Category Archives: Husbands and Wives

A Leap-Year Idyll: 1884

A Leap-Year Idyll.

Only one young lady of this place, Cummins Ville, [Cumminsville, Ohio, USA] has thus far been heard of taking advantage of the privilege that leap-year is popularly supposed to bestow upon the fair sex. As the writer was sworn to secrecy when the information was obtained, no names can be given. Suffice it to say that hat parties are well known and respectable residents of this ward. It seems that she was keeping company with a very worthy young man, and matters were approaching a crisis, when his mother, hearing how the land lay, appeared upon the scene, and informed the trembling lassie that she should never wed her son, swearing she would cut him off with a shilling and threatening all kinds of dire consequences unless she would forthwith and forever discard him. To this, at last, the maid reluctantly consented, and the prospective mother-in-law retired in good order highly elated with her victory. Some days after the young lady met a masculine acquaintance of hers, and being very old friends she lost no time in rehearsing to him her sad mishap in Cupid’s field of battle. This friend, being of a very sympathetic nature, bade her cheer up, consoling her in every way possible, and ended by saying: “Come over to my house. I’ve got two boys old enough to be married. You can have your choice of them.” Whether the invitation was given in jest or earnest will never be known, but she took him at his word and called that evening, but received no encouragement from the boys, who were very bashful, and she even had to go home unaccompanied. The next day the father met her, and told her that his son John had been very much impressed with her appearance, but was too bashful to make any advances, and advised her to call again. This she did the next evening. John overcame his timidity sufficiently to engage in conversation with her, and escorted her home and made his advances with such readiness that a few days subsequently they were married, and they are now as happy as a pair of turtle-doves. This is what might be called a leap-year idyll, and is written without exaggeration—with malice toward none and charity for all.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 27 April 1884: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  So kind of the neighbour to offer the young lady her choice of sons, although the gesture has rather the air of offering a guest a choice of hot beverages or a selection of pastries. One does wonder at the disappointed heart that would find solace so quickly with a comparative stranger, perhaps out of pique or of desperation. One hopes that the turtle-dove motif continued throughout their married life.

We have met bashful young gentlemen before, as in the unfortunate Bashful Bridegroom. They were the butt of many a joke and comic drawing:

When a young lady tripped into a music store the other day, and asked the bashful clerk in attendance for “Two Kisses,” he jammed on his hat and rushed out of the back door. The clerk, never having heard of the piece of music, thought he was the victim of a leap year proposal and his salary was not large enough for two.

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 6 March 1880: p. 1

you'll have to ask papa leap year

 

woman proposes to man

A young lawyer of Reading received a leap year proposal of marriage. He hasn’t as yet accepted, and won’t until he asks ma.

Lebanon [PA] Daily News 10 January 1873: p. 4

Finally, this oft-disappointed young lady realised that she would have to utilise all the special powers of Leap Year to drag the groom to the altar.

BASHFUL BRIDEGROOM’S FATE.

Iowa Girl, Tired of Waiting, Led Him to the Altar.

Douglas, Wis., Jan. 4. Anna Schlegelmilch has solved for herself the problem of winning a bashful man one so bashful that he could not screw up his courage to undergo the ordeal of a home wedding. Time and time again he disappointed her at the altar. She knew his failing, but she also has recognized his virtues, and because he would be a good husband, could she ever get him, she was determined to be patient, even at the cost of embarrassment and no small amount of humiliation.

Miss Schlegelmilch had made at least a dozen wedding cakes that never served the intended end, and friends had been invited for the wedding so often that they came to regard the invitations as the order of the day. Every time at the last moment the expected bridegroom was absent.

But just before the end of leap year [1904] he called and once more asked her to name the wedding day. This time she simply put on her hat, marched him to the minister, and before he had time to pale, the thing was done. There were no cards, no flowers, no witnesses, beyond those required by law.

The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 January 1905: p. 9

It was stated in earlier reports (the wedding took place in September of 1904) that

The bride applied for and secured the dispensation and permitted the ceremony at once, stating to the court that the groom had delayed the wedding on several previous occasions when all preparations had been made because of his bashfulness. She did not intend to be embarrassed again.

The South Bend [IN] Tribune 17 September 1904: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil wonders what those virtues were that encouraged Miss Schlegelmilch to tolerate the gentleman’s vacillating nonsense. She hopes that they compensated for the previous embarrassments and the wasted cakes. The couple was married until the lady’s untimely death in 1932.

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 anecdote

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.

Genevieve, Whose Husband was Domestic: 1909

evenings at home 1919

Genevieve Whose Husband Was Domestic.

“I have been home fully fifteen minutes, Genevieve,” growls James. “Fully fifteen minutes, and here it is after 5 o’clock and no sign of dinner. You just getting home, too! I should think the entire day to yourself, galivanting about  was enough without staying out to such an hour! Where have you been?”

“Why, James, after I got the work done, I had to go down town to get your shirts ordered and to see about the children’s underwear for winter. Then I got a pattern for Jimmy-boy’s little coat that I’m going to make out of your old one. I hurried all I could and there’s plenty of time to get dinner. I’m not—so—very–tired.”

Genevieve has been dragging about the shops all afternoon with two babies. She always does, because James is certain that a good mother and a truly domestic woman would prefer to take care of her own babies, so they never kept a maid. “Useless extravagance,” said James, and he was a well-paid man, too. So domestic was James, besides. Quite the beau ideal of all Genevieve’s friends whose husbands were so depraved as to belong to lodges and smoke cigars and commit such like atrocities.

“How on earth you women find amusement in that eternal shopping! There, there. Let it go, say no more about it! Just get dinner right away. I’m hungry.” Shopping! And she got the children’s winter flannels and ordered James’ shirts, and had to run in an itemized account of her wild expenditure! Um!

“No, no,” continued sweet James to Jimmy-boy, aged three years, “no, no. papa’s tired. Run on out into the kitchen to mamma!”

Well! Jimmy-boy had been toddling about after mamma all afternoon and he was tired, too! So was mamma.

“Wa-a-yah-ow!” remarks Jimmy-boy.

“Genevieve, take that child out into the kitchen and get his coat off. Can’t you see he’s tired to death? Some people have no consideration for children,” cooes James, the dear, domestic husband.

Genevieve was ever such a belle before her James came along and gurgled at her about the ideal married life. A happy little home and a dear little wife was his text. No scouting about town for him when he had such a sweet girl as Genevieve waiting at home for him. And Genevieve looked upon her friends’ husbands who stayed out to lodge meetings and asked her friends themselves how about it, and they all said with one voice, “Genevieve, there’s nothing so calculated to make a woman happy as a really, truly domestic husband.”

Mother said so, too. And father remarked that James was a man after his own heart. But father belonged to two lodges and the G. A. R., bless him, and Genevieve wondered a bit and sort of shied at acquiring a hubby so much superior to the beloved daddy of her childhood and the companionable, let’s-get-out-among-’em father of her later years who took her every single place she wanted to go when there was no one else interfering around.

But she thought it must be all right. And James adored her. She was not yet wise enough to see that James adoring her was not quite the same as James being adorable or their both adoring each other, and that those missing matters might become conspicuous by their absence in the strain and stress of wedded life.

Well! So Genevieve married James. And now there was a Jenny-girl, aged six, and a Jimmy-boy, aged three, and Genevieve did all the work, except the washing, and took care of the children evenings after James went to bed at 8 o’clock, and enjoyed a hilarious life in general.

“Where did you go this afternoon?” says James.

“To the l.adies’ Aid meeting, James,” murmurs Genevieve.

“Does that take all afternoon? Where else were you?”

“Why, I stopped at mother’s a few minutes on the way home,” murmurs Genevieve.

“John Handy said he saw you downtown without the children at about half-past 4?” And James gazed upon her with an inquiring frown.

“Yes, mother wanted me to do a little shopping for her and I left the children with her while I went.”

“What on earth did your mother want that she couldn’t get herself?” (Thoughtful husband!)

“Why, she could have got the things, but she thought I’d enjoy the walk by myself.”

“By yourself! Well, of all the unnatural ideas! A woman with her heart in the right place could not bear to be away from her babies like that!” sniffed James.

No, Genevieve does not throw the coffee pot at him. She has been trained by generations of domestic women and by a circle of domesticated friends to believe that a man who pays the bills and stays home nights is the ideal husband. It would be wrong to crack a perfectly good ideal with a coffee pot.

But some days when James inquires who it was bowed to her on the street at half past 3 o’clock that afternoon, and who she saw in the stores, and why she stopped to talk to that blessed preacher when she knew he was waiting for her to come and take care of the children so he could get his Sunday afternoon nap, and if she thinks anybody is going to look at her that she togs herself out in that silly style–some time, some time, something is going to happen to that dear, devoted husband, who never belonged to a naughty club in his life, never smoked, never drank, thinks games of chance are of the devil and stays at home every night of his life with his dear little wifie.

Because, dear little wifie is a natural born widow, anyway!

The Sunday Star [Washington DC] 21 November 1909, Part 4: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has observed that the men who are most vigilant and suspicious (has James hired one of the Pinkertons to discover who bowed to Genevieve on the street at half past 3 o’clock?) are those who themselves have something to hide. Mrs Daffodil would not be surprised to find that the domestic paragon James is a good deal naughtier than he pretends, and, in fact, has installed another family in a happy little home in a nearby neighbourhood, where he is known as a hardware drummer who spends much of his time on the road.  Some time, something is going to happen, indeed….

 

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 anecdote

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.

Leap Year Valentine: 1920

leap year thoughts I'll get you yet valentine

Leap Year Valentine

My dear young man: I want to state

I know your measurements and gait

And you’re no mental heavyweight,

Nor are you apt to jar the state,

But what of that? I don’t desire

A man to set the seas on fire.

He, whom the very gods admire

Is apt to blow up like a tire.

 

I want a man who earns enough

to keep the kids in shoes and stuff,

So we can make a decent bluff

At being somewhat up to snuff,

But I don’t want a man so bent

On profiteering and per cent

That all his days and nights are spent

Upon that one accomplishment.

 

I want a man whose form and face

Proclaim him of the human race,

But not of such transcendent grace

He aims to take Apollo’s place,

For it is my judicial view

Most men are steadfast, strong and true

As they’re unattractive. You,

In this respect, I think will do.

 

So if you’d like a wedding trip

By motor, trolley, train or ship,

With me along, well here’s my tip:

Don’t let your present chances slip.

If you agree to this just sign

The contract on the dotted line

And take me while the taking’s fine.

Your loving, leap-year

VALENTINE.

Bisbee [AZ] Daily Review 15 February 1920: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It appears that the narrator has exceedingly low standards for a mate–and expects that the chosen candidate will fail to achieve even those modest requirements. Mrs Daffodil wishes her joy.

In this Leap Year when, traditionally, the ladies may propose to the Beloved, Mrs Daffodil also wishes her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day.

 

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 anecdote

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.

Love in an Election Year: 1899, 1918

It Was a Leap Year Valentine

The most original conceit of the season in the shape of a valentine came to a handsome Philadelphia beau on February 14, from a young woman, who evidently looks upon every year as a leap year. The valentine was in the form of an official blanket ballot, and the different party columns were headed “love ticket,” “friendship ticket,” “Independent ticket,” and “marble-heart ticket.” The young woman voted her ticket, in the first column, straight, and the recipient of the valentine declares he will acknowledge his election as soon as his salary has grown enough to permit of such rashness.

The ticket she voted for follows:

valentine's ballot

Oregonian [Portland OR] 1 March 1899: p. 5

An odd valentine was that sent two years ago by Francis Evelin of Chicago to Sarah Collins of Toledo. I. Everlin had asked the latter to marry him on numerous occasions; but the young woman had always asked him to refrain from regarding her otherwise than “a sister.” Everlin had no such intention, however, and, biding his time till Valentine’s day, sent her a valentine made up to resemble a ballot, such as is used in municipal elections. At the top of the ballot was a pen and ink picture of a house, and beneath appeared Everlin’s name opposite all the offices to be voted for, viz., rentpayer, bundle carrier, loving husband, and so on. A slip was appended asking the voter to vote the straight ticket. Whether it was the humor of it or something else is unknown; but the fact remains that Miss Collins put the matrimonial X under the house.

Tombstone [AZ] Epitaph 10 February 1918: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil understands that 2020 is both an election year in the United States and Leap Year the world over. If those ladies eager to be married will be guided by Mrs Daffodil, she suggests that a working knowledge of parliamentary procedure is always useful in affaires de cœur. 

It is generally supposed that the idea of young girls proposing marriage in leap-year is a pleasant little fiction of the humorist; but there is evidence that sometimes the fair sex does avail itself of its quadrennial privilege. An anecdote told in England of a member of the House of Commons is a case in point. According to the raconteur who is responsible for the story, the commoner had been paying attention to a young lady for a long while, and had taken her to attend the House until she was perfectly posted in its rules. On the last day of the session, as they came out, he brought her a bouquet, saying,

“May I offer you my handful of flowers?”

She promptly replied, “I move to amend by omitting all after the word hand.”

He blushingly accepted the amendment, and they adopted it unanimously.

Northern Christian Advocate [Syracuse NY] 16 August 1893: p. 7

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 anecdote

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.

 

Dolly. A Western Drover’s Story: 1870

DOLLY.

A Western Drover’s Story.

My name is Anthony Hunt. I am a drover; and I live miles and miles away upon the Western prairie. There wasn’t a house in sight, when we moved there, my wife and I, and now we haven’t many neighbors, though those we have are good ones.

One day, about ten years ago, I went away from home to sell some fifty head of cattle–fine creatures as I ever saw. I was to buy some dry goods and groceries before I came back–and, above all, a doll for our youngest, Dolly. She had never had a store doll of her own, only the rag babies her mother made her.

Dolly could talk of nothing else, and went down to the very gate to call after me to “buy a big one.” Nobody but a parent can understand how full my mind was of that toy, and how, when the cattle were sold, the first thing I hurried off to buy Dolly’s doll. I found a large one, with eyes that would open and shut when you pulled a wire, and had it wrapped in a paper and tucked it under my arm, while I had the parcels of calico and delaine and tea and sugar put up. Then, late as it was, I started for home. It might have been more prudent to stay until morning; but I felt anxious to get back, and eager to hear Dolly’s prattle about her doll.

I was mounted on a steady-going horse of mine, and was pretty well loaded. Night set in before I was a mile from town, and settled down dark as pitch while I was in the middle of the darkest bit of road I knew of. I could have felt my way, though, I remembered it so well, and it was almost midnight when the storm that had been brewing broke, and pelted the rain in torrents. I was five miles or may be six, from home yet, too.

I rode on as fast as I could. All of a sudden I heard a little cry like a child’s voice. I stopped short and listened–I heard it again, and again was answered. Then I began to wonder. I’m not timid; but I was known to be a drover, and to have money about me. It might be a trap to catch me unawares, and rob and murder me.

I am not superstitious–not very; but how could a real child be out on the prairie on such a night, at such an hour? It might be more than human.

The bit of coward that hides itself in most men showed itself to me then, and I was half inclined to run away; but once more I heard that cry, and said I:

“If any man’s child is hereabouts, Anthony Hunt is not the man to let it die.”

I searched again. At last I bethought me of a hollow under the hill, and groped that way. Sure enough, I found a little dripping thing that moaned and sobbed as I took it in my arms. I called my horse, and the beast came to me, and I mounted, and tucked the little soaked thing under my coat as well as I could, promising to take it home to mammy. It seemed tired to death, and pretty soon cried itself to sleep against my bosom.

It had slept there over an hour when I saw my own windows. There were lights in them, and I supposed my wife had lit them for my sake: but when I got into the dooryard I saw something was the matter, and stood still with a dead fear of heart five minutes before I could lift the latch. At last I did it, and saw the room full of neighbors, and my wife amidst them, weeping.

When she saw me she hid her face.

“Oh, don’t tell him,” she said. “It will kill him!”

“What is it, neighbors?” I cried.

And one said, “Nothing now, I hope. What’s that in your arms?”

“A poor, lost child!” said I. “I found it on the road. Take it will you! I’ve turned faint;” and I lifted the sleeping thing and saw the face of my own child, my own Dolly.

It was my own darling, and none other, that I had picked up upon the drenched road.

My little child had wandered out to meet “daddy” and the doll, while her mother was at work, and I had picked up her whom they were lamenting as one dead. I thanked Heaven on my knee before them all. It is not much a story, neighbors; but I think of it often in the nights, and wonder how I could bear to live now if I had not stopped when I heard the cry for help on the road, the little baby cry, hardly louder than a squirrel’s chirp.

That’s Dolly yonder with her mother, a girl worth saving—I think (but, then, I ‘m her father, and partial, may be)—the prettiest and sweetest thing this side of the Mississippi.

The Greensboro [NC] Patriot 10 February 1870: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: No doubt we are all exhaling and mopping our foreheads in relief at that happy ending. A very near thing, indeed…

 

 

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 Society Reporter’s Christmas: 1893

society 1920

LITTLE EVA SWALLOWTAIL,

Or, The Society Reporter’s Christmas.

Early morn in the little parlor of a humble white cottage, where Susan Swallowtail sat waiting for her husband to return from the ball. It lacked but a few days of Christmas, and she had arisen with her little ones at five o’clock in order that William, her husband, might have a warm breakfast and a loving greeting on his return after his long night’s work.

Seated before the fire, with her sewing on her lap, Susan Swallowtail’s thoughts went back to the days when William, then on the threshold of his career as a society reporter, had first won her young heart by his description of her costume at the ball of the “Ladies’ Daughters’ Association of the Ninth Ward.” She remembered how gallantly and tenderly he had wooed her through the columns of the four weekly and Sunday papers in which he conducted the “Fashion Chit-Chat” columns, and then the tears filled her eyes as memory brought once more before her the terrible night when William came to the house and asked her father, the stern old house and sign-painter, for his daughter’s hand.

“And yet,” said Susan to herself, “my life has not been altogether an unhappy one in spite of our poverty. William has a kind heart, and I am sure that if he had anything to wear besides his dress-suit and flannel dressing-gown he would often brighten my lot by taking me out somewhere in the daytime. Ah, if papa would only relent! But I fear he will never forgive me for my marriage.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of familiar footsteps in the hall, and the next moment her husband had clasped her in his arms, while the children clung to his ulster, and clamored for their early morning kiss.

But there was a cloud on the young husband’s brow and a tremor on his lips as he said: “Run away now, little ones; papa and mamma have something to say to one another that little ears must not hear.”

“My darling,” he said, as soon as they were alone, ” I fear that our Christmas will not be a very merry one. You know how we always depend on the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie for our Christmas dinner?”

“Indeed, I do,” replied the young wife, with a bright smile; “what beautiful slices of roast beef and magnificent mince-pies you always bring home from that ball! Surely, they will give their entertainment on Christmas-eve this year as they always have?”

“Yes, but — can you bear to hear it, my own love?”

“Let me know the worst,” said the young wife, bravely.

“Then,” said William, hoarsely, ” I will tell you. I am not going to that ball. The city editor is going to take the assignment himself, and I must go to a literary and artistic gathering, where there will be nothing but tea and recitations.”

” Yes.” said Susan, bitterly ; “and sandwiches so thin that they can be used to watch the eclipse of the sun. But what have you brought back with you now ? I hope it is something nourishing.”

“My darling.” replied William Swallowtail, in faltering tones, ” I fear you are doomed to another disappointment. I have done my best to-night, but this is all I could get my hands on;” and with these words he drew from the pockets of his heavy woolen ulster a paper-bag filled with wine jelly, a box of matrons glacis, and two pint bottles of champagne.

“Is that all?” said Susan, reproachfully. “The children have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning except patis de foie gras, macaroons, and hot-house grapes. All day long they have been crying for corned-beef sandwiches, and I have had none to give them. You told me, William, when we parted in the early evening, that you were going to a house where there would be at least ham, and perhaps bottled beer, and now you return to me with this paltry package of jelly and that very sweet wine. I hope, William ” — and a cold, hard look of suspicion crept into her face — “that you have not forgotten your vows, and given to another…”

“Susan!” cried William Swallowtail, “how can you speak or even think of such a thing, when you know full well that…”

But Susan withdrew from his embrace, and asked, in bitter, cold accents: “Was there ham at that reception or was there not?”

“There was ham, and corned-beef, too. I will not deny it; but…”

“Then, William, with what woman have you shared it?” demanded the young wife, drawing herself up lo her full height, and fixing her dark, flashing eyes full upon him.

“Susan, I implore you, listen to me, and do not judge me too harshly. There was ham, but there were several German noblemen there, too — Baron Sneeze, of the Austrian legation. Count Pretzel, and a dozen more. The smell of meat inflamed them, and 1 fought my way through them in time to save only this from the wreck.”

He drew from his ulster-pocket something done up in a piece of paper, and handed it to his wife. She opened the package, and saw that it contained what looked like a long piece of very highly polished ivory. Then her face softened, her lips trembled, and her eyes brimmed over with tears. “Forgive my unjust suspicions,” she exclaimed, as she threw herself once more into his arms. “The mute ham-bone tells me, far more strongly than any words of yours could, the story of the society reporter’s awful struggle for life.”

William kissed his young wife affectionately, and then sat down to the breakfast which she had prepared for him.

“I hope,” she said, cheerfully, as she took a dish of lobster-salad from the oven, where it had been warmed over, “that you will keep a sharp lookout for quail this week. It would be nice to have one or two for our Christmas dinner. Of course we can not afford corned-beef and cabbage like those rich people, whom you call by their first names, when you write about them in the Sunday papers; but I do hope we will not be obliged to put up with cakes and pastry and such wretched stuff.”

“Quail!” exclaimed her husband. “They are so scarce and shy this winter that we are obliged to take setter-dogs with us to the entertainments at which they are served. But I will do my best, darling.”

As soon as William had gone to bed, Susan took from its hiding place the present which she had prepared for her husband, and proceeded to sew it to the inside of his ulster as a Christmas surprise for him. She sighed to think that it was the best she could afford this year. It was a useful rather than an ornamental gift — a simple rubber pocket, made from a piece of an old mackintosh, and intended for William to carry soup in.

But Susan had a bright, hopeful spirit, and a smile soon smoothed the furrows from her face, as she murmured: “How nice it will be when William comes home with his new pocket filled with nice, warm, nourishing bouillon!” and then she glanced up from her work and saw that her daughter, little golden-haired Eva, had entered the room, and was looking at her out of her great truthful deep-blue eyes.

It was Christmas-eve, and, as Jacob Scaffold trudged through the frosty streets, the keen air brought a ruddy glow to his cheeks and tipped his nose with a brighter carmine than any that he used in the practice of his art. Entering the hall in which the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie was taking place, the proud old house and sign-painter quickly divested himself of his outer wraps and made his way to the committee-room.

Then, adorned with a huge badge and streamer, he strolled out to greet his friends, who were making merry on the polished floor of the ball-room. But, although the band played its most stirring measures and the lights gleamed on arms and necks of dazzling whiteness, old Jacob Scaffold sighed deeply as he seated himself in a rather obscure corner and allowed his eyes to roam about the room as if in search of some familiar face.

The fact was that the haughty, purse-proud old man was thinking of another Christmas-eve ten years before when his daughter Susan had danced at this same ball, the brightest, the prettiest, and the most sought-after girl on the floor.

“And to think,” said the old man to himself, “that with all the opportunities she had to make a good match, she should have taken up with that reporter in the shiny dress-suit! It’s five years since I’ve heard anything of her, but of late I’ve been thinking that maybe I was too harsh with her, and, perhaps…”

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a servant who told him that some one desired to see him in the committee-room. On reaching that apartment he found a little girl of, perhaps, eight years of age, plainly clad and carrying a basket in her hand.

Fixing her eyes on Jacob Scaffold, she said:

“Please, sir, are you the chairman of the press committee?”

“I am,” replied the puzzled artist; “but who are you?”

“I am the reporter of the Sunday Guff. My papa has charge of the ‘What the Four Hundred are Doing’ column, but to-night he is obliged to attend a chromo-literary reception, where there will be nothing to eat but tea and cake. Papa has reported your balls and chowder excursions for the past five years, and we have always had ham for dessert for a week afterward. We had all been looking forward to your Christmas-eve ball, and when papa told us that he would have to go to the tea and cake place to-night, mamma felt so badly that I took papa’s ticket out of his pocket when he was asleep and came here myself. Papa has a thick ulster, full of nice big pockets, that he puts on when he goes out to report, but I have brought a basket.”

The child finished her simple and affecting narrative, and the members of the press committee looked at one another dumbfounded. Jacob Scaffold was the first to break the silence.

“And what is your name, little child?” he inquired.

” Eva Swallowtail,” she answered, as she turned a pair of trusting innocent blue eyes full upon him.

The old man grew pale and his lips trembled as he gathered his grandchild in his arms. The other members of the committee softly left the room, for they all knew the story of Susan Scaffold’s misalliance and her father’s bitter feelings toward her and her husband.

“What!” cried Jacob Scaffold, “my grandchild wanting bread! Come to me, little one, and we’ll see what can be done for you.”

And, putting on his heavy ulster, he took little Eva by the hand and led the way to the great thoroughfare, on which the stores were still open.

*******

It was a happy family party that sat down to dinner in William Swallowtail’s humble home that bright Christmas day, and well did the little ones enjoy the treat which their generous new-found grandparent provided for them. They began with a soup made of wine jelly, and ended with a delicious dessert of corned-beef sandwiches and large German pickles; and then, when they could eat no more, and not even a pork pie could tempt their appetites, Grandpa Scaffold told his daughter that he was willing to lift his son-in-law from the hard and degrading labor of writing society chronicles, and give him a chance to better himself with a whitewash brush. “And,” continued the old man, “if I see that he possesses true artistic talent, I will some day give him a chance at the side of a house.” — James L. Ford in Truth.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 January  1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending. Society reportage, with its emphasis on “Upper Ten-dom” tittle-tattle, bore an ambiguous reputation. On one hand, etiquette proclaimed that a lady’s name should never be mentioned in the press except at her birth, marriage, and death. On the other, social columns were highly popular, both with the participants in cotillions, balls, kettledrums, and receptions, and with the “little people,” who thrilled vicariously to descriptions of fancy-dress costumes, champagne suppers, and cotillion figures and favours.

At the time of the writing of this piece, society journalism was becoming the purview of female journalists. Mr William Swallowtail, was fortunate to be rescued by his father-in-law from the hard and degrading labour of writing society chronicles before he was rendered redundant by a lady reporter who would be paid half his wages.

Still, it is a bit disappointing not to have seen the rubber pocket deployed.

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.

His Christmas Gift: 1870

MORVEN’S CHRISTMAS GIFT

 We were sitting in the twilight of Christmas Eve. A long, restful silence had fallen. It was broken at last by the shouts of the children, coming down stairs and full of Christmas turbulence. Just as Morven’s wife had slipped to his side under cover of the shadows, so she now dropped his hand and slipped away before the advancing noise and light. The tie between them always reminded me of some powerful undercurrent, swift, deep, still. It had little or no surface manifestation, but if you chanced to drop into its shadowed seclusion, you felt it actually in the air about you, wave on wave, a mighty pulsation.

The jolly little scamps who called Morven Uncle burst in, following the butler, the lamp, and tea. In their midst they bore Morven’s only child, a wonderful boy of some three years, with a serene, grave, angelic face, and a mysterious look deep in his starry eyes. I never saw such eyes before. They had rings of light around the pupil; their clearness and stillness were wonderful; they were eyes that gazed upon unseen things. The baby had a gravity and a gentleness beyond his years: he looked like a baby St. John, and I used to call him— predicting, perhaps— “the young disciple.”

On this occasion he was promptly transferred to his mother’s neck, where he accomplished his customary feat of throwing out one dimpled arm like a tendril and linking his father to the group. To see the Morvens standing thus, united by that gravely radiant child, was to feel instinctively that their’s was no ordinary history, that the child was born to some unusual and high, if intangible, destiny. Even the noisy children stood, touched and adoring, at the sight, and kissed his pretty hands as he smiled down on them. This mood soon passed, and presently I heard one ask Morven who gave him the best Christmas gift he ever had.

“My best Christmas present,” he answered, “ was from myself to myself.” ‘

The children laughed, then asked what it was.

“This,” he said, raising Mrs. Morven’s hand to his lips.

“Pshaw ! I should think Aunty gave you that,” they remonstrated.

“No, she didn’t,” insisted Morven. “It came from myself to myself.”

The children scented a story and fell upon him as legitimate prey. Mrs. Morven, however, gave him a warning look and diverted their attention in her skilful way until bedtime. But my curiosity had been aroused, and, when bed had swallowed up the merry cohort, I told Morven I wanted to hear that story. He hesitated.

“Do you believe,” he said, “in the latent powers in man?”

“H — m. That depends.” “Exactly. And on your reply my telling the story, or not, depends.”

“Well, old man; your price is high. Christmas gifts generally do come high, however; so I’ll brave your probable ridicule and admit that I do believe in them, to some extent, in some men.”

“That is, that they inhere in the inner man, (grant me the inner man, for a Christmas story anyhow), and may manifest under unusual circumstances?”

“In some men, while latent in all. Precisely; you put my idea in a nut shell.”

“Well, then, you shall have the story. In the year 1870 I was a young business man of good prospects, going into the world a good deal, rather sought by it as well, and full of material life and worldly ambition. I had engaged myself to a Miss Y., a handsome girl, well born, well educated, a promising society leader, with a fortune about equal to my own, and a Father who could decidedly advance my business prospects. I had carried her away from a score of admirers, and I have heard of her saying somewhat the same thing of myself. We were satisfied with our arrangement; I preferred her to all the women of our circle; she always satisfied my pride and sometimes aroused my passion. I expected no more of any woman. So I never knew exactly why a chilly shadow seemed to fall across my mind now and then. This shade was an indefinite, lurking, irregular thing. I set it down to a touch of dyspepsia. Then I noticed that it vaguely connected itself with my engagement. The moment this fact became apparent to me, I interrogated myself, like an honest man. Had I seen any other woman who attracted me? I knew I had not. There was an ideal head, a St Cecilia, by Raphael, the engraving of which I had loved from childhood, when I manifested a peculiar fondness for it. My mother had left me the engraving in consequence; it always hung over my desk. It was the one hidden soft spot in my heart, but I knew I had never seen a woman like it. Not one gave me that soft glow, as of reminiscent tenderness, which awoke in me as I looked on that grand face. This I attributed to the genius of the painter, who has set the seal of Harmony upon its noble brows. Finding no rival but this for Miss Y., I laughed at my chimera and dismissed it to the land of shades from which it came. Or— to be exact— I tried to dismiss it. Such ghosts “will not down” at our bidding, and especially did I feel its forbidding gloom when Miss Y. granted me any of the privileges of an accepted lover. Then the shadow seemed to rise between us, chilling the touch of my lips and hand, however I might argue it away. Our engagement was only six weeks old when I called on her two days before Christmas. As I entered the parlor, a snatch of music rang from the boudoir beyond, the closing notes of some majestic theme. At the same moment the face of St Cecilia rose vividly before me, objectively floating in the air and accompanied by a peculiar crackling sound.

“I interrupted him. “I have heard that some such tense sound often accompanies a so-called psychic event.”

“Very true. But I did not stop to analyse that I attributed the thing to the music and the train of thought thus established, while Miss Y ’s entrance put a stop to all meditation. Presently I asked her who the unseen musician was.

“The children’s governess,——a distant connection. Have you never seen her?”

I hesitated, searching my memory. Miss Y seemed surprised, even a little suspicious.

“If you have not, it is odd,” she said. ‘‘And if you have, and have forgotten it, that is odder still.” She drew a large portfolio before her. “The face is a peculiar one; see!” She held up a large photograph before me.

“You are out there,” I smiled, for this is Raphael’s St Cecilia,” and I turned the photograph toward her. She laughed triumphantly.

“Just so. I’m glad you see the resemblance. It was my discovery, but no one could see it till I dressed her hair and gowned her like the original and had this photograph taken. But you’re tired. Sit down.”

She pushed a chair towards me and I dropped into it mechanically. Something extraordinary was taking place within me. I couldn’t have spoken for my life, really. My experience had no name for the feeling that took possession of me. Something coursed up and down in my veins like fiery mist. Pictures swam in and out of my brain, all of them connected with that face. I seemed to hear the roaring of cataracts. A great Past was on the point of opening before me; my mind was swallowed up in it already. As soon as I could, I took my leave, but not before Miss Y. had noticed my altered manner and responded to it by a touch of coldness in her own. As I rose, she detained me.

“You know I am not of a suspicious nature,” she said. “But several times lately I have noticed a change in you; an abstraction, a distance. I do not know whether it relates to our engagement.”

I began to protest. She stopped me proudly.

“Let me finish, please. I have no reasons, and I think you have none, to be dissatisfied with our plans. But I do not understand a woman’s giving her heart fully until after marriage, and, if before that time yours or mine should waver, it would be far better to tell the truth then.”

“I assented; praised her right feeling ; assured her of my——heaven knows what!——and got away, leaving her evidently dissatisfied. I wanted to get out of the house and think. The deuce of it was, I couldn’t think. Everything seemed at boiling point. I heard those chords, I saw that face, and hurrying phantoms, shapes of air and fire, opened the flood gates of an unknown Past that plucked at my brain, urging me to I knew not what Seriously alarmed, I hurried home, intending to send for a physician. Exhausted, I dropped into the nearest arm chair, when all at once the fierce tension relaxed, something seemed to snap inside me,— I fell back and fell asleep.

When I awoke, it was ten o’clock of the next day, and I felt like a man who has recovered from a long illness. I believed that opportune sleep had saved me from one. As I rose, a bit of paper fluttered from my knee to the floor. I did not stop to pick it up. For years I had not felt so light of heart. Tons seemed lifted off me. I whistled and sang while I dressed, — and became aware that it was those remembered chords I repeated,— and airily kissed my fingers to my St Cecilia with an “Au Revoir” as I clattered down stairs. I was not due at the Y. mansion until afternoon. All through the day’s occupations my unwonted cheerfulness did not desert me, and my partner congratulated me on having “downed that dyspepsia.” I felt a marked impatience to go to the Y’s, and finally forestalled the hour by some twenty minutes. The butler portentously stopped me as I was entering the parlor.

“Mr. Y. wishes to see you in his study, sir.”

Surprised, I accompanied the man and found Mr. Y . waiting for me. He waved my offered hand aside.

“Excuse me a moment, Mr. Morven,” he said. “Let us first understand one another.”

I stared at this singular preliminary, but replied that I was at his service. We both sat down, and he resumed.

“I am a believer in perfect frankness. My daughter received last night an anonymous communication concerning you.”

I suppose I looked the surprise I felt. His tone softened somewhat.

“Such communications are better put in the fire and forgotten. Unfortunately— or fortunately, as the event may decide— my daughter remembered certain things which seemed to confirm the statements of this note. With the good sense which always characterizes her,’’ (here I bowed my assenting admiration, while he frowned at me), “she decided to bring the note to me. In my opinion, we are justified in bringing it to your attention. You have only to deny or confirm the statements it makes. My daughter and I are agreed, Mr. Morven, that we may safely accept your word.”

I tried to thank him. “Not at all,” said he. “So much is due to ourselves. Our present relation would not exist at all, if you were not a man of honor. Permit me to read you the note.”

Taking a sheet of paper from his desk, he read as follows.

“Your lover does not love you. Ask him if this is not true. He struggles against an affection which is beyond his control. He tries to subordinate that to the worldly advantages of his previous engagement with you. But it is your cousin whom he loves, just as she loves him, although no words have passed between them. They love with a force which you will never know, in this life at least, or be able to understand. Morven tries to keep his pledge to you, but shall you hold him against his hidden desire, his secret will? If you do, your whole life will feel the blight of your action.” As Y. read this extraordinary production, I sat like one deaf and dumb. Again the air about me surged and sang, bringing vague memories on its burning tide. As Y. concluded, he looked up abruptly.

“Have you any idea who could have written the thing? It is a peculiar hand”— and he placed the note in my hands.

I looked at it, fascinated. Then I rose to my feet. The hand writing was my own. Not my ordinary hand, but one I had practiced from boyhood to write in my private diary. Every accustomed quirl of the letters was there. As I mutely glared at it I heard in the distance the harmony I knew so well. The face of St Cecilia rose again before me; the floor met the ceiling with a clap, and thoughts of surprising lucidity and swiftness swept through my brain. Only a couple of seconds passed, but I saw it all. I loved her, I had always loved her, and in my sleep my inner self, that part of me where memory of past lives was stored, had awakened and set me free. I turned to the expectant Y.

“As far as I am concerned, Sir,” I said, “I must admit the truth of this accusation. I can only say in extenuation that I did not know myself thoroughly, and that I have not addressed Miss Marie on the subject”

“That is just what she said when my daughter questioned her. It seems a remarkable coincidence of feeling to have arisen without words,” he said with pardonable bitterness. But what did his bitterness matter to me? “Coincidence?” Then she loved me! I hastened to say that in all the circumstances I should wish to see the lady first in his presence. He must have anticipated this on my part, for he opened a door, and my Darling stood before me. To feel what I then felt was to know that I had been hers from all time, that I was hers forever. That she returned this feeling, her timid step and downcast eyes told me eloquently. We found Mr. Y. coldly just. He promised to convey my profound apologies to his daughter, he suggested that I had better be a stranger to his house for some time to come, intimated that when we met again it would be with mutual respect. Then he rose to end the interview. Perhaps the look I gave him reminded him of his own youth, for he left the room. All this while my Darling sat, quivering and shamed, in her chair. I hope I made it up to her. I learned how she had seen me by stray glimpses and loved me. She supposed that I had seen her in the same way, and to this day, the one secret I have from her is in that point. I have never told her that she was known to my inner self alone. When I returned to my room that evening my eye fell upon a bit of paper on the floor. I picked it up. It was a District Telegraph receipt for a note, signed by Miss Y. Here was proof, had I needed any. But I did not. I knew that my Darling was a Christmas gift from myself to myself.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Morven. I now understood the meaning of a gold bracelet she always wore locked upon her wrist, and which bore in letters of sapphire these words: As Ever. Forever.

J. Campbell Ver Planck.

The Path December 1889  pp:  265 -270

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Morven was, indeed, fortunate to have a subconscious–or “latent powers”–looking out for his interests. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the sort of a young woman who would coif and costume the poor-relation governess, have her photographed in the character of St Cecilia, and then taunt her affianced with the portrait was unlikely to make Mr Morven’s married life a dream of joy.

 

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.