Category Archives: Domestic Arrangements

How Mrs Stum Arranged a Funeral: 1875

mourning ladies Quad's Odds 1875

ONE IN A THOUSAND

How Mrs. Stum Arranged the Details of the Funeral.

If all women were as cool and matter-of-fact as Mrs. Stum! But she is one in a thousand. She was over at Mrs. Moody’s, on Macombe street, the other day, her iron-gray hair combed down flat and her spectacles adjusted to gossip range, when she suddenly arose and said:

“Mrs. Moody, be calm. Where do you keep the camphor bottle?”

“Why?” asked the surprised Mrs. Moody.

“Because they are bringing your husband through the gate on a board! I think he’s smashed dead, but be calm about it! I’ll stay right here and see to things!”

Mrs. Moody threw up her arms and fell down in a dead faint, and Mrs. Stum opened the door as the men laid the body on the porch.

“Is he dead?” she asked in an even tone.

“I think so,” answered one of the men; “the doctor’ll be here in a minute.”

The doctor came up, looked at the victim and said life had fled, adding:

“His back and four or five of his ribs are broken.”

“That’s sensible, that is,” said Mrs. Stum, gazing at the doctor in admiration. “Some physicians would have said that his vertebrae was mortally wounded, and would have gone on to talk about the ‘larynx,’ the ‘arteries,’ the ‘optic nerves,’ and the ‘diagnosis.’ If he’s dead it’ll be some satisfaction to know what he died of. Well, lug in the body and send a boy after an undertaker.”

The men carried the body through to a bed-room, and Mrs. Stum went back to Mrs. Moody, who was revived and was wailing and lamenting.

“Don’t, Julia—don’t take on so,” continued Mrs. Stum. “Of course you feel badly, and this interferes with taking up carpets and cleaning the house, but it’s pleasant weather for a funeral, and I think the corpse will look as natural as life.”

“Oh! My poor, poor husband,” wailed Mrs. Moody.

“He was a good husband, I’ll swear to that,” continued Mrs. Stum; “but he was dreadfully careless to let a house fall on him. Be calm, Mrs. Moody! I’ve sent for one of the best undertakers in Detroit, and you’ll be surprised at the way he’ll fix up the deceased.”

When the undertaker came in Mrs. Stum shook hands and said that death was sure to overtake every living thing sooner or later. She mentioned the kind of coffin she wanted, stated the number of hacks, the hour for the funeral, and held the end of the tape-line while he measured the body.

Several other neighbors came in, and she ordered them around and soon had everything working smoothly. The widow was sent to her room to weep out her grief, doors and windows were opened, and as Mrs. Stum built up a good baking fire, she said:

“Now, then, we want pie and cake and sauce and raised biscuit and floating islands. He’ll have watchers, and the watchers must have plenty to eat.”

When the baking had been finished the coffin and undertaker arrived, and the body was placed in its receptacle. Mrs. Stum agreed with the undertaker that the face wore a natural expression, and when he was going away she said:

“Be around on time. Don’t put in any second-class hacks, and don’t have any hitch in the proceedings at the grave!”

From that hour until two o’clock of the second day thereafter she had full charge. The widow was provided with a black bonnet, a crape shawl, etc., the watchers found plenty to eat, a minister was sent for, eighteen chairs were brought from the neighbors and everything moved along like clock-work.

“You must bear up,” she kept saying to the widow. “House cleaning must be done, that back yard must be raked off, and the pen stock must be drawed out, and you haven’t time to sit down and grieve. His life was insured, and we’ll go down next week and select some lovely mourning goods.”

Everybody who attended said they never saw a funeral pass off so smoothly, and when the hack had landed the widow and Mrs. Stum at her door again, Mrs. Stum asked:

“Now, didn’t you really enjoy the ride, after all?”

And the widow said she wouldn’t have believed that she could have stood it so well.

Detroit Free Press.

Macon [GA] Weekly Telegraph 4 May 1875: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil hopes that, should she ever find herself in a similarly worrying situation, she would be as resourceful as Mrs Stum, (the name means “silent,” in the Germanic tongue) if not quite so painfully candid.

There were, in point of fact, a thousand-and-one little duties to consider when organising a funeral; Mrs Stum’s quiet efficiency touches on several of them: providing the widow with black clothing without her having to leave the house; opening doors and windows, presumably under the “superstitious” belief that it would aid the the dear departed in departing; baking plenty of food for the “watchers,” who would sit up all night to ensure that the dead were not left alone—such vigils were thirsty (and hungry) work. The “hacks” ordered were the carriages to carry the family and friends to the grave and a successful funeral was often judged by the number of carriages following the hearse to the grave.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of “fiends for a funeral,” who relished the rare treat of a carriage ride to the cemetery, while that funereal person over at Haunted Ohio has appropriated the same title for a post about individuals with a peculiar taste for attending the funerals of total strangers.  Undertakers ultimately had to resort to special cards and tickets of invitation to keep away the interlopers. One feels instinctively that Mrs Stum would have instantly spotted these funeral fanciers and turned them out of the cemetery.

For more on Victorian mourning customs in a (mostly) more sombre vein, see The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard.

 

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

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

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A Simply Splendid Christmas Treat: 1897

dancing round the christmas tree

Making It Easy.

“Dear me, I don’t see how you can do it!”

“Do what? Just let the young people have an out and out merry time of it on Christmas night?” “You say your sister’s family are coming to dinner, your girl of course goes out in the evening, and yet half a dozen or more young folks are coming to visit in the evening. Of course you’ll have to get up the treat.”

“Oh, the treat won’t trouble anybody. I’m going to do exactly as we did last year.”

“Yes, but those stylish Merlin girls on the hill told our Ida—she was away last Christmas, you remember—that they spent last Christmas evening at your house, and never had a pleasanter time in their lives. They mentioned particularly that the refreshments were splendid! Ida wondered what you had.”

“Well, it’s easily told. When Tom and the girls said they wished six or eight of their friends, the Merlins among the rest, could come to the house Christmas night, I said they could and welcome if they were willing to do as we used to in our New England home.”

“‘Pray how was that?’ asked Tom, bridling a little.

“I reminded him that Norah expected to go on her little Christmasing as soon as dinner was over, and that I always helped her clear away so lengthy a feast. The table I told him should be neatly spread with nothing on it but the cloth, cups and saucers, plates and paper napkins. On the sideboard should be a platter of cold turkey which I would slice after dinner, chips, fancy crackers, salteens, a pie or two, cake, nuts and raisins, figs and grapes, all ready prepared for serving. A pot of coffee, also one of chocolate, should be on the range. Whenever he or any of the other ladies chose to invite a young lady to the dining room they could treat her to whatever the sideboard afforded, or make merry by running to the kitchen for a cup of hot drink.

“I certainly think those young people were going and coming from the dining room the whole evening through. Tom had sniffed a little and observed something about ‘a regular counter lunch’ when the proposal was made, but this year he proposed carrying out the same program, or I might perhaps more properly say menu.

“I remember Tom called out, ‘The pie’s given out, mammy.’ ‘All right,’ I said, ‘go to the pantry and get another.’ And pretty soon Lizzie wailed, ‘The coffee’s all gone, mammy.’ ‘All right,’ said I placidly, ‘go to work and make some more.’ Then a prolonged cry, ‘O mammy, the turkey has all disappeared.’ ‘Never mind, go to the cellar-way and get the bones.’ There were some pickings left, and I did set up a chicken ‘gainst a special call.

“They picked both turkey frame and chicken bare; Susie’s children were here, you know, so there were fourteen young people in all, and now I have described what the Merlin girls styled ‘splendid refreshments.’ Tom last year ventured something about ice cream, but I told him no, there could be no fussing about anything extra, the general provision of the season would be enough. And we found it a very simple matter to clear away the sideboard treat the next morning, while it gave me scarcely anything extra to do on Christmas afternoon.”

This is a very true showing of what has been done time and time again in a large family, when the young people wanted a little company on Christmas night, and after the long, abundant dinner it was too much for the tired housewife to think of getting up a regularly laid “treat.” It has been proven often that an entirely informal company is the merriest one imaginable, and it is a great mistake to crowd so much into a joyous holiday that all pleasure is lost in a sense of cruel fatigue…

There is quite an art in making things easy, and on holidays the most scrupulous housewife is fully justified in refusing to undertake anything like an extra spread. Just set young people to helping themselves, and my! how the good things will disappear. It is doubly jolly to see Tom or Will pouring chocolate into a tiny cup which he must fill and refill until he must needs search about for more of the raw material. There is always a kind of good comradeship in sharing these merry feasts, especially when it becomes the part of prudence for some matronly girl to advise as to how much coffee or chocolate goes into making another potful. Do not refuse the merry-making because of the work involved. Make things easy, and they will be all the merrier, and young people are much the same all the world around.

Christian Work 16 December 1897: p 1020

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This will be Mrs Daffodil’s last post for 2017. Should readers wish for more tips on making the holidays merry and bright, she can recommend the “Christmas” tab for stories on Christmas tree dances , New Year’s Eve “wish” trees and other entertainments.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the best of everything for the holidays and peace, health, and prosperity in the New Year.

And cake.

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.

 

Corn Balls for Christmas: A Thrilling Tale: 1870s

harriet ann corn balls

HARRIET ANN’S CHRISTMAS

by Mary E. Wilkins

I was 12 years old three weeks before that Christmas , but I was small for my age and looked no more than 10. There were four of us. I was the eldest. Then there were a girl of 10, one of 8 1/2 and a boy of 7. In October we had moved to the house on the shore of Lonesome lake, which was very lonesome indeed. It was a solitary little sheet of water on the top of a hill, almost a mountain. There were no neighbors nearer than a mile. Father had moved to this farm on Lonesome lake because his father had died that fall, and the property had to be divided between him and his brother, Uncle William. Uncle William was not married, though he was older than father, and he and father and grandfather had always lived together and work the home farm, sharing the profits.

After grandfather’s death father and Uncle William had some difference. I never knew what it was about. One night after I had gone to bed I heard them talking loud, and the next morning father and Uncle William looked very sober at breakfast and mother had been crying. That afternoon she told us that we were going to move because the property was to be divided, and were to have the farm on Lonesome lake, near Lebanon. Lebanon is a little village about ten miles from Wareville, where we were living then. Mother said she was sorry to go away because she had lived there so long, and she was afraid she would be pretty lonesome in the new home, but she said we must make the best of it. Uncle William was the eldest son and had a right to the first choice of the property, and of course since he was a bachelor, it would be very hard for him to go to live at Lonesome lake.

We children rather liked the idea of moving and began packing at once. Flory and Janey had their dolls and their wardrobes all packed within an hour. Flory was the sister next to me, and I thought her rather old to play with dolls. I had given up dolls long before I was as old as she.

Two weeks after grandfather died we were all moved and nearly settled in our new home. There had been no one living in the house for several years, except when father and Uncle William, went up there every year in haying time to cut and make hay. Everything seemed pretty damp and dismal at first, but when we got our furniture set up and the fires started it looked more cheerful. The house was large, with two front rooms looking on the lake, which was only about 20 feet distant. One of these rooms was our sitting room; the other was our parlor. Back of these rooms was a very large one, which was our kitchen and dining room. There were a dark bedroom in the middle of the house, a bedroom out of the kitchen, one where father and mother slept, out of the sitting room, and four chambers.

Thanksgiving came about a week after we had moved, and we had a rather forlorn day. We all missed grandfather and Uncle William. I am sure mother cried a little before we sat down to the table, and father looked sober.

When Thanksgiving was over, we began to think about Christmas . Mother had promised us a Christmas tree. The year before we had all the measles and been disappointed about going to the tree at the Sunday school, and mother had said, “Next year you shall have a tree of your own if nothing happens.” Of course, something had happened. Poor grandfather had died, and we had moved, and we wonder if that would put a stop to the tree. Mother looked a little troubled at first when we spoke of it. Then she said if we should not be disappointed if we did not have many presents and the tree did not have much on it except popcorn and apples she would see what she could do.

Then we children began to be full of little secrecies. Mysterious bits of wool and silk and colored paper and cardboard were scattered about the house, and we were always shutting doors and jumping and hiding things when a door was opened. Each of us was making something for father and mother, even Charles Henry. He was working a worsted motto, “God Bless Our Home.” Then, of course, we were all making presents for one another.

It was a week and one day before Christmas . We had our presents at most done, and mother had promised to take two of us the very next day and go down to the village to do some shopping-we had been saving money all the year to come boughten presents -when the news about Uncle William came. A man rode over from Wareville quite late at night and brought word that Uncle William was dangerously sick and father and mother must come at once if they wanted to see him alive. Mother said there was nothing for it but they must go. She said if they had not come away just as they had, with hard words between father and Uncle William, she would have let father go alone and staid with us children; but, as it was, she felt that she must go too. She and father, though I can understand now that they felt anxious while trying to conceal it from us, did not think there was any real danger in our staying alone. They reasoned that nobody except the people in the village would know we were alone, and there was not probably one ill disposed person there, certainly not one who would do us harm. Then, too, it was winter and we were off the main traveled road, and tramps seemed very improbable. We had enough provisions in the house to last us for weeks, and there was a great stock of firewood in the shed. Luckily the barn was connected with the house, so I did not have to go out of doors to milk–it was fortunate that I knew how–and we had only one cow.

Mother staid up all that night and baked, and father split up kindling wood and got everything ready to leave. They started early next morning, repeating all their instructions over and over. We felt pretty lonesome when they had gone, I especially, not only because I was the eldest and felt a responsibility for the rest, but because father had given me a particular charge. I was the only one who knew that there was $583, some money which father had from the sale of a wood lot in Wareville a month after we had moved and had kept in the house ever since, locked up in the secret drawer in the chest in the dark bedroom.

Father had been intending to drive over to Wilton, where there was a bank, and deposit the money, but had put it off from one week to another, and now Wilton was too far out of his way for him to go there before going to see poor Uncle William.

Father called me into the parlor the morning they started, told me about the money and charged me to say nothing concerning it to the others. “It is always best when there is money to be taken care of to keep your own counsel,” said father. He showed me the secret drawer in the chest in the dark bedroom, the existence of which I had never suspected before, thought I was 12 years old, and he taught me how to open it and shut it. If the house caught fire, I was to get the children out first, then go straight to the secret drawer and save the money. If there had been no possibility of fire, I doubt if father would have told me about the money at all, and I would have been saved a great deal of worry.

The money was on my mind constantly after father and mother were gone. I kept thinking, “Suppose anything should happen to that money while I have the charge of it.” I knew what a serious matter it would be, because father had not much money and was saving this to buy cows in the spring, when he expected to open a milk route. I was all the time planning what I should do in case the house caught fire and in case the robbers came. The first night after father and mother went I did not sleep much, though the others did. We three girls slept in one room, with Charley in a little one out of it, and we were all locked in.

The next night I slept a little better and did not feel so much afraid, and the next day Samuel J. Wetherhed came, and we all felt perfectly safe after that. He came about 10 o’clock in the morning and knocked on the south door, and we all jumped. I don’t suppose anybody had knock on that door three times since we had lived there, it was such a lonesome place. We were scared and did not dare to go to the door, but when he knocked the second time I blustered up enough courage. I told Flory, who was as large as I and stronger, to take the carving knife, hide it under her apron and stand behind me. Of course I thought at once of the money and that this might be a robber. Then I opened the door a crack and peeped out. The minute I saw the man who stood there I did not feel afraid at all, and Flory said afterward that she felt awful ashamed of the carving knife and afraid that he might see it and be hurt in his feelings.

He stood there, smiling with such a pleasant smile. He did not look very old, not near as old as father, and he was quite well dressed. He was very good looking, and that, with his pleasant smile, won our hearts at once. He more than smiled-be fairly laughed in such a good natured way when he saw how we were all peeking, for the younger children was behind Flory, and I found afterward that Charley, who had great notions of being smart and brave, though he was so little, because he was a boy, had the poker, shaking it at the stranger. The man laughed and said in such a pleasant voice, pleasanter this his smile even: “Now, don’t you be scared, children. I am Samuel J. Wetherhed.”

The man said that as if it settled everything, and we all felt that it did, though we had never heard of Samuel J. Wetherhed in our lives. We felt that we ought to know all about him, and Janey said that night that she was sure she had seen his name in The Missionary Herald, and he must be a deacon who gave a great deal to missions.

Samuel J. Wetherhed went on to tell us more about himself, though I am sure we should have been satisfied with the name. “I have married sister who lives in Wareville. She married a man of the name of Stackpole.” said he, and we all nodded wisely at that and felt that it was an introduction. We knew Mr. Stackpole. He was the man to whom father had sold his woodland. “I went to visit my sister last week,” said the man. “I haven’t got any settled work. Yesterday my sister’s husband saw your father, and he told me how he had left you all alone up here and felt sort of worried, and I thought as long as I was just loafing around and no use to anybody I might just as well come up here and look after you a little and stay till your folks got back and look out there didn’t say wolves or robbers or anything get you.” The man laughed again in such a pleasant, merry way when he said that, and then he went on to tell us that his sister’s husband said Uncle William was better and the doctor thought he would get well, but he guessed father and mother would have to stay there for awhile. We asked the man in, and he made himself at home at once.

It seemed to me I had never seen a man so very kind as he was, and he was so quick to see things that needed to be done. He went out of his own accord and drew a pail of water, and he brought in wood for the sitting room fire. We children all agreed when we went up stairs to bed that night that there never was a man so good, except father. We had told him our plans for Christmas , and he was so much interested. He said of course we could have a tree. He would cut a fine tree, and if Uncle William was not well enough for father and mother to leave him on Christmas day he would go to Wareville himself and stay with Uncle William, so they could come home. He said, too, that he could go down to the village on foot, and if we would make out a list of the things we wanted he would go down and buy them for us. He went the very next day. We gave him all our money, and be brought back everything we wanted. We decided to make him some presents , too and I began a little wash leather money bag, like the one I had made for father. Flory made a penwiper and Janey a worsted bookmark.

Samuel J. Wetherhed cut a beautiful tree for us, taking us all into the woods to pick it out. Then he set it up in the parlor so firmed that it did not shake. He rigged some sockets for candles and help us string popcorn for decorations and make candy bags. He could sew as well as mother. Samuel J. Wetherhed was the most industrious man I ever saw. He was not idle a minute. He milked and did all the barn chores, he made the fires and drew water and swept the floors and washed the milk pails for me, and all his spare time he was at work upon our Christmas preparations as busily as we were. He found some boards and tools of father’s and made some wonderful things with them. There was a nice box, which he showed us how to line with flannel, for mother to keep knives and forks in, a little boat for Charley and a number of other things.

I felt much easier in my mind about the money after Samuel J. Wetherhed came.

We have given Samuel the bedroom out of the kitchen to sleep in. He said he would rather have that, because it was so handy for him to build the fire in the morning, and I did not have the first suspicion that anything was wrong until the night of the day but one before Christmas . I had been sleeping well since Samuel came through feeling so safe, though I had as I afterward remembered, often started awake, because I thought I heard a noise, but that night I did not go to sleep as soon as usual. I was very much excited thinking about Christmas and father and mother coming home. Samuel had gone down to the village that morning and got a letter for me from mother in which she said that they were coming home Christmas morning, since Uncle William was well enough to be left. We were all delighted the more so because we thought now that Samuel could stay and have our Christmas tree with us. He laughed and thanked us when we said so, but in a moment afterward I notice that he looked very sober, even sad. Well, thinking over everything made me very wide awake, and I guess it must have been as late as 11 o’clock when I was sure I heard somebody down stairs in the sitting room, which was directly under our room. I thought at once that it might be a robber and perhaps I ought to speak to Samuel in case he should not hear the noise. I waited till I heard the noise again very plain and was sure that I knew where it was-some one was trying to open the door of the dark bedroom, which stuck and had to be forced down before pulling. The children did not awake, and I made up my mind that I would not speak to them and get them scared to death. I thought that I would go down stairs very softly, steal past the sitting room door and go through the other day to the kitchen and wake up Samuel.

I got up and put on my dress. Then I went down stairs, and I don’t believe I made any more noise than a cat. I saw a faint light shining from the dark bedroom, and I knew I had not been mistaken. Then all of a sudden I thought that father and mother might have come home and father be looking to see if the money was safe. I thought I would make sure before I called Samuel.

I went into the sitting room and crept across to the dark bedroom, keeping close to the wall. I peeked in, and there was Samuel rummaging in the chest where the money was. Then I knew that, however good Samuel might be in other ways, he could take things. It was an awful shock. I wonder why I did not scream and run, but I kept still. I went back up stairs and locked myself into the chamber and sat down on the edge of the bed to think. It did not seem to me that it was of any use for me to stay down stairs and watch Samuel. I did not think he could find the secret drawer without any help. I could not stop his taking the money if he was determined. Then, too, I reasoned that if he did not find it that night there would be time enough for me to hide it tomorrow, and father and mother were coming home next day.

I did not sleep any that night. I took off my dress and lay down. Before daybreak I had my plans all made. I tried to treat Samuel just as usual when I saw him in the morning, and I guess I did. After breakfast I carried a pitcher of water into the parlor as if I were going to water the plants. Then I lighted a match and touched it to one of the candles on the Christmas tree to make it appear as if I had only wanted to see how it would look, and then I touched it to the tree, and it blazed up. I waited until I dared wait no longer, and then I dashed on the water and screamed fire at the top of my lungs. They all came running in Samuel first. He rushed for more water and the fire was out in a minute, but the tree was badly singed, and the children began to cry.

“Now, don’t you cry,” said Samuel “I’ll go this minute and cut another tree.”

So Samuel started off and Charley with him, and then I made Flory and Janey go upstairs. “You two have just got to go up stairs and stay there while I fix a surprise,” said I. Surprises were a favorite amusement with us children. Flory and Janey laughed and ran off up stairs for a minute.

I set some molasses on to boil. Then I got the money out of the secret drawer and made six little parcels of it, rolled as tightly as I could and wrapped in letter paper. Then as soon as the molasses was boiled I made popcorn balls. Luckily I had enough corn popped. When I called the girls down stairs, I had two plates of corn balls. The bills in one were of extra size with strings attached all ready to hang on the tree, and in six of them were hidden the little rolls of money. The balls in the other plate were smaller, and those were to be eaten at once.

When Samuel and Charley came home, I gave them some of the little corn balls, and when Samuel had set up the tree I hung on the others. Then I thought the money was safe, but I wondered all the time what I should do if Samuel should come to me and ask me right out where the money was for I did not want to tell a lie.

That night we all went up stairs as usual, but I did not go to sleep. It was not very late when I heard Samuel moving about below, and presently he came to the foot of the stairs and called me.

I went to my door. My heart was beating so hard it seemed to choke me. “What do you want,” I made out say as softly as I could, so as not to wake the children.

“Come down here a minute,” said Samuel, and I went down to the sitting room. I want to ask you a question,” said Samuel. He tried to smile, but he was very pale and looked as if he was as frightened as I was. I was so afraid he would asked me right out, “Where is the money?” but he did not.

“I only want to ask if your father left some money in the house when he went away,” said he, looking away from me as if he were ashamed.

“Yes he did,” said I. I had to or tell a lie.

“Well,” said Samuel in a queer , shaking voice, “I would like to borrow that money for a little while. I need some money right away, and as long as your father ain’t using it”-

“I would rather you waited and ask father,” I said. “I don’t think father would like it if I lent you money.”

“I will make it right with your father,” said Samuel. “Did your father tell you where the money was?”

“Yes he did,” I answered. I had to or tell a lie. I trembled for the next question.

“Where did he tell you it was?” asked Samuel.

“In the chest in the dark bedroom,” said I. That was the truth, and it did no harm.

“Whereabouts in the chest?”

“In the secret drawer.”

“Oh! So there’s a secret drawer. Did you father tell you how to open it?”

I said he did.

“Well, you just come in here and show me how to open it,” said Samuel.

I went with Samuel into the dark bedroom and showed him how to open the drawer. I could see nothing else to do. I stood back while he opened it. I wonder if it would be wrong for me to cry out as if I were astonished when he discovered that the money was gone. Then all of a sudden I heard a sound that made my heart jump with joy. I heard sleighbells and then father’s voice shouting to the horse. “Father has come,” said I.

Samuel made one leap and was gone, rushing through the kitchen and out the back door.

I ran and unbolted the south door, and there was father and mother come home sooner than I expected. When I saw their faces, I just broke down and sobbed and sobbed and told them all about it in such queer snatches that they thought it first I was out of my mind. Father said afterward that he never heard such a jumble of popcorn balls and secret drawers and Samuel. When father fairly understood what had happened, he lighted the lantern and searched out in the barn and the sheds to be sure that Samuel was not lurking about the premises, but he did not find him. Father said he knew the man; that he belonged to a good family, but had been sort of shiftless and unlucky.

When we were all settled down again for the night and I felt so safe and happy with father and mother at home, I could not help feeling troubled about poor Samuel out in the storm. I hope he would not die of cold and be found dead when the snow melted in the spring. There was quite a severe snowstorm. That was the reason why father and mother had reached home so late. They had been obliged to drive slowly on account of the gathering snow.

We were just sitting down to our Christmas dinner next day when we all stopped and listened. Then the sound came again, and we were sure that somebody was out in the storm calling faintly for help.

“It is the man!” said mother. “Do go quick as you can.” Mother has been worrying about Samuel all day. She said she did not want him to perish if he had tried to wrong us, and father had been all around the farm looking for him. He thought, however, that he had gone down to the village the night before.

We opened the door, and we could hear the calls for help quite plainly. Father pulled on his big boots and started out. The storm was very thick. Soon we could not see father, but we could hear his shouts and the faint cries in response, and then we saw father coming back half carrying Samuel J. Wetherhed.

Samuel was pretty well exhausted, beside being frightened and ashamed when he saw where he was, back in the house of the man he had tried to rob. He tried to stop on the threshold of the outer door, spent as he was. “I guess you-don’t-know,” he began, but father interrupted him. “Come along in!” cried father in a hearty way that he has. “You have been good to my children and as long as you didn’t do what you set out to there’s no use talking about it.”

Samuel was pretty well exhausted. He had spent the night in an old barn on the other side of the mountain and had been floundering about in circles all day, trying to find the road. However, he was able to eat some Christmas dinner with us, though he hesitated about that, as he had done about entering the door, and all of a sudden his knife and fork, bent his head down over his plate, and we saw that he was crying, though we tried to take no notice.

Samuel stayed with us that night and was present at the Christmas tree, though he seemed very sober and dashed his hand across his eyes a good many times when his name was called and he got his little presents .

The next day the storm had stopped, and father put the horse in the sleigh and took Samuel down to Lebanon to take the train. We never saw him again after he had shaken hands with us all and thanked mother in a voice that trembled so that he could scarcely speak and father had driven him off in the sleigh.

That day we girls pulled the corn balls to pieces and found the bills inside, not sticky at all. The next day father took the money to the bank, though he said he didn’t know corn balls were safer, since robbers knew that money was in banks, but he didn’t think they had any suspicion of its being in corn balls.

We spent the next Christmas in our old home in Wareville, for father and Uncle William had made up and we had gone back there to live. We had a tree, and the day before Christmas a great box came by express with a handsome present for each of us. There was no name sent with them, but we always knew as well as we wanted to, and father and mother thought so, too, that they had come from Samuel J. Wetherhed, who, we had heard, had settled out west and was doing very well.

The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia PA] 21 December 1899

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well-done, Harriet Ann!  Mrs Daffodil considers that she was being over-scrupulous in not at least slightly paltering with the truth, but a happy ending and a happy Christmas all round.

 

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 Jolly “Darning Party:” 1888

 

A Jolly “Darning Party.”

There is a very clever little housekeeper living in the busy portion of town and having a family of eight to look after, who makes light of family mending. Her method of disposing of this bugbear of the housewife may aid some of her weary sisters, whose lives are weekly blighted by the stockings and underwear to be made over anew.

“In the first place,” she says, “I make the three men and one boy in my family change their socks four times each week. When socks cost only 25 cents for a good pair, why should they not own a half dozen pair? Then on Sunday morning I overlook and collect all the soiled clothes and put aside every garment that needs mending. Monday morning, while the servant girl is washing the sheets, towels and such articles, my oldest daughter and myself rise a half hour earlier and mend all the torn or ripped articles before breakfast. When the clothes come from the ironing there are but few stitches to be set. I once had a girl who always insisted on putting her clothes to soak Sunday morning, but I persistently kept back those needing mending until Monday.”

Another family of growing children have a rather novel method of darning their stockings. There are four boys and five girls, three of the latter being able to darn nicely. Every Tuesday evening they have a “darning party.” The boys thread the needles, select the different cottons or wools, and the girls do the darning. The oldest boy reads some favorite book aloud, and at 9 o’clock cake and lemonade, or some like treat, is served. Any member of the family having more than two holes in one stocking is fined a penny for each hole, and the money goes to purchase new books.

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 26 February 1888: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really… a “darning party” in which only the girls do the work yet the boys get the treats? To use an American adjective, that is “darned” unfair. Mrs Daffodil suggests sequestering girls and refreshments behind locked doors until the boys learn to darn nicely.

The gentlemen, it seems, will do anything to avoid darning their own stockings, although there was a presumption that men as a species were utterly unable to undertake such delicate work.  Some ladies found in this male ineptitude a business opportunity:

In Philadelphia a guild of kind-hearted ladies has been formed to do mending for bachelors at low rates, It is conjectured that “they sew that they may reap.’ Nelson Evening Mail, 6 May 1886: p. 2

Mrs George Washington was praised for her ceaseless knitting and darning, as were ladies who invented darning efficiencies such as this

THREADED NEEDLE CASE

At a recent entertainment the hostess, a woman high up in the social world, tore her gown so that repair was necessary, and one of her intimate friends went up to her bedroom to chat while the mending went on. The maid produced a sewing case full of needles threaded with silk and cotton in different colors, so the work was quickly done. The hostess, as they went downstairs, boasted of her foresight in having needles always ready for evening work, as it had made her nervous to see her maid try and try again for a needle’s eye when she hurried. She not only has a stock of needles on hand in black and in white, but on the day that a colored frock is to be donned for dinner needles are threaded in that color and put in place in the work basket. In fact, the system has been so perfected that the cook has a stock of threaded chicken needles handy, threaded each as it is used, so that they all will be ready if many viands need a stitch or two, as many do, to keep some fancy sharp for baking. It takes only a few moments on a bright day to thread the needles and the system really saves eyesight and time. Evening News [San Jose, CA] 14 July 1911: p. 2

What a blighted life that woman “high up in the social world” must lead if her greatest boast is of pre-threaded needles….

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.

 

Autobiography of an Old Pair of Scissors: 1875

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OLD PAIR OF SCISSORS.

I was born in Sheffield, England, at the close of the last century, and was like all those who study Brown’s Shorter Catechism, made out of dust. My father was killed at Herculaneum at the time of the accident there, and buried with other scissors and knives and hooks and swords. On my mother’s side I am descended from a pair of shears that came to England during the Roman invasion. My cousin hung to the belt of a duchess. My uncle belonged to Hampton Court, and used to trim the king’s hair. I came to the United States while the grandfathers of the present generation of children were boys.

When I was young I was a gay fellow—indeed, what might have been called “a perfect blade.” I look old and rusty hanging here on the nail, but take me down, and though my voice is a little squeaky with old age, I can tell you a pretty tale. I am sharper than I look. Old scissors know more than you think. They say I am a little garrulous, and perhaps I may tell things I ought not.

I helped your grandmother prepare for her wedding. I cut out and fitted all the apparel of that happy day. I hear her scold the young folks now for being so dressy, but I can tell you she was once that way herself. Did not I, sixty years ago, lie on the shelf and laugh as I saw her stand by the half hour before the glass, giving an extra twist to her curl and an additional dash of white powder on her hair—now fretted because the powder was too thick, now fretted because it was too thin! She was as proud in cambric and calico and nankeen as Harriet is to-day in white tulle and organdy. I remember how careful she was when she ran me along the edges of the new dress. With me she clipped and notched and gored and trimmed, and day and night I went click! click! click! and it seemed as if she would never let me rest from cutting.

I split the rags for the first carpet on the old homestead, and what a merry time we had when the neighbours came to the “quilting!” I lay on the coverlet that was stretched across the quilting-frame, and heard all the gossip of 1799. Reputations were ripped and torn just as they are now. Fashions were chattered about, the coal-scuttle bonnet of some offensive neighbour (who was not invited to the quilting) was criticised, and the suspicion started that she laced too tight; and an old man who happened to have the best farm in the county was overhauled for the size of his knee-buckles, and the exorbitant ruffles on his shirt, and the costly silk lace to his hat. I lay so still that no one supposed I was listening. I trembled on the coverlet with rage, and wished that I could clip the end of their tattling tongues, but found no chance for revenge, till, in the hand, of a careless neighbour, I notched and nearly spoiled the patchwork.

Yes, I am a pair of old scissors. I cut out many a profile of old-time faces, and the white dimity bed-curtains. I lay on the stand when your grand-parents were courting—for that had to be done then as well as now—and it was the same story of chairs wide apart, and chairs coming nearer, and arm over the back of the chair, and late hours, and four or five gettings up to go with the determination to stay, protracted interviews on the front steps, blushes and kisses. Your great-grandmother, out of patience at the lateness of the hour, shouted over the banisters to your immediate grandmother, “Mary! come to bed!” Because the old people sit in the corner looking so very grave, do not suppose their eyes were never roguish, nor their lips ruby, nor their hair flaxen, nor their feet spry, nor that they always retired at half-past eight o’clock at night. After a while I, the scissors, was laid on the shelf, and finally thrown into a box among nails, and screws and files. Years of darkness and disgrace for a scissors so highly born as I. But one day I was hauled out. A bell tinkled in the street. An Italian scissors-grinder wanted a job. I was put upon the stone, and the grinder put his foot upon the treadle, and the bands pulled, and the wheel sped, and the fire flew, and it seemed as if, in the heat and pressure and agony, I should die. I was ground, and rubbed, and oiled, and polished, till I glittered in the sun and one day, when young Harriet was preparing for the season, I plunged into the fray. I almost lost my senses among the ribbons, and flew up and down among the flounces, and went mad amongst the basques. I move round as gay as when I was young; and modern scissors, with their stumpy ends, and loose pivots, and weak blades, and glaring bows, and coarse shanks, are stupid beside an old family piece like me. You will be surprised how spry I am flying around the sewing room, cutting corsages into heart-shape, and slitting a place for button-holes, and making double-breasted jackets, and hollowing scallops, and putting the last touches on velvet arabesques and Worth overskirts. I feel almost as well at eighty years of age as at ten, and I lie down to sleep at night amid all the fineries of the wardrobe, on olive-green cashmere, and beside pannier puffs, and pillowed on feathers of ostrich.

Oh, what a gay life the scissors live! I may lie on gayest lady’s lap, and little children like me better than almost anything else to play with. The trembling octogenarian takes me by the hand, and the rollicking four-year-old puts on me his dimpled fingers. Mine are the children’s curls and the bride’s veil. I am welcomed to the Christmas-tree, and the sewing-machine, and the editor’s table. I have cut my way through the ages. Beside pen, and sword, and needle, I dare to stand anywhere, indispensable to the race, the world-renowned scissors.

But I had a sad mission once. The bell tolled in the New. England village because a soul had passed. I sat up all the night cutting the pattern for a shroud. Oh, it was gloomy work. There was wailing in the house, but I could not stop to mourn. I had often made the swaddling-clothes for a child, but that was the only time I fashioned a robe for the grave. To fit it around the little neck, and make the sleeves just long enough for the quiet arms—it hurt me more than the tilt-hammers that smote me in Sheffield, than the files of the scissor’s-grinder at the door. I heard heart-strings snap as I went through the linen, and in the white pleats to be folded over the still heart I saw the snow banked on a grave. Give me, the old scissors, fifty bridal dresses to make rather than one shroud to prepare.

I never recovered from the chill of those dismal days, but at the end of life I can look back and feel that I have done my work well. Other scissors have frayed and unravelled the garments they touched, but I have always made a clean path through the linen or the damask I was called to divide. Others screeched complainingly at their toil; I smoothly worked my jaws. Many of the fingers that wrought with me have ceased to open and shut, and my own time will soon come to die, and I shall be buried in a grave of rust, amid cast-off tenpenny nails and horseshoes. But I have stayed long enough to testify, first, that these days are no worse than the old ones, the granddaughter now no more proud than the grandmother was; secondly, that we all need to be hammered and ground in order to take off the rust; and thirdly, that an old scissors, as well as an old man, may be scoured up and made practically useful.

Around the tea-table, Thomas De Witt Talmage, 1875: pp 50-52

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a little strange to find a useful household article so sententious, boastful, and sentimental—all at the same time, but there was a 19th-century vogue for these whimsical first-person “autobiographies” of inanimate objects as we have seen previously in the life-stories of a corset and an old needle-book. In the current era, when nearly everything from fashion to spouses is disposable, one wonders what objects will be left to sell their stories to the tabloids?

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.

 

How Mother Did It: 1872

“HOW MOTHER DID IT.”

By Anonymous.

If we were to suggest one thing which, above all other things combined, would most contribute to the happiness of the young housekeeper, it would be to learn how to cook as a husband’s mother cooked. Mother used to make coffee so and so! Mother used to have such waffles! and mother knew just how thick or how thin to make a squash-pie! And, O, if I could only taste of Mother’s biscuit! Such are the comments of the husband, and of too many meal-tables. It would be only a little more cruel for the husband to throw his fork across the table, or to dash the contents of his teacup in his wife’s face. The experience of a contrite husband is good reading for those men whose daily sauce is “How Mother did it.” He says:—

“I found fault, some time ago, with Maria Ann’s custard-pie, and tried to tell her how my mother made custard-pie. Maria made the pie after my recipe. It lasted longer than any other pie we ever had. Maria set it on the table every day for dinner; and you see I could not eat it, because I forgot to tell her to put in any eggs or shortening. It was economical; but in a fit of generosity I stole it from the pantry and gave it to a poor little boy in the neighborhood. The boy’s funeral was largely attended by his former playmates. I did not go myself.

“Then there were the buckwheat cakes. I told Maria Ann any fool could beat her making those cakes; and she said I had better try it. So I did. I emptied the batter all out of the pitcher one evening and set the cakes myself. I got the flour and the salt and water; and, warned by the past, put in a liberal quantity of eggs and shortening. I shortened with tallow from roast-beef, because I could not find any lard. The batter did not look right, and I lit my pipe and pondered. Yeast, yeast, to be sure. I had forgotten the yeast I went and woke up the baker, and got six cents’ worth of yeast. I set the pitcher behind the sitting room stove and went to bed.

“In the morning I got up early and prepared to enjoy my triumph; but I didn’t. That yeast was strong enough to raise the dead, and the batter was running all over the carpet. I scraped it up and put it into another dish. Then I got a fire in the kitchen and put on the griddle. The first lot of cakes stuck to the griddle. The second dittoed, only more. Maria came down and asked me what was burning. She advised me to grease the griddle. I did it. One end of the griddle got too hot, and I dropped the thing on my tenderest corn while trying to turn it around.

“Finally the cakes were ready for breakfast, and Maria got the other things ready. We sat down. My cakes did not have exactly the right flavor. I took one mouthful, and it satisfied me. I lost my appetite at once. Maria would not let me put one on her plate. I think those cakes may be reckoned a dead loss. The cat would not eat them. The dog ran off and stayed away three days after one was offered to him. The hens wouldn’t go within ten feet of them. I threw them into the back yard, and there has not been a pig on the premises since. I eat what is put before me now, and do not allude to my mother’s system of cooking.”

The Donaldsonville [LA] Chief 17 February 1872: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  For “Wife Appreciation Day,” a salutary lesson for the officious husband! Mrs Daffodil has posted before on how a clever wife chastened an impossible-to-please husband who found fault with any dish she set before him, no matter how dainty. In the same post is an amusing story  of a widow who expertly trained her new husband to be less exacting in his tastes. It is odd how gentlemen who would not know one end of a fowl from the other when plucked, scalded, and nicely larded in the roasting pan, somehow have all the finer points of cookery at their fingertips.

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.

“I’m Not Superstitious, But–“: 1926

“I’m Not Superstitious, But—“

Nina Wilcox Putnam

America’s Only Woman Humorist [!!?!?!]

As Sir Walter Raleigh said, when spreading his coat over the mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, “Step on it, kid, this is your lucky day and mine, too. I only regret that I have but one coat to lay down for my country.”

And how true it is that some things bring you luck, providing you believe they do, certainly was proved to me not long ago when I luckily picked up the telephone receiver on a busy wire and heard that the cook was leaving over at Miss Demeanor’s. I was lucky and quick enough to beat all the other ladies in Dinglewood to luring her.

The cooks, if any, which we have had this part year have positively caused a draft going through our kitchen, that’s how fast they went. And now, quite by accident, I run across the fact that this cook was leaving, so naturally I ran across and asked would she come to us, and she said she would, and so I went right on back home and scrubbed the kitchen floor, washed the windows, tied red bows on the kitchen curtains, moved the best easy chair, radio and five-foot bookshelf out there, also a few little other odds and ends into her quarters such as my long mirror, my best red room slippers, and etc. to make her feel thoroughly comfortable.

The Conquering Cook Comes

Well, the next morning, which was when we was expecting her, I fixed myself up as attractive as possible and sat down to wait for her. Pretty soon the doorbell give a loud ring, and my heart give a ditto leap, and I though, oh heavens, there she is and hurried to answer. Well, it was, actually she had showed. I took her bags and carried them upstairs and showed her her room, asked was there anything I could do for her, found she would fancy a little cake and tea, and then I left her in privacy while I went down to fix things up like she wanted, and while I was doing so, the bell rang again, and this time who would it be only that Mabel Bush, the one that’s married to Joe Bush of the Hawthorne Club.

Well, at first I thought where Mabel must have been shopping, on account she had something with her from pretty near every department of the Emporium. But no, she was merely going away for a coupula weeks and had brought some stuff she wanted to park with me while she was gone.

Say dear, she says when she had got her breath. I wonder would you mind taking care of my goldfish while I and Joe is out in Kansas visiting mother. He’s a real sweet little feller, ain’t you, Otto? See how cute he is, Jennie? And he don’t bite or anything unless he’s crossed. With that she hauled out one of the meanest looking goldfish I ever saw in my life. It gives me an awful funny look right off, but naturally I merely says why hello, Otto, nice Otto, pretty feller, of course I’ll take care of him, Mabel, what does he eat? Oh, fishcakes, she says, or any old thing. Now go to your Aunt Jennie, Otto, that’s the boy!

Mabel Dodges the Jinx

Well, I took his glass globe and put I on the table, a little uneasy over how the new cook would feel about another mouth to feed after I had told her there was only three in the family. But before I got a chance to go do any heavy worrying, Mabel had pulled a wild-looking fern out from a handbag, and set the poor helpless thing at my feet. ‘There!’ she says “I’m sure you don’t mind looking after that; all you got to do is water it once a day with double-filtered water, brush its leaves, pick the spiders and seeds off it, and give it a little sunshine.

Then before I had a chance to kick she was after me with another coupla bundles. “This is just the canary,” she says, “and here, my dear, is my peacock fan and my opal pin. Of course I’m not a bit superstitious, but I always say there is no use taking silly chances, and there have been three wrecks around mother’s neighbourhood lately, and I hate to leave them in the house in case burglars was to break in, so you don’t mind if I leave them with you, do you?”

Why Mabel Bush, I says, do you mean to tell me you are superstitious about taking them things with you? I says, why you ought to be ashamed of such ideas. I wouldn’t be so childish, why what harm can a father fan and few opals do? Well, she says, of course they can’t do any harm, I know that, so you really won’t mind keeping them until I get back? I says of course not, dear, but honest, I think you ought to take them along, just to overcome such nonsensical ideas.

Jennie Takes no Chances.

Well, Mabel wouldn’t insult my intelligence by taking them things off the place once she had brought them, so she left them and went on her way. And after she had done so, why I put the livestock around the dining-room, and then I didn’t quite know where to put that opal pin and Mabel’s peacock fan for safe-keeping. Of course I didn’t have the faintest feeling about keeping them in the house, even with a new cook there, so I left ‘em lay where she put them.

Then I picked up a pin off the floor, walking around so’s to make sure the point was towards me, and went out in the kitchen to ask Mary, the new cook, did she know anybody owning a second-hand black cat they didn’t need? Not that I really thought it would do any good, but some people have the idea a black cat is lucky, and while I personally myself certainly don’t believe in any such nonsense, why as long as I had the idea in my head I thought I might as well get a black cat to kinda counteract the idea of that fan and opals. Well, it seems Mary had a cat meeting my specifications up to her house and she offered to go right up and get it, but I wasn’t taking any chances of letting her out. So  says, oh no, don’t bother, I will go, where is it? And she says no. 13 West 113th St.

Luck Looks Up.

That number, of course, didn’t sound awful good to me, but I says to myself, now don’t be silly, it is a pure coincidence, you go get that cat just the same. So I did, and there was a ladder standing over the front door when I got there. Not that I minded this any more than poison, and naturally I hadn’t come all that long way in order to be turned back by a mere childish superstition. So I went under the ladder and knocked on the door and after a while somebody put their head out the window and says what do you want? And I says, Mary, that’s my cook, at least she was when I left home, told me her daughter had a black cat. And the party in the window says Mary’s daughter ain’t ever here Fridays, but I’ll get you the cat. So she done so in a bag, and my good luck started right away.

Well, anyways, I was lucky enough to get home alive and without being arrested in spite of the bloody murder that animal was yelling. And I was lucky with it another way, on account no sooner was that cat established in our home than I no longer had to bother feeding my goldfish. I didn’t haf to bury it, the nice kitty attended to all that.

Naturally, however, I had to replace Otto, so I ordered another poor fish of exactly the same pattern, ordered it kept down in the fish department of the Emporium until Mabel got ready to come back. It was just as well, anyways, on account the new cook claimed she never could of stood the noise it didn’t make.

Welcoming the Horseshoe

Now of course I wasn’t one bit superstitious about them opals being in the house, but I have to admit I commenced dropping tea spoons right after Mabel parked stuff with me. Not that I believe it really is unlucky to drop a spoon, but once I got the idea why I felt there wouldn’t be any actual harm in doing everything I could to counteract the thought. And so it was certainly rather cheering when Junior brought in a nice horseshoe with three nails in it. I had a good time gilding it up, and panting a few forget me nots on it, so’s nobody would think anything peculiar when I hung it up over the parlor mantel.

Ad nobody did, not even when by accident in hanging it, I happened to brush Mabel’s peacock fan off the mantel and into the open fire. I felt awful bad about this and what to do certainly was the question. It was one thing to page a new gold fish, but not a soul I knew kept even one peacock, and so he only thing I could hope for was that Mabel had her stuff well insured.

I wouldn’t want to lay the blame on any of Mabel’s belongings. I am not that kind of a fool, but it’s the truth that the very day I bought a picture postal of a peacock in order to make things up to Mabel the best I could, why somebody, the cat, so the cook said, left the dining room window open, let Mabel’s fern freeze, and of course, the only one of the same style our florist had in stock was twice as big and four times as expensive. But that didn’t matter so bad, because all I would have to do when she come back would be to say look, dear, what wonderful care I have taken of your plant, just see how it has grown and etc.

Worse and More of It.

Hot Bozo! As if that wasn’t enough the darn canary bird she had left on my hands commenced moulting. We could hear him at it every morning earl, and never once got dressed and down in time to stop him. So I had to go spend a couple or three dollars on hair tonic and after he drank the first couple of bottles he begun to look better. Just the same he had a distinctly shingle bobbed appearance by the time I got a letter from Mabel telling where she would be home in two days and if it wasn’t too much bother, would I mind ordering milk and ice, and loaning them a little coal, and running over to air the house and tell the furnace man to build a fire and ask the newspaper man to commence leaving the Morning Yell again. And she hoped it wouldn’t be too much bother.

So I done like she asked, and I addition carted all her stuff over for her—all, that is to say, except them opals. Look as I could, I wasn’t able to locate that pin any place. I stubbed my toe looking and every one knows that meant you’re going some place where you’re not welcome without that jewel? The cook got sore when I asked if she had seen the darn thing, and says well, if she wasn’t trusted, there was no use in he r staying any longer. So she took her bag, wages and departure.

And still I couldn’t find no pin, so I decided, well, that cook never would of left me flat like that and walked out unless she really had stolen it, after all! Not that I’m the least superstitious, but I might of known I wouldn’t have a minute’s luck with opals in the house. I don’t believe in any superstition in the world, but there has certainly been nothing go right since Mable left them stones here, and what and the world am I gonner tell her when I see her tomorrow?

One Superstition Left

Well, naturally there wasn’t nothing to do except tell her the truth. And so when Mabel come home and I was over there to her house with everything ready for her like she had asked, and she says how lovely and neighborly of you, dear, I’m afraid it’s been a terrible lot of bother. Why, of course I says, not in the least, darling. It’s been no bother at all. It’s been a pleasure. But, I says, I got bad news for you. I lost your opal pin, dear, not that I’m one bit superstitious, but it certainly brought me bad luck all the while it was with me and now it’s gone.

And she says, why Jennie Jules, she says, it was never there at all. I didn’t leave it there. I took it along with me after all, on account of the way you kidded me about being superstitious! And I give her one look. No! I says, meaning yes. So you never left it! I says. Well, I do guess there is one superstition I do believe in, after all, which is that when a person’s nose itches it means they are going to kiss a fool, and so, if you’ve got a mirror handy, I believe I’ll get the job over with right now.

The Sunday news [Charleston SC 17 January 1926

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just in time for the 13th of the month, this whimsical account touches on just about every common superstition of the early twentieth century, as well as the problem of Keeping a Cook. Peacock feathers, opals, and black cats were all considered unlucky, although sceptics tried to reason people out of their fears of jinxes and hoodoos and fashion tried to trump superstition, all to no avail; some individuals still believe these articles to be problematic even to-day.

That rankly superstitious person over at Haunted Ohio has a theory, writing:

“Judging by the persistence of ‘superstitions,’ one wonders if, in the same way humans need certain vital gut bacteria and an exposure to dirt in childhood to maintain a healthy immune system, humans need a salutary dose of the illogical from time to time to top up whatever part of the brain it feeds.”

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.