Category Archives: Crime

A Skirt for Nothing: 1903

pink satin post2

HOW A CLEVER WOMAN GOT A SKIRT FOR NOTHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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A Grateful Little Owl: 1880s


the little owl 1508

The Little Owl, Albrecht Durer, 1508, Albertina, Vienna

A Grateful Little Owl.

“The dining-room opened on a little courtyard under the Trinta dei Monti steps, transformed by me into a sort of infirmary and convalescent home for my various animals. Among them was a darling little owl, a direct descendant from the owl of Minerva. I had found it in the Campagna with a broken wing half dead of hunger. Its wing healed, I had twice taken it back where I had found it and set it free, twice it had flown back to my carriage to perch on my shoulder, it would not hear of our parting. Since then the little owl was sitting on her perch in the corner of the dining-room, looking lovingly at me with her golden eyes. She had even given up sleeping in the day in order not to lose sight of me. When I used to stroke her soft little person she would half close her eyes with delight and nibble gently at my lips with her tiny, sharp beak, as near to a kiss as an owl can get, Among the patients admitted to the dining-room was a very excitable young Russian lady, who was giving me lots of trouble. Would you believe it, this lady got so jealous of the owl, she used to glare at the little bird so savagely, that I had to give strict orders to Anna never to leave these two alone in the room. One day on coming in for luncheon, Anna told me that the Russian lady had just called with a dead mouse wrapped in paper. She had caught it in her room, she felt sure the owl would like it for breakfast. The owl knew better after having bitten off its head, owl fashion, she refused to eat it. I took it to the English chemist; it contained enough arsenic to kill a cat.”

The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe, 1929: pp. 431-432

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, one of the days of the “International Festival of Owls.” Mrs Daffodil is fond of the night-flying creatures despite (or perhaps because of) their folkloric reputation as an Omen of Death. And, like Mrs Daffodil, they are so helpful in keeping down vermin.

Axel Munthe, while he was an admirable doctor, is perhaps best known for his skill as a raconteur and for being a passionate advocate of animal rights. His passions also ran to the ladies; he seems to have fascinated a largish swath of the English aristocracy as well as at least one of the crowned heads of Europe. Plus a Russian lady and a little owl.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a pair of pet owls. You will find the first section of the two-part story here.

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

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

The Baroness’ Jewel Box: 1870s

 

jewel casket hermann bohm

THE BARONESS’ JEWEL BOX

A Story from the German

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The jewels are gone! Gone! Gone!’

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

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

“What can be done?” asked the Baroness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. Guess again!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

postman cupid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mr. Paul Benson,

Care Messrs. Harding and Cole.

New York City.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” said the man thus addressed.

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

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

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

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

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

Godey’s Lady’s Book: February 1889

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

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

 

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

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

A Rocky Mountain Divorce: 1875

A lawyer's secrets 1896 British Library

Image: British Library, 1896

A ROCKY MOUNTAIN WIFE

How She Went for a Divorce

A Trout Trapper Rightly Served.

She was fair, robust, and as fresh as a “morning glory.” She rushed in upon him while he was deeply immersed in the problematic rights of Landlord against Tenant. He is a very prominent political lawyer; she is a beautiful young child of nature from the Platte Canon.

She blushed, he bowed, she sashayed to the right and subsided into a convenient seat; he closed his calf-covered volume of Illinois reports, and arose with one hand under his coat tail and the other extended, ready for a fee.

“Good morning, madam.”

“Are you Mr. T__, the lawyer?”

“That is my name, madam. What can I do for you?”

“Well, sir, I’m the wife of old man N__, up the Platte. I married the old man two weeks ago last Friday and I don’t like it. I want a divorce. How much is it?” The excited young lady here pulled out an old tobacco pouch, round which a piece of buckskin string was coiled, and proceeded to untie it. The young “limb of the law,” whose eyes had been wandering in a wondering way over the strange apparition, stammeringly replied:

“Why, really, my dear missus—beg pardon, but I forgot your name…”

“I ain’t missus no longer. I am Miss Bella Ann P__, of Littleton, and I want a divorce and am willing to pay for it.”

“Be patient, my dear Miss P__, and I will advise with you.”

“I don’t want no advice. I want a divorce against old man N__. He ain’t the sort of a man I thought he was. He ain’t rich and is stingier than a Texan cow, an’ he won’t leave me be. So I left him and went over to Bar Creek to Arthur Beneki’s mother. Arthur used to like me before I married old Jacob N., and now I want a divorce.”

The lawyer reasoned with the excited young lady and assured her that he would be only too happy to file her application for divorce, were there grounds for the application. The angry young daughter of the mountains listened unpatiently to the counsel of the young lawyer with the fury of a young lioness. At last she burst forth.

“Can’t get no divorce unless more cause, can’t I? Then I’ll just tell you, mister lawyer, I’ll get it any how. Arthur told me how to get it. I can send him to the Canon City penitentiary, and get a divorce on it. He traps trout, he does, and I can prove it on him, for I got him to make the trap and helped him do it, and I can prove it. Now,” said this brilliant young mountain amazon, “can’t I have a divorce and let the old man go to Canon City?”

The young lawyer thought she could, and at once wrote a letter to the old man advising him to let the young girl go.

Denver Democrat

The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 15 January 1875: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Trout trapping in Colorado was (and still is) both unsporting and illegal, and Arthur B., so solicitous for Bella Ann’s welfare, was quite correct to make that useful point.

Mrs Daffodil may be wrong, but she suggests that this may be the first mention in print of the practice known as “phishing.”

 

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

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

The Tot and the Wig: 1894

toupee before and after 1898 wig

A GRAVE MATTER

[Toronto Globe]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Virot Label: 1909

LABELS.

They Are Meretricious Things If They Misbrand an Article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mourning hat virot paris 1902

Mourning Hat, Virot, Paris 1902

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

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

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

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

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