Category Archives: Medicine

An Imperial Secret: 1903


Tsar Nicholas and Tsarevich Alexei



[From Our Own Correspondent.)


A fantastic “Imperial secret” that had its inception on a New York farm, and its conclusion in the courts of the Romanoffs, was told on March 14 in New York after twenty years of silence by Edward Hatch, a New York merchant, former member of the firm of Lord and Taylor.

In 1903 a New York newspaper published an account of the lamentable state of affairs on the Hatch farm near Brewster, New York State. Hatch’s story runs:

Eighty-five per cent of all the animals born there were males, said the paper. Bulls that might have sold for thousands of dollars went to the butchers because the market was flooded. All the chickens were roosters. Even the turkeys and carrier pigeons suffered from the hoodoo. The house had seven kittens, and six were toms.

A hired man and his wire on the farm had five sons. Even the corn would grow only on stubs, and scientists said it was male corn.

Soon after this story was published, Hatch now said, a stranger questioned him about it at his store. He wanted an explanation. Hatch said he thought it might be the water, which analysis had shown contained much phosphorus and magnesium. The stranger then introduced himself as the Russian Consul. He wanted a sample of the water, and Hatch agreed.

A few days later the stranger appeared on the farm with two uniformed attendants to get a keg of the water. Hatch sought an explanation. The only answer he could get was “just an experiment.”

A year later cable dispatches reported that a male heir had been born to the Imperial Russian throne. The preceding children of the Czar had been daughters.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 16 April 1926: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil feels that this is as good an explanation as any, although, alas, young Alexis was born to sorrow, haemophilia, Revolution, and an untimely 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.


The Mask of Glory: 1920

Mrs Daffodil will caution the sensitive that some may find this post (and its illustration), which is about French soldiers disfigured in the Great War, disturbing.

The Mask of Glory

Paul Junka [pseudonym of “Mlle Ferponnes”]

A powerful car, marked with large white initials, U. S. A., called for me to begin my series of visits to the principal establishments of the American Red Cross in and around Paris. I was shown to-day one of the most ingenious and touching things that has arisen from the war, which if it has developed means of destruction to a degree hitherto unknown, has, on the contrary, exalted to sublimity acts of devotion and the divine art of healing sorrow.

“Now,” Miss Farrand, my guide, announced, with that lovely smile which told at the same time her intimate pride in the great things she showed me and the modesty which she brought to her role. “Now I will show you the masks.” “The masks?” “Yes; for the mutilated.”

We crossed Paris and reached that part of the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, which, with its little houses behind gates hung with ivy and glycin, recalled a corner of our calm Provinces, where, in similar dwellings and silent gardens, grow the virile virtues which our race has proved to the world—to the world that knew only its superficial and glittering side. The motorcar stopped before one of these homes, well designed to shelter the dream of a thinker and artist.

“Here is the studio of Mrs. Maynard Ladd, under whose direction the masks for the wounded are made.” said Miss Farrand.

We followed an alley between two walls covered with vines and entered a room where one noticed only plaster casts and molds, the habitual equipment of a sculptor’s studio. From thence we climbed three flights up to Mrs. Ladd’s private studio, and at first saw but a vast bay-window showing a sunlit perspective of sky and foliage. Several people were working here, and I was presented to Mr. Wlerick, the sculptor, Mrs. Ladd’s collaborator. As Mrs. Ladd was at Vichy, he courteously placed himself at my disposition to furnish me all details of interest.

A soldier rose to go, but Mr. Wlerick cordially called him back. “Wait a moment, will you, old fellow? Madame came to see the masks. Will you kindly show her yours?”

With military discipline the soldier made a haft turn and stood before me, his face raised for my inspection. He was a sharpshooter, with slightly olive complexion, and on the ardent face, under his rakishly worn cap, I could find nothing whatever abnormal. I was surprised, and said: “And the mask?” Mr. Wlerick smiled, saying, “He has it on. Look closer, Madame.” I approached and could, indeed, distinguish a faint line upon the soldier’s check; a shadow, rather, that went from mouth to ear. It was so slight a thing that I said, “Oh, yes,” out of politeness, not being able to realize that beneath the perfect appearance of the face was a terrible mutilation. Then, pressing the soldier’s hand, I added, “My friend, it is wonderful; no one could believe that you wear a mask!”

My sincerity was obvious, my astonishment so complete that I was not conscious of it. The poilu was overjoyed, saluted and went out; shortly afterward I understood why my simple words gave him such keen pleasure.

On one side of the large bay-window that lighted the studio numbers of plaster molds were lying. I started forward to see them and stopped, horror-struck. It was almost impossible to discover human lineaments in these casts that, nevertheless, represented poor martyred faces which had been serene, often beautiful, almost always smiling from being loved, from being young, and having all the future before them, and which were now but terrible formless ruins, something indescribable, “which has no more a name in any tongue.” There were noses torn off, twisted lips, disfigured chins and crushed foreheads—the whole gamut of deformity.

While I gazed, wide-eyed, Mr. Wlerick explained to me that these were the first molds, made upon the mutilé exactly as his wound had left him. Finally a second mold is modeled after a photograph of the blesse taken before his wound, which is a reconstruction of his normal face. To restore a complete resemblance to this visage and give back its proper psychological expression a medical study is often necessary, examination of the throat, etc. This work requires a rather long and delicate series of processes, no less than ten in number:

  1. A plaster negative on the mutilé.
  2. A plaster positive on the mutilé.
  3. Modeling after a photograph prior to the wound.
  4. and 5. Plaster molds on the portrait model.
  5. Galvanoplastie (deposit of sulphate of copper by electricity).
  6. Work of adjustment upon the blesse.
  7. Unalterable painting upon the mutilé.
  8. Placing of artificial eyes, lashes and brows.
  9. System of spectacles to hold the mask in place. “When this difficult work is ended and the arrangement is as it should be, it is difficult to realize that the one who wears this mask is generally completely disfigured,” continued M. Wlerick. “You have seen it in the case of the sharpshooter whom I presented to you just now. Here is his cast. . .”

The sculptor indicated a plaster mold which seemed a strange animal head and which would have appeared to be a caricature had not we compared it with the corresponding cast which showed the head reconstructed. For this terrible deformation was due to the absence of the whole lower part of the face, and I had not even guessed it! I understood now why my unthinking compliment had so delighted the poor soldier!

An example of a mask for a wounded soldier, 1919

An example of a mask for a wounded soldier, 1919

Upon further inquiries I learned that the invention of the mask is due to Captain Derwent Wood, of the Second London Hospital. Mrs. Ladd adopted it as it was first made, but it has been since developed and perfected. The first masks were necessarily heavy and quite different from the models of delicacy and lightness which were shown to me. The masks, if need be, may contain a dressing and are indestructible; if the wounded is careful they will last indefinitely. They are made at the expense of the American Red Cross, and the painting upon them has been rendered completely unalterable.

I approached another soldier who was seated in the center of the room. Standing beside him an artist, a colleague of Mrs. Ladd’s. was moving a paint-brush across his cheek with a light, gracious movement that would have seemed a gesture in a game if one had not known, as I had just learned, that this motion on the wretched wounded face represented the height of art and love. At this moment the painter was giving the finishing touches to the indefinable bluish tone that the razor leaves upon a close-shaven cheek. It was unbelievably natural, and one would have to be informed that it was not a face fresh from the hands of a careful barber, but rather an extraordinary imitation of a human visage.

“Oh, it is fine; it is splendid! How they should bless you, these young men!” I cried, considering by turns the soldier beaming with pleasure and the artist, who stood there as modest as though she had accomplished the most ordinary work. “Certainly they will never forget you; you make them again the lovely boys they were before their wounds; you give them back all the joys of life, all the possibilities of happiness.” Ah! how he looked at me, the poor poilu so terribly disfigured. I am sure this boy, tried beyond human endurance, was upheld in his adversity by the tenderness of a dream, and for him this mask, which hid so admirably his fearful and glorious misery, was the Mask of Love!

I was delighted with this sudden thought that came to me; then I smiled, for what I had believed to have been an inspiration was only a memory. The Mask of Love is the title of one of the most famous books by Daniel-Lesueur.

“These masks,” I said to those about me, “are a glorious achievement, indeed, and one can never sufficiently realize how much patience and talent is spent here to lessen the heroic suffering of our soldiers. However, it seems to me that the using of this mask implies a real vanity upon your part; for one should not hide a glorious wound, but wear it proudly. …”

They smiled, flattered, because in the depths of their simple souls they had sincerely thought themselves too disfigured to appear in public. A little farmer of Châlons expressed the humiliation that indiscrete looks cause our wounded. “Oh! you know, Madame, one does not like to be conspicuous. …”

Still filled with my idea. I continued, “Listen, I have an inspiration. I owe it, moreover, to your modesty. I shall call the article which I am to write concerning you the Mask of Glory, because it is, indeed, your glory you mask!” There were many exclamations around me, and Mrs. Ladd’s collaborators approved heartily.

Later, talking with Mrs. Ladd herself concerning the zeal expended and the difficulties conquered, Mrs. Ladd smiled gently and said, “We are amply rewarded by the joy of our mutilés. They write me very lovely letters; would you like to see them?” I accepted her offer eagerly and quote here two of the most affecting:

Dear Madame: I am so greatly satisfied with my mask that I cannot wait to come to thank you again. My parents, too, are very happy to see me as I am. When I arrived they scarcely recognized me as the same wounded man. Also the neighbors wondered how it is possible for one to make such a beautiful nose in so short a time! Briefly, it is a tremendous success. If I return to Paris, as I hope, I will certainly come to see you.François Gorall, September 6, 1918.

Madame: I surprised my parents with my mask and I can find no words to paint their delight; they could hardly believe it was I! You have done so much for me that I do not know how to express my gratitude, for it is thanks to you that I will be able to have my own home. My fiancée finds me not unpleasing and has not refused me as she would have had the right to do. She will soon be my wife.Marc Maréchal.

“All who enter here leave hope behind” was inscribed upon the portal of Dante’s Inferno. I would that a poet of genius might find the fitting inscription for Mrs. Ladd’s studio, where so many beings, secretly despairing, have found and will find supreme comfort. And once more the homage of our gratitude goes out to the American Red Cross, which has discovered here an incomparable and almost divine means of soothing one of the most poignant forms of human suffering.

The New France, Vol. 3, 1920: p. 544

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this Armistice Day we remember the service of veterans everywhere, and especially the wounded, who bear scars both visible and hidden.

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.


At the Pharmacy Blanc: 1875

V0011779 Voyage to eternity; pharmacy scene with Death at work. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images By: Jean-Ignace-Isidore GérardPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

V0011779 Voyage to eternity; pharmacy scene with Death at work.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
By: Jean-Ignace-Isidore GérardPublished: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Most people know from experience how long it takes to get a prescription put up at an apothecary’s shop when the occasion is pressing, but deliberate as are the clerks of pharmacists on this side of the water, they must yield the palm to their French brethren. The following translation of a little sketch by M. Charles Monselet illustrates our remark: The Pharmacy Blanc is one of the handsomest in Paris. In the first place, it is situated in a central quarter, that is to say, in proximity to the greater part of the accidents. The shop is large and airy, its windows are adorned with curiously shaped bottles filled with variously colored spirits; the interior is decorated with undoubted good taste; there were urns wherein serpents are coiled, dark green busts of Aesculapius and Galen, and copper sphinxes support the counters. I can never explain it to myself, but pharmacies have always a fascination for me, possessing. as they do, a methodical aspect and an exceptional atmosphere. From the powders, minerals, roots, plants, herbs, dried flowers, the unguents, patés, elixirs, there exhales an odor singularly pleasing to me, and amidst which I fancy I should like to live.

All at once, while I was examining all those jars, so alike in appearance and so diverse in contents, a woman pushed open the door of the shop violently, and entered. She had hardly strength enough left to speak; her countenance was convulsed; she could only hand to the pharmacien a prescription which she held clutched in her trembling fingers.

Her husband has just received a fearful wound in the head; he is now lying on his bed unconscious. The doctor, called in haste, has written rapidly a few lines upon the paper she has brought. It is these few lines that she has passed to the pharmacien, who is calmly and gravely unfolding them, for a pharmacien should never cease to be grave. He is slowly deciphering the writing, for a pharmacien should, before all, make himself well acquainted with the details of a prescription. When he has finished reading it, he says to the woman, “Be good enough to take a seat. Sit down! sit down!”

“But, sir,” she cries, “do you not understand that my husband is in the greatest danger? Give me quickly what is required!”

“It will only take an instant ; please to sit down.”

The poor woman sinks into a chair, her arms hanging listlessly on each side, and her face expressionless from anxiety and fatigue.

During this time the pharmacien sets to work. He takes a small vial, places it in the beautiful scales before him. He goes to a row of the jars arranged like books in a library. He pours from one a few drops into the small vial. He then weighs it, and adds more from another jar. All this with the care and system recommended by the “Codex.”

From time to time the woman jumps from her seat suddenly. Her husband, pale and covered with blood, haunts her, and she turns to the pharmacien and joining her hands in supplication, she says,—

“Oh! sir! sir!”


“My poor husband!”

“It will soon be ready, madame.”

Saying this, the pharmacien corks hermetically the little vial, which is at last full; he takes from a drawer a piece of green paper, with which he covers the cork, arranging its folds with a tedious neatness and regularity; he ties it with a bit of red twine, and trims the paper with a pair of scissors; then he plunges a stick of sealing-wax in the gas jet, and deposits upon the summit a lighted drop, in which he affixes the ends of the twine.

“Oh! Sir! Sir!”

Our pharmacien has not yet finished; he has now to find a label and paste it upon the bottle, then to write in a plain hand the number of the prescription, the name of the mixture, and whether for internal or external use, not forgetting the hackneyed phrase, “shake before using.”

“Sir! Sir!”

“It is finished, madame.”

In point of fact, after having accomplished all these indispensable formalities, the pharmacien rolls up the vial in an elegant quality of paper, and presents it to the woman.

“How much? how much? ” stammers she, feeling for the money in the pocket of her dress.

“Pay at the desk.”

At the desk sits enthroned the proprietor of the pharmacy, with a majestic air, dreamily perusing the latest livraison of pharmaceutical literature; he detains the poor woman several minutes more, and at last she receives her change; then she precipitates herself towards the door, when she encounters again the clerk, who politely opens it for her, in the midst of a deafening rattling of the bell attached thereto. Such is the scene, dear neighbor, which I accidentally witnessed the other day. May Heaven preserve you from ever going to procure anything else in the Pharmacy Blanc than an agreeable sirup or some perfumed pastilles.

The Opelousas [LA] Journal 2 July 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A very trenchant “slice-of-Parisian-life” anecdote. Mrs Daffodil knows that she will shock her readers by acknowledging that such delays may also happen in England, particularly if the unhappy widow-in-waiting has the misfortune to be behind a pretty nurse-girl ordering a soothing syrup for her charges from the elegant young pharmacy clerk. If such is the case, she might as well abandon the notion of curative potions and go straight to Black Peter Robinson’s.

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.


How to Keep Cool: 1860-1902

Figures on the Beach at Trouville, 1885

Figures on the Beach at Trouville, 1885

The weather has been so beastly hot this week that Mrs Daffodil thought her readers would appreciate some cooling suggestions.

Here are a few sensible health hints for ladies at the seashore or in the country:

Read the latest books

Bathe early and often.

Seek cool, shady nooks

Throw fancy work away.

Wear lightest, lowest shoes.

Let hats be light and bonnets airy.

Eschew kid gloves and linen collars.

Dress in cambrics, lawns, and ginghams.

Be lavish with laundresses, fruit men and fans.

Let melons precede and berries follow, the breakfast.

Remember that seeming idleness is sometimes gain.

Order freshest fish and corn cake; never mind the heavy fritters.

Do not tell your hostess how sweet the butter and cream were at your last summer’s boarding house.

Omaha [NE] World Herald 17 August 1891: p. 3

A wealth of hints may be found for home, table, or garden:

The Canton girls buy their shoes two sizes too large, utilizing the vacant space as a refrigerator for packing ice around their feet. In this way they have become successful competitors of the Chicago Belles in their world-wide reputation for having considerable in the line of feet or understanding. [Chicago women were reputed to have the largest feet in America.] This is a novel way of keeping cool, however. The Canton [SD] Advocate 7 July 1887: p. 4


Great blocks of ice may be hollowed out with a hot flat-iron, and are useful on the summer table; in these glittering ice-wells are sunk crisp leaves of lettuce and scarlet tomatoes peeled; they are served from this inviting receptacle and over them is poured luscious dressing a la mayonnaise. Strawberries, cherries, or any kind of fruit look lovely held in a block of ice. Lobster or fish in mayonnaise may be served in the same manner.

Instead of the paper-flowers in which ices are frequently served, natural ones may be substituted. The inner petals are plucked from a fragrant rose, and pistachio or strawberry cream placed in the centre, the stem must be cut off just below the calyx, and the flower made to stand securely in a small, round pasteboard box, which is not perceptible; any other suitable flower may be substituted.

Godey’s Magazine, 1896

Much has been done of late by the use of ice-wrung cloths over the windows. A yard or two of blind calico, made ice cold by wrapping it around a block of ice for five minutes, is hung up over the open windows and the blinds let down behind it, so that the warm air from the street or from the garden may be cooled insidiously as it enters. Cool rooms are also possible if a sufficiency of ice is provided. Baskets of all shapes and sizes, lined with tin, make excellent receptacles and these, placed close to the table when reading or working, or used instead of a center piece of flowers where the dinner table is concerned, will do much to freshen the air. In the hall or passage a tub, furnished with a large block of ice, will last a whole day, and possibly longer, if placed on a square of blanketing, while, to economize, all the ice left in the house by evening may be collected and wrapped in bags of thick felt.”

Evening Star [Washington, DC] 23 August 1908: p. 41

A new Parisian invention is an iron water pipe, running up the sides of those trees In public gardens which require plentiful showers In summer. In this way a fountain can be turned over them at any moment.

Religio-philosophical Journal September 1866

Some authorities recommended alcoholic stimulants for summer refreshment:


From the receipt book of a Western member of Congress.

The following is said to make a pleasant beverage: Take one pint of whiskey, stir in one spoonful of whiskey; add one pint of whiskey and beat well with a spoon.

Take one gallon of water and let a servant carry it away beyond your reach; then put two spoonfuls of water in a tumbler, immediately throw it out and fill with whiskey. Flavor with whiskey to suit your taste.

When it is to be kept long in warm climates, add sufficient spirit to prevent souring.

The Alleghenian [Ebensburg, PA] 9 August 1860: p. 1

The other day a teacher in a Boston school showed a little girl a picture of a fan and asked her what it was. The little girl didn’t appear to know.

“What does your mother do to keep cool in hot weather? Asked the teacher.

“Drink beer,” was the prompt reply of the little girl.

New York [NY] Tribune 28 February 1889: p. 9

Mrs  Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian and Edwardian newspapers were chock-a-block full of suggestions for how to keep cool in the summers before central air-conditioning. However, there were some who believed that “mind over matter” would serve as well as a block of ice and a fan.


Don’t walk too fast;

Don’t fume and fret;

Don’t vow ‘twill be

Much hotter yet;

Don’t eat too much;

Don’t drink at all

Of things composed

Of alcohol.

Don’t read about

The sunstruck folks;

Don’t read the old

Hot weather jokes;

Don’t work too hard;

Don’t try to see

The rising of

The mercury.

Don’t fan yourself;

Don’t think you’re hot;

Just cool off with

“I think I’m not.”

And, more than that,

Don’t read a rule

Beneath this head—

‘How to Keep Cool.”

Baltimore American.

Mexico Missouri Message 7 August 1902: p. 8


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.

Volunteer Nurses in the Great War: 1914

nurses uniforms

The fashionable women of England are very anxious to help. At least they say they are, and never would we doubt a lady’s word. But their good intentions are thwarted on every side. Lord Kitchener does not want them as nurses. He says he prefers nuns, presumably because they have no matrimonial ambitions, and it is said that he went himself to a nunnery — fancy Lord Kitchener in a nunnery — in order to arrange matters. Doubtless Lord Kitchener has painful memories of the Boer War, where the lady helpers proved such a nuisance that he classed them with the flies as among the unbearable plagues of camp life.

But the ladies who stayed at home were nearly as bad. They, too, felt the enthusiasm of action, and so they made presents for the troops at the front. All kinds of presents, such as ladies make for each other at Christmas time and such as they give to their long-suffering male friends, who say things and throw the gifts away. They made candy boxes for them embroidered with pretty sentiments. They made night-shirt covers and pillow-cases and cigarette cases. They made collar-boxes and brush bags. Heaven only knows what became of all this truck. Presumably it was burned, but it was all innocent enough in comparison with the activities of the ladies who went to the front as nurses under the conviction that nursing meant bathing the brows of handsome young officers and writing letters for them to their mothers.

It is said that a good many of the volunteer nurses in the present war have expressed a preference for the nursing of officers and were thereupon requested to go home and stay there.

The French army allows no nurses at the front except nuns, who can be relied upon for the absolute and unswerving performance of duty and for an absence of the hysterias that so often afflict their more worldly sisters.

These nuns go to the firing line and show themselves as indifferent to bullets as the soldiers themselves. But the aristocratic French ladies are allowed to meet the wounded on their arrival in Paris and to offer their ministrations under the strict supervision of medical officers. And they show themselves as willing enough to do whatever is necessary, whether it be washing, scrubbing, or cooking.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 5 December 1914

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While there were many unsung heroines among volunteer nurses, those who had spent much time at the Front reported encountering too many “heroines” who sang their own praises:

My own latest experience was with an American woman of awful vulgarity. I asked her if she was busy, like everyone else in this place, and she said: “No. I was suffering from a nervous breakdown, so I came out here. What is your war is my peace, and I now sleep like a baby.” I want adjectives! How is one to describe the people who come for one brief visit to the station or hospital with an intense conviction that they and they only feel the suffering or even notice the wants of the men. Some are good workers. Others I call “This-poor-fellow-has-had-none.” Nurses may have been up all night, doctors may be worked off their feet, seven hundred men may have passed through the station, all wounded and all fed, but when our visitors arrive they discover that “This poor fellow has had none,” and firmly, and with a high sense of duty and of their own efficiency, they make the thing known.

No one else has heard a man shouting for water; no one else knows that a man wants soup. The man may have appendicitis, or colitis, or pancreatitis, or he may have been shot through the lungs or the abdomen. It doesn’t matter. The casual visitor knows he has been neglected, and she says so, and quite indiscriminately she fills everyone up with soup. Only she is tender-hearted. Only she could never really be hardened by being a nurse. She seizes a little cup, stoops over a man gracefully, and raises his head. Then she wants things passed to her, and someone must help her, and someone must listen to what she has to say. She feeds one man in half an hour, and goes away horrified at the way things are done. Fortunately these people never stay for long.

My War Experiences in Two Continents, Sarah Macnaughtan, 1919

In pre-Revolutionary Russia, too, Society Nurses were a problem. Grand Duke Nicholai had a solution.

In Russia, as in other countries, there were many women who, not appreciating the character of the services required, and merely from a shallow emotionalism, volunteered as nurses, more for the purpose of wearing the uniform and talking of what they were doing than because they sincerely wanted to help. They volunteered without knowing what they were expected to do, without any knowledge of nursing save that the Russian nurse’s headdress is becoming to almost any type of beauty.

A bevy of these women offered their services to the Grand Duke. He needed nurses, and he needed many nurses, but he wanted nurses, not society women who thought it would be interesting and romantic to hold the hand of a suffering soldier but had no idea of scrubbing floors or of sanitation or of all the hundreds of things nurses, and especially a war nurse, must know. So the Grand Duke told one detachment of them to come to a certain place where he would meet them and assign them to their duties.

They came, a fluttering lot of amateur ministering angels, and presented themselves as directed. The Grand Duke looked them over. There were about a hundred in the lot. He lined them up and made a speech to them.

“Ladies,” he said, “I appreciate, and so do my soldiers, and so does our country, the patriotic and heroic impulse that has caused you to offer yourselves as nurses. We need nurses. This war is very terrible and there is much suffering to be alleviated. I shall be glad of your services.”

The ladies all fluttered and were so glad and so interested and so anxious to go right into the hospital and make things easier for the poor, dear soldiers.

“But,” continued the Grand Duke, “in nursing, as in every other line of service, there are several divisions of labor. For example, we have officers to nurse and we have private soldiers to nurse. Now, of course, you ladies will have a preference. So I shall allow you to make your choice. All those of you who would prefer to nurse officers will please step over to this side, and those of you who are willing to nurse the private soldier will please step over to this side. I leave the choice to you. Of course it will be pleasanter, perhaps, to nurse the officers than the common soldiers but the common soldiers must be nursed too, you understand. Those who prefer to nurse officers on this side, if you please, and those on this side who are willing to go into the wards where the private soldiers are placed.”

The ladies divided themselves. All but about twenty of them thought that it would be much nicer and more interesting to serve their country by nursing handsome officers rather than peasants who were privates. But twenty said that they were willing to nurse the private soldiers, the peasants who had been wounded.

Whereupon the Grand Duke bundled back to Petrograd the ladies who wanted to nurse officers, and kept the twenty who really had a sincere desire to do something more for their country than wear a becoming headdress and sit about the cafes in it. That is a sample of the way the Grand Duke does things.

History of the World War, Frank H. Simonds, 1918

Despite the plague of titled lady nurses, there were a good many stately homes opened as hospitals and convalescent homes for the troops. See this delightful post, with its anecdote of the Duchess of Westminster and her way of “doing her bit” for the men in uniform.

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 Curious Porcelain Bowl: 1860s

A Curious Porcelain Bowl,

A Curious Porcelain Bowl,

The Dream Woman

I was the victim of a Brazilian fever and every one had given me up. I heard the priest say at my bedside that I would not live till morning. I was sinking into a heavy stupor, when the door seemed to open and a fair woman in a white gown glided in. She carried in her hand a curious porcelain bowl of water.

“Drink,” she said, in a sweet voice, holding it to my lips.

“The doctor forbids it,” I murmured.

“Drink and fear nothing,” she said.

I obeyed, and drained the vessel she held toward me. “Good night and sweet dreams,” she added, and glided away as mysteriously as she had entered.

The next morning I awoke refreshed and invigorated. I asked to see the lady who had waited upon me in the night, but they smiled and said it was a delirious dream. In time I recovered my health and returned to Virginia. It was ten years after this illness that, in riding past a fine old country house, I saw a lady walk down the path who paused to pick a rose. Her figure was tall, her hair golden, her eyes black. Her motions were graceful. With a wild exclamation of astonishment I recognized the lady of my dream, if dream it were. She looked a little older—nay, a good ten years older—but otherwise was unaltered.

I know not in what words I communicated this fact to the friend with me, but I know I ended by saying: “I must speak to her. She will remember.”

My friend uttered an imperative negative.

“She would think you a madman,” he said. “Come on. You may get yourself shot for staring at another man’s wife. They do such things promptly in the south. I will find out who she is, if you like.”

I assented eagerly. We rode on.

“Talk to me as much as you like,” he said, “but never expose yourself to strangers. It is possible this lady was in Brazil in 18—, and brought you something to drink when you were left alone. In that case a doubt that troubles you will be satisfied. You can, with all propriety, call on her and thank her.”

But, though he spoke in this way, I knew he did not imagine it could be so. That evening we smoked our cigars in Col. Lewis’s company, and my friend diplomatically introduced the subject

“That beautiful house with the large garden,” he said, “is quite a feature of the place. Who owns it?”

“A lone woman, widow of Mr. Vokes,” said the colonel. “She was a belle in her girlhood. She might still be one if she chose.”

“Perhaps we saw her in the garden,” said my friend, beginning a minute description.

“Exactly. It was no one else,” said the colonel.

My friend paused a moment and then said:

“She reminded B. of someone he met in Brazil. In fact, he almost believed her the same person.”

“No, no,” said the old colonel “Mrs. Vokes has never left Virginia. We have known the family since she was two years old. It is only the other day that we spoke of that, and she lamented that she had not travelled more.”

I felt a pang of disappointment, but found courage to say: “I should greatly like to be introduced to her.”

The old colonel instantly offered to introduce me.

“But remember,” said my friend as we parted, “never tell her of your fancy. It would spoil your chances with her, and I see it is a case of love at first sight,”

He was right, and I was very fortunate—very happy. I won this beautiful woman’s heart

Her fortune I did not want, but it was large. I had sufficient means and could not be suspected of mercenary motives. We were married after a long and ardent wooing on my part

She loved me, but a second marriage seemed wrong to her, and it was not until she realized that she had irretrievably given me her heart that she would give me her hand.

Neither of us had ever visited Europe, We decided to cross the ocean during our honeymoon. Before we went she showed me her beautiful home, and all her possessions. Among them was a store of old china.

Suddenly she turned to the shelves of her cabinet and took down a china bowl—transparent, covered with flowers and butterflies of quaint conventional form.

As she held it towards me I saw again the long, low-hung, whitewashed Brazilian room, the figure of the woman advancing towards me. It was her attitude that my wife had assumed. I uttered a cry.

“Are you thirsty?” she asked.

“It is true, then,” I cried. “You are the woman who saved my life when I lay perishing of fever in Brazil?”

She began to tremble. Setting the bowl aside, she threw herself into my arms.

“Long ago,” she panted, “ten years ago—I thought I held that bowl in my hand and made you drink. It was night I do not know whether I dreamed or whether I was mad. In the dead of night I thought a voice called to me: ‘Save the man whom destiny has set apart for you.’ Then I arose and asked ‘How?’

“There is on our plantation a spring, the water of which is magical in its power to cure fevers. I dreamed or thought that some unseen thing led me to this spring. I carried this bowl in my hand. I filled it. Then I stood in a strange room—long, low, white, and you—you—you lay on a pallet, hot with fever. And I said: ‘Are you thirsty?’ and gave you to drink.

“The next morning I could have thought it was all a dream, but that the bowl, still wet, stood at my bedside. Now I have told you this, do you think me mad or superstitious? I have longed so often to tell you, but I dared not.”

But I also had my tale to tell—the one I have told you.

We ask each other often: “What was it? What did it mean? How is it to be explained?” But no answer comes to us.

Whatever it may have been, it brought us together, and I bless it from my soul, for we are happy as few lovers are, my darling wife and I. And, whatever it was, it came from heaven. Nothing unholy had any hand in it—Dr. J. Greeves, in the “Chicago Times

The Two Worlds 20 December 1889: p. 60

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has sought in vain for the original edition of the Chicago Times to see if this charming story of a living ghost was published as a true story or as fiction.  It hardly matters, but those engaged in the manufactory of pharmaceuticals would give much to know the location of such a magical, fever-curing spring.

Stories of “astral projection” are common-place in the literature of the supernatural. They are more usually considered omens of death or associated with the extreme longing for home or a loved one, but how could the lady long for one she had not even met?

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.


Week-end Compendium: 30 January 2016

Mrs Daffodil is already losing patience with Winter, but unless the Family decides to go on holiday to warmer climes, requiring Mrs Daffodil to supervise things like “bar-b-ques” and drinks with little paper umbrellas in them, there is not much to be done.  Mrs Daffodil invites her readers to don a becoming dressing gown and ask Cook for a mug of cocoa to sip while perusing the Week-end Compendium.

This week Mrs Daffodil has reported on:

Staging a Sandstorm, wherein the stage-magic secrets of the thrilling spectacle are revealed.

An engaging lady detective, who reports on her techniques and cases: her use (or non-use) of make-up, her professional flirtations, and what it takes to be a detective.

And a barber’s ghost who wreaks havoc by walking again, asking in sepulchral tones: “Do you want to be shaved?”

To-morrow, Mrs Daffodil gives a delicate sketch of that rara avis, The Ladies’ Man, and the peril he poses to those he professes to adore.

Mrs Daffodil’s favourite links of the week:  An American millinery apprentice writes about the question of “historical authenticity” and, well, 18th-century bosoms. Plus, who does not love red shoes?

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, that exceedingly morbid person has out-done herself with this week’s posts:

A Post-mortem Room Ghost, in which a young medical student finds an unwelcome visitor in the Dead-room of a Dublin hospital.

And,  “The Lesser (King’s) Evil,” a shockingly gruesome account of a woman with scrofula, who undergoes horrific DIY surgery at home to relieve her pain. Not for the faint-of-heart or weak of stomach.

From the Haunted Ohio archives, a less fraught post on ladies and their tattoos: “The Girl with the Tell-all Tattoo.”

Incidentally, Mrs Daffodil has been asked by the Haunted Ohio blog author to remind readers that the blog covers international Fortean topics, rather than the merely parochial. One will note that this blog is described as “The genteel and the unspeakable from Chris Woodyard.”

Haunted Ohio’s favourite links of the week: A scientific study of “EVP.” and taxi-drivers in Japan’s tsunami districts are being haunted by ghostly fares.

A jolly frogged and embroidered dressing gown, c. 1880

A jolly frogged and embroidered dressing gown, c. 1880

purple dressing gown

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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.