Category Archives: Domestic Arrangements

Nurse Sees a Ghost: c. 1910s

nurse and baby

The Old Nurse’s Story

By Gerda Calmady-Hamlyn.

The following story was related to me by a respectable elderly woman—a children’s nurse—who said she had held “no belief in ghosts or any of that there sort of nonsense” till the curious experience which I am about to relate fell to her lot.

Nurse Mitchell had undertaken a temporary but extremely well-paid post at W——, a town in the Midlands famous alike for its beautiful Cathedral and the fact that the bones of a world-renowned novelist lie buried therein. She was to be nurse to a young married-lady with one very delicate and fretful baby requiring the greatest care. The lady was not the actual owner of No. 21, Stevenstone Street; she merely rented what appeared a most picturesque old place, with low casement windows, carved and panelled walls, and a corkscrewy sort of staircase—”just the sort to break your neck over—going downstairs on a darkish night.” Originally the quaint abode may have been built as two separate smaller houses, joined together now by the staircase alluded to. There was a wide hall in the centre from which opened doors into passages leading away to the kitchen-regions; while upstairs were bedrooms round a gallery, and the nursery at the back part of the house.

Nurse had been in residence for over a week, and her infant charge had proved so unusually fretful that she found herself tied almost entirely to the nursery. One morning, after a particularly restless night, she was carrying baby from his own apartments to those of his mother in the front part of the house, and had to pass down the winding staircase, across the hall, and up on the farther side, holding the child on one arm and a bundle of shawls upon the other. Both burdens proved somewhat cumbrous, and just as Nurse reached the most difficult portion of the stairway the bundle of woolly shawls began to slip. She must either drop them altogether, or lessen her hold on the sleeping infant. That would be pretty sure to wake him—a thing to be avoided at all costs. At that crucial moment. Nurse Mitchell caught sight of a plump little dark-haired girl, in a pink-cotton dress and neatly-starched cap and apron, very similar to the little between-maid, Polly Awcott, who usually brought up her breakfast and supper trays.

“Polly, my girl,” cried she, “just come and give me a hand with these shawls or I’ll drop them and the blessed baby too in another minute!”

To her amazement, the girl paid not the faintest attention to her request, but slipped through a red baize door leading to the pantries and disappeared from view.

Late that evening. Nurse went down to the kitchen to fetch hot water, and seeing that same girl (as she believed) who had played her such a shabby trick, said, “Hullo, Polly, is that you, I see? Why didn’t you come this morning when I called to you, may I ask? You might have stretched out a friendly hand.”

Polly, who was a wholesome sensible-looking girl with a smiling face, stared at Nurse with a puzzled expression, then burst into a laugh, in which several of the other domestics joined.

Nurse Mitchell began to feel angry. “What’s the wonderful joke all about?” she exclaimed.

Cook, a fat good-natured woman, explained, “It’s nothing, Nurse; nothing against you anyway; this house is supposed to be haunted, by a maidservant. We’ve most of us seen her, and one or two of us have spoken to her, but she never answers back. Neither does she do any harm to us or anyone else that I know of— just flits about the house, an inoffensive little thing, sometimes in a pink-cotton dress such as Polly wears of a morning, sometimes in a neat black afternoon get-up, as if she were going to the front door to let in callers. Whose ghost she is, or what she’s supposed to be doing here none of us know.”

“Fancy that now,” exclaimed Nurse in astonishment; “I wouldn’t have believed what you say for one single minute if I hadn’t seen the little maid with my own eyes!”

“I’ve always heard that this old house was haunted, and it has been my wish ever since I grew up to try and get a place here and see what I could for myself,” put in Peggy the kitchen-maid, a striking-looking damsel with luminous psychic black eyes.

After which, Mary the head housemaid, said, “That ghost you saw, Nurse, ain’t by any manner o’ means the only one in this house; there’s far worse than that. One parlour-maid here got the fright of her life one evening, and left before she’d been in the place six days. Two visitors were expected the day after she came, a young married couple; and Annie K—–had orders to prepare the big blue spare-room for them to sleep in. That’s just over the drawing-room suite, and is the best bedchamber in the house. About six o’clock in the evening, —the visitors weren’t due to arrive till nearly eight—Annie ran upstairs to the blue room with clean towels and to see that all was straight. She opened the door to walk in, and saw a beautiful young lady, standing in front of the glass, wearing a pink silk dressing-jacket and lace petticoat, who had masses of lovely golden hair flowing down over her shoulders! For a moment Annie fancied that the lady guest must-have arrived by an earlier train, unbeknown to her. ‘If you please, Ma’am,’ she began, but all of a sudden, the young lady swung round from the glass with a face of the most awful fury, rushed across the room as swift as a sheet o’ greased lightning. Annie hurried out and the lady slammed the door behind her. In the passage Annie fainted and it was an hour and more before anybody found her. Her people came and took her away, and the doctor said she was on the verge of brain fever.”

As much of the history of the old house as Nurse Mitchell could discover ran something like this—it belonged to a wealthy family of bankers. Some sixty years before Julia, the only daughter of the house—a beautiful young girl of nineteen—became engaged to a young man whom her people highly disapproved of. Parents were strict in those days, and the father was so enraged at his daughters engaging herself without his knowledge that he forbade his would-be son-in-law the house and kept the unhappy damsel virtually a prisoner, permitting her to hold communication with no one, not even to see a friend. Somehow or other she escaped by the help of a maidservant, and her lover having sailed for India, mistress and maid agreed to follow him. The ship on which they sailed foundered, and all on board were drowned. It was after that the hauntings at 21, Stevenstone Street began. Months went by without tidings of the fate of the two fugitives; but long before news of their death reached England, Julia had appeared in spirit form, first to a favourite brother, and then to other members of the family. The maid also was frequently seen, both then and afterwards—a little quiet flitting figure, who molested no one and disappeared at once if you spoke to her.

Nurse Mitchell concluded—“I don’t like them kind o’ things, do you ma’am? and I hope I’ll never take situation in another haunted house. I don’t wonder that wretched parlour-maid gave notice!”

The International Psychic Gazette August 1919: p. 167

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is quite a roster of staff: delicate servants who fall into brain fever at the sight of a ghost in an attractive combing jacket, kitchen-maids with luminous psychic black eyes, and a ghostly maidservant who, even though correctly garbed for her duties, won’t lend a helping hand.  Mr Elliott O’Donnell has written censoriously about the slatternly appearance of a ghost-maid with red hair. And who could forget the ghost of that previous paragon of a maid, Ann Frost, who gave such trouble when she was murdered?

It is no wonder that ladies despair over the “servant question.”

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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Mistaken Economies of Women: 1907

 

TEXTILES

MISTAKEN ECONOMIES OF WOMEN

Every woman, no matter how much a spendthrift she may be, has periodical attacks of economy, frugality, stinginess, call it whatever name you will—something that makes her unwilling to part with even the most worthless of her possessions.

Some one excuses her by saying that it is woman’s nature to draw toward her whatever comes within the range of her vision, but whatever the cause it seems born in woman, like her love for laces and puppies and doll babies.

That is one of the reasons that women are such bargain hunters. They buy because things are cheap, and therefore they reason that it is economy to become possessed of those bargains. In their frugal minds they argue that if they don’t need it now they will at some future time, so they plank down their money and march out of the store, hugging their bargain, whatever it happens to be.

That is the reason also why houses are made with attics and lots of closet room. They are for the women to stow away the things they do not need—and probably never will need.

Ever heard of a man saving anything? As soon as s man’s hat gets a dinge in it he gives it to the ash-man. Likewise his frayed collars, his fringed trousers, his old shoes and his other belongings. The Ashman or the garbage gentleman naturally falls heir to everything as soon as the season is ended.

Not so with the woman.

Up in the attic there are trunks and boxes and telescopes and weather-beaten old satchels, literally bulging with old clothes and other things the woman is saving. Over in the corner stands a walnut bed they bought when they first went to housekeeping. Somebody told her once long ago that walnut would be very scarce and valuable some of these days, so she is saving it.

There are hats up there that have been collecting dust and cobwebs, for 10 years and dresses so old that they have come back into style again—almost.
There are stings of buttons and scraps of lace, and rolls of gingham and silk and calico, that have been saved for patches. The garments of which these scraps of silk and gingham and calico are remnants were worn out long ago, but she still keeps the rolls because they may come in handy some of these days.

There are six or seven umbrellas in the corner. No, they are not umbrellas, either, but skeletons of umbrellas. Not one of them would turn water. They are merely shreds of Gloria cloth and wire and wood—but she is keeping them, probably for a rainy day.

There is an old muff and a long snake-like boa hanging from a wooden crosspiece, and both are full of moths, which some day are going to crawl downstairs and reconnoiter the parlor, and look over the rug and the piano.
She is saving that fur, for she has  hunch that some day she will want a dress trimmed with fur, but its dollars to round doughnuts that she will have forgotten it by the time she buys the dress, or else the moths will have finished the fur.
The secondhand dealer would give her exactly 50 cents for that walnut bed, and the ragman would give her half a cent a pound for those old skirts and basques and polonaises and overskirts and pelisses and things, the very names of which she has forgotten since the time they were in vogue. She couldn’t get a cent for the fur nor the umbrellas for the very good reason that they are no earthly use to anybody.

There might have been times in the history of every one of these articles when they would have been of value to somebody. Some woman would have been grateful for those garments; some poor, old, ailing body would have rested easier for that old walnut bed; even those umbrellas and those old furs might have kept water and frost away; but up in the attic, where they have collected dust for years. They have benefited nobody. After all, there is such a thing as being too saving.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 8 September 1907: p. 47

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is most convenient, to be sure, to blame women for any clutter around the home. Mrs Daffodil knows of far too many gentlemen who cling to the detritus of long-discarded hobbies and sports, not to mention the rotting carcasses of sports cars, which, had they been put into trim, might have been enjoyed or else sold for a tidy profit at auction.

As the winter holidays approached, Mrs Daffodil noted a plethora of articles urging a pre-holiday “cleanse,” which suggests a rather dreadful stay at some country-house clinic where the inmates ingest kale juice and raw nuts. The items to be discarded were things like plastic containers, wire clothing hangers, and even cardboard boxes of food, which were to be decanted into sanitary glass jars.  There may be some merit in binning sauce-stained Tupperware missing its lid, but Mrs Daffodil draws the line at keeping only those things that have been used within the last year and which “bring joy.”  Under that standard, Mrs Daffodil would have to purge the Hall of an immense and gruesome Caravaggio painting of Judith and Holofernes, as well as several heirloom tiaras of immense value, but limited aesthetic appeal.

 

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

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

 

An Uncommon Fine Christmas Morning: 1850s

christmas plum pudding card

A Musing of Christmas

Inhale as large a stock of charity as man ever possessed—be as forgiving as a due remembrance of the season should make us—have everything to receive and nothing to pay away: and yet Christmas on this side of the Equator cannot resemble a Christmas on the other. How can you relish a hot plum pudding, with the thermometer at 110°. Can snap-dragon be enjoyed, when there ‘a no place to put your fingers to cool? and, as for hanging up a mistletoe—although the colony holds plenty of pretty girls—there’s no fun in chasing a lass in broad day, nor having to pause in the chase to divest of coat and neckcloth. As for ghosts, or ghost stories, who can believe in a Christmas ghost story in Victoria? Not all the fascination of the Countess D’Anois would make her goblin elves and demons palatable here. A ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ might, perhaps, become an object of the imagination, but Oberon and his fairy crew are not Christmas fairies; and, somehow, Christmas and the winter are so mixed up together that—that—it ought to be cold and snowy on that day. And, really, as this is the age of wonders, it is a pity some enterprising firm cannot import an artificial atmosphere, to be used for that day only, at the public expense. What is the use of a pantomime in our holidays? The gas lamps, saw dust, and blue fire, lose their charm when it is recollected that broad day reigns without, and there is no dark fog, for which a link boy’s services is required to await one. The only time the colony is thoroughly disagreeable is a few days before Christmas and a few days after. No—I ‘ll contradict myself, the colony is not disagreeable, even then. But I like a cold Christmas. Forty years of cold Christmases force one to like them. But, I cannot say I find Victoria disagreeable : for, just as I make up my mind it is, and I ‘ll visit Europe at Christmas, something turns up, rendering the place dearer and dearer ; and twelve years have thus glided on, like a dream of enchantment. But, then, there are no ghost stories; and, old as I am, I like a ghost story. I do not care if I get it after the form of the Arabian Nights. That Fisherman and the Genie is a fine tale. It used to make one frightened; and, told in bed, after the light was blown out on a cold night, what can equal it %—Or Grimm’s Tales ?—The Dwarf Hand !—Or Fortunio!—Or Monk Lewis’ mystic productions! all of which require a cold night, a wassail bowl, and a few auxiliary noises, to render them perfectly pleasant, and horrid enough to make you fearful of being left in the dark one single minute. Alas!—Christmas must be got cold somehow.

I don ‘t know whether Old John Delver thought all this, as he gathered a pretty bunch of bright flowers early last Christmas morning, but there was something on his mind, that was quite clear, and when he cast his eyes as usual round his little garden, and took a sweeping glance at Mount Macedon, where it reared its gigantic head in the background, it was easy to see that his thoughts were not on the flowers, nor on the garden, nor on Mount Macedon either, but farther, much farther, away.

Perhaps John was thinking of his son, who was fighting in the Crimea, or who had been; perhaps he was thinking of his wife, whose remains lay in the pretty parish churchyard of Thorncliffe; perhaps he was thinking of the pretty blue-eyed grand-daughter, that now came bounding from the little cottage to call him in to breakfast; or, it may be he was meditating on the quiet form that was then engaged in pouring out the tea her father-in-law was called to partake of. If he was musing on the last, he might have found a worse subject for his thoughts than Martha Delver: although she would not be called good-looking, and, so far as book learning went, might be termed ignorant.

John was a hale old man, although long past three-score. His cheek was ruddy, and his eyes clear. A day’s work could still be had from him when needed, and, as he sat in the outer room of the little wooden cottage wherein he dwelt, he might, in truth, have passed for the husband of the woman who sat opposite him, and the father of the blue maiden that seated herself on his knee.

“I always took a bunch of flowers to the clergyman every Christmas morning at home,” said John, “and, please God, I will here.”

“The flowers are brighter here than at home at this time?”

“Well—yes: Kent showed nothing like this at Christmas,” replied John; “and yet, to my mind, the winter berry is the prettiest sight one can see.”

“He thought so, too,” replied Martha.

“I wonder if he’ll make us out,” said John, after a pause.

“Wonder! gracious! yes,” screamed his daughter. “Oh! father, how you frighten me by wondering that.”

“Soldiers may never get the letters sent them, and, somehow, Richard was a careless fellow about his home.”

“Not he,” hastily answered Martha; “besides, did I not tell him of little Martha here; and what father could keep away from his child, and such a child?”

The little girl looked first in her mother’s face, now suffused with tears, and then into her grandfather’s, whose eyes were also moist, and inquired what they were crying for?

“His will be done!” reverently observed the old man, and made an end of his meal. “Can I do anything before I go?” he asked.

“No: all is clear—the cows are milked. You may take little Patty, if you will. Will you go to church with grandpapa to-day, love?” And, the little girl answering in the affirmative, she was got ready, and grand-father and grand-daughter started for a two-miles walk, and a visit to the building which served as a church for the denizens of that district. While John Delver is at church, let us take a retrospective glance at himself and family.

John Delver was a native of Kent—that garden of England, a market gardener by trade, and well to do, according to the Kentish notions of wealth. His wife and himself loved on and worked on, and, perhaps, their only care, apart from a night or two’s anxiety about a bed of strawberries or a gathering of cherries, was the doings of their only child—a fine specimen of an English rustic—Richard Delver. This son was a good sample of the open-hearted Englishman: his provincialisms sat upon him not unpleasantly, and the exuberance of spirits, into which youth will often be betrayed, and which Richard often displayed, was but a wild outpouring of an innocent mind. With other parents Richard Delver would soon have sobered into a staid gardener, but John and his wife were of the respectable elect class: so pure, so grim, and so exacting, that their very virtues forced their son into trifling excuses: the stiff rigidity of the parents appearing so repulsive to the child’s openness and candour. To add to other crimes, Richard fell in love with a servant girl—a poor parish child—sent out to a harsh mistress, hardly worked, hardly fed, and hardly clothed.

It is a curious thing (but, nevertheless, a true one) that people who take servants from parish walls consider them much as the Southern American is said to consider his Negro. Instead of bestowing on them much kindness, to make amends for former hardships, it has been the fashion in England to treat the unhappy children with great severity—perhaps not so as to render the act illegal—nothing more than unchristian. And even if the law has been broken, vestry meetings have a horror of lawyer’s bills: and any charge, for prosecuting an inhuman master or mistress, would scarcely pass the audit of enlightened rate-payers in the nineteenth century.

Martha Thorne was the orphan daughter of a gardener, who, with his wife, had died of a fever. The poor-house was the only refuge of his child, to be left for a harder home, where, for the slightest fault, corporeal punishment was unsparingly administered. From such chastisement young Delver one day saved her, and, although Martha was too plain to inspire him with love, her situation was so hard that it inspired him with interest. Beyond this all familiarity would have ceased, but the knowledge of his son’s actions coming to the ears of John Delver, he so worried the young man with homilies, and so disgusted him with close, harsh, worldly maxims, that Richard’s obstinacy joined issue with his father’s, and, in the end, the banns were put up at a neighbouring church, and Richard Delver and Martha Thorne were man and wife, while the unconscious parents were congratulating themselves that the last homily had effectually turned the rebellious character of their son.

Had the Delvers been of the blood royal, and Martha Thorne of the Delvers, a greater outcry could not have been made than was made at the misalliance of the young gardener; harsh words arose on both sides. Family disunions are always bad things to contemplate. Richard was driven from his father’s roof, and sent forth to starve. He tried to get any work he could, but the respectability of his parents swayed the feelings of the neighbours, and nobody would employ him. Rustics are not a moving people: where they are born, there would they die. While Richard was musing upon his future, he took to drinking. There are always men to be found who, while unwilling to lend a shilling to purchase a loaf, or to bestow a slice of meat, will ‘stand’ drink to any one that will partake of it. Richard took to drinking: began to neglect his wife, and, in one of these drinking bouts, was inveigled with a shilling of Her Majesty’s, and ordered off, ere quite sober, to the depot of his regiment at Chatham, under sailing orders to Gibraltar.

All the regret imaginable, when reason had assumed its sway, was of no avail; and, to add to to the misery of the wedded pair, the complement of women allowed had already been made up: so that Martha was not permitted to leave the place where she had lived so long, but was, a second time, left penniless in a hard country, and without a friend. But marriage had effected this good in the poor young woman: it had given her firmness, and she sought employment at hop pulling, or among the fruit trees, with a courage she never before possessed. She longed to hear from her husband, who, at parting, had promised to write to her soon. Write to him she could not: parochial schools, especially in country places, seldom teaching more than the mode of ‘capping ‘ to the great people of the district. And time wore away—old Delver regarding her as the author of what he now called ‘his trials’; and his wife preaching at her, whenever she had an opportunity, and people were present to be edified thereby. The year succeeding this a fever broke out in the district; John and his wife were stricken with it, and a sore wrestle with death Delver had. He recovered, it is true, to find the partner of his toils dead by his side; to hear of a blight, that had destroyed his finest trees; and to behold, in the nurse who had so faithfully succoured him and his deceased spouse, the ‘good for nothing hussey’ who ‘had the audacity to marry his son.’ Yes. If there was little learning in Martha’s breast, God had implanted there the two great principles of religion; and, when others kept aloof from the tainted house, and all the neighbours declared the fever to be infectious, she had boldly crossed the threshold, and, day by day, and night by night, attended upon the suffering pair. John rose from his bed a poorer but a wiser man. None of his neighbours had done one thing for him during all his sickness; not a helping hand had been given to his garden. That was spoiled: and he was ruined. Once, and once only, did he utter an expression of surprise and regret at the neglect shewn him. It was to his clergyman; but the rebuke he met with for ever silenced him—” Pray, John, who have you befriended in your long life?—’As you sow, so surely will you reap.'”

A ruined man, Delver gave up the orchards he so long had rented, and was content to lean on his daughter’s arm—a staff he had long rejected. It happened that, at this time, there came on a visit in the neighbourhood an old resident of Australia. The little episode of John’s misfortunes had become a topic of conversation, and it occurred to the Australian settler, while hearing it, that men of Delver’s practical experience as a gardener would be a great adjunct to Port Phillip. To act upon this thought was not a work of time: and old John found himself, before long, upon a vessel bound to Melbourne; his accompaniments, his daughter-in-law and an infant grandchild, now verging on sixteen months old.

The old man was glad to quit Kent when he found the real estimation in which his neighbours held him. His respectability had vanished, not only in a monetary point of view, but in the importance which, he imagined, attended all his actions. Perhaps he regretted leaving the remains of his wife behind him; and, yet, sometimes a thought—it was a consoling one to him, though, perhaps, an unjust one to the dead—a thought flashed across his mind that, without his wife’s admonitions, he might have acted differently to his son, and so have escaped much sorrow. On the whole, he was, therefore, glad to quit England; and, having written to his son of his destination, and got his new master to make certain applications at the War Office, Delver quitted his home for a new world, looking forward with hope to the future.

***********

Planted near Gisborne, on the homestead of an excellent master, Delver partially forgot his sorrows. Everything was new around him. The manners and customs of all that crossed him, excepting, indeed, the richness of the soil, which rivalled his own Kentish ground, against which (he talked and boasted) no other soil could compare. But here, sixteen thousand miles from his own land, there flourished around him flowers of as brilliant a hue, and fruit as rich in taste, as even he himself had reared at home. To the soil the Delvers took kindly, and the digging rush, which unsettled so many, scarcely affected him, unless it was by adding to his already good wages what his master felt he could afford him from the increased profit of his station, and the value of his garden produce.

But John’s master died, and John Delver, not caring for other service; having, too, ‘a few pounds’ from his own and daughter’s industry (for right well had Martha Delver taken to the Australian colony, and few around shewed better butter and eggs than she); got, at a moderate rent, land sufficient for a garden, and pasturage for the cows they now owned, and so we find them, on the morning of Christmas day, cheerful, well to do, and contented, their only regret being Richard’s absence: for the war with Russia had broken out. His regiment was sent from Gibraltar to the Crimea before his release had been obtained; and the sanguinary conflicts that had taken place in that fertile part of Europe had often blanched the cheek of both father and daughter with doubt and apprehension.

Martha had that to do which kept her from church on that morning: a pair of chickens and some peas, a strawberry tart, with just the smallest of plum puddings, to remind John of the Kentish Christmases, was the dinner she designed for her father. A few grapes were to serve as his dessert; and, as the preparations for the meal had been kept a secret from him, she took more than peculiar care with it. The dinner was in a fair state of preparation when he returned, and, waiting its readiness, he sat himself in his garden, musing and dozing alternately. The child, who ever played about his knee, in a short time directed his attention to a cart, coming along at a smart pace; and, presently, the two horses that drew it were jerked up at the entrance leading into Delver’s garden, and a voice inquired if one ‘Delver lived there.’

“Ah! surely,” said old John.

“I’ve a little news for him,” said a burly-looking carter, blue-shirted and cabbage-treed, according to custom, entering the garden.

“From my husband!”—” From my son!”—cried father and daughter simultaneously.

“From one Richard Delver,” said the carter, “and I don’t know a better day than this to bring news, ‘specially if they are good ones; for, on such a day as this, good tidings were brought to all around; at least, they used to sing so in our village; so, I suppose, it’s all right.”

“Are the news good?—Is my son alive—well?” inquired the old man.

“That’s where it is, you see,” answered the carter, who seemed in no hurry to tell his tale—if he had any to tell. “Well, it’s a fine morning, an uncommon fine morning.—And the Mount, too, I’ve seen it a power o’ times, and never thought it looked so grand afore—and, thankye marm, a little milk, if you please!”

Martha and John looked at the man, and the man looked at them. He was evidently in a difficulty. The milk was got, and drank. The carter whistled.

“And my son,” said John.

“Ah!” replied the carter, wiping his face and taking a long breath, “that’s where it is. I was jogging along, thinking this warn’t exactly the Christmas I liked to pass, when who should I see on the road but a man—

“A man?”

“A man, marm.—’ Wantin’ a lift, mate?’ said I. Said he, ‘Which way?’ ‘’Through,’ says I. ‘And take it kindly, too,’ says he. ‘Not at all,’ says I.” Here the carter whistled. “I hadn’t got a Christmas dinner at home to hurry me, so I didn’t mind jogging on a little slower, to ease his wounds.”

“Wounds!” cried both the Delvers, “has he seen Richard? Is it Richard?—Where is he?”

“That’s where it is,” said the carter, “I can’t tell a tale properly. There’s—there’s a man in the cart, who can “—

In an instant John and Martha were at the cart. In two minutes more they had a man suffering from wounds and still weak, but yet a fine-made fellow, on their arms; and, in five minutes more, Richard Delver had embraced his patient wife and was at peace with his now fond old father; had hugged the little maid that called him parent; and looked around the pretty cottage already with an owner’s eye.

It is of no use to detail what Richard told his wife. He had been severely wounded, but the kind Sisters of Mercy had brought him through, as they had brought thousands of others, although their services, now passed away, are being ignored by those who gladly accepted their aid. He had been in the first draft from the Crimea home; had got his discharge; had taken a passage in one of the fastest of the White Ball Line, and landed in Melbourne. Here he was at fault two days, but, hearing where his father lived at last, he had started off that he might join them on merry Christmas, trusting to that which he had got, a lift on the road for speed.

Nor is it of any use for me to say that there sat down to that Christmas dinner as happy a party as any in the colony. The soldier fought his battles o’er again, while the father, in his turn, detailed the changes that he had witnessed. As for the friendly carrier, he was made to stop to dinner, and did; and turned out, long before the grapes had been all eaten, a most astonishing character. He made little wooden dolls for little Martha with his clasp knife and a piece of old stick before one could whistle Jack Robinson; put a new lid on the water butt; and mended a milk pan that had been, like its new owner, in the wars. In short, I question if Christmas Day in the old country ever shone upon more contented or happy faces than last Christmas did on the happy party in the little cottage in the Australian bush: for, what can people require more than this little party had?—a sufficiency for their outward enjoyment, and stronger and holier principles within them: the principles of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

******

Now, draw up the curtain, Mr. Manager: I think I can look upon a pantomime, although it is warm. 

The Journal of Australasia, Volume 2, 1857

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: And with that happy ending, Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers, whether in the Antipodes or the Arctic, the happiest of holiday seasons. She will return in the New Year with more stories to educate, elevate, and amuse.

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 Swan for Christmas Dinner: 1910

A Devonshire man sent his club, just before Christmas, a fine large swan in a hamper. The hamper was addressed to the secretary, who notified the club members of the treat that was in store, and a special swan dinner was arranged. The swan came on, at this dinner, looking magnificent — erect and stately on a great silver-gilt salver. But tough! It was so tough you couldn’t carve the gravy.

A few days later the sender of the swan dropped in at the club. “Got my swan all right. I hope?” he said to the secretary.

“Yes, and a nice trick you played us.”

“Trick? What do you mean?”

“Why, we boiled that swan for sixteen hours, and when it came on the table it was tougher than a block of granite.”

“Good gracious! Did you have my swan cooked?”

“Yes, of course.”

The other was in despair.

“Why, that bird was historic,” he groaned. “I sent him up to be stuffed and preserved. He had been in my family for 200 years. He had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 8 January 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to call a gentleman a liar, but swans only live for perhaps two or three decades at best. If the swan truly had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I, he must have been frozen solid for at least two centuries.

The club secretary and members would have felt like royalty: roast swan was a feature of royal Christmas feasts from time immemorial. The Crown may lay claim to all swans in public waters; currently the Queen shares her swans with two livery companies: the vintners and the dyers; the yearly ceremony of “swan upping” divides the Thames swans between the Queen and the livery companies. Queen Victoria and King Edward VII enjoyed a nice Christmas swan. This article gives the receipt for its preparation, should you happen to have a 200-year-old swan lying about the larder.

KING’S CHRISTMAS SWAN.

Every Year One is Served at Sandringham—The Recipe.

The royal swan has ever been a conspicuous item in the Christmas menu at Sandringham. Every year the largest and plumpest young cygnet that can be obtained from the swannery on the Thames is killed.

When it leaves the hands of the special messenger at Sandringham it is taken charge of by the head cook, who personally looks after it until it is laid before the king.

Trussed like a goose, it is stuffed with a rich mixture of which the principal ingredient is ¾ of a pound of rump steak. It is finally covered with a piece of oily paper, sprinkled with flour, wrapped in a second piece of paper; and then roasted on a spit for four or five hours in front of a blazing fire.

A gravy of beef is provided to which is added a pint of good port wine. Folk who have tasted this dish describe the flavor as being half way between goose and hare. New York World.

The Boston [MA] Globe 24 January 1909: p. 48

 

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.

Liverwurst and Limburger: Christmas Presents Made at Home: 1911

house horrible button hook hanger

A button-hook hanger made from a potato masher. An example of a Happy Hands at Home holiday gift.

How To Make Christmas Presents at Home

(The first of our famous and helpful “How To Make” series.) By F. P. PITZER

A Teething Ring For Baby.

Keep an old liverwurst in a cool place for a day or so, and then rivet the ends together. Then cover the whole with wursted—oh, pshaw! we mean worsted—wrapping it around as closely and tightly as possible. This will prevent the liverwurst from biting the baby.

Cologne Bottle Holder.

First have a first-class tailor take the measurements of the bottle. Then take a silk sock—one can be found in almost any eight-dollar-a-week clerk’s washing—and cut off at the top where the garter generally takes a grip with its tin teeth. Then cut a few holes in the top and run some baby ribbon through them, so that the opening can be readily tightened or loosed. Into the holder thus made slip the bottle. If the bag is lined with banana skins, the bottle will slip in more easily. If it is to be used to hold a flask instead of a cologne bottle, never mind the baby ribbon or the sock.

A Jewel Case.

Get a cube of limburger cheese, and with a stiletto cut out the insides and line with zinc. Cover the outside with wallpaper. Sprinkle the interior with Towne’s Remarkable Hair Grower. (For sale at this office. Well recommended by such shaggy-haired funny fellows as Bill Nye, R. K. Munkittrick [humourist, author, and editor of Judge] , J. K. Bangs, W. J. Lampton [satirical writer and poet] and others too humorous to mention.) In a few days the grower will cause hair to sprout out on all sides and make a fine, soft lining. Building the box from cheese makes it stronger and a scentsible gift.

A Button Holder.

Cut the stiff bosom from your father’s or husband’s best shirt. Tie a ribbon to the name plate at the bottom, and then, rolling it upward, tie the same through the excavation where his dollar-twenty-five stud usually rests. Close up the sides of the cylinder thus made with sausage skin, and cut a hole in the top just large enough to admit a button. Do not make it too large, or it might admit cigar stumps, ashes, cuds of tobacco or other emblems of masculine civilization. Baby ribbon can dangle all around it, like a Boer’s whiskers. When finished, varnish the whole thing with maple syrup. This syrup will catch and hold any burglarious flies that might call to steal some of the buttons.

Book-markers.

Perhaps the best book-markers we have ever seen were ten chubby little bread-and-jam-covered fingers that evaded its nurse and walked up the shelves of our bookcase one day. But, of course, every one hasn’t these little fingers in the house, so we give the following more simple method of making a handy bookmarker. Cut a piece of birch bark from an elephant’s hide, two inches wide and four inches long. Any elephant will stand long enough to permit you to carve a piece of hide from his envelope. He may strike you with his trunk, but he will soon tire of this. After you have cut out a piece of the proper size, chew on one end of it until it has the resemblance of fringe and then with a red-hot poker burn an appropriate motto in the left-hand corner, such as “Damn the Trusts,” “Let Well Enough Alone,” “Stand Pat,” or other quotation appropriate for a quiet home. Do not burn these mottoes in the hide before it is taken from the elephant. We know of only one man who tried to do this, and now he is in a place where his poker stays continually red-hot.

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We have previously read of the Empress Augusta’s appalling Christmas gifts. Then there were the useless articles of fancy-work so often dispensed at Christmas with no recourse, but to accept them graciously.

It is frequently said that, in gift-giving, “It is the thought that counts.”  Mrs Daffodil has seen entirely too many thoughtless gifts and would amend this axiom to include a thought for the actual recipient’s tastes, wants, and needs.

Still, Mrs Daffodil knows that many people fervently subscribe to the “happy hands at home” school of holiday gifts. They derive moral and spiritual satisfaction from their handicrafts and there is no dissuading them from their fell purpose. It is in the hopes of pushing these Happy Handers to the reductio ad absurdum that Mrs Daffodil appends a few more hints.

Christmas Hints

A simple and tasteful homemade picture frame may be constructed from common gas pipe cut into suitable length and tied together at the corners with shoe strings.

A neat paperweight may be made by wrapping half a brick in paper such as butchers use and tying it with red tape.

A dainty towel rack may be fabricated from a baseball bat and two cigar boxes. Shellac the boxes and sandpaper the bat.

An ordinary cobblestone hand-painted with lampblack and household ammonia makes an excellent door weight.

A novel pipe rack for fastidious smokers may be made from a small strip of one inch plank. Bore holes in it for the stems of the pipes to pass through.

A dried muskmelon shell makes an attractive tobacco jar.
Janesville [WI] Daily Gazette 16 December 1904: p. 7

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 Festive Christmas Tree: 1906

the festive christmas tree illustration 1906.JPG

The Festive Christmas Tree

It will not be the fault of the shop-keepers if your Christmas tree is lacking in characteristic beauty, for as early as November first the toy departments were beginning to assume a “Christmasy” aspect.

The number of people who purchased decorations at that time was altogether surprising, and from the first week of November to Thanksgiving the buying has been unprecedented. There are two good reasons for early buying; the novelties, of course, quickly disappear and the stock becomes exhausted; again when purchased in ample time there is less danger of the frail ornaments being broken, which is sure to occur when the holiday rush is on for good and everybody is making for the same goal.

While there is nothing strikingly new or unusual among the fanciful embellishments for this year’s Christmas tree, they are sufficiently satisfying and ornate to please the little men and women for whom they are intended, happy sojourners in the Land of Delusion.

FAD FOR DIMINUTIVE TREES.

It is probably owing to the small box-like rooms that prevail in recently built houses and the growing popularity of flat-life that brought the diminutive tree into favor. At any rate, real and artificial trees from 24 inches to l yard high and from this height to the fast vanishing giant balsam that ends unwillingly beneath the ceiling are all equally desirable according to recent advice.

Every purchaser buys a tree best suited to the available space in his home. Children may trim and untrim small trees and so engage their time for days at a stretch, whereas with the usual size tree this is not possible. Besides, there is an economical side to the dwarf-like tree, which is vastly better than none at all, when a larger one proves too great a tax for a slender purse. The attendant annoyance of falling greens and the time required in trimming the tree are reduced to a minimum.

Small trees are also employed to bear the gifts for the children, which is even more fun than finding them under the tree.

ORNAMENTS IN BLOWN GLASS.

A number of very attractive shapes are shown in colored glass ornaments, besides the standard ones that have been doing service for many years. The coloring this year seems to be unusually brilliant, three or four hues often being combined in one piece. Many of the more expensive ones are hand-painted and encrusted with diamond dust.

All sorts of egg and oval shapes are conspicuous, striped, plaided and rainbow tinted, with queer little spirals of gilt running over and around them.

About a hundred and one different models for airships, some horizontally built, others like balloons swinging vertically, are in profuse assortment. These are mostly seen in a single color with spirals of gilt surrounding them. Boats, horns of plenty, besides hosts of others, may be added to the list. Many musical instruments are displayed alike in painted glass, with bright and dull finish.

Bunches of grapes in gold, silver, green and purple glass are available from 5 cents to $1, and must assuredly be included among the essential decorations.

FANS AND FAIRIES.

Miniature fans with the tops finished by frills oi a plain color and enlivened with tinsel, ornate flowers, fancy heads and sparkling dust, are among the attractive novelties; these fans vary from three to six inches, the sticks are of gilt and silver paper, some of which are mounted on heavy cardboard.

The Christmas fairy does not flourish in her undisputed sway today as she did when we were nursery enthusiasts. But she is the same ornate, fluffy spangled lady, sometimes wearing frilled skirts of gold paper, again one of coarse lace with paper flowers and bits of tinsel and stars or one of cotton net standing out in a characteristic, bouffant fashion.

Quite amusing are the little roly-poly decorations, dudes, Indians, clowns, dancing girls, besides those of the animal tribe, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, bears and what not, all fancifully garbed, with their bearing attached to swing on the tree.

NOVELTIES IN PAPER AND BEADS.

Both plain and crepe papers enter largely into the fanciful designs of all sorts. Very graceful indeed are the horns of plenty of embossed gold and paper filled with flowers, some of which support a fairy butterfly, glistening with varicolored diamond dust.

Large single flowers, the rose, chrysanthemum and sunflower, besides sprays, are realistically designed in colored papers, their petals touched with gold and silver dust. Torpedo bonbons, wishing bon bons gayly decorated with tinsel, fancy heads and flowers are fashioned of colored papers. These, it may be whispered, are not in the least difficult to make and very effective, and in white, scarlet, yellow, pale blue and pink make a good showing. I neglected to say that in some of the single flowers of crepe paper a little doll’s face unexpectedly appears.

Among the most effective novelties handled by several houses are those of varicolored beads, made up into unique little ornaments. Many of these are of pendant persuasion and occasionally combined with glass beads, as in air ships, for example.

Strings of glistening glass beads and crystal shapes, some in one color shading from light to dark, again several colors alternating with each other, produce a most artistic effect when arranged in garland fashion. In pure white they catch and reflect the light, like so many diamonds.

Crystal or glass fringe in gracefully shaped oval pendants of varying color add a refined brilliancy, to the tree as a whole that seems unmatched by any other medium of decoration.

MARJORIE.

The Sunday Journal [Minneapolis MN] 9 December 1906: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written on this subject before, discussing how to make a Christmas fairy for tree or table. The vogue for “diminutive trees” also calls to mind an ingenious lady who made miniature beaded trees.

It is rather sad to think that so many of the ornaments so delightfully described above have not survived. The glass ornaments are easily shattered–and even more readily if any person in the house found an air- or pellet-gun under the Christmas tree and especially if they have seen the film, The Thin Man. 

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.

Death in the Pot

there is death in the pot.JPG

On the first Sunday in the year 1749, Mr. Thomas Lilly, the son of a farmer in the parish of Kelso in Roxburghshire, a young man intended for the Church of Scotland, remained at home to keep the house in company with a shepherd’s boy, all the rest of the family, except a maid-servant, being at church. The young student and the boy being by the fire whilst the girl was gone to the well for water, a venerable old gentleman, clad in an antique garb, presented himself, and after some little ceremony, desired the student to take up the family bible which lay on a table, and turn over to a certain chapter and verse in the Second Book of Kings. The student did so, and read—“there is death in the pot.”

On this the old man, with much apparent agitation, pointed to the great family pot boiling on the fire, declaring that the maid had cast a great quantity of arsenic into it with an intent to poison the whole family, to the end she might rob the house of the hundred guineas which she knew her master had lately taken for sheep and grain which he had sold. Just as he was so saying the maid came to the door. The old gentleman said to the student, “remember my warning and save the lives of the family!” and that instant disappeared.

The maid entered with a smiling countenance, emptied her pail, and returned to the well for a fresh supply. Meanwhile young Lilly put some oatmeal into a wooden dish, skimmed the pot of the fat and mixed it for what is called brose or croudy, and when the maid returned, he with the boy appeared busily employed in eating the mixture. “Come, Peggy,” said the student, “here is enough left for you; are not you fond of croudy?” She smiled, took up the dish, and reaching a horn spoon, withdrew to the back room. The shepherd’s dog followed her, unseen by the boy, and the poor animal, on the croudy being put down by the maid, fell a victim to his voracious appetite; for before the return of the family from church it was enormously swelled, and expired in great agony.

The student enjoined the boy to remain quite passive for the present; meanwhile he attempted to shew his ingenuity by resolving the cause of the sudden death of the dog into insanity, in order to keep the girl in countenance till a fit opportunity of discovering the plot should present itself.

Soon after his father and family with the other servants returned from church.

The table was instantly replenished with wooden bowls and trenchers, while a heap of barley bannocks graced the top. The kail or broth, infused with leeks or winter-cabbages, was poured forth in plenty; and Peggy, with a prodigal hand, filled all the dishes with the homely dainties of Teviotdale. The master began grace, and all hats and bonnets were instantly off; “O Lord,” prayed the farmer, “we have been hearing thy word, from the mouth of thy aged servant Mr. Ramsay; we have been alarmed by the awful famine in Samaria, and of death being in the pot!” Here the young scholar interrupted his father, by exclaiming— “Yes sir, there is death in the pot now here, as well as there was once in Israel! Touch not! taste not! see the dog dead by the poisoned pot!”

“What!” cried the farmer, “have you been raising the devil by your conjuration? Is this the effect of your study, sir?” “No, father,” said the student, “ I pretend to no such arts of magic or necromancy, but this day, as the boy can testify, I had a solemn warning from one whom I take to be no demon, but a good angel. To him we all owe our lives. As to Peggy, according to his intimation, she has put poison into the pot for the purpose of destroying the whole family.” Here the girl fell into a fit, from which being with some trouble recovered, she confessed the whole of her deadly design, and was suffered to quit the family and her native country. She was soon after executed at Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the murder of her illegitimate child, again making ample confession of the above diabolical design.

Signs Before Death: A Record of Strange Apparitions, Remarkable Dreams, &c, John Timbs, 1875

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A curious story for St Andrew’s Day.  Mrs Daffodil wonders why supernatural gentlemen so often appear in “antique garb:” ancestral  ghosts in clan plaids, the Gentry in gold-laced coats, His Satanic Majesty in black velvet, and, apparently, an aged angel**. Are there no fashionable tailors in the Afterlife?

To be Relentlessly Informative, the turning over the pages of the Bible as a form of divination is well-known in supernatural circles. It is also known as bibliomancy, although the Holy Book is not a requirement. M.R. James used it to great effect in ‘The Ash Tree,” where Mr Crome tries to discover the secrets of the ash tree by the “old and by many accounts superstitious practice of drawing the sorts.”  But in this case, it appears that the venerable gentleman, rather than opening the Book at random, “cribbed” to deliver the life-saving message.

 

**Spoiler Alert: We find in a second part of the story that the “angel” is Mr Lilly’s dead grandfather, who kindly directs him to a treasure.

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.