Category Archives: Death

Wedding Tales from a Parish Clerk: 1830

[The narrator is a parish clerk of long-standing.]

It would not perhaps be unamusing to describe the vast changes in fashion which have taken place during the forty years that I have officiated as parish clerk; but though I am not an inattentive observer of dress, I have looked beyond the bridal robes, and my chief delight has been to scrutinize, I hope not impertinently, the conduct of the parties. I was much interested by the appearance of a lady who came in a splendid carriage, and attended by her friends to our church. She was richly and elegantly attired, in white lace and white satin; but no one who looked upon her countenance would ever cast a thought upon her dress again: her form was so thin and fragile, it seemed a mere shadow; her face was of lily paleness, and she wore a look of such deep and touching melancholy, that the heart melted at the piteous sight. There was, however, no violence in her grief; her eyes were tearless, and her manner was calm. I understood that she was a great heiress, who had lately changed her name for a large fortune, and that she was of age, and her own mistress; therefore there could be no constraint employed in inducing her to approach the altar. My ears are rather quick, and I could not help overhearing a part of that lady’s conversation with her bridesmaid, as they walked up and down the aisle together. “I was wrong to come here,” she said in a mournful tone, “wrong to allow any persuasion to tempt me to violate the faith I have plighted to the dead. Can an oath so sacred as that which I have sworn ever be cancelled? I scarcely dare glance my eyes towards those dark and distant corners, lest I should encounter his reproaching shade: it seems as though he must rise from the grave to upbraid me with my broken vow.”

The friend endeavoured to combat these fantastical notions, urged the duty she owed to the living, and the various excellencies of the man who now claimed her hand. “I know it all,” returned the fair mourner, “but still I cannot be persuaded that I have not acted lightly in accepting the addresses of another. My faith should be buried in the tomb with my heart and my affections. I fear me that he who now receives my vows will repent those solicitations which have induced me to break my steadfast resolution to keep that solemn promise which made me the bride of the dead.” Pulling down her veil, she passed her hand across, her eyes and sighed heavily. Not wishing to appear intrusive, I withdrew to the vestry-room; and shortly afterwards the bridegroom entered, accompanied by a gentleman whom he introduced as a stranger, saying that the relative who was to have attended him as the groom’s-man had been suddenly taken ill, and his place unexpectedly supplied by a friend newly arrived from the continent. He then inquired for the bride, entered the church, and led her to the altar. The clergyman opened his book– the ceremony commenced–and the lady, raising her drooping downcast head, fixed her eyes upon the stranger who stood by her intended husband’s side, and, uttering a wild scream, fell lifeless on the ground! We carried her immediately into the vestry, and, after many applications of hartshorn-and-water, she at length revived. In the interim an explanation had taken place; and I learned that in early life the bride had been engaged to the gentleman whose appearance had caused so much agitation, and whom she had long mourned as one numbered with the dead. The bridegroom did not urge the conclusion of the ceremony, and indeed the spirits of the lady had sustained too severe a shock for the possibility of going through it. Her tremor was so great that there was some difficulty in conveying her to the carriage, and the whole party retired looking very blank and dejected.

About three months afterwards, the same lady came to church again to be married, and never in my life did I see so astonishing a change as that which had taken place in her person and demeanour. She had grown quite plump; a sweet flush suffused her face, and her eyes, instead of being sunk and hollow, were now radiantly brilliant. She stepped forward with a cheerful air, and her voice sounded joyously. If my surprise were great at this alteration, it was still greater when I looked at the bridegroom, and saw that he was the very same gentleman who had come before. I thought, to be sure, that the lady who had grieved so deeply was now going to be united to her first love–but no such thing; and I was told afterwards, that the young heiress was so shocked by the inconstancy of the faithless friend–for it seems that he was not aware of the report of his death, and had long ceased to trouble himself about her–that her attachment was quite cured, and she had determined to bestow her hand and fortune upon the man who best deserved them.

There was something very remarkable about the next couple who came to be married. The lady was old, and the gentleman young –a mere boy of one-and-twenty, going to link himself with sixty-five. And such a vinegar, crabbed aspect as the bride possessed, was surely never exhibited at a wedding before. She seemed conscious that she was about to do a foolish thing, and was angry that the world thought so too; the bridegroom looked sheepish, and kept his eyes fixed on the ground, while he rapped his shoe with his cane, much to the discomfiture of the lady, who was compelled to put herself forward as he hung back, and to take his arm instead of waiting to be led to the altar. She could not conceal her mortification at the neglect she experienced, but she bridled, and tossed, and cast such bitter glances upon those who seemed disposed to smile, that all, the party stood awe-struck; and when the ceremony commenced, it was rather curious to hear the bridegroom whispering his part of the service, while the sharp shrill voice of the bride was actually startling in the solemn silence of a large and nearly empty church. The contrast between this antiquated belle’s yellow parchment visage and her snowy drapery was so striking that it increased her ugliness. I could think of nothing but an Egyptian mummy tricked out in white satin; and there were some sly looks passed amid the company when her restless fiery eyes were for a moment withdrawn, which seemed to say that some such idea was gliding through their heads. I suppose that she had a good deal of money; for by the poor lad’s manner I should think that nothing else would have induced so young a man to link himself with such a withered, and I may say pestilent hag.

I have seen, to be sure, many unwilling bride-grooms in my time. One, I remember, was evidently brought to church through fear of the brothers of his bride. They came, three of them, to escort the lady, as fierce as dragoon officers; and I believe one of them was in the army, for he clattered in with long spurs, and wore a brave pair of mustachios on his upper lip. The other two were stout athletic men, with an air of great resolution; while the bridegroom, who was strong enough to have coped with any one of them, but who in all probability disliked the chances of a bullet, looked dogged and sullen, taking especial care to show that the slight civility which he displayed was extorted from him by compulsion. I felt for the poor girl, for she met nothing but stern glances. The rising tears were checked by a frown from some one of her three brothers, who watched her narrowly; and there was little consolation to be drawn from the countenance of her intended husband: if ever he looked up there was a scowl upon his brow. She could only hope to exchange three tyrants for one, and there seemed too great a probability that the last would revenge upon her the treatment which he had received from her kinsmen. The ladies of the party shook their heads and were silent; and altogether I never saw more evil augury, although the termination was not so disastrous as that which I once witnessed upon a nearly similar occasion.

The lady, according to custom, came first. She had many of her friends about her; and the whole company showed more joy than is generally exhibited by the polite world, even on these happy events. There appeared to be a sort of congratulation amongst them, as though they had brought some fortunate circumstance to pass of which they had despaired; and amid them also was a tall bluff-looking brother, who seemed very well pleased with the success of his exertions. The bride, too, was in high spirits, and talked and smiled with her bride’s-maiden, arranged her dress at the glass, and carried her head with an air. So much were the party occupied with their own satisfied feelings, that they did not appear to observe the wild and haggard look of the bridegroom. I was shocked and alarmed at the pale and ghastly countenance which he presented; he was dressed in black, and though somebody took notice of this circumstance, it was only to joke about it. To me he seemed under the influence of brandy, or of laudanum, for he talked strangely, and laughed in such a manner that I shuddered at the sound. Nobody, however, appeared to regard it; and the wedding party entered the church as gaily as possible. During the ceremony the bridegroom’ s mood changed; as if struck by its solemnity, he became grave; a shade of inexpressible sadness passed over his wan, cold brow; and large drops of perspiration chased each other down his face. The nuptial rite ended; he stooped forward to kiss the bride, and just as the clergyman turned to leave the altar, drew a pistol from his bosom, and shot himself through the heart before an arm could be raised to prevent him! Down dropped the new married couple together, for this unhappy gentleman had entangled himself in his wife’s drapery, and dragged her with him as he fell. It was a horrid sight to see the dead and the living stretched in this fearful embrace upon the ground. Paralyzed by the report of the pistol, we stood aghast, and a minute elapsed before even I could stretch out my hand to extricate the bride from her shocking situation.  She had not fainted, and she could not weep; but her eyes were glazed, her features rigid, and her skin changed to a deep leaden hue. Her satin robe was in several places stained with blood; and surely never was any spectacle half so ghastly! Her friends repressed their tears and sobs; and, gathering round her, attempted to convey her away. She submitted as if unwittingly; but when her foot was on the threshold of the portal, she burst into long and continued shrieks. The whole church rang with the appalling cry; and it was not until she had completely exhausted herself by her screams, and had sunk into a sort of torpor, interrupted only by low moans, that she could be taken from the fatal spot. A coroner’s inquest sat in the vestry; and a sad tale of female levity, and of the weakness and libertinism of man, came out. But the subject is too painful to dwell upon, and I gladly turn to pleasanter recollections.

We had a very fine party shortly afterwards, who arrived in two or three carriages. The bride was young and fair, but she held her head down, and seemed greatly agitated. It was very easy to perceive that her heart had not been consulted in the choice of a husband. The father, a tall heavy-browed man, cast severe and threatening glances upon his trembling daughter; but the mother, though she seemed equally bent upon the match, interceded for a little cessation of hostilities; and, when the shrinking girl asked to be allowed to walk for a moment with one friend in the church, in order to collect her scattered thoughts, leave was granted. As she passed out of the door she dropped her white satin reticule, and it clanked heavily against the steps–a sound not at all like that of a smelling-bottle, and I must confess that my curiosity was strongly excited. I endeavoured to pick it up; but before I could bend my arm, which is a little stiff with the rheumatism, she had whipped it off the ground, and down the side aisle she went, leaning upon her companion’s arm. This aisle is long, and rather dark, terminating in a heavy oaken screen, which conceals the green baize door leading to the front portal. She passed behind this screen and was seen no more! I thought it very odd, but it was not my place to speak, so I returned into the vestry room, that I might not be questioned. Presently the bridegroom arrived and an ill-favoured gentleman he was with a fretful discontented countenance; and he began complaining of having been detained at home by some fool’s message. After he had grumbled for a few minutes the bride was called for–she was not to be found. The father stormed. “Is this a time,” he exclaimed, “to play such childish tricks! she has hidden herself in some corner;” and away we all hastened in search of her. The church doors were shut and locked; but as I passed up the gallery stairs, I observed that the bolts were withdrawn from that which led from the side aisle. I did not, however, feel myself compelled to publish this discovery, though I shrewdly suspected that the reticule which had rung so loudly as it fell contained a key; and so it proved. Some time was wasted in examining the organ-loft, and indeed every place in which a mouse might have been concealed. At last somebody hit upon the truth, and a little inquiry placed the elopement beyond a doubt. We learned that a carriage had been in waiting at a corner of the street opposite to the church; and that a gentleman had been seen loitering under the portico, who, the instant that two ladies popped out, conducted them to his equipage, which moved leisurely away, while we were engaged in our unsuccessful search. Upon strict examination, it came out that a pew-opener had furnished the means of obtaining a false key. It would be impossible to describe the rage and dismay of the disappointed parties: the mother went off in hysterics, the bridegroom looked sourer than ever, the father raved and swore bitterly; and the clergyman, after vainly attempting to pacify him, read him a lecture upon his intemperate conduct. All those who were not related to the parties slunk quietly away, perhaps to have their laugh out; and I take shame to myself to say that I could not help enjoying the scene, so thoroughly unamiable did those persons appear with whom the fair bride was unfortunately connected. I was anxious about the young couple, and heard with great pleasure that they got safe to Scotland.

Another young lady, forced by her parents to the altar, did not manage matters quite so cleverly. They had dressed her out, poor thing, in ball-room attire; her beautiful hair fell in ringlets from the crown of her head, down a swanlike throat as white as snow, and these glossy tresses were wreathed with long knots of pearl, which crossed her forehead twice, and mingled in rich loops with the clustering curls. Her white arms were bare, for her gloves had been lost in the coach, and the veil had slipped from her hand and hung in disorder over her shoulders. Before the carriage reached the church, I saw her fair face thrust out of one of the windows, as if in expectation of seeing somebody. She paused for an instant on the steps, and, unmindful of the gazing crowd, cast hurried glances up and down the street; and even in the vestry-room, and in the church, she searched every corner narrowly with her eyes, turning round quickly at the slightest sound. Hope did not forsake her until the very last moment–when the bridegroom appeared– a tall prim person, who drew on his gloves very deliberately, not seeing or heeding the agonizing perturbation of his intended bride. Her movements became more hurried as her expectation of a rescue decreased. She suffered herself, as if bewildered, to be led to the communion table; her head all the time turned over her shoulder, still watching for the arrival of some too tardy friend. But when she stood by the rails, and the actual commencement of the ceremony struck upon her ear, she seemed to awaken to a full sense of her dangerous situation; and, throwing up her beautiful white arms, and tearing away the long curls from her brow, she exclaimed, with much vehemence, “No! no! no!” Her bosom heaved as though it would have burst through the satin and lace which confined it; her dark flashing eyes seemed starting from her head; her cheek was now flushed with the hue of crimson, and now pale as death, and every feature was swelled and convulsed by the tumultuous emotions which shook her frame. The tall prim gentleman looked astounded: there was a gathering together of friends; but the bride was not to be appeased–she still continued her half-frenzied exclamation, “No! no! no!” A slight scuffle was heard outside the church, and in the next moment a fine-looking young man dashed in through the vestry-room, scarcely making two steps to the afflicted fair, who, uttering a piercing cry of joy, rushed into his outstretched arms. The clergyman shut his book, scandalized by the indecorum of these proceedings; the tall prim gentleman opened his eyes, and seemed fumbling in his waistcoat pocket for a card; and the lovers, careless of every thing but each other, clasped in a fervent embrace, had sunk down upon one of the free seats in the middle aisle–the youth swearing by heaven and earth that his beloved should not be torn from his grasp, and the lady sobbing on his shoulder. The parents of the bride, confounded and amazed at this unexpected catastrophe, had nothing to say. They at length attempted to soothe the bridegroom ; but he had elevated his eyebrows, and, looking unutterable things, was evidently preparing to walk off; and, this resolution taken, he was not to be stayed. He seized his hat, placed it solemnly under his arm, faced about, and, perceiving that his rival was wholly engrossed in wiping away the tears from the loveliest pair of eyes in the world, he pursed up his mouth to its original formality, and marched straight out of the church. An arrangement now took place between the intruder and the crest-fallen papa and mamma. The latter was left with her daughter, while the two gentlemen went in quest of a new license. The young lady, a little too wilful, it must be owned, pouted and coaxed, till the old lady’s brow relaxed, and all was harmony. Again the curate was called upon to perform his office, and now radiant smiles played upon the lips of the bride–a soft confusion stole over her cheek, and scarcely waiting until the conclusion of the ceremony, as if she feared a second separation, clung to her husband’s arm, not quitting it even while signing her name in the book.

There was nothing extraordinary about the next couple who joined their hands in our church, excepting their surpassing beauty. It seemed a question which could be styled the handsomer, the lady or the gentleman: both were tall, and both had that noble aspect which one is apt to fancy the exclusive gift of high birth. The bridegroom was a man of rank, and the bride little inferior in family connexion. The friends of each party, magnificently appointed, graced the ceremony: altogether–it seemed a most suitable match, and was one of the grandest weddings that had taken place for a long time. The whole affair was conducted with the greatest propriety; hearts, as well as hands, appeared to be joined; the lady smiling through the few tears which she seemed to shed, only because her mother and her sisters wept at parting from her, and the rapturous delight of the gentleman breaking through the cold and guarded forms prescribed by the fashion.

I was much amazed to see the same lady only five years afterwards come again to our church to be married. The same she certainly was, but still how different! Wrapped in a plain deshabille, attended by a cringing female, who bore the stamp of vulgarity in face, dress, and demeanour; her cheeks highly rouged, and the elegant modesty of her manners changed into a bold recklessness, which seemed to struggle with a sense of shame. I could scarcely believe my eyes; the widow of a nobleman would not surely have been in this degraded state. I was soon convinced of the truth of the surmise which flashed across my mind: she answered to the responses in her maiden name–she had been divorced–and the man to whom she now plighted the vow so lately broken, was he worthy of the sacrifice? I should say, no! He was, I understand, one of the wits of the day; but in person, bearing and breeding; sadly, wretchedly beneath her former lord. She seemed to feel her situation, notwithstanding all her efforts to shake off the painful recollections that would arise. I saw her press her hand once or twice upon her heart; and when her eyes glanced around, and caught those well -known objects which she had gazed upon in happier days, she heaved deep and frequent sighs. There was less of solemn earnestness about the clergyman who officiated than usual, and he seemed to hurry over the service as though the holy rite were profaned in joining guilt and shame together. But though the marriage ceremony was cut short, it had already detained this dishonoured pair too long. As they were leaving the altar the vestry-door opened, and a gay bridal party descended the steps. It was the divorced lady’s deserted husband, leading a beautiful young creature, the emblem of innocence and purity, by the hand, and surrounded by a host of friends splendidly attired. A start, and almost a scream of recognition, betrayed the emotion which the wretched woman, who had forfeited her rank in society, sustained at this unexpected and most unwished-for meeting. She had many mortifications to undergo before she could get away. During the ceremony of signing her name, several individuals made excuse to enter the vestry, in order to stare at her; while the ladies, in passing by, shrunk away as though they feared contamination; and she was obliged to walk half-way down the street, amid a line of gaping menials, before she could reach her shabby carriage, which had drawn off to make room for the coroneted coaches of the noble company in the church.

There was something I thought exceedingly strange about another wedding which took place nearly at the same period. One chariot contained the whole party, which consisted of an elderly and a young gentleman, and the bride, a very pretty girl, not more than seventeen or eighteen at the utmost. She was handsomely dressed, but in colours, and not with the precision and neatness of a bride: her clothes, though fashionable and expensive, were certainly not entirely new, bearing slight tokens of having been worn before. Neither did she show any thing like timidity or bashfulness; asking a hundred questions, as if totally ignorant of the forms and ceremonies usually observed at weddings, laughing heartily at the idea of a set of demure bride-maids, and exclaiming continually, “La! how ridiculous! The bridegroom lounged upon the chair and benches, and said it would be a fine addition to a parson’s income, if he could unmarry the fools who were silly enough to slip into his noose; and the old gentleman listened to this idle conversation with a grieved and mortified air. The young couple, it seems, had not very long returned from a journey to Scotland, and were now re-united, to satisfy the scruples of the bride’s father; although both appeared as if they would have been as well pleased to have been left at liberty to seize the facilities offered in the North for the annulling, as well as the celebrating of contracts, too often hastily performed and speedily repented.

There was a gentleman, a sort of Blue-beard, I must call him, who, having -his town-house in our parish, came five times to be married; and I observed that, in all his five wives, he seemed to make a pretty good choice, at least as far as beauty went. The first was a blooming country nymph, who, except that her hair was powdered, and she wore high-heeled shoes, might have passed, with her large curls pinned stiffly in a row, immense hat, and spreading furbelows, for a belle of the present day; and a mighty comely pair she and the ‘Squire made. The second wife was a languishing lady of quality, who, annoyed at the bridegroom’ s old-fashioned prejudice against a special license, kept her salts in her hand, said that the church smelled of dead bodies, and that she should catch some disease and die; and so she did. Then came the third, buttoned up in a riding-habit, which was an ugly fashion adopted at weddings some fifteen or twenty years ago, with a man’s hat upon her head, and a green gauze veil: her partner, then a little inclining to the shady side of life, affected the fooleries of the times, and was dressed in the very tip of the mode, She looked as though she would see him out; but he came again; and the fourth, a pale, pensive, ladylike woman, apparently far gone in a consumption, who seemed, poor thing, as though she had been crossed in love, and now married only for a maintenance, did not last long. The fifth time we had three weddings: the old gentleman and his son espoused two sisters; the former taking care to choose the younger lady, and his daughter married the uncle of her father’s bride. It was a droll exhibition; and I think that the elder Benedict would have done well to remain in his widowed state; for he appeared to have caught a Tartar at last, and would have some difficulty in carrying things with the high hand which he had done with his former wives. I have not heard of his death, but I still retain the expectation of seeing his widow.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1830

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A candid narrative from a gentleman with a front-pew seat, as we might say. He is most severe upon the ladies, which one feels is ungenerous of him and unfair to a sex put at such a disadvantage by society and the law. One does wonder why the clergy did not put a stop to marriages where there was obviously coercion.

A Consent.—A girl was forced into a disagreeable match with an old man whom she detested. When the clergyman came to that part of the service where the bride is asked if she consents to take the bridegroom for her husband, she said with great simplicity, ” Oh dear, no, sir! but you are the first person who has asked my opinion about the matter.” New-York Mirror, Volume 18, 1840

Or where fashion sowed confusion:

 A certain Macaroni bien peudre et bien frize, with a feather hat under his arm, perfumed like an Egyptian mummy, and who had all the appearance of a modern puppy, went to church with his bride, to receive the nuptial blessing, when the Parson, struck with wonder at the strange apparition, for fear of a mistake, thought proper to ask before the ceremony, which of the two was the Lady?

Spooner’s Vermont Journal [Windsor, VT]  7 April 1784: p. 3

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

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

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The Charm on His Watch Chain: 1884

torquoise shell heart locket

Tortoise-shell locket with pique work. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15128/lot/205/

“COME HOME TO-MORROW, PAPA”

Half a dozen railroad conductors, running on different roads, all good friends, met in a cigar store one day last week, and smoked, and talked, and joked each other about owning the various roads they run on, “knocking down” fares, “whacking up” with the directors, etc. They are great men to “cod” each other, as the saying is, and one stylish conductor, who always dresses well had to take it pretty rough. One good natured fellow, who is a great talker, joked the stylish conductor about his diamond, and finally got sight of a little worn and dilapidated charm on his watch chain, a little tortoise shell locket with marks cut into it all over. The talking conductor said.

“O, boys, look at him? A diamond as big as a paper weight, a two hundred dollar watch and a hundred dollar chain, and a dirty, nicked, worn out, miserable locket not worth ten cents. The brotherhood of railroad conductors ought to bounce him out of the association.” The boys all joined in and said it was a shame to wear such a thing ; some proposed raising a purse to get him a new one, and one of the boys was going to take hold of the miserable little charm and pull it off. The stylish conductor stepped back with a forced smile, and took the charm in his hand tenderly and seemed to caress it, and he tried to change the subject, but the boys would not allow it, when he said.

“Boys, that is of more value to me than my diamond stud, my watch, or my position. I would not part with it for all of Alex. Mitchell’s wealth. I would not erase one of those little dents in the charm to save my right arm. I couldn’t do it, boys.”

“Oh I know what’s the matter,” said the talking conductor, as he punched the stylish conductor in the ribs with his thumb, “some girl gave it to him. I know how it is. A girl made me a present once of a grand bounce, and I carried the marks of it for years. Old softy, here, carries that cow-horn charm with the notches in, as a reminder of old love. Every notch represents a kiss eh, you old rascal?”

The stylish conductor turned away from the boys, ostensibly to light his cigar, but really to hide a tear that was trying to steal a ride on the truck of his eye-ball. He took his handkerchief and wiped his eye, and said something about a cinder in it, and then turned to the boys and said: “Fellows, I don’t want you to think I am too soft, and as the most of you have children, I guess you won’t think so if I tell you about this cheap-looking affair. I used to wear it on a silver watch chain when I was braking on a freight train fifteen years ago. We had a little flaxen-haired girl baby, a year and a-half old, and I was away so much, leaving at four o’clock in the morning and coming home late every second night, that I did not have much time to visit with the baby, except when she woke up nights with aching gums, and Sundays. Well, boys, the little baby almost cut a whole set of teeth on that miserable little watch charm. Nothing else would seem to hit the right spot on a tooth, and she would lay awake nights to wait for me to come, and pap’ was never too dirty for her to get in his lap, nestle up in the bosom covered with a greasy blouse, and be happy. Sundays her mother didn’t have to even look at her, because she was in my lap all day.

Well, one day I was up the road with a way freight, unloading some stuff at a station, the second day out, and thinking that at eight P. M. I would be home and the baby would gallop over me, when my conductor, as good a boy as ever lived, who is now a division superintendent, came along the platform as pale as a sheet, and said to me: “Boss you have got to go right home. Go get on the engine and the old man will pull her out and get you down to your house in forty minutes, and he can get back before we have this freight unloaded. Your baby is awful sick.”

Boys, I was so weak I couldn’t lift a pound. I couldn’t get on the engine without help, but we run to J. like the wind. The baby was dead when the conductor told me, and he knew it, but it was tough enough for him, poor old, pard to tell me she was sick. I found her dead, having died of convulsions in teething, and my wife frantic, while 1 felt as though a train of box cars had run over me, and I wished they had. Oh, what a blow that was. The prettiest baby that ever was, that I left two days before with a smile on her face that would soften the hardest heart, dead. She said: “Tum home morrow, papa, and baby have new toot.” As she lay on the bed, an angel, with her lips smilingly parted, enough to show some of the little teeth that had cut the holes you see in this charm, I took the charm up and kissed it, and I said I would wear it always, and I have, so far boys, and I always will.”

The stylish conductor turned his head one way to wipe his eyes, the talking conductor turned his head another way, and every blessed one of the largehearted boys had tears in their eyes as big as the stylish conductor’s diamond. They shook hands with the stylish conductor and went away. A few days later the stylish conductor missed his charm from his watch chain, when he was going away, and his wife told him she wanted to have the ring fixed that held it on the chain, and she would have it for him when he came back from his run. When he came back the boys met at his house, and after supper one of them handed him the charm beautifully mounted in gold, with only the part of tortoise shell showing where the tooth marks of the dead baby had been made, and on the back in pure gold, was engraved the word, “Darling.” The boys wanted to show that they appreciated the conductor’s feelings. How often a careless remark, in a joke, will bring out a story of heart ache that makes tears flow from eyes unaccustomed to weeping.—

The Conductor and Brakeman, Volume 1, 1 October 1884: pp 471-73

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wishes all doting Papas a very Happy Father’s Day.

To celebrate, that ghostly person over at Haunted Ohio has posted this dire story of a dead father who returns for his little daughter.

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.

 

She Was To Have Been His Bride: 1820s

Mary's ghost a pathetic ballad BL

THE SCHOOLMASTER’S STORY.

The next evening was stormier than the other. In the afternoon the wind hauled into the east, and at nightfall it blew a gale. The rain dashed in fierce gusts against the windows.

“A terrible night on the coast,” said my uncle, as he took his accustomed seat before the glowing hickory fire. “I’d rather be here than tossing about the bay to-night.”

“Yes, or five miles east of High Pound Light,” said Stephen Ford, who was a Truro man.

“Hear the wind roar in the chimney,” said the children.

The schoolmaster was reading by the lamp-stand. But Mary Horton, and I suspect Aunt Sarah also, had not forgotten his promise of a story. So while it was yet early in the evening, the children were, by various inducements, inveigled into retiring; and as soon as they were out of the way, Mary reminded him of his narrative. As all joined with her, he was easily persuaded to lay aside his book and entertain us.

I hardly know, he began, if I ought to divulge a circumstance of so strange and terrible a character; yet as it happened long ago, and the principal parties, none of whom were ever known in this part of the country, are now dead, I think that by altering names and other particulars, I may with propriety do so. We are bound to contribute as much of individual experience as we can (he added, smiling at his own preciseness) to the general stock of information.

Among the students at the college where I received my education, was one towards whom I very early learned to cherish those sentiments which ripen under the lapse of time into the most endearing friendship. William Alison was then a young man in the bloom and promise of life. Delicate and slender in person, yet with a form of masculine mould; in his manners lofty and gentle; alive to all impulses; his graceful forehead just saddened with the paleness of thought; his conversation open and various; he was to my mind the realization of my ideal of a student. It was my pride to make him my friend; and I felt more joy in knowing that we were looked upon by our fellow students as inseparable companions, than in gaining the highest honors of the university.

In the third year after our friendship, Alison was compelled, in consequence of some cause which I have now forgotten, to remain for nearly a term at his home, which was in __ington, about sixty miles from the town where the college was situated. During this time he informed me, in the frankness of youthful correspondence, of an attachment he had conceived for a certain young lady in the neighborhood, and his happiness in believing his affection returned. The young lady’s name he did not mention, though from sundry sonnets he inclosed me, I suspected it must be Ellen, and gathered also that there was some obstacle in the way of their wishes, which they almost despaired of ever being able to remove. When he returned to the university in the term after the summer vacation, I found a marked difference in the character of his hopes and purposes. The whole bent of his existence was changed. Before, he had been the indefatigable student, the example of his class and the pride of our professors and tutors. No labors had been too hard for him, nor was there any department of science or literature into which his mind did not seem to burst with such an eagerness it was as if there had been a latent affinity between his spirit and knowledge. Now, he was another creature. Books for him had lost their charm. He delighted to muse alone, and it was with difficulty I could persuade him into our old topics of talk, in our customary walks and conversations. On one subject only would he willingly dilate—the perfections of the aforesaid Ellen, of whom, for my own part, since by his painting she appeared to be such a miracle as could by no possibility exist in the world, I grew somewhat tired of hearing.

As I might judge from his portraiture, she was a rather slight girl of seventeen or eighteen, with blue eyes and light hair, and a disposition inclining more to tenderness than to gaiety. I imaged to myself, through his descriptions, a creature susceptible to poetic influences as well as to the grosser developments of manly strength; one like Coleridge’s Genevieve, who loves her poet best when he sings to her

“The songs that make her grieve.”

I fancied I could see such a one as nature would choose to be the bride of such a man as Alison—a being capable of loving him as Desdemona loves Othello, for “his mind,” or as poor Ophelia loves her ill-starred prince, for his “noble and most soverain reason,” as well as for his ability to sustain her and minister to her feminine pride. With all my allowance for the exaggeration of his passion, I could not but believe he had found what is so rare in man or woman, that love which is unto the death —that sacred interchange of wills which makes two beings, in deed as well as in form, one flesh and one spirit.

A world of correspondence passed between the lovers, but of this nothing was ever communicated by Alison to me. He could enlarge upon the personal charms of his love; her devotion to him; the high inspiration which her affection breathed into him, and the vision of coming happiness which almost overwhelmed him with its lustre; but his love was not of that kind which requires sympathy. In truth I believe that if there was ever true affection, like that depicted by our great poets, it was experienced then by Alison and his young mistress.

But there was an obstacle. Ellen was the daughter of a poor widow, Alison the heir to wealth. She was without family and without friends, dowered only by her beauty and her love; Alison was descended of a proud stock, and had a mother who, he dreaded, would never hear of his marrying beneath his rank. Their great fear was the apprehension of his mother’s displeasure.

As far as I could gather from what he informed me, it seemed there was little in common between his mother and himself; she was an austere woman, of gloomy religious faith, and almost a monomaniac on the subject of family. He kept the whole affair of his love a secret from her, and intended to win her gradually by ingenious contrivance, to allow him to wed the daughter of one who had been the tenant of a small portion of his paternal acres. His scheme was to bring Ellen by some means, at church or elsewhere, though his mother, he told me, seldom visited, to be acquainted with her; when he hoped that the loveliness of her character could not fail in time of pleasing.

Thus matters stood during the remainder of the time we spent at college. Alison grew more studious and somewhat reserved. It appeared that his love had passed into the depth of his life, and became a part of his very self, so that his whole bearing showed an inward peace, and he was no longer a speculative youthful scholar, but a resolute, laborious man. Yet there was in him no want of sympathy, and we continued firm friends till the day we graduated, when we separated, as class-mates usually do, to meet we knew not when. Alison retired to his estate, and I went to the West, where I found employment in teaching.

For many months we kept up a regular correspondence, but our ways of life were so different, his so quiet, mine so full of excitement, that gradually, though our friendship was unabated, the intervals between our letters grew longer, and at last it occasioned me no surprise that I did not hear from him for nearly half a year.

As it happened, opportunely enough, I was in Cincinnati preparing to return eastward after three years’ absence, when I received one day a letter bearing the postmark of Alison’s village. It may be supposed that not having heard from him for so long, I opened it with no little eagerness, though the handwriting of the superscription was unfamiliar. What was my surprise to find, instead of a letter from my friend, a communication from his mother, informing me that he had been afflicted with an illness which had injured his mind, and requesting me, if possible, to visit them. She stated that since the commencement of his disease, her son had frequently spoken of me, and always in the most affectionate manner, and that one of his favorite occupations was re-reading and re-arranging the numerous letters that had passed between us. He would sit gazing at the parcel which they made for hours together, saying that I was the only true friend he had ever possessed in the world, and lamenting my neglect in not keeping up my correspondence. (This by the way was altogether fancied, for I had written him twice since hearing from him.)

Much grieved by this unpleasant news, respecting one on whose intellectual strength I had so securely relied, and whose noble heart I had so truly loved, I lost no time in replying to the summons. I was to leave the West in a week, and hoped ere another to be able to visit __ington, and render to my friend such assistance as might be in my power. To him also I wrote an apparently careless letter respecting my return to the East, the pleasure it would give me to see him again, and the like, designed to soothe him without betraying any knowledge of his affliction. Within three days after, I was on my way across the mountains, and in little more than seven, had arrived home. I remained but a day or two to exchange greetings with my kindred, my anxiety for Alison urging me to comply with his mother’s request without delay.

I well recollect, though so many years have now passed away, the evening when, after a long day’s ride, I at length dismounted before Alison House. It was in the season of the Indian summer, and the sun was just setting beyond a woodland valley that sloped away in front and exhibited all the variegated richness of our autumnal forests. The mansion, which, though I had never seen it before, I had no difficulty, through my friend’s well remembered descriptions, in recognizing, was an ancient structure, such as there now remain but a few of in the country. In front it was three stories high, with a double roof and narrow projecting windows; on the back the roof sloped down to a single story. The eaves were heavily moulded in the antique fashion, and the glass in the windows looked obscure and weatherworn. In the ends and at the rear I observed several small casements fitted with gothic or lozenge-shaped frames.

Before the house was a narrow green plat or lawn leading down to the gateway, where two pillars of rough masonry, surmounted by wooden urns, stood like sentinels to guard the place from profane intrusion. Some venerable trees waved their arms over this inclosure, and on one side a decaying orchard encroached upon the level sward. On the other were sundry out-buildings, apparently coeval with the principal structure. All the aspect of the place inspired a solemn peace, that sacred, almost religious repose which it brings into the mind to come as it were into the immediate presence of the generation that has passed away. There was no gravel walk leading from the gateway to the entrance, and clumps of lilac and other shrubs had been suffered to spread untrained around the house and against the walls, as if nature loved to contrast the vigor of their youth with the venerableness of its age.

Had it been later in the year, or on a gloomy day, my first impressions of such a scene would have been doubtless far less agreeable; but now, bathed as it was in the full radiance of the sunset, and mingling its impression with the cheerful feelings inspired by the nearness of my friend, and my hopes of aiding him by my presence, it appeared only suggestive of tranquillity.

I passed into the house and was conducted by an aged serving-woman into the presence of the mother of my friend. It was the first time I had ever seen her, and I was destined to a sad disappointment. I hardly know why, but from the moment she greeted me, all my cheerful frame of mind seemed to pass from me like the fading sunlight, and a horrible shadow crept over my spirits, filling me with an indescribable uneasiness.

She was a tall unfeminine person, without any trait of gentleness in form, or voice, or carriage. Her face—I shall never forget it—was characterized only by an expression of cruel, self-denying pride— that peculiar conformation of temper which finds a poison in the most innocent pleasures of life, and tends constantly towards unhappiness, both in itself and those with whom it comes in contact. Her eyes were gray and severe; her forehead contracted; she had prominent cheek bones, an aquiline nose, and pinched lips; altogether her countenance was the most stern and unwomanly I had ever seen in a female—and may God grant I never behold such another!

As I recall the scenes of that memorable night, I seem to see her sitting in her high-backed chair in that dusky parlor, discoursing to me of the condition of her unfortunate son, and impressing me, as she supposed, with her extraordinary sagacity, but in reality astonishing me by the reflection how such a man as my friend could have been the offspring of such a mother. It had appeared to her, she said, that William had grown of late rather over-studious, and to this cause and their retired mode of life, she attributed his malady, which was a sort of melancholy nervousness that led him to pass whole days in his study, almost without food, and permitting no one to approach him. She thought it better to postpone informing him of my arrival until she had spoken with me; this I readily assented to. She believed I could be of infinite service to him by winning him to rides or walks with me in the fields, and that a few weeks of my society would quite restore him to health. The cause of his melancholy being but temporary, a little cheerful society would soon restore him.

I made suitable replies to these observations, and said that I hoped all would succeed as we desired. But I was by no means satisfied with this view of the causes of my friend’s illness. He must, indeed, I said, have studied severely if that had driven him to madness, for his mind was of a texture to bear study as well as any I had known. But his mother persisted in her opinion, and added that he had for the last year or more lived in much too retired a manner; that she had for some time entertained fears for his health, and in order to wean him from study, had contrived a marriage for him with a young lady who was heiress to a large property in the next county, when he was suddenly taken ill.

As she said this I observed that momentary unsteadiness of the eye which the most thorough adepts in falsehood are not always able to avoid, and by which we know that the tongue is uttering what the mind knows to be untrue. I observed this, and I remembered at once what Alison had told me in our college days of his love affair, how much it changed him, and the difficulty he anticipated with his mother. “Ah,” said I, with the assumed nonchalance of a man of the world,” if my friend is grown to be a woman-hater, he is changed indeed. Had he never,” I inquired, “since college times, shown a partiality for any of the sex?” “O yes, he had at one time been quite a lady’s man; that is, he used to visit and amuse himself with the farmers’ girls in the village below. She had not encouraged it. She had heard something, indeed, of a sort of flirtation with a little artful minx who was so presumptuous as even to pay court to herself. But it never came to anything. The hussy had left the village several months, and gone no one knew whither.”

I remarked an unsteadiness when this was saying, not in the eye only, but in the voice and manner. It was evidently the constraint of dissimulation. But I had not time to sift the matter further, for the door of the parlor opened, and in a moment I was grasping by the hand my poor friend, who had, on my arrival being announced to him by the serving-woman, come down at once to meet me.

Time and sorrow had wrought sad changes in his once noble countenance, and fearfully ravaged the graceful beauty of his once healthful form. I read at a glance, in his hollow cheek and eye, and heard in his cavernous voice, that the destroyer had marked him, and that however successful I might be in my endeavors to recover him from his depression, it could never be for a long enjoyment of his society. I might minister to his diseased mind, but no earthly power could arrest the progress of consumption. I should restore him only to watch at his death-bed.

We sat and conversed of old times, for his affliction did not reach his reason, until I was convinced that he was suffering more from general decay than from any organic affection, arising from what cause soever. He grew faint with the effort of speaking, and was obliged to recover himself by intervals of rest. These his mother by her looks to me evidently considered as simple wanderings of his intellect. She encouraged him accordingly to converse, and urged him to partake more of the tea, which was in the meantime brought in by the housekeeper, than he would have desired. She did not appear to be in the least aware of his actual condition. In her manner towards him she mingled none of that gentleness, none of those kind tones which are so soothing to the exhausted nerves of the sick. On the contrary, she appeared quite rough and dictatorial, as though in my coming she had gained a point, and was now securing the attainment of her wishes. Grim and rigid, she sat in her upright chair and doled us out a thin infusion that kept no promise to the taste, meanwhile talking on in the very presence of her wretched son, of schemes and plans which it was plain he was well aware could never be realized. It seemed she was one of those women who have man’s desire for control, and that she had been accustomed to assume the entire management of her son; he deferring to her out of long habit, and because he was too affectionate to wish to undeceive her. I made one or two attempts to check her by exposing her pride and wickedness, but my friend rebuked me with glances which seemed to say, “Let her alone—it will soon be over!”

After tea I went up with him to his chamber. It was a dark old room, with antique presses and chairs, and cold—very cold—one of those rooms which strike upon the senses with a funereal chilliness. We sat upon a faded sofa that stood against the eastern wall, and talked of former days and hopes departed. My own life had not been unchequered by grief, and in endeavoring to probe the rooted sorrow of my friend, I was obliged to go over much which even now I struggle to forget.

But at length I wrung from him his secret. It was, as I suspected, no excess of application that had jangled the harmony of his soul. Ellen—it was she who was the burden of his lamentations—once she was his, and now she was lost forever. Where was she? He had searched the country over for tidings of her; he had spent days and weeks, and employed the best assistance money could buy. But never since one fatal evening in the May that was past was he able to hear aught concerning her. She was to have been his bride; they had loved long; they had been patient. He had been dutiful, and his mother he thought would have yielded. She had relaxed so far even as to invite Ellen to the house, and had seemed to countenance her efforts to please. On the very evening, she had come up to the mansion with a bouquet of flowers from her own garden; he was to have met her here, and they thought then to have joined in asking his mother’s consent to their union. But an accident to his horse had delayed him in returning from a neighboring town; Ellen was forced to walk down alone, and that was the last ever seen of her. Was not this enough to make him weary of life? Had she sickened and died, or even been taken away by some sudden and dreadful accident, he could have borne it with fortitude. But now what might she not have undergone? In what secret den of hell might not her beauty be the spoil of ravishers and murderers? Feeble as he had seemed, while he spoke thus he started up in agony, and his voice rang loud and hollow. I trembled lest when the paroxysm passed I should see him fall and die before my face. I exerted all my art to soothe and divert him. We would speak of it to-morrow, I said, but that in the meantime he must be quiet. I appealed to his pride—to his Christian’s faith. At last he softened, and allowed himself to let me assist him to his couch.

As I descended from his apartment I met his mother in the hall. She was coming, she said, to conduct me to my chamber. As I took the candle from her withered and bony fingers, I glanced at her face. She saw that I had heard the truth and more than suspected her falsehood. But she would not relent; it seemed she expected to overawe me by the same stern authority she exercised upon her son. “My God!” I could not help exclaiming as then a horrible suspicion crossed my mind. She grew deadly pale and pointed to the door of the room I was to occupy. I went in mechanically and locked the door with violence.

I knew not why, but I remember that I then examined the apartment all over with the light. I felt as though there were some dreadful influence in the very air of the house—an indefinite apprehension oppressed me. Thoughts that I dared not entertain floated into my mind. Did I hear a noise? I looked so long in one direction that I shuddered to turn to look in another. The candle burnt low—I could not bear to be in darkness—sleep was out of my power. While the wick fell I raised the heavy sash, and looked forth into the night.

There was a full moonlight, whose radiance fell softly on the valley, and the air was calm and filled with the fragrance of autumn. As I gazed, my nerves grew tranquil; the peace of the scene passed into my soul, and I smiled at my late perturbations. It could not be, methought; the world is not so bad; I misjudge my species. And then I grew abstracted with watching the effects of the moonlight cm the masses of foliage and the broad shadows beneath.

I was looking thus towards the orchard, when I perceived up the vista made by two rows of trees, something white, which appeared to be slowly moving. At first I paid no particular attention to it, thinking it must be a dog or cow. But now it approached, and I saw it was upright— could it be a man? Alas! God help me! it was no human creature, but a sheeted figure, which I knew by its gliding to be a bodiless visitant from the world of shadows! The blood froze in my veins as I marked its steady advance. I tried to shout, but could only groan, as in a dream. It was all enwrapped in white, so that I could see no face, and it came directly below and before my eyes to the very door of the house, and I saw it enter!

Presently—all the wealth of the universe would not tempt me to undergo it again— the house rang with shrieks—loud, agonized. I sprang to my feet and seized a chair, not knowing what I did. But immediately I heard the voice of the old servant, who occupied the chamber adjoining mine, crying “Fire!” and this recalled me to my senses. I opened the door and went to her room, the shrieks still continuing, though more faintly, and seeming to proceed from below.

But I need not narrate circumstantially all that followed. By the time we had obtained a light, and proceeded to the old woman’s apartment, the shrieks (which were found to come from thence) had fallen to low groans, and when we stood around her bedside she was past recognising even her son, whose presence appeared but to increase her agonies. She died raving, and the ghastly look of her stiffening features was awful.

My unhappy friend did not long survive the shock of his mother’s sudden death. He died peacefully. I never told him what I had witnessed. Indeed for a long while I was never sure that it was not an illusion of my senses caused by fatigue and excitement.

But upon the death of my friend the estate passed into the hands of a distant connexion, a worthy man, who is still living. He had the house torn down and replaced by a more comfortable dwelling, and made also many improvements on the adjacent grounds. In removing the orchard, which had long ceased to be productive, they found an old well, of whose existence none but the housekeeper had any knowledge; it was covered by a thin slab of slate, almost overgrown with grass and briers. Thinking it might be rendered serviceable, the proprietor a few years ago determined to have it cleaned, and in performing that operation the workmen drew up in the first buckets what proved to be the bones of a human skeleton. The circumstance naturally made some noise in that neighborhood; to me it was the solving of a fearful mystery. I went to see the bones, and from a plain gold ring which was found along with them I knew they must be those of Ellen. The ring had been made smaller by a clumsy workman. I remembered when my friend had it done. I gave no hint of my knowledge to others, for the innocent and the guilty were both gone to their account; but ever since then I have had no doubt in my own mind that Ellen was murdered by the mother of my friend, either pushed into this well as they were walking there, which might easily have been done, or made away with in some other manner and thrown there afterwards. And I cannot but believe it was her injured spirit which I saw, and which Heaven instructed to be the minister of its vengeance upon such atrocious wickedness. G. W. P.

American Review: A Whig Journal Devoted to Politics and Literature, Volume 8: October 1848: pp 411-420

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really has nothing more to add to this story of a woman who would have surely been the mother-in-law from Hell and who, if the narrator had his way, would surely have gone hence.

Undine of Strange Company gives us another, brilliant example of a mother-in-law from Hell.

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 French Doctor’s Bride: 1830s

lighter shrouded corpse Rowlandson 1775

Grave-robbers interrupted by Death, Thomas Rowlandson, 1775 https://wellcomecollection.org/works/j7twdvrd

THE FRENCH DOCTOR’S BRIDE.

BY VICTOR LECOMTE.

Twenty-five years ago I entered the medical college at F__ as a student. I was then quite young, inexperienced, and inclined to be timid and sentimental; and well do I remember the horror I experienced, when one of the senior students, under pretence of showing me the beauties of the institution, suddenly thrust me into the dissecting room, among several dead bodies, and closed the door upon me; nor do I forget how my screeches of terror, and prayers for release from that awful place, made me the laughing-stock of my older companions.

Ridicule is a hard thing to bear: the coward becomes brave to escape it, and the brave man fears it more than he would a belching cannon. I suffered from it till I could stand no more; and wrought up to a pitch of desperation, I demanded to know what I might do to redeem my character, and gain an honourable footing among my fellowstudents.

“I will tell you,” said one, his eyes sparkling with mischief; “if you will go, at the midnight hour, and dig up a subject, and take it to your room, and remain alone with it till morning, we will let you off, and never say another word about your womanly fright.”

I shuddered. It was a fearful alternative; but it seemed less terrible to suffer all the horrors that might be concentrated into a single night, than to bear, day after day, the jeers of my companions.

“Where shall I go and when?” was my timid inquiry; and the very thought of such an adventure made my blood run cold.

“To the Eastern Cemetery, to night, at twelve o’clock,” replied my tormentor, fixing his keen, black eyes upon me, and allowing his thin lips to curl with a smile of contempt. “But what is the use of asking such a coward as you to perform such a manly feat?” he added, deridingly

His words stung me to the quick; and without further reflection, and scarcely aware of what I was saying, I rejoined, boldly, “I am no coward, sir, as I will prove to you, by performing what you call a manly feat.”

“You will go?'” he asked quickly.

“I will,” was my response.

“Bravely said, my lad!” he rejoined, in a tone of approval, and exchanging his expression of contempt for one of surprise and admiration. “Do this, Morel, and the first man that insults you afterwards makes an enemy of me.”

Again I felt a cold shudder pass through my frame, at the thought of what was before me; but I had accepted his challenge in the presence of many witnesses—for this conversation occurred as we were leaving the hall, after listening to an evening lecture—and I was resolved to make my word good, should it even cost me my life: in fact, I knew I could not do otherwise now, without the risk of being driven in disgrace from the college.

I should here observe, that in those days there were few professional resurrectionists; and as it was absolutely necessary to have subjects for dissection, the unpleasant business of procuring them devolved upon the students, who, in consequence, watched every funeral eagerly, and calculated the chances of cheating the sexton of his charge, and the grave of its victim.

There had been a funeral, that day, of a poor orphan girl, who had been followed to the grave by very few friends; and this was considered a favorable chance for the party whose turn it was to procure the next subject, as the graves of the poor and friendless were never watched with the same keen vigilance as those of the rich and influential. Still, it was no trifling risk to attempt to exhume the bodies of the poorest and humblest—for not unfrequently persons were found on the watch even over these; and only the year before, one student, while at his midnight work, had been mortally wounded by a rifle-ball; and another, a month or two subsequently, had been rendered a cripple for life by the same means.

All this was explained to me by a party of six or eight, who accompanied me to my room—which was in a building belonging to the college, and let out in apartments to some of the students; and they took care to add several terrifying stories of ghosts and hobgoblins, by way of calming my excited nerves, just as I have before now observed old women stand around a weak, feverish patient, and croak out their experience in seeing awful sufferings and fatal terminations of just such maladies as the one with which their helpless victim was then afflicted.

“Is it expected that I shall go alone?” I inquired, in a tone that trembled in spite of me, while my knees almost knocked together, and I felt as if my very lips were white.

“Well, no,” replied Belmont, my most dreaded tormentor; “it would be hardly fair to send you alone, for one individual could not succeed in getting the body from the grave quick enough; and you, a mere youth, without experience, would be sure to fail altogether. No, we will go with you, some three or four of us, and help to dig up the corpse; but then you must take it on your back, bring it up to your room here, and spend the night alone with it!”

It was some relief to me to find I was to have company during the first part of my awful undertaking; but still I felt far from agreeable, I assure you; and chancing to look into a mirror, as the time drew near for setting out, I fairly started at beholding the ghastly object I saw reflected therein.

“Come, boys,” said Belmont, who was always, by general consent, the leader of whatever frolic, expedition, or undertaking, he was to have a hand in; “Come, boys! it is time to be on the move. A glorious night for us!” he added, throwing up the window, and letting in a fierce gust of wind and rain: “the very d__l himself would hardly venture out in such a storm!’” He lit a dark-lantern, threw on his long, heavy cloak, took up a spade, and led the way down stairs; and the rest of us, three besides my timid self, threw on our cloaks also, took each a spade, and followed him.

We took a roundabout course, to avoid being seen by any citizen that might by chance to be stirring; and in something less than half-an-hour we reached the cemetery, scaled the wall without difficulty, and stealthily searched for the grave, till we found it, in the pitchy darkness—the wind and rain sweeping past us with dismal howls and moans, that to me, trembling with terror, seemed to be the unearthly wailings of the spirits of the damned.

“Here we are,” whispered Belmont to me, as we at length stopped at a mound of fresh earth, over which one of our party had stumbled. “Come, feel round, Morel, and strike in your spade; and let us see if you will make as good a hand at exhuming a dead body as you will some day at killing a living one with physic.”

I did as directed, trembling in every limb; but the first spade-full I threw up, I started back with a yell of horror, that, on any other but a howling, stormy night, would have betrayed us. It appeared to me as if I had thrust my spade into a buried lake of fire—for the soft dirt was all aglow like living coals; and as I had fancied the moanings of the storm the wailings of tormented spirits, I now fancied I had uncovered a small portion of the Bottomless Pit itself.

“Fool!” hissed Belmont, grasping my arm with the gripe of a vice, as I stood leaning on my spade for support, my very teeth chattering with terror; “another yell like that, and I’ll make a subject of you! Are you not ashamed of yourself to be scared out of your wits, if you ever had any, by a little phosphorescent earth? Don’t you know it is often found in graveyards?”

His explanation re-assured me; though I was now too weak, from my late fright, to be of any assistance to the party; who all fell too with a will, secretly laughing at me, and soon reached the coffin. Splitting the lid with a hatchet, which had been brought for the purpose, they quickly lifted out the corpse; and then Belmont and another of the party taking hold of it, one at the head and the other at the feet, they hurried it away, bidding me follow, and leaving the others to fill up the grave, that it might not be suspected the body had been exhumed.

Having got the corpse safely over the wall of the cemetery, Belmont now called upon me to perform my part of the horrible business. “Here, you quaking simpleton,” he said, “I want you to take this on your back, and make the best of your way to your room, and remain alone with it all night. If you do this bravely, we will claim you as one of us to-morrow, and the first man that dares to say a word against your courage after that, shall.find a foe in me. But hark you! if you make any blunder on the way, and lose our prize, it will be better for you to quit this town before I set eyes on you again! Do you understand me?”

“Y—ye-ye—yes!” I stammered, with chattering teeth.

“Are you ready?” Y-ye-ye—yes,” I gasped.

“Well, come here! where are you?” All this time it was so dark that I could see nothing but a faint line of white, which I knew to be the shroud of the corpse; but I felt carefully round till I got hold of Belmont, who told me to take off my cloak; and then rearing the cold dead body up against my back, he began fixing its cold arms about my neck-bidding me take hold of them, and draw them well over, and keep them concealed, and be sure and not let go of them, on any consideration whatsoever, as I valued my life. Oh! the torturing horror I experienced, as I mechanically followed his directions! Tongue could not describe it!

At length, having adjusted the corpse so that I might bear it off with comparative ease, he threw my long black cloak over it, and over my arms, and fastened it with a cord about my neck, and then inquired, “Now, Morel, do you think you can find the way to your room?”

“I—I—do-do—don’t know,” I gasped, feeling as if I should sink to the earth at the first step.

“Well, you cannot lose your way if you go straight ahead,” he replied. “Keep in the middle of this street or road, and it will take you to College Green, and then you are all right. Come, push on, before your burden grows too heavy; the distance is only a good half-mile!”

I set forward with trembling nerves, expecting to sink to the ground at every step; but gradually my terror, instead of weakening, gave me strength; and I was soon on the run—splashing through mud and water—with the storm howling about me in fury, and the cold corpse, as I fancied, clinging to me like a hideous vampire.

How I reached my room, I do not know—but probably by a sort of instinct; for I only remember of my brain being in a wild, feverish whirl, with ghostly phantoms all about me, as one sometimes sees them in a dyspeptic dream. But reach my room I did, with my dead burden on my back; and I was afterwards told that I made wonderful time; for Belmont and his fellow student, fearing the loss of their subject—which, on account of the difficulty of getting bodies, was very valuable— followed close behind me, and were obliged to run at the top of their speed to keep me within hailing distance.

The first I remember distinctly, after getting to my room, was the finding myself awake in bed, with a dim consciousness of something horrible having happened—although what, for some minutes, I could not for the life of me recollect. Gradually, however, the truth dawned upon me; and then I felt a cold perspiration start from every pore, at the thought that perhaps I was occupying a room alone with a corpse. The room was not dark; there were a few embers in the grate, which threw out a ruddy light; and fearfully raising my head, I glanced quickly and timidly around.

And there—there, on the floor, against the right hand wall, but a few feet from me—there, sure enough, lay the cold, still corpse, robed in its white shroud, with a gleam of firelight resting upon its ghastly face, which to my excited fancy seemed to move. Did it move? I was gazing upon it, thrilled and fascinated with an indescribable terror, when, as sure as I see you now, I saw the lids of its eyes unclose, and saw its breast heave, and heard a low, stifled moan.

“Great God!” I shrieked, and fell back in a swoon.

How long I lay unconscious I do not know; but when I came to myself again, it is a marvel to me, that, in my excited state, I did not lose my senses altogether, and become the tenant of a madhouse ; for there—right before me-standing up in its white shroud—with its eyes wide open and staring upon me, and its features thin, hollow and death-hued—was the corpse I had brought from the cemetery.

“In God’s name, avaunt! ” I gasped. “Go back to your grave, and rest in peace! I will never disturb you again!”

The large hollow eyes looked more wildly upon me—the head moved, the lips parted, and a voice, in a somewhat sepulchral tone, said, “Where am I? where am I? Who are you? Which world am I in? Am I living or dead?”

“You are dead,” I gasped, sitting up in bed, and feeling as if my brain would burst with a pressure of unspeakable horror; “you were dead and buried, and I was one of the guilty wretches who this night disturbed your peaceful rest. But go back, poor ghost, in heaven’s name! and no mortal power shall ever induce me to come nigh you again!”

“Oh! I feel faint!” said the corpse, gradually sinking down upon the floor, with a groan. “Where am I? Oh! where am I?”

“Great God!” I shouted, as the startling truth suddenly flashed upon me; “perhaps this poor girl was buried alive, and is now living!”

I bounded from the bed, and grasped a hand of the prostrate body. It was not warm—but it was not cold. I put my trembling fingers upon the pulse. Did it beat? or, was it the pulse in my fingers? I thrust my hand upon the heart. It was warm—there was life there. The breast heaved—she breathed—but the eyes were now closed, and the features had the look of death. Still it was a living body—or else I myself was insane. I sprung to the door, tore it open, and shouted for help. “Quick! quick!” cried I. “the dead is alive! The dead is alive!

Several of the students sleeping in adjoining rooms came hurrying to mine, thinking I had gone mad with terror, as some of them had heard my voice before, and all knew to what a fearful ordeal I had been subjected.

“Poor fellow!” exclaimed one, in a tone of sympathy; “I predicted this!”

“It is too bad,” said another; “it was too much for his nervous system!”

“I am not mad,” returned I—comprehending their suspicions; “but the corpse is alive!—hasten and see!”

Hey hurried into the room, one after another; and the foremost, stopping down to what he suppposed. was a corpse, put his hand upon it, and instantly exclaimed, “Quick a light and some brandy! She lives! she lives!”
All now was bustle, confusion, and excitement, one proposing one thing, and another something else, and all speaking together. They placed her on the bed, and gave her some brandy, when she again revived. I ran for a physician (one of the faculty), who came and tended upon her through the night; and by sunrise the next morning she was reported to be in a fair way of recovery.

And recover she did; and turned out to be a most beautiful creature, and only sweet seventeen. But that is not all: for she turned out an heiress, and married me!

Yes: that night of horror only preceded the dawn of my happiness; for that girl—sweet,
lovely Helene Leroy—in time became my wife, and the mother of my two boys.
She sleeps now in death, beneath the cold, cold sod, and no human resurrectionist shall ever raise her to life again!
 Frank Leslie’s New York Journal, 1857: p. 85-6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A most grim and grewsome tale, in the florid French vein of the Gallic tabloids, but Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending, even one that sums up an entire lifetime of important events in a paragraph or two.

Mrs Daffodil will not quibble over how a friendless orphan girl was transmuted into a beautiful heiress, but perhaps on the dark and stormy night, the medical students mistook the grave.

 

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.

Making Her Father’s Grave: 1879

orphans decorating their fathers' graves

Decoration Day at Philadelphia: Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, 1870s

Making Her Father’s Grave

A Pathetic Scene Witnessed in an Ohio Cemetery

[From the Sandusky (O.) Register.]

A little girl with tangled locks, peeping from under a calico hood, clad in a dress of chintz, loitered behind us as the great dusty crowd moved out of the gates of Mount Adna the other day after they had scattered their flowers and done honor to the dead. Dreamily she gazed after them, her eyes filled with a far away look of tenderness, until the last one had disappeared and the rattle of the drums had died away. Then she turned and vaguely scanned the mounds that rose about her, clutching still tighter the fading bunch of dandelions and grass that her chubby hand held. An old man came by and gently patted her curly head as he spoke her name, but she only shrank back still further, and when he told a passing stranger that the little one’s father had died on shipboard and been buried at sea, there was only a tear drop in the child’s eye to tell that she heard or knew the story.

When they were gone she moved on further to a neglected, empty lot, and, kneeling down, she piled up a mound of earth, whispering as she patted it and smoothed it with her chubby hand: “This won’t be so awfully big as the others, I guess, but may be it will be big enough so that God will see it, and think that papa is buried here.” Carefully she trimmed the sides with the grass she plucked, murmuring on: “And may be it will grow so that it will be like the rest in two or three years, and then maybe papa will sometime come back and”–.

But she paused, as though it suddenly dawned upon her young mind that he rested beneath the waves, and the tear-drops that sprang to her eyes moistened the little bunch of dandelions that she planted among the grasses on the mound she had reared. When the sexton passed that way at night as he went to close the gates, he found the little one fast asleep, with her head pillowed on the mound.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 30 October 1879: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian mourning was built around a fixed and ideal ritual: an edifying death-bed, preparing the loved one’s body for the grave, the funeral, and then the burial in a quiet, green cemetery beneath a headstone with a touching inscription, where the family could visit, plant flowers, weep, or picnic. Decoration Day was an important holiday for the bereaved. Graves were tidied and planted and the dead were remembered.

Those whose loved ones never returned: whose bodies were either not identified or were buried on a distant battlefield felt a sense of incompleteness beyond their personal loss: they had also been deprived of essential parts of the mourning ritual.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a person whose Great-Great-Great Grandfather was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Family lore says that his head was shot off so that his body was never identified and was buried as an “Unknown” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  The man’s daughter never turned away a tramp, believing it might be her father come back.

 

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 King’s Foster-Mother: 1910

Mrs Ann Roberts King George V nurse

KING’S NURSE POOR

Foster Mother of George V Living in Dire Poverty.

 LONGS FOR HER OLD HOME

Hopes Sovereign She Mothered Will Provide for Her.

SACRIFICED HER OWN BABE

Daughter Died While She Was in Attendance on Great Britain’s Future Ruler.

 

 Is Living in Poverty.

Special Dispatch to The Star.

PITTSBURG. Pa., September 10. Mrs Ann Roberts, foster-mother of George V, King of England, has been discovered in poverty here. Mrs. Roberts lost one of her own babes through her attendance upon the infant prince. The royal physicians and retainers would not inform her of own child’s Illness for fear the milk with which she was nourishing the future King of England might become feverish and do him harm. Mrs. Roberts at the suggestion of friends, is writing the English sovereign of her condition and asking some recognition at his hands for what she did for him as an infant. Mrs. Roberts Is the mother of Capt. Henry A. Roberts of the Volunteers of America. She is a native of Wales. She has been living for the past several years with her brother, Richard W. Edmunds of Nunnery Hill, North Side. She was a member of the royal household of Great Britain for ten months and three days. Her own child died in the night without her knowing that she had even been ill. Mrs. Roberts is the only woman in the world who ever nursed the King of England,  including his own mother.

Husband a Tradesman.

Mrs. Roberts went from Bethesda, North Wales, when quite a young girl to seek service in London. She was eventually married there. Her husband was a respectable tradesman, residing close to Buckingham Palace. They were happy and prospered. Among their friends were some of the most influential Welsh people in London. Among these was a Mrs. Jones, then of 20 Hills street. Knightsbridge, also a Welsh woman. Mrs. Jones was a great favorite with the late Queen Victoria, under whom she held authority to select and engage all the domestics for the royal nursery. Mrs. Roberts was then a comely young matron, of splendid physique, and in the enjoyment of perfect health and a robust constitution, which had been developed while romping as a girl over the rock-bound and heather-clad hills of her native Wales.

Mrs. Roberts was at that time about to become a mother. She knew, as did all Britain, that the then Princess Alexandra had similar expectations. Mrs Roberts had a dream in which it appeared to her that she had been selected to nurse the expected child of royalty. Within a day or two thereafter, not then knowing the full extent of Mrs. Jones’ authority, Mrs. Roberts called on her and related her strange dream, and told her also of her seemingly impossible ambition. The surprise of Mrs. Roberts may be imagined when Mrs. Jones informed her that if it was her wish she would then and there appoint her to the position, provided, of course, that the royal physicians approved of her choice.

Passed by Royal Physician.

After the birth of her child, a beautiful girl baby. Mrs. Roberts was ordered by a royal messenger to call on Dr. Farr, one of the royal physicians, in Harley street. Mayfair, who, after a thorough examination and many questions as to family history, pronounced Mrs. Roberts to be in every way fitting to become the foster mother of a royal prince. Mrs. Roberts then applied for permission to spend a few days at her old home in Bethesda, in order that she might see her brothers and sisters and visit the graves of her parents. She had intended to leave for Wales the last day of May, 1865, but becoming uneasy lest her services might suddenly be called for, she hesitated, changed her mind, and finally abandoned the trip.

“It was well that I did so,” said Mrs. Roberts, relating the strange story of her entrance upon royal service, “for on the night of June couriers were sent to Bethesda to fetch me at once. Mounted messengers scoured the hills around my old home all of that night in search of me. My people in Wales, who knew nothing of my appointment, were thrown into consternation and terror. Royal couriers implied nothing but terror to them. They probably concluded that their poor Ann had committed some terrible crime.

“All of this time I had remained in London, and the city bulletins had informed me of the state of affairs I reported for duty at 10 o’clock on the morning of June and began immediately to nurse and to mother the little baby prince, George. I had left my own child in the care of an older sister, who was to manage the household and dairy business for my husband while I was away. A few days after my departure my own baby was taken ill. It pined for its mother, but I was not acquainted with the fact. One of the doctors of the royal household called to see her each day. The child died on the eighth day without my even knowing that she had been ill.

Blow a Cruel One.

“I will never forget the hour that I was told that my beautiful child was dead. The cruel news brought me to my knees on the floor of the royal nursery. The splendor of my surroundings appeared to me as so much dross. It seemed to me that I had been turned into a block of cold marble. The loss of my own beautiful child had that effect upon me regarding the little prince that I soon grew almost to believe that he was truly my own child. I was kept in this position just about one year. When my services were no longer required King Edward, then Prince of Wales, sent for me from the nursery to tell me that I had not only won his own esteem, but that of his beautiful Alexandra, and that I was also esteemed and respected by the royal household.

“When I arrived in my own home once more, after nearly a whole year of absence, it was to find that fortune had withdrawn her smiles and that my husband’s business had been ruined. A cattle disease, then raging, had killed nearly all of our good cows, and every penny that we had saved during our time of prospering had been expended in a vain attempt to stem the disastrous flood. On the very afternoon that I arrived a butcher delegated from the cattle commissioners also arrived to kill the last two remaining cows of what had been an excellent dairy. These appalling conditions at home caused me to decide at once to take up nursing as a profession. I immediately arranged to lay out the money I earned In the royal service in a course of nursing and midwifery. In due time I won my diploma in both branches, and nursed among the noble and the great of Great Britain for thirty-five years.”

Nursed Many Notables.

Mrs. Roberts’ old friend, Mrs. Jones, was again able to help her by securing for her the appointment to nurse and foster the first born of the Princess Christian, at Cumberland Lodge. Windsor. Windsor. The popularity of Mrs. Roberts was at once securely established through her connection with the royal nursery. In the years that followed she nursed the Duchess of Abercorn. the Duchess of Iniskillen, the Countess Lutzow, Lady Vivian (now Lady Swansea), the Lady Church and many other among the noble dames of Britain. She has served at Windsor Castle, where to Welsh people of a few centuries ago entrance was far easier than exit; at Marlborough House, Balmoral Castle. Buckingham Palace, Osbourne, Osbourne, Sandringham and Cumberland Lodge in the discharge of her professional duties.

After this long tenure of service Mrs. Roberts at last became so deaf that she did not feel longer competent for the work and declined to take on any new cases. She was then appointed to the Royal Maternities Charities Society, an institution organised by the then Princess Alexandra, now the beloved Dowager Queen of England, and controlled by her and a committee of London ladies. This position Mrs. Roberts held for several years, when, owing to her advanced age and the dangers and hardships of obeying calls In the poorer districts of London at all hours of the night, she resigned of her own accord, the secretary saying to her that she was leaving with an exceptional record of success and that her name should always remain on the roll call of the society. It is a source of great pleasure to Mrs. Roberts now to know that her name remains living and green in the heart of the field wherein she laboured so long and so diligently.

Longs for Native Land.

“Your United States is a great country,”  continued Mrs. Roberts, “but, after all, you will not blame me when I say that I prefer my native land, and it seems to me that there should be a place for me over there. I cannot feel as my brother does here. He has been here for many years: his children have grown up here, and his family and all of his ties are here. But my heart is over there, where now reigns the young prince whom I nursed. Were I over there now I would be entitled to the old folks’ pension, but don’t you think she who nursed the reigning king is entitled to something more than such a pittance? You have possibly read how truly noble and generous the young King of Spain is acting toward his old nurse. He provides for her every comfort, and she is made much of by court and people. Do you think my Prince George would do less for his old nurse? I refuse to believe it.”

Mrs. Roberts wears a heavy gold brooch that was personally presented to her by the then Princess Alexandra upon the occasion of her leaving the royal nursery. The princess told hereupon that occasion that she would be privileged to refer to the little prince, now king as “my boy.” King Edward, then Prince of Wales, presented her at the same time with a heavy gold watch, which she also now has. There is an Inscription on the inside of the back cover which reads: “To Mrs. Roberts, in remembrance of H. R. H. Prince George.”

Has Brooch From Victoria.

She also has another brooch, presented to her by the late Queen Victoria upon the christening of Prince George. On being called to Osborne on another occasion Mrs. Roberts was presented by the queen with two beautiful photographs, with her signature, one of herself and one of the deceased prince consort, informing her at the same time that they were the best photos ever taken of both. These Mrs. Roberts left with a relative on the other side. She says that as poor as she is their weight in gold would not buy them. She did not care to subject them to the hazards of travel. Mrs. Roberts states that when Sir Arthur Bigge is appointed keeper of the privy purse she intends to appeal to him for a statement of her case to the king. She believes that Sir Dighton Probyn, who held this position under the late lamented King Edward, would never allow her protests and supplications to reach his royal master. Mrs. Roberts believes that if her petitions had been presented some action would have been taken on her case long ago. She claims to have some of Sir Probyn’s official letters now in her possession, possession, in which he is alleged to state that nothing could be done for her. Mrs. Roberts gives it as her belief that these are solely the words of a mercenary. She says that King Edward had ever a kind and grateful heart, and was always good to old servitors.

Faith in Lloyd George.

“I have served in Sir Arthur Bigge’s family,” Mrs. Roberts states. “He knows me, and I am sure he will desire to help me. The Right Hon. Lloyd George would also interfere in my behalf if I appealed to him. The greatest Welshman of us all would not suffer an old country woman who has served the same crown for which he labors so energetically to be utterly disregarded. There is only one burden to my poor old soul: I want to go back to spend my few remaining years in my native land, and to be allowed to go to my long rest in that sacred old .spot where my father sleeps.”

Mrs. Roberts was treated with every consideration by the royal household. She was several times invited upon the royal carpet. She enjoyed many pleasant chats with the late Queen Victoria. Sometimes, upon receiving Welsh newspapers, newspapers, the queen would send for her from the nursery and request her to read selections from them and to translate them. She would ask Mrs. Roberts to pronounce some Welsh words and sayings, and she would utter them after her, doing it far better. Mrs. Roberts says, than some of the young Welsh Americans whom she has met since being in this country.

Mrs. Roberts saw the queen in her grief for her beloved prince consort. On one occasion she invited Mrs. Roberts to visit the grand mausoleum wherein rests his remains. She gave Mrs. Roberts the golden key which opens the door thereto, and sent her head dresser to accompany her, graciously saying that she would meet her there at a certain time. Mrs. Roberts says she will never forget the hour she spent there with the widowed queen and the mortal remains of the consort and husband whom she had loved so deeply.

Has Met Other Royalties.

“I have been formally presented to the Empress Frederick, mother of the present Emperor of Germany, and also the Grand Duchess of Hess.” continued Mrs. Roberts. Roberts. “and I have many times attended the different ladies of the family to their balls and parties. These royal ladies know very well how to show little marks of esteem to favorite servants. I have had them more than once hand their fans to me to hold while their own ladies in waiting would be at their elbows, and, to their credit be it said. I never saw any of these ladies in waiting evince any sign of displeasure at such marked favors.

“All of Victoria’s children, with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice, were very affable and chatty with servants and dependents. The Princess Beatrice (the youngest) was brought up under somewhat different surroundings from the others. Her good father was taken sick while she was yet a child in arms, and she grew up to be the daily companion of her sorrowing mother. This, I always thought, was the reason for her being more reserved and distant than the other children.

“When I was nursing the Duchess of Abercorn the Princess Alexandra came in person to call on her friend, and was surprised and pleased to find me in attendance. It was our first meeting since my departure from her service. She greeted me warmly and shook hands with me, as would any good woman, and made inquiries as to how I was getting along. I was also all impatience to ask questions regarding the little prince and was tempted to tell her how much I should like to see him. I knew he was by this time quite a boy, big enough to romp and play with his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor.

Paid Visit by Prince.

“On leaving the princess called for me and told me that, if such was my wish, she would arrange with the Canon Dalton, then tutor to the princes, for him to accompany them on an afternoon visit to me in a day or two. They came, and I had my hands full for that afternoon. They romped and blew soap bubbles, as would any pair of ordinary healthy boys, and both had a splendid time, untrammelled by court etiquette and unwatched by tutors.

“The late Prince Albert Victor once asked his royal mother why Prince George was ‘my boy’ any more than himself. He was answered that he would be told when he became a man, and that he was to understand that Mrs. Roberts was his dear friend also, and that she had been very good to him. “When Prince George was elected chancellor of the University of Wales, at Bangor, he caused his private secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge, to send me a letter of invitation to attend the celebration. I had at that time a very important and serious case of nursing on my hands, and so sent my son to represent me. I have always regretted that I was unable to attend, for I lost there an opportunity of meeting the boy whom I love so well.

Welsh Expect Great Things.

“Have you ever stopped to think that the Welsh people have a right to expect great things from the new king? There never was a better time than the present to agitate the question of securing the representation of Wales on the national flag. I firmly believe that he suckled my own love of kin and country with his sustenance. One of the royal doctors told me at one time, when speaking of the honor connected with my distinction, that he never was quite sure which one of us was the most honored. ‘But.’ said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “let us hope that your boy will prove a good and wise man, and that he will inherit the good traits of his Welsh foster mother.’

“The doctor was an old man at that time, and a wise and good one, but at that time it was not for him or myself to see that Prince George, who was the second in ‘advance right’ claim, would ascend the throne. But since the death of his elder brother I have often found myself repeating the old doctor’s words, ‘Let us hope that he will be a good man and a wise one.’

“Often, while holding him in my arms, and thinking of the beautiful child I had sacrificed for him, I would wonder over the possibility of his succeeding to the throne, and would pray God to bless him with a kind and loving heart, so that, when the time came, if fate ordained it so, he would prove a tower of strength and a blessing, not only to his own subjects, subjects, but to the wide, wide world. His, wise and great father, and his saintly grandmother have already given us proof what England’s monarchs can do for the welfare of the world, and I feel like prophesying that King George will follow in their footsteps, with the good of mankind in its entirety as the motive principle of his actions. May God bless him.”

Evening Star [Washing DC] 11 September 1910: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Roberts is a good deal more charitable to her former employers than Mrs Daffodil would have been. Gold brooches and watches, no matter how heavy or suitably inscribed, are, indeed, dross, when it comes to the death of Mrs Robert’s daughter and the doctors’ odious decision (based on the mistaken belief in “maternal influence”) not to tell Mrs Roberts that the tiny infant was ill and pining for her mother. It is possible that the child was ill with a disease untreatable at the time, such as diphtheria, even had her mother been able to nourish her, but at least Mrs Roberts would have been there to hold the child in her last moments. For the Royal physicians, the phrase “special place in Hell” springs to mind.

In the interests of space, Mrs Daffodil will omit her trenchant remarks on the “favour” shown to Mrs Roberts by the ladies who condescended to hand her their fans to hold.

Captain Henry Roberts, Mrs Roberts’s son was incensed at the headlines about Mrs. Roberts living in poverty and issued a corrective statement:

“I was absolutely dumbfounded at receiving a clipping from some Rochester papers saying that Mrs. Ann Roberts, royal nurse, was found here in poverty…As to her being in poverty, she has always paid her own expenses, and has jewels and other gifts to her from royalty. Immediatley upon her arrival here she deposited a good sum of money and jewels in my care until she needs them. In fact, she wants us to purchase some property and make a permant home here, but we decline to do that, as she is very fond of old England and often speaks of returning there after a while.”

He stated that he gave the true version of the story to an editor who interviewed his mother, but that “distortions of the facts have since appeared in several papers.” Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 8 July 1910: p. 15

Still, Mrs Roberts’s story did come to the eye of the proper authorities and her story has something of a happy ending:

A few weeks ago Mrs. Roberts sailed again for England, and upon her arrival at London she was called upon by a representative of King George, who stated, that he had been sent to learn what could be done for her comfort. She informed him that it was her desire to have a little home of her own among the hills of her own native Wales, in Carnavonshire, and preferably on the Penrhyn estate. Lord Penrhyn was instructed to find a cottage for this purpose and to have it fitted up with all the necessary comforts and she was also told that a substantial annuity was to be settled on her. Word has already been received by her relatives in this country that Mrs. Roberts is comfortably provided for for her remaining years. Bennington [VT] Banner 13 December 1910: p. 2

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.

Mourning the Dandy Dog: 1896

 

a stone in the dog cemetery 1905

We have previously read of the luxuries lavished on the “dandy dogs” by their masters and mistresses. Yet, in spite of the finest food and drink and the best medical care, these beloved pets, like all of us, “must come to dust.” As we come to the end of “National Pet Week,” we continue the dandy dog narrative as found in The Strand.

 

+++

And yet, with all this, dandy dogs die like their humbler brethren – probably much sooner. Then comes the funeral, with its flowers, carriages, and marble monuments. I am not jesting. An illustrated article has already appeared in THE STRAND MAGAZINE on the Dogs’ Cemetery, situated, appropriately, in Hyde Park. Mr. Rotherham, the canine specialist, has an extensive burying-ground of the same kind on his property at Neasden.

Mr. Kenyon, the gentle, sympathetic undertaker of Edgware Road, tells me he was sent for in hot haste one Saturday afternoon. He was out at the time, but he called on the Sunday – thinking, of course, that he was required to take an order for the burial of an ordinary Christian. It was not so. The deceased was a pet dog that had met with a tragic death in the street beneath a coal cart. The lady tearfully explained that she wanted the body embalmed, and then placed in a glass coffin, so that she could have poor dear “Friskie” with her all days—even to the consummation of her own; the two would then be interred together. Mr. Kenyon thought this might be magnificent, but it was not business; so he declined the commission.

Mr. Rotherham knows of dozens of cases in which toy dogs have had costly funerals. Pets that die in town are usually buried at the country seat of the family. In this surgeon’s canine cemetery lies one dog that was brought from France. But here is a poetic funeral card that speaks for itself; note that it contains hopeful hints of a canine hereafter – “another place,” as they say in Parliament.

But listen to Mr. Rotherham’s record case. “A year or two ago I was called to the Grosvenor Hotel to see a dog. When I entered the room I saw a young man stretched on the hearth-rug. I thought I had been called to see him ; but I found I was mistaken. The dog was dead, the circumstances being these: The gentleman had occasion to go out, so he shut his dog in the sitting-room. The dog pro tested strongly in his absence – mainly by disfiguring the door, and driving several other visitors nearly crazy with continuous howls. When the master returned, the hotel people complained, whereupon the young gentleman proceeded to chastise his demonstrative pet – which chastisement took the form of a running kick that ended the dog’s days.

“The remorseful man’s reparation resolved itself into a gorgeous funeral. There was a purple velvet pall, two broughams (one for the coffin and one for the mourners), and three guineas’ worth of flowers—chiefly lilies of the valley. A leaden shell was made and inclosed in a polished mahogany coffin, with silver fittings and name-plate. A touch of romance was given to this unique function when, just as the leaden shell was about to be sealed up, the impetuous young fellow was seen to put in with the dog’s remains a packet of letters and a gold locket containing hair. I imagine the dog must have belonged to the chief mourner’s deceased lady-love.”

This funeral, Mr. Rotherham assures me, cost £30 or £40; and the funniest thing about it was that the surgeon himself was requested to “follow.” He consented to do this, and was forthwith provided with a white silk sash and a satin rosette. Another very interesting dog’s funeral was one carried out by a London undertaker, although the remains were to be interred in the tomb of the sorrowing master’s ancestors in Sicily. The dog’s body was, of course, embalmed ; and the headstone was sent with it.

dog's funeral card strand

A typical dog’s funeral-card is reproduced here. “Monkey” was a quaint little Yorkshire; and his mistress — an enormously rich woman, and a great believer in Sir Henry Thompson – had his remains cremated. “Monkey’s” cinerary urn, shown in the accompanying photograph, probably represents the very highest pinnacle of (deceased) Dandy Dog-dom. It cost six hundred guineas, being in the form of a solid tortoise-shell sedan chair, enameled all over the front and sides in the most costly manner, and inlaid with brilliants, rubies, emeralds, and pearls; the extremities of the handles are simply incrusted with jewels.

dog's Monkey cinerary urn, cost 600 Guineas

Inside is a gold-mounted crystal jar, with a monogram in diamonds; this contains the ashes. It is surmounted by a skull. The name of the departed pet is perpetuated by the monkey seen on top of the casket; and in his paw he holds a fine pearl. This casket was made by Messrs. A. Barrett and Sons, of 63 and 64, Piccadilly; of course, it was an exceptional order, but Mr. H. Barrett tells me that the firm ordinarily make cinerary urns, ranging in price from £10 to £250, for holding the ashes of cremated pet dogs.

In conclusion it may be said that pet dogs are treated by their mistresses almost precisely as though they were human members of the family; the only discrepancy in the analogy being that it is horribly bad form for a lady to drive in the park with her baby by her side, while the presence of a pompous pug or a toy terrier is irreproachably correct.

The Strand Magazine 1896

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite the sorrowful sentiments expressed, Mrs Daffodil finds “Monkey’s” cinerary urn arrangement to be both absurdly costly and macabre. Expensive funerals for beloved pets were frequently featured in the press. Dogs were thus honoured.

Fine Funeral of a Pet Pug.

Paris is laughing over the extravagant funeral of the pet dog of an American family residing in the gay capital. The body was placed in two caskets, one of oak, the other leaden, conveyed in a hearse covered with flowers to Vaucresson, and there buried. A number of mourners in carriages followed the hearse to the cemetery, and a monument costing $300 was erected over the grave, the total expenditure for the funeral amounting to over $500.  Edgefield [SC] Advertiser 20 February 1895: p. 1

So were cats.

Funeral for Cat

With more pomp and ceremony, perhaps, than ever marked the obsequies of any animal buried in New Haven, Conn., the pet cat of Mrs. William Gay, a wealthy woman, was recently interred. Laid out in a pink silk-lined coffin, with catnip spread around the remains, a big pink silk bow at his throat and fastened to the collar with silver bells, Sonny was buried I a grave dug in the garden by the janitor of the apartment house. Mr. and Mrs. Gay, who believe their pet was poisoned by some one  in the neighborhood, attended the ceremony.

In life Sonny was cared for like a baby, being given the best of food and sleeping in a little bed, snugly tucked in between specially made sheets, with blankest of the same size and with downy pillows for his head. Given a bath and combed every evening by Mrs. Gay, his shiny fur was soft as down. The Silver Messenger [Challis ID] 20 January 1903: p. 6

girl with dead canary Greuze

Girl with Dead Canary, Greuze

And even canaries:

Shoddy made a pretty good exhibition of itself in Philadelphia this week at the funeral of a pet canary. The coffin was of walnut, mounted with silver handles, and screw-heads, and upon it was a cross of white flowers with the inscription in rose-letters, “We mourn thee.” The little boy who was to read the funeral service broke down at the moment he was encouraging his hearers to bear their loss with fortitude, and the other children joined in his sobs. Even older people, who had drawn to the scene by curiosity, were affected. Next Sunday they will put up marble grave-stones with an appropriate inscription, over the resting place. The coffin cost $10, the flowers $6, and the gravestones cannot be had short of $10. The Buffalo [NY] Commercial 4 May 1878: p. 2

Mimi Matthews, the author of The Pug That Bit Napoleon has written this excellent piece on dog funerals in the late Victorian era.

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.