Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Blazing Ghost of Cardiff Town: 1903

wicker man burning

THE BLAZING GHOST OF CARDIFF TOWN.

By Howard R. Garis.

(Copyright 1903 by Robert Howard Russell.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There tis!” exclaimed Enos Rasher, suddenly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thar comes th’ Perfessor.” said Enos.

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

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

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

“Silas Waydell!” exclaimed half a dozen.

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

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

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

“How’s that?” asked Enos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But what was th’ ghost?” asked Enos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Phantom Husband: 1850s

1842 belgian mourning card woman and tomb

THE PHANTOM HUSBAND

Anne T. Wilbur

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

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

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

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

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

“What, my dear? You seem frightened.”

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

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

Catherine uttered a cry of horror, and almost fainted.

“Are you very sure of it, Marinette?”

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

“He spoke to you? Holy Virgin!”

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

“I shall see him also? Merciful Goodness!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Impious wretch!” cried a voice.

“Profaner of our tombs!” added another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Baron and the Devil: 1838

the devil

A QUEER CASE FOR THE LAW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas at Ringshaw Grange: 1906

the ghost of greystone grange 1878

THE GHOST’S TOUCH

I shall never forget the terrible Christmas I spent at Ringshaw Grange in the year ’93. As an army doctor I have met with strange adventures in far lands, and have seen some gruesome sights in the little wars which are constantly being waged on the frontiers of our empire; but it was reserved for an old country house in Hants to be the scene of the most noteworthy episode in my life. The experience was a painful one, and I hope it may never be repeated; but indeed so ghastly an event is not likely to occur again. If my story reads more like fiction than truth, I can only quote the well-worn saying, of the latter being stranger than the former. Many a time in my wandering life have I proved the truth of this proverb. The whole affair rose out of the invitation which Frank Ringan sent me to spend Christmas with himself and his cousin Percy at the family seat near Christchurch. At that time I was home on leave from India; and shortly after my arrival I chanced to meet with Percy Ringan in Piccadilly. He was an Australian with whom I had been intimate some years before in Melbourne: a dapper little man with sleek fair hair and a transparent complexion: looking as fragile as a Dresden china image, yet with plenty of pluck and spirits. He suffered from heart disease; and was liable to faint on occasions ; yet he fought against his mortal weakness with silent courage; and with certain precautions against over-excitement, he managed to enjoy life fairly well.

Notwithstanding his pronounced effeminacy, and somewhat truckling subserviency to rank and high birth, I liked the little man very well for his many good qualities. On the present occasion I was glad to see him, and expressed my pleasure.

“ Although I did not expect to see you in England,” said I, after the first greetings had passed.

“I have been in London these nine months, my dear Lascelles,” he said, in his usual mincing way, “ partly by way of a change and partly to see my cousin Frank,–who indeed invited me to come over from Australia.”

“Is that the rich cousin you were always speaking about in Melbourne?”

“Yes. But Frank is not rich. I am the wealthy Ringan, but he is the head of the family. You see, doctor,” continued Percy, taking my arm and pursuing the subject in a conversational manner, “my father, being a younger son, emigrated to Melbourne in the gold-digging days, and made his fortune out there. His brother remained at home on the estates, with very little money to keep up the dignity of the family; so my father helped the head of his house from time to time. Five years ago both my uncle and father died, leaving Frank and me as heirs, the one to the family estate, the other to the Australian wealth.”

“So you assist your cousin to keep up the dignity of the family as your father did before you.”

“Well, yes, I do,” admitted Percy, frankly. “ You see, we Ringans think a great deal of our birth and position. So much so, that we have made our wills in one another’s favour.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, if I die Frank inherits my money; and if he dies, I become heir to the Ringan estates. It seems strange that I should tell you all this, Lascelles; but you were so intimate with me in the old days that you can understand my apparent rashness.”

I could not forbear a chuckle at the reason assigned by Percy for his confidence, especially as it was such a weak one. The little man had a tongue like a towncrier, and could no more keep his private affairs to himself than a woman could guard a secret. Besides I saw very well that with his inherent snobbishness he desired to impress me with the position and antiquity of his family, and with the fact—undoubtedly true that it ranked amongst the landed gentry of the kingdom.

However, the weakness, though in bad taste, was harmless enough, and I had no scorn for the confession of it. Still, I felt a trifle bored, as I took little interest in the chronicling of such small beer, and shortly parted from Percy after promising to dine with him the following week.

At this dinner, which took place at the Athenian Club, I met with the head of the Ringan family; or, to put it plainer, with Percy’s cousin Frank. Like the Australian he was small and neat, but enjoyed much better health and lacked the effeminacy of the other. Yet on the whole I liked Percy the best, as there was a sly cast about Frank’s countenance which I did not relish ; and he patronised his colonial cousin in rather an offensive manner.

The latter looked up to his English kinsman with all deference, and would, I am sure, have willingly given his gold to regild the somewhat tarnished escutcheon of the Ringans. Outwardly, the two cousins were so alike as to remind one of Tweddledum and Tweddledee; but after due consideration I decided that Percy was the better-natured and more honourable of the two.

For some reason Frank Ringan seemed desirous of cultivating my acquaintance; and in one way and another I saw a good deal of him during my stay in London. Finally, when I was departing on a visit to some relatives in Norfolk he invited me to spend Christmas at Ringshaw Grange—not, as it afterwards appeared, without an ulterior motive.

“I can take no refusal,” said he, with a heartiness which sat ill on him. “Percy, as an old friend of yours, has set his heart on my having you down; and —if I may say so—I have set my heart on the same thing.”

“Oh, you really must come, Lascelles,” cried Percy, eagerly. “ We are going to keep Christmas in the real old English fashion. Washington Irving’s style, you know: holly, wassail-bowl, games, and mistletoe.”

“And perhaps a ghost or so,” finished Frank, laughing, yet with a side glance at his eager little cousin.

“Ah!” said I. “So your Grange is haunted.”

“I should think so,” said Percy, before his cousin could speak, “and with a good old Queen Anne ghost. Come down, Doctor, and Frank shall put you in the haunted chamber.”

“No!” cried Frank, with a sharpness which rather surprised me, “I’ll put no one in the Blue Room; the consequences might be fatal. You smile, Lascelles, but I assure you our ghost has been proved to exist!”

“That’s a paradox; a ghost can’t exist. But the story of your ghost—”

“Is too long to tell now,” said Frank, laughing. “Come down to the Grange and you’ll hear it.”

“Very good,” I replied, rather attracted by the idea of a haunted house, “you can count upon me for Christmas. But I warn you, Ringan, that I don’t believe in spirits. Ghosts went out with gas.”

“Then they must have come in again with electric light,” retorted Frank Ringan, “for Lady Joan undoubtedly haunts the Grange. I don’t mind; as it adds distinction to the house.”

“All old families have a ghost,” said Percy, importantly. “It is very natural when one has ancestors.”

There was no more said on the subject for the time being, but the upshot of this conversation was that I presented myself at Ringshaw Grange two or three days before Christmas. To speak the truth, I came more on Percy’s account than my own, as I knew the little man suffered from heart disease, and a sudden shock might prove fatal. If, in the unhealthy atmosphere of an old house, the inmates got talking of ghosts and goblins, it might be that the consequences would be dangerous to so highly strung and delicate a man as Percy Ringan.

For this reason, joined to a sneaking desire to see the ghost, I found myself a guest at Ringshaw Grange. In one way I regret the visit; yet in another —I regard it as providential that I was on the spot. Had I been absent the catastrophe might have been greater, although it could scarcely have been more terrible.

Ringshaw Grange was a quaint Elizabethan house, all gables and diamond easements, and oriel windows, and quaint terraces, looking like an illustration out of an old Christmas number. It was embowered in a large park, the trees of which came up almost to the doors, and when I saw it first in the moonlight—for it was by a late train that I came from London—it struck me as the very place for a ghost.

Here was a haunted house of the right quality if ever there was one, and I only hoped when I crossed the threshold that the local spectre would be worthy of its environment. In such an interesting house I did not think to pass a dull Christmas; but—God help me—I did not anticipate so tragic a Yule-tide as I spent.

As our host was a bachelor and had no female relative to do the honours of his house the guests were all of the masculine gender. ‘It is true that there was a housekeeper—a distant cousin I understood—who was rather elderly but very juvenile as to dress and manner. She went by the name of Miss Laura, but no one saw much of her as, otherwise than attending to her duties, she remained mostly in her own rooms.

So our party was composed of young men—none save myself being over the age of thirty, and few being gifted with much intelligence. The talk was mostly of sport, of horse racing, big game shooting and yacht-sailing: so that I grew tired at times of these subjects and retired to the library to read and write. The day after I arrived Frank showed me over the house.

It was a wonderful old barrack of a place, with broad passages, twisting interminably like the labyrinth of Daedalus; small bedrooms furnished in an old-fashioned manner, and vast reception apartments with polished floors and painted ceilings. Also there were the customary number of family portraits frowning from the walls; suits of tarnished armour; and ancient tapestries embroidered with grim and ghastly legends of the past.

The old house was crammed with treasures, rare enough to drive an antiquarian crazy; and filled with the flotsam and jetsam of many centuries, mellowed by time into one soft hue, which put them all in keeping with one another. I must say that I was charmed with Ringshaw Grange, and no longer wondered at the pride taken by Percy Ringan in his family and their past glories.

“That’s all very well,” said Frank, to whom I remarked as much; “Percy is rich, and had he this place could keep it up in proper style; but I am as poor as a rat, and unless I can make a rich marriage, or inherit a comfortable legacy, house and furniture park and timber may all come to the hammer.”

He looked gloomy as he spoke; and, feeling that I had touched on a somewhat delicate matter, I hastened to change the subject, by asking to be shown the famous Blue Chamber, which was said to be haunted. This was the true Mecca of my pilgrimage into Hants.

“It is along this passage,” said Frank, leading the way, “and not very far from your own quarters. There is nothing in its looks likely to hint at the ghost—at all events by day—but it is haunted for all that.”

Thus speaking he led me into a large room with a low ceiling, and a broad casement looking out on to the untrimmed park, where the woodland was most sylvan. The walls were hung with blue cloth embroidered with grotesque figures in black braid or thread, I know not which. There was a large old-fashioned bed with tester and figured curtains and a quantity of cumbersome furniture of the early Georgian epoch. Not having been inhabited for many years the room had a desolate and silent look—if one may use such an expression—and to my mind looked gruesome enough to conjure up a battalion of ghosts, let alone one.

“I don’t agree with you!” said I, in reply to my host’s remark. “ To my mind this is the very model of a haunted chamber. What is the legend?”

“I’ll tell it to you on Christmas Eve,” replied Rigan, as we left the room. “It is rather a bloodcurdling tale.”

“Do you believe it? ” said I, struck by the solemn air of the speaker.

“I have had evidence to make me credulous,” he replied dryly, and closed the subject for the time being.

It was renewed on Christmas Eve when all our company were gathered round a huge wood fire in the library. Outside, the snow lay thick on the ground, and the gaunt trees stood up black and leafless out of of the white expanse. The sky was of a frosty blue with sharply-twinkling stars, and a hard-looking moon. On the snow the shadows of interlacing boughs were traced blackly as in Indian ink, and the cold was of Arctic severity.

But seated in the holly-decked apartment before a noble fire which roared bravely up the wide chimney we cared nothing for the frozen world out of doors. We laughed and talked, sang songs and recalled adventures, until somewhere about ten o’clock we fell into a ghostly vein quite in keeping with the goblin-haunted season. It was then that Frank Ringan was called upon to chill our blood with his local legend. This he did without much pressing.

“In the reign of good Queen Anne,” said he, with a gravity befitting the subject, “my ancestor Hugh Ringan, was the owner of this house. He was a silent misanthropic man, having been soured early in life by the treachery of a woman. Mistrusting the sex he refused to marry for many years; and it was not until he was fifty years of age that he was beguiled by the arts of a pretty girl into the toils of matrimony. The lady was Joan Challoner, the daughter of the Earl of Branscourt; and she was esteemed one of the beauties of Queen Anne’s court.

“It was in London that Hugh met her, and thinking from her innocent and child-like appearance that she would make him a true-hearted wife, he married her after a six months’ courtship and brought her with all honour to Ringshaw Grange. After his marriage he became more cheerful and less distrustful of his fellow-creatures. Lady Joan was all to him that a wife could be, and seemed devoted to her husband and child—for she early became a mother— when one Christmas Eve all this happiness came to an end.”

“Oh!” said I, rather cynically. “So Lady Joan proved to be no better than the rest of her sex.”

“So Hugh Ringan thought, Doctor; but he was as mistaken as you are. Lady Joan occupied the Blue Room, which I showed you the other day; and on Christmas Eve, when riding home late, Hugh saw a man descend from the window. Thunderstruck by the sight, he galloped after the man and caught him before he could mount a horse which was waiting for him. The cavalier was a handsome young fellow of twenty-five, who refused to answer Hugh’s questions.

Thinking, naturally enough, that he had to do with a lover of his wife’s, Hugh fought a duel with the stranger and killed him after a hard fight.

“Leaving him dead on the snow he rode back to the Grange, and burst in on his wife to accuse her of perfidy. It was in vain that Lady Joan tried to defend herself by stating that the visitor was her brother, who was engaged in plots for the restoration of James II, and on that account wished to keep secret the fact of his presence in England. Hugh did not believe her, and told her plainly that he had killed her lover; whereupon Lady Joan burst out into a volley of reproaches and cursed her husband. Furious at what he deemed was her boldness Hugh at first attempted to kill her, but not thinking the punishment sufficient, he cut off her right hand.”

“Why? ” asked everyone, quite unprepared for this information.

“Because in the first place Lady Joan was very proud of her beautiful white hands, and in the second Hugh had seen the stranger kiss her hand—her right hand—before he descended from the window. For these reasons he mutilated her thus terribly.”

“And she died.”

“Yes, a week after her hand was cut off. And she swore that she would come back to touch all those in the Blue Room—that is who slept in it—who were foredoomed to death. She kept her promise, for many people who have slept in that fatal room have been touched by the dead hand of Lady Joan, and have subsequently died.”

“Did Hugh find out that his wife was innocent?”

“He did,” replied Ringan, “and within a month after her death. The stranger was really her brother, plotting for James II, as she had stated. Hugh was not punished by man for his crime, but within a year he slept in the Blue Chamber and was found dead next morning with the mark of three fingers on his right wrist. It was thought that in his remorse he had courted death by sleeping in the room cursed by his wife.”

“And there was a mark on him?”

“On his right wrist red marks like a burn; the impression of three fingers. Since that time the room has been haunted.”

“Does everyone who sleeps in it die?” I asked.

“No. Many people have risen well and hearty in the morning. Only those who are doomed to an early death are thus touched!”

“When did the last case occur?”

“Three years ago,” was Frank’s unexpected reply. “A friend of mine called Herbert Spencer would sleep in that room. He saw the ghost and was touched. He showed me the marks next morning—three red finger marks.”

“Did the omen hold good?”

“Yes. Spencer died three months afterwards. He was thrown from his horse.”

I was about to put further questions in a sceptical vein, when we heard shouts outside, and we all sprang to our feet as the door was thrown open to admit Miss Laura in a state of excitement.

“Mr. Ringan,” addressing herself to Percy, “your room is on fire!”

We waited to hear no more, but in a body rushed up to Percy’s room. Volumes of smoke were rolling out of the door, and flames were flashing within. Frank Ringan, however, was prompt and cool-headed. He had the alarm bell rung, summoned the servants, grooms, and stable hands, and in twenty minutes the fire was extinguished.

On asking how the fire had started, Miss Laura, with much hysterical sobbing, stated that she had gone into Percy’s room to see that all was ready and comfortable for the night. Unfortunately the wind wafted one of the bed-curtains towards the candle she was carrying, and in a moment the room was in a blaze. After pacifying Miss Laura, who could not help the accident, Frank turned to his cousin. By this time we were back again in the library.

“My dear-fellow,” he said, “ your room is swimming in water, and is charred with fire. I’m afraid you can’t stay there to-night; but I don’t know where to put you unless you take the Blue Room.”

“The Blue Room!” we all cried. “What! the haunted chamber?”

“Yes; all the other rooms are full. Still, if Percy is afraid—”

“Afraid!” cried Percy indignantly. “I’m not afraid at all. I’ll sleep in the Blue Room with the greatest of pleasure.”

“But the ghost—”

“I don’t care for the ghost,” interrupted the Australian, with a nervous laugh. “We have no ghosts in our part of the world, and as I have not seen one, I do not believe there is such a thing.”

We all tried to dissuade him from sleeping in the haunted room, and several of us offered to give up our apartments for the night—Frank among the number. But Percy’s dignity was touched, and he was resolute to keep his word. He had plenty of pluck, as I said before, and the fancy that we might think him a coward spurred him on to resist our entreaties.

The end of it was that shortly before midnight he went off to the Blue Room, and declared his intention of sleeping in it. There was nothing more to be said in the face of such obstinacy, so one by one we retired, quite unaware of the events to happen before the morning. So on that Christmas Eve the Blue Room had an unexpected tenant.

On going to my bedroom I could not sleep. The tale told by Frank Ringan haunted my fancy, and the idea of Percy sleeping in that ill-omened room made me nervous. I did not believe in ghosts myself, nor, so far as I knew, did Percy, but the little man suffered from heart disease—he was strung up to a high nervous pitch by our ghost stories—and if anything out of the common—even from natural causes—happened in that room, the shock might be fatal to its occupant.

I knew well enough that Percy, out of pride, would refuse to give up the room, yet I was determined that he should not sleep in it; so, failing persuasion, I employed stratagem. I had my medicine chest with me, and taking it from my portmanteau I prepared a powerful narcotic. I left this on the table and went along to the Blue Room, which, as I have said before, was not very far from mine.

A knock brought Percy to the door, clothed in pyjamas, and at a glance I could see that the ghostly atmosphere of the place was already telling on his nerves. He looked pale and disturbed, but his mouth was firmly set with an obstinate expression likely to resist my proposals. However, out of diplomacy, I made none, but blandly stated my errand, with more roughness, indeed, than was necessary.

“Come to my room, Percy,” I said, when be appeared, “and let me give you something to calm your nerves.”

“I’m not afraid! ” he said, defiantly.

“Who said you were?” I rejoined, tartly. “You believe in ghosts no more than I do, so why should you be afraid? But after the alarm of fire your nerves are upset, and I want to give you something to put them sight. Otherwise, you’ll get no sleep.”

“I shouldn’t mind a composing draught, certainly,” said the little man. “Have you it here?”

“No, it’s in my room, a few yards off. Come along.”

Quite deluded by my speech and manner, Percy followed me into my bedroom, and obediently enough swallowed the medicine. Then I made him sit down in a comfortable arm-chair, on the plea that he must not walk immediately after the draught. The result of my experiment was justified, for in less than ten minutes the poor little man was fast asleep under the influence of the narcotic. When thus helpless, I placed him on my bed, quite satisfied that he would not awaken until late the next day. My task accomplished, I extinguished the light, and went off myself to the Blue Room, intending to remain there for the night.

It may be asked why I did so, as I could easily have taken my rest on the sofa in my own room; but the fact is, I was anxious to sleep in a haunted chamber.

I did not believe in ghosts, as I had never seen one, but as there was a chance of meeting here with an authentic phantom I did not wish to lose the opportunity.

Therefore when I saw that Percy was safe for the night, I took up my quarters in the ghostly territory, with much curiosity, but—as I can safely aver—no fear. All the same, in case of practical jokes on the part of the feather-headed young men in the house, I took my revolver with me. Thus prepared, I locked the door of the Blue Room and slipped into bed, leaving the light burning. The revolver I kept under my pillow ready to my hand in case of necessity. ‘

“Now,” said I grimly, as I made myself comfortable, “I’m ready for ghosts, or goblins, or practical jokers.”

I lay awake for a long time, staring at the queer figures on the blue draperies of the apartment. In the pale flame of the candle they looked ghostly enough to disturb the nerves of anyone: and when the draught fluttered the tapestries the figures seemed to move as though alive. For this sight alone I was glad that Percy had not slept in that room. I could fancy the poor man lying in that vast bed with blanched face and beating heart, listening to every creak, and watching the fantastic embroideries waving on the walls. Brave as he was, I am sure the sounds and sights of that room would have shaken his nerves, I did not feel very comfortable myself, sceptic as I was.

When the candle had burned down pretty low I fell asleep. How long I slumbered I know not: but I woke up with the impression that something or some one was in the room. The candle had wasted nearly to the socket and the flame was flickering and leaping fitfully, so as to display the room one moment and leave it almost in darkness the next. I heard a soft step crossing the room, and as it drew near a sudden spurt of flame from the candle showed me a little woman standing by the side of the bed. She was dressed in a gown of flowered brocade, and wore the towering head dress of the Queen Anne epoch. Her face I could scarcely see, as the flash of flame was only momentary: but I felt what the Scotch call a deadly grue as I realized that this was the veritable phantom of Lady Joan.

For the moment the natural dread of the supernatural quite overpowered me, and with my hands and arms lying outside the counterpane I rested inert and chilled with fear. This sensation of helplessness in the presence of evil, was like what one experiences in a nightmare of the worst kind.

When again the flame of the expiring candle shot up, I beheld the ghost close at hand, and—as I felt rather than saw—knew that it was bending over me. A faint odour of musk was in the air, and I heard the soft rustle of the brocaded skirts echo through the semi-darkness. The next moment I felt my right wrist gripped in a burning grasp, and the sudden pain roused my nerves from their paralysis.

With a yell I rolled over, away from the ghost, wrenching my wrist from that horrible clasp, and, almost mad with pain I groped with my left hand for the revolver. As I seized it the candle flared up for the last time, and I saw the ghost gliding back towards the tapestries. In a second I raised the revolver and fired. The next moment there was a wild cry of terror and agony, the fall of a heavy body on the floor, and almost before I knew where I was I found myself outside the door of the haunted room To attract attention I fired another shot from my revolver, while the Thing on the floor moaned in the darkness most horribly.

In a few moments guests and servants, all in various stages of undress, came rushing along the passage bearing lights. A babel of voices arose, and I managed to babble some incoherent explanation, and led the way into the room. There on the floor lay the ghost, and we lowered the candles to look at its face. I sprang up with a cry on recognising who it was.

“Frank Ringan!”

It was indeed Frank Ringan disguised as a woman in wig and brocades. He looked at me with a ghostly face, his mouth working nervously. With an effort he raised himself on his hands and tried to speak—whether in confession or exculpation, I know not. But the attempt was too much for him, a choking cry escaped his lips, a jet of blood burst from his mouth, and he fell back dead.

Over the rest of the events of that terrible night I draw a veil. There are some things it is as well not to speak of. Only I may state that all through the horror and confusion Percy Ringan, thanks to my strong sleeping draught, slumbered as peacefully as a child, thereby saving his life.

With the morning’s light came discoveries and explanations. We found one of the panels behind the tapestry of the Blue Room open, and it gave admittance into a passage which on examination proved to lead into Frank Ringan’s bedroom. On the floor we discovered a delicate band formed of steel, and which bore marks of having been in the fire. On my right wrist were three distinct burns, which I have no hesitation in declaring, were caused by the mechanical hand which we picked up near the dead man. And the explanation of these things came from Miss Laura, who was wild with terror at the death of her master, and said in her first outburst of grief and fear, what I am sure she regretted in her calmer moments.

“It’s all Frank’s fault,” she wept. “He was poor and wished to be rich. He got Percy to make his will in his favour, and wanted to kill him by a shock. He knew that Percy had heart disease and that a shock might prove fatal; so he contrived that his cousin should sleep in the Blue Room on Christmas Eve; and he himself played the ghost of Lady Joan with the burning hand. It was a steel hand, which he heated in his own room so as to mark with a scar those it touched.”

“Whose idea was this?” I asked, horrified by the devilish ingenuity of the scheme.

“Frank’s!” said Miss Laura, candidly. “He promised to marry me if I helped him to get the money by Percy’s death. We found that there was a secret passage leading to the Blue Room; so some years ago we invented the story that it was haunted.”

“Why, in God’s name?”

“Because Frank was always poor. He knew that his cousin in Australia had heart disease, and invited him home to kill him with fright. To make things safe he was always talking about the haunted room and telling the story so that everything should be ready for Percy on his arrival. Our plans were all carried out. Percy arrived and Frank got him to make the will in his favour. Then he was told the story of Lady Joan and her hand, and by setting fire to Percy’s room last night I got him to sleep in the Blue Chamber without any suspicion being aroused.”

“You wicked woman!” I cried. “Did you fire Percy’s room on purpose?”

“Yes. Frank promised to marry me if I helped him. We had to get Percy to sleep in the Blue Chamber, and I managed it by setting fire to his bedroom. He would have died with fright when Frank, as Lady Joan, touched him with the steel hand, and no one would have been the wiser. Your sleeping in that haunted room saved Percy’s life, Dr. Lascelles; yet Frank invited you down as part of his scheme, that you might examine the body: and declare the death to be a natural one.”

“Was it Frank who burnt the wrist of Herbert Spence some years ago?” I asked.

“Yes!” replied Miss Laura, wiping her red eyes. “We thought if the ghost appeared to a few other people, that Percy’s death might seem more natural. It was a mere coincidence that Mr. Spence died three months after the ghost touched him.”

“Do you know you are a very wicked woman, Miss Laura?”

“I am a very unhappy one,” she retorted. “I have lost the only man I ever loved; and his miserable cousin survives to step into his shoes as the master of Ringshaw Grange.”

That was the sole conversation I had with the wretched woman, for shortly afterwards she disappeared, and I fancy must have gone abroad, as she was never more heard of. At the inquest held on the body of Frank the whole strange story came out, and was reported at full length by the London press to the dismay of ghost-seers: for the fame of Ringshaw Grange as a haunted mansion had been great in the land.

I was afraid lest the jury should bring in a verdict of manslaughter against me, but the peculiar features of the case being taken into consideration I was acquitted of blame, and shortly afterwards returned to India with an unblemished character. Percy Ringan was terribly distressed on hearing of his cousin’s death, and shocked by the discovery of his treachery. However, he was consoled by becoming the head of the family, and as he lives a quiet life at Ringshaw Grange there is not much chance of his early death from heart disease—at all events from a ghostly point of view.

The blue chamber is shut up, for it is haunted now by a worse spectre than that of Lady Joan, whose legend (purely fictitious) was so ingeniously set forth by Frank. It is haunted by the ghost of the cold-blooded scoundrel who fell into his own trap; and who met with his death in the very moment he was contriving that of another man. As to myself, I have given up ghost-hunting and sleeping in haunted rooms. Nothing will ever tempt me to experiment in that way again. One adventure of that sort is enough to last me a lifetime.

Clutha Leader 3 March 1899: p. 7

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Granges,” or country farming estates, were a popular motif in haunted, sensational, and mystery fiction.  The Adventure of the Abbey Grange by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle springs to mind as an example of the latter. Perhaps the setting was so popular because of something else Sir Arthur wrote, in the voice of Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches:

“[T]he lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

“You horrify me!”

“But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

And, undoubtedly one of the grange out-buildings will contain scrap-iron and facilities for manufacturing Infernal Machines such as heatable steel claws.

Mr Hume furnished us with a similar, ghost-in-disguise story last year for the holidays, The Ghost in Brocade.

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.

Three Gold Balls: A Visit to the Pawnbrokers’ Shops: 1872

Die Gartenlaube 1861 pawnbroker.jpg

THREE GOLD BALLS
A Visit to the Pawnbrokers’ Shops

To the Editors of the Evening Post:

A week or two since I had occasion to visit several pawnbrokers’ establishments in this city, to redeem some articles pawned by a friend who had once seen better days.

A brief mention of my experience may be instructive as well as entertaining. The redemption of my friend’s tools (he was a mechanic) as accomplished after no little trouble in visiting the principal establishments doing business under the sign of the “Three Golden Balls,” in a certain street, and redeeming one or two articles here, another there and a third or fourth somewhere else.

I had been told of the system of universal cheating which the proprietors of these places practice, and the enormous exactions made in grinding the faces of the poor. I had heard described their dexterity in the substitution of colored glass and crystals for gems, while pretending to examine articles brought for pledges, and was prepared to encounter all that was sinister and heartless. But the half had not been told me, and I soon found that my previous conceptions fell far short of the reality. I was detained at each place which I had occasion to visit by the delays in finding the article I was in search of, and for which the holders had doubtless flattered themselves no inquiries would be made. The press of business at all of the shops was another cause of delay. As I recovered my friend’s articles, one by one, it appeared at once that the most outrageous system of extortion had been practiced in every instance. The sums advanced had been pitiful in amount, and the rates of interest charged exorbitant beyond belief. At every one of these dens a crowd of victims was collected—a motley company indeed: blacklegs and would-be gentlemen—the cheater and the cheated; the widow parting with her disposable article of dress, to procure one more meal for her famishing children; a consumptive girl, with the hectic flush upon her check. The grasping misers—sometimes a woman—read the condition of the sufferers from their countenances with cool calculation. The pick-pocket, the thief, and the purloining servant were received with equal readiness, and the spoils were divided with the fullest understanding that no questions were to be asked.

AT MY UNCLE’S

I had scarcely made my business known at the first of “my uncle’s” establishments, No. ___ street, to which I had been directed, when a middle-aged man entered with a bundle on which he asked a small advance, and which, on being opened, was found to contain a shawl and two or three other articles of female apparel. The man was stout and sturdy, and, as I judged from his appearance, a mechanic, but the mark of the destroyer was on his bloated countenance. The pawnbroker was examining the offered pledge when a woman with pale face and attenuated form came hastily into the shop and with the single exclamation, “O, Robert!” darted, rather than ran to that part of the counter where the man was standing. Her miserable husband, not satisfied with wasting his own earnings, and leaving her to starve with her children, had plundered even her scanty wardrobe, and the pittance received was to be squandered at the rum-shop. A blush of shame arose even upon his degraded face, but it quickly passed away; the brutal appetite prevailed.

“Go home,” was his harsh exclamation; “what brings you here, running after me with your everlasting scolding? Go home and mind your own business.”

“Oh, Robert, dear Robert,” answered the unhappy wife, “don’t pawn my shawl. Our children are crying for bread, and I have none to give them; or let me have the money. Give me the money, Robert, and don’t leave us to perish!”

I watched the face of the pawnbroker.

“Twelve shillings on these things,” he said, tossing them back to the drunkard, with a look of perfect indifference. “Only twelve shillings,” murmured the heart-broken wife, in a tone of despair; “O, Robert, don’t let them go for twelve shillings. Let me try somewhere else.” “Nonsense!” answered the brute. “It’s as much as they are worth, I suppose. Here, Mr. ___ give us the change.” The money was placed before him, and the bundle consigned to a drawer. The poor creature reached forth her hand towards the money, but the movement was anticipated by her husband. “There, Mary,” he said, giving her half a dollar. “there, go home now, and don’t make a fuss. I’m going a little way up the street, and perhaps I’ll bring you something from market when I come home.”

The hopeless look of the poor woman as she meekly turned to the door told plainly enough how little she trusted the promise. They went on their way—she to her children and he to the next “corner grocery.”

A BENEVOLENT CUSTOMER

While this scene was in progress another had been added to the number of spectators. This was a young man, dressed in the height of the fashion. He had a reckless, good-humored look and very much the air of what is called “a young man about town,” that is, one who rides out to the Central Park in the afternoon, eats game suppers at Delmonico’s in the evening after the play, spends the rest of the night and his money at billiards. The moment the poor woman was gone, he twitched from his neck a gold chain, with a gold watch, and placing it in the hands of the pawnbroker, with whom he seemed to be on terms of acquaintance, he exclaimed, “Quick now, Mr. ___; thirty dollars on that? You’ve had it before, and needn’t stop to examine it.” The money was instantly paid; and the young man of fashion, crumpling the bills up in his hand, hurried off at full speed, first looking up and then down the street. I followed him to the door and saw him accost the poor woman who had just left the shop, thrust into her hand either the whole or part of the sum he had just received, and then turning away to the other side of the street without stopping either for thanks or for explanation.

The reverie of mingled surprise and admiration into which I was thrown by this unexpected manifestation of benevolence was interrupted by a loud outcry from Mr. ___, the pawnbroker, and by seeing him, with a look of wrath and horror, hurry round his counter and out through the door, upon the sidewalk, where he stood for a moment, straining his eyes down the street, as if in search of the kind-hearted youth, who had by this time disappeared up one of the cross-streets. “The villain,” he exclaimed, “the swindling scoundrel! Which way did he go? The ungrateful thief! Tell me,” he continued, turning to me, “tell me which way he went.” I point out to Mr. ___ the course taken by his late customer, and mentioned also what I had seen take place between him and the poor woman. “Ah, it’s no use,” he then said; “he’s got off clear by this time, and my thirty dollars is a ‘gone case.’ But I’ll find him yet, someday.” And thus soliloquizing, Mr. ___ returned into his shop. Taking advantage of the familiarity that had grown up between the broker and his chain, the young man had substituted an oroide chain for the gold one which had been so often deposited with the watch, and the deception had passed unnoticed until it was too late. The watch itself was a cheap one, and probably worth about the sum advanced.

THE STORY OF A RING

A touching incident occurred at the place of my next visit. A woman about thirty-five years old, in the garb of mourning, entered, evidently with reluctance; she could hardly make the object of her visit known on account of her emotion. She was of a delicate frame, of easy and rather graceful manners, and but for the ravages of care upon her face might still have been beautiful. At length she took a ring from a pretty little morocco case, upon the pledge of which she wished to realize such an amount of money as would sustain herself and children through the winter. The extortioner took the ring in his fingers, and holding it up to the window pretended to examine it—assuming at the same time an air of affected disappointed; he began at once to depreciate the article, declaring that it was nothing but an Alaska crystal, and that he would hardly take it at any price. He was inexorable and peremptorily refused to advance more than four or five dollars. Tears glistened in the woman’s eye.

I had seen, as the man studied the ring with secret satisfaction by the window, that the gem was valuable. I was determined that the unfortunate owner should not be imposed upon. Just before a bargain was completed, however, as I was about to interpose myself, another gentleman, who had also been watching the proceeding, stepped forward and declared that the beautiful ring should not be sacrificed…in that way. The broker at once endeavored to hasten matters, and declaring the bargain to have been completed, would have succeeded in thrusting the jewel into the drawer, but for the resolution of the gentleman who seized and saved it. The wretch muttered something about people’s interfering in business that was exclusively his own concern, but to no purpose. The widow was rescued from his fangs, and received a fair amount for her ring.

This poor lady, whose history I afterward learned, was an orphan, a daughter of a Virginia planter, who had been reduced to poverty before our civil war, so that his children were left portionless, and had been married when quite young. The husband of this daughter was killed in the late war, and she had learned the miseries and uncertainties of life.

Doubtless these examples which came under my notice are but a few of many, the mere relation of which is sufficient to make one blush for his fellow men.

W.L. STONE

Evening Post [New York, NY] 13 January 1872: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Many ladies of this era were held hostage by drunken, improvident, and abusive spouses. Widows fared little better, if, as so often happened, the late husband lost the family fortune by imprudent speculation, went into a Decline, and died. The pawnshop, the sweatshop–or the street–were often the only recourse. Mrs Daffodil can only suggest to the attenuated spouse of the brute Robert, that she lay out part of the money thrust into her hands by the young man about town to secure an insurance policy on her husband. While the balance of the money should be well-hidden, enough should be retained to allow Robert to accidentally discover it and go on a spree so immoderate that it will inevitably bring a quick return on her investment.

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.

 

Kitty’s Railway Adventure: 1894

kitty's adventure

KITTY’S ADVENTURE.

“Good-by, dear.”

“A safe journey and a pleasant one.”

The train began to move. Miss Kitty Belwhistle distributed a farewell series of nods and smiles.

She felt quite fond of the Cholmondeleys, now that she was leaving them. They were sorry to lose their guest undoubtedly.

Their brother sorrowed also, but not as one without hope. Business of a pressing nature was likely to take him up to London in the course of a week or so.

Kitty, experienced hand that she was, had not spent three weeks at Northwitch Grange for nothing. The understanding between herself and the heir of the Northwitch acres was pretty definite, that young gentleman flattered himself. They were almost, if not exactly, engaged.

Kitty had made the usual stipulation.

If, within the space of twelve months from date, she met somebody else she liked better than dear Chubbington, all that had passed between them was henceforth to be regarded as an idle dream. If on the other hand, she did not, then—

Kitty pulled up the window and sank back into her comfortable corner seat. The first-class compartment contained no other passenger than the charming young lady in the sealskin coat and crimson-leathered toque who consulted her complexion in the strip of looking glass before she fell to overhauling her bags and packages.

The journey was tedious, and would be certain to be a cold one upon this keen, frosty January day.

But Kitty, who always was distinguished by admirable forethought in matters where her own well-being was concerned, had got all her little comforts around her.

“Eau de cologne? Yes, the housemaid put it in. How stupid of Parker to catch bronchitis! Of course, I was obliged to leave her behind. If I had insisted on her traveling she would have been sure to incur a fresh chill and die on me out of spite.

“If anything in the shape of an adventure could possibly present itself in the course of the humdrum seven hours’ railway journey between Norwich and Liverpool, I should be inclined to welcome it, unless it came in the form of a railway smash. Ugh! The bare idea makes one shudder.

“Let me just peep at the luncheon basket. Tongue and turkey sandwiches, bard-boiled eggs and anchovy ditto, a bottle of cold tea, half a pint and a bag of macaroons. Perhaps Chubby superintended the arrangement! Poor Chubby!”

And Kitty smiled a heartless little smile at the remembrance of Chubby’s pink tinged nose and tearful eyes. Then she opened a brand now railway novel, “The Fang of the Adder,” and immersed herself in the most thrilling chapter of that electrical work:

“Forked and lurid flashes of lightning silently played over the midnight azure. A low peal of thunder rumbled overhead as Paulina gained the churchyard. She reached the lonely resting place of the man whom her heart had worshiped, the man whom her relentless hand had guided to his doom.

“Did he but know it, Cherrington Chim was bitterly avenged.

“As sobs thickened in his murderess’s strangling throat and she sank forward amid the matted and tangled grasses—what happened?

“A hand touched her on the shoulder. A voice said hoarsely”—

“Kimpton, Kimpton! Change ‘ere for Carbury and Walsing.”

The train slowed and stopped, with a jerk. Kitty shut the book and let down the window.

Something darkened the carriage door. A dark-faced mustached, fur-coated stranger got in hurriedly. He trampled on Miss Belwhistle’s toes and apologized floridly. His tone offended her cars ; the perfume which exhaled from his garments offended a still more sensitive perception.

He trampled on Kitty’s toes again as he received into his arms a heavy bundle, the helpless figure of another man, and deposited it in a further corner of the compartment, with evident difficulty.

Another mustached, scented and fur-coated stranger followed and sat himself down in the seat immediately opposite Miss Belwhistle.

Kitty, in a state of freezing indifference to the admiring manifestations of her vis-a-vis, resumed her perusal of “The Fang of the Adder.”

The two mustached and fur-coated individuals interchanged a sentence or two in an undertone and then settled down to their respective news-papers. The invalid lay back helplessly in his corner, swaying from side to side with the motion of the carriage.

He was small of stature and slight of limb. He wore a gray-flapped traveling cap, tied under the chin, and a long gray ulster. From underneath the edge of the ulster peeped a pair of tiny little feet in patent-leather boots.

As much of his profile as was visible to Kitty’s observation was perfectly regular and of a waxen delicacy. The ungloved right hand, which rested stiffly on his knee, was small and dazzlingly white.

“Oh,” exclaimed Miss Belwhistle involuntarily as the express rounded a curve and the invalid lurched violently to the right.

The mustached and scented strangers looked over their newspapers. Kitty had half risen from her seat.

“Anything wrong, miss?” inquired No. 1 in accents of oily vulgarity.

The train steadied; the invalid left off wobbling. Kitty sank among her rugs and parcels.

“I–I beg your pardon. I–I was afraid the–your friend was going to faint.” she breathed. To cover her confusion she stooped for her book, which lay sprawling on the floor.

“The young lady thought Mr. Walker might be feeling ill, Sig. Denzo,” remarked No. 2. “Tell him to answer hisself if he’s got any manners in him,” the signor added, and looked at the invalid. Immediately Mr. Walker spoke in a queer, highly pitched voice, which seemed to come from under the seat which ho occupied.

“I thank you, miss, for your kind inquiries and beg to say I am quite well.”

Kitty began to regret the exclamation of alarm into which she had been betrayed. She began to wonder how long it would be before the next stoppage would afford her an opportunity of exchanging to another carriage, This horrible pair were evidently bent upon improving the occasion.

Rosenbaum offered her a comic paper. Declined with thanks.

The signor produced a silver flask of cognac, which might have contained about a quart, and audaciously invited the young lady to test the quality of its contents. Declined with thanks.

Upon which both the signor and Mr. Rosenbaum applied themselves to the liquor with great good will. They produced huge packages of sandwiches and ate with gusto and without offering the invalid a share of their supplies.

Kitty burned with indignation and was conscious of a yearning in the direction of her well filled luncheon basket, but dread of provoking the civilities of her companions staid her. She would change at the next station they stopped at, and then–

Thank goodness an old town rising out of the snowy landscape! The empty noise and bustle of a station succeeding. She collected her luggage hastily; she peered anxiously out of the window searching for a porter,

“By your leave, miss, said the odious voice of Rosenbaum. He opened the door and jumped out upon the platform. The signor followed. They vanished, arm in arm, into the refreshment room.

“Porter.” cried Miss Belwhistle, but no functionary responded to her call. She leaned out of the window. She waved her muff. She called to the porter again without success.

There was a dull crash, a sickening thud, behind her. She turned. The invalid Mr. Walker had tumbled out of his seat and lay prostrate on the floor. Before the affrighted girl could utter a scream for help the express moved on. Where, where were those callous companions of the sick man? Doubtless Rosenbaum and the signor had been left.

She raised the head of the insensible man. He was lighter than she had expected and strangely, strangely stiffer. She opened his collar with a shaking hand.

She got out the bottle of tea and endeavored to pour a little down his throat. Useless. The rigid lips were not to be forced apart. She removed the traveling cap and wet his fore head and temples with eau de cologne. He showed no signs of reviving. She wiped his face with her handkerchief and–oh, horror!

The faint color vanished from his checks, his lips turned pale. The sick man had been painted.

She looked at him more closely, The strange light blue eyes that maintained their horrible unwinking stare. the deadly color of the face and the icy coldness of its contact struck chill to her. She felt at his heart, Not a beat! Mr. Walker was dead–dead!

Had his murderer–they must be his murderers–painted the dead face with the hues of life, deceived her eye with rouge and powder as they had deceived her ears with a ventriloquial trick? Had they not made good their escape, leaving their helpless dupe alone–alone with their victim?

And at last the express slackened speed, jolted, stopped. They were at Ely. She might scream now, and she did.

“What’s here? Gentleman ill, miss? What do you say?”

Thus the guard.

“There has been murder here,” she said, looking out upon the throng of faces that surrounded the carriage door. “Telegraph to the last stopping place. I can describe the guilty wretches who have done this awful deed. Ah, there they are!”

Here they were indeed, the guilty wretches. Dared they brazen it out? Did they mean to deny all knowledge of the dead man?

“This is a serious charge, you know, gentlemen. I must trouble you to come along with me.”

“With pleasure, Mr. Polizeman,” said the signor, with horrible lightness. “But we look at this corpo morto here first, with your kind obligement. Why will pretty young ladies shriek at everything? My good Rosenbaum, you have better the English language Please explain.

Rosenbaum drew a large poster from the bulging pocket of his fur coat. He gravely handed it to the station-master. It bore this inscription:

TO-NIGHT.

At the Temple of Varieties, Ely.

Herr Rosenbaum and Sig. Denzo,

The Marvelous Conjurors and Ventriloquists

In Their Unparalleled Entertainment,

In which the ANIMATED DUMMY will also

Take part.

COME EARLY.

“This here jointed wooden figure with the wax face and hands,” went on Rosenbaum, “is the dummy. He usually travels in the guard’s van, but the guard couldn’t guarantee his reaching Ely in condition to appear before the public, having a fox-terrier pup in charge as was given to worrying. So we took him in the carriage with us. At the last station we stopped at, me and the signor, gets out for a drink, and the train having started sooner than we bargained for we whipped into second-class compartment. Sorry the young lady has been frightened. Ain’t you, signor?”

“Estremamente!” said Sig. Denzo.

Forest Republication [Tionesta PA] 24 October 1894: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Why will pretty young ladies shriek at everything?” Mrs Daffodil raises her eyebrows at this impertinence. The conjurors/ventriloquists had their nerve, considering that the duo went out of their way to hoodwink the young lady, so fearless in matters of the heart, but so timid when faced with cognac-swilling, sandwich-guzzling, fur-coated showmen and a wooden dummy.

One cannot entirely blame the young person; for a lady travelling without a companion, the individual railway carriage compartment was fraught with danger.  Miss Belwhistle was fortunate that her travelling companions were not fast young gentlemen.

 

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.

Hist Went the Corpse: 1889

Baltimore and Ohio Employees magazine 1912 wake poem

A Wonderful Escape

“When I first went on the police force,” said the fat policeman to a Philadelphia North American man. “I was lucky. One of my assignments was a queer one, and I’m not likely to forget it. I was sent to the house of a man who had just died. He was well known and belonged to a good many lodges. It was a big crowd at the funeral. I was stationed at the foot of the coffin to preserve order. The shutters were closed and the gas burned dimly. The coffin lid was off and the body exposed. No one besides myself and the ‘stiff ‘ was in the room. After I’d been there awhile I began to grow uneasy. I kept looking at the dead face. I’d take my eyes off, and the first thing I’d be gazing at the body again. Suddenly the eyes opened. I thought I was dreaming. Then the left eye winked. Holy smoke!”

“’Hist went the corpse.’”

“My teeth chattered.

“‘Say, officer.’

“Goodness! The corpse sat up. ‘Ain’t you dead?’ I gasped.

“’Me, me dead?’

“’Yes.’

“’Oh, no.’

“’What are you doing there?’

“’That’s only a dodge.’

“’Dodge?”

“’Yes. I’m just now a dodger. A kind of an Artful Dodger. See?’

“’I’ll call the folks.’

“’Heavens, no. I’ll tell you. You see I wasn’t feeling well. I’ve got a mother-in-law who is a holy terror. Worse than ten parrots and the hydrophobia. Well, I’ve been trying for ten years to get rid of her. Now, I told my wife that I would simulate death, get put in a vault, be taken out again right away and sneak west. She liked the idea. I’ll be taken out tonight, go to a hotel, and I’ll meet my wife in St. Louis. In that way we’ll shake the old girl. Well, here’s a dollar. I wish you could send out and get me a little spirits’ reviver.’

“Pretty soon the folks began to come in. The supposed corpse looked as natural as life everybody said. People always say this at funerals. There is no use saying it at weddings or balls. The mother-in-law sobbed. Then she leaned over and kissed the corpse.

“’Why, John smells of whisky,’ she said.

“‘John was a beautiful drinker,’ explained the wife.”

Aberdeen [SC] Daily News 10 September 1889: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Possibly in connection with the 19th-century’s idée fixe about premature burial, we find many stories, some amusing, some grim, about corpses “waking up” or the watchers at a wake fearing that they have wakened up, such as The Corpse Sat Up, by that grave person over at Haunted Ohio. There is also an entire genre of stories about persons pretending to be dead, for example, The Corpse Counted the Coins, in which a similar scam was worked for a more mercenary reason than was admitted by John-the-beautiful-drinker above, or to induce a cruel father to relent and give his blessing to a young couple, as in The Resurrection of Willie Todd.

We can only hope that the Artful Dodger and his wife found an earthly paradise in St. Louis and that the mother-in-law did not disinherit her newly-widowed daughter when she decided to go west to Forget.  Mrs Daffodil fears that a woman worse than ten parrots and the hydrophobia would be capable of anything.

 

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.

“Going to Lodge:” 1881

odd fellows skull and crossbones medallion

Odd Fellows fraternal organization medallion, c. 1870 http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=1959

“GOING TO LODGE.”

Secrets of a Married Man’s Lodge Room Given Away.

Wooster, O., Feb. 17. A scandal of large-sized proportions is stirring to is death the society of the eastern part of this county, and in the course of a few days will probably be ventilated in Court. At present all the particulars are conveyed from one person to another in muffled voice and hushed accents but the facts have gradually leaked out, until now the details are no longer secret.

It appears that a young married man has of late been wandering after strange gods, or rather goddesses, and although his visits were generally made late at night and carefully concealed from most intimate companions, the young wife quietly dropped on the game, and decided to satisfy herself that her suspicions were either correct or erroneous. So masquerading in male habiliments, she took the first opportunity when her liege lord said he was “going to lodge,” to follow him at a distance. After meandering up one street and down another, he was suddenly seen to pop into a house occupied by friends of the family, without even knocking for admission. The youthful wife saw all this with sorrow, and perhaps with natural indignation, for after hesitating a few moments, she stealthily approached the door and tried the latch.
To her infinite satisfaction, this door was not locked, and without pausing to announce her arrival she quickly stepped into the room, and there beheld her recreant husband and the lady of the house seated together on a lounge in an extremely embarrassing position. This was all brought to her vision by the light of the moon, but was enough. She was satisfied. And only stopped long enough to say, “You shall suffer for this, you brutes.” And then hastily departed.

Fearing intruders from another direction, the outer door had been left unfastened in case a hasty exit should be necessary, and thus the gay Lothario walked into his own trap. It is safe to say his enjoyment for that night was of brief duration, and that he was in no hurry to meet the wife of his bosom. The little town where this occurred is only a short distance from Wooster, and the parties belong to the “upper ten” in that locality and are well known throughout the county.

Repository [Canton OH] 17 February 1881: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Had the gentleman only lived in a larger metropolitan area, he could have avoided shame and exposure by using the excuse of “going to the club” or “working late at the office.”  In small-town America, the opportunities for leaving the domestic hearth in the evening were limited to the lodges of fraternal organizations such as the Odd Fellows, whose skull-and-cross-bone emblem seems to suggest the ultimate fate of the gay Lothario.

 

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.