Category Archives: Holidays

The Ghost of the Count: 1897

the ghost of the count illustration

THE GHOST OF THE COUNT.

Thrilling Story of an Experience of a Woman in a Mexican Banking House with a Phantom.

Not far from the Alameda, in the City of Mexico, there is a great old stone building, in which once lived a very wealthy and wicked Spanish count. The house has about four floors, and ninety rooms, more or less. The entire fourth floor is rented and occupied by a big American firm, and their bookkeeper, an American girl, has given us the following true account of the ghost that for years haunted the building. The second floor is unoccupied, as no one cares to live there for obvious reasons. And the bottom floor is also unoccupied, save for lumber rooms, empty boxes and crates and barrels. And last of all is the great patio with its tiled floor, where secretly in the night a duel was fought to the death by the wicked count and a famous Austrian prince, who was one of Maximilian’s men. The count was killed.

No one knows why the duel was fought; some say it was because of a beautiful Spanish woman: some say that it was because of treasure that the two jointly “conveyed,” and which the count refused to divide with his princely “socio,” and more people—Mexicans—shrug their shoulders if you ask about it, and say, “Quien sabe?”

“I saw a ghost here last night, Miss James,” announces our cashier with much éclat and evident pride.

So great is the shock that I gasp, and my pen drops, spattering red ink on my nice fresh cuffs, and (worse luck!) on the ledger page that I had just totted up. It is ruined, and I will have to erase it, or—something! Wretched man!

“I wish to goodness it had taken you off,” I cry, wrathfully, as I look at the bespattered work. “Now will you just look here and see what you have done? I wish you and your ghosts were in…”

“Gehenna?” he inquires, sweetly; “I’ll fix that—it won’t take half a minute. And don’t look so stern, else I won’t tell you about the ‘espanto.’ And you will be sorry if you don’t hear about it-—it would make such a good story.” (Insinuatingly. )

“Then go ahead with it.” (Ungraciously.)

“Well, last night I was waiting for West. He was to meet me here, after which it was our intention to hit the—that is, I mean we were going out together. (I nod scornfully.) And it seems that while I was patiently waiting here, in my usual sweet-tempered way, the blank idiot had his supper and then lay down to rest himself for a while. You know how delicate he is? (Another contemptuous nod.) Unfortunately he forgot the engagement, and slept on. He says he never awoke until three o’clock, and so didn’t come, thinking I wouldn’t be there. Meantime I also went to sleep, and might have snoozed on until three, likewise, but for the fact that the ghost woke me——”

“Well? Do go on,” I urge.

“The ghost woke me, as I said,” proceeds the simpleton, slowly. “It was passing its cold fingers over my face and groaning. Really, it was most extraordinary. At first I didn’t know what it was; then, as I felt the icy fingers stroking my face and heard blood-curdling groans issuing from the darkness, I knew what it was. And I remembered the story of the prince and his little duel down in the patio, and knew it was the ghost of the prince’s victim. By the way, you don’t know what a funny sensation it is to have a ghost pat your face, Miss James.”

“Pat nothing,” I retort, indignantly. “I wonder you are not ashamed to tell me such fibs. Such a ta-ra-diddle! And as for the man that the prince killed downstairs, you know as well as I do that he was taken home to Spain and buried, there. Why, then, should he come back here, into our offices, and pat your face?”

“Ah, that I can’t say,” with a supercilious drawl. “I can only account for it by thinking that the ghost has good taste—better than that of some people I know,” meaningly. “But honestly, I swear that I am telling you the truth—cross my heart and hope to die if I am not! And you don’t know how brave I was—I never screamed; in fact, I never made a sound; oh, I was brave!”

“Then what did you do?” sternly.

“I ran. Por Dios, how I ran! You remember with what alacrity we got down the stairs during the November earthquake? (I remember only too distinctly.) Well, last night’s run wasn’t a run, in comparison—it was a disappearance, a flight, a sprint! I went down the four flights of stairs like a streak of blue lightning, and the ghost flew with me. I heard the pattering of its steps and its groans clean down to the patio door, and I assure you I quite thought I had made such an impression that it was actually going on home with me. And the thought made me feel so weak that I felt perforce obliged to take a—have a— that is, strengthen myself with a cocktail. After which I felt stronger and went home quite peacefully. But it was an uncanny experience, wasn’t it?”

“Was it before or after taking that cocktail,” I ask, incredulously. “And did you take one only or eleven?”

I am hard on the man, but he really deserves it. Ghosts! Spirits, perhaps, but not ghosts. Whereat his feelings are quite “hurted”—so much so that he vows he will never tell me anything again; I had better read about Doubting Thomas; he never has seen such an unbelieving woman in all his life, and if I were only a man he would be tempted to pray that I might see the ghost; it would serve me right. Then, wrathfully departs, to notice me no more that day.

Not believing the least bit in ghosts I gave the matter no more thought. In fact, when you fall heir to a set of books that haven’t been posted for nineteen days, and you have to do it all, and get up your trial balance, too, or else give up your Christmas holidays, you haven’t much time to think about ghosts, or anything else, except entries. And though I had been working fourteen hours per day, the 24th of December, noon hour, found me with a difference of $13.89. The which I, of course, must locate and straighten out before departing next morning on my week’s holiday. Por supuesto, it meant night work. Nothing else would do; and besides, our plans had all been made to leave on the eight o’clock train next morning. So I would just sit up all night, if need be, and find the wretched balance and be done with it.

Behold me settled for work that night at seven o’clock in my own office, with three lamps burning to keep it from looking dismal and lonely, and books and ledgers and journals piled up two feet high around me. If hard work would locate that nasty, hateful $13.89 it would surely be found. I had told the portero downstairs on the ground floor to try and keep awake for a time, but if I didn’t soon finish the work I would come down and call him when I was ready to go home.

He lived in a little room, all shut off from the rest of the building, so that it was rather difficult to get at him. Besides, he was the very laziest and sleepiest fellow possible, and though he was supposed to take care of the big building at night, patrolling it so as to keep off ladrones, he in reality slept so soundly that the last trumpet, much less Mexican robbers, would not have roused him.

And for this very reason, before settling to my work I was careful to go around and look to locks and bolts myself; everything was secure, and the doors safely fastened. So that if ladrones did break through they would have to be in shape to pass through keyholes or possess false keys.

With never a thought of spirits or porteros, or anything else, beyond the thirteen dollars and eighty-nine cents, I worked and added and readded and footed up. And at eleven o’clock, grazia a Dios, I had the thirteen dollars all safe, and would have whooped for joy, had I the time. However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet, the sum of eighty-nine dollars being often more easy of location than eighty-nine cents. The latter must be found, also, before I could have the pleasure of shouting in celebration thereof.

At it I went again. After brain cudgeling and more adding and prayerful thought I at last had under my thumb that abominable eighty cents. Eureka! Only nine cents out. I could get it all straight and have some sleep, after all! Inspired by which thought I smothered my yawns and again began to add. I looked at my watch— ten minutes to twelve. Perhaps I could get it fixed before one.

I suppose I had worked at the nine cents for about twenty minutes. One of the cash entries looked to me to be in error. I compared it with the voucher—yes, that was just where the trouble lay! Eleven cents—ten—nine—

S-t-t!  Out went the lights in the twinkling of an eye—as I sat, gaping in my astonishment, from out of the pitchy darkness of the room came the most dreary, horrible, blood-curdling groan imaginable. As I sat paralyzed, not daring to breathe, doubting my senses for a moment, and then thinking indignantly that it was some trick of that wretched cashier, I felt long, thin, icy fingers passing gently over my face. Malgame Dios! what a sensation! At first I was afraid to move. Then I nervously tried to brush the icy, bony things away. As fast as I brushed, with my heart beating like a steam-hammer, and gasping with deadly fear, the fingers would come back again; a cold wind was blowing over me. Again came that dreadful groan, and too frightened to move or scream, I tumbled in a heap on the floor, among the books and ledgers. Then I suppose I fainted.

When I regained my senses I was still in a heap with the ledgers; still it was dark and still I felt the cold fingers caressing my face. At which I became thoroughly desperate. No ghost should own me! I had laughed at the poor cashier and hinted darkly at cocktails. Pray, what better was I?

I scrambled to my feet, the fingers still stroking my face. I must address them—what language—did they understand English or Spanish, I wondered? Spanish would doubtless be most suitable, if indeed, it was the ghost of the murdered count.

“Will you do me the favor, Senor Ghost,” I started out bravely, in my best Spanish, but with a very trembling voice, “to inform me what it is that you desire? Is there anything I can do for you? Because, if not, I would like very much to be allowed to finish my work, which I cannot do (if you will pardon my abruptness) if I am not alone.”

(Being the ghost of a gentleman and a diplomat, surely he would take the hint and vanish. Ojala!)

Perhaps the ghost did not understand my Spanish; at any rate there was no articulate reply; there was another groan—again the fingers touched me, and then there was such a mournful sigh that I felt sorry for the poor thing—what could be the matter with it? With my pity, all fear was lost for a moment, and I said to the darkness all about me:

“What is it that you wish, pobre senor? Can I not aid you? I am not afraid—let me help you!”

The fingers moved uncertainly for a moment; then the ledgers all fell down, with a loud bang; a cold hand caught mine, very gently—I tried not to feel frightened, but it was difficult—and I was led off blindly, through the offices. I could not see a thing—not a glimmer of light showed; not a sound was heard except my own footsteps, and the faint sound of the invisible something that was leading me along—there were no more groans, thank goodness, else I should have shrieked and fainted, without a doubt. Only the pattering footsteps and the cold hand that led me on and on.

We—the fingers and I—were somehow in the great hall, then on the second floor, and at last on the stairs, going on down, flight after flight. Then I knew that I was being led about by the fingers on the tiled floor of the patio, and close to the portero’s lodge. Simpleton that he was! Sleeping like a log, no doubt, while I was being led about in the black darkness by an invisible hand, and no one to save me! I would have yelled, of course, but for one fact—I found it utterly impossible to speak or move my tongue, being a rare and uncomfortable sensation.

But where were we going? Back into the unused lumber rooms, joining onto the patio? Nothing there, except barrels and slabs and empty boxes. What could the ghost mean? He must be utterly demented, surely.

In the middle of the first room we paused. I had an idea of rushing out and screaming for the portero, but abandoned it when I found that my feet wouldn’t go. I heard steps passing to and fro about the floor, and waited, cold and trembling. They approached me; again my hand was taken, and I was led over near the corner of the room. Obedient to the unseen will, I bent down and groped about the floor, guided by the cold fingers holding mine, until I felt something like a tiny ring, set firmly in the floor. I pulled at it faintly, but it did not move, at which the ghost gave a faint sigh. For a second the cold fingers pressed mine, quite affectionately, then released me, and I heard steps passing slowly into the patio, then dying away. Where was it going, and what on earth did it all mean?

But I was so tired and wrought up I tried to find the door, but couldn’t (the cashier would have been revenged could he have seen me stupidly fumbling at a barrel, thinking it was the door), and at last, too fatigued and sleepy to stand, I dropped down on the cold stone floor and went to sleep.

I must have slept for some hours, for when I awoke the light of dawn was coming in at the window, and I sat up and wondered if I had taken leave of my senses during the night. What on earth could I be doing here in the lumber-room? Then, like a flash, I remembered, and, half unconsciously, crept about on the floor seeking the small ring. There it was! I caught it and jerked at it hard. Hey, presto, change! For it seemed to me that the entire floor was giving way. There was a sliding, crashing sound, and I found myself hanging on for dear life to a barrel that, fortunately, retained its equilibrium, and with my feet dangling into space. Down below me was a small, stone-floored room, with big boxes and small ones ranged about the walls.

Treasure! Like a flash the thought struck me, and with one leap I was down in the secret room gazing about at the boxes.

But, alas! upon investigation, the biggest chests proved empty. The bad, wicked count!

No wonder he couldn’t rest in his Spanish grave, but must come back to the scene of his wickedness and deceit to make reparation! But the smaller chests were literally crammed with all sorts of things—big heavy Spanish coins, in gold and silver—gold and silver dinner services, with the crest of the unfortunate emperor; magnificent pieces of jeweled armor and weapons, beautiful jewelry and loose precious stones. I deliberately selected handfuls of the latter, giving my preference to the diamonds and pearls—I had always had a taste for them, which I had never before been able to gratify!—and packed them in a wooden box that I found in the lumber-room. The gold and dinner services and armor, etc., I left as they were, being rather cumbersome, and carried off, rejoicing, my big box of diamonds and pearls and other jewelry.

Needless to say we didn’t go away for the holidays on the eight o’clock train. But I did come down to the office and proceeded to locate my missing nine cents. After which I unfolded the tale of the ghost and the treasure—only keeping quiet the matter of my private loot. Of which I was heartily glad afterwards. For when the government learned of the find what do you suppose they offered me for going about with the ghost and discovering the secret room and treasure? Ten thousand dollars! When I refused, stating that I would take merely, as my reward, one of the gold dinner services, the greedy things objected at first, but I finally had my way. And to this very day they have no idea that I—even I—have all the beautiful jewels. Wouldn’t they be furious if they knew it? But they aren’t apt to, unless they learn English and read this story. Which isn’t likely.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 26 December 1897: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Miss James certainly had her own éclat, although a young lady working in the male-dominated field of book-keeping, must have had to find ways to hold her own against supercilious clerks and government officials. She seems to have done so. One wonders how much more than ten thousand dollars she received when she sold the gold dinner service, as she most certainly would have done. Someone so self-possessed and canny would surely have known how gold quickly cools anything placed upon it and that a gold dinner service will invariably create additional expense for extra dishwashing staff.  Sensible girl, although she was perhaps indiscreet in selling her story to the newspapers where anyone in search of a reward–a spiteful cashier, for instance– could have informed the government of her “private loot.”

 

 

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.

Vegetable Fancy Dress: 1889

cabbage leaf costume fancy dress

A VEGETARIAN FROLIC

A little while ago it was my good fortune to attend a most peculiar fancy dress party. It was held at a big country house, and the distinguishing feature of the affair was that every person was compelled to either dress as a vegetable or in a costume decorated with one. Although at first thought this seems to give but little scope to either taste or imagination, some really pretty toilets were arranged, the foundations of which embraced almost everything, including partly worn silks, natty street dresses, and dainty lace and mull gowns.

One stately dame in a trained black silk and  powdered hair, wore an Elizabethan ruff, plumes for the hair, and carried an immense fan, all composed of the crisply curled leaves of the kale plant.

A little auburn-haired beauty transformed her directoire gown into a very good representation of carrots by removing all the buttons and substituting slices of the vegetable, while the entire front was decorated with pressed carrot leaves.

onion fancy dress croce

Soup vegetables made a very attractive costume. A white mull dress with sprigs of parsley used effectively over it, and a tiny basket of the smallest of the other vegetables to be obtained.

A black lace gown, a profusion of bangles cut from a large yellow turnip, hair ornament of the same, and a corsage bouquet cut from white and yellow turnips and embellished with their foliage, was the costume evolved in honor of that plebeian vegetable by a young lady, with the help of a younger brother with a talent for fancy carving.

white asparagus fancy drss croce

Red peppers were used with pretty effect upon another black lace gown, but great care had to be exercised in placing them so that neither the wearer nor those who came in contact with her should suffer from their fiery nature.

Most of the members of the sterner sex contented themselves with a vegetable boutonniere, but one ambitious youth covered himself with glory and his business suit with corn husks arranged layer upon layer. His appearance can be better imagined than described.

Many other pretty, dainty, or funny toilets were contributed using popped corn, slices of pumpkin, pale green lettuce leaves, etc., for decoration.

Pieces of chamois, strips of flannel and stout linen were used underneath some of the cut vegetables to protect the dress fabric form stains.

ONE WHO WAS THERE.

American Gardening: November, 1889: p. 409

vegetable ball

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A fête which gave new meaning to the phrase “salad dressing.”

One imagines that the fall evening was chill; hence, no one adopted the original vegetable costume:

Leader of Fashion: “Oh, yes, this is the new vegetable costume suggested, you know, by that vegetarian dinner. What do you think of it?”

Cynic “Hum—pretty idea, but old—very old.”

Leader of Fashion (horrified) “Old! Why the dressmaker told us these were the very first. Who can have worn a vegetarian dress before us?”

Cynic: “Eve!”

Aberdeen [Scotland] Weekly Journal and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland 25 October 1884: p. 2

 

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

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

Halloween Charms: 1903

apple peel

A young woman tosses an apple peel over her shoulder to divine the initial of her future husband.

Halloween Charms

Young men, who wish to decide their fate on Halloween should dress in their best, walk to the candy store about 7 p.m., purchase a box of the most expensive dainties, and go to the home of some girl. Be sure that you select the home of the one you imagine to be the bright particular star of them all. After asking for her, put your hat and stick within convenient reach, assume a pleasant smile, and when she appears give her the candy. Along with this say as many sweet things as come into your head. Then repeat slowly but distinctly these words: “Will you marry me?” If she answers “Yes” your fate is fixed.

A quaint old custom for girls who wish to peer into the future is to walk down the cellar stairs backward at midnight, holding a candle in the hand and peer into a mirror. There the face of the future husband possibly will be seen. An improvement upon this custom is for the girl to walk into the kitchen and secure a juicy apple pie. Return to the parlor, holding the pie carefully before you. Take a knife and cut it into quarters. Put one quarter on a plate, pour over it some rich cream, lay a spoon beside the pie and hand it to the young man, saying at the same time: “I made this pie myself.” This beats the cellar stairs and mirror experiment about ten miles. It is a certain augur of the future.

Throwing an apple peeling over the shoulder is another odd old custom for Halloween observance. The peeling is supposed to curl into a letter representing the initial of the future husband’s name. A better test than this is to let the young man see you idly scribbling. You write your first name and then his last name. Thus, if your first name is Lucille and his last name is Miggleberry, you would write “Lucille Miggleberry.” Naturally, he will want to see what you have written. Then you must blush and seem confused and try to tear of the paper. DO NOT TEAR IT UP. After due reluctance, let him see what you have written, coyly explaining that you just wondered how the names would look together.

Burning a paper on which is written the name of the adored one is also a favorite charm for Halloween. This is popularly supposed to bring him to his senses. A much surer plan, and a more sociable one, is to invite him to spend the evening, and also to ask another man—a handsome man who is tolerably smitten with you himself. Contrive to send the second man home earlier than the adored one. This is said to work well indeed.

Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 30 October 1904: p. 33

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Other Hallowe’en customs included hiding a dime, a ring and a thimble in a cake or a dish of mashed potatoes. The person finding the ring will soon be married. The one who gets the thimble will be a spinster. And the finder of the dime will never lack for money.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that there was often some sleight-of-hand involved in cutting the cake or dishing the potatoes. There were still other rituals involving mirrors at midnight and various rhyming charms at windows.

Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to how a religious feast  celebrating the dead emerging from their graves to wander the earth became a festival of divinatory practices to identify one’s future spouse. One supposes it is a manifestation of that vulgar expression, “sex and death,” so amply represented in these latter days by the many “naughty nurse” Hallowe’en costumes.

Mrs Daffodil has written of other, darker Hallowe’en superstitions and of Queen Victoria’s celebration of Hallowe’en at Balmoral.

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.

 

Jack Horner Pies for Hallowe’en: 1909-1916

jack horner pie for halloween

A Halloween party without a Jack Horner surprise pie would be Hamlet with the Dane and Ophelia and even the ghost left out, so barren would the good old day be without this standby. Made of crape paper and holding little prizes and favors, this novelty is sure to be a success with children and grownups alike. In the pie illustrated each little witch with her bright white spotted dress and apron, red cardboard hat and tiny broom, is attached to a string at the end of which is a suitable favor. Weird red “devils” and ugly black cats are perched on the handle of the basket.

The Colfax [WA] Gazette 28 October 1910: p. 8

JACK HORNER PIES.

The Jack Horner pie is a favorite sort of decoration nowadays for all occasions, and as it serves both as a decoration and a receptacle for favors, it is especially valued by the hostess. It is most appropriate for the Halloween frolic.

One Jack Horner pie is simply huge golden pumpkin, made of crepe paper stretched over a wire frame. Inside the paper pumpkin there are little favors, fastened to ribbons. These ribbons are passed through slits in the pumpkin and at their other ends, one of which is placed at each plate, are tiny pumpkins.

A most beautiful Jack Horner pie for a girl’s party represents a pretty doll driving In a goose wagon drawn by black cats. The goose–which is no more than a pasteboard candy box–can be bought at a good candy store, and the black cats are the usual weird coal black little things, harnessed up with scarlet ribbons, which the dollie inside the wagon holds in her small hands. But as to this small lady, she is nothing but head and hands, for her ballooning skirt is meant only to cover the tissue paper bag containing the gifts. A very effective pie could be made of two flat pieces of cardboard cut out to represent a weird at of the Hallowe’en species and painted black. Fasten these each side of a narrow cardboard box, also painted black, and glue crimson paper around the inside of the box to serve as the pouch for the presents. Slit holes in the paper bag for ribbons to come through, and twist around the top lightly so that everything will come out easily.

A clock is a novel Jack Horner pie. It is a round box, of course, covered with yellow paper. On its big face are fastened figures representing the hours of black paper. Two black hands point to the witching figure for 12 o’clock. Hanging from the bottom. like so many pendulums, are ribbons’ which are to be pulled when time comes for the guests to get their gifts.

Still another “pie” is a basket of pumpkins. The basket is covered with yellow paper and in it are lots of little paper pumpkins. Each, of course, contains a gift and when gift time comes the basket is passed around.

Then there is the witch pie. This is a witch made of a doll’s head, with a capacious orange paper skirt and black paper shawl and cap. Under the skirt are the gifts, with yellow or black ribbons attached to them escaping from beneath the hem.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 27 October 1916: p. 16

The imposing centerpiece illustrated [at the head of this post] is a Jack Horner pie, filled with favors. These favors are hidden in the basket which forms the foundation for the “pie,” and ribbons, passing up through the piecrust of crepe paper are attached to the little witches which decorate the top of the pie. The big witch head in the center is added merely ass an ornament and may be presented ceremoniously to some particular guest. A fringe of snappy mottoes with brooms attached surrounds the basket and the handle is covered by witches’ brooms made of faggots in which roost hobgoblins, banshees and other terrifying creatures. Such a centerpiece, of course, would cost a substantial sum, but the same idea might be carried out with less expense, using one good-sized witch for a center and bringing the ribbons attached to the hidden favors over the edges of the basket where they form a fringe finished by little apples or yellow crepe paper pumpkins. The fagot brooms may be easily made form ordinary twigs and hobgoblins and black cats cut form paper may nestle in the branches.

The Topeka [KS] State Journal 30 October 1909: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Jack Horner pies were not just for Hallowe’en, but seemed to receive the most coverage at that time. Many and varied were the shapes and prizes.

Countless are the tiny trifles for 5 cents and less one can find in the stock of some stores and which make the nicest little souvenirs for child parties. One tray discloses little bundles made up of five toys each–a tiny wooden pail of bright apples, a black rake, a black cat, a green frog, a carrot, a cucumber or an onion. Garden vegetables seem to be eminently appropriate for Halloween and everywhere there are delightful candy boxes simulating them. They are all effective on the table, and every box may serve as a souvenir. The small vegetables are, of course, only of painted wood or of cotton, but children find them amusing when they haul them out of a Jack Horner pie.
The more novel the Jack Horner pie for Halloween the more amusing it will seem, so a good deal of personal ingenuity may be exercised. One pie turned out by a toy shop is made like a French doll, the dainty little lady carrying an immense bandbox of flowered paper, this, of course, holding the gifts. Another doll is set in a little cardboard wagon, six black cats, with scarlet leashes, drawing the trap. Behind the wagon fall the ribbons to be pulled, and when the critical moment comes the wagon will go to pieces like the one horse shay.
The Jack Horner pie for Halloween is also often hidden in the stomach of a big scarecrow, and there are balloon aeroplane and goose and owl pies, the gifts tucked away inside the hollow ornament, and covered with tissue paper, so that they jerk out without trouble. But the big paper pumpkin
makes the most effective pie of all for Halloween, and when it is turned out with highest art it may cost $10 in the shop.

The Pensacola [FL] Journal 24 October 1911: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil was explaining the Jack Horner pie to an American acquaintance unfamiliar with the idea, who wondered how the crusts were kept fresh until sold and how the crusts did not crumble when the ribbons were pulled.

 

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

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

A Halloween Prank:1910

1910-1919 veiling mourning hat

When a young man rapped timidly at his door the other evening, Rev. George I. Foster, 1106 Addison-rd N.E. opened it. The young man, who was not tall, told Rev. Mr. Foster bashfully that he had come to be married.

“To whom?” asked the minister.

“To her,” said the young man, and he pointed into the gloom of the porch to a rather tall young woman whose features were hid under a heavy dotted veil. It was chilly out and there wasn’t much time for parley.

“Won’t you step in?” said the minister.

In the front parlor Rev. Mr. Foster began conversation with, “You are the couple of whom my wife spoke at dinner?”

“I suppose we are,” replied the prospective groom. “I called up this afternoon.”

So the two stood up and Rev. Mr. Foster began the ceremony.

The young woman was very modest. She answered the questions in her turn, but she couldn’t talk loud. She kept her hat and veil on and perhaps that hindered her or else it was all new to her, or she had a cold. Anyway she managed to make herself heard and when the ceremony was ended the little husband asked what the fee was. He was laboriously pulling a pocketbook out of his trousers’ pocket.

“Now, where is the license?” asked Rev. Mr. Foster, according to rule.

“Why, we had no license,” said the young man as he tendered a bill.

“Then you’re not married.”

“What, not married?” came from the astonished bride and groom together.

The minister said that was the case.

“Very well,” said the young couple.

The young woman lifted her veil, the young man tore a tiny mustache off his lip and there stood Mrs. Foster, the pastor’s wife and Mrs. Alfred Shaw, a near neighbor and friend.

It was Halloween. Rev. Mr. Foster said it was very skillfully done.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 3 November 1910: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil suspects that, had the prank been perpetrated on anyone but a man of the cloth, “skillfully done” would have been the least of the comments from the victim of the imposture. Mrs Daffodil also wonders who tipped off the newspaper. The newspaper rather spoilt the fun with its headline:

MINISTER, ON HALLOWEEN, MARRIES HIS WIFE TO WOMAN LIVING NEAR BY

Goes Through Ceremony According to Rote, Discovering Joke Only When License to Wed is Asked and Refused.

The Rev. Mr. Foster, who was Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cleveland, Ohio was quite the artistic nibs: he wrote and published operettas, cantatas, and band music. He also knew about the importance of casting the right person for the part. In 1907 he wrote an operetta for the children of the church, “Jack the Giant Killer.” Since none of the children were tall enough for the role of the giant, he looked out from the pulpit at his congregation one Sunday, noted a fellow who towered over his pew-mates and afterwards congratulated a bemused draftsman named John Davis on getting the part. He died in 1935 and the church seems to have closed its doors soon afterward. No one could fill his clerical or theatrical shoes.

Mrs Daffodil wonders if the Rev. Mr Foster was near-sighted. A man’s suit and a “tiny mustache” seems scarcely adequate to conceal the face, form, and sex of a “near neighbor and friend.”

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.

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation: 1904

The End of Dinner, Jules Alexandre Grun, 1913

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation

By Lola Terry Shannon

Cecilia is a very bright young western woman with artistic tastes and an unusual facility for putting them to practical use, and is the only American woman who has ever made a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a designer and decorator in connection with fashionable catering. Since she is a living entity at this writing, and very much alive at that, it may be well to state, in passing, that Cecilia is not her real name but only a fictitious substitute for present purposes.

She gave some points on her experience to a little group of summer sojourners at an old-fashioned farmhouse one summer evening, which seemed interesting enough to “pass along.”

“I can’t understand,” she said, in laughing response to the clamorous invitation to tell something about her “novel” occupation, “why there need be anything novel about it. Any woman with average brain power, good health, and a knack for bringing out color effects ought to be able to make a success at my calling. Many a young woman of artistic temperament in our large cities, who is trying to make a living as an artist, musician or writer, would find here a fair, open field for her energies and ideas, with plenty of hard work, it is true, but with good money compensation to offset the late and early hours.

“I started in as an employee in a confectionery store in Chicago and soon discovered that my love of fresh, crisp ribbons and pretty bows stood me in good stead. All of my spare moments were used in thinking up new ideas for candy boxes and baskets, and in inventing new color schemes for our large window. Once I designed some favors which my employer was pleased to consider quite original, and when one of the city’s big caterers applied to him for an assistant, I was selected as an emergency substitute, and finally decided to remain in the business.

“No one on the outside can have any idea of the amount of ingenuity for which the business of a fashionable caterer calls. The detail work is enormous. Each person, of course, wants something entirely fresh and original, and the poor man is often driven to despair in his efforts to obtain ideas that are both novel and attractive.

“I went abroad once to help an American confectioner open up a place in London. It was then that I had my first experience in planning for an English hunt dinner. It was to be given at an old manor, the country home of a certain wealthy lord, and my employer considered it, of course, an opportunity from a business standpoint.

“How we did slave getting ready! We had been given carte blanche as to expense, and it was only a question of design and detail; but it brought on a genuine attack of brain fag for everybody engaged in its preparation. The affair was, however, a great success and launched my chief on the top wave of popular favor.

“It was all in gold and scarlet. The table service was far handsomer than anything I had ever seen or even dreamed of, though I had decorated for some of the wealthiest families in our own country. Such wonderful gold and silver plate, which had been handed down, not for generations, but for centuries, all in rich, specially wrought designs without duplicates! And the rare translucent china and exquisite cut glass, together with the plate, made splendid effects possible.

“Well! As I said, this hunt dinner was all in gold and scarlet. We even invented scarlet candies and bonbons with prince of Wales feathers on them in raised gold effect. These were heaped in gold dishes, solid gold epergnes, with tiny electric lights inside, shining through the transparent candies. The souvenirs were water colors of the famous horses and dogs belonging to the family, on imitation gold-tipped oak leaves, in autumnal scarlet tints. The menus were in the form of maple leaves with gold stems. All the flowers were scarlet. The miniature fence which enclosed the centerpiece was an exact copy of those the hunters were to take in the field and had vines and scarlet blossoms climbing over it. The ices were in the form of stags’ heads and we had hunting horns made of puff paste and filled with pate. The whole thing seemed to be a revelation to the titled diners. and, as I said, brought one American caterer many fresh favors.

“Then there was another affair which came soon after which did much “to help us ‘arrive.’ The order for this dinner was ‘everything in green and white.’ and we decided upon lilies of the valley as the principal floral decoration, and we used them almost by the load. An electric fountain in the center of the table sprayed lily of the valley perfume over floating water lilies. The souvenirs were in green and white. The ices were water lilies and the exquisite table service was in green, white and gold. Green grapes and lilies heaped high in gold epergnes were partially hidden by trailing vines. The electric fountain was the feature that made a hit at this dinner, for nobody there had ever seen anything like it.

“We worked day and night trying to make our Regent street store attractive. We changed the whole color scheme once a week and there was always a crowd in front of our windows after a fresh design had been arranged.

“One week we would have everything in autumn tints. Candy boxes and candies, decorations and trimmings, were gorgeous with reds and yellows and rich russets. In the early spring the place blossomed in pink, with real apple blossoms renewed every day, as the leading decoration. When Sweet Lavender was making a great hit at the Lyceum we decorated the place in lavender. Our candy boxes during that time were all lined with lavender satin and adorned with scenes from the play. There were great masses of violets everywhere. and each lady who made a purchase was presented with sprigs of old-fashioned lavender tied with satin ribbon of the prevailing tint.

“But I think we got the most fun from our fishmonger’s window. We had models of almost every edible variety of fish made out of papier-mâché, from huge salmon which held fifteen pounds of candy to tiny, silvery sardines with their hidden store of pink creams. They were made by an expert and were wonderfully lifelike. The blocks of ice under the big fish were thick squares of washing soda, which has, at a distance, the exact appearance of ice. We broke the soda up into small pieces and mixed it with seaweed on handsome trays for the smaller fish, which even included shrimps and oysters as well as lobsters. These were all filled with candy carefully selected with thought to artistic contrast in color. We made an unexpected sensation which kept our force in jolly spirits for the rest of the season, for the policeman who had our particular block under his watchful eye was deceived by the lifelikeness of our display into thinking that the place had changed hands, and, as no fishmongers are allowed on Regent street, he walked in very pompously, to arrest the head of the firm for violation of municipal law. We knew then that our last effort was ‘a howling success,’ and had the satisfaction besides of getting off a rich joke on one of those top-lofty London police.

“It was well that things happened occasionally, for long hours and incessant work were certainly trying to health and spirits. But we had our compensations. At the end of six months we had made such a decided hit that servants in livery were sent to inquire what our next week’s color scheme would be, so that entertainments could be planned in the same color, and our things obtained without special orders, which always required more time to fill.

“Everybody who is engaged in the catering business must find that entertaining in this prosperous country of ours grows more elaborate every year, and, during the season, a fashionable caterer’s only consolation seems to be that the martyrs are the pick of humanity. Such a constant, well-bred clamor as there is for something fresh and striking!

“If novel designs were necessary for the menus only, the pressure would be wearing enough. but that is the simplest part. The table decorations, forms and garnitures must always be in the nature of a surprise, and to accomplish this in such a way as to pleasantly astonish jaded senses is not an easy task. and it is right here that any number of women of artistic tastes and originality can find quick appreciation.

“As for my method: After an order came in for a particularly elaborate affair, I would go off by myself to cudgel my brain for a new dinner scheme. Then I would talk it over with my employer, who would change a little here and elaborate a little there, offer a few suggestions and then put the whole thing into my hands. When I had made the sketches and designs in the privacy of my own little den. I would go out and give instructions to the bakers, confectioners, florists and candle makers, leaving with them molds and instructions after my designs, after which there were always a hundred other things which I must attend to personally regarding the souvenirs and menus and details of service.

“I had some experience in getting up dinners for uppertendom in New York city last season, and you’ve no idea of the labor that goes into one of those big functions. It’s a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class. Chicago millionaires do not seem to be so sated with the good things of life. There is a freshness and spontaneity about their enjoyment of creature comforts which belongs naturally, I think, to the breezy west. Last season while I was in New York we had an order from Chicago for everything, even to the waiters. Every smallest detail of that dinner was finished up as completely as possible before it was sent; forward. Even the sorbet cups of ice were frozen and tied with ribbons before being packed. I tied fifteen hundred bows of white ribbon for that dinner. which was entirely in white and green.

“One naturally would think that functions for special days like Valentine or Christmas would suggest themes in themselves, but so many appropriate ideas have been used up already on these celebrations that it has become exceedingly difficult to think up anything distinctly original.

“Designing ribbons and decorating boxes for high-class caterers is a business in itself. One of the most beautiful boxes which I ever designed was ordered by a well-known California woman as a gift to the president and his wife. It was in rich pearl gray and pink satin, hand embroidered and painted, and cost two hundred and fifty dollars, unfilled.

“Yes, there is certainly a fascination about the work, and a wide field for women of artistic originality, and I wonder that more do not take the work up,” Cecilia concluded, as she arose. And, as the little company of interested listeners followed her into the farmhouse parlor, some of them marveled, too, that the wide-awake, aggressive American girl has so completely overlooked this remunerative and, as Cecilia said, fascinating occupation.

Good Housekeeping Vol. 39 1904: pp. 207-209

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Personally Mrs Daffodil would not care to dine while the scent of lilies-of-the-valley was wafted across the soup and fish courses, no matter how novel the electric fountain.

The “uppertendom” of New York was insatiable for novelty in its lavish floral arrangements and cotillion favours.  One of the oddest set of favours were the live pets given at a “swell” New York function in 1897:

Novel Cotillion Favors.

That there is nothing new under the sun is a trite saying which seems truthful; nevertheless, unheard-of ideas are constantly appearing. The latest of these has resulted in a novel cotillion favor. At a recent swell function, live pets were given as favors. Canaries in gilded cages, Maltese and Angora kittens in silk-lined baskets, and tiny toy terriers in dog houses of Japanese niches, were some especially noted.

For the gentlemen there were jointed fishing rods tied with white satin ribbon, skeletons, celluloid skulls, small cameras and silver shaving mirrors.

Dinner favors heard of recently were stuffed birds which could be used in hats, jeweled hat pins, gem decorated belt clasps and neck scarfs.

The Brooklyn [NY] Citizen 7 November 1897: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil expects that the RSPCA would have been waiting outside had any London society hostess attempted such a thing.

“[New York is] a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class.”

Mrs Daffodil is thankful that the English have no nerves. It makes the caterer’s life much simpler, when clients are so easily pleased with stags’-head ices and hunting horns made of puff paste.

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 Independence Day Toast: early 1800s

 

lady with firecrackes

A pleasant retort was that once given by Admiral Marsden many years ago at a dinner in Malta. It was given on the Fourth of July by him to the American officers on a man-of-war, and all the English officers in the harbor were guests. They were no better bred than many Englishmen of that day, for when the regular toast, “The day we celebrate,” was read, they set down their glasses untasted. The venerable host added, gently:

“The day, gentlemen, when England celebrates the coming of age of her eldest daughter.”

Every face cleared, and the toast was drunk with hearty cheers.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 1 July 1915

Mrs Daffodil wishes all residents of “England’s eldest daughter” a delightful holiday week-end and more presence of mind in the handling of pyrotechnics than the lady on the cover of Harper’s. Mrs Daffodil will be taking a brief holiday as the Family is off to The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for a spot of tennis-viewing.

For images of vintage patriotic tableaux from Independence Day, 1918, please see Mrs Daffodil’s previous post.

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.