Category Archives: Domestic Arrangements

A Crazy Quilt Tragedy: 1911

Domestic Tragedy.

“Lobelia!” The voice of Mr. M’Swat was high-pitched and imperative, yet had a note of vague alarm in it.

“What is it, Billiger?”

“I can’t find my neckties.”

“Your neckties? They’re scattered all over the bureau.”

“I don’t mean the ties I wear every day. I mean the others.”

“What others?”

“The—the ones I’ve worn from time to time, you know, and put away, as good as new.”

“How should I know anything about them?”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lobelia, you don’t know anything about a a—box of neckties I have kept for years in this second drawer?”

“What a fuss you are making over a box of old rags! What do you want of it, anyway?”

“I want to put a few of these in it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, madam, when you call them a lot of old rags, either. I want to know where they are.”

“Well, you needn’t go to rummaging through any more of those drawers. You won’t find them there. I can tell you that.”

The wrath of Mr. M’Swat assumed a lurid, ghastly character.

“I think I have certain inalienable rights in this house, Lobelia Grubb M’Swat,” he said. “And among these is the right to keep my neckties in my own drawer, in my own dressing case, in my own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the statutes in such case made and”—

“You needn’t tell the neighbours about it. Before I’d make all that racket about a lot of old, worn-out neckties–”

“Who told you they were old and worn out? Didn’t you hear me say distinctly they were”—

“Now, you know, Billiger M’Swat, you haven’t worn one of those old ties for years and years. What’s the use”—

‘Then you do know something about them! I thought sol Why did you try to deceive me? Why did you tell me”—

“That’s right! Accuse your wife of lying!”

“Didn’t you tell me you knew nothing about them?”

“No, sir! I said nothing of the kind!”

“Lobelia! Wife of my bosom! Look me in the eye. Where are those neckties?”

“Wh-what do you want of them?” asked Mrs., M’Swat, rather feebly.

“I simply want to know what has become of them.”

She put her handkerchief to her eye. ”

“I–I th-think it’s just mean”—

“What’s mean?”

“Here I’ve slaved away day after day, making something nice”—

“Lobelia, where are those neckties?”

“Billiger, I have made them up into the loveliest crazy quilt”—

“A crazy quilt!” he yelled. “Thunder and Ben Franklin! Woman do you know what you have done!”

“lt was nothing but a lot of old”–

Mr. M’Swat became tragic.

“Mrs. M’Swat,” he exclaimed, in a deep bass voice. “I have been making a collection of artistic neckties for ten years. Some of them cost me over a dollar. None of them less than 50 cents. You have ruined a unique, unequalled, original 75dol. collection of ties”—

“Oh, Billiger, why didn’t you tell me?”

“To make a 4dol. crazy quilt! Why didn’t you tell me?”

Husbands and wives, why will ye hide things from each other?— Chicago Tribune.

North Otago [NZ] Times 8 April 1911: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The craze for “crazy patchwork” was a long-standing one and one perhaps responsible for more marital unhappiness than any number of Vamps. Mrs Daffodil has written of the patch-work “mania” and the terrible lengths ladies would go to for “samples” to make their quilts and of their depredations on the households’ wardrobe. It was a dark time…

Truth in Jest

The girl with soft grey eyes and rippling brown hair that walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 piece sof neckties and hat linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.

Southland Times 26 January 1886: p. 4

This squib suggests that the craze even changed fashions in men’s neckties:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: p. 4

 

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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Always Done, Never Doing: 1878

The Science of Housekeeping—How to Simplify and Lighten Household Labor

Probably any convention of American housekeepers assembled haphazard from over the land would concur in pronouncing servants to be the greatest plague of their lives. Wasteful, destructive, and inefficient, the voice of their employers is everywhere lifted against them. They come and go, one after another, until the mistress in despair, endures Bridget because she fears Chloe may be worse—or puts up with Chloe because she dares not change, lest to engage Bridget would be only to leap from the frying pan into the fire. And when a girl comes who knows how her work should be done and can do it—a cook whose dinners are irreproachable, a laundress whose ruffles and shirt bosoms bespeak her an artist, a nurse or seamstress, who needs not every day to be re-told her duties—very possibly she rules the household. Her mistress cannot do without her, and so the servant presumes on her value to exact all sorts of privileges, until she holds her employer in veritable bondage. Especially is this apt to be the case with the cook. In fact it has come to be an accepted thing that all good cooks must have bad tempers, and that skill in the culinary art is to cover a multitude of faults. Now, very much of this trouble arises from the ignorance of the housekeeper. The woman who can, if need be, do her own work, who is able to cook dinner, or at least how to instruct any bright girl how to do it, need never be the slave of an ill-tempered, unprincipled servant. Nor will she be haunted by the consciousness of leaks in the kitchen which she is unable to stop. She will know how far groceries and provisions should go; how long the supplies which she purchases could last even hearty appetites, and though she may allow a wide margin, her servants will be forced to keep within fixed limits. Undoubtedly it would be better for most American women in all respects if they kept fewer servants and did more of their own housework. When there is only one woman in the family and there are small children, this is frequently impossible, but when the daughters are of larger growth it is mistaken kindness to let them sit with folded hands while servants do all the work of the house. Human nature—the pack-horse on which are laid so many failings—is more or less lazy, and there are few people who like work for its own sake. Yet bed-making, dusting, and sweeping are excellent gymnastic exercises, and few girls would be the worse for an hour or two of them every day. In most families of moderate means it would pay to discharge the second girl and divide her weekly wages among the daughters of the house, letting them do the chamber work, while the cost of her keep would pay for the washerwoman at least one day in the week.

Unfortunately the idea is abroad in the land that housework is degrading, and that the number of servants kept in a family is a measure of gentility. Mrs. B., who keeps one girl, envies her neighbor across the way who has six servants, including coachman and waiter, while that neighbor, counting the cost of the provisions consumed down stairs, or just having received warning from the four girls who have quarreled with the coachman, thinks wearily that happiness means a small house and one servant. The thought is a passing one; she would not change if she could, but at all events for the moment she thinks so, and her life is not one of unmixed care. It is often objected to the principle which call for the instruction of our girls in domestic matters that they themselves are too busy with their books on the one hand, while on the other the multifarious duties of their mother leave her no time to instruct them. In the first place, as we have already said, chamber work will answer as calisthenics, and in the second the mother can safely turn her twelve and ten-year-old daughters into the dining room or kitchen on Saturday with cookery book and groceries and let them experiment for themselves. There are few girls who do not enjoy playing at cooking, and the gift of a miniature cooking stove for the nursery, after the children are old enough to be trusted with it, is an excellent text-book for such lessons. The little girls will need but a small amount of teaching, and what they may spoil will be paid for both in pleasure and profit. The day has gone by in which Martha Washington and Dolly Madison washed their own breakfast dishes; when this was held to be one of the first duties of housekeeping. Fragile china and dainty silver was not trusted to servants then, and it was used without misgivings. Now it is knocked about by careless Irish girls, and housekeepers mourn that it is useless to buy handsome china—it is sure to be broken. To one old custom, however, many families hold, and the care of the parlor devolves on the young ladies of the house. And the wealthier the family the more need of this; costly bric-a-brac cannot be left to the cruel tender mercies of servants.

DIVISION OF LABOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD.

The practical working of the plan we advocate is illustrated in one of the comfortable houses we know of, where only one servant is kept, and the young ladies of the house divide the work. Each one has her own duties—there is no clashing—the work is always done, never doing, and early in the forenoon, when the average young lady is dawdling over a late breakfast they are free for social or other duties and amusement. On Mondays one of them relieves the girl in the kitchen, and the wash is all done and put away before night. There is never any trouble with servants in that household, and when one gives warning, the domestic machine does not break down; the young ladies are equal to the emergency.

Unfortunately among too many people there is an impression that to sit in idleness and hold one’s hands is the height of gentility. Men may work, but women must, in theory at least, be shielded from everything like labor. The sooner the nation is disabused of this idea, the better it will be. Parents can leave their children no better legacy than the habit of self-helpfulness. The man who, with only a college education as a basis, should seek the position of foreman in a printing office, he would be laughed at for his pains; he who, with no practical knowledge of bookkeeping, wanted to fill the position of bookkeeper in a commercial or banking house would be considered idiotic, and so on through all business for men; yet day after day girls without the least knowledge of housekeeping take upon themselves the direction of some man’s home, with only the vaguest idea of the accruing responsibilities. English people traveling in this country, and American women in England, give it as their opinion that English girls of the higher classes are far better trained as housekeepers and nurses than are American girls of much more moderate means. Victoria herself places high value on all housewifely accomplishments, and one of the favorite toys of the royal children at Balmoral is said to have been a tiny cottage fitted up with every convenience for the housekeeping, in which the little princesses swept and dusted, baked and broiled, and entertained their royal parents at lunches of their own preparing.

State Register 24 February 1878: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Yet bed-making, dusting, and sweeping are excellent gymnastic exercises.” Mrs Daffodil can attest to the superb muscle tone of most of the chambermaids of her acquaintance.  Yet, somehow, they are usually ungrateful to their mistresses for the opportunity to develop a physique such as those ladies pay “personal trainers” to attain.

The author speaks lightly of discharging the “second girl” and giving her wages to the daughters of the household, yet does not consider how many discharged “second girls,” will not find another situation and will fall into a life of Shame and Vice.  It is this plague of Thoughtless Mistresses who bear a part of the blame for the Servant Question.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the pressures of domestic efficiency in How She Found the Time.

 

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.

Mr Greenleaf’s New Cook: 1859

cook.JPG

The Betty

Pattie Parsley

Allow me to introduce to you Mr. John Greenleaf, “a man, sir,” he will tell you, “who has made his own money, and doesn’t care who knows it—none of your heirs to property; no, sir! A self-made man.” There he stands by the fireplace, looking as pompous as if all mankind were his glares, and he was monarch of the universe. He is very rich, worth, they will tell you on ‘Change, any amount of money. He has a fine house, as the peep we are taking into the parlor will convince you. You can see that all the furniture is rich, tho paintings rare, the carpets velvet, and the lights brilliant. He has three children. The little, pale-looking girl at the piano is his daughter. He has determined to give her a splendid education, “the best, sir, that money can buy.” Never mind if they are cramming her young brain beyond its capabilities, making her pale, puny, and old, she must study, practise, and be worthy to take her place in society as the daughter of John Greenleaf. The two little boys crouched down by the window, playing chess, though older than their sister, are as pale, weak, and overtasked. Who is the lady by the piano, guiding the little girl’s fingers? Bless your innocence! that’s nobody! That is only Mr. Greenleaf’s wife, “a person,” he will tell you, with a shrug, “of amiable disposition, but no strength of character.”

“My dear,” said Mr. Greenleaf, in a voice as if he were calling his wife from the garret, although she really stands within arm’s length.

“Yes, John.”

“My dear, I have given the cook warning. Last week, the beef was twice overdone.”

“Well, John,” said Mrs. Greenleaf, with a sigh, “this is the sixth cook we have had within a month.”

“If she did not suit me, she should go, even if she were the sixtieth. She goes to-night; and the new one comes to-morrow.”

Now let me introduce you to Mr. Greenleaf’s kitchen. All is in order; every new invention for facilitating the servant’s work stands on the shelves; but did you ever see such discontented faces? Miss Fannie’s nurse stands by the table, looking at the new cook with a cross expression; while the waiter scours the knives in a spiteful, vigorous manner; and the chambermaid sets down her bucket with a bang, and looks too at the cook.

“You won’t stay here long,” says Maria, the nurse.

“No, that you won’t !” echoes Lizzie, the waiter.

“You’ll be a simpleton if you do,” chimes in Sallie, the chambermaid.

“Why, what’s the matter? Mrs. Greenleaf cross?”

“No, indeed,” cries Maria, screwing up her lips. “Mrs. Greenleaf’s a martyred angel; that’s what she is. It’s Mr. Greenleaf. Oh! Won’t you have to dance to the music? He’s hard on us all; but he’s hardest of all on the cooks.”

“Mr. Greenleaf ! what! what’s he got to do with me? I won’t have no men fooling round in my kitchen.”

“Oh! won’t you?”

“Well,” cried a loud, harsh voice at the door, “is there no work to do? What are you all idling here in the kitchen for at this time in the morning?”

Before he had finished speaking, cook stood alone in the kitchen.

“Humph !” said Mr. Greenleaf, setting down his basket; “so you’ve come. What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

“Well, Jane, here’s the dinner. Now, I want you to listen particularly to my directions. I want that piece of beef roasted. Don’t let it stay in the fire more than half an hour. I hate meat overdone”

“It won’t be fit to eat in half an hour.”

“Obey my directions, if you please. The chickens I want boiled; and there will be some oysters here soon for sauce. Don’t put any butter or salt in the oyster-sauce.” And so he went on until each article had been condemned to utter ruin, and then left the kitchen.

“I’ll serve him up a dinner,” muttered the cook.

“Jane,” said a sweet, low voice.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Jane, what has come for dinner?” Jane named the articles.

“Mr. Greenleaf has given you his directions, I presume?”

“Yes, ma’am. Everything in that ‘ere basket will be sp’iled complete.”

“Well, Jane, you must make everything as nice as you can; but don’t contradict Mr. Greenleaf, if he thinks you followed his directions.”

“Well, ma’am,” said the cook, rather discontentedly.

Dinner-time came, and with it Mr. Greenleaf. “Ah!” said he, throwing himself back in his chair, after finishing a hearty meal, “now, this is a dinner! everything cooked precisely after my directions. The new cook is a jewel. All the others have contradicted me; and the consequence was we have not had a dinner fit to eat for months. This beef is done to a charm; and that oyster-sauce is magnificent. I hate butter in oysters, spoiling the children’s complexions.”

Mrs. Greenleaf said nothing, though inwardly smiling at the success of her new stratagem.

Washing-day came. There, beside the tubs, stood Mr. Greenleaf, criticizing the proceedings. Jane had a large basket of clothes ready to put on the line; but, as she was leaving the kitchen, Mr. Greenleaf stood before her. “Do you call this white?”  he asked, fishing up a towel with the end of his cane, “or this, or this? Faugh! they are as dirty as when they came down stairs ! Here!” And, taking the basket from Jane, he launched the contents into Maria’s tub.

“Oh, Mr. Greenleaf ! these are colored clothes!” cried Maria.

“Well, they want washing, don’t they?”

“Yes, sir; but you’ve pitched all them white ones a top o’ them! Oh, he! he!  he!” And Maria fled into the yard, and burst out a laughing.

Mr. Greenleaf looked at her with magnificent astonishment. Jane had contrived to pin a half-dried towel to his coat; and her sudden view of it had caused Maria’s laughter.

“Giddy-headed goose!” cried Mr. Greenleaf. “I declare I believe I could wash myself better than the whole of you put together!”

“Suppose you try,” suggested Jane, accidentally flirting a quantity of soapsuds upon his black clothes. “Oh, sir, I beg your pardon; I did not see you.”

“Um! Um! these clothes in the boiler are only half washed. ‘Pon my word, servants, now-a-days, are enough to wear one’s life out. Here! take these things out and give them another rub.”

“Certainly, sir,” cried the obliging Jane; and before Mr. Greenleaf knew what was coming, a long stick was thrust into the boiler and a pile of clothes fished out. The hot steam rushed into his face, and the boiling water spattered over his hands, and, as he was springing aside to avoid them, down went the stick, full of hot clothes, upon his foot. “Oh, my gracious!” cried Jane. “Oh, sir, I did not mean to! Oh, you did give me sich a turn, sir, jumping round so, that the stick fell! Oh, I hope it don’t burn, sir.”

Mr. Greenleaf was obliged to make a very undignified exit, hopping on one foot, with the white towel dangling from his coat, and his vest and pants covered with soapsuds.

“I’ll teach him to come into my kitchen, washing-days,” cried Jane, as soon as he was out of hearing. “Now, I’ll go and see what his lordship wants for dinner.”

Jane found the unfortunate victim of her spite sitting in his wife’s room, holding the scalded foot in his hand, and the wet slipper and stocking lying beside him. Her face assumed an expression of profound sympathy, as she suggested a remedy for the burn. Then the subject of dinner was discussed. Among the marketing articles was a steak, and Jane, in her innocence, suggested onions.

“Onions!” cried Mr. Greenleaf. “Onions! I’d as leave eat arsenic. Onions! I detest onions! the flavor is the most horrible in the world. Remember, Jane, I will never have an onion on my table, or its flavor in anything I eat.”

“Yes, sir,” said Jane, mentally adding, “won’t you, though?”

The next morning, Jane left the house early and secretly, and returned with a number of large onions, which she carefully concealed. She and the waiter had a long private conversation soon after.

“Jane!” cried Mr. Greenleaf, at dinner-time, in a voice of thunder.

“Yes, sir,” said Jane, coming up hastily from the kitchen.

“Jane, did I not tell you never to put onion on the table?”

“There ain’t none, sir.”

“There is; the whole dinner tastes of onion. There is that detestable flavor in every dish on the table. You taste it, my dear.”

“I can’t taste it,” said Mrs. Greenleaf.

“Nor I, nor I,” cried the children.

The governess could not taste it, nor the friend who was dining with them. Mr. Greenleaf, in a towering passion, limped into the kitchen, and put his nose into every pot on the range. Everything was free from the fearful smell, yet his whole dinner tasted of it. Day after day, it was the same thing; breakfast, dinner, and supper tasted of onions. Even his tea and coffee had the flavor: and Mrs. Greenleaf began to think her husband was insane on the subject of onions. Jane and the waiter alone could have explained the mystery. Every day, before each meal, Jane took Mr. Greenleafs cup, saucer, and plate, and rubbed them with raw onion, then, standing them on the stove until the moisture dried on the china, she sent them up-stairs thoroughly impregnated with onion.

Mr. Greenleaf would have parted with Jane after his foot was scalded, but, acting on Mrs. Greenleaf’s hints, she served up the most splendidly-cooked meals, persuading him, by her submissive air and attention to his directions, that she was following all his absurd whims.

“Jane,” said Mr. Greenleaf, coming into the kitchen, one morning, “I have had a present of a pair of prairie hens, and I want them fricasseed. Now, I am not going out to-day, and I will show you exactly how to do them.”

“Yea, sir,” said Jane.

“Well, we will begin now.”

“Why, lors, sir, they will be all cold, if you cook them now.”

“Not at all; they need a good deal of cooking. First, cut them up.”

“Hadn’t I better clean them, sir?”

“Yes, of course; I meant clean them. Now, cut them up.”

“But they ought to be parboiled whole.”

“No, they are not to be parboiled; it makes them tough. They will cook enough in the gravy.”

Determined to let him see what a fine mess he was making, Jane followed his directions implicitly. The result was, a mess that would have disgusted a starving savage. Dinner-time came, and Mr. Greenleaf stood rubbing his hands, over his dish; it remained on every plate untouched. He put one mouthful into his own mouth, and then called Jane, in a tone that threatened to take the roof off the house. “What is that?” he asked, pointing to the dish before him.

“Them’s the prairie hens, sir.”

“What have you been putting in them?”

“Nothing but what you seed yourself, sir.”

Mr. Greenleaf looked at the dish, then at the cook; there was no appearance of deceit in her face. “Here!” he cried, “bring me a clean plate, and take this down stairs; throw it into the swill-pail, or give it to any beggar that will eat it.”

“I guess he won’t come down to get dinner himself again, in my kitchen,” muttered the triumphant cook, as she threw away the offending dish.

Godey’s Lady’s Book March 1859:  : pp.   249-251

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has been fortunate that she has never had a master so overweening as Mr Greenleaf, but she will mentally file away that masterful trick with the onions.

See also, “Twelve Golden Rules for Women Cooks.

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.

Fashions in Stationery: 1873-1923

pink china stationery rack

Ceramic stationery rack, late 19th c. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1225935

Although there are few vagaries of fashion to be noted in the paper used for friendly and ceremonious correspondence, there are certain definite rules which govern its use, and which the woman who desires to be considered good form cannot overstep.

Every season there are novelties in stationery put on the market, but the wise woman never allows herself to be tempted by the lovely tinted papeterie, which, although a delight to the eye, does not appeal to her innate sense of what is correct. The dreamy blues, romantic rose colors, and dainty greens, should be relegated to the very young, as these delicate shades appeal to the budding tastes of girls and boys, and harmonize with the gushing sentiments of the very youthful. The fancy-stamped paper with the victor’s wreath, the regal fleur-de-lis, and the four-leaved clover in gold or bronze, belong properly to the epoch when the heart is worn upon the sleeve, and the school-boy or girl runs riot with sentiment, harmlessly expressed upon ornate stationery.

When big square envelopes are introduced as a passing vagary, these enthusiastic young people enclose their letters in envelopes big enough for the official correspondence of a cabinet minister; when small ones are used, they run to Liliputian styles.

Men and women of the world never commit themselves to a passing caprice, and cling to the heavy cream-laid octavo sheet, which is at the same time elegant and unostentatious, and which boasts of no ornamentation, save, perhaps, the family crest or coat of arms elegantly emblazoned in the proper heraldic colors, blended with gold, silver, or bronze. Some persons deem this assumption of armorial bearings arrogant, and not in consonance with republican principles; there is, however, no reason why those who are entitled to this distinction should not display their escutcheon upon their stationery. The monogram is frequently substituted, and the cunning of the engraver is evidenced in the artistic entwining of the graceful cipher. According to the canons of good taste, the monogram should not be of too elaborate a character; in fact, to be correct, it must not assert itself conspicuously, while at the same time expressing individuality and elegance.

Fashion’s decrees do not permit of the use of the crest or monogram upon the envelope; it is sufficient to have it engraved at the head of the letter-sheet.

The use of ruled paper is relegated to school children and the untutored classes; properly educated persons do not require lines to guide them; in fact, with the present fashion of straggling handwriting, lines would hamper rather than aid the accomplished letter-writer.

mourning stationery a

Mourning stationery from Dyrham Rectory, Chippenham. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/453623

For mourning, the excessively deep black border is no longer de regle , a narrower one being sufficient to conform with the dictates of mourning etiquette. It is not necessary to intrude the insignia of one’s grief upon the world, but black-bordered paper is the natural accompaniment of the garb of woe. A black monogram or crest may be used upon heavy white paper.

kingston lacy stationery assortment

Stationery assortment from Kingston Lacy. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1256865

For country houses, the hostess provides herself with a quantity of stationery for the season, designed, not for herself alone, but for the use of her guests, a generous supply of which is placed in the escritoire of the guest chamber. As nowadays all country houses are distinguished by names, it is the proper thing for the recipients of the lady’s hospitality to conduct their correspondence on the paper which bears, in the fac-simile handwriting of the hostess, the historic or fancy name of her residence.

The country clubs, the athletic and social clubs, all have an appropriate device engraved upon the stationery which is to be used by members.

In these days of yachting, yacht stationery is supplied to the guests of the owner. Sometimes it is ornamented with nautical emblems, or it bears the name of the craft and the monogram of the yacht club; in many cases the pennant of the club is used, the different colors affording a fine opportunity for the handicraft of the skilled engraver.

In these times of rush and utilitarianism the proper sealing of a letter may almost be classed among the lost arts; even women of leisure deem it a waste of time to use sealing-wax, although those who cling to elegant usages never omit this ceremony, save when writing upon matters of business.

There is nothing more suggestive of daintiness, than the envelope with its circle of pale-colored wax, stamped with the impress of the family coat-of-arms or a graceful monogram. Sealing a letter savors of leisure and elegance, and few women are past-mistresses of the art; men rarely take the trouble to seal their letters.

Courtesy of Messrs. Dempsey & Carroll.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1877

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a difference several decades makes in the notion of size and colour in stationery:

UP TO DATE STATIONERY

Good Form as Shown in the Details of Letter and Note-Paper.

For short notes, invitations and the like, small note size paper, which measures six inches by four and one-quarter inches or thereabouts, is used. For letters the sheet is more nearly square, approximately five and half inches wide by six and a half long. Both are folded once and slipped into envelopes that exactly fit.

Foreign correspondence makes the only exception to this rule, and for letters to be sent abroad a thinner, lighter paper is the preferred one. The very latest novelty in envelopes of this thin, satin finished paper displays a lining of one of the new fashionable colors—purple, gray, red or blue.

The lining is not more than tissue weight, yet the color renders it opaque, and it is possible to send a letter of generous length without excessive postage, while at the same time the contents are protected from curious eyes.

The engraved monogram, initial or address at the top of the sheet in the centre is always in good taste, or, if desired, the address may be used in combination with the initial or monogram. In the latter case the address may either be placed below the initials or in the centre with the monogram or the initials occupying a space to the left.

Simple script letters, from half to three-quarters of an inch in height, intertwined, afford a pretty effect, and are in excellent taste, says McCall’s Magazine . Blocked letters are combined in many attractive ways, and just now there is a marked preference for long, narrow monograms, whether used alone or in combination with the address. Small letters are often enclosed in a little frame of medallion style, but these are mostly preferred by young girls, the larger designs being chosen by more mature folk.

Dull blue and dull red inks for printing monograms and addresses are favorites, gray is liked by many, and tan is always effective on a white ground, while both silver and gold are in good style. Bright colors and startling effects are always to be avoided, but there all rule ends.

Owners of country houses and of boats large enough to serve as temporary homes frequently use the name as well as the general address; as, “The Cedars,” followed by the name of the town. Every yacht club has its own flag, and often this is used together with the owner’s private signal, in the left hand corner, while the name of the boat or the owner’s monogram occupies the centre of the page; or, if a different arrangement is preferred, the signal flags can be shown above, directly in the centre.

Telephone numbers are important, when living out of town, and often the centre of the sheet shows the address, while diagonally across the left hand corner is printed the telephone call and number, the same style of letter being used for both.

The Sun [New York NY] 10 March 1912: p. 35

While every correspondent knew the niceties of papeterie in the 1870s, novelty in stationery drew comment from the late 1800s onward. This novelty actually sounds rather pretty:

Pale green notepaper, with the crest or initials in mother-o’-pearl, is also a fad of fashion.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 31 May 1924: p. 22

stationery portfolio

Stationery portfolio of embossed leather, gilt, and set with a scene in painted mother-of-pearl. Mid-19th century. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/stationery-portfolio/JAGxkKi3k6yodQ

Country-house hostesses evinced much anxiety about their stationery assortments. Guest rooms were often supplied with special boxes for writing paper. This lockable specimen, in leather,  from Penrhyn Castle suggests stationery of Royal Dispatch box importance.

penrhyn castle stationery box

Stationery box from one of the guest rooms at Penrhyn Castle. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1421560.5

Country House Stationery.

Hostesses who look well to the comfort of their guests always have in every room a bountiful supply of note paper and correspondence cards, inscribed with the name of the house, the post-office address and the telephone number—if there is one.

Country-house stationery may deviate somewhat from the conventional styles considered correct for town use, and if one chooses to use khaki brown note paper or robin’s-egg blue, or even coral pink, one’s vagary will be quite excusable. The name of the house may also be printed at the top of the sheet when nothing less than engraving would be tolerated in town. Some hostesses provide postage stamps for their guests, but this is rather an expensive fad. Telegraph blanks should, however, be in every room, so that telegrams may be speedily dispatched when necessity arises. Post cards bearing pictures of the house or some interesting bit of scenery near-by are always highly appreciated in the guest room.

The Repository [Canton OH] 26 May 1912: p. 31

One might think that such stationery stalwarts as mourning stationery were impervious to fashion, but such was not the case. Just as heavily craped veils fell out of fashion, so did the heavy black bordered letter and envelope.

crossing the bar mourning stationery

Crossing the bar mourning stationery, 1890s. https://museum.wales/collections/online/object/4f076e0c-bbdb-3c36-b54d-30a20556e148/Mourning-stationery-box-of/?field0=string&value0=mourning&field1=with_images&value1=on&index=2

A new idea in mourning stationery is the envelope in pure white save for a fine line of black defining its deeply pointed flap, but with a black tissue paper lining.

Daily Capital Journal [Salem OR] 28 May 1913: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil rather shudders at the notion of green ink being “ultra-fashionable,” and as for green sealing wax….

The latest fad in stationery is note paper of a tawny orange shade, known as Indian gold, on which she who would be ultra-fashionable must write in green ink, securing her envelopes with green sealing wax. Excepting its novelty , which may render it acceptable to some, the fancy seems to have nothing to recommend it, and will probably be but short-lived.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, July 1893

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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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.