Category Archives: Irregular Lives

The Face in the Mirror: 1870s

bride at mirror single

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR.

“Oh, Aunt Cassie, do you really intend to give it to me? That lovely antique mirror, with the frame of twisted coral, and the delicious old Neptune sitting with his trident, all in tarnished gold, on the top? Oh!” cried the bride-elect; “I would rather have that than all my other wedding presents put together. It will be so beautiful in my new drawing-room.”

Aunt Cassie, a silver-haired little old lady in black silk, and antiquated gold ear-drops, shuddered. “You are welcome to it, child,” she said. “I never liked the thing since–since I saw your uncle’s reflection in it the night before the news came of his death in Canada. The house servants say it is a ‘haunted glass.’”

“But, Aunt Cassie,” reasoned Letty Latrobe, “that was all your imagination.”

“Do you think so?” said Aunt Cassie, quietly.

And so the old mirror was carried up to the blue saloon, and put up with the bride’s other presents in the place of honor, where its dim surface reflected sets of silver, jewel-boxes, ivory toilet sets, glove-holders, and piles of rare lace and delicate embroidery. Miss Latrobe’s new maid, a handsome woman, with long gold ear-drops, and a scarlet bandanna handkerchief twisted around her head, viewed it with rapture. “I declare, miss,” said she, “I never saw such a glass in my life. I came into the room not thinking, like, and when I looked up–laws, miss; there was me a-pickin’ up the laces, and you standin’ behind me, all in your wedding dress”

“I!” cried Letty. “In my wedding dress! There you are mistaken, Ruby. I never have put on my wedding dress yet. Don’t you know it isn’t lucky?” The maid looked around with a startled glance.

“Then it was she,” she said, as if to herself. “And I can’t get away from her, do what I will.”

“Ruby,” exclaimed Letty, “what are you talking about?”

“Nothing, miss,” said Ruby. “It’s a way I’ve got, living a good deal by myself, talkin’ out just what my thoughts is.”

But after that Ruby avoided the old mirror.

Down stairs in the servants hall that very evening she made herself very sociable, and asked various questions about Miss Latrobe’s new bridegroom.

“He’s a brave, handsome gentleman,” said Phillis, the cook, warming to the subject as she brandished a stew-pan over the fire. “A bit older than our young missy, but–”

“Oh!” said Ruby. “Older, eh? A military gentleman, now?”

“Bless me,” said Phillis, “however did you know?”

“I think I heard it mentioned upstairs,” said Ruby. “A captain in the army, with a scar over one temple, as you’d hardly notice if you didn’t know of it.”

“Well, I declare,” said Phillis.

“Speaks very soft and has eyes as bright as diamonds,” said Ruby. “Yes, it’s the sort of a gentleman that the young ladies like. So the wedding is to be next week, and I suppose they’ll travel abroad. Dear, dear; it’s fine to be a young lady like Miss Latrobe, now, isn’t it?”

The next day when Letty was dressing in her room, she took a fancy to try the effect of a sort of old-fashioned pearls, which had been the wedding gift of her mother.

“Ruby,” said she, “go and get my pearls out of the blue velvet case on the little mosaic table.”

Ruby came back presently with a scared look.

“I can’t find ’em, miss,” said she.

Letty jumped up with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders.

“You must be blind,” said she. “I’ll go myself.”

There they lay perfectly in sight, close to the old mirror. With girlish interest Letty fastened the drops into her ears and clasped the string around her neck; and as she looked smilingly into the glass she became vaguely conscious that another figure stood there a little behind her, mantled in a soft haze, as if of distance–a young girl in orange blossoms and bridal veil, with something in her hand, which Letty at first construed to be a sparkling hilted dagger, held up to strike.

Involuntarily she recoiled.

“Ruby,” she called out to her maid. “Ruby! who is there? How dare you let anyone into the room while I am dressing, Ruby?”

The girl hurried in with a startled face.

“Did you call. Miss Latrobe?” said she.

“Ruby, come here,” cried Letty. “Stand close beside me. Look into the glass.”

“Yes, miss,” said Ruby, with the still troubled face.

“Do you see nothing, Ruby?”

“No, miss,” said Ruby, shivering and clasping her hands together very tight.

“Nor I, either, now,” said Miss Latrobe. “But it was there just now.”

“What, miss?”

“Tell me truly, Ruby,” said Letty, putting both hands on the girl’s shoulder, and looking into her face with large, terrified eyes. “Look at that glass. Do you see nothing there? Have you ever seen anything there?”

Ruby shrank back and burst into tears.

“It’s a young girl, miss,” she sobbed, “in her wedding dress, and a stiletto in her hand. It’s my young mistress, miss, as I lived with five years ago, at Malta, as was married to Capt. Hayes.”

Letty’s face grew pale. “Captain Hayes,” she repeated. “Married to him! Married to my betrothed husband! Ruby, think what you are saying!”

“If I was to be murdered for it, miss,” cried the girl, sinking on the floor, and covering her eyes with her bands. “I couldn’t say no different! Ask him if he remembers Anita Valloti, the commander’s daughter at Malta! Ask him if he knows anything of the mad-house at Madapolo Heights! There I’ve told it all now!”

“But, Ruby, what do you mean?” gasped Miss Latrobe,

“Ask him,” the girl reiterated, shaking and quivering all over in what seemed like a perfect tempest of fear and horror.

Letty sank down among the wedding presents, with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders, and looked with a pale horror into the antique mirror. There was nothing there now but her own fair reflection. “Ruby is dreaming,” she said to her self. “All this is a waking nightmare, neither more nor less.”

Capt. Hayes came that afternoon, dark, brilliantly handsome, full of wit, and for the moment his presence dissipated the dark clouds of suspicion which were beginning to settle around Letty Latrobe’s warm young heart.

“Oh, Robert,” she cried brightly when dinner was over. “I have received ever so many exquisite presents since last you were here. Do come into the blue room and look at them.”

All unconsciously she led him into the long apartment with the antique mirror at its end.

“First of all,” she said, “Aunt Cassie Revere gave me this. It is over two hundred years old, and”- –

She paused with a cry of terror. Close behind their two reflections was that of the pallid girl in the bridal dress and veil, holding the glittering-hilted dagger above her head. And in the same second she saw how deadly white and haggard Capt. Hayes’s face had become.

“Robert,” she cried. “what does this mean?” Then suddenly, remembering the maid’s words, “it is Anita Valloti, the commandant’s daughter at Malta! Robert, what is this terrible secret that you have hidden away from me?”

**

There was no wedding at Magnolia Hill that golden June. Ruby, the maid, revealed it–how Captain Hayes had wooed and won the beautiful young Spanish girl at Malta: how he had afterward become wearied of her childish loveliness, and seizing eagerly upon the pretext of some slight incoherence of manner or conversation, had incarcerated the poor little human butterfly in a private asylum on Madapolo Heights, some leagues from the city. Nor, confronted with all this evidence, did the captain dare to deny the story of his guilt.

Therefore there was no wedding in the lonely homestead. And instead of going on her bridal trip with Captain Hayes, Letty Latrobe persuaded her father to take her to Malta, and visited the famous Maison de Sante at Madapolo.

“I should like to see it for myself,” she said, softly.

Fra Antonio, one of the gowned brotherhood in attendance, looked a little surprised when they asked for La Signora Hayes, or as her name was entered there, “La Signorina Anita Valloti.”

“Did you not know?” he asked. “The poor young signora is dead. She died on the nineteenth of last June.”

The nineteenth of June! Mr. Latrobe and his daughter looked at one another. It was on the nineteenth of June that they had seen the strange reflection in the antique mirror–it was on the nineteenth of June that the marriage at Magnolia Hill was broken off.

So they laid fresh roses on the simple cross that rose above the poor young thing’s last resting-place, and came away with wet eyes and tender hearts.

The Saturday Evening Press [Menasha WI] 20 April 1882: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A narrow escape for Miss Latrobe and possibly a narrow escape from plagiarism charges for the author, who seems to have been heavily influenced by  Jane Eyre.

 

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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Wanted: A Wife: 1871

woman wearing flower wreath

WANTED— A WIFE.

BY S. ANNIE FROST.

“I wonder,” said pretty Lizzie Thorndyke, looking up from a newspaper, whose columns had held her attention for nearly half an hour, “I wonder if any of these matrimonial advertisements are ever put in the papers in good faith? Here are no less than five, commencing, ‘Wanted— a wife.”‘

“I should think,” responded Anna Green, cousin to Lizzie, “that if a man wanted a wife very badly, his best plan was to go court one. There are plenty of nice girls to be won.”

“Just fancy advertising for a husband, Anna.”

“Can’t. My imagination cannot compass such an absurdity. But what makes you so interested to-day? I’m sure that trash has been in the papers for years.”

“Why, three of these enterprising gentlemen are modest enough to ask for photographs, and I was thinking it would be fun to send some of those in the box Bob left up stairs.”

“What box?”

“Have you never seen it? You know Bob learned to photograph just before he left for California, to be able to take views of scenery. He took lessons of the foreman at Wright & Hill’s, who were burnt out just before Bob left. Bob was at the fire, trying to save all he could, and amongst other things he rescued a box of pictures that they told him to keep. There is the greatest mix of stuff in it— copies of pictures and statues, groups, heads, and quite a lot of pretty faces.”

“But we might send some picture of a person who would get into trouble by it.”

“Oh, no! I wouldn’t send anything but a fancy head; there are plenty of those. I’ll get the box and let you see them.”

The box proved to be a treasure for passing time. It was quite large and well filled, and the two girls found the morning slipping away rapidly as they examined the contents. Suddenly Anna gave a cry of admiration.

“What an exquisite face!”

“That is one of the fancy heads,” said Lizzie, taking the picture from her cousin’s hand.

“Are you certain, Lizzie? It is very lifelike.”

“But very fanciful, Anna. Nobody in these days sits for a photograph with a wreath of field daisies and green leaves round their head, and who ever saw such hair? Why, there is enough to start a chignon factory in flourishing business.”

Anna looked again at the picture. It certainly was fanciful enough to justify Lizzie’s assertion, although the face had an animated expression rarely attained by the pencil. There was only the head set in a framework of clouds, the dimpled shoulders rising from the fleecy clusters, and the sweet face encircled by them. The regular features, exquisite mouth, and large, soft eyes were framed in masses of heavy curls, just caught from the low brow and little ears by a wreath of field daisies, grasses, and leaves.

“It is a lovely, lovely face, Lizzie, is it not?”

“Yes. I think,” said Lizzie, musingly, “that I will send this to Mr. Edgar Holmes; ain’t that the name? Yes,” she added, after a reference to the paper. “Mr. Edgar Holmes, Box No. 47, Waterford, Illinois. Illinois is a good ways from Hilton, Massachusetts, Anna, so I guess he will not come to look for the original very soon. There! how does that look?” and she tossed the picture to her cousin, having written on the margin, “Ever yours, with love, Ida.”

“But, Lizzie, suppose, after all, this should be a real portrait?”

“Nonsense! We certainly know everybody in Hilton.”

“I don’t half like it, Lizzie.”

“Oh, pshaw! You are always fussy. I mean to get some answers from Mr. Edgar Holmes & Co. It will be real fun. Here is one from California and one from New York; pick out two more pictures. O Anna, here is that hateful old maid, Matilda Truefit. I have half a mind to send her.”

“No, I won’t let you, Lizzie. Send only fancy heads.”

“Well, just as you say. Now for the letters. See how nicely I can disguise my hand,” and she wrote a few lines in a stiff, angular hand as legible and almost as unrecognizable as print.

“Anybody can see that it is a disguised hand.”

“Of course they can; but that’s of no consequence. I shall only write a few lines at first, professing deep interest and a desire for further acquaintance. You are as grave as a deacon, Anna.”

“Because it seems to me foolish, a waste of time, to say the best of it, and it may get you into trouble, Lizzie.”

“I’m not afraid. It is all for fun. I shall sign them all ‘Ida,’ and have the answers directed to the same name.”

An hour passed away, almost in silence. Lizzie wrote three letters of the character she had described, while Anna pondered over the pictures, read the newspaper which had inspired her cousin with the new piece of mischief, and perused the letters as they were finished and tossed over to her for criticism.

There were not two prettier girls in Hilton than these cousins— one a resident of the village from her birth, the other a regular visitor for the summer months. Lizzie Thorndyke was a brown-eyed, dark-haired beauty, with a short, plump figure, fair complexion, a tongue that was the terror of every dull-witted youth in the village, and a love of mischief and excitement that made her the leader in every picnic, festival, and frolic for miles around. Anna, a tall, slender blonde, was more quiet and reserved, a resident of Boston, fond of music and literature, but yet ready to enjoy heartily all the pleasures offered during a visit to Hilton in the summer months. Twice her father had taken herself and Lizzie for a trip to Niagara, the lakes, and the White Mountains; but generally Anna spent the summer in Hilton, and Lizzie a portion of each winter in Boston. Many a heedless prank originating in Lizzie’s busy brain Anna had checked in time to prevent mischief and confusion, while her own graver nature was cheered and made happier by intercourse with her lively little cousin. She sat, now, rather soberly perusing Lizzie’s daring epistles, very doubtful of the results of sending them away, yet not trusting her own powers of persuasion to prevent a freak which she saw had taken strong hold of her cousin’s imagination. The letters were all sealed and directed at last, and depositing them in the post-office being postponed for an afternoon walk. Lizzie yawned, declared she was tired to death, and threw herself upon the sofa for a nap, while Anna took up an intricate piece of knitting to pass the time before dinner. One of the letters only is of interest to our readers, and that we will follow to its destination. It was directed to “Mr. Edgar Holmes, Waterford, Illinois,” and contained the beautiful photograph of the girl crowned with field daisies. Lying upon the table, in a neatly-furnished lawyer’s office, half-hidden by a number of other epistles, it was there found by two young gentlemen, who came in chatting and laughing soon after the office-boy had brought the mail from the post-office.

“More answers to my matrimonial advertisement, Al,” said one of the gentlemen, a handsome, bright-eyed young fellow, whose sunny face spoke of a life free from care, and formed, quite a contrast to that of his companion, who was evidently an earnest man, a deep thinker, and of a grave, rather reserved nature.

“How can you tell before opening them?” he inquired, courteously, but evidently feeling no interest in the matter.

“Oh! they are so daintily enveloped and directed, and I can feel the photograph cards.”

As he spoke he was rapidly breaking open his batch of letters, whilst his companion scanned the columns of a morning paper. Suddenly a cry broke from the lips of the younger man.

“What an exquisite face! It cannot be a portrait, but it is lovely. Direct ‘Ida, Hilton, Massachusetts.’ Look at it, Al.”

Albert Clayton languidly stretched out his hand for the card, but the instant his eyes fell upon the picture the whole expression of his face changed. In the place of the look of indifference, there now flashed from his eyes a look, first of utter surprise, then bitter anger, and finally a contempt that was the strongest of all. Once he turned the card to see the name of the artist, and then slowly there gathered upon his brow and round his lip a set, determined look that it was painful to see.

“Why, Al, what ails you?” suddenly cried his friend. “One would think Miss Ida’s was a gorgon’s head.” The forced smile of answer would never have deceived a keener observer, but Edgar Holmes was satisfied with it.

“Let me see the letter, Ned?”

“Certainly. You can be reading it while I am in court. Shall I find you here when I return?”

“Yes. I shall wait for you, for I must leave this evening, you know, for home.”

“I know. I shall miss you constantly. Well, good-morning!”

Left alone, Albert Clayton, after reading the letter signed “Ida,” drew from his vest pocket a card-case, and from its folds a photograph, an exact copy of the daisy-crowned beauty. Well remembered he the day when the lovely face had been so crowned. The original of the picture was his promised wife, into whose keeping he had put the whole treasure of his love, to whom he had given a heart, which, sorely tried by suffering, had never before bowed before the charms of a woman. Educated in a different school, Albert Clayton might have been a trusting, frank nature, but he had been trained from childhood to suspect and question all around him. He had worshipped his parents, and his father, a wealthy Western lawyer, had given him love for love. When that father died, he was a boy at school, and returned for a summer vacation less than two years from the time he was left fatherless to find his mother again married, and to a man whom he had every reason to believe unworthy of any good woman’s affection. Too fully were all his fears for the future realized. His own share of his father’s property was squandered by the new guardian before he was of an age to claim it; his mother, oppressed and ill-treated, died broken-hearted; and his only sister, driven to desperation, eloped with a young scamp, attracted to her by her father’s wealth.

Orphaned and almost penniless before he was quite twenty-one, Albert was offered a home and an opportunity to continue the study of law by his father’s partner, continuing with him long after he knew that he was a mere drudge, half-paid for services his own intellect and hard study soon made valuable to his employer. The practice of his profession was not calculated to increase the young lawyer’s faith in mankind; and when, at the age of thirty, he opened an office of his own in Cincinnati, he had acquired a reputation as a shrewd, long-headed lawyer, impossible to cheat, but a hard, reserved man, devoid of affection for any one. This was the man who, coming one summer to Hilton to investigate a law case in his care, met there Sadie Elkington, the niece of his client, paying a summer visit to her aunt. Something in the pure, sweet face of the young girl, just stepping into womanhood, attracted first the world-hardened man. Watching her jealously, he found a nature open and frank, yet modest, full of all womanly grace and sweetness, and the closed portals of his heart opened, at last, to fold in a close embrace this true woman, who, in winning his love, all unconsciously had given him her own.

It was pronounced rather a dull summer at Hilton. Many of the young people were away, the cousins Lizzie Thorndyke and Anna Green were at Niagara, and picnics, drives, and dances were “few and far between.” But the month occupied by Albert Clayton in the investigation of old Mrs. Elkington’s papers flew by on gilded wings; and when he returned to Cincinnati, Sadie to her father’s home in Boston, it was with mutual promises of constancy, and bright hopes for the future.

Well did Albert Clayton remember the day when the lovely photograph was taken at his request. They had been for a long ramble in the fields, and he had crowned her with daisies, making her so beautiful in his loving eyes that he would not rest until she consented to allow him to carry away the picture of her face as he had adorned it. One year of betrothal, and the wedding day was set for a certain seventh of October, when, again absent from home on a professional visit, Albert found the face of the woman he had loved almost to idolatry inclosed in a letter answering a matrimonial advertisement.

It is impossible to describe the shock given to the fastidious, suspicious nature of this man. He had given, for the first time in many years, the confidence of his heart to another’s keeping. He had thrown aside the suspicions of all human nature, that had warped his own character, to give a trusting, perfect love to one woman. In her he had found all that his starved heart craved of gentleness, affection, and modesty. All her letters were filled with a spirit of devotion, toned down by a sweet, maidenly reserve, that had commanded his respect as well as his affection. Loving faithfully, trusting utterly, he had looked forward to his future happiness as a thing assured and certain.

And now, to find this woman, his promised wife, his ideal of modest refinement, answering a vulgar matrimonial advertisement, sending the picture, for which he had been forced to plead and petition for hours, to be the sport of an unknown man, writing a letter that was an invitation for future correspondence, and covering all only by the flimsy veil of a disguised hand, and a post-office address a few miles from home. Some friend in Hilton, probably, mailed this precious letter, and would call for the answer. Well, his dream was over. He brooded for a long time over his duplicate pictures, then, tossing one back upon young Holmes’ pile of letters, he inclosed the one he had carried over his heart for a twelve-month in a short letter, directed and sealed it, and, taking up his hat, left the office. His return to Cincinnati the same evening had been settled before the receipt of the momentous letter, so his friend was prepared for his departure, though scarcely for his abrupt and hasty farewell.

And while strangers and her dearest were thus ruthlessly destroying Sadie Elkington’s love dream and hopes of happiness, she was living her life of peaceful daily duty, making the sunshine of home, and looking forward to a future of married bliss. Already there were piles of snowy linen, daintily embroidered by her own skilful fingers, lying in readiness for the trousseau , and daily some such needlework passed through her busy hands, while she sat and dreamed of Albert, his love, and her own powers of rendering him happy. It was a very pure, unselfish love this fair young girl had given to her betrothed. With quick, womanly instinct she had read the character of the reserved suspicious man, penetrated the crust of his proud reticence, and knew that her love was to him almost his sole hopes of faith in any human excellence. She knew also, that from this hard mistrust and cynicism, it was often but one step to positive infidelity, and it was her earnest prayer that she might be permitted so to soften this noble heart as to let in upon it a fuller light and higher faith than it could ever know whilst clouded by doubts of all mankind. Sadie Elkington would have smiled had any one suggested to her that there was any sacrifice in her prospects for the future. She loved Albert Clayton with all the fervor of a first love, and it had never occurred to her to contrast her own home with the one awaiting her. The eldest of a family of nine children, she had learned early to make all the little sacrifices of her own comfort daily required from the oldest sister in a large family. Her father almost worshipped her, while her mother could scarcely endure the prospect of seeing this loving, tender daughter leave the home she had brightened so long, for one so far away. Yet hiding away their own grief, the loving parents were aiding in the preparation of a bridal outfit that was to be as perfect as ample means, taste, and loving care could make it. The mother and daughter were in the sitting-room just before the dinner hour, discussing the merits of a new collar pattern, when Mr. Elkington came to the door, holding a bundle in one hand, a letter in the other.

“There, Miss Sadie,” he said, opening the paper to unroll a piece of superb blue silk, “see if you can get a petticoat out of that. Mamma, there, will lend you some old cotton lace to trim it.”

“Not a yard,” laughed his wife. “Why, you extravagant man, this is the third Irish poplin.”

“Fully paid for by the kisses Sadie has just given me. What are you gazing at this letter for, Sadie? Women are never satisfied. Give them finery and they want flattery. Well, there is your sugar plum.”

“Sadie! Sadie!”

It was a startled cry from the mother that broke the interval of silence following the opening of the letter. The young girl tried to answer the cry, but the stiff white lips were powerless to move, and with a moan of pain she fainted, falling heavily upon the dress just received with warm, shy blushes, and representing so much thoughtful love.

Mr. Elkington took up the letter which had fallen from the nerveless hand, and while his wife was trying to restore life to the insensible girl, he was seeking the cause of her sudden fall.

“Sadie’s picture! Valueless when shared with others! Trusts her new love may prove more agreeable than the old! Shocked at her want of maidenly modesty! What does the fellow mean, mother? How dare he insult our Sadie by such a letter. Useless to answer, as he intends to leave Cincinnati at once. Well for him! He had better get beyond the reach of my horsewhip, for my arm is not yet too weak to thrash the scoundrel!”

“Hush, father; she is recovering,” said Mrs. Elkington, interrupting the passionate exclamations and bitter readings from the letter.

Sadie was, indeed, reviving, and trying to realize her own position.

“Father,” she said, as her father came to her with the fatal letter still in his hand, “what does he mean? How can he write so cruelly to me?”

“He is a rascal!” said the angry old gentleman; “a scoundrel! He has found some newer face to flatter, and tries to make you to blame for his inconstancy. Why, the letter is perfectly absurd upon the face of it. Accusing you of having another love, and giving your photograph to some one else! You, who have lived like a nun ever since Sir Jealousy condescended to bestow his regards upon you! You, who are such a model of reserve and devotion, that your own old father has been jealous fifty times of your fiancé, to be accused of a want of maidenly modesty! I should like to wring the fellow’s neck.”

“There is some terrible mistake, father.”

“Mistake! I should think there was a mistake! There was a mistake when we all believed him an honorable, upright gentleman, if he was a grumpy, sulky companion; and a grand mistake when we believed him capable of appreciating our Sadie, and making her an affectionate husband.”

“But, father, I am sure he has been deceived in some way.”

He deceived! I think it is we who have been deceived! Well, there, don’t look at me so pitifully. I won’t rave any more. Here, mother, you talk to her.” And, conscious of his own inability to talk quietly, the angry, insulted father went off to the library to march up and down, and work off his wrath in solitude. Poor Sadie! It was in vain she read the cruel letter over and over to try to find some solution of the mystery. She could not accept her father’s theory of Albert’s voluntary renunciation of her love. Some influence had been at work upon his jealous, suspicious nature, she felt convinced, though what it was, she could not divine. It was a hard blow, and her cross seemed almost too heavy to carry, but she put out of sight the pretty clothing collected with so much care, and full of such loving associations, locked up the letters that she had welcomed so eagerly, responded to so faithfully, and bravely crushing her own sorrow out of sight, was always the loving child, the devoted sister to the home circle, fully appreciating the tender care her mother bestowed upon her, and the delicacy which kept back all her father’s expressions of anger. She was not one to parade her grief or bare her heart for any eye, and the effort to appear calm and cheerful was rewarded by a real feeling of resignation. She had done no wrong, and perhaps at some future time Albert might learn how truly and faithfully she had loved him; in the mean time she would try to find happiness in her home, her parents’ love, and her friends’ society. A very dull commonplace view of the matter, perhaps, but one that required more real unselfish heroism than many an act admired by the world. Four years passed away with many changes, and Albert Clayton returned from a prolonged European trip to Cincinnati, and again opened an office for the practice of law. Amongst the many friends who came to offer him a word of welcome, he was surprised one morning to receive a call from Edgar Holmes.

“When I heard you had left Cincinnati, Al, I thought I would come for a while, and see if some of your clients would not fancy me for a substitute.”

“I hope you have done well!” said Albert, politely.

“Oh, yes, pretty well. You must drop in when you are passing and see how the old office looks. By the way, you know I am a married man, don’t you?”

“No, indeed! Did you marry Miss Elkington?”

The name seemed almost to choke him, spoken for the first time in four long years.

“Miss Elkington? Never heard of her in my life. What put that into your head?”

“I— was she not the lady who answered your advertisement for a wife?”

“O Al, I must tell you all about that. Can you listen to a long story?”

“Yes.”

“Well, about two years ago, I had business which called me to Boston, and amongst other gentlemen friends there, was one Mr. Green, who made me welcome to a very pleasant home, and introduced me to a pretty daughter and an equally pretty niece, Miss Lizzie Thorndyke, of Hilton, Mass. Miss Lizzie was in Boston purchasing her bridal finery, being engaged to a young gentleman from New York. It was not long before I noticed that the young lady avoided me as much as possible, seeming half afraid of me when thrown into my company. My business was soon transacted, but my heart was yielding to the charms of Anna Green, and I lingered in the city, trying to win an answering affection. I succeeded, and won the father’s consent to my suit. The day was set for a double wedding, the cousins wishing to be married at the same time. You look bored, Al!”

“Oh no, go on,” said Albert, who certainly did look bored.

“Well, to make a long story short, Lizzie’s fiancé, Mr. Moreton, came on from New York, preparations were going on for the wedding, and everything was pleasant, when one evening we were all seated in the parlor chatting. Amongst other subjects, the one of matrimonial advertisements came up. I saw that Lizzie looked distressed, but suspecting nothing, I laughed about my correspondent Ida, and read two or three of her last letters— warm enough they were, too— for the benefit of the party. Mr. Moreton expressed his opinion on the indelicacy of such a correspondence in no measured terms, finally declaring that he would disown his own sister if she was guilty of such a proceeding. Fancy our amazement when Lizzie, as white as ashes, started to her feet, crying out:—

“‘O Robert, don’t, don’t say so! I am Ida!’ and fell in a dead faint upon the floor.”

“But the picture?” said Albert Clayton, himself as pale as a corpse .

“That was a fancy head her brother picked up in some photograph gallery in Hilton. Are you going to faint, Al?”

“No, no,” he said, rousing himself by a great effort; “finish your story.” “There is not much more to tell. Robert, touched by Lizzie’s distress, and influenced by Anna’s entreaties, forgave her, but there came into his manner a reserve and coolness of which he, himself, I think, was unconscious, but which grated terribly on Lizzie’s sensitive, high strung spirit. For a week or two there was a sort of enforced peace, and then the engagement was broken by mutual consent, Lizzie returning to Hilton, and Mr. Moreton to New York, before the wedding day which gave me the dearest wife in the world. I was half afraid I should lose her for my share in the correspondence, but she never referred to it, and you may be sure I did not. Ten o’clock! I must go. You will come soon to see us, Al? No.— Fourth Street.”

He was gone at last. For hours Albert Clayton paced his office floor, now and then sighing out:—

“O Sadie, Sadie, can you ever forgive me?”

Then he sat down to write to her whom he had so cruelly misjudged; but letter after letter was tossed into the fire, till, finally, giving up that task, he packed a valise and started for Boston. It was not Sadie’s nature to be unforgiving when he pleaded for pardon. He should have known her better, she thought, but she made all allowance for the strong evidence against her. It was not so easy to win the old gentleman over; he growled and scolded, made sarcastic speeches, and was altogether most impenetrable, till Sadie’s pleading face and great pitiful eyes silenced him.

“You really think you can forgive him, and trust your happiness to him?” he asked.

“Yes, father,” was the quiet answer, but the expressive face lighted with pleasure.

“Well, get out your finery again, and I —”

“Will go buy more Irish poplins,” laughed his wife.

Nobody ever knew exactly how the story got to Hilton, but Lizzie— still Miss Thorndyke— found all eyes would turn upon her if, in company, any allusion was made to the advertisements headed, “Wanted, a Wife.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Strong evidence? Indeed, no matter how fastidious and suspicious his nature, the lover should have known her better and any lawyer worth his fee should have thought her innocent until proven guilty.  At the very least, he should have given her the chance to look at the “evidence” and refute it. Why did he not call upon a graphology expert? And even at this early date, fingerprints could have been revealed by iodine fumes and compared with Miss Elkington’s. One wonders how accomplished a lawyer Clayton actually was. He seems to have lacked the ability to examine the case against his beloved in a scrupulously fair manner, yet possessed the imagination of a fiend when it came to believing her guilty. Mrs Daffodil hopes that they lived happily ever after and that he devoted his life to making amends for his vile suspicions, but is not sanguine.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the imprudence of the promiscuous sending of photographs.

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

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

 

A Spectral Shadow–The Nurse’s Story: 1880s

 

ghost in bedchamber british library 1895 cut

A Spectral Shadow.

Sir,—The following incident was related to me by a nurse whose veracity I have no reason to doubt; on the contrary, I am justified in believing anything she might tell me, knowing what I do of her character and truthfulness. The statement was as follows:—

Some years ago, I was sent for to nurse a woman, who had been engaged to attend on a lady who was slightly mentally deranged, and lived with a sister. The ladies were elderly and well off. The attendant, a powerful and rather coarse- featured woman, was very ill when I was called to her, and not expected to live, and her illness had been brought about in the following way:—

The attendant had been some three months in the house and had managed to give every satisfaction to the sister and to the doctor, but was greatly feared and disliked by the patient, who complained bitterly of the harsh and cruel treatment to which this woman had subjected her; but the sister and doctor merely put this complaint down to the patient’s state of mind, and pooh-poohed it as a delusion—the attendant strenuously denying the accusation, in which the poor lady persisted. My informant, however, gave it as her opinion that the poor lady’s complaints were justified and ought to have received the attention which, as after events proved, they did not receive and which would have averted the terrible consequences that followed.

One morning, early in June, there had been a scene in the bedroom; the lady had cried out for help and complained of her attendant’s harshness and cruelty, but the attendant said that her patient had been very violent, and must be left to her, as she was responsible, and she forbade everyone to enter the room, saying that she would soon quiet the patient if allowed to manage her in her own way. As the lady ceased her cries the attendant descended to the kitchen for her patient’s breakfast, and, taking advantage of her absence, the poor lady threw herself from her bedroom window and was picked up dead. The fright of the death simply paralysed the attendant, and as she was unable to do anything she was put to bed. She became worse, could not attend the inquest or be removed, and I was sent for to nurse her at night, another nurse remaining with her by day, we being paid by the lady’s sister.

On the sixth night, as the weather was close, I opened the windows and fastened back the door, which opened into a narrow passage about twenty feet long. My patient had been very restless and was lying in an uneasy sleep, muttering as she lay. I placed myself at a small table, where I could see down the passage I have named, then lowered the gas on account of the heat, and was reading by the dim light of a candle, when I became conscious of a sudden fall in the temperature of the room. It seemed to me that an icy, deathlike cold, such as I had never before imagined could exist, a tangible cold, had suddenly surrounded me. I rose from my chair to account, if I could, for this strange occurrence, when, as I looked down the passage, I saw a moving shadow. Unable to stir, I watched, and soon defined something in human shape, but a shadow only, approaching me. Slowly it moved, bringing with it a still colder atmosphere, and before I could utter a sound the shadow, with its unseeing eyes, walked to the bed and stood there, leaning over the foot. I then saw that it was an elderly woman, with streaming hair and features drawn with pain. She was solemnly gazing at the other woman in the bed, who, however, did not see the ghostly shadow, but continued her mutterings and restless movements.

It seemed to me that the shadow stood thus for an hour, looking intently at the sick woman, and then slowly, with a backward glance at the bed, it left the room and was lost in the shadows of the passage. As it departed the atmosphere of the room recovered its normal temperature as quickly as it had lost it.

On looking at my watch, I found the incident had lasted about eight or nine minutes. I was so terrified I went at once to the servants’ room, and one returned with me, who assured me that she had often seen the shadow, which she believed to be that of her late mistress, but she was not afraid. I found, on inquiry, that two nurses had left on account of the shadow’s visit, and as I had no wish to see it again I was relieved of night duty, at my request, and the servant took my place. The woman eventually recovered, and then the remaining sister gave up the house and left the town, and whether the present occupants of the house have ever seen the ghostly shadow that so completely upset my nerves I do not know_

Yours, &c.,

Dora de Bike.

Light 7 August 1909: p. 382

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghost who returns to take revenge on its murderer is a well-known figure in supernatural literature. This case raises questions about the efficacy of such revenge-bound revenants—were this a fictional story, the paralysed nurse would have fallen back dead, a look of stark, staring horror on her face, when confronted with the spectre of the elderly lady at the foot of the bed. Alternately she would have contracted a fatal chill from the icy, deathlike cold permeating the room.  A sadly ineffectual spectre, one fears—possibly so enfeebled by her own illness she could not successfully frighten her tormentor to death.

 

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

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

A Skull for a Bonnet: 1896

 

a brooklyn woman whose bonnet is a skull

It is once again “World Goth Day,” a time to celebrate the dark, the decadent, and the black-garbed—although, frankly, Mrs Daffodil tries to quietly exemplify those qualities year-round.  And what better way to celebrate than with a superlative example of morbid millinery?

A SKULL FOR A BONNET.

A BROOKLYN WOMAN HAS THE MOST SENSATIONAL HEAD COVERING IN THE WORLD.

A Brooklyn woman is the proud possessor of the most gruesome headgear ever seen atop of a feminine head. She is proud of her curious bonnet chiefly because it is unique, and the consciousness that it cannot easily be duplicated by her envious sisters adds not a little to her feminine joy.

About a month ago the lady’s husband, a well-known physician of the City of Churches, took home a human skull, which the woman laughingly placed on her head, saying: “How is this, John for a stunning effect?”
“By Jove!” replied the husband, “the effect certainly is stunning. But the authorities would arrest you if you appeared on the street in that sort of head-dress.”

There the matter dropped. But the wife, full of a new idea, had the skull carefully cleaned and polished and, with a deftness known only to the hands of woman, fashioned an affair of skull, feathers and ribbons which, when completed, was as original an arrangement as one could imagine.

“It will make a great sensation,” said the lady of the skull bonnet to a horrified woman friend. And she was right, for wherever the grinning death’s-head, in its downy bower of feathers and ribbons, is seen it causes people to gape in utter amazement. The woman’s audacity is admired by the men, but roundly condemned by the women.

Still, the lady of the skull bonnet is quite indifferent to the criticism of either sex. To be sure, it is only on very especial occasions that the hideously pretty headgear is worn abroad, and then it is generally at night.

You may imagine the surprise of the woman’s husband when he first saw the very practical use to which his wife had put the skull he so innocently brought home. He remonstrated with his wife but to no end, for she contended with true womanly logic, that if it considered proper to wear the dead bodies of birds as a means of decoration, why should not a mere skull be just as properly employed for an artistic effect?

Even so convincing an argument failed to alter the view of the do tor, and he has gone so far as to offer his wife a splendid new bicycle if she will cast aside her queer headgear and don something more conventional. But the bonnet is still in readiness for my lady’s first walk abroad, and will be until she accepts her husband’s munificent compromise.

The St. Louis [MO] Post-Dispatch 11 October 1896: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil rarely wonders at the morbid vagaries of the human race, but she is pursing her lips dubiously about the strict veracity of the tale above. The lady and her well-known physician husband are not named and the image does not convince us it is anything more than a portrait drawn from the artist’s fancy. One wonders if it was merely a satire about the hyperbolic hat styles of the late nineteenth century?

On the other hand, medical students and physicians, quite aside from their proclivities for stealing corpses and treating dissection-room subjects with levity, were known for some very grisly fancies, such as turning human remains into articles such as shoes, tobacco pouches, jewellery, tobacco jars, and drinking vessels. So one cannot entirely rule out the possibility of a skull being casually brought home by a physician. And the late nineteenth century was known for some decadent entertainments, such as the Cabaret du Néant, where the waiters dressed as undertakers and patrons sat at coffin-shaped tables, drank from skull-shaped cups, and watched Death-themed floor shows.

Surprisingly, the term “skull bonnet” was a well-known millinery term. For example:

A fashion writer refers to  “the ugly old skull bonnet we used to see during the war.” in The Weekly Era [Raleigh NC] 8 October 1874: p. 2

A small skull bonnet of straw, the crown surrounded with flowers, is worn with this [spring morning] costume.” (spring morning costume)

The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser 5 May 1881: p. 4

Tiny skull-cap bonnets are mentioned in The Graphic [London, England] 29 April 1893: p. 20

And in other advertisements we see “French Skull Bonnets” [1897]; Silk Skull Bonnets [1906] and the phrase is used to describe the 1920’s cloche: “The modern skull-tight bonnet” [1924]. The term seems simply to mean a bonnet with a tight-fitting crown.

Mrs Daffodil would be delighted to see proof that this was a genuine lady with a taste for truly macabre millinery.  And she wishes those who celebrate it a happy World Goth 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 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 Best-Natured Woman in the United States: 1882

sleeping it off drunkard British Library

Sleeping It Off. British Library

An Angel Unalloyed.

The best natured woman in the United States lives in Austin. She has been married a number of years to a man named Ferguson, but she and her husband have never had a quarrel yet, and lie has frequently boasted that it was utterly impossible to make her angry. Ferguson made several desperate attempts to see if he could not exasperate her to look cross or scowl at him, merely to gratify his curiosity, but the more outrageous he acted, the more affable and loving she behaved.

Last week he was talking with, a friend about what a hard time he had trying to find out if his wife had a temper. The friend offered to bet that if Ferguson were to go home drunk, raise a row and pull the tablecloth full of dishes off the table, she would show some signs of annoyance. Ferguson said he didn’t want to rob a friend of his money, for he knew he would win; but they at last made a bet of $50, the friend to hide in the front yard and watch the proceedings of the convention through the window.

Ferguson came home late, and, apparently, fighting drunk. She met him at the gate, kissed him, and assisted his tottering steps to the house. He sat down in the middle of the floor, and howled out: “Confound yer ugly picture, what did you mean by pulling that chair, from under me?”

“O, I hope you did not hurt yourself. It is my awkwardness, but I’ll try and not do it again,” and helped him to his feet, although she had nothing in the world to do with his falling.

He then sat down on the sofa, and, sliding off on the floor, abused her like a pickpocket for lifting up the other end of the sofa, all of which she took good naturedly, and finally she led him to the supper table. He threw a plate at her, but she acted as if she had not noticed it, and asked him if he would take tea or coffee.

Then the brute seized the table cloth and sat down on the floor, pulling the dishes and everything else over with him, in one grand crash.

What did this noble woman do? Do you suppose she grumbled and talked about going home to her ma, or that she sat down and cried like a fool, or that she sulked and pouted? Not a bit of it. With a pleasant smile she said:

“Why, George, that’s a new idea, isn’t it? We have been married ten years and have never yet ate our supper on the floor. Won’t it be fun—just like those picnics we used to go to before we got married?” and then this angelic woman deliberately sat down on the floor along side of the wretch, arranged the dishes and fixed him a nice supper.

This broke George all up. He owned up he was only fooling her, and offered to give her the $50 to get herself a new hat, but she took the money and bought him a new suit of clothes and a box of cigars. Heaven will have to be repaired and whitewashed before it is fit for that kind of a woman.—Galveston News.

Bennington [VT] Banner 7 September 1882: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is filled with admiration for the patience and forbearance of the sorely-tried Mrs Ferguson. It is always prudent for a wife to be meek and smiling and endlessly agreeable to her Lord and Master, as it will eliminate her as a suspect when the drunken brute is poisoned by a particularly nice pie.

 

 

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 Baroness is Mistaken for a Shop-Lifter: 1871

baroness burdett-coutts

An Anecdote of Baroness Burdett Coutts.

By Mrs. Laura Curtis Bullard

Miss Burdett Coutts, upon whom Queen recently conferred the rank and title of baroness, is a tall, gaunt, angular woman, who more nearly resembles the traditional and popular type of the strong-minded female than any one of the prominent members of the woman’s rights party whom I have ever met.  A tolerably wide acquaintance with the leaders of this movement on both sides of the Atlantic has convinced me that scragginess is not a characteristic of the genuine “woman’s rights woman.” But in justice to Miss Coutts, I must hasten to say that her personal resemblance to the typical strong-minded female does not result from sympathy-with the sisterhood. On the contrary, she cherishes for this class the most wholesome aversion, and has taken pains publicly to disavow all participation in their sentiments, aims and purposes.

Miss Coutts is no longer young, but she has a fancy that juvenile bonnets become her—which it is scarcely necessary to say, a mistake on her part. In short, neither in person nor in dress is she the attractive woman she would be if nobility of soul, of heart and purity of character revealed themselves in personal beauty or accompanied by an instinctive knowledge of the sources of good taste which is unfortunately not often the case.

But where Miss Coutts is known no one would ever give a thought to the minor and external defects of this truly noble-souled and generous-hearted woman, whose generous  liberality is as widespread as the fact that she is the wealthiest commoner in England.

Angela Burdett-Coutts 1882 National Portrait Gallery

Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, 1882, National Portrait Gallery

Of course she is a well-known and most welcome customer at all the fashionable shops in London, but she is not so familiar a habitue of the shops of Paris. During a visit to this latter city, not long since, she learned of the death of a distant relative, and she went to purchase mourning  to the shop, the Trois Quartiers, a large dry goods establishment something like, “to compare great things with small,” our own Stewart’s. She asked for mourning dress goods, and was shown, by one of the attentive shop-men to the proper department. “Please show this lady mourning stuffs,” he said, “two-ten.”

Miss Coutts made her selection and then asked for mourning collars; the clerk who waited on her accompanied her to the proper counter. “Please show this lady mourning collars-—two-ten,” said he, and left her. From this department she went look for mourning pocket handkerchiefs, escorted by the clerk, who passed her over to his successor, with the request, “show this lady pocket handkerchiefs—two-ten.”

As she had still other articles to buy, she was escorted from counter to counter, department to department, and everywhere these cabalistic words, ” two-ten,” were repeated by one clerk to another.

Struck by the peculiarity of this refrain, asked the proprietor, as she left the establishment, “Pray what does two-ten mean? I noticed each clerk said it to the other in your shop.”

“Oh, it is nothing,” he replied; “merely a password that they are in the habit of exchanging.”

But Miss Coutts was not satisfied with explanation. Her woman’s curiosity was piqued, and she resolved to unravel the riddle. So, in the evening, when the porter,  a young boy, brought home her purchases, after paying her bill, she said, “My boy, would you like to earn five francs?”

Of course the lad had no objection to and only wanted to know in what way he could do it.

“Tell me,” said the lady,’ “what does ‘two-ten’ mean ? I will give you five francs.”

“Why, don’t you know, ma’am?” said he, evidently amazed at her ignorance; “it means keep your two eyes on her ten fingers.”

The mystery was solved at last. All the clerks of the Trois Quarters had taken the richest woman in Great Britain for a shop-lifter.

She tells the story with great gusto, and one of her friends to whom she had related it in Paris repeated it to me.

The Titusville [PA] Herald 6 October 1871: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906) was (after the Queen) the wealthiest woman in England. A practical and an energetic woman, she used her fortune for the benefit of a large range of charities including co-founding the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which became The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. While she might have fallen prey to fortune-hunters, she lived with her governess for much of her life, although she did propose to her neighbour, the Duke of Wellington, who at the time was seventy-eight to her thirty-three years. He refused her gently and they remained friends. After the death of her governess, (and a decade after the story above) she shocked the world by marrying her protégé and secretary, a young American named William Ashmead-Bartlett, who was twenty-nine to her sixty-seven. In so doing, she forfeited most of her fortune, (the terms of her inheritance did not allow marriages to foreigners)  but by all accounts she counted all well lost for love. Her husband became an MP and carried on a legacy of philanthropy after her death.

We have read of refined lady shoplifters before in Prepared to Carry off the Store, The Lady and the Laces, and The Rat in the Muff.

 

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.

Something Advantageous: 1840s

SOMETHING ADVANTAGEOUS;

OR, A FAMILY FRACAS.

I once attended a very poor old man of the name of Jordan, in his last illness. I call him poor, but yet he was not in want, and had about him the comforts of life. When he was near his end, he said to me—

‘Doctor, I want to know the truth from you. I am not in the habit of being flattered by the world. There was a time, indeed, when it ‘fooled me to the top of my bent;’ but that was long ago. Do you not flatter me, but tell me your real opinion. Shall I soon die, or shall I linger on a brief career, in a world I am quite willing to be done with?’

‘You desire me,’ replied I, ‘to be candid with you, and I will. You are on your death bed.’

‘How soon shall I be immortal?’

‘That I can not say. But your hours, so far as human experience can teach me to predict, are numbered.’

He was silent for a few moments, and a slight spasm passed across his face.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘it is the lot of all. I have lived long enough.’

‘Is there no friend or relation, Mr. Jordan,’ said I, ‘to whom you would wish to send? You are here, as you have often told me, quite alone in lodgings. Perhaps you would like to revive some old recollections before you leave the world.’

‘Not one,’ he said.

‘Are you so completely isolated?

‘Most completely. I have tried all relations, and found them wanting. But still I have remembered them, and made my will. It is now between the mattress and sacking of this bed, and Mr. Shaw, the only honest attorney I ever met with, and who resides in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, will carry my intentions into effect I was rich once in early life. How dark a day.’

‘What day?’

‘To-day. How dark and misty it has come over, doctor.’

His sight was going fast, and I felt certain that it would require but little patience, and a small sacrifice of time to see the last of Mr. Jordan.

‘Yes,’ he continued, speaking in an odd, spasmodic fashion. ‘Yes, I was rich, and had many a crawling sycophant about me, many smiling faces at my board; but there came a reverse, and like fair flowers at a sudden frost, my kind friends hid their heads. I was nearly destitute, and thinking and believing that the ties of blood would be strong enough to bind to me, in my distress, those with whom I claimed kindred, and who had been delighted to claim kindred with me, I went to them, a visitor.’

‘And failed.’

‘And failed, as you say. They dropped from me one by one. Some remembered slight offenses; some were never at home; some really thought I must have been dreadfully improvident, and, until they were convinced I had not, could not assist me. Doors were shut in my face—window blinds pulled down as I passed. I was shunned as a pestilence — my clothes were in rags — my step feeble from long want of common necessaries. And then an old school companion died in the West Indies, and left me £20,000, which I received through the hands of Mr. Shaw.’

‘A large fortune! And your relations?’

‘Heard of it, and were frantic. I disappeared from them all. From that day to this, they have not heard of me. Do you love wild flowers?’

‘Wild flowers?’

‘Yes. Here are heaps just from the teeming garden. Look, too, how yon cherub twines them in her hair. The stream flows deep to eternity!’

‘Mr. Jordan, sir,’ I cried. ‘Mr. Jordan, do you know me.’

‘Come hither, laughing, gentle spirit,’ he said, ‘bring with you your heap of floral gems. Yes, I know this is the sweet violet. Mary, my Mary; God knows I love you.’

It was a strange thing but, at the moment the blind of the window, which I had drawn up to the top, came suddenly rattling down, and the room was quite dark. I raised it again, and then turned to the bed,

Mr. Jordan was a corpse!

What a remarkable change had in these few moments come over the old man’s face. The sharp lines of age had all disappeared, and there was a calm, benign expression upon the still features, such as in life I never saw them wear.

‘A restless spirit is at peace,’ I said, as I felt for the will where he told me it was placed, and found it. It was merely tied up with a piece of red tape, and addressed to Mr. Shaw, 20, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields; so I resolved to trust no other messenger, but to take it in my hand myself. I told the landlady of the house that her lodger was no more; and that she would no doubt hear immediately from his solicitor, and then I left.

‘Well, Mr. Shaw,’ I said, after I had mentioned to him the manner of Mr. Jordan’s death, ‘here is the will, sir, and I presume I have nothing further to do than to thank you for your courtesy, and bid you good evening.’

‘Stay a moment,’ he said. ‘Let me look at the document. Humph! a strange will. He leaves the form of an advertisement here, which is to be inserted in the morning papers, calling his relations together, to here the will read.’

‘Indeed!’

‘Yes, Well, I shall, as I see I am named trustee, do as he wishes. He states that he is very poor.’

‘Why, he spoke to me of £20,000.’

‘Did he really? A delusion, sir, quite a delusion. £20,000! He had that amount twenty-five years ago. But, sir, as you have attended him, and as I happen to know he had a high opinion of you, I should like you, as his friend, to be with me, as it were, in future proceedings connected with his will!”

‘In which there is a mystery, eh! Mr. Shaw!’

‘A little—perhaps a little bit of post mortem revenge, that is all, which I am not now at liberty to descant upon. But I will take care to coincide with you, and I shall hope that you will follow the old fellow to the grave.’

I promised that much, and duly attended the funeral. It was a quiet, walking affair, and from the manner of it I felt quite convinced that there were not funds to make it otherwise. A mound of earth alone marked the spot in the little church-yard at Barnes, where Mr. Jordan slept the sleep that knows no waking. A drizzling rain came down. The air was cold and eager, and I returned home from the funeral of Mr. Jordan, about as uncomfortable as I could.

o o o o o o

The next day the following advertisement appeared in a morning paper, and caught my eye as I sat at breakfast:

‘If any of the relations of Mr. John James Jordan, deceased, will call at the office of Mr. Shaw, 20, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, they will hear of something advantageous.’

I made up my mind to call upon Mr. Shaw during the day, and about three o’clock, I reached his chambers, or rather I reached the stair-case leading to them, and there I had to stop, for it was quite besieged by men and women, who were all conversing with great eagerness.

‘What can it mean?’ said an old woman; ‘I’m his aunt, and of course I speak for my Ned!’

‘Well, but bother your Ned,’ said a man, ‘he hardly really belongs to the family. I’m his brother. Think of that, Mrs. Dean.’

‘Think of what, you two-legged goose?’

‘Pho, pho,’ said another man, ‘I knew him very well. I’m his cousin. Hilloa! what’s this? Who are you?’

A woman in tattered garments, but who still looked like a beautiful one, stood hesitatingly at the foot of the stairs.

‘Is this Mr. Shaw’s?’ she said. ‘Hush, Mary, hush! don’t my dear.’ ‘But I am hungry, mamma,’ said the little girl, who was holding her by a handful of her dress.

‘Oh, Mary—do not dear; we—we shall soon go home. Hush, dear, hush, hush! Is this Mr. Shaw’s?’

‘Yes,’ said a fat woman, ‘and who is you, pray?’

‘I—I saw an advertisement. I am his aunt Grace’s only child. My name is Mary Grantham. This is my only child. She—she is fatherless and has been so for many a day,’

‘What,’ cried a man, ‘are you the Mary he broke his heart about?’

‘Broke his fiddlestick,’ said the fat woman.

‘Good God, do I live to hear that!’ exclaimed the woman with the child.

‘You had better go up to the solicitor at once,’ whispered I. ‘Come, I will show his door,’

I made a way for her through the throng of persons, and we soon reached the chamber.

‘Here is another of Mr. Jordan’s relations, Mr. Shaw,’ said I, ‘I find you have had quite a levee.’

‘I have indeed, doctor. You must come at twelve o’clock, next Monday, madam, when the will of Mr. Jordan will be read by me to all around.’

‘I thank you, sir.’ She was about to leave the chambers, when I interposed.

‘Pardon me, madam,’ I said. ‘But as I was the only person with Mr. Jordan, at the time of his decease, I wish to ask you a question. If I mistake not, your name was the last that passed his lips. ‘Mary, my Mary,’ he said, ‘God knows that I loved you!’

She sank into a chair, and burst into tears.

‘You, then,’ I added, ‘are the Mary whom he loved. Ah, why did you not, if you can weep for him now, reciprocate the passion?’

‘I did love him,’ she cried; ‘God knows, and he, who is now with his God, knows how I loved him. But evil tongues came between us, and we were separated. He was maligned to me, and I was wearied by entreaties and tears, until I married another. She, who has turned me from him, and severed two hearts that would and should have been all the world to each other, confessed the sin upon her death-bed.’

‘Who was it?’ said Mr. Shaw.

‘His mother! From no other source could I have believed the tales I was told. But I did not then know enough of the world to think that there were mothers who could malign their own children. We were

Separated–my husband died, leaving me that last little one, of many. We are very, very poor—no one will help us—an acquaintance showed me the advertisement, and urged me to come—it was a false hope. But I find that there are strong arms and brawling tongues below, that I can not contend against.’

‘Never mind that,’ said the solicitor; ‘it is my duty to read the will on Monday, and as a relation it is your duty to attend at the same time. I tell you to have no expectations.’

I saw Mr. Shaw try to slip some money into her hand, and I saw a crimson flush come over her face as she said, ‘We can still work:’ and then, fearing she had been harsh to one who wished to be kind, she shook his hand in both of hers, and said. ‘God bless you, sir, I thank you from my heart.’

Bang, bang! came to the door of the chamber, a minute after Mary had left, and upon its being opened, a man of about six and thirty made his appearance.

‘Something advantageous!’ he gasped, for he was out of breath; ‘what—what is it? Give it me, give it me! How much? Good God, don’t let any body else have it. I’m his youngest brother—give it to me.’

‘If you will attend here at 12 o’clock on Monday, the will will be read.’

Bang, bang, bang!

‘I’m thoroughly besieged,’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘now, madam, who are you?’

‘Something advantageous,’ screamed a masculine looking woman;

‘I’m a relative—what is it? Come on, my dears. Here’s my five dear daughters, and my baby—come along.’

‘Be off with you,’ cried the younger brother.

‘Did you speak to me, you wretch,’ said the lady, and she planted a blow in his face that made him reel again. ‘Take that; I know you are a sneaking hound; you used to be called the chimpanzee in the family, you poor, scorched-up-looking bundle of cat’s-meat.’

Several more arrivals now took place, and poor Mr. Shaw was fairly bewildered. Sounds of contention arose on the staircase—shrieks from family combatants came upon our ears, and finally, I advised Mr. Shaw to paste a placard on the outer door of his office, on which was written,

‘The will of Mr. Jordan will be read here on Monday next, at twelve o’clock, precisely.’

The riot gradually subsided. The evening came on, and all the relations of the deceased had been and gone. Mr. Shaw and I supped together, and I promised to be with him punctually at twelve o’clock on Monday, for I was as curious as anybody could be to hear the will read, and at all events, anticipated a bustling scene upon the occasion. I was not doomed to be disappointed.

o o o o o

It is a habit of mine rather to be too soon than too late, and in the present instance I found it a most useful one, for I really almost doubt if I should have got into the chambers of Mr. Shaw at all, if I had been later than I was.

I had fairly to push Mrs. Mary Grantham in, despite a vigorous opposition; and a man stopped my own entrance, crying—

‘Who are you? What relation are you?’

‘His grandfather’s uncle,’ said I; ‘and if you don’t make way I’ll pull the nose off your face.’

It was well that Mr. Shaw occupied very spacious chambers, or otherwise he could not have accommodated one-half of the persons who came to the reading of the will; and never in all my life did I see such malignant looks pass from one to another, as shot from the eyes of the relations. It was a most pitiful picture of human nature.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘ahem! ahem!’

There was a death-like stillness.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am commissioned to read to you the—the —what shall I call it?—it is hardly a will—of the late Mr. Jordan. No, it certainly ought not to be called a will, for a will, properly speaking, is a testamentary—”

‘Read, read, read!’ cried a dozen voices.

‘Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to see you are all in respectable mourning.’

‘Except one,’ said the younger brother; ‘there’s his Mary, that he was so fond of. Oh, dear me! she only comes for what she can get.’

Mrs. Grantham burst into tears. There was a little shabby piece of black crape upon her arm, and another upon the arm of her child.

‘I—I could not,’ she said; ‘I could not do more. God help me! I had not the means!’

‘Read, read, read!’ cried all the voices.

‘Ahem!’ said Mr. Shaw, reading; ‘I, John James Jordan, being very poor, and having in vain called upon every relation I have in the world, for assistance, and found none, have to state that my heart was filled with bitterness and uncharitableness toward them. But still I think that they are not dead to all feeling; and this being my last will and testament, I desire that my debts, amounting to the sum of one pound, three shillings, and eight pence, be paid forthwith of my estate; that my funeral be strictly private, in Barnes churchyard, where I last parted with one whom I loved, but who has gone abroad, I am told; and to that one of my relations who will erect a tombstone, I bequeath—

‘Hark! will you!’ cried one; ‘be quiet. Go on—yes, yes. Oh: you wretch, where’s your feelings! Go to the devil!’

‘Really, ladies and gentlemen,’ said I, ‘this is most indecorous.’

‘I bequeath,’ continued Mr. Shaw, ‘my dying blessing and forgiveness.’

Mr. Shaw then folded up the will and put it into his pocket, saying— ‘I wish you all good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I sold the few clothes and other matters he died possessed of, and paid for the funeral, and his debts; being myself minus one shilling and four pence, which I hope you will some of you pay.’

It is quite impossible by any words to fairly depict to the reader the appearance of Mr. Jordan’s relations at this moment. If the fabled Gorgon’s head had suddenly appeared, and transformed them all to stone, they could not have looked more completely paralyzed and panic-stricken.

‘A tomb-stone!’ shrieked twenty voices. ‘A tombstone!’

‘A tombstone!’ said Mr. Shaw. ‘A small one would not cost much. You could put on it a suitable inscription. Here lies—’

‘Lies here—never mind,’ said the brother. ‘Never mind. I—I—Oh, that’s all, is it.’

‘You are a humbug,’ said the masculine woman to Mr. Shaw, ‘and so was old stupid Jordan.’

‘Go to the deuce, all of you,’ shouted another; ‘a tombstone indeed.’

Mr. Shaw was wiping his spectacles.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to add,—’

‘Oh, stuff, stuff! Bother! A tombstone indeed; I shan’t stay another moment. An old thief. I wish a tombstone had been down his throat. Come on! Come on! It’s all a do.’

‘But, ladies and gentlemen.—’

They were quite deaf to the remonstrances of Mr. Shaw, and in a few moments the chambers were quite clear, with the exception of Mrs. Mary Grantham, who was sobbing bitterly. She then rose, and looked at me hesitatingly. Then she looked at Mr. Shaw, and she seemed to be struggling to say something. She placed her hand in her bosom, and drew forth a ring tied to a black ribbon, and then, with a convulsive effort she spoke.

‘This—this ring—it is my only valuable possession. It was given to me thirty years ago, by him who is now no more, my cousin John, who loved me. I have clung to it in pain and in sorrow, in difficulty and in distress; I have never parted with it. I seemed to be but only separated from him while I had it near my heart. But now, great distress forces me—to—to part with it. Will—will neither of you gentlemen buy it of me. I—I shrink from its going into the hands of utter strangers.’

‘Humph!’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘there are a couple of sovereigns for it.’

She took the money, and then, after one long, lingering look, and a fervent kiss at the ring. she laid it on the table. and tottered from the place. I was about to follow her, but Mr. Shaw held me back.

‘Hold! hold!’ he said.

‘You are a brute sir,’ said I. ‘Take your hands off me; I will buy the ring of you and give it back to her. It breaks her heart to part with it, I see,’

‘I shan’t part with it,’ he said; ‘you are a very hasty man, doctor.’

I was very angry, and bounced out of the office. I looked eagerly about for Mrs. Grantham, but could not see her. I walked hurriedly across the square, and as chance would have it. I went in the same direction she did. My first impulse was to speak to her, and my second thought was to follow her, and to see where she went. She crossed Holborn, and traversed some of the long streets that lead into the New Road, where she arrived at last, and finally paused at a stone-mason’s yard.

I could have shed tears at that moment, for now I felt why she had parted with her cherished ring. She stayed about a quarter of an hour at the stone-mason’s, and then she came out and walked slowly away. I did not follow her further, but I went into the mason’s yard, and said to him—

‘Did that lady give you an order?’

‘Why, yes, sir, such a one as it is. She has got me to do a stone for two pounds, and she’s paid me. I’m to meet her at the churchyard at Barnes to-morrow morning at nine o’clock with it. and put it up. It’s only to have on it the name of John James Jordan. and under that. ‘God bless him.’

I walked away with a sort of mist before my eyes, and it was an hour before I recovered my composure. ‘I will meet her,’ thought I, ‘at the grave of her last love, and I will be a friend to her, if she never have another in the world. She shall have her ring again, if I force it from the lawyer. She shall have it. I’ll go and get it now, at once.’

I suppose I looked in a very tolerable passion when I got back to Mr. Shaw’s chambers, for he got behind a table when he saw me, and said— ‘Come, come, no violence.’

‘Hark you, sir,’ said I; ‘you have got the ring. There’s your money. Give it me directly, sir. Mrs. Grantham, poor thing, is going tomorrow morning, at nine o’clock, to place a stone at the grave of Mr. Jordan, and I intend to be there and give her her ring.’

‘Oh! very well. Bother the ring. I don’t want it. It ain’t worth half the money I gave for it. There it is; don’t bother me.’

I took up the ring, then put down two sovereigns, and casting upon him a withering look, which, to tell the truth, he did not seem much to care about, I left the chambers.

o o o o o

A soft. damp, white mist covered up all objects, and made the air uncommonly raw and chilly, as on the following morning, just as the clock of the church at Barnes chimed the three-quarters past eight, I entered the churchyard.

The first thing I then did, was to fall over somebody’s grave, for I was looking for Mrs. Grantham, instead of minding where I was walking; and then a voice said—

‘There you go again, as violent as usual, doctor;’ and in the dim mist I saw Mr. Shaw, the solicitor, to my great surprise.

I was going to say something, but at the moment I was nearly knocked down again, by some one brushing past me. A gleam of sunshine came out, and the mist began to clear away, when a most singular scene presented itself. A few yards off was the grave of Mr. Jordan, and kneeling by it was Mary, his first love, with her child by her side. Mr. Shaw stood to my left, and at his feet there knelt a respectable looking young man—I recollected him as Mr. Shaw’s clerk.

“Good God! Richards,’ said Mr. Shaw, ‘is that you? What is the matter?’

‘Oh! sir,’ said Richards. ‘I have come to ask your forgiveness. The spirit of my poor old father stood by my bedside all night. Oh, God! oh, God! it was dreadful; and I knew what it was for. Oh! sir, forgive me. I—I peeped into the will, sir, while you went out to dinner—Mr. Jordan’s will—and—and I went round to all the relations, and sold the secret for two pounds a-piece, and—and—’

Mr. Shaw gave a jump that astonished me.

‘Doctor, doctor,’ he shouted; ‘for God’s sake run down the London road and bring the man with the gravestone. Oh! good gracious. Oh! d——n you, Richards. Ha! ha! ha! Oh! here he is. Oh! bless you for a prudent stone-mason; you shall get well paid for this job. Hip! hip! Hip!—hurrah!’

I thought, to be sure, that Mr. Shaw must have gone mad. There was a man looking over the railing of the church-yard, with a spade on his shoulder; to him Mr. Shaw said—

‘Five guineas for that spade.’

The man thought he was mad, and tried to run away; but he dropped the spade; and in another moment Mr. Shaw’s coat was off, and he was digging away like fury.

‘Where’s the stone!’ he cried: ‘bring the stone. That’s right. Poke it in—prop it up. That’s the thing—all’s right. Here we are. Another knock. All’s right—all’s right.’

‘Lor!’ said the stone-mason, as he lifted up his hands; ‘look there!’

I looked in the direction he indicated, and there, to my astonishment, I saw arriving, carts, coaches, cabs, and wheel-barrows, and each containing a tombstone. A regular fight ensued at the entrance of the churchyard; and engaged in the fight I recognized the relations of Mr. Jordan. Heavens, how they cuffed each other!

‘Hold!’ cried Mr. Shaw; ‘you are all too late, although you had information you ought not to have had. There is already a stone on Mr. Jordan, and placed, too, by the only one who knew not what you all know. Listen to the conclusion of the will—‘And to that one of my relations who will erect a tombstone to my memory, I bequeath my blessing and forgiveness, and eighty thousand pounds in bank stock.’ ‘Madam,’ to Mrs. Grantham, ‘I congratulate you.’

‘And there’s your ring.’ said I; ‘Mr. Shaw, let us shake hands; I understand you now.’

‘Ha! ha!’ said Mr. Shaw, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you had better all of you keep the tombstones for yourselves. You can get the name altered, for if you don’t, I’m very much afraid you will not find them

SOMETHING ADVANTAGEOUS.’

The Cincinnatus, Vol. 1, 1857: pp. 31-40

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending…. Except, possibly for Mr Shaw’s clerk, who will, it seems likely, lose his situation.  And possibly for the greedy relatives, although, to be fair, tombstones can be easily altered or even re-sold to recoup their losses. One predicts that some of the tombstones will be soon needed, as Mr Jordan’s volatile relations succumb to chagrin-induced apoplexies.

 

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.