I sent the lot of them away with more blood in their cheeks. Then I turned upstairs to dress for dinner. As I did so I noticed a pretty, timid-looking young woman whose face I did not recognise. She glanced at me uneasily, and was evidently disturbed.

“Who are you?” I asked, abruptly, pausing before her.

“Jane Riordan, sir,” she replied with a curtsey. “I am new here.”

“What are you?”

“Under-housemaid, sir. Oh, please, sir, do you really think there is a ghost?”

“No, you silly girl. The dead never return to this world.”

“Please, sir, what about the Witch of Endor and Samuel, sir?”

“Oh, you are a theologian, I see. Well we won’t discuss that apparition. You must just look upon that as a miracle and not be afraid.”

She shuddered, and looked over her shoulder apprehensively.

“I am terribly afraid, sir, it’s no use my denying it. I shall ask mistress to let me go.”

“You will ask nothing of the kind,” said I in my most peremptory manner.

“Your going would only be the signal for general flight. You‘ll stay here like a sensible girl, until all this mystery is cleared up.”

“Oh, sir, but will it be cleared up?”

“Of course it will, and by a very substantial leaden bullet, too. Now get on with your work and don’t be a fool.”

I saw that there was only one way to deal with the thing, so that I spoke more brusquely to the girl than I would have otherwise done. Besides, she irritated me; she seemed so absolutely terrified with fear. She was calculated to infect the rest of them, though they seemed bad enough as it was. I went off to dress in no very good humour,

Mr. Brag’s want of common sense over this affair amazed me. Usually he was a cool headed and logical man as was conclusively proved by the position to which he had attained. Yet apparently he was as nervous and distaught now, as any of the women. The ghost seemed to have been too much for him; to have knocked the grit out of him, so to speak. He was no more fit than a baby to deal with the situation. I put down his short-coming at this juncture in no small degree to his lack of education.

Then there was the constant chatter of his wife, of whom this element of the supernatural had taken firm hold. She never ceased talking about it, and I suppose the strongest mind is in the end influenced by reiteration. It seemed as if Mrs. Brag’s mind were becoming unhinged.

I was glad that I returned so opportunely. At least if I could throw no light on the subject I could go to work with a cool head and an unprejudiced mind to clear it up.

Mrs. Brag continued to talk of little else but the ghost, whose appearance she seemed to think was quite in keeping with the season. It was astounding the numbers of legends she seemed to have accumulated. Headless phantoms, churchyard apparitions, ghosts in armour, and clanking chains and “presences,” who she said could not be seen but only felt in the most horrific way—upon all these she descanted in the most appalling manner. Helen shuddered, Mr. Brag shook his head portentously, and I must confess that even I felt uncomfortable. The old lady seemed so to environ us with the atmosphere of the supernatural that when a coal dropped from the fire we all jumped, and she shrieked. It was really a most terrible state of things especially for Christmas.

I asked her about Jane Riordan. My question fortunately turned the subject, for it seemed that Mrs. Brag had a good deal to say about this young woman.

“Ah,” she said, “hers is a sad history, my dear. Her father and mother were fellow-servants of mine when I was cook here. The name wasn’t Riordan, for that’s Jane’s married name. Craik’s what we called ‘em—‘Enry and Liza Craik, butler and housekeeper.”

Helen looked up with interest. “Henry Craik ? ” she said, “ why that was the man who stole my mother’s jewels!”

“The same, my dear. Oh, he was a bad one he was; but yet you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in ’is mouth to look at ’im. Liza was always sayin’ as ‘e ‘d die in gaol and disgrace ’er, and ’e did.”

“Were the jewels recovered Mrs. Brag?”

“No, Geoffrey, they weren’t. My Lady missed ‘em one morning after a ball ’ere, when the ‘ouse was full of guests. The whole box was stolen—five or six thousand pounds’ worth, no less; and she only saved what she wore at the ball. All kinds of people were suspected of ’aving gone to ’er room and taken ’em, but no one thought as Craik had done it.”

“I heard something of the story myself,” observed Mr. Brag. “He was caught selling a bracelet, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, J., he was. He got leave to visit a dying friend in London, the old fox; and the friend was a pawnbroker, and ’e told the police, seein’ as ‘e recognised the bracelet from the ’and bills put about. Craik was arrested and sent to gaol for years. He died there, and they never got anything out of ‘im. Where he hid the jewels no one knows, and no one ever will, my dears; for twenty years ’ave gone by since they were stolen.”

“And how does Jane Riordan come to be here?” I asked.

“Her mother died the other day and sent her to me, my dear. ‘Liza and I were born in the village and lived here for years as ’ousekeeper and cook. I can’t say as I liked ‘er over much, she was sly and deceitful; but I don’t think she had anything to do with Craik stealing the jewels. He was bad enough to do that by himself. When he died in gaol Liza wrote to me, and I sent her money to bring up Jane. Then Jane married a bad husband, who left ‘er and when Liza died she came ’ere and asked me to ‘elp ’er for ’er mother’s sake. So I made ‘er under’ousemaid. I think she’s a fool, Geoffrey, but honest enough.”

“She appeared to be nervous, however.”

“And no wonder with this ’orrid ghost,” cried Mrs. Brag, looking round. “I tell you what, J., if you don’t get the parson to exorcise that thing, I’ll leave the ’ouse, that I will.”

“Steady, old lady, we must see what Geoffrey can do first. He’s watching in the Long Gallery tonight.”

“Oh, Geoffrey, the ghost’ll ’ave you for sure.”

“The ghost will have a dose of lead, Mrs. Brag. If you hear a shot, don’t be alarmed.”

“But you can’t shoot ghosts, Geoffrey, they’re shadows, my dear. You can see through ’em.”

“I daresay. I never saw one myself. But this ghost is pretty substantial I’ll be bound. But tell me, Mrs. Brag; was anything ever found out about the jewels?”

“No!” said Helen, before the old lady could answer. “I remember my father searched everywhere for them and offered a big reward. He saw Craik, too: but he refused to say what he had done with them, and Mrs. Craik protested she knew nothing about it. They have been lost for years now.”

“H’m. I wonder if Jane Riordan knows anything about them.”

“That she don’t,” said Mrs. Brag, with energy. “Liza was an honest woman I know; and the gal seems straight enough. If they’d ’ad the jewels they wouldn’t ‘ave lived in poverty so.”

“Still, Craik might have told his wife where he concealed them.”

“No Geoffrey, dear. She’d ’ave come to my Lady or Sir Ralph about them, and got paid for bringing ’em back. If she knew anything she’d ‘ave told for ’er own sake: for she was as poor as poor. Jane told me the most ’arrowing tales of ‘ardship.”

“I’ll question Jane myself,” said I, after some thought. “If these jewels could be recovered they would suit Helen very well.”

Helen laughed and Mrs. Brag beamed.

“If its jewels she wants I will give ‘er ‘eaps. Won’t I, J.?”

“She’s only to ask and to ‘ave,” said Mr. Brag; “but I wish I saw you more rosy and ’ealthy, my dear.”

“I’m afraid this ghost is upsetting my nerves terribly,” said Helen; “do what I will I can’t help thinking about it.”

“Oh, J., can’t we ‘ave some ‘oly water and get it away?” implored Mrs. Brag.

“’Oly water, no. I won’t have no popery here, Sarah. S.S.S. shall never go to fatten the priests if I can ‘elp it. I’m surprised at you, I am.”

“She is over-wrought, Mr. Brag,” said Helen, rising. “Indeed, I think we all are, with this horrid Lady Marian about. Come along to bed, Mrs. Brag. I’ll come up with you.”

“You’ll have to stay with me all night, my dear,” whimpered the old lady, “for I don’t know as Geoffrey firin’ off pistols won’t be as bad as the ghost. Are you goin’ to stay up too, J.?”

“There is no necessity,” I interposed. “I can watch quite well alone. When Mr. Brag hears a shot he can come to me if he likes.”

“Oh, I’ll come fast enough,” said the old man, sturdily; “’tain’t flesh and blood I’m scared of, though I don’t like the other thing. However, if the blessed thing belongs to this world or the next it’s quite certain we’ve got to put a stop to its goin’s on ’ere. If you don’t catch it, Geoffrey, we’ll shut up the house and go abroad. I‘m getting quite skeery myself, and I ain’t got over much nerve to speak of.”

“Well, let me try my hand at exorcising the thing, Mr. Brag. If I can’t manage it we’ll do what you say. Helen will die if this sort of thing goes on.”

“Lord, you don’t think it’s come for ’er?”

“No, I don’t. It is some trick, I tell you. Leave me to find it out,”

Mr. Brag shook his head doubtfully and retired to bed in his turn. Left alone I started on an exploration of the house with a lamp in one hand and a revolver in the other. I examined all the doors and windows, and found them securely bolted and barred. I looked into what rooms I could, from cellar to attic, and found them empty. It was quite clear that beyond the inmates of the house there was no one. Then I made for the happy hunting ground of the ghost.

It had lately been snowing, but now the night was frosty and clear. A bright moon dispelled the darkness and the white world without was as clear as day.

The Long Gallery stretched the whole length of the west wing. On one side a row of tall windows admitted a good light on to the pictures on the opposite wall. There was a fair collection of these, but the Allistons had never been sufficiently artistic in their tastes, or sufficiently acute in their judgment, to acquire masterpieces.

The portraits of Helen’s ancestors were of most interest to me. There was a long series of them, dating from the Tudor time and representing some of the best work of the masters. These were let into the oak panelling with their gilded frames, and could not be detached from the wall. At the further end of the gallery was an ornate window of stained glass, and through this the moonlight fell now weaving coloured arabesques of the floor and portraits. Here I paused before the picture of Lady Marian Alliston.

She must have been a supremely beautiful woman, this Jacobite conspirator, with the high spirit and strong will. Here she was portrayed as tall and stately of figure. A proud expression was on her almost swarthy face, and in the slenderest of white hands she gripped a walking-cane. In a dress of rich brocade, with jewels on neck and arms, red-heeled shoes, and the towering head-dress of the period, she looked every inch a queen, and in her day must surely have moved and ruled as one. I could imagine those imperious brows frowning at the mention of the Elector! I could fancy those firm lips speaking the curse on her too hasty husband. There was something about this fair dead woman which reminded me of Beatrix Esmond; filled with the joy of life and born to dominate by the power of beauty and intellect. Yet she failed as Thackeray‘s heroine failed; but died more nobly, in the prime of loveliness without withering out into sad old age. Had Sir Walter’s rapier not struck through the proud heart she might have been a Sarah Jennings. As it was she was thwarted by Fate; and it was her sad destiny to appear as a bird of ill-omen to those who sat in her seat of pride. Yet I could imagine her wrath when alive at the idea that her fair phantom would descend to scaring an old cook and her plebian husband. How ironical a fate!

But all this preamble leads to nothing. Although I watched in the gallery until dawn I saw no ghost. It was bitterly cold; and the vigil was uncomfortable and in vain. Lady Marian did not appear. I did not even hear the rustle of her skirts, much less set eyes on her face; and when I descended to breakfast, after an hour or so of sleep, it was to laugh at the superstitions of my friends.

“It is as I thought,” said I. “Parsons and Mrs. Jackson both dreamed they saw the phantom. Lady Marian is too wise to revisit the scene of her death.”

“Ah, but she don’t appear every night,” protested Mrs. Brag, wisely. “You wait, Geoffrey. She’ll freeze your blood yet.”

“Not while she knows that an armed watcher has his eye on her, Mrs. Brag.”

“You still believe it is a trick, Geoffrey?”

“If Lady Marian’s phantom is not merely the creation of Parson’s and Mrs. Jackson’s dreams, I still believe it is a trick.”

But trick or no trick, all my vigils were in vain. Night after night for quite two weeks I watched in that infernal gallery for the ghost which never came. Yet notwithstanding my disappointment I could not rid myself of the feeling that there was some mystery about the apparition. It was possible that my public announcement to shoot the so-called ghost had scared the person who, I truly believed, represented it. With this idea I went on a new tack, and once more assembled the household.

“I have watched for fourteen nights, more or less,” I said, “and no ghost has come to scare me. Therefore, I believe Mr. Parsons and Mrs. Jackson have been deceived in thinking they saw one. There is no phantom here, so you can all set your minds at rest. For my part,” and this was the most important point of my speech, “I intend to watch no more. If Lady Marian comes again she must go without an audience. Now all of you go away, and let me have no more of this rubbish.”

Butler and housekeeper were both indignant at my aspersions, but they knew better than to protest openly, and went away with the rest of the servants to grumble in secret. An air of calm pervaded the table, and Mrs. Brag began to pluck up courage. Also Helen, to prove what was undermining her health, became more cheerful and less hysterical. My common sense had exorcised the ghost so far, but it had not solved the mystery. Determined to fathom this I still continued to watch in the gallery. But no one knew of my vigils, not even Helen; so if the trickster came, he or she, whatsoever it might he, would find me waiting.

For two or three nights the gallery was empty as the palm of my hand. But on the fourth night my chance came, and with it the ghost.

It was about midnight, and the moon shining through the clear glass of the side windows and reflecting her light from an expanse of snow made the gallery almost as brilliant as day. I was hidden behind a curtain, midway along the gallery, and half drowsily was looking out into the maze of shadow and silver radiance. Suddenly in the absolute stillness I heard a faint sound. It was a tapping of heels, the rustle of silk skirts, and in a moment under the painted window I saw the ghost. It appeared from nowhere, and I must confess it startled me very considerably.

It was Lady Marian sure enough. I was sufficiently close to it to see that. There she stood, with the tall head-dress and cane, and rich brocaded gown, exactly as she was represented in her portrait. I caught just a glimpse of her face, but it was not sufficient for me to say with certainty whether it was identical with that in the picture. But the figure was certainly the same. I sat quite still and watched, and waited, one finger ready on the trigger of my revolver.

With the clacking sound described by Mrs. Jackson it came down the gallery. The stick tapped, and the long train rustled, and the moonlight played upon the rich hues of the brocade. It did not come near me, but kept close by the range of the family pictures, fingering the frames and passing its white hand over the surfaces. At times it stopped, and with bent head scrutinised more closely the faces of the portraits. Then it began to glide back more swiftly than it had come. I rose, perhaps too incautiously, and I must have made some noise, for before I could raise my revolver to take aim the ghost started, retreated rapidly towards the painted window, and vanished.

Yes, before my very eyes it vanished. I hurried to the spot where I had last seen it, but not a trace of anything could I find. Unless it had dropped through the floor or had passed through a solid wall I could not see for the life of me how it had got away. Could it be a true phantom after all? No, my reason wouldn’t allow such a supposition. Beyond doubt it was flesh and blood—some member of the household got up to resemble Lady Marian. I was more than ever perplexed.

I related everything to Mr. Brag next morning. But he kept my story carefully from his wife and Helen. They were recovering their spirits somewhat, and it would not do to damp them again by saying that I had seen the thing myself. Mr. Brag, indeed, was considerably agitated at this seeming confirmation of the apparition, and it was as much as ever I could do to talk him out of the conviction that spiritual it was.

“But what on earth can it be, man?” he said.

“Well,” I replied, “ I have some sort of idea, but at present I won’t state it lest I should prove to be wrong. I propose that you watch with me to-night, Mr. Brag, and together we’ll see if we can’t unmask the ghost.”

“But do you think it will come again tonight?”

“I can’t say. Perhaps not. It may be that the trickster, whoever it may be, has had a fright and will delay further operations for a while. It is someone in the house, I am convinced of that. When I announced that I would watch nothing was seen of it. But directly I said I would give up watching, Lady Marian appears. What we must do is to watch regularly, Mr. Brag; even should it not appear for a week or more.”

It turned out that I was right. Night after night we concealed ourselves behind the curtain, I with my revolver, Brag with a large dinner bell, with which he intended alarming the house when Lady Marian was captured. This went on for no less than ten nights. Then I took Mrs. Brag and Helen into confidence and arranged a pretended departure from the house. I went off to London with great fuss and ceremony. But I got out of the train at the first station and returned to the hall by road secretly. And at eleven o’clock that night Brag and I were in our hiding place once more. And it was Christmas Eve, the very time when ghosts should be abroad, according to legend.

“Now,” I whispered, “the ghost is off its guard; take my word for it he or she, whichever it is, will come.” Brag said nothing, but gripped viciously at the handle of his dinner-bell.

It fell out as I had anticipated. Shortly after midnight Lady Marian re-appeared in the same guise as before. I could hear Brag’s teeth chattering as he saw the apparition. The moonlight was as strong as it had been on the previous occasion, and Lady Marian, clacking and tapping as before, moved through it in precisely the same way. She glided along by the pictures and fingered the frames. Suddenly we heard her give a joyous exclamation, and there was a sliding sound as of something pushed back. A portrait vanished, and a black cavity was seen in its place.

Now was the time. I jumped up, and poising my revolver fired as truly as I could, and at the same moment Brag’s bell clanged out vigorously. There was a shriek and a hurried scamper. Then as before the ghost of Lady Marian vanished before we could reach the spot.

“Where the deuce has she gone?” cried Brag, who was still ringing his bell hard.

“Through a sliding panel,” I replied, guessing the means of exit was through the cavity.

As I lighted the lamp there was more noise and pattering of feet, and the half-dressed servants in all stages of déshabille and alarm came crowding into the gallery. Some carried lights, others pokers and sticks, but one and all were as frightened as they well could be. And no wonder; for the clamour of Brag’s bell was enough to wake the dead. Then came Helen and Mrs. Brag fully dressed, for they both had waited up to witness the success of my scheme.

And it was a success—greater than I had dared to dream. As I said, a picture—that of Lady Marian had vanished—that is it had slid back into the wall, leaving a cavity which we proceeded to examine. Therein we found an iron box fast locked. But Brag soon had it torn open, to find that it contained velvet lined drawers and trays all heaped with the most splendid jewellery. Gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds —the mass glittered like a rainbow.

“See, Helen, your mother’s long lost jewels. So this is what the ghost of Lady Marian came for.”

“My gracious!” cried Mrs. Brag, dropping on her knees. “Look, my dear, all my Lady’s jewels! You’ll wear them at your wedding after all.”

But Helen did not look at them. She just stared at me, nervous and shaking.

“Geoffrey, who is the ghost?”

“Cannot you guess? Jane Riordan.”

“Impossible! Isn’t she here?”

“No, miss,” said Parsons, glancing round at the servants, “she ain’t with us.”

“Oh, Geoffrey, I hope you haven’t shot her.”

“Serve ‘er right if ‘e ‘as,” cried Brag. “But don’t cry, my pretty, she went through another sliding panel. Come, Geoffrey, let us look.”

“The spring is in the frame, Mr. Brag. I’m sure of that.”

Instantly a dozen hands were busy with the frames, and we soon came upon a spring in that of a picture at the far end of the gallery. It opened noiselessly, and I stepped into the open space, followed by Brag bearing the lamp. We proceeded along a narrow passage, ascended a flight of stone steps and finally emerged through another sliding panel into the back part of the house. On our way we picked up the tall cane, the grey wig and head-dress and the brocade skirt.

“She stripped herself to get away,” said Brag, nodding. “Let us go to her room. She has one to herself, you know. Asked my old woman to give her one as a special favour; and for Eliza Craik’s sake she got it.

The room was reached and we found it empty, with the last remnants of the disguise on the floor. On going to the back door we discovered that it was open, and through it Jane Riordan had vanished into the night never to return.

So it was that I exercised the ghost of Lady Marian. On Christmas Day at breakfast we discussed thoroughly the stirring events of the night. Mrs. Brag was filled with anger at the way in which Jane Riordan had tricked her.

“I wonder how she knew about my Lady’s jewels,” she said.

“Oh, there’s no difficulty in guessing that,” I replied. “The father must have told his wife where he had hidden them. I daresay he intended to fetch them himself when he came out of gaol. But he died before his sentence expired. However, he let his wife know, and she, of course, told Jane, who came here and tried to get them by masquerading as Lady Marian’s ghost.”

“And Eliza must have told her that story, Geoffrey. We often talked of the ghost. Oh, what a wicked woman!”

“But I wonder why Mrs. Craik, being poor, did not try to get the jewels for herself. She would hardly wait twenty years before doing so.”

It was Helen who said this, and I who replied.

“Well, I expect Mrs. Craik was either afraid, or did not learn from her husband behind which picture the jewels were hidden. I expect her reason was the last; for Jane, as I told you, went up and down the wall fingering the frames in order to find the right one. That was why she appeared so often in the gallery. Had she known the true hiding-place one appearance and visit would have done. I see now that she feigned fear to me in order to ward off suspicion. From her looks I never thought she would be so clever.”

“Ah, my dear,” said Mrs. Brag, “she married a scamp, and I daresay, after hearing the story from Liza, he put her up to the trick.”

“She brought the dress with her, I suppose?”

“She must have; and it was to carry on her wicked pranks that she made such a point of having a separate room.”

“I wonder how she knew of the secret passage,” said Brag.

“Liza again,” cried his wife. “She was years here before I came, and so was Craik. I daresay they found the secret passage together and made use of it when they stole the jewels. And now I come to think of it, my dears, it was an actor Jane Riordan married. Oh, I’m well quit of her, I am.”

“Yes, thank goodness she’s gone,” said Brag.

“We don’t want no row about the thing. We’ve got the jewels, and Helen shall wear them on her wedding day.”

“And what‘s more, we’ve got rid of the ghost,” said I, smiling. “I don’t think you can ever believe in ghosts again after this, eh, Mrs. Brag?”

“No, Geoffrey, I can‘t. I daresay the ghost of Lady Marian that I saw myself was either Craik or his wife dressed up. No, I’ll never believe in ghosts again.” Nor did she.

So this was our Christmas ghost, which was no ghost. But true or false it was a very seasonable apparition; and brought to Helen the Christmas gift of her mother’s jewels. She wore them at her wedding with me shortly afterwards; for next Christmas there was no Miss Alliston, but a pretty Mrs. Beauchamp. Nor was there any ghost. Lady Marian, in the person of Jane Riordan, had fulfilled her mission, and we never saw her again.

The Dancer in Red and Other Stories, Fergus Hume, 1906

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is always so satisfying when a ghost story contains lost jewels, sumptuous brocade dresses, and tap-tap-tapping 18th-century heels. Mrs Daffodil will note that the “idle Oxonian” narrator seems a bit contemptuous of those he terms uneducated, nervous, and hysterical, a common failing among “cool-headed” sorts. One is dubious about whether his devotion to Helen outweighs his snobbishness. But a happy ending to a Christmas ghost story is always welcome. The author, Mr Hume, is not always so forgiving to the females in his tales; one would have expected Jane Riordan to be have been found dead at the foot of the stone staircase in the secret passage or to become trapped in a secret compartment where her mouldering bones would be found years later.

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.