SHE 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
“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.