Category Archives: Humour and Satire

She Wore the Key: 1902

wardrobe lock keySHE WORE THE KEY.

Sad Eyes, Pathetic Droop Made It a Mystery Until Explained.

It was the usual crowd of well-gowned femininity that filled the car, wending its way matineeward. Every woman at all young or at all aiming to be fashionable, wore a chain of some sort from which dangled charms of every kind and descriptions, lockets, heart-shaped and round, small gold or silver purses, lorgnettes and watches.

The girl in the smart black costume, with exquisite sables, appeared to be exempt from the prevailing mania, and therefore became the mark for the attention of the observer of details. As the atmosphere of the car grew warmer she slipped the long fur scarf from her neck, revealing the fact that so far from being immune she had eclipsed all the others in the originality of her “dangle.”

A small gold chain was worn around her neck and fell half way to the waist. On it was a key set with diamonds. It was no caprice of the jeweler, but the real article, an ordinary every-day affair such as one wrestles with at the front door.

Now, what was the romance connected with that very prosaic key making it worthy to be set with diamonds and displayed so prominently as a treasured possession? The sad eyes of the owner had that misty, faraway look of unshed tears. The Parisian hat failed to hide the pathetic droop of the graceful head.

Here was a story, surely. Imagination conjured up a picture of a betrothal rudely broken by the death of the fiancé, the key treasured as a memento of the many happy evenings they had spent together, and the stolen kisses in the vestibule as he hesitated before opening the door for her. The somber gown hinted at a loss. The wistful eyes and sweet lips accentuated the idea.

Or could the key be that of the vault the young man had been entombed? Could it be? Fancy waxed more and more grewsome with each new contemplation of the unusual charm worn by this fair heroine of modern romance.

At Sixty-fourth street another very smart young woman boarded the car, and with a friendly greeting to the girl with the key at once opened up a conversion.

“I see you are wearing your key,” she began.

“How shockingly unfeeling,” thought the observer.

“Yes,” replied she of the pathetic eyes. “I can go out now with a peaceful mind, knowing that Marie will not be wearing my frocks. I never could hide it where she couldn’t find it”

Somehow the unshed tears and the droop weren’t so noticeable now. — New York Herald.

Delphos [OH] Daily Herald 16 August 1902: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The sharp-eyed denizens of the car would have noted that “smart black costume,” also that sables were the only appropriate mourning fur and made their calculations accordingly.

The theme of the maid wearing the mistress’s clothing was a pervasive and long-standing one, as we see by these jokes:

Employment Agent: “Those are fine recommendations that gurl has, mum. Shall I send for her to come and talk with you?”

Mrs. Bronston. “Is she tall or short?’

“Rather tall, mum; but—”

“Is she fat or thin?”

“Rather stout, mum, a good strong—”

“Is she stouter than I am?”

“Oh, yes, mum, a good deal.”

“She won’t do. She’d split the seams of every dress I have.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 9 August 1891: p. 9

And

“Going to leave, Mary?”

“Yes, mum; I find I am very discontented.”

“If there is anything I can do to make you comfortable, let me know.”

“No, mum, it’s impossible. You can’t alter your figger to my figger, no mor’n I can. Your dresses won’t fit me, and I can’t appear on Sundays as I used at my last place where missus’s clothes fitted ‘xactly.”

Juniata [PA] Sentinel and Republican 3 March 1880: p. 4

And this, on the cost of keeping servants:

There might have been a time when servant girls had a penchant for wearing their mistresses’ clothes, but that was in the days of low wages. Nowadays the average girl would not be seen in such shabby dresses as the mistress is obliged to appear in.

Chicago [IL ] Daily Tribune 18 February 1882: p. 11

 

Mrs Daffodil will note that she never, ever pilfered any of her mistress’s wardrobes, even when she served as lady’s maid to Duchesses. Their tastes were far too impractical for Mrs Daffodil’s line of work. One cannot tip-toe after malefactors in high heeled shoes with eye-catching paste buckles, weapons cannot easily be concealed in Rococo-revival lace engageantes, and chiffon demi-trains, no matter how well dust-ruffled, will pick up incriminating bits of dirt and debris.

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

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

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The Bower-Bird Husband: 1897

artistic parlor 1905.jpg

BOWER-BIRD HUSBANDS

‘Is your husband a bower-bird?’ That was a question addressed to a young wife by a social statist anxious to get his friends well classified under their proper generic appellations. As a matter of fact all husbands, if they only knew it, are either bower-birds or not bower-birds; but we admit that the phrase is at first sight a little startling, and requires elucidation. It will be remembered that the male bower-bird is endowed by nature with the desire to decorate its home with every conceivable form of ornament. It is a natural aesthete, and strives to do for its nest what Messrs. Maple or Shoolbred do for the villa residence in Wimbledon or Hampstead. Nothing comes amiss to it. With a few feathers, a shell or two, and some fragments of broken looking-glass or sparkling mica it will rig up a highly ornate bower for the alleged delight of its mate. It is as if the birds were possessed by the genius of those good women who write in the ladies’ papers under the heading of ‘The Home Beautiful’ or ‘ Fair Settings for Fair Faces,’ and give ‘tips’ to correspondents on the art of turning a seaside lodging into ‘a dream of loveliness’ by the proper disposition of  ‘a dozen Liberty handkerchiefs, some Japanese paper fans, and a few photographs of your lady friends in evening or Court dress; if the gentlemen are in uniform the effect will be very much improved.’

We cannot discuss here why it is that the bowerbird takes so much trouble to produce what at the best is only a sort of arbour in a tea-garden in miniature— the kind of thing which makes one hot with shame and misery, incoherent in language, and sick at heart for the falsehoods which the tongue must utter, when it is exhibited for our admiration by some amiable rural labourer or retired market gardener. The fact remains that he does so, and that a certain number of men—not the majority, but still a respectable minority—take after him, and display a feverish desire to ornament their homes. Such men when at home hardly ever have a hammer out of their hands, and are usually inarticulate because their mouths are filled with the tin-tacks which they are determined to get in somewhere on the drawing-room wall. In the abstract, women like the notion of the bower-bird man, and they may be heard to declare that ‘it is so convenient to have a man in the house who will drive a nail in exactly where and when you want it.’ Alas! this is only another instance of woman’s pathetic habit of concealing her troubles under a brave exterior. She hides the horrors of her home under a smile—nay, is even known to make domestic capital out of her woes, and to turn them so artistically that they can be used to keep her maiden sisters in their proper place. Of course, it would be immensely convenient to have a man always ready to drive in a nail exactly when and where you wanted it. Unfortunately, however, this is precisely what you do not get in the bower-bird man. He does not want to put in nails on such prosaic principles. He is bent, as all true housewives know in their hearts, though wild horses will not drag it from them, upon what can only be described as a crusade of destructive ornamentation.

We know of no more touching scene than that which may be observed almost any summer evening in the house of a human bower-bird. The man has his coat off—it is, of course, not necessary to take off your coat to drive in a tin-tack, but shirt sleeves is a kind of uniform universally adopted by the villa bower-bird — and he has a hammer in his right hand. In his left, pressed between the index finger and thumb, is a small carved bracket. He stands with his weight poised on the left leg, and with the other leg dropping loose. In his mouth is a reserve of nails. His head is a little on one side, and he is looking with a half-anxious, half-determined air at the wall. He is saying, in a voice horribly deliberate in sound, for fear of swallowing the nails, ‘I think, Gladys, there is just room for this bracket between the photo of the Imperial Institute and the lithograph of your uncle as Mayor of Danesbury.’ At his side, but a little behind, stands his wife. Her chin is slightly raised, one hand lightly touches—but here, with apologies to those bold and bad young men, the new English realists, we must drop a style into which we had unintentionally deviated. The bow has got ‘Ulysses and Co.’ marked in clear letters on the stock, and we would not presume to bend it, even if we could. Suffice it to say that the wife is in an agony of indecision. She would cut off her right hand rather than have her nice drawing-room spoilt by that hideous little common bracket for which a more hideous and even more common little vase will have to be found.

And, even if she did not mind the bracket, she would not want it where it is on the point of going. Her husband says there is just room, and so there is just room; but brackets which fit in between pictures like a puzzle, and leave not an eighth of an inch of space on either side, cannot be said to improve the look of the drawing-room wall. Still, what is she to do? If she forbids the tacks her husband is as likely as not to turn nasty, to throw down his hammer, to extract the nails from his mouth as if they were cherry-stones, and, remarking with icy politeness that of course he doesn’t the least want to put the thing up, that he was merely doing it to please her, and that if she prefers a carpenter he will be only too glad to send for one, to go off to his dressing-room, there to fix a solitary bracket over his shaving-stand. The wife of the bower-bird is thus doomed to go through a series of doubts and struggles. Which shall she sacrifice—her walls and her drawing-room paper or her husband’s temper?

Many are the expedients employed by desperate wives to save their walls. One of the best and most successful is to turn the energies of the bower-bird from works of ornament to works of utility—to convert the instinct towards decoration into the instinct of mending. Fortunately, the transition is not difficult, and by a little management the bower-bird husband may be changed into that most destructive of God’s creatures— the amateur carpenter. It is true that the wife who contrives this transformation jumps out of the frying pan into the fire; but what true woman would not readily sacrifice the rest of the house to keep the drawing-room neat and pretty. The best process of conversion is to persuade the bower-bird husband that his real vocation in life is carpentering, and that he is saving pounds and pounds by mending chairs and tables, by rehanging doors, by taking windows out of their frames and by cutting away portions of the fabric of the house so essential that, as the builder subsequently remarks,’ it was fair a miracle that you didn’t have the whole place about your ears with that there stay weakened as it was. Why, it looks as if some wild beast had been a-tearing at it; that it do.’

When once the devil of amateur carpentry has been awakened in a man there is nothing that he will not do in the way of making himself really useful. He ranges through the house with a saw, carried under his arm after the manner in which conscientious Nonconformists are believed to carry their umbrellas, and with a chisel in one hand and a light tool-chest in the other. No place is sacred from his ravages. Even the kitchen gives him prey. As the cook will confess with tears, ‘Master’s been mending the stove again till he’s broke it; and, please, shall we send for Lion and Higgler or Randsome and Pilledge?’ The parlour-maid dreads the question, ‘Is there any little job that I can do for you, Mary?’ If she says ‘No’ there will be trouble later because she had a man in to see to the taps in the pantry. If she says ‘Yes’ the master will spend the half-hour just before dinner, on a night when company is expected, in operations which will flood the basement ankle deep in water and necessitate the stoppage of a purely voluntary leakage caused by the incautious use of a chilled steel centre-bit by means more usually adopted by surgeons than plumbers. But though Mary may know that half a champagne cork, two handkerchiefs, and a strip of an old flannel petticoat are not the orthodox material for stopping the water at the main, they are far better than an inundation.

Happy the woman whose husband tires of plain carpentry, and takes instead to doctoring the clocks. That is a safe employment, or at any rate one in which the liability of misery is limited. It is no doubt a bore to have the dining-room clock dissolved into its elements —to open the door and see the disjecta membra of wheels, levers, balances, screws and springs and rods lying on the floor, in the advertisement sheet of the ‘Times’ —but that is better than having the banisters of the back stairs reduced to what the Americans succinctly describe as ‘kindling wood.’ Amateur clock-mending is a slow process, and the man who tampers with even the comparatively simple grandfather’s clock on the stairs does not arrive at the stage when it is necessary to call in a trained mechanic for three or four days. Your Dent’s best pendulum timepiece will last him a week, and a travelling clock even longer. Take it all round, the clocks are the best things to devote to the energies of the bower-bird. He is safest with them. Unfortunately, however, only a limited number of men with the bower-bird instinct will take to clock-wrecking as an amusement. Those who will not must be staved off, as best may be, on broken chairs and tables. The great thing is to protect the fabric of the house. It were better to break a table on purpose to have it mended than to turn the amateur carpenter loose in the space under the roof.

From Grave to Gay, J. St Loe Strachey, 1897: pp. 308-313

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have seen the perils of “the master’s” interference in Mr Greenleaf’s New Cook.  Yet even the officious Mr Greenleaf did not threaten the very fabric of the home. We must be thankful that, at this date, there were no reciprocating saws or pneumatic nail-guns; otherwise the death-toll would have been much higher.

Mrs Daffodil finds it absurd that those hammer-wielding husbands cannot be reasoned with. She would know how to take a firm line or arrange some helpful accident to discourage future household devastation, but it is, of course, different when one is married to the brute.  And it is an ingenious, yet appalling suggestion that a wife should deliberately break furniture solely to contain her husband’s “crusade of destructive ornamentation.”  Still, if one has a husband bent on the ruin of the home, it might be well to lay in a stock of cheap travelling clocks and to partially saw through the frame of his favourite arm-chair, so that it must constantly be under repair.

 

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

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

The Banshee of Hillstock Road: 1914

THE BANSHEE OF HILLSTOCK ROAD.

Hillstock-road was about the last place in the world that a self-respecting banshee or other supernatural visitant might be expected to patronise. It was not even in Ireland, but in the North district of busy, smoky, up-to-date unromantic London.

Grendoran Villa, Hillstock-road, was rented by Mrs. O’Shea, an Irish lady of good means, and immense antiquity —as regarded family. Mrs. O’Shea was the widow of a general officer, as she took good care to inform her neighbours, upon whom she looked down with justifiable contempt as being principally composed of business people. None of the O’Sheas had soiled their hands with trade; but in Mrs. O’Shea’s native country there were those so ill-natured as to whisper that the late General O’Shea had found means to escape from his creditors by marrying the heiress of a wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant.

The household of Grendoran Villa consisted of the stately widow, an orphan niece, and two servants—one a confidential maid, who had lived with Miss Molly Dowd before her marriage to the aristocratic and impecunious Major O’Shea. Honor Carroll was a character in her way, but under a sharp manner and tongue hid a warm heart and much fidelity. She had served the Dowds from her youth, and was as careful to preserve her mistress’s status as was that lady herself. Until very recently, Honor had never disputed Mrs. O’Shea’s will, except by the grumbling which had become habitual with her; but now there was a difference of opinion between mistress and maid, and Honor held her own obstinately, for the happiness of Katherine O’Shea, whom the old woman idolised, was at stake. Katherine was not an O’Shea at all, but merely a Dowd, being the only child of Mrs. O’Shea’s brother; but on the death of her parents, her aunt had adopted her and given her the grander name. She was a typical Irish girl, sad and merry by turns, with a wholesome horror of restraint, and but little reverence for authority. She was pretty, with dark eyes and hair, small features, and a remarkably bright and clear complexion. The girl had no nonsense about her, and cordially detested her aunt’s snobbishness. She had a special reason for rebelling against the enforced gentility of her position, as it had led Mrs. O’Shea to refuse her consent to the proposal of Katherine’s lover—a young man in every way a suitable match for her, but to whom the General’s widow objected on the score that he and his people were “mere tradesfolk.”

Honor Carroll had taken the side of the young people, and uttered her protests with no uncertain voice, and her remarks were as thorns in Mrs. O’Shea’s side, for the home truths she advanced were incontrovertible.

It was a dull November afternoon, not by any means the sort of day one would select for an al fresco conversation; yet Katherine O’Shea and Henry Plavell were standing under the leafless elm trees at the end of the garden, and apparently perfectly unconscious of either cold or damp. Very frequently the young man paid these visits, safe from the observation of the mistress of the house. Honor, while scolding Katherine briskly for meeting her fiancé, secretly kept watch that Mrs. O’Shea did not come upon the scene unawares, and at the time of which we are speaking she was on duty.

The sound of the drawing-room bell warned her that Katherine would probably be asked for by her aunt; and the old servant trotted down to the lovers’ meeting-spot, and, without any preliminaries, began:

“Shure, an’ Miss Katherine, isn’t it a shame fur ye to be meandering down there wid Master Flavell, an’ ye know that the mistress is dead agin him comin’ at all?”

“Don’t be cross, Honor,” replied Katherine, with an unconcerned laugh. “If I am not to receive my visitors properly inside, I’ll take good care to enjoy myself out here.”

“It’s cowld enjoyment, I’m thinkin’,” muttered the old woman; “but in wid ye now, fur the drawin’-room bell’s rung, and the mistress is shure to be wantin’ ye.”

“I expect it’s you she is wanting, Honor,” remarked Henry Flavell. “Don’t you think Miss Katherine might stay out a little longer?”

“Bedad! I do not, Master Flavell,” answered Honor, sharply, “an’ it’s yerself ought to be above matin’ her on the sly.”

“Did you never meet anyone on the sly yourself, Honor?” laughed the young man.

“Ach! Go along wid ye,” grinned Honor, her eyes brightening up with some merry thought of her girlhood. “Better fur ye to persuade the mistress to let ye court Miss Katherine straight out. Och! Murder! Ay she isn’t at the winder! I towld ye how it would be.”

Henry Flavell dodged behind the tree in very undignified style, while Katherine and Honor walked towards the house.

Mrs. O’Shea never for a moment dreamt that Henry Flavell would dare enter her grounds after she had forbidden him the house; therefore, her suspicions were not roused, and she only scolded Honor for not having more sense than to be out that cold day without something over her head.

It was the evening of the same day, while Honor was helping her to get ready for bed, that Mrs. O’Shea began to hold forth upon the presumption of a person in “young Flavell’s position” attempting to pay his addresses to her niece.

“An’ a fine young man he is, whin all’s sed an’ done,” put in Honor, sturdily. “Faith! I see no great harm ay Miss Katherine an’ he made a match ay it.”

“How dare you, Honor!” exclaimed Mrs. O’Shea, with a withering look at her maid. “My niece shall marry as well as I did, or remain an O’Shea all her life.”

“An” herself no O’Shea at all, but Dennis Dowd’s daughter,” muttered Honor. “Arrah! marm, shure, why do ye be brakin’ Miss Katharine’s heart fur sich nonsense? Isn’t Mr. Flavell’s big warehouse twinty times grander nor the shop Miss Katherine’s father- God rest his sowl!—had?”

“Honor!” screamed Mrs. O’Shea. “If you ever dare to mention that shop, or let Miss Katherine know of it, I’ll send you back to Ballymorty. Have you no respect for me at all?”

“I’m not likin’ to see the young people crossed,” maintained Honor.

“They shall never marry while I draw breath.”

“The blessed virgin grant ye may repint,” was Honor’s pious reply.

Before her mistress could retort, a weird, wailing sound came borne on the still night, and died away like a plaintive cry. There was not a breath of wind, and Mrs. O’Shea turned pale and grasped the back of the chair, while Honor devoutly crossed herself and whispered:

“The holy saints be betune us an’ harm this night!”

“It’s like a banshee,” stammered Mrs. O’Shea, when she had recovered her voice. “There’s one in our family. It’s a warning.”

“I was afeered something id cum when ye was so hard on Miss Katherine,” said Honor, improving the occasion. “Ay yer tuk, marm; shure, nothing can kape the two from marrying.”

“I am only doing my duty,” remonstrated Mrs. O’Shea, faintly.

“We’ll see what comes ay sich duty,” sneered Honor.

“It must come three times,” remarked Mrs. O’Shea, referring to the banshee.

“Oh, divil doubt it! It’ll come,” was the servant’s comforting reply.

And sure enough, the following evening, about the same hour, the uncanny, unaccountable, prolonged wail came again; and Mrs. O’Shea, trembling and unnerved, accepted it as her summons. Honor Carroll, while admitting that it was the banshee, hazarded the remark that if approaching death were sent as a punishment for crossing the young people, speedy repentance on the part of Mrs. O’Shea might turn back the judgment.

Mrs. O’Shea was too fond of her present existence to care to change it, unless that was absolutely necessary; and she there and then made a solemn vow that if she were spared until the morrow, she would give her consent to the mesalliance in the hope of propitiating the banshee.

She did not sleep that night, but she lived through it; and to the great surprise and joy of Katherine and Henry Flavell, the old lady wrote a formal acceptance of the young man’s proposal,

It need not be explained that the supposed banshee was nothing more supernatural that the sound emitted by the new motor cab invested in by Mr. Flavell, senior.

Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, 19 August 1914: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Although she is not fond of dialect stories, Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously at that extraordinarily abrupt and unsatisfactory denouement in the worst tradition of the “and then I woke up” ghost story ending.  Mrs Daffodil, and, doubtless, the redoubtable Honor Carroll, would have been much happier if there had been a banshee. Mrs O’Shea would have been found dead in her bed and young Katherine would not only have been free to marry the man of her heart, but would have inherited the O’Shea fortune.  Even after years of respectable widowhood at Grendoran Villa, there should have been a substantial sum left from the labour of that wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant. Honor Carroll, after a period of luxuriant mourning, might have stayed on to help with the children or retired to Ireland with a generous legacy. As a bonus Henry Flavell would have been free from the plague of a snobbish mother-in-law.

That is what Mrs Daffodil calls a happy ending.

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.

Her Fourth Husband: 1910

 

widow jones suits me button

HER FOURTH.

By M. Quad.

Copyright, 1910, by Associated Literary Press.]

“What in tarnation is this about your marrying Jim Carter yesterday?” said Henry Doty to Eunice Smith.

“We were married,” was the reply.

“But I was going to marry you myself!”

“I never knew it. You never said anything about it.”

“And you won’t get a divorce from Jim?”

“Of course not.”

“By gum, Eunice, this is using a man mighty mean! I was jest taking time to think things over, and you go off and marry. It’s a mean trick on a feller!”

“Oh, there are other girls.”

“But I don’t want ’em. I want you, and I’m going to stay single till my chance comes.”

It came in about a year. James Carter was assisting a neighbor to load saw logs when one of them broke loose and rolled over him, and he was no more. Henry Doty didn’t rejoice, but he was on hand at the funeral. He oversaw things for the widow for three or four days and then returned to his job. As he held her hand and bade her goodby he said:

“Eunice, there was something I wanted to say to you, but it slipped my mind. Mebbe I’ll think of it next time I come.”

The widow returned to her parents, and the hired man made her a call three or four times a week, but he never talked love. He simply thought love when he was alone. They’d get married when the year was up, and when they got to the Falls they’d put up at the best house and hang the expense. Fourteen months had passed, and Henry was thinking of tying a string around his thumb to make him remember to ask Eunice that question when he was suddenly told that she had married a wire fence man who was working in the neighborhood. He greased his boots and combed his hair and went over to the house to say: “Eunice, If you’ve gone and done it again I can never forgive you! You knew I was calculating to marry you myself.”

“But you never said anything about it,” she retorted.

“But I was getting ready to.”

“If you’d only said”—

“Oh, well, I’ll have to stand it, I suppose. Mebbe it’s all for the best. Mebbe the living will be cheaper by that time. I’m going to keep right on jest as I am till I get you.”

Mr. Davis, the second husband, was fat and rugged and seemed good for forty years more of life, but one can never tell about those things. He was made a very happy man by the marriage and continued in the wire fence business to make others happy. After eight months had gone by he was putting up a fence for a farmer one day when a thunderstorm came up. Mr. Davis had his hands on the wire when the electric fluid found it and shocked him to death. Queerly enough, Henry Doty was driving past in a wagon at the time and was the messenger to announce the sad news to the double widow. He realized that it was no time to speak of a bridal trip then and held his peace.

Once more the widow came back to the old home, and things went on as before. Henry returned to the habit of dropping in frequently, and he only waited for the days to pass until he could ask the question always uppermost in his mind. One evening he presented himself with a string twisted around his thumb, but when the widow called his attention to it he couldn’t remember what he had made sure not to forget. Now and then the farmer for whom he labored and who knew his thoughts would jog him with:

“Henry, the time is passing along, and the widow may step off again any day.”

“But I don’t hear of anybody being after her.”

“You don’t always hear about such things. Widows step right off without much courting.”

“Yes, I must speak to Eunice. I was a-thinking this afternoon I would.”

But he didn’t. He just let things drift on, and one Sunday evening he dropped in just after she had married the rural mall carrier on that route.

Henry was indignant and desperate.

“Why didn’t you say something!” he demanded of the bride.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Say, this is throwing a good man down powerful hard. This is the third time I’ve lost you!”

“But you’ve never said you wanted me. You don’t expect a woman to pop the question, do you?”

“All right, Eunice—all right. I can wait. Bound to get you and make a trip if I wait long enough.”

“It was just eleven months to a day that as the carrier came to a narrow place in the highway he encountered a load of hay. In trying to pass it his cart was upset, and when it was righted he was found with a broken neck. Henry Doty was coming up with a freshly killed hog in his wagon, and as soon as he ascertained what had happened he chucked the hog out of the wagon and drove back three miles with the horses on a dead run. Eunice happened to be at the gate when he  drove up, and he called to her:

“Eunice, get a pencil and write it down that I’m here on the spot.”

“But for why?”

“And that I ask you to marry me when the year is up.”

“Why. Henry, what can you mean!”

“And that we take in Niagara Falls and all of Buffalo on our wedding trip and that we love each other till death do us part”

And it was said that the fourth husband was the happiest of all.

The Hot Springs [SD] Weekly Star 10 March 1910: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The lady must have possessed considerable property or personal fascinations to “step off” as often as she did. Mrs Daffodil is not sure that someone as dilatory as Mr Doty is a wise spousal choice, but Eunice née Smith cannot say she was not warned.  She seemed to enjoy a variety of husbands and was happy enough to take her chances that the reticent fellow would never Speak his Love.

 

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.

Cupid’s Court: 1907

cupid reading 1900

CUPID’S COURT.

An Adverse Decision, an Appeal and an Oral Argument.

The judge’s daughter was perturbed.

“Papa,” she said, knitting her pretty brow, “I am in doubt as to whether I have kept to the proper form of proce­dure. In law one can err in so many little technicalities that I am ever fear­ful. Now, last evening George”— The judge looked at her so sharply over his glasses that she involuntarily paused.

“I thought you had sent him about his business,” he said.

“I did hand down an adverse deci­sion,” she answered, “and he declared that he would appeal. However, I con­vinced him that I was the court of last resort in a case like that and that no appeal would lie from my decision.”

“Possibly the court was assuming a little more power than rightfully belongs to it,” said the judge thoughtful­ly, “but let that pass. What did he do then?”

“He filed a petition for a rehearing.”

“The usual course,” said the judge, “but it is usually nothing but a mere formality.”

“So I thought,” returned the girl, “and I was prepared to deny it without argument, but the facts set forth in his petition were sufficient to make me hesitate and wonder whether his case had really been properly presented at the first trial.”

“Upon what grounds did he make the application?” asked the judge, scowling.

“Well,” she replied, blushing a little, “you see, he proposed by letter, and his contention was that the case cannot be properly presented by briefs, but demands oral arguments. The fact that the latter had been omitted, he held, should be held an error, and the point was such a novel one that I consented to let him argue it. Then his argument was so forceful that I granted his pe­tition and consented to hear the whole case again. Do you think”—

“I think,” said the judge, “that the court favors the plaintiff.”—Chicago Post.

The Worthington [MN] Advance 23 August 1907: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One shudders to think of young George (after being issued a writ of habeas corpus) approaching the bench to plead his case with the judge, although his legal manoeuvres in re the judge’s daughter suggest a man not easily intimidated, and one with Blackstone at his very fingertips.  Mrs Daffodil imagines that the judge put the gentleman under oath for a full deposition, then subjected him to a stiff cross-examination. But if the defendant has withdrawn her objections, what can a judge do but rule in the plaintiff’s favour?

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.

Parson Patten and the Ghost: 1750s

LAYING A GHOST.

The following story of Parson Patten laying a ghost was told to Captain Grose, by the reverend gentleman himself.

A substantial farmer, married to a second wife, and who had a son grown up to man’s estate, frequently promised to take him as a partner in his farm, or, at least, to leave it to him at his decease; but having neglected to do either, on his death, his widow took possession of the lease and carried on the business, the son in vain urging the father’s promise, and requesting she should at least take him as a partner. In order to terrify his step-mother into compliance, he used to rise at midnight, and, with hideous groans, to drag the waggon chain about the yard and outhouses, circulating a report that this noise was occasioned by his father’s ghost, and that the dead man would not rest quietly in his grave till his promise to his son was fulfilled.

This was carried on for some time, till at length the widow, who had no relish for giving up any part of the farm, applied to Mr Patten (in whose parish the farm lay) for his advice, saying she would have the ghost laid in the Red Sea, if he could do it. Patten, though no believer in ghosts, resolved to turn this matter to his own advantage, and putting on a grave countenance, told her, that what she required was no small matter; that besides a good stock of courage, much learning was required to lay a ghost, as the whole form must necessarily be pronounced in Latin; wherefore he could not afford to do it under a guinea. The widow hereupon demurred for some time, but at length tired out with the freaks of the supposed ghost, who every night became more and more outrageous, agreed to pay the money. Patten, moreover, required a fire in the best parlour, two candles, and a large bowl of punch. These being all prepared, he took his post, expecting the nocturnal visitor.

The farmer’s son, who did not know the sort of man he had to deal with, thought he could frighten the parson, and accordingly at twelve began his perambulation. No sooner did Patten hear the chain and the groans, than he sallied forth, and, without any further ceremony, seized the supposed ghost by the collar, and commenced belabouring him heartily with a good oak sapling. Finding himself by no means a match for his opponent, the young farmer fell down on his knees, and confessed the contrivance; beseeching the parson, at the same time, not to expose him, nor to reveal it to his step-mother, who would have been glad of the pretence to turn him out of the house. The parson, on the young man’s promise never to disturb the house again, let him go, and undertook to settle matters with his step-mother.

Early next morning she came down, anxious to know what had passed the preceding night, when the parson, with a well-counterfeited terror in his countenance, told her he had been engaged in a terrible conflict, the deceased being one of the most obstinate and fierce spirits he had ever met with ; but that he had at length, with great difficulty and expense of Latin, laid him. “Poor wicked soul,” says he, “I forgive him; though great part of his disquiet is owing to thirty shillings of tithes of which he defrauded me, but which he desired, nay, commanded, you should pay; and on that condition only he has agreed to trouble the house no more. He does not insist on your completing his promise to his son, but wishes you would, at least, let him have a share in the farm.” To all this the woman assented, and Patten received the thirty shillings over and above the stipulated guinea.

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 146-7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Rev. Mr Thomas Patten, as another portion of the book above informs us, had been “chaplain to a man-of-war, and had contracted a kind of marine roughness from his voyages. He was of an athletic make, and had a considerable share of wit and humour, not restrained by any strict ideas of professional propriety…He had such an esteem for punch, that when his sermons were too long, someone showing him a lemon, could at any time cause him to bring his discourse to an abrupt conclusion, that he might be at liberty to adjourn to the public-house.”

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 61

This ingenious ornament to the C of E also lived openly with his mistress and was a terror to smugglers, especially if they did not pay tithes on their profits. He died in 1764, aged 80, to the relief of Church authorities.  He was obviously well-suited for his role as “ghost-layer.” Parsons were frequently called upon to “lay” (“exorcism” smacked too much of Papist rituals) troublesome spirits. A popular tactic was to coax, command, or conjure the spirit into a bottle, seal it, and throw it into a local pond, although it was claimed that some spirits were banished to the Red Sea. Another way to deal with a restless spirit was to put the ghost to making ropes of sand because, after all, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.

 

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 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.