Category Archives: Crime

Women Gamblers of New York: 1884

An Avid, Masked Lady Gambler

Women Gamblers

How They Pursue The Exciting Game in New York City

A cable dispatch, says a New York correspondent, recently referred to the high play at the various clubs in London and Paris, and incidentally mentioned the fact that a Russian nobleman lost at one sitting £80,000. In an issue of a Western paper some weeks ago the propriety of the country was startled by a detailed description of a gambling-house engineered and patronized by females. Since then the existence of such institutions in various other cities has been made known. The most prominent and noteworthy of them all, however, has been overlooked.

It is located in a cozy, quiet-looking old mansion of the stately and monumental New York type, and within two blocks of the Brevoort House. To all outward appearances the place is only one of the many residences of aristocratic elegance which line the street. All the windows are heavily curtained, and a face is seldom seen there. Even at night it is rarely lighted in the front. So quietly and unobtrusively has the business of the establishment been carried on that, although it has been in existence for months, its real character has never been suspected. The proprietress of the house was originally the friend of the proprietor of one of the most famous gambling-houses in this city. She quarreled with and left him. Finding herself cast on her own resources and owner of a valuable collection of jewels, she determined to profit by her experience. She hired a furnished house—the same in which she now carries on her trade—and, after instructing two or three of her intimate acquaintances in the mystery of dealing and manipulating cards, began work with their assistance. The place was extensively advertised as a “ladies’ club-house,” and soon became quite popular, the more so as no men were admitted. Roulet and faro, as well as occasional games of rouge-et-noir, were at first dealt, but the gaming soon resolved itself into faro alone. Heavy playing has taken place in this house. One lady is known to have carried off over $5,000 as the result of a day’s lucky play. Another female won upon three days in succession $4,800. The bank was so low at one time that the proprietor contemplating closing, and would have done so but for the appearance of a creole gamestress fresh from New Orleans, who lost over $8,000 in money and jewels at a sitting, and so replenished the nearly empty coffers. For the past few months the “bank” is said to have enjoyed an almost unexampled run of luck, scarcely ever losing.

For obvious reasons the games are all confined to daylight. In order to obtain admission it is necessary to have either a card from the proprietress or an introduction from a frequenter. Regular habitués have latch-keys which admit them into the passage between the outer and inner doors, both of which are always kept closed. The inner door is guarded by a pretty young girl whose orders are to admit no stranger or unprovided with the proper credentials. The post-office box of the proprietress is daily filled with applications.

No gentleman, it is said, has been admitted except into the basement, where groceries, wines, etc., are delivered. The servants, of whom there are several, are all females, as are also all the dealers, casekeepers, and attaches. The house originally belonged to a well-known millionaire, a former agent for one of the great transatlantic steamship lines, from whom its present owner rented it. Since then she has purchased the building outright. It is furnished in the most luxurious style throughout, nothing that taste could suggest or money procure being absent.

The gambling is carried on in a back drawing-room on the second floor. In the first drawing-room an elegant lunch is always laid, with the most delicate and costly wines. The upper floors are devoted to the use of the attaches of the establishment, who all reside on the premises. The proprietress is a woman verging on middle age, of a commanding figure, and very handsome. She dresses in black, is famous among all her acquaintances for her love of pearls, which are the only jewels that she is known to wear, and of which she is reported to have the most magnificent collection in the country.

One complete set in particular belonged to the Empress Eugenie, and the gems which once queened it in the drawing-room of an Empress now preside over the fortunes of a game of faro. One of the dealers is also a famous character. She is comparatively a young woman, who some years ago enjoyed the favor of no less a person than “Jim” Fisk Jr., in whose Grand Opera-House she began life as a ballet-girl. In her circles she is known as “Diamond Jennie,” on account of her weakness for those precious minerals. The rest of the executive corps are a more or less equivocally famous and attractive, and are said to be as skillful and cool in all the traits and tricks of their trade as a veteran gambler.

The housekeeping is on the most extravagant scale, and is chiefly served by two prominent Fulton Market dealers and a wine merchant who supplies the principal clubs. All of these dealers affirm that the consumption of the finer quality of their wares far exceeds that of many of the clubs where male New York finds such luxurious comfort.

There are several other institutions for a like purpose scattered about this city and Brooklyn,, but they are on a far inferior scale, and their use is restricted positively to elected members. In these places only round games of cards are played; even at that limited rate, however, much money is lost and won. After the incalculable wrong wrought, the place of which we especially treat is indubitably the worst. Women are proverbially infatuated gamblers, and once embarked on the sea of chance, with their fates totally at the mercy of the fickle goddess Fortune, or worse, with the chance of the game dependent on the honesty or dishonesty of an unscrupulous dealer, the result may easily be imagined.

In conversation with the sporting man upon whom the proprietress of this novel temple of chance once depended for a living the following particulars were learned.

“I heard nearly a year ago,” said he, “that ‘Belle was running a game somewhere in the city, but where it was exactly I never could find out. I often met women who had been there, but they would never give the place away. It was too good a thing, you see, for them to risk its being shut up. When ‘Belle’ and I were on good terms she used to take great interest in faro and all sorts of games. She would come down to my Broadway place and watch the game for hours. She made me buy her a faro lay-out and teach her how to deal. Then little Barney, one of my dealers, who is dead—and a smart little chap he was—had to show her all the points. He taught her how to stack cards and how to finger the turn. I’ve seen them at it many a time, and laughed at what I thought was a silly freak.”

The general opinion is that “Belle” is backed in her venture by ladies of high social position and influence. Some even did not hesitate to accuse two well-known leaders of society by name.

“I tell you,” said one. “There’s more than one lady in society here that’s mixed up in such affairs. I know of two myself who are actually bankers of faro-banks run by their husbands, who of themselves never had money enough of their own to start a 50-cent limit on avenue A. One of these women to my knowledge deals faro to her friends in her own house. The other is the shrewdest poker-player in the city. She’d bluff even old Schenk himself. [Possibly Austrian murderer Hugo Schenk] Oh! There’s another thing,” he added, “and that is that there is a deuced sight more faro played in private houses than there is in public games. Whenever you find a lodging or boarding house full of young clerks you will find one faro layout at least, and some shrewd fellow to work it.

Chicago [IL] Tribune 5 April 1884: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not gamble;  she has a wholesome horror of leaving anything to chance. She also observes that someone must be paying for the lavish décor and the delicate foods and wines, which rather spoils any pleasure in watching the wheel spin or the dice fall. Then, too, Mrs Daffodil has seen ladies over-extend themselves at the gaming tables, with dire consequences:

In Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth and Twenty-third streets, there are often parties of ladies from which the opposite sex are sternly excluded, where the fair gamesters play until daylight for large stakes; and it not infrequently happens that when their purses are depleted they put up their bracelets, necklaces and watches as wagers. Some of the feminine gamesters lose heavily, and the desperate shifts—no allusion to wardrobes—to which they are put to conceal their losses and replace them, must be fearfully demoralizing. A young woman, the daughter of one of our most opulent citizens, was pointed out to me in the Park, as a notorious gambler, by one of her own sex, who informed me she had parted with nearly $100,000 since she went to Saratoga, in July, and made her doting papa believe she had expended the sum in dress and charity. The young woman in question is very pretty, not more than twenty and no one regarding her pale, spirituelle face, her soft blue eyes, and gentle and reserved manner, would imagine she had fallen a victim to one of the most dangerous of vices. N.Y. Correspondence Cincinnati Gazette. Dayton [OH] Daily Empire 13 October 1865: p. 1

Amateur Lady Gamblers.

The ladies of Arensburg, Germany, are passionate card-players. Since they are not allowed to play at local clubs, they make up games at their friends’ houses and gamble all day through. As soon as the cash funds run short, they take to various articles, mostly toilet belongings. Thus, one lost to another her corset, one lost a bonnet, a third some lace and perfumes, and they go even as far as losing their prayer books. The San Angelo [TX] Press 18 June 1902: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil suggests that the ladies of Ahrensburg may have invented that popular American entertainment known as “strip poker.”

For a previous post on a very unusual wager over a young actress’s clothing, see Her Jewels Weighed More Than Her Clothes.

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.

 

Advertisements

The Model Millionaire

The Model Millionaire

Unless one is wealthy, there is no good in being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed. The poor should be practical and prosaic. It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. These are the great truths of modern life which Hughie Erskine never realized. Poor Hughie! Intellectually, we must admit, he was not of much importance. He never said either a brilliant or an ill-natured thing in his life. But, then, he was wonderfully good-looking, with his crisp, brown hair, his clear-cut profile, and his gray eyes. He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money. His father had bequeathed him his cavalry sword, and a “History of the Peninsular War,” in fifteen volumes. Hughie hung the first over his looking-glass, put the second on a shelf between Ruff’s Guide [to the Turf] and Bailey‘s Magazine [of Sports and Pastimes], and lived on two hundred a year that an old aunt allowed him.

He had tried everything.  He had gone on the Stock Exchange for six months; but what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears? He had been a tea merchant for a little longer, but had soon tired of pekoe and souchong. Then he had tried selling dry sherry. That did not answer. Ultimately he became nothing, a delightful, ineffectual young man with a perfect profile and no profession.

To make matters worse, he was in love. The girl he loved was Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired colonel, who had lost his temper and his digestion in India, and had never found either of them again. Laura adored him, and he was ready to kiss her shoestrings. They were the handsomest couple in London, and had not a pennypiece between them. The colonel was very fond of Hughie, but not hear of any engagement.

“Come to me, my boy, when you have got ten thousand pounds of your own, and we will see about it,” he used to say; and Hughie looked very glum on those days, and had to go to Laura for consolation.

One morning, as he was on his way to Holland Park, where the Mertons lived, he dropped in to see a great friend of his, Alan Trevor. Trevor was a painter. Indeed, few people escape that nowadays. But he was also an artist, and artists are rather rare. Personally, he was a strange, rough fellow, with a freckled face and red hair.

However, when he took up the brush he was a real master, and his pictures were eagerly sought after. He had been very much attracted by Hughie at first, it must be acknowledged, entirely on account of his good looks. “The only people a painter should know,” he used to say, “ are people who are bête and beautiful, people who are an artistic pleasure to look at and an intellectual repose to talk to. Dandies and darlings rule the world.” However, after he got to know Hughie better, he liked him quite as much for his bright, buoyant spirits and his generous, reckless nature, and had given him the permanent entrée to his studio.

When Hughie came in he found Trevor putting the finishing touches to a wonderful life-size picture of a beggar-man. The beggar himself was standing on a raised platform in a corner of the studio. He was a wizened old man, with a face like wrinkled parchment, and a most piteous expression. Over his shoulders was flung a coarse brown cloak, all tears and tatters; his thick boots were patched and cobbled, and with one hand he leant on a rough stick, while with the other he held out his battered hat for alms.

“ What an amazing model!” whispered Hughie, as he shook hands with his friend.

“An amazing model?” shouted Trevor, at the top of his voice ; “I should think so ! Such beggars as he are not to be met with every day. A trouvaille, mon cher; a living Velasquez! My stars! what an etching Rembrandt would have made of him !”

“ Poor old chap!” said Hughie; “how miserable he looks! But I suppose, to you painters, his face is his fortune.”

“Certainly,” replied Trevor; “you don’t want a beggar to look happy, do you?”

“How much does a model get for sitting?” asked Hughie, as he found himself a comfortable seat on the divan.

“A shilling an hour.”

“And how much do you get for your picture, Alan?”

“Oh, for this I get a thousand.”

“Pounds?”

“Guineas. Painters, poets and physicians always get guineas.”

“Well, I think the model should have a percentage,” said Hughie, laughing; “they work quite as hard as you do.”

“Nonsense, nonsense! Why, look at the trouble of laying on the paint alone, and standing all day long at one’s easel! It’s all very well, Hughie, for you to talk, but I assure you that there are moments when Art approaches the dignity of manual labor. But you mustn‘t chatter; I’m very busy. Smoke a cigarette and keep quiet.”

After some time the servant came in, and told Trevor that the framemaker wanted to speak to him.

“Don‘t run away, Hughie,” he said, as he went out, “I will be back in a moment.”

The old beggar-man took advantage of Trevor‘s absence to rest for a moment on a wooden bench that was behind him. He looked so forlorn and wretched that Hughie could not help pitying him, and he felt in his pockets to see what money he had. All he could find was a sovereign and some coppers.

“Poor old fellow,” he thought to’ himself, “he wants it more than I do, but it means no hansoms for a fortnight;” and he walked across the studio and slipped the sovereign into the beggar’s hand.

The old man started, and a faint smile flitted across his withered lips.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, in a foreign accent.

Then Trevor arrived, and Hughie took his leave, blushing a little at what he had done. He spent the day with Laura, got a charming scolding for his extravagance, and had to walk home.

That night he strolled into the Palette Club about eleven o’clock, and found Trevor sitting by himself in the smoking-room drinking hock and seltzer.

“Well, Alan, did you get the picture finished all right?’ he said, as he lit his cigarette.

“Finished and framed, my boy!” answered Trevor; “and, by-the-by, you have made a conquest. That old model you saw is quite devoted to you. I had to tell him all about you—who you are, where you live, what your income is, what prospects you have——”

“My dear Alan,” cried Hughie, “I shall probably find him waiting for me when I go home. But of course you are only joking. Poor old beggar! I wish I could do something for him. I think it is dreadful that any one should be so miserable. I have got heaps of old clothes at home-do you think he would care for any of them ? Why, his rags were falling to bits.”

“But he looks splendid in them,” said Trevor. “I wouldn’t paint him in a frock coat for anything. What you call rags I call romance. What seems poverty to you is picturesqueness to me. However, I’ll tell him of your offer.”

“Alan,” said Hughie, seriously, “you painters are a heartless lot.”

“An artist’s heart is his head,” replied Trevor ; “ and, besides, our business is to realize the world as we see it, I not to reform it as we know it. A chacun son metier. And now tell me how Laura is. The old model was quite interested in her.”

“You don’t mean to say you talked to him about her?” said Hughie.

“Certainly I did. He knows all about the relentless colonel, the lovely damsel and the ten thousand pounds.”

“You told that old beggar all my private affairs?” cried Hughie, looking very red and angry.

“My dear boy,” said Trevor, smiling, “that old beggar, as you call him, is one of the richest men in Europe. He could buy all London to-morrow without overdrawing his account. He has a house in every capital, dines off gold plate, and can prevent Russia going to war when he chooses.”

“What on earth do you mean?” exclaimed Hughie.

“What I say,” said Trevor. “The old man you saw to-day was Baron Hausberg. He is a great friend of mine, buys all my pictures and that sort of thing, and gave me a commission a month ago to paint him as a beggar. Que voulez-vous? La fantaisie d’un millionnaire.’ And I must say he made a magnificent figure in his rags, or, perhaps, I should say in my rags; they are an old suit I got in Spain.”

“Baron Hausberg!” cried Hughie. “Good heavens! I gave him a sovereign!” and he sank into an armchair the picture of dismay.

“Gave him a sovereign !” shouted Trevor, and he burst into a roar of laughter. “My dear boy, you’ll never see it again. Son affaire c’est l’argent des autress.

“I think you might have told me, Alan,” said Hughie, sulkily, “and not let me make such a fool of myself.”

“Well, to begin with, Hughie,” said Trevor, “it never entered my mind that you went about distributing alms in that reckless way. I can understand your kissing a pretty model, but your giving a sovereign to an ugly one —by Jove, no! Besides, the fact is that I really was not at home to-day to any one and when you came in I did not know whether Hausberg would like his name mentioned. You know he wasn’t in full dress.”

“What a duffer he must think me!” said Hughie.

“Not at all. He was in the highest spirits after you left; kept chuckling to himself and rubbing his old wrinkled hands together. I couldn’t make out why he was so interested to know all about you; but I see it all now. He’ll invest your sovereign for you, Hughie, pay you the interest every six months, and have a capital story to tell after dinner.”

“I am an unlucky devil,” growled Hughie. “The best thing I can do is to go to bed; and, my dear Alan, you mustn’t tell any one. I shouldn’t dare show my face in the row.”

“Nonsense! It reflects the highest credit on your philanthropic spirit, Hughie and—don’t run away. Have another cigarette, and you can talk about Laura as much as you like.”

However, Hughie wouldn’t stop, but walked home, feeling very unhappy, and leaving Alan Trevor in fits of laughter.

The next morning, as he was at breakfast, the servant brought him up a card, on which was written, “Monsieur Gustave Naudin, de la part de M. le Baron Hausberg.” “I suppose he has come for an apology,” said Hughie to himself; and he told the servant to show the visitor up.

An old gentleman with gold spectacles and gray hair came into the room, and said, in a slight French accent, “Have I the honor of addressing Monsieur Hugh Erskine?”

Hughie bowed.

“I have come from Baron Hausberg,” he continued. “The Baron-——”

“I beg, sir, that you will offer him my sincere apologies,” said Hughie.

“The Baron,” said the old gentleman, with a smile, “has commissioned me to bring you this letter;” and he handed Hughie a sealed envelope.

On the outside was written, “A wedding-present to Hugh Erskine and Laura Merton, from an old beggar,” and inside was a check for ten thousand pounds.

When they were married Alan Trevor was the best man, and the Baron made a speech at the wedding breakfast.

“Millionaire models,” said Alan, “are rare enough; but, by Jove, model millionaires are rarer still!”

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories, Oscar Wilde, 1891

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, we all love a happy ending, particularly when it involves immense cheques bestowed upon the Deserving, who find themselves not only the Handsomest, but the Luckiest Couple in London. The Baron was perceptive enough not to offer young Hughie a job, recognising in him the spirit of Bertie Wooster and the Drones Club.

Mrs Daffodil first read this slight fiction in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly for 1887, where it was >ahem< published anonymously, not credited to Mr Wilde. Such “borrowings” seem to have been a fact of life in the management of a nineteenth-century newspaper or journal.

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 Scotsman and the Lady of Doubtful Propriety: 1870

Francis Leon,  Harvard Theatre Collection

“THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD.”

A TRUE TALE.

Some months ago, in Melbourne, when the noonday sun was at its height and the main thoroughfare of the city, Bourke street, thronged with its usual crowd of sight-seers, business people, and members of tho “upper ten doing the block,” no little sensation was created by the appearance of a more than ordinarily showily dressed lady, chignoned and panniered in the latest fashion, who threaded the busy and wondering crowd and disappeared through the portals of a well-known photographer’s doorway not a hundred miles from the gateway of the Theatre Royal. Arrived in the studio the lady’s portrait was taken, apparently satisfactorily, for she retired to an inner room, which was furnished among other surroundings, with articles of the toilet, provided for the convenience of “gentlemen only” awaiting a sitting. Seated in the further corner of the room, patiently biding his time, was an elderly gentleman of Scottish extraction, prim, sedate, adamantine of feature and sparing of speech. The lady of fashion, with but a passing glance at the staid old person, took her position opposite the cheval glass, and after an admiring gaze at the face reflected therein, proceeded to divest herself of the head appendage, yclept in the 19th century a bonnet, “Eh, but its a braw lassie, and a vera fine head o’ hair too!” said the Scot, surveying the flaxen ringlets and tail which reached far below the waist of the lady in question.

“‘Tis a braw lassie,” he repeated to himself with a chuckle, evidently enjoying his contemplation of the fair belle before him. But his delight gave way to surprise as he perceived the lady deliberately proceed to unbutton her dress, and shaking its folds from her, step forth from them to the centre of the room. The old gentleman was bewildered and highly distressed. He was a decent modest man, with a wife and “bairns at hame,” and here he found himself in the presence of a lady evidently of doubtful propriety. Coughing, sneezing, and loudly blowing his nose for the purpose of calling the attention of the damsel to the fact of his being in the room, only convinced him that she was already aware of that fact, for casting a slight glance over her left shoulder, she threw him a look which he at once interpreted as seductive and bold to a degree. Still further was the old man astonished when the fair creature proceeded to unhook and cast aside her (it must he said) stays, and audible mutterings arose from him. “Eh, but it’s right down immodest, it should na be allowed in a Christian country; it’s dreadfu immoral and I’ll no stay to see it.” Thus determined, the indignant and terrified Scot rose with the intention of leaving the room, but easier said than done, the flaxen-haired beauty had possession, and turning full round, she, to the intense horror of the immaculate man, proceeded to disencumber her legs of her—but this was too much: human nature in the shape of a virtuous and indignant Scotchman could stand no more, so with a smothered “Heaven a mercy me” and a frantic bound, he cleared the room and fled. But not so easy to escape; for the fair unknown, with lengthy agile strides, pursued, and was beside him ere he reached the outer door; one more gaze, and the now terrified man fairly shrieked and darted forth unto open air; whilst peal upon peal of laughter followed from the operator, his assistant, and the fair and frail one also, who turned out to be no other than Mr George Darrell, in his burlesque costume of the “Young Girl of the Day,”

Evening Star 9 August 1870: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Darrell was a well-regarded Australian actor, singer, and playwright. He was known as “Gentleman George,” and usually played male roles. However, in 1869 he took the part of “Marina” in the burlesque HMS Galatea and sang “The Young Girl of the Day”, and one of his own songs, “Doing the Block,” to much acclaim.

The illustration at the head of the post is of Francis Leon, one of the most acclaimed of 19th-century female impersonators.

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 Voice in the Fog: 1888

My Irish Friend.

Many of the apparitions that are reported are of phantasms that appear in fulfilment of a promise made to survivors during life. Of this class I [W.T. Stead, journalist and Spiritualist] came, in the course of my census, upon a very remarkable case.

Among my acquaintances is an Irish lady, the widow of an official who held a responsible position in the Dublin Post Office. She is Celt to her backbone, with all the qualities of her race. After her husband’s death she contracted an unfortunate marriage—which really was no marriage legally— with an engineer of remarkable character and no small native talent. He, however, did not add to his other qualities the saving virtues of principle and honesty. Owing to these defects my friend woke up one fine morning to find that her new husband had been married previously, and that his wife was still living.

On making this discovery she left her partner and came to London, where I met her. She is a woman of very strong character, and of some considerable although irregular ability. She has many superstitions, and her dreams were something wonderful to hear. After she had been in London two years her bigamist lover found out where she was, and leaving his home in Italy followed her to London. There was no doubt as to the sincerity of his attachment to the woman whom he had betrayed, and the scenes which took place between them were painful, and at one time threatened to have a very tragic ending.

Fortunately, although she never ceased to cherish a very passionate affection for her lover, she refused to resume her old relations with him, and after many stormy scenes he departed for Italy, loading her with reproaches. Some months after his departure she came to me and told me she was afraid something had happened to him. She had heard him calling her outside her window, and shortly afterwards saw him quite distinctly in her room. She was much upset about it.

I pooh-poohed the story, and put it down to a hallucination caused by the revival of the stormy and painful scenes of the parting. Shortly afterwards she received news from Italy that her late husband, if we may so call him, had died about the same time she heard him calling her by her name under her window in East London.

I only learnt when the above was passing through the press that the unfortunate man, whose phantasm appeared to my friend, died suddenly either by his own hand or by accident. On leaving London he drank on steadily, hardly being sober for a single day. After a prolonged period of intoxication he went out of the house, and was subsequently found dead, either having thrown himself or fallen over a considerable height, at the foot of which he was found dead.

I asked Mrs. G. F.—to write out for me, as carefully as she could remember it after the lapse of two years, exactly what she saw and heard. Here is her report:—

The Promise.

In the end of the summer of 1886 it happened one morning that Irwin and myself were awake at 5.30 a.m., and as we could not go to sleep again, we lay talking of our future possible happiness and present troubles. We were at the time sleeping in Room No. 16, Hotel Washington, overlooking the Bay of Naples. We agreed that nothing would force us to separate in this life—neither poverty nor persecution from his family, nor any other thing on earth. (I believed myself his wife then.) We each agreed that we would die together rather than separate. We spoke a great deal that morning about our views of what was or was not likely to be the condition of souls after death, and whether it was likely that spirits could communicate, by any transmitted feeling or apparition, the fact that they had died to their surviving friends. Finally, we made a solemn promise to each other that whichever of us died first would appear to the other after death if such was permitted.

“Well, after the fact of his being already married came to light, we parted. I left him, and he followed me to London on December ’87. During his stay here I once asked if he had ever thought about our agreement as to as to who should die first appealing to the other; and he said, ‘Oh, Georgie, you do not need to remind me; my spirit is a part of yours, and can never be separated nor dissolved even through all eternity; no, not even though you treat me as you do; even though you became the wife of another you cannot divorce our spirits. And whenever my spirit leaves this earth I will appear to you.’

“Well, in the beginning of August ’88 he left England for Naples; his last words were that I would never again see him; I should see him, but not alive, for he would put an end to his life and heart-break. After that he never wrote to me; still I did not altogether think he would kill himself. On the 22nd or 23rd of the following November (’88), I posted a note to him at Sarno post office. No reply came, and I thought it might be he was not at Sarno, or was sick, or travelling, and so did not call at the post office, and so never dreamed of his being dead.”

Its Fulfilment.

Time went on and nothing occurred till November 27th (or I should say 28th, for it occurred at 12.30, or between 12 and 1 a.m., I forget the exact time). It was just at that period when I used to sit up night after night till 1, 2, and 3 o’clock a.m. at home doing the class books; on this occasion I was sitting close to the fire, with the table beside me, sorting cuttings. Looking up from the papers my eyes chanced to fall on the door, which stood about a foot and a half open, and right inside, but not so far in but that his clothes touched the edge of the door, stood Irwin; he was dressed as I last had seen him—overcoat, tall hat, and his arms were down by his sides in his natural, usual way. He stood in his exact own perfectly upright attitude, and held his head and face up in a sort of dignified way, which he used generally to adopt on all occasions of importance or during a controversy or dispute. He had his face turned towards me, and looked at me with a terribly meaning expression, very pale, and as if pained by being deprived of the power of speech or of local movements.

“I got a shocking fright, for I thought at first sight he was living, and had got in unknown to me to surprise me. I felt my heart jump with fright, and I said, ‘Oh !’ but before I had hardly finished the exclamation, his figure was fading way, and, horrible to relate, it faded in such a way that the flesh seemed to fade out of the clothes, or at all events the hat and coat were longer visible than the whole man. I turned white and cold, felt an awful dread; I was too much afraid to go near enough to shut the door when he had vanished. I was so shaken and confused, and half paralysed, I felt I could not even cry out; it was as if something had a grip on my spirit, I feared to stir, and sat up all night, fearing to take my eyes off the door, not daring to go and shut it. Later on I got an umbrella and walked tremblingly, and pushed the door close without fastening it. I feared to touch it with my hand. I felt such a relief when I saw daylight and heard the landlady moving about.

“Now, though I was frightened, I did not for a moment think he was dead, nor did it enter my mind then about our agreement. I tried to shake off the nervousness, and quite thought it must be something in my sight caused by imagination, and nerves being overdone by sitting up so late for so many nights together. Still, I thought it dreadfully strange, it was so real.”

A Ghost’s Cough.

Well, about three days passed, and then I was startled by hearing his voice outside my window, as plain as a voice could be, calling,’Georgie! Are you there, Georgie?’ I felt certain it was really him come back to England. I could not mistake his voice. I felt quite flurried, and ran out to the hall door, but no one in sight. I went back in, and felt rather upset and disappointed, for I would have been glad if he had come back again, and began to wish he really would turn up. I then thought to myself, ‘Well, that was so queer. Oh, it must be Irwin, and perhaps he is just hiding in some hall door to see if I will go out and let him in, or what I will do. So out I went again. This time I put my hat on, and ran along and peeped into hall doors where he might be hiding, but with no result. Later on that night I could have sworn I heard him cough twice right at the window, as if he did it to attract attention. Out I went again. No result.

“Well, to make a long story short, from that night till about nine weeks after that voice called to me, and coughed, and coughed, sometimes every night for a week, then three nights a week, then miss a night and call on two nights, miss three or four days, and keep calling me the whole night long, on and off, up till 12 midnight or later. One time it would be, ‘Georgie! It’s me! Ah, Georgie!’ Or, ‘Georgie, are you in? Will you speak to Irwin?’ Then a long pause, and at the end of, say, ten minutes, a most strange, unearthly sigh, or a cough—a perfectly intentional, forced cough, other times nothing but, ‘Ah, Georgie!’ On one night there was a dreadful fog. He called me so plain, I got up and said, ‘Oh, really! that man must be here; he must be lodging somewhere near, as sure as life; if he is not outside I must be going mad in my mind or imagination.’ I went and stood outside the hall door steps in the thick black fog. No lights could be seen that night. I called out, ‘Irwin ! Irwin! here, come on. I know you’re there, trying to humbug me, I saw you in town; come on in, and don’t be making a fool of yourself.’

“Well, I declare to you, a voice that seemed within three yards of me, replied out of the fog, ‘It’s only Irwin,’ and a most awful, and great, and supernatural sort of sigh faded away in the distance. I went in, feeling quite unhinged and nervous, and could not sleep. After that night it was chiefly sighs and coughing, and it was kept up until one day, at the end of about nine weeks, my letter was returned marked, ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ together with a letter from the Consul to say he had died on November 28th, 1888, the day on which he appeared to me.”

The Question of Dates.

On inquiring as to dates and verification Mrs. F replied :—

“I don’t know the hour of his death, but if you write to Mr. Turner, Vice Consul, Naples, he can get it for you. He appeared to me at the hour I say; of course there is a difference of time between here and Naples. The strange part is that once I was informed of his death by human means (the letter), his spirit seemed to be satisfied, for no voice ever came again after; it was as if he wanted to inform and make me know he had died, and as if he knew I had not been informed by human agency.

“I was so struck with the apparition of November 28th, that I made a note of the date at the time so as to tell him of it when next I wrote. My letter reached Sarno a day or two after he died. There is no possible doubt about the voice being his, for he had a peculiar and uncommon voice, one such as I never heard any exactly like, or like at all in any other person. And in life he used to call me through the window as he passed, so I would know who it was knocked at the door, and open it. When he said, ‘Ah!’ after death, it was so awfully sad and long drawn out, and as if expressing that now all was over and our separation and his being dead was all so very, very pitiful and unutterable; the sigh was so real, so almost solid, and discernible and unmistakable, till at the end it seemed to have such a supernatural, strange, awful dying away sound, a sort of fading, retreating into distance sound, that gave the impression that it was not quite all spirit, but that the spirit had some sort of visible and half-material being or condition. This was especially so the night of the fog, when the voice seemed nearer to me as I stood there, and as if it was able to come or stay nearer to me because there was a fog to hide its materialism. On each of the other occasions it seemed to keep a good deal further off than on that night, and always sounded as if at an elevation of about 10ft. or 11ft., from the ground, except the night of the fog, when it came down on a level with me as well as nearer.

Georgina F___.

Real Ghost Stories, W.T. Stead, 1921: p. 222-30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While appreciating this narrative as a splendid and chilling ghost story, Mrs Daffodil cannot help but wonder if a man so singularly lacking in candour and honesty and so enraged by the lady’s rejection of him might not have asked an Italian friend to write ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ on her letter and forged an epistle from the Consul on pilfered letterhead.  The very material “Signor O’Neill,” of course, was in England all along, calling, coughing, and sighing piteously under the lady’s window, aided in his gaslighting efforts by the kindly English fog.  If it did not happen that way, Mrs Daffodil suggests that her version would make an admirable plot for a thrilling motion picture.

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

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

 

An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875

Colonial Revival costumes in a portrayal of George and Martha Washington’s wedding, 1912

A Western Deceiver.

Nora Perry writes of the centennial celebration at Lexington and Concord in a letter to the Chicago Tribune. Of the Concord ball she writes: And oh! What a pretty sight, as everybody unanimously voted. Such brocades, smelling of cedar and camphor-wood, as would now and then appear, plaited and puckered in the very stitches of the old-time—not a fold altered nor a ruffle changed. But there were not many of them. Those fair ones who rejoiced in these veritable old heirlooms walked about with their pretty chins aloft, lifted up above common modern clay by the sublime consciousness of a fine Mayflower ancestry, which these credentials would place beyond dispute.

But a woman’s wit will sometimes get the better of the stoutest credentials; and so a saucy, mischievous little damsel managed to array herself in a brand new gown, which she so plaited and puckered and betrimmed with coffee-dipped lace and scented with camphor-gum, in the very pink and pattern of the Continental dames, that all the little Mayflowers lowered their chins on her approach and whispered audibly, in her delighted hearing, “That is the real thing! Wonder who she is?”

And the little deceiver, with “a smile that was child-like and bland,” went on her way rejoicing, happy as all human nature must be at such a signal triumph. Boston is much too well-bred to ask outright questions of identity, so my fair one kept her secret with these fine Mayflowers; but after the ball she is perfectly willing to reveal her cunning guilt, and to let a faithful correspondent say that it was one of Chicago’s nearest neighbors who thus proved herself more than a match for Boston.

Daily Graphic [New York, NY] 7 May 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this, the anniversary of the fateful day that the American Revolution began: the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, it seems appropriate to record the sartorial conflict between the camphor-scented blue-bloods of the East and the parvenu of the West in her coffee-dipped lace.

1876 saw a revival of “Colonial” American costume, from antique lace ruffles at ladies’ elbows to daintily embroidered shoes to sack-back gowns of flowered brocades. Mrs Daffodil regrets to say that some enthusiasts actually remade historic 18th-century garments into fancy-dress costumes or pageant attire for “Lady Washington teas.”

Eighteenth-century costumes were proudly displayed as an emblem of pedigree by Americans who otherwise scorned England’s class system as un-democratic.  An aged American lady of impeccable lineage was distressed to part with her historic quilted petticoat. And this improbably aged relic was described at a celebration of The Geauga County Historical Society, 30 September, 1875:

In the exhibit, first, I bring to your attention, the singular and costly specimens of work presented by Mrs. Polly Norton, of Troy, Ohio, in 1873, a widow lady, seventy-seven years of age, and an early settler in that township. Her husband was a farmer, and died some years ago. First, the waist of a dress; second, a portion of the skirt to another dress; third, a window curtain—all made of linen, the waist being striped with blue, the other two pieces white, all worked in flowers, made of woolen floss. In this floss may be found, at this date, twenty-three different shades of color, and upon the waist are forty-seven different kinds of buds and flowers. Upon the skirt, which is supposed to be about one width, there are one hundred and sixty kinds, and it is estimated that upon the whole skirt there must have been no less than eight hundred buds and flowers worked. Upon the curtain there are one hundred and thirteen kinds, no two of which are considered to be alike. The flax was carded, spun and wove for the fabric of these relics, and the wool was carded and spun for the floss, and it was colored into all the various shades, and then worked into the almost countless flowers upon the fabric. Then the dresses were made, and the curtains stitched and worked, all this having been done by one and the same person, the great-great-grandmother of Mrs. Polly Norton, thus running back, on the line of descent, four generations, or more than six generations of the average life of men. These garments, so skillfully made, must have cost more than twelve months of work to perfect them, including the full set of curtains. The dresses look like the completion of a “sensation” toilet upon the charming person of this great-great-grandmother, as she moved in society more that two hundred years ago, in the colony of Massachusetts. Indeed, they take us back to the threshold of the days of the Pilgrims, and it would almost seem that this dress had brushed against the sword at the side of Miles Standish, or touched the gallant arm of a Governor Carver or Bradford. It was made in the old Bay State, far back beyond the days of cotton mills and whizzing spindles. Pioneer and General History of Geauga County [Ohio] 1880: pp. 42-3

Mrs Daffodil fears that this little story perpetuates the myth of pioneer ladies who made clothing entirely from “scratch,” although, both before and during the Revolution, there was an active trade smuggling the English textiles, laces, and luxury goods the Colonies desired.

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 Wickedest Easter Hat: 1902

1902 Easter Hat

New York, Feb. 23.

Dearest Diana:

I did the wickedest thing to-day—intentionally! Like all other girls I know I did so want a new hat. And like a great many I know, I did not have the money with which to buy it. So what did I do?

I went down into my bandbox.

Later, with my last summer’s hat in my mind, I sallied forth to the nearest maline counter and here I bought four yards of exquisite stuff, all shirred into darling little puffs. With this in one hand I stepped over to the applique counter and bought some silvered dots. I then purchased nine pink roses of natural size and a perfect bush of silvered rose leaves.

Going home I covered my last summer’s hat with the maline, placed the roses on the top of it, at the back, letting the leaves trail down in front over the brim, and, finally, I set a few roses under the side. At the back I arranged some leaves to fall upon the hair.

Then, and here comes the wickedness, I ripped the French label out of my last winter’s opera hat and sewed it into my new Easter hat! And, now, to all intents and purposes, I have an imported creation, rich in everything except the cost.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 2 March 1902: p. 44

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was the holiday dream of every well-dressed lady to have a new Easter hat. Even the dead were insistent about their millinery…. And at this critical time of the fashionable year, ladies were faced with conflicting messages in the papers: “Buy one of our beautiful Paris hats in the latest mode!” Or “Be thrifty! Re-trim last year’s hat so it looks like new!”

It seems a pity that the young lady ripped the label out of her genuine Paris opera hat. There were other options, such as purchasing faux-Parisian labels as mentioned in this advertisement for The Wanamaker Store:

A windowful of children’s hats was shown recently in a New York store with the label of Caroline Reboux on every one. Caroline Reboux, who never made a child’s hat in her life!

In these days, when Paris labels can be purchased so cheaply and affixed to spurious models, there is a comfortable feeling in buying where you are sure that Paris hats are Paris hats. The Morning News [Wilmington DE] 23 September 1904: p. 5

And Mrs Daffodil is shocked to find that American manufacturers were labelling their goods as imported, to increase their desirability.

NO MORE FOREIGN LABELS

LET “MADE IN AMERICA” BE THE WORLD’S STANDARD

A New York society has taken up a new idea which ought to be pressed. Briefly stated it is an attempt to make manufacturers and dealers in this country label their American goods with domestic labels and cease the use of the foreign label on goods made here.

There are plenty good reasons why this campaign should have the indorsement of every sensible business man and every wise consumer. In the first place the question of honesty is involved. The public is swindled by hats bearing a Paris label, when they are made here. In the second place, it is the best policy. We can make most articles in this country as well as they can be made abroad, some of them better. In the third place, it is patriotic. It should be the pride of Americans to use American names and to place upon their products the legend “Made in America,” in competition with the “Made in Germany” label, so familiar in trade. The Allentown [PA] Leader 16 October 1900: p. 1

Easter Hat 1902

 

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

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

 

A Haunted Apple Tree: 1800s

A HAUNTED APPLE TREE

Murder Committed Under It and Now Its Fruit is Streaked Blood Red.

“It is probable that the town of Douglass, Mass., alone belongs the reputation of having a haunted apple tree,” writes Samuel S. Kingdon, in the Ladies’ Home Journal. “The tradition of the town is that a foul murder was committed in the orchard many years ago, and that since then it has been haunted by the spirit of the victim. As the story goes, a peddler, whose custom it was to sell goods from house to house from a pack, laid down to rest at midday under a tree in the orchard, and before the day was ended he was found with a cruel gash in the neck, from which his life blood had ebbed away. Suspicion rested on the owner of the orchard and he was said to have been constantly followed by the spirit of the victim. In an attempt to escape from its dreaded presence he moved away. Then the apparition became a terror to all who had occasion to pass over the road at night. So potent was its influence—standing, as it had a habit of doing, under the apple tree, with one hand at its throat and the other extended as though seeking aid, and uttering shrill cries that could be heard half a mile away—that the location of the highway was changed, and it is now a long distance from the orchard. The old trees still bear fruit, and the apples from the one beneath which the peddler was killed are said to be streaked with red, resembling blood, the streaks extending from skin to core.”

Our Horticultural Visitor: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the Individual Interests of the Practical Horticulturists Everywhere, August 1900

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, good gracious. We all look forward to the spring blossoming of the apple trees, but one does not expect to find one’s pippin Exhibit A in a murder trial.

It is curious how often peddlers are murdered and then haunt the spot of their demise. Given their peripatetic nature, one would expect them to gather up their spectral packs and continue their rounds, but no—they must needs annoy the people in the neighbourhood of their death, such as the Fox Sisters, who called up the rapping spirit of a murdered peddler buried in the cellar. The sisters launched Spiritualism on the strength of this phantom peddler. Some say (and the sisters both confessed and recanted) that they made the rappings by popping their toe joints. Still, when the cellar of the Fox homestead was dug out many years later, a skeleton and a tin peddler’s box were found concealed in the walls…

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.