Category Archives: Husbands and Wives

Rosette Smiled in the Glass: 1889

all is vanity charles allen gilbert 1892 mirror

All is Vanity, Charles Allen Gilbert, 1892

THE HAUNTED MIRROR.

It was early morning, and Thomas, Lord Rosendale’s valet, has waited on his master’s American guest to see what he desired him to do for him.

Thomas was too well-bred to appear to notice anything remarkable, but there certainly was something odd in the gentleman’s manner, and he had not the look of one who had enjoyed refreshing slumbers. Twice he seemed on the point of propounding a question–twice he checked himself. At last just as the man turned to leave the room, he spoke;

“Thomas!”

“Yes, sir,” said Thomas; turning towards him again.

“No matter, Thomas.”

“Very well, sir.”

Thomas had his hand on the lock of the door this time, but again the gentleman spoke:

“Thomas, I have been awake all night.”

“My lord will regret to hear it,” said Thomas, too respectful to appropriate the information.

“Something very odd disturbed me,” continued the gentleman. “Have you any reason to believe that any of the woman servants have lost their senses?”

“Any of the maids, sir?” said Thomas. “Oh, no, sir. My lady’s own maid is a most sensible person. So is the young lady’s, extremely respectable and settled, indeed. As for the cook and–oh, no, sir. I am sure none of the maids are out of their senses, sir.”

“One of the maids kept me awake all last night.” said the American.

“One of the maids, sir?” cried Thomas.

“Yes. Thomas,” said the gentleman. “She kept running into my room at least every half hour to look in the glass and admire herself.”

“She came out of that door,” and he pointed to one in a corner, “and walked straight up to the mirror; the light from the night lamp fell upon her face; she seemed to catch my eye in the glass each time and smiled at me as she did so. I only saw her once in the mirror, but it was very pretty, though very pale. She wore a short quilted skirt, a little black bodice and full white sleeves. She had a gold cross tied around her neck by a black ribbon and wore a little cap on her black braids a very young girl with a perfectly French face, Thomas. Do you know her?”

“If I have the honor of understanding you, sir, the young person came through this door?” he asked.

“Yes,” said the American.”

“More than once, sir?”

“About once an hour from midnight until dawn.”

“She was young, pretty and French-looking and wore a quilted skirt, a bodice and a cap, sir?”

“Exactly, Thomas.”

“And smiled at you in the glass where you saw her face? I understand she did not look toward you as she passed, sir?”

“Right, Thomas.”

“May I beg you to do me the favor of looking into this room, sir?”

The gentleman followed Thomas to the door through which he asserted that the young person had passed and saw nothing but a square closet about twelve feet square, with no door save the one that opened into a large room, and high in the ceiling a little window through which a bird could scarcely have flown. It contained no furniture whatever.

“You will acknowledge, sir, said Thomas, very gravely, “that an ordinary person must have remained here if she had entered, as you think she did, sir, and that we should now find her here, sir?”

“There must be a secret door—or–or something!” cried the American. “I am not mad, and I was wide awake. I–”

“Yes, sir,” said Thomas, still more solemnly. “As I remarked, an ordinary young person could not have contrived to disappear; but I am well aware that the young person you have seen is not an ordinary person, sir. She has been an apparition, for more than 200 years.”

“An apparition!” cried the American gentleman.

“Yes, sir,” replied Thomas; “an apparition, sir. I think you have seen Lady Rosendale’s gentlewoman, Rosette, sir. It is ten years since she was seen before, to my knowledge, but she has been seen very often. Yes, sir, it must have been Rosette.”

“I should like to hear more about Rosette.” said the gentleman.

“Yes, sir,” said the valet. “This is a very old family, and they have lived on this estate for a long while since the time of Queen Elizabeth. I believe, sir–and about 200 years ago there was a Lord Herbert–my present master is Lord Herbert, as you know; it is a favorite name in the family who was a very gay, wild young nobleman, and was a great admirer of the ladies, sir, as gay young noblemen  generally are. However, by the time he was thirty he married and settled down, as one might say; and having travelled with his wife on the continent, he came home, and began to be very much thought of and respected. So was his lady, too, sir, though she was not handsome, and was very haughty.

One thing, however, the English servants did not like; she brought a foreign maid with her from France–a girl named Rosette, and as pretty as a picture.

My lady thought all the world of her, and would never let any other woman be about her in her room, and of course, the people were jealous and talked against Rosette, and the women began to say something about the way my lord looked at her. Though, to be sure, women will be suspicious. However, that may be, my lady loved  her, and I think she thought too much of herself to be jealous of her maid, until one day, sitting before her glass, Rosette combing her hair for her, she heard her husband coming into the room. Her back was towards him, and they forgot the mirror; and so, sir, she saw in it without stirring both their faces; and she saw the girl smile at her husband and she saw him smile back her, and she did not need to see any more. Ladies are very quick, sir, as we all know. She understood everything, but she never stirred, and she never said anything to him—no, nor to the maid, sir.

This was her room, sir. In that little closet Rosette had her bed, to be ready if she called. But one morning my lady’s bell rang furiously, and the maid who answered it was told to do my lady’s hair, for Rosette had gone back to her native country. All the time she was doing it the girl thought she heard a faint moaning sound and was frightened and went back to the rest, pale and trembling; and before night it was very well known in the house that the little closet there was not only locked, but nailed up.

There was a coldness between my lord and my lady and they kept very much apart; but she had told him, also that Rosette had returned to France and no one ever saw the girl again.

After that my lord seemed to take up his wild ways again, in a measure, and drank a good deal and my lady lived very much alone. She never had a regular maid and she was harsh to those who waited on her. There never were any children, but they both lived to be very old indeed, and at last my lady died in this very room and was buried in the church yonder. You may see her tomb there–Lady Maud Rosendale, aged eighty.

My lord was as old as she by that time; but as soon as the funeral was over he went into my lady’s room and stood a long while before the locked and nailed closet door.

Then he said to himself, ‘I cannot die until I know,’ and ordered it to be opened. They sent for the blacksmith to do it, and all the while my lord sat in his great arm-chair, staring before him. There were hundreds of nails in it. People said afterwards that all my Lady Maud’s life there used now and then to be a little sound of hammering in her room when she was alone, but they were all out at last and the lock was forced, and my lord arose and tottered into the closet.

A bed stood there still and some gowns hung on the wall, and over the bed one was lying with cords twisted about it. Then they looked closer and the maids began to scream, and one old woman who remembered Rosette had called out her name, and my lord turned his pale old eyes upon them like a ghost and said, ‘God forgive me and have mercy upon both their souls!’ and held out his hand to be helped back to his own room which he never left again.

It wasn’t much they found–only a few bones and an ornament or two, but it was plain that the girl had been tied hand and foot and bound to the bed and left there to die—if she were not murdered outright by the jealous lady. As for the smile, my lady, he talked of that in a wandering kind of way on his death-bed. So it came to be known. But ever since, sir, whenever there is going to be misfortune in the family, whoever sleeps here in this room sees Rosette come out of her closet and smile in the glass. No one ever sees her face, only its reflection.

She was seen before one young lady—it is two generations ago, sir—eloped with a very inferior person.

She was seen before my master’s father died and before my master’s brother was killed at the Crimea. I hope no trouble will follow now, sir.”

“I trust not,” said the American. “Perhaps it would be best not to mention this to any one.”

“Very well, sir, said Thomas, and left the room.

As for the American, he slept elsewhere the next night. He had no admiration for ghosts, even the family ghosts of noblemen, and he had no desire to see Rosette smile at him in the glass again. The smiles of a phantom of 200 years standing are more awesome than bewitching.

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 22 December 1889: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really… After the sad story of the gruesome end of young Rosette, and Thomas’s observation that tragedy invariably followed in the wake of Rosette’s apparition, we are fobbed off with a mere “he slept elsewhere the next night.”

A shocking decline in journalistic standards….

The least we might expect was the death of an old factor, believed to be the illegitimate son of a previous Lord Rosendale, in a remote cottage on the estate, if not the demise of Lord Rosendale himself, found dead in his bed with a look of stark, staring horror on his face. Mrs Daffodil considers the whole thing a travesty of missed opportunities.

 

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 Handsome Man a Mistake: 1903

 

Leyendecker handsome man

The Handsome Man a Mistake.

Her Royal Highness, Woman, has decided that physical beauty ought to be the monopoly of her sex, and that the Handsome Man is a mistake. She has been investigating him in various roles, and declares that as a lover he is unsatisfactory, as a husband a failure, and as a brother a nuisance. The fiancée of the good-looking man has to pay dearly for her capture of an Adonis. She lives in a state of perpetual siege against a host of fair rivals, and has to run the gauntlet of such remarks as “I wonder what that handsome Mr Jones can see in that Enid Smith,” and “Isn’t it funny how good-looking men always marry such plain wives?” Her troubles are only augmented when she becomes a young matron. She has to stoically endure her husband’s flirtations with other women— who will flatter him if she will not — and to smile amiably when Mrs Robinson praises Jack and Muriel —

“Such pretty children; so like their father!” Last, but not least, she must skimp her wardrobe, while her attractive husband spends on his ties and socks what the Ugly Man would have concentrated cheerfully on his wife’s fur coat.

As a brother the Handsome Man is certainly not an unmixed blessing. From the first moment he opens his “beautiful” eyes he is the idol of an adoring mother, who displays to his moral shortcomings a more than beetle-like obtuseness. As he grows older she palliates his love for pleasure and his disinclination for work by the excuse, “Jack is so good-looking, he is sure to marry an heiress if he goes into society.”

The sister of the  Handsome Man is only asked to parties where the hostess dare not ask him without her, and she is ordered to be civil to all sorts of people who detest her but admire “dear Jack.” Then the handsome brother is generally a woman’s man, which means that Jack will not bring men friends home to smoke and play ping pong and fall in love with his sister. If the modern girl could have her choice in such a matter, she would plump unreservedly for a plain, good-natured, ordinary brother, who would contentedly accept the back seat allotted by twentieth-century women to the “mere man.”

Troublesome though the Handsome Man undoubtedly is, it is probable that, in spite of all her protestations, her Royal Highness Woman will continue to admire and marry him. The Handsome Man of to-day certainly compares favourably with the “pretty” man of 50 years ago. That popular hero was narrow-chested, puny, and pink-and-white, while black whiskers inevitably adorned” his thin cheeks. Today the Handsome Man is stalwart, well set-up, and muscular, for mere beauty of feature will count for very little. He may not be industrious, but he is wise enough to play cricket, football, and golf, and is, by the way, almost as conceited of his prowess in these directions as of his classic nose and chin and “beautiful” eyes.

Otago [NZ] Witness 18 March 1903: p. 61

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Bothersome though they are, these difficulties pale in comparison with the swath cut through happy homes and boarding houses by creatures so utterly lacking in conscience. Mrs Daffodil feels that the word “mistake” is woefully inadequate, given the damage that they do.

The Ravages of the Handsome Man.

There should be something done at once to put a stop to the ravages of the handsome man. The handsome man has not been noted for his nice regard for the rights of other men since the days when Paris ran away with Helen and involved Troy and Greece in a deadly war. It was supposed that the growth of morality and good manners had somewhat curtailed the piratical tendencies of the man who was born with a handsomer face than his neighbors and that he had of late confined his blandishments to susceptible maidens. Some late instances, however, indicate that he is at his old tricks and that he has not reformed at all, but is pursuing his calling of poaching on his neighbors’ preserves quite as vigorously as in the days of Antony and Alcibiades. He is cosmopolitan in his tastes and slights neither high nor low in his attentions.

A young German began housekeeping with his new-married wife in Newark. The young Teuton was poor in this world’s goods, possessing only the wealth of his wife’s affections and a half interest in a bouncing baby. To eke out the slender income of the family a handsome boarder was taken. About a week ago the handsome boarder concluded to leave town and took with him the whole establishment, with the exception of the husband, including $250 in money belonging to. the injured man. A German chemist, while en route to tins country a short time ago, became acquainted with a fair daughter of Germany, to whom he was married on his arrival at New York. The young couple set up their household in Hoboken and to help pay expenses a handsome boarder, also of Teutonic extraction, was taken. After a time the husband thought he discovered that the new boarder was too fond of his wife and ordered him to leave the house. He left, but took the wife and baby with him. It is needless to say that the two German husbands are of one opinion about the deserts of handsome men.

The handsome man does not confine his ravages to the homes of the humble. This is made apparent by a late Hartford scandal. The son of a political millionaire, himself the possessor of no inconsiderable claims to manly beauty, married a fascinating widow who was not only beautiful but talented. But a handsomer man from Boston cast his evil eye on that happy home and it was not. Two suits for divorce and a legal quarrel about the division of a property are the present results of too much handsomeness on the part of that Boston man.

The handsome man of moderate means and good character is also proving dangerous. A New Brunswick family, consisting of husband, wife and three interesting children, has lately become the victim of his wiles. The handsome man in this case is a church member and the trusted employe of a manufacturing company. He has left the church scandalized, the company short and the married man without either wife or children. It is not worthwhile multiplying instances to prove that the handsome man is dangerous and ought to be abolished. That fact is too apparent to admit of a single doubt. A much more interesting inquiry at present is to know how to abolish him. The shotgun and the strong arm of the law have proved alike powerless, and the statesmen and philosophers of this country should bend their gigantic intellects to the task of devising some means to accomplish this necessary work. It may be suggested by way of beginning that young married men should be very chary of handsome boarders.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 11 February 1883: 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.

The Wrecked Major: 1882

knole long gallery 1902

 

THE WRECKED MAJOR.

“Our nearest neighbour in ___shire was a Major S., a man of good family, and possessed of ample means, yet one whose society was not courted in the county in which he had recently become a resident. Curious things were said of him, worse were hinted at, so that the surrounding gentry fought rather shy of him with the exception of a few who both visited him and received his visits. For this man my mother entertained the utmost aversion. She detested alike his appearance and manners; the former she considered diabolical, and the latter repulsive, as indeed they were. My father had frequent arguments with her on the subject of the major, and always took his part. But his defence of him in no ways softened my mother’s feelings towards him. She persisted in loathing the man, and said she was sure something dreadful would come out about him. Her dislike extended itself to his surroundings; and she would not even pass his house when out walking or driving. My father simply smiled at this feminine absurdity, as he termed it, and continued to think not so badly of the major.

It chanced that my mother passed him one day. He was riding; and she told us on her return that the expression of his face, as he looked down at her, was absolutely appalling in its wickedness; indeed, she could think or speak of nothing else. That very same night she awoke from sleep with a cry of terror. On my father asking her what the matter was, she said—‘Oh, William! I have had such a fearful dream, and I am sure it has to do with Major S.’

“‘Nonsense, nonsense;’ was the sleepy reply.

“‘But I tell you I am convinced of it,’ and she told him her dream. She described herself as going into a large gloomy looking room, full of quaintly carved furniture, arranged after a peculiar fashion, the ceiling of which was traversed by an oaken beam, and from this there dangled a rope having a noose at the end.

“‘What is going on here?’ I asked, although I cannot remember being conscious of seeing any one.

“‘Hush!’ exclaimed an awful voice. ‘A dreadful crime is being committed, part of which will be known now, and part at the day of judgment!’

“‘Aye, indeed; curious, very; but go to sleep, my dear, and forget all about the major.’ With this advice given in a drowsy tone, my father once more sought oblivion in sleep. But my mother did not allow him to remain in peace. Again she woke him up with an exclamation of horror at the repetition of her dream. No sooner had she fallen asleep than she found herself transported to the sombre room, with its beam traversed ceiling, and ghastly dangling rope. At sight of which, as on the former occasion, she cried, ‘What is going on here?’ and the same impressive voice responded with ‘Hush! a dreadful crime is being committed; part of which will be known now, and part at the day of judgment!’

‘I know we shall hear something about that horrid man,’ she kept repeating in spite of my father’s assurances to the contrary.

Their feelings, under these circumstances, may well be imagined when the next day the country was ringing with the news that Major S. had hanged himself during the night.

Hastening to the scene of the tragedy, my father, on being shown into the room, at once recognised it as the one my mother had seen in her dream.”

Psychological Review Vol. 4 May 1882: p. 311-12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is curious how many of these sorts of premonitory dreams were recorded in the annals of the past, and how one can still find similar stories on the “Internet” to-day. If the affair had gone according to the proper patterns of folk-lore, the lady would have seen the Major being carried off to his Doom by the Wild Hunt mounted on fire-breathing demon-horses. The story is a trifle ambiguous as to whether the Major she saw on her ride was a living man or the phantom of one already hanging in his chamber.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the chilling scene near the end of Mr Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, where Ralph Nickleby comes to a bad end.

“He had torn a rope from one of the old trunks, and hanged himself on an iron hook immediately below the trap-door in the ceiling—in the very place to which the eyes of his son, a lonely desolate little creature, had so often been directed in childish terror, fourteen years before.”

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

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

 

Mr Greenleaf’s New Cook: 1859

cook.JPG

The Betty

Pattie Parsley

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

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

“Yes, John.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh! won’t you?”

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

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

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

“Jane.”

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

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

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

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

“Jane,” said a sweet, low voice.

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There ain’t none, sir.”

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

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

“Nor I, nor I,” cried the children.

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

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

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

“Yea, sir,” said Jane.

“Well, we will begin now.”

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

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

“Hadn’t I better clean them, sir?”

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

“But they ought to be parboiled whole.”

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

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

“Them’s the prairie hens, sir.”

“What have you been putting in them?”

“Nothing but what you seed yourself, sir.”

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

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

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

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

See also, “Twelve Golden Rules for Women Cooks.

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

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

The Black Alpaca Coat: 1905

man's 1905 coat

Concerning a Black Alpaca Coat

By J.C. Plummer

(Copyright, 1905, by Daily Story Pub. Co.

“Sandy,” said Captain Pole, as he shifted his tiller so as to pass a barge towing down the bay, “you’d better ask Kate Haggerty to have you when we get to port.”

“There’s na hurry,” replied Sandy ‘McDougal, mate of the schooner Ajax, enjoying his pipe.

“Go ahead,” retorted the skipper, pettishly, “you’ll wake up some morning and see another chap living off Kate’s money.”

“She’s na got it yet,” expostulated Mr. McDougal.

“But she’ll have it when her uncle dies and he’s old as the hills.”

“Hoots, only seventy and men are living longer than they did,” said McDougal, “it’s little saprised I’d be if he lives to be ninety.”

“Well,” remarked the skipper, “if you don’t want a wife with ten thousand dollars, all right.”

“There’s na hurry,” insisted McDougal, “if I’d marry her now I’d have to sapport her, mebbe, for ten years before her uncle dies.”

Dennis Haggerty, stevedore, was worth at least ten thousand dollars and his only relative was Kate Haggerty. There was no scarcity of women in the world forty years back, but Dennis and his brother Michael must, perforce, fall in love with the same girl and she chose Michael. Dennis never forgave them and carried his resentment to the second generation, never noticing their daughter, Kate, not even when, her parents dying very poor, she started out to make her living. Kate, thirty years old, plain as to face and expert in sordid economy, only knew she had an uncle because people told her so. She gave no heed to the news when she did hear it and went on earning a very scant living with very hard work.

Now, Captain Pole knew something. He and Fergus McNeal were witnesses to Dennis Haggerty’s will which left all he possessed to Kate Haggerty.  McNeal had immediately sailed on a voyage to Australia and the skipper, practically, was the sole possessor of the secret. He knew Kate and liked her so he did some thinking. “Kate’s getting old,” he mused, “and in looks she’s more like a barge than a racing yacht, but there’ll be plenty of good for nothing fellows to marry her when they know she’ll have ten thousand dollars. They’ll spend every cent of it for her.”

Then he apprised Sandy McDougal, his mate, of the secret and introduced him to Kate.

“He’s too stingy to ever spend her money,” soliloquized the skipper, “and he’ll make her a good husband.”

Sandy courted cautiously.  Kate, with a dowry of ten thousand dollars, was very attractive, but his characteristic stinginess made him hesitate about incurring the expense of a wife until the dowry was possessed. As to Kate, who had never had a beau, she dreamed dreams and watched for Sandy’s coming eagerly.

The inexpensive courtship, for Sandy never spent a copper on Kate, dragged on like a voyage through the calm belt and Captain Pole chafed.

McDougal was overlooking the tarring down of the schooner’s rigging when the skipper came aboard much excited.

“Old Haggerty’s sick,” he whispered to Sandy, “he’s pneumony and he’s too old a man to get well. Now’s your time, Sandy.”

For a moment Sandy wavered then he said, “He may get wull, there’s na hurry.”
Captain Pole coupled Mr. McDougal’s name with an adjective and went gloomily below.

Captain Pole’s watch was a massive machine to which he lay great store and when it became out of order there was only one watchmaker in the city who was permitted to repair it. After his abortive effort to excite Mr, McDougal to action he glanced at his watch and found it stopped.

“I’ll take it to Smoot,” he said, and he left the schooner, scowling at the immovable McDougal, who was still working on the rigging. The skipper had left his watch with Mr. Smoot and was about to depart when he remembered that Dennis Haggerty lived directly opposite the watchmaker. He glanced across at the house and then he rubbed his eyes and stared.

It was not the evidence that Mr. Haggerty was having some repairs done to his front steps that caused him to stare, but attached to the bell pull was a streamer of crape.

He hastened back to the schooner.

“He’s dead,” he gasped.

“Ye na mean it?” exclaimed McDougal.

“There’s crape on the door, that’s a landsman’s flag at half mast. Get your best rigging on and come, there’s not a minute to be lost.”

Mr. McDougal was soon attired in his best black suit of clothes and the two set out for Miss Haggerty’s boarding house.

“Now,” said the skipper, “if she says yes, you ask for an early wedding day. When this here news gets out there’ll be a lot after her,” and, he added, with unnecessary candor, “most anybody can beat you in looks.”

Miss Haggerty was at home and would see Mr. McDougal in the parlor. Captain Pole chose to await on the street the result of his mate’s suit and walked up and down in front of the house. Presently McDougal came to the door and beckoned to the skipper.

“Well,” said that gentleman, as he reached McDougal, “is it all right?”

“I have na asked her yet,” replied McDougal nervously. “Are ye sure ye did na make a mistake in the house.”

“No,” roared the skipper, “it was Dennis Haggerty’s house. Hurry up, man, or you’ll lose the chance.”

In a half hour’s time McDougal came out.

“We’ll be married in a week,” he said. “The landlady is a witness of the engagement. I nope ye’re na wrong in the house.”

Captain Polo was aroused early in the morning by Mr. McDougal, whose countenance showed great menial perturbation.

“Ye’ve ruined me,” said he, shaking his fist at the skipper.

“What’s the matter?” exclaimed the captain.

“It was na crape on the door,” howled McDougal, “the man who was fixing the steps hung his black alpacy coat on the bell-pull.”

The skipper whistled.

“I’ll na marry her,” shrieked McDougal, “I’m sweendled.”

“Then,” retorted the skipper, with difficulty repressing a roar of laughter, “she’ll sue you for breach o’ promise. The landlady is a witness you know.”

The next week Mr. McDougal and Miss Haggerty were married in the most inexpensive style and five years later Captain Pole, witnessing a parade of the United Irishmen, marked with surprise how sturdily old Dennis Haggerty bore the banner.

The Western News [Stockton KS] 9 March 1905: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In this modern era, we have no conception of the alarm and despondency caused when crape was seen fluttering ominously from the door knob or knocker to announce a death. That chronicler of crape over at Haunted Ohio has written of the “crape threat“: a campaign of textile intimidation, and tells in The Victorian Book of the Dead about a young man said to have been shocked to death by learning of the death of his father via the crape on the door.

As for Miss Haggerty, Mrs Daffodil regrets that Captain Pole interfered.  Barge-like Kate may never have had a beau, but Sandy hardly seems the stuff of dreams. We may hope that she got her money’s worth out of her unwilling husband. And when she at long last inherited her uncle’s money, Mrs Daffodil hopes that she showed Sandy the (crape-hung) door.

 

 

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

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

An Uncommon Fine Christmas Morning: 1850s

christmas plum pudding card

A Musing of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He thought so, too,” replied Martha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********

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

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

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

“Ah! surely,” said old John.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And my son,” said John.

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

“A man?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

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

The Journal of Australasia, Volume 2, 1857

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

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

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

The Lost Song: c. 1800

THE LOST SONG.

It was my grandmother’s story, and this how she came to tell it to me:

I, Annie Rae, had come down to spend Christmas at “Raeburn,” the old family homestead. My grandmother and grand-father had been abroad for years, and this being the first Christmas for so long that the old house was opened, they wanted to fill it with bright young faces and merry laughter, to crowd out the voiceless memories which lurked in every corner, and so a whole party of us had come–cousins, first, second and third, in fact of all degrees. Speaking of cousins, isn’t it strange that very often the further removed the nearer they seem? At least George Stewart was only my third cousin by blood, and yet he always assumed more on the strength of our relationship than any of my first cousins, and somehow, in my own heart I did not mind it at all, though I did tease him so.

But I must go on with my story. It was Christmas Eve, and the old house was quiet at last. We girls had all gone to our rooms after a merry evening together. Fannie and Rose had the room near grandma’s, while Kate and Lillie were just opposite. Some one had to sleep alone at the other of the hall, and after long consultation, it was decided that I should go, for I had rashly boasted of never being afraid. I will confess to feeling a little lonely when all was quiet, and the deep shadows in the corners of the room seemed very dark, for the light of my candle did not reach far. There were three doors in my room, and fastening securely the one leading into the entry, I merely turned the handles of the others, and finding them locked inside, did not care to explore any further just then.  I must have been a long time undressing, for the clock struck the hour of midnight as I put my light out. Even then I could not sleep, but found myself wondering what was behind those doors that I had not opened, and I determined to have a regular exploring expedition the next day. There were so many romantic stories to this old house. I had even heard hints of staircases, shut up rooms, &c., and had always delighted in mysteries.

I think I must have been asleep for a short time, when I suddenly found myself awake with a start, and a curious impression that I was listening for something. There certainly was a sound overhead, but what was it? It came more clearly, and I distinguished a faint, broken melody, and yet imperfect, like some one playing a long forgotten air on a piano where some of the strings were broken. Three times it came like the verses of a song, and though there were no words, it seemed to speak to my very heart, and I thought of George, and how sorrowfully he had looked at me that evening as I had passed him without saying “good night.” It was only to tease him, I had pretended not to see his proffered hand, but had taken Willie Thorne’s instead, and we had walked up the broad staircase together.

Again all was still, only a long drawn sigh seemed to echo my own through the room, and came from the direction of the furthest door. Without a sensation of fear, only an ill-defined feeling of pain and regret, I sank to sleep, and when I woke the morning sun was shining brightly enough to dispel illusions. I resolved to say nothing to the girls, but quietly to explore and see what was to be found, for I knew perfectly well that what I had heard was no dream. So I got up long before breakfast, and after completing my toilet, threw wide the shutters and opened the first door nearest the entry. Only an empty closet! Disappointed but slightly relieved, I closed it and went over to the other. The key turned hard in the lock as if it had not been opened for a long time. Then the door stood wide open, and I saw a flight of stairs but only prosaic wooden steps, like those leading to any garret. I started bravely up and soon found myself in a large loft attic, with odds and ends. First, an old spinning wheel caught my eye, relic of our most industrious great grandmothers. Then a stack of old fire- arms, with which our ancestors, the bold Races, may have shed the blood of daring foes, or, perhaps, and I am afraid more likely, have only done damage among the crows that came to steal from their spacious cornfields. Lastly, beyond these, and behind a pile of mattings and boxes, I came upon an old piano. It quite startled me at first but then the broad daylight was very reassuring, and I am not nervous. It was very old and of a most curious shape, and evidently had been very elegant in its day. I tried to lift the lid, and found it locked, but as I touched it a shiver ran through me, for I was convinced now that this was what my ghostly music had come from last night, and I am determined to find out before another day had passed who it had belonged to, and what restless spirits still haunted its worn strings.

So after breakfast, when all the others gone to church, I went into my grandmother’s room to sit with her, for she was not very strong, dear old lady, and rarely went out of the house in winter.

After we were nicely settled and had got through our morning’s reading, I told her of my last night’s adventure, and my subsequent researches, and begged her to tell me all about the old piano I had found in the attic. She smiled at my eagerness, but did not seem at all surprised or incredulous, for though she herself had never heard the music I spoke of, there had been others long ago, she said, who, sleeping in that room on Christmas Eve, had been known to hear faint sounds, coming as if from the old piano above, though it was locked, and the key had been lost. The coincidence, at least, was very strange, taken in connection with the history attached to it, and which my grandmother then proceeded to relate to me.

“Many years ago,” said my grandmother, “when your great-great-great-grandfather was alive, this house was full of life and merriment; for your Aunt Annie–your great-great-aunt for whom you are named, child—lived here with her father and brothers. She was as bright and funny as the day was long, but so full of mischief and coquetry that she gave the heartache to all the young men, far and near and yet had suffered never a pang herself. I am afraid that a spice of her coquetry has descended to this generation too, my dear,” said the lady gazing fondly, but reproachfully at me. “I felt sorry to see the look in poor George’s eyes, last night, as you turned from him on the stairs–”

“Oh I please go on, grandmother dear,” said I, ”I am so much interested in the story.” But in my own wicked little heart I was sorry too, and inwardly resolved to make up for it to him on the first opportunity. “Well your Aunt Annie always had the house full, and some of her cousins and young friends were always staying there. Among the gentlemen who were their frequent visitors was a young naval officer, Robert Carrol, whom they inspected Annie of preferring. Of course, as girls will, they teased her most unmercifully about him and consequently she would hardly speak to him sometimes, and just because in her own heart she knew that to talk with him just one hour was better to her than a whole day with the others.

“The poor fellow evidently had no eyes for any one else, but he was very reserved and sensitive, and did not go in boldly and make love to her, as any other man would done, but stood and worshiped afar off. They say he was very fine musician, and sang beautifully, and not only that but he composed a song for Annie to sing; for she had a lovely voice, and would sing lovely old ballads for us in the long summer evenings with wonderful pathos and feeling.

“As the days went by the time drew near for Robert to join his ship. Early in December his orders came, and he was to leave the day after Christmas.

“He loved Annie so dearly that he felt he could not go away from her so long without asking for some assurance that his love was returned, and yet he could not bear to think of hearing her say she could never love him. Sometimes she treated him so coldly, almost rudely, and yet again, when they were alone, he could have sworn her eyes spoke a different language.

“The day before Christmas came and still no word had been spoken. On the morning of that day Robert wrote a note to her and inclosed in it a little song he had written and in the note he said,–“But stay,” said my grandmother, “I think I can show you the very note itself,” and going to her desk she took from it an old yellow piece of manuscript music, so faded as to be illegible and a little sheet of paper. “These,” she said, “were found up in the attic among other old letters and private family papers when we came back, and though I destroyed the rest I kept these,” and taking up the note she read it aloud. It was very short, and ran thus:

Annie, darling will you be my wife? And may I go away with hope warm at my heart that when I come back I may claim you as my own? Little one if it is to be, and can love me, will you sing my song for me to-night when I come. If there is no hope for me you will sing something else, and I will know my fate at once, and it will be better to learn it so than to give you pain of telling me. But somehow I feel hopeful, and shall come with a brave heart in spite of the fate which your sweet voice is to sing me into life or death.

Forever yours, in this world and the next.

Robert.

“He sealed the note inclosing the song and sent it over by his servant.  As the man was going into the gate he met Annie’s youngest brother, Harry, a little fellow of ten years old, who snatched the note from him, and said, ‘Oh! I’ll take it to Annie, Tom,’ and ran off. So Thomas walked away with an easy conscience, thinking he had delivered the note safely at least to a ‘member of the family.’

“Harry trotted off toward the house with the best intentions in the world, but was diverted on the way by some important business with a small boy of his own age, who suddenly turned up, so by the time he did go home all memory of the note had vanished from his youthful mind.

“Evening came and the younger children were all in bed, and Harry lay sound asleep, while on a chair hung his little jacket, and in the pocket still, poor Robert’s note undelivered. Annie, with ‘cheeks like twin roses,’ and’ eyes bright with love and hope was waiting for the company.

All the young people were coming from neighborhood to have a frolic, but she only thought of Robert. ‘He must speak to me to-night,’ she said to herself. ‘I am sure he loves me, and in spite of my bad behaviour to him sometimes he must know my heart.’

“Early in the evening Annie’s father according to his custom, asked her for a song and as she rose and went to the piano she caught sight of Robert’s pale handsome face. He was near the door, where he had just entered standing with his arms folded and his eyes fixed upon her with a look that to her dying day she never forgot. As she sat down to the instrument an unaccountable feeling of depression came over her, some unseen influence seemed to hold her hands so that she could scarcely strike the notes, but with an impulse she threw it off and dashed into some gay and nonsensical song that was popular at the time, and sang it through to the very end.

“When she looked up Robert was gone, and she never saw him again in this world. He left home that night and never returned, for his ship, with all on board was lost on the way out; and he went to his grave thinking her cold and heartless. And she–all the next day she waited for him, wondering that he did not come. That night as she was wearily going to her room a little voice from the nursery called her, and going in she found Harry wide awake.

“Oh! sister Annie,’ said he ‘don’t scold me, but I forgot your note yesterday, and there it is still in my pocket.’ And he pointed to the jacket which hung on a chair. Mechanically, she reached and took it, but when she saw the address in his hand, she grew as pale as death. She only stopped and kissed the little fellow, who was sobbing bitterly, and no word of reproach passed her lips.

“From that day she was a different being. Her whole life seemed to be a period of waiting; waiting for news of him.

“You must remember, my dear,” added grandmother, “that in those times there were no such conveniences for communications as we have now-a-days, when lovers can change their minds two or three times a day by mail, and can telegraph ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sixty times a minute (more or less) if they please.

“And when at last the news of Robert’s death came, it was as if some blight had fallen on her, for she seemed to fade away, and grew weaker and weaker, until it got to be so that she never left her room. Then her piano was moved up there, the room you were in last night–for her music seemed the only thing left in which she took any interest, and often at night when all was still they would hear her playing, for she had never been known to sing since that time when, with her own sweet voice, she had smilingly sounded the death knell of two hearts.”

“On Christmas morning, just one year after, when they came to her room they found her seated at her piano, with his song before her, and her white hands cold and stiff resting on the keys. She had gone to meet him, and her weary waiting was over at last.”

“This was my grandmother’s story of the piano–and that evening as George and I were sitting together on the board staircase, while the others were dancing in the parlor, I told it all over to him, and would you believe it? when I came to the part about poor Robert’s last letter, George actually said it served him right for not being man enough to ask for what he wanted when he had the chance, “as I intended to ask you right here, little Annie,” said he, and then–well, somehow I did not finish the story that evening.

Since then, however, we have often talked it over since, but George always smiles when I tell him of the ghostly music I heard on Christmas eve in the old house, and suggests though the piano was locked, yet the back had fallen out from old age, and there was room enough for a whole regiment of mice to creep in and run over the rusty strings, and he further says that I was sleepy and troubled in my mind for treating him so badly, and thought it was my aunt’s ghost come to warn me. But that is nonsense, of course, and I shall always believe that it was poor Robert’s last song that I heard.

The Indiana [PA] Democrat 14 November 1872: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It seems to Mrs Daffodil that there is blame enough to go around, with some to spare. Coquettes! Thoughtless younger brothers!  Timid suitors!  One wonders how, without the spur of “on-line” dating and “swiping,” the species ever propagated itself.

Still, it was curious that the mice, if mice there were, only came out to run over the piano’s strings on Christmas eve.

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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