Category Archives: mothers

Good Lady Ducayne: 1896

good lady ducayne 1896 vampire story

Bella Rolleston had made up her mind that her only chance of earning her bread and helping her mother to an occasional crust was by going out into the great unknown world as companion to a lady. She was willing to go to any lady rich enough to pay her a salary and so eccentric as to wish for a hired companion. Five shillings told off reluctantly from one of those sovereigns which were so rare with the mother and daughter, and which melted away so quickly, five solid shillings, had been handed to a smartly-dressed lady in an office in Harbeck Street, W., in the hope that this very Superior Person would find a situation and a salary for Miss Rolleston.

The Superior Person glanced at the two half-crowns as they lay on the table where Bella’s hand had placed them, to make sure they were neither of them florins, before she wrote a description of Bella’s qualifications and requirements in a formidable-looking ledger.

“Age?” she asked, curtly.

“Eighteen, last July.”

“Any accomplishments?”

“No; I am not at all accomplished. If I were I should want to be a governess—a companion seems the lowest stage.”

“We have some highly accomplished ladies on our books as companions, or chaperon companions.”

“Oh, I know!” babbled Bella, loquacious in her youthful candour. “But that is quite a different thing. Mother hasn’t been able to afford a piano since I was twelve years old, so I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to play. And I have had to help mother with her needlework, so there hasn’t been much time to study.”

“Please don’t waste time upon explaining what you can’t do, but kindly tell me anything you can do,” said the Superior Person, crushingly, with her pen poised between delicate fingers waiting to write. “Can you read aloud for two or three hours at a stretch? Are you active and handy, an early riser, a good walker, sweet tempered, and obliging?”

“I can say yes to all those questions except about the sweetness. I think I have a pretty good temper, and I should be anxious to oblige anybody who paid for my services. I should want them to feel that I was really earning my salary.”

“The kind of ladies who come to me would not care for a talkative companion,” said the Person, severely, having finished writing in her book. “My connection lies chiefly among the aristocracy, and in that class considerable deference is expected.”

“Oh, of course,” said Bella; “but it’s quite different when I’m talking to you. I want to tell you all about myself once and for ever.”

“I am glad it is to be only once!” said the Person, with the edges of her lips.

The Person was of uncertain age, tightly laced in a black silk gown. She had a powdery complexion and a handsome clump of somebody else’s hair on the top of her head. It may be that Bella’s girlish freshness and vivacity had an irritating effect upon nerves weakened by an eight hours day in that over-heated second floor in Harbeck Street. To Bella the official apartment, with its Brussels carpet, velvet curtains and velvet chairs, and French clock, ticking loud on the marble chimney-piece, suggested the luxury of a palace, as compared with another second floor in Walworth where Mrs. Rolleston and her daughter had managed to exist for the last six years.

“Do you think you have anything on your books that would suit me?” faltered Bella, after a pause.

“Oh, dear, no; I have nothing in view at present,” answered the Person, who had swept Bella’s half-crowns into a drawer, absent-mindedly, with the tips of her fingers. “You see, you are so very unformed—so much too young to be companion to a lady of position. It is a pity you have not enough education for a nursery governess; that would be more in your line.”

“And do you think it will be very long before you can get me a situation?” asked Bella, doubtfully.

“I really cannot say. Have you any particular reason for being so impatient—not a love affair, I hope?”

“A love affair!” cried Bella, with flaming cheeks. “What utter nonsense. I want a situation because mother is poor, and I hate being a burden to her. I want a salary that I can share with her.”

“There won’t be much margin for sharing in the salary you are likely to get at your age—and with your—very—unformed manners,” said the Person, who found Bella’s peony cheeks, bright eyes, and unbridled vivacity more and more oppressive.

“Perhaps if you’d be kind enough to give me back the fee I could take it to an agency where the connection isn’t quite so aristocratic,” said Bella, who—as she told her mother in her recital of the interview—was determined not to be sat upon.

“You will find no agency that can do more for you than mine,” replied the Person, whose harpy fingers never relinquished coin. “You will have to wait for your opportunity. Yours is an exceptional case: but I will bear you in mind, and if anything suitable offers I will write to you. I cannot say more than that.”

The half-contemptuous bend of the stately head, weighted with borrowed hair, indicated the end of the interview. Bella went back to Walworth—tramped sturdily every inch of the way in the September afternoon—and “took off” the Superior Person for the amusement of her mother and the landlady, who lingered in the shabby little sitting-room after bringing in the tea-tray, to applaud Miss Rolleston’s “taking off.”

“Dear, dear, what a mimic she is!” said the landlady. “You ought to have let her go on the stage, mum. She might have made her fortune as a hactress.”

II.

Bella waited and hoped, and listened for the postman’s knocks which brought such store of letters for the parlours and the first floor, and so few for that humble second floor, where mother and daughter sat sewing with hand and with wheel and treadle, for the greater part of the day. Mrs. Rolleston was a lady by birth and education; but it had been her bad fortune to marry a scoundrel; for the last half-dozen years she had been that worst of widows, a wife whose husband had deserted her. Happily, she was courageous, industrious, and a clever needlewoman; and she had been able just to earn a living for herself and her only child, by making mantles and cloaks for a West-end house. It was not a luxurious living. Cheap lodgings in a shabby street off the Walworth Road, scanty dinners, homely food, well-worn raiment, had been the portion of mother and daughter; but they loved each other so dearly, and Nature had made them both so light-hearted, that they had contrived somehow to be happy.

But now this idea of going out into the world as companion to some fine lady had rooted itself into Bella’s mind, and although she idolized her mother, and although the parting of mother and daughter must needs tear two loving hearts into shreds, the girl longed for enterprise and change and excitement, as the pages of old longed to be knights, and to start for the Holy Land to break a lance with the infidel.

She grew tired of racing downstairs every time the postman knocked, only to be told “nothing for you, miss,” by the smudgy-faced drudge who picked up the letters from the passage floor. “Nothing for you, miss,” grinned the lodging-house drudge, till at last Bella took heart of grace and walked up to Harbeck Street, and asked the Superior Person how it was that no situation had been found for her.

“You are too young,” said the Person, “and you want a salary.”

“Of course I do,” answered Bella ; “don’t other people want salaries?”

“Young ladies of your age generally want a comfortable home.”

“I don’t,” snapped Bella: “I want to help mother.”

“You can call again this day week,” said the Person; “or, if I hear of anything in the meantime, I will write to you.”

No letter came from the Person, and in exactly a week Bella put on her neatest hat, the one that had been seldomest caught in the rain, and trudged off to Harbeck Street.

It was a dull October afternoon, and there was a greyness in the air which might turn to fog before night. The Walworth Road shops gleamed brightly through that grey atmosphere, and though to a young lady reared in Mayfair or Belgravia such shop – windows would have been unworthy of a glance, they were a snare and temptation for Bella. There were so many things that she longed for, and would never be able to buy.

Harbeck Street is apt to be empty at this dead season of the year, a long, long street, an endless perspective of eminently respectable houses. The Person’s office was at the further end, and Bella looked down that long, grey vista almost despairingly, more tired than usual with the trudge from Walworth. As she looked, a carriage passed her, an old-fashioned, yellow chariot, on cee springs, drawn by a pair of high grey horses, with the stateliest of coachmen driving them, and a tall footman sitting by his side.

“It looks like the fairy god-mother’s coach,” thought Bella. “I shouldn’t wonder if it began by being a pumpkin.”

It was a surprise when she reached the Person’s door to find the yellow chariot standing before it, and the tall footman waiting near the doorstep. She was almost afraid to go in and meet the owner of that splendid carriage. She had caught only a glimpse of its occupant as the chariot rolled by, a plumed bonnet, a patch of ermine.

The Person’s smart page ushered her upstairs and knocked at the official door. “Miss Rolleston,” he announced, apologetically, while Bella waited outside.

“Show her in,” said the Person, quickly; and then Bella heard her murmuring something in a low voice to her client.

Bella went in fresh, blooming, a living image of youth and hope, and before she looked at the Person her gaze was riveted by the owner of the chariot.

Never had she seen anyone as old as the old lady sitting by the Person’s fire: a little old figure, wrapped from chin to feet in an ermine mantle; a withered, old face under a plumed bonnet—a face so wasted by age that it seemed only a pair of eyes and a peaked chin. The nose was peaked, too, but between the sharply pointed chin and the great, shining eyes, the small, aquiline nose was hardly visible.

“This is Miss Rolleston, Lady Ducayne.”

Claw-like fingers, flashing with jewels, lifted a double eyeglass to Lady Ducayne’s shining black eyes, and through the glasses Bella saw those unnaturally bright eyes magnified to a gigantic size, and glaring at her awfully.

“Miss Torpinter has told me all about you,” said the old voice that belonged to the eyes. “Have you good health? Are you strong and active, able to eat well, sleep well, walk well, able to enjoy all that there is good in life?”

“I have never known what it is to be ill, or idle,” answered Bella.

“Then I think you will do for me.”

“Of course, in the event of references being perfectly satisfactory,” put in the Person.

“I don’t want references. The young woman looks frank and innocent. I’ll take her on trust.”

“So like you, dear Lady Ducayne,” murmured Miss Torpinter.

“I want a strong young woman whose health will give me no trouble.”

“You have been so unfortunate in that respect,” cooed the Person, whose voice and manner were subdued to a melting sweetness by the old woman’s presence.

“Yes, I’ve been rather unlucky,” grunted Lady Ducayne.

“But I am sure Miss Rolleston will not disappoint you, though certainly after your unpleasant experience with Miss Tomson, who looked the picture of health—and Miss Blandy, who said she had never seen a doctor since she was vaccinated”

“Lies, no doubt,” muttered Lady Ducayne, and then turning to Bella, she asked, curtly, “You don’t mind spending the winter in Italy, I suppose?”

In Italy! The very word was magical. Bella’s fair young face flushed crimson.

“It has been the dream of my life to see Italy,” she gasped.

From Walworth to Italy! How far, how impossible such a journey had seemed to that romantic dreamer.

“Well, your dream will be realized. Get yourself ready to leave Charing Cross by the train de luxe this day week at eleven. Be sure you are at the station a quarter before the hour. My people will look after you and your luggage.”

Lady Ducayne rose from her chair, assisted by her crutch-stick, and Miss Torpinter escorted her to the door.

“And with regard to salary?” questioned the Person on the way.

“Salary, oh, the same as usual—and if the young woman wants a quarter’s pay in advance you can write to me for a cheque,” Lady Ducayne answered, carelessly.

Miss Torpinter went all the way downstairs with her client, and waited to see her seated in the yellow chariot. When she came upstairs again she was slightly out of breath, and she had resumed that superior manner which Bella had found so crushing.

“You may think yourself uncommonly lucky, Miss Rolleston,” she said. “I have dozens of young ladies on my books whom I might have recommended for this situation —but I remembered having told you to call this afternoon—and I thought I would give you a chance. Old Lady Ducayne is one of the best people on my books. She gives her companion a hundred a year, and pays all travelling expenses. You will live in the lap of luxury.”

“A hundred a year! How too lovely! Shall I have to dress very grandly? Does Lady Ducayne keep much company?”

“At her age! No, she lives in seclusion—in her own apartments — her French maid, her footman, her medical attendant, her courier.”

“Why did those other companions leave her?” asked Bella.

“Their health broke down!”

“Poor things, and so they had to leave?”

“Yes, they had to leave. I suppose you would like a quarter’s salary in advance?”

“Oh, yes, please. I shall have things to buy.”

“Very well, I will write for Lady Ducayne’s cheque, and I will send you the balance— after deducting my commission for the year.”

“To be sure, I had forgotten the commission.”

“You don’t suppose I keep this office for pleasure.”

“Of course not,” murmured Bella, remembering the five shillings entrance fee; but nobody could expect a hundred a year and a winter in Italy for five shillings.

III.

“From Miss Rolleston, at Cap Ferrino, to Mrs. Rolleston, in Beresford Street, Walworth.

“How I wish you could see this place, dearest; the blue sky, the olive woods, the orange and lemon orchards between the cliffs and the sea—sheltering in the hollow of the great hills—and with summer waves dancing up to the narrow ridge of pebbles and weeds which is the Italian idea of a beach! Oh, how I wish you could see it all, mother dear, and bask in this sunshine, that makes it so difficult to believe the date at the head of this paper. November! The air is like an English June—the sun is so hot that I can’t walk a few yards without an umbrella. And to think of you at Walworth while I am here! I could cry at the thought that perhaps you will never see this lovely coast, this wonderful sea, these summer flowers that bloom in winter. There is a hedge of pink geraniums under my window, mother—a thick, rank hedge, as if the flowers grew wild —and there are Dijon roses climbing over arches and palisades all along the terrace— a rose garden full of bloom in November! Just picture it all! You could never imagine the luxury of this hotel. It is nearly new, and has been built and decorated regardless of expense. Our rooms are upholstered in pale blue satin, which shows up Lady Ducayne’s parchment complexion; but as she sits all day in a corner of the balcony basking in the sun, except when she is in her carriage, and all the evening in her armchair close to the fire, and never sees anyone but her own people, her complexion matters very little.

“She has the handsomest suite of rooms in the hotel. My bedroom is inside hers, the sweetest room—all blue satin and white lace—white enamelled furniture, looking glasses on every wall, till I know my pert little profile as I never knew it before. The room was really meant for Lady Ducayne’s dressing-room, but she ordered one of the blue satin couches to be arranged as a bed for me—the prettiest little bed, which I can wheel near the window on sunny mornings, as it is on castors and easily moved about. I feel as if Lady Ducayne were a funny old grandmother, who had suddenly appeared in my life, very, very rich, and very, very kind.

“She is not at all exacting. I read aloud to her a good deal, and she dozes and nods while I read. Sometimes I hear her moaning in her sleep—as if she had troublesome dreams. When she is tired of my reading she orders Francine, her maid, to read a French novel to her, and I hear her chuckle and groan now and then, as if she were more interested in those books than in Dickens or Scott. My French is not good enough to follow Francine, who reads very quickly. I have a great deal of liberty, for Lady Ducayne often tells me to run away and amuse myself; I roam about the hills for hours. Everything is so lovely. I lose myself in olive woods, always climbing up and up towards the pine woods above—and above the pines there are the snow mountains that just show their white peaks above the dark hills. Oh, you poor dear, how can I ever make you understand what this place is like—you, whose poor, tired eyes have only the opposite side of Beresford Street? Sometimes I go no farther than the terrace in front of the hotel, which is a favourite lounging-place with everybody. The gardens lie below, and the tennis courts where I sometimes play with a very nice girl, the only person in the hotel with whom I have made friends. She is a year older than I, and has come to Cap Ferrino with her brother, a doctor—or a medical student, who is going to be a doctor. He passed his M.B. exam. at Edinburgh just before they left home, Lotta told me. He came to Italy entirely on his sister’s account. She had a troublesome chest attack last summer and was ordered to winter abroad. They are orphans, quite alone in the world, and so fond of each other. It is very nice for me to have such a friend as Lotta. She is so thoroughly respectable. I can’t help using that word, for some of the girls in this hotel go on in a way that I know you would shudder at. Lotta was brought up by an aunt, deep down in the country, and knows hardly anything about life. Her brother won’t allow her to read a novel, French or English, that he has not read and approved.

“‘He treats me like a child,’ she told me, ‘but I don’t mind, for it’s nice to know somebody loves me, and cares about what I do, and even about my thoughts.’

“Perhaps this is what makes some girls so eager to marry — the want of someone strong and brave and honest and true to care for them and order them about. I want no one, mother darling, for I have you, and you are all the world to me. No husband could ever come between us two. If I ever were to marry he would have only the second place in my heart. But I don’t suppose I ever shall marry, or even know what it is like to have an offer of marriage. No young man can afford to marry a penniless girl nowadays. Life is too expensive.

“Mr. Stafford, Lotta’s brother, is very clever, and very kind. He thinks it is rather hard for me to have to live with such an old woman as Lady Ducayne, but then he does not know how poor we are—you and I—and what a wonderful life this seems to me in this lovely place. I feel a selfish wretch for enjoying all my luxuries, while you, who want them so much more than I, have none of them—hardly know what they are like—do you, dearest?—for my scamp of a father began to go to the dogs soon after you were married, and since then life has been all trouble and care and struggle for you.”

This letter was written when Bella had been less than a month at Cap Ferrino, before the novelty had worn off the landscape, and before the pleasure of luxurious surroundings had begun to cloy. She wrote to her mother every week, such long letters as girls who have lived in closest companionship with a mother alone can write; letters that are like a diary of heart and mind. She wrote gaily always; but when the new year began Mrs. Rolleston thought she detected a note of melancholy under all those lively details about the place and the people.

“My poor girl is getting home-sick,” she thought. “Her heart is in Beresford Street.”

It might be that she missed her new friend and companion, Lotta Stafford, who had gone with her brother for a little tour to Genoa and Spezzia, and as far as Pisa. They were to return before February; but in the meantime Bella might naturally feel very solitary among all those strangers, whose manners and doings she described so well.

The mother’s instinct had been true. Bella was not so happy as she had been in that first flush of wonder and delight which followed the change from Walworth to the Riviera. Somehow, she knew not how, lassitude had crept upon her. She no longer loved to climb the hills, no longer flourished her orange stick in sheer gladness of heart as her light feet skipped over the rough ground and the coarse grass on the mountain side. The odour of rosemary and thyme, the fresh breath of the sea, no longer filled her with rapture. She thought of Beresford Street and her mother’s face with a sick longing. They were so far—so far away! And then she thought of Lady Ducayne, sitting by the heaped-up olive logs in the over-heated salon —thought of that wizened-nut-cracker profile, and those gleaming eyes, with an invincible horror.

Visitors at the hotel had told her that the air of Cap Ferrino was relaxing — better suited to age than to youth, to sickness than to health. No doubt it was so. She was not so well as she had been at Walworth; but she told herself that she was suffering only from the pain of separation from the dear companion of her girlhood, the mother who had been nurse, sister, friend, flatterer, all things in this world to her. She had shed many tears over that parting, had spent many a melancholy hour on the marble terrace with yearning eyes looking westward, and with her heart’s desire a thousand miles away.

She was sitting in her favourite spot, an angle at the eastern end of the terrace, a quiet little nook sheltered by orange trees, when she heard a couple of Riviera habitues talking in the garden below. They were sitting on a bench against the terrace wall.

She had no idea of listening to their talk, till the sound of Lady Ducayne’s name attracted her, and then she listened without any thought of wrong-doing. They were talking no secrets—just casually discussing an hotel acquaintance.

They were two elderly people whom Bella only knew by sight. An English clergyman who had wintered abroad for half his lifetime ; a stout, comfortable, well-to-do spinster, whose chronic bronchitis obliged her to migrate annually.

“I have met her about Italy for the last ten years,” said the lady; “but have never found out her real age.”

“I put her down at a hundred—not a year less,” replied the parson. “Her reminiscences all go back to the Regency. She was evidently then in her zenith; and I have heard her say things that showed she was in Parisian society when the First Empire was at its best—before Josephine was divorced.”

“She doesn’t talk much now.”

“No; there’s not much life left in her. She is wise in keeping herself secluded. I only wonder that wicked old quack, her Italian doctor, didn’t finish her off years ago.”

“I should think it must be the other way, and that he keeps her alive.”

“My dear Miss Manders, do you think foreign quackery ever kept anybody alive?”

“Well, there she is—and she never goes anywhere without him. He certainly has an unpleasant countenance.”

“Unpleasant,” echoed the parson, “I don’t believe the foul fiend himself can beat him in ugliness. I pity that poor young woman who has to live between old Lady Ducayne and Dr. Parravicini.”

“But the old lady is very good to her companions.”

“No doubt. She is very free with her cash; the servants call her good Lady Ducayne. She is a withered old female Croesus, and knows she’ll never be able to get through her money, and doesn’t relish the idea of other people enjoying it when she’s in her coffin. People who live to be as old as she is become slavishly attached to life. I daresay she’s generous to those poor girls—but she can’t make them happy. They die in her service.”

“Don’t say they, Mr. Carton; I know that one poor girl died at Mentone last spring.”

“Yes, and another poor girl died in Rome three years ago. I was there at the time. Good Lady Ducayne left her there in an English family. The girl had every comfort. The old woman was very liberal to her–but she died. I tell you, Miss Manders, it is not good for any young woman to live with two such horrors as Lady Ducayne and Parravicini.”

They talked of other things—but Bella hardly heard them. She sat motionless, and a cold wind seemed to come down upon her from the mountains and to creep up to her from the sea, till she shivered as she sat there in the sunshine, in the shelter of the orange trees in the midst of all that beauty and brightness.

Yes, they were uncanny, certainly, the pair of them—she so like an aristocratic witch in her withered old age; he of no particular age, with a face that was more like a waxen mask than any human countenance Bella had ever seen. What did it matter? Old age is venerable, and worthy of all reverence; and Lady Ducayne had been very kind to her. Dr. Parravicini was a harmless, inoffensive student, who seldom looked up from the book he was reading. He had his private sitting-room, where he made experiments in chemistry and natural science— perhaps in alchemy. What could it matter to Bella? He had always been polite to her, in his far-off way. She could not be more happily placed than she was—in this palatial hotel, with this rich old lady.

No doubt she missed the young English girl who had been so friendly, and it might be that she missed the girl’s brother, for Mr. Stafford had talked to her a good deal—had interested himself in the books she was reading, and her manner of amusing herself when she was not on duty.

“You must come to our little salon when you are ‘off,’ as the hospital nurses call it, and we can have some music. No doubt you play and sing?” upon which Bella had to own with a blush of shame that she had forgotten how to play the piano ages ago.

“Mother and I used to sing duets sometimes between the lights, without accompaniment,” she said, and the tears came into her eyes as she thought of the humble room, the half-hour’s respite from work, the sewing-machine standing where a piano ought to have been, and her mother’s plaintive voice, so sweet, so true, so dear.

Sometimes she found herself wondering whether she would ever see that beloved mother again. Strange forebodings came into her mind. She was angry with herself for giving way to melancholy thoughts.

One day she questioned Lady Ducayne’s French maid about those two companions who had died within three years.

“They were poor, feeble creatures,” Francine told her. “They looked fresh and bright enough when they came to Miladi; but they ate too much, and they were lazy. They died of luxury and idleness. Miladi was too kind to them. They had nothing to do; and so they took to fancying things; fancying the air didn’t suit them, that they couldn’t sleep.”

“I sleep well enough, but I have had a strange dream several times since I have been in Italy.”

“Ah, you had better not begin to think about dreams, or you will be like those other girls. They were dreamers —and they dreamt themselves into the cemetery.”

The dream troubled her a little, not because it was a ghastly or frightening dream, but on account of sensations which she had never felt before in sleep—a whirring of wheels that went round in her brain, a great noise like a whirlwind, but rhythmical like the ticking of a gigantic clock: and then in the midst of this uproar as of winds and waves she seemed to sink into a gulf of unconsciousness, out of sleep into far deeper sleep— total extinction. And then, after that blank interval, there had come the sound of voices, and then again the whirr of wheels, louder and louder—and again the blank —and then she knew no more till morning, when she awoke, feeling languid and oppressed.

She told Dr. Parravicini of her dream one day, on the only occasion when she wanted his professional advice. She had suffered rather severely from the mosquitoes before Christmas—and had been almost frightened at finding a wound upon her arm which she could only attribute to the venomous sting of one of these torturers. Parravicini put on his glasses, and scrutinized the angry mark on the round, white arm, as Bella stood before him and Lady Ducayne with her sleeve rolled up above her elbow.

“Yes, that’s rather more than a joke,” he said; “he has caught you on the top of a vein. What a vampire! But there’s no harm done, signorina, nothing that a little dressing of mine won’t heal. You must always show me any bite of this nature. It might be dangerous if neglected. These creatures feed on poison and disseminate it.”

“And to think that such tiny creatures can bite like this,” said Bella; “my arm looks as if it had been cut by a knife.”

“If I were to show you a mosquito’s sting under my microscope you wouldn’t be surprised at that,” replied Parravicini.

Bella had to put up with the mosquito bites, even when they came on the top of a vein, and produced that ugly wound. The wound recurred now and then at longish intervals, and Bella found Dr. Parravicini’s dressing a speedy cure. If he were the quack his enemies called him, he had at least a light hand and a delicate touch in performing this small operation.

“Bella Rolleston to Mrs. Rolleston.— April 14th.

“Ever Dearest,—Behold the cheque for my second quarter’s salary— five and twenty pounds. There is no one to pinch off a whole tenner for a year’s commission as there was last time, so it is all for you, mother, dear. I have plenty of pocket-money in hand from the cash I brought away with me, when you insisted on my keeping more than I wanted. It isn’t possible to spend money here—except on occasional tips to servants, or sous to beggars and children—unless one had lots to spend, for everything one would like to buy—tortoise-shell, coral, lace—is so ridiculously dear that only a millionaire ought to look at it. Italy is a dream of beauty: but for shopping, give me Newington Causeway.

“You ask me so earnestly if I am quite well that I fear my letters must have been, very dull lately. Yes, dear, I am well- but I am not quite so strong as I was when I used to trudge to the West-end to buy half a pound of tea—just for a constitutional walk —or to Dulwich to look at the pictures. Italy is relaxing ; and I feel what the people here call ‘slack.’ But I fancy I can see your dear face looking worried as you read this. Indeed, and indeed, I am not ill. I am only a little tired of this lovely scene—as I suppose one might get tired of looking at one of Turner’s pictures if it hung on a wall that was always opposite one. I think of you every hour in every day—think of you and our homely little room—our dear little shabby parlour, with the arm-chairs from the wreck of your old home, and Dick singing in his cage over the sewing-machine. Dear, shrill, maddening Dick, who, we flattered ourselves, was so passionately fond of us. Do tell me in your next that he is well.

“My friend Lotta and her brother never came back after all. They went from Pisa to Rome. Happy mortals! And they are to be on the Italian lakes in May; which lake was not decided when Lotta last wrote to me. She has been a charming correspondent, and has confided all her little flirtations to me. We are all to go to Bellaggio next week—by Genoa and Milan. Isn’t that lovely? Lady Ducayne travels by the easiest stages — except when she is bottled up in the train de luxe. We shall stop two days at Genoa and one at Milan. What a bore I shall be to you with my talk about Italy when I come home.

“Love and love—and ever more love from your adoring, Bella.”

IV.

Herbert Stafford and his sister had often talked of the pretty English girl with her fresh complexion, which made such a pleasant touch of rosy colour among all those sallow faces at the Grand Hotel. The young doctor thought of her with a compassionate tenderness—her utter loneliness in that great hotel where there were so many people, her bondage to that old, old woman, where everybody else was free to think of nothing but enjoying life. It was a hard fate; and the poor child was evidently devoted to her mother, and felt the pain of separation— “only two of them, and very poor, and all the world to each other,” he thought.

Lotta told him one morning that they were to meet again at Bellaggio. “The old thing and her court are to be there before we are,” she said. “I shall be charmed to have Bella again. She is so bright and gay—in spite of an occasional touch of home-sickness. I never took to a girl on a short acquaintance as I did to her.”

“I like her best when she is home-sick,” said Herbert; ” for then I am sure she has a heart.”

“What have you to do with hearts, except for dissection? Don’t forget that Bella is an absolute pauper. She told me in confidence that her mother makes mantles for a Westend shop. You can hardly have a lower depth than that.”

“I shouldn’t think any less of her if her mother made match-boxes.”

“Not in the abstract — of course not. Match-boxes are honest labour. But you couldn’t marry a girl whose mother makes mantles.”

“We haven’t come to the consideration of that question yet,” answered Herbert, who liked to provoke his sister.

In two years’ hospital practice he had seen too much of the grim realities of life to retain any prejudices about rank. Cancer, phthisis, gangrene, leave a man with little respect for the outward differences which vary the husk of humanity. The kernel is always the same—fearfully and wonderfully made—a subject for pity and terror.

Mr. Stafford and his sister arrived at Bellaggio in a fair May evening. The sun was going down as the steamer approached the pier; and all that glory of purple bloom which curtains every wall at this season of the year flushed and deepened in the glowing light. A group of ladies were standing on the pier watching the arrivals, and among them Herbert saw a pale face that startled him out of his wonted composure.

“There she is,” murmured Lotta, at his elbow, “but how dreadfully changed. She looks a wreck.”

They were shaking hands with her a few minutes later, and a flush had lighted up her poor pinched face in the pleasure of meeting.

“I thought you might come this evening,” she said. “We have been here a week.”

She did not add that she had been there every evening to watch the boat in, and a good many times during the day. The Grand Bretagne was close by, and it had been easy for her to creep to the pier when the boat bell rang. She felt a joy in meeting these people again: a sense of being with friends: a confidence which Lady Ducayne’s goodness had never inspired in her.

“Oh, you poor darling, how awfully ill you must have been,” exclaimed Lotta, as the two girls embraced.

Bella tried to answer, but her voice was choked with tears.

“What has been the matter, dear? That horrid influenza, I suppose?”

“No. no, I have not been ill—I have only felt a little weaker than I used to be. I don’t think the air of Cap Ferrino quite agreed with me.”

“It must have disagreed with you abominably. I never saw such a change in anyone. Do let Herbert doctor you. He is fully qualified, you know. He prescribed for ever so many influenza patients at the Londres. They were glad to get advice from an English doctor in a friendly way.”

“I am sure he must be very clever!” faltered Bella, “but there is really nothing the matter. I am not ill, and if I were ill, Lady Ducayne’s physician–”

“That dreadful man with the yellow face? I would as soon one of the Borgias prescribed for me. I hope you haven’t been taking any of his medicines.”

“No, dear, I have taken nothing. I have never complained of being ill.”

This was said while they were all three walking to the hotel. The Staffords’ rooms had been secured in advance, pretty ground-floor rooms, opening into the garden. Lady Ducayne’s statelier apartments were on the floor above.

“I believe these rooms are just under ours,” said Bella.

“Then it will be all the easier for you to run down to us,” replied Lotta, which was not really the case, as the grand staircase was in the centre of the hotel.

“Oh, I shall find it easy enough,” said Bella. “I’m afraid you’ll have too much of my societv. Lady Ducayne sleeps away half the day in this warm weather, so I have a good deal of idle time; and I get awfully moped thinking of mother and home.”

Her voice broke upon the last word. She could not have thought of that poor lodging which went by the name of home more tenderly had it been the most beautiful that art and wealth ever created. She moped and pined in this lovely garden, with the sunlit lake and the romantic hills spreading out their beauty before her. She was home-sick and she had dreams : or, rather, an occasional recurrence of that one bad dream with all its strange sensations — it was more like a hallucination than dreaming—the whirring of wheels; the sinking into an abyss; the struggling back to consciousness. She had the dream shortly before she left Cap Ferrino, but not since she had come to Bellaggio, and she began to hope the air in this lake district suited her better, and that those strange sensations would never return.

Mr. Stafford wrote a prescription and had it made up at the chemist’s near the hotel. It was a powerful tonic, and after two bottles, and a row or two on the lake, and some rambling over the hills and in the meadows where the spring flowers made earth seem paradise, Bella’s spirits and looks improved as if by magic.

“It is a wonderful tonic,” she said, but perhaps in her heart of hearts she knew that the doctor’s kind voice, and the friendly hand that helped her in and out of the boat, and the watchful care that went with her by land and lake, had something to do with her cure.

“I hope you don’t forget that her mother makes mantles,” Lotta said, warningly.

“Or match-boxes: it is just the same thing, so far as I am concerned.”

“You mean that in no circumstances could you think of marrying her?”

“I mean that if ever I love a woman well enough to think of marrying her, riches or rank will count for nothing with me. But I fear—I fear your poor friend may not live to be any man’s wife.”

“Do you think her so very ill?”

He sighed, and left the question unanswered.

One day, while they were gathering wild hyacinths in an upland meadow, Bella told Mr. Stafford about her bad dream.

“It is curious only because it is hardly like a dream,” she said. “I daresay you could find some common-sense reason for it. The position of my head on my pillow, or the atmosphere, or something.”

And then she described her sensations; how in the midst of sleep there came a sudden sense of suffocation; and then those whirring wheels, so loud, so terrible; and then a blank, and then a coming back to waking consciousness.

“Have you ever had chloroform given you —by a dentist, for instance?”

“Never—Dr. Parravicini asked me that question one day.”

“Lately?”

“No, long ago, when we were in the train de luxe.”

“Has Dr. Parravicini prescribed for you since you began to feel weak and ill?”

“Oh, he has given me a tonic from time to time, but I hate medicine, and took very little of the stuff. And then I am not ill, only weaker than I used to be. I was ridiculously strong and well when I lived at Walworth, and used to take long walks every day. Mother made me take those tramps to Dulwich or Norwood, for fear I should suffer from too much sewing-machine; sometimes—but very seldom—she went with me. She was generally toiling at home while I was enjoying fresh air and exercise. And she was very careful about our food—that, however plain it was, it should be always nourishing and ample. I owe it to her care that I grew up such a great, strong creature.”

“You don’t look great or strong now, you poor dear,” said Lotta.

“I’m afraid Italy doesn’t agree with me.”

“Perhaps it is not Italy, but being cooped up with Lady Ducayne that has made you ill.”

“But I am never cooped up. Lady Ducayne is absurdly kind, and lets me roam about or sit in the balcony all day if I like. I have read more novels since I have been with her than in all the rest of my life.”

“Then she is very different from the average old lady, who is usually a slavedriver,” said Stafford. “I wonder why she carries a companion about with her if she has so little need of society.”

“Oh, I am only part of her state. She is inordinately rich—and the salary she gives me doesn’t count. Apropos of Dr. Parravicini, I know he is a clever doctor, for he cures my horrid mosquito bites.”

“A little ammonia would do that, in the early stage of the mischief. But there are no mosquitoes to trouble you now.”

“Oh, yes, there are; I had a bite just before we left Cap Ferrino.”

She pushed up her loose lawn sleeve, and exhibited a scar, which he scrutinized intently, with a surprised and puzzled look.

“This is no mosquito bite,” he said.

“Oh, yes it is — unless there are snakes or adders at Cap Ferrino.”

“It is not a bite at all. You are trifling with me. Miss Rolleston—you have allowed that wretched Italian quack to bleed you. They killed the greatest man in modern Europe that way, remember. How very foolish of you.”

“I was never bled in my life, Mr. Stafford.”

“Nonsense! Let me look at your other arm. Are there any more mosquito bites?”

“Yes; Dr. Parravicini says I have a bad skin for healing, and that the poison acts more virulently with me than with most people.”

Stafford examined both her arms in the broad sunlight, scars new and old.

“You have been very badly bitten, Miss Rolleston,” he said, “and if ever I find the mosquito I shall make him smart. But, now tell me, my dear girl, on your word of honour, tell me as you would tell a friend who is sincerely anxious for your health and happiness—as you would tell your mother if she were here to question you—have you no knowledge of any cause for these scars except mosquito bites—no suspicion even?”

“No, indeed! No, upon my honour! I have never seen a mosquito biting my arm. One never does see the horrid little fiends. But I have heard them trumpeting under the curtains, and I know that I have often had one of the pestilent wretches buzzing about me.”

Later in the day Bella and her friends were sitting at tea in the garden, while Lady Ducayne took her afternoon drive with her doctor.

“How long do you mean to stop with Lady Ducayne, Miss Rolleston?” Herbert Stafford asked, after a thoughtful silence, breaking suddenly upon the trivial talk of the two girls.

“As long as she will go on paying me twenty-five pounds a quarter.”

“Even if you feel your health breaking down in her service?”

“It is not the service that has injured my health. You can see that I have really nothing to do—to read aloud for an hour or so once or twice a week: to write a letter once in a way to a London tradesman. I shall never have such an easy time with anybody else. And nobody else would give me a hundred a year.”

“Then you mean to go on till you break down; to die at your post?”

“Like the other two companions? No! If ever I feel seriously ill—really ill—I shall put myself in a train and go back to Walworth without stopping.”

“What about the other two companions?”

“They both died. It was very unlucky for Lady Ducayne. That’s why she engaged me; she chose me because I was ruddy and robust. She must feel rather disgusted at my having grown white and weak. By-the-bye, when I told her about the good your tonic had done me, she said she would like to see you and have a little talk with you about her own case.”

“And I should like to see Lady Ducayne. When did she say this?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“Will you ask her if she will see me this evening?”

“With pleasure! I wonder what you will think of her? She looks rather terrible to a stranger; but Dr. Parravicini says she was once a famous beauty.”

It was nearly ten o’clock when Mr. Stafford was summoned by message from Lady Ducayne, whose courier came to conduct him to her ladyship’s salon. Bella was reading aloud when the visitor was admitted ; and he noticed the languor in the low, sweet tones, the evident effort.

“Shut up the book,” said the querulous old voice. “You are beginning to drawl like Miss Blandy.”

Stafford saw a small, bent figure crouching over the piled-up olive logs: a shrunken old figure in a gorgeous garment of black and crimson brocade, a skinny throat emerging from a mass of old Venetian lace, clasped with diamonds that flashed like fire-flies as the trembling old head turned towards him.

The eyes that looked at him out of the face were almost as bright as the diamonds —the only living feature in that narrow parchment mask. He had seen terrible faces in the hospital—faces on which disease had set dreadful marks—but he had never seen a face that impressed him so painfully as this withered countenance, with its indescribable horror of death outlived, a face that should have been hidden under a coffin-lid years and years ago.

The Italian physician was standing on the other side of the fireplace, smoking a cigarette, and looking down at the little old woman brooding over the hearth as if he were proud of her.

“Good evening, Mr. Stafford: you can go to your room, Bella, and write your everlasting letter to your mother at Walworth,” said Lady Ducayne. “I believe she writes a page about every wild flower she discovers in the woods and meadows. I don’t know what else she can find to write about,” she added, as Bella quietly withdrew to the pretty little bedroom opening out of Lady Ducayne’s spacious apartment. Here, as at Cap Ferrino, she slept in a room adjoining the old lady’s.

“You are a medical man, I understand, Mr. Stafford.”

“I am a qualified practitioner, but I have not begun to practise.”

“You have begun upon my companion, she tells me.”

“I have prescribed for her, certainly, and I am happy to find my prescription has done her good; but I look upon that improvement as temporary. Her case will require more drastic treatment.”

“Never mind her case. There is nothing the matter with the girl—absolutely nothing— except girlish nonsense; too much liberty and not enough work.”

“I understand that two of your ladyship’s previous companions died of the same disease,” said Stafford, looking first at Lady Ducayne, who gave her tremulous old head an impatient jerk, and then at Parravicini, whose yellow complexion had paled a little under Stafford’s scrutiny.

“Don’t bother me about my companions, sir,” said Lady Ducayne. “I sent for you to consult you about myself—not about a parcel of anaemic girls. You are young, and medicine is a progressive science, the newspapers tell me. Where have you studied?”

“In Edinburgh—and in Paris.”

“Two good schools. And you know all the new-fangled theories, the modern discoveries—that remind one of the mediaeval witchcraft, of Albertus Magnus, and George Ripley; you have studied hypnotism — electricity?”

“And the transfusion of blood,” said Stafford, very slowly, looking at Parravicini.

“Have you made any discovery that teaches you to prolong human life—any elixir—any mode of treatment? I want my life prolonged, young man. That man there has been my physician for thirty years. He does all he can to keep me alive—after his lights. He studies all the new theories of all the scientists—but he is old; he gets older every day—his brain-power is going—he is bigoted—prejudiced—can’t receive new ideas—can’t grapple with new systems. He will let me die if I am not on my guard against him.”

You are of an unbelievable ingratitude, Ecclenza,” said Parravicini.

“Oh, you needn’t complain. I have paid you thousands to keep me alive. Every year of my life has swollen your hoards; you know there is nothing to come to you when I am gone. My whole fortune is left to endow a home for indigent women of quality who have reached their ninetieth year. Come, Mr. Stafford, I am a rich woman. Give me a few years more in the sunshine, a few years more above ground, and I will give you the price of a fashionable London practice—I will set you up at the West-end.”

“How old are you, Lady Ducayne?”

“I was born the day Louis XVI. was guillotined.”

“Then I think you have had your share of the sunshine and the pleasures of the earth, and that you should spend your few remaining days in repenting your sins and trying to make atonement for the young lives that have been sacrificed to your love of life.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?”

“Oh, Lady Ducayne, need I put your wickedness and your physician’s still greater wickedness in plain words? The poor girl who is now in your employment has been reduced from robust health to a condition of absolute danger by Dr. Parravicini’s experimental surgery; and I have no doubt those other two young women who broke down in your service were treated by him in the same manner. I could take upon myself to demonstrate—by most convincing evidence, to a jury of medical men—that Dr. Parravicini has been bleeding Miss Rolleston, after putting her under chloroform, at intervals, ever since she has been in your service The deterioration in the girl’s health speaks for itself; the lancet marks upon the girl’s arms are unmistakable ; and her description of a series of sensations, which she calls a dream, points unmistakably to the administration of chloroform while she was sleeping. A practice so nefarious, so murderous, must, if exposed, result in a sentence only less severe than the punishment of murder.”

“I laugh,” said Parravicini, with an airy motion of his skinny fingers; “I laugh at once at your theories and at your threats. I, Parravicini Leopold, have no fear that the law can question anything I have done.”

“Take the girl away, and let me hear no more of her,” cried Lady Ducayne, in the thin, old voice, which so poorly matched the energy and fire of the wicked old brain that guided its utterances. “Let her go back to her mother—I want no more girls to die in my service. There are girls enough and to spare in the world, God knows.”

“If you ever engage another companion —or take another English girl into your service, Lady Ducayne, I will make all England ring with the story of your wickedness.”

“I want no more girls. I don’t believe in his experiments. They have been full of danger for me as well as for the girl–an air bubble, and I should be gone. I’ll have no more of his dangerous quackery. I’ll find some new man —a better man than you, sir, a discoverer like Pasteur, or Virchow, a genius—to keep me alive. Take your girl away, young man. Marry her if you like. I’ll write her a cheque for a thousand pounds, and let her go and live on beef and beer, and get strong and plump again. I’ll have no more such experiments. Do you hear, Parravicini?” she screamed, vindictively, the yellow, wrinkled face distorted with fury, the eyes glaring at him.

The Staffords carried Bella Rolleston off to Varese next day, she very loth to leave Lady Ducayne, whose liberal salary afforded such help for the dear mother. Herbert Stafford insisted, however, treating Bella as coolly as if he had been the family physician, and she had been given over wholly to his care.

“Do you suppose your mother would let you stop here to die ?” he asked. “If Mrs. Rolleston knew how ill you are, she would come post haste to fetch you.”

“I shall never be well again till I get back to Walworth,” answered Bella, who was low-spirited and inclined to tears this morning, a reaction after her good spirits of yesterday.

“We’ll try a week or two at Varese first,” said Stafford. “When you can walk half-way up Monte Generoso without palpitation of the heart, you shall go back to Walworth.”

“Poor mother, how glad she will be to see me, and how sorry that I’ve lost such a good place.”

This conversation took place on the boat when they were leaving Bellaggio. Lotta had gone to her friend’s room at seven o’clock that morning, long before Lady Ducayne’s withered eyelids had opened to the daylight, before even Francine, the French maid, was astir, and had helped to pack a Gladstone bag with essentials, and hustled Bella downstairs and out of doors before she could make any strenuous resistance.

“It’s all right,” Lotta assured her. “Herbert had a good talk with Lady Ducayne last night, and it was settled for you to leave this morning. She doesn’t like invalids, you see.”

“No,” sighed Bella, “she doesn’t like invalids. It was very unlucky that I should break down, just like Miss Tomson and Miss Blandy.”

“At any rate, you are not dead, like them,” answered Lotta, “and my brother says you are not going to die.”

It seemed rather a dreadful thing to be dismissed in that off-hand way, without a word of farewell from her employer.

“I wonder what Miss Torpinter will say when I go to her for another situation,” Bella speculated, ruefully, while she and her friends were breakfasting on board the steamer.

“Perhaps you may never want another situation,” said Stafford.

“You mean that I may never be well enough to be useful to anybody?”

“No, I don’t mean anything of the kind.”

It was after dinner at Varese, when Bella had been induced to take a whole glass of Chianti,and quite sparkled after that unaccustomed stimulant, that Mr. Stafford produced a letter from his pocket.

“I forgot to give you Lady Ducayne’s letter of adieu!” he said.

“What, did she write to me? I am so glad—I hated to leave her in such a cool way; for after all she was very kind to me, and if I didn’t like her it was only because she was too dreadfully old.”

She tore open the envelope. The letter was short and to the point:—

“Good-bye, child. Go and marry your doctor. I inclose a farewell gift for your trousseau.—Adeline Ducayne.”

“A hundred pounds, a whole year’s salary — no — why, it’s for a — ‘A cheque for a thousand!'” cried Bella. “What a generous old soul! She really is the dearest old thing.”

“She just missed being very dear to you, Bella,” said Stafford.

He had dropped into the use of her Christian name while they were on board the boat. It seemed natural now that she was to be in his charge till they all three went back to England.

“I shall take upon myself the privileges of an elder brother till we land at Dover,” he said; “after that —well, it must be as you please.”

The question of their future relations must have been satisfactorily settled before they crossed the Channel, for Bella’s next letter to her mother communicated three startling facts.

First, that the inclosed cheque for £1,000 was to be invested in debenture stock in Mrs. Rolleston’s name, and was to be her very own, income and principal, for the rest of her life.

Next, that Bella was going home to Walworth immediately.

And last, that she was going to be married to Mr. Herbert Stafford in the following autumn.

“And I am sure you will adore him, mother, as much as I do,” wrote Bella. “It is all good Lady Ducayne’s doing. I never could have married if I had not secured that little nest-egg for you. Herbert says we shall be able to add to it as the years go by, and that wherever we live there shall be always a room in our house for you. The word ‘mother-in-law ‘ has no terrors for him.”

“Good Lady Ducayne,” Miss Braddon, The Strand, 1896.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What an eminently suitable vampiric tale for “World Goth Day.”  And a most satisfactory conclusion, particularly for the lady so heartlessly described as “that worst of widows, a wife whose husband had deserted her,” as if she were somehow responsible for the scoundrel-hood of her vanished spouse. We might also note the usefulness of those often-despised fancy-work skills, which meant that clever needlewoman Mrs Rolleston managed to eke out a crust for her little family, until the third-reel happy ending.

One wonders just how happy that ending will be with a heroine so vastly loquacious and oblivious as Bella. Let us hope that the soon-to-be Doctor Stafford proves himself a clever physician, saves the life of some wealthy old gentleman, who places him on a retainer and then leaves him a fortune in his will, rendering him independently wealthy.

As for “good” Lady Ducayne, perhaps she found a Swiss clinic providing plastic-surgeries and life-extending treatments or even cryonics. It is more likely she hired another companion under a false name and at premium rates from the odious Superior Person.

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

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Mothers Day Greeting

 

For her readers in the United States, Mrs Daffodil wishes all fond Mamas the very happiest of days!

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 Adventure of the Little Wax Figure: 1895

wax headed baby doll

The Adventure of the Little Lay Figure.

Amongst the many strange things which have befallen me in my career as Court dressmaker, I do not think any experience is more peculiar and out of the way than the one which I am about to relate. I allude now to the “Adventure of the Little Lay Figure.”

By degrees, the difficulties which had beset me in the outset of my career were one by one overcome. I was obliged to take new premises. My show-rooms were wonders of beauty and elegance. I engaged many apprentices, and was, in short, busy from morning till night, and perhaps I ought to add, from night to morning again.

The story which I am going to tell began at a late hour one evening. I was busy helping to arrange the skirt of a very splendid Court train, and was giving eager directions to one of the most experienced of my work women, when a message was brought to me to the effect that a gentleman wished to see me on urgent business in my show-room.

“He begs of you to go to him at once, madam,” said the girl who brought me the message.

My mouth was full of pins, and I held a pair of sharp scissors in my hand as I listened to her.

“Whoever the gentleman is, he looks in an awful taking,” she continued.

“Well, I’ll go to him,” I replied. I ran downstairs and entered my showroom. A tall man in an overcoat, and holding his hat in one hand, was pacing up and down in front of some of my daintiest dresses. A pretty pale blue frock for a little girl of ten, which was to be sent home that evening, seemed in especial to rivet his attention.

As I entered the room, he stooped and took a portion of the fabric between his finger and thumb. “You are Miss Ross?” he interrogated.

“Yes,” I answered. “You have made this?’’ he continued.

“Yes,” I replied again.

“It is in the height of the fashion, I hope?’’

“It is,” I said. “I have copied it from last week’s fashions in the __.” I mentioned the name of our leading journal of fashion.

The gentleman bowed slightly. “It appears to be the correct sort of thing,” he said, “not that I know anything really about such matters. My name is Forrester. I live about eight miles out of town. I require the services of a competent dressmaker without a moment’s delay. My carriage is waiting at the door. Can you come with me at once?’’

“Not to-night,” I began.

Mr. Forrester interrupted with an impatient wave of his hand. “Money is not of the slightest object to me,” he said. “I will pay you any sum you like to ask. Let your work go. This is an affair of life or death. I require your immediate services, and feel sure that you cannot refuse them to me. You will reach my house in an hour and a half. With the assistance that will be given you, you will probably do what is required in a few hours, and I will undertake to send you home as soon as ever your task is done.”

“I can send an able assistant,” I began.

“Pardon me, I must have someone I can trust. I like your face, and am willing to employ you in this most delicate matter. Will you come immediately or not? If you say no, I must seek instant assistance in another quarter. Now, is it yes or no?”

As he spoke I looked straight up at my queer visitor. He was a man of about thirty-five, his eyes were dark, and his hair and sweeping moustache were raven black. He looked like a man who had gone through a great mental storm, but there was something frank and even pleasant about his expression which impelled me not only to sympathise with him, but to like him.

“It is very awkward for me to go,” I said, “but the call of trouble cannot be refused. You must give me five minutes to get ready and to give a few directions to my workwomen, then I will be with you.”

“I am exceedingly obliged to you, Miss Ross,” he answered; he sank down on the nearest chair and uttered a heavy sigh of relief. I rushed away, and at the end of the appointed five minutes was again by his side.

“I am ready now,” I said, “but before we start it may be well for me to know something of  the sort of services which are required of me. I presume I am expected to assist in the making of an important dress. Is it for an old, a middle-aged, or a young lady?”

He gulped down a sort of choking sensation in his throat before he replied.

“The dress is for a child,” he said, “for quite a young child. It must be very soft and pretty, and above all things, fashionable.”

“Is the child dark or fair?” I asked.

His face grew whiter than before.

“The child is fair as an angel,” he said, bringing out the words with difficulty.

“Then perhaps it would be well for me to take some suitable stuffs with me,” I said.

I opened some drawers as I spoke, made a hasty selection from a lovely assortment of soft silks and crêpons, wrapped them up in brown paper, put them into a bag which I carried in my hand, and then followed Mr. Forrester to his carriage.

A footman in livery and powder opened the door for us.

“Tell Jenkins to drive home as fast as ever he can,” said Mr. Forrester to the man. We started forward immediately at a rattling speed, and in an incredibly short space of time found ourselves outside London and on a high road, which I could see in the moonlight was smooth and flat, and commanded a level sweep of country. We drove on for three-quarters of an hour without my companion addressing a single word to me. At the end of that time he broke the silence abruptly.

“I have asked you to come with me,” he said, “to execute a most strange and unusual task. The fact is, my wife has just gone through a terrible illness. Her health in consequence is in a very precarious, I may say dangerous, condition. Her life hangs by a thread, and a very slight shock would kill her. The means which I am about to employ, and in which I seek your assistance, seem the only possible ones to prolong a most valuable and precious life. Dressmaking is not accompanied by such grave issues as a rule, but this case is altogether exceptional.”

“I wish you would tell me frankly what you want me to do,” I said, nettled and somewhat alarmed by his mysterious words.

“I find it difficult to tell you,” he replied; “have a little patience, and you will soon know.”

There was such despair in his voice that I forbore to question him further, and soon afterwards we reached some gates, which were immediately flung open, and the horses plunged down a long avenue overshadowed by trees.

“Remember,” said Mr. Forrester, as we approached the hall door, “that money is no object—no object whatever. The mission I ask you to undertake for me is of so delicate a character that there are few women to whom I could entrust it. I feel sure, when you know all, that you will regard it as a secret. Here we are at last, thank heaven. Now, Miss Ross, have the goodness to follow me.”

We had drawn up at the entrance to a large mansion. A footman ran down a tall flight of steps to open the carriage door, and Mr. Forrester helped me to alight.

“Is Austin in the nurseries, James?” asked the master of the house.

“Yes, sir; Mrs. Austin told me to tell you that she was in attendance and was waiting for your arrival,” answered the footman.

“Very well. Please follow me, Miss Ross.”

We found ourselves in the stately entrance hall, but my host did not give me a moment to look around me. He hurried me down some long corridors and up some richly carpeted stairs, then down other passages and up other stairs, until we drew up at last outside a red baize door.

Here he paused for a second.

“Mrs. Austin can explain better than I can the peculiar services which are required of you,” he said. He opened the door as he spoke, and ushered me in. I found myself in a cheerful and beautiful room. A bright fire burnt in the grate. Wax candles and lamps added to the pleasant effect. The walls were hung with lovely pictures of childhood in many forms. A rocking-horse stood in one corner. A doll sat dismally up in a little arm-chair and stared at me with two round black eyes. The expression on that doll’s face seemed immediately to get on my brain. I turned away from it with a sinking of heart which I could not account for. A middle-aged woman, whose eyes were red as if she had been weeping, came eagerly forward when we appeared.

“I have brought Miss Ross, Mrs. Austin,” said Mr. Forrester. “She is an excellent dressmaker, and will do exactly what is required. See that she gets what assistance is necessary for her work. Miss Ross will be occupied all night, but I should wish to see her before she leaves in the morning.” Here Mr. Forrester turned and bowed to me; the next moment he had vanished.

“Will you take off your bonnet and cloak, Miss Ross?” said Mrs. Austin. I did so without speaking, and with hands which trembled slightly. There was evidently much tragedy in the mysterious affair in which I was called to play a part, and steady as my nerves were, they began to be affected.

Mrs. Austin stood quietly before me. She looked at me earnestly. Her lips were firmly set, but the red rims round her eyes showed the strong control in which she was keeping her emotions.

“Now what am I to do?” I asked. “Your master says I am to make a dress in a great hurry for a child; where is the child?”

“In this room, my dear. Follow me immediately if you please. Oh, you needn’t be frightened; it is nothing infectious.”

I followed the woman with a beating heart. The next moment I found myself in a room where a shaded light was burning, and where another woman, who looked like a trained nurse, was seated by a cot. Even in the darkened light I could dimly notice the outline of a child’s form. She lay perfectly still; her breathing was fast and hurried. The room had that faint, intangible smell which generally accompanies severe illness.

“Why am I brought to see a sick child?” I asked of Mrs. Austin in a whisper.

“Hush, don’t speak; you will know all in a moment,” she replied; then she turned to the trained nurse.

“This is the dressmaker, nurse,” she said. “Will it do Miss Dorothea any harm for Miss Ross to take one good look at her face and figure?”

The nurse shook her head in reply.

“Nothing will harm the child now,” she said; “she is dying fast. Dr. Norton was here not an hour ago, and he does not think she will live to see the morning.”

The woman spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. She took up a candle as she spoke, and motioned to me to approach the little bed. I did so, and looked down at the most beautiful child’s face I had ever seen. Already, however, it looked like a face cut out in wax, so deadly white were the cheeks and lips, so sunken the eyelids which sheltered the closed eyes. The child lay absolutely motionless, her feeble and hurried breath being the only signs that she lived. Her quantities of magnificent golden hair were flung high over the pillow. I gazed at her in pained astonishment. What was the mysterious mission which I was called upon to perform for this dying child?

“You have seen her,” said Mrs. Austin; “you notice that she is fair; observe her figure too; she is slender, very slender. Now, nurse, here are a pair of scissors; if you will cut off the hair, I think we can go immediately to work.”

“I will bring you the child’s hair in a few moments,” replied the nurse. “Miss Ross had better begin her task directly. I will follow you in a few moments into the day nursery.”

We left the room. I sank down on the nearest chair in the outer apartment.

“This frightens me,” I said. “I cannot imagine what task I am expected to perform.”

“Oh, you’ll be brave enough,” said Mrs. Austin; “it isn’t for you to flinch when we have to go through with it. Now listen to me. I’ll tell you the tragedy of this house in a few words. The dying child we have just come from is the heiress to all this splendid old place—not that that matters—what am I talking of? Wealth is of little matter in a supreme moment of this kind. Now listen to me, Miss Ross. My master, Mr. Forrester, is the most devoted husband and father in the world. A month ago there were no happier people on earth than Mr. and Mrs. Forrester and the dear child whom God is taking away from us.

Six weeks ago Mrs. Forrester became very ill. How she took the infection no one knows, but she suddenly developed the most awful form of smallpox.”

I could not help starting; the terrible words pressed like ice against my heart.

“You needn’t be frightened,” said Mrs. Austin. “Precautions of so perfect a nature have been taken that there is not the faintest risk of infection for any one in the house. For days my poor lady lay truly at death’s door; then her disease took an extraordinary turn—she became possessed with an almost insane longing to see her child. She had always been the most unselfish of mothers, and I can only conclude that the illness slightly turned her brain. No persuasions, no arguments had the least effect upon her; she moaned and cried for the child day and night; she said she did not want to touch her, but see her by some means or other she must and would. The doctors at last became quite alarmed, and said that her recovery depended on indulging this craving. After thinking matters over, they devised a plan by which the mother could see the child without risk to the little one. An air-tight window was introduced into Mrs. Forrester’s dressing: room; this dressing-room communicated with another room which was hastily fitted up as a sort of study for the child, and through this window day after day during her convalescence the mother has gazed at the child without the child seeing her, or knowing that she was there. As soon as the window was made, and Mrs. Forrester’s wish could be gratified, she began rapidly to get better; but on Monday last Miss Dorothea developed acute pneumonia, and, as you have just heard, her recovery is hopeless. To tell Mrs. Forrester the truth at this juncture would, the doctors say, bring on such a relapse that either her life or her reason must be the forfeit. She is anxiously counting the hours when she can again clasp the child to her heart, and knows nothing whatever of the terrible illness which is going to take the little one from her. The doctors are nearly distracted, and as to Mr. Forrester, you may imagine the state of his feelings. An idea, however, has occurred to the medical men, which they think may possibly be successful. What they want is time—time to allow Mrs. Forrester to get up her strength sufficiently to bear the blow of her child’s death. She is already fearfully anxious and suspicious at not having seen the child since Monday morning, when the illness first began. The nurses and doctors have put off her questions, and have tried to avert her suspicions in all kinds of ways, but I am told that to-night the poor lady is in a frantic state of unrest and misery—in short, Miss Ross, we have not a moment to lose.”

“I will do all in my power,” I said. “I don’t know in the least what I am to do, but you may be sure when you tell me I will do my very best.”

“Your work is straightforward enough,” replied Mrs. Austin. “Mr. Forrester has had a little wax figure made to resemble the child in all particulars. The child’s own hair is to be put upon the little figure, and you are to dress it. There are some peculiarities about Miss Dorothea which I will specially point out to you; all these you will carefully copy in the little effigy which is to represent her. The little figure is to wear a perfectly new and fashionable dress, which Miss Dorothea was to put on the next time her mother saw her, and which, of course, was never made when the child became so dangerously ill. Mrs. Forrester has always been most particular with regard to the child’s wardrobe, and knew that she was to wear a specially charming and fashionable frock when next she saw her. Now you know what you have got to do —you are to make a beautiful and becoming frock, and you are to give such a life-like air to the little figure, that when my poor lady sees it through the window, she will never guess that it is not Miss Dorothea herself. The figure can be seated with its back slightly turned to the window, and we hope that my poor mistress will never notice the terrible deception practised upon her.”

When I clearly understood what my work was to be, I sat perfectly still. My feelings of astonishment almost stunned me.

“Why don’t you speak?” said Mrs. Austin, giving me an anxious, dissatisfied glance.

“I have been thinking,” I replied, brisking up and rising to my feet as I spoke. “What you have told me has amazed—yes, and terrified me. I promise to do my best; oh yes, you may be sure of that, but  forgive me for saying I think your scheme has little chance of success.”

“It shall succeed,” interrupted Mrs. Austin.

“God grant that it may, if by it your poor lady’s life is saved; but have you not thought of the frightful risk? Remember you are playing with edged tools —you are going to practise this deception on a mother. I remember my own mother; I do not think the most perfect wax representation of one of her children could for a moment have deceived her. You say that Mrs. Forrester is to gaze at the little figure through a window.”

“Yes, yes; she has often since her illness looked at Miss Dorothea in the same way.”

“But the real Miss Dorothea has moved,” I said; “children are never still. The mother has watched each familiar gesture; she has seen the little face wearing many expressions. Now the wax figure—”

“We have thought of all that,” interrupted Mrs. Austin. “The little wax effigy is supplied with wires which will cause certain involuntary movements; the figure will wear the child’s own hair, and will be placed with its back to the mother. She will not dare to call to it, for she would not for worlds let the child see her poor scarred face until it is better. She has promised faithfully never to speak to the child when she looks at it through the window, and I do not for a moment believe she will break her word. In a few days now she will be free from infection, but until then nothing would induce her in her saner moments to risk frightening the child in any way. Oh, I know it is a terrible, terrible risk, but we are forced to run it. God grant that it may succeed.”

“I can fervently echo that prayer,” I responded; “and now let me set to work. I have brought some beautiful materials for children’s frocks with me, and will do my very best to dress the little figure so that the mother may be pleased.”

“We have a workroom all ready for you just beyond this nursery,” said Mrs. Austin. “My mistress’s maid and I will assist you all night. A hairdresser will also be in the room busily converting the child’s own hair into a little wig. Now come; we have not too much time.”

I followed Mrs. Austin, and a few moments later had begun my task. All night long I worked, directing my assistants and manufacturing with their aid one of the most lovely children’s dresses I had ever made. As the dress grew under my fingers I thought of the dying child who would never wear it. There was an ethereal quality about her little face which haunted me. As I worked I seemed to see her with her white wings, in the dress which the angels would give her to wear. I cannot tell why, but the whole tragedy of this most pathetic and terrible story seemed to get into the tips of my fingers, and to help me to fashion the white which I was making. It is impossible for me to describe exactly its particular cut and design. I only know that it looked like no other dress I had ever made. Even now, when I think of it, a lump gets into my throat and a dimness comes before my eyes. As the night wore on, I began to feel a tender affection for the poor little lifeless figure I was clothing. I had only seen the child in illness. When I looked at her sweet face, she was lying under the grey and awful shadow of death, but the little representation of her had been cunningly contrived to resemble the child in health. The colouring on its face was very faint, but the large eyes were blue and rich in their depths, the lips were slightly parted, there was the faint dawning of a happy smile in the expression. The hairdresser worked hard and without a moment’s intermission at the wig of golden hair. When it crowned the little head of the figure, I could not help exclaiming at the lifelike appearance it gave it.

As the hours flew on, my queer work fascinated me. I forgot that I was due in London at an early hour in the morning; my own affairs, my many orders, sank into insignificance. I thought of nothing but the dying child, and the mother who would surely die or become mad if she knew the truth.

When the dawn broke in the winter sky, the hairdresser and I had completed our work. The little figure was clothed in exact representation of the living child. Mr. Forrester was hastily summoned to look at it. His visible start and the colour which rushed over his face, leaving it the next moment deadly pale, were proof sufficient how well we had succeeded.

“You have done splendidly,” he said, coming up to me and speaking in a hoarse voice; then he hastily left the room to hide his emotion.

I had done my task, and under other circumstances would have returned to town, but at this moment there came a knock at the door, and Mrs. Austin went hurriedly to open it. She was absent for some little time talking to someone in the passage, then she returned to me.

“What is to be done now?” she said. “Nobody could have performed their part better than you have done, Miss Ross, and it would be unreasonable, more than unreasonable, to expect anything further at your hands.”

“Not at all,” I said. “I am much, I am deeply interested. In short, if your master will permit me, I should like to stay here until after the experiment of showing the wax figure to your mistress has been tried. I cannot rest until I know if it has been successful.”

“It must be successful,” said Mrs. Austin. “I can’t look at the little figure sitting by that table so natural and life-like without the tears springing to my eyes. Somehow it seems as if she must turn round and speak to us, sweet lamb; but dear, dear, I’m forgetting the new worry.”

“What is that?”

“My poor mistress has been in a very fretful and queer state all night. I have just seen one of the nurses, and she says that she has had a terrible time with her. There is really little or no doubt that the smallpox has slightly affected my mistress’s brain, and now nothing will satisfy her but to have a dress, which was not finished when she took ill, tried on, in order that she may wear it to-day when she looks at the child. It is blue velvet, and Miss Dorothea had taken a fancy to it, so I conclude that is the reason why the wish to wear it has got upon the poor lady’s brain. The nurses know nothing about dressmaking, nothing will induce Simkins, the lady’s maid, to go near my mistress, and—“

“You want me to go?” I interrupted.

“Would you be dreadfully afraid? The doctors say there is little or no infection now from the disease, and you could fit her in a new room into which she is to be moved this morning.”

I hesitated. In this critical moment, was the slight risk to my own life of much value?

“I will go,” I said, “and be vaccinated when I go back to town to-night.”

“Miss Ross, may heaven reward you. You are the bravest woman I ever met.”

“Tell me one thing before I go,” I said; “for it may not be safe for me to see you again. How is the child this morning?”

“Alive, but sinking fast. Oh, God, help the poor mother; if through your assistance, Miss Ross, we keep the terrible truth from her for a week, she will probably have strength to bear the blow when it really falls.”

“Pray give me some breakfast,” I said. “I will go to Mrs. Forrester immediately afterwards.”

“Come this way; what a good woman you are! We can never forget what you are doing for us.”

I had something to eat, and immediately afterwards was conducted to a large bedroom, where Mrs. Forrester and the two nurses, who waited on her day and night, received me. The poor lady herself sat behind curtains, which partly concealed the ravages which the terrible complaint had made on her face. The nurses were very cheerful and practical women. The blue velvet dress lay on a large table in the middle of the room. The skirt was completely finished, but the body required to be taken in and altered, as Mrs. Forrester had shrunk much during her illness. I went about my task in a matter-of-fact spirit, very different from that with which I had worked at the little white dress in the night. Mrs. Forrester talked while I pinned and altered; her dark and beautiful eyes had a slightly vacant look, but she was interested in her dress, stroking down the soft folds of the velvet with her emaciated white fingers. One of the nurses assured me that she would not be permanently marked by the smallpox, and would be quite as beautiful as ever after a time. All her talk while I fitted and arranged the dress was about little Dorothea.

“Be as quick as you can, Miss Ross,” she said many times. “My little girl must be beginning her studies now, and I am quite pining to look at her. It is some days since I have seen her. The child begged for a holiday, and has not been near the study. You see, she does not know that I look at her through the air-tight window, but you cannot guess how I long to see her. My heart is quite starved for another sight of my precious little darling. Nurse, when did you say that I should be quite free of infection? When do the doctors think it will be safe for me to kiss the child? To-morrow, nurse? Do they think it will be safe for me to kiss her to-morrow? Oh, pray don’t think of my poor scarred face; she won’t mind that, my sweet one. I may see her to-morrow, may I not, nurse?”

“Perhaps by the end of the week, dear madam, scarcely to-morrow,” answered the nurse.

“Oh, I have not patience to wait; how cruelly long the time is. Miss Ross, I see that you are a very accomplished dressmaker. You are making this dress fit me most beautifully. How did it happen that you were in the house?”

I thought for a moment, then I said boldly:

“I was sent for to make a new dress for Miss Dorothea.”

“That is delightful; I am most particular about the child’s clothes. I hope it is a pretty dress.”

“It is beautiful.”

“Is it finished?”

“Yes; she will wear it when you see her.”

Soon afterwards, my task being finished, I left the room. The reports from the child’s nursery were just the same; she was alive, and that was all; no one had a shadow of hope about her. Mrs. Austin, whose cheeks were the colour of peonies in her excitement, whispered to me that the little wax figure was now in the study, and that the mother would soon go to the window of her dressing-room to look at it. She left me almost immediately after giving me this information, and I found myself alone. A burning curiosity suddenly seized me to gaze at my own handiwork. There was no one by. I felt sure that I could find my way to the study. I determined to go there to take one good look at the effigy of the child. I stole away on tip-toe, found the room, and went in. by a table. I must own that I had never seen before, either in wax or marble, so lifelike a representation. One arm was pressed on the table, the small dimpled hand was supporting the child’s cheek. From where I stood, the profile could be slightly seen; the rich golden hair fell partly over the little hand, and cast a life-like shadow on the fair face. The clockwork within the figure had been evidently wound up, and it stirred now and then in the most absolutely natural manner.

“That little figure would deceive me,” I said to myself, “but can it take in a mother? That is the question which is so soon to be decided.”

I was still gazing at my own work, when a faint sound caused me to hide quickly behind a screen which happened to be in a part of the room. From there I could see without being seen. I saw the lady in her blue velvet dress come up to the window and look in with a long, earnest, hungry gaze. For a moment she was absolutely motionless. I kept looking at her, too fascinated, too intent to move. Was she satisfied? Would she go away after a time without detecting the awful sham which was being played upon her? She gazed on; she stood as if rooted to the spot. Suddenly, to my terror, I saw a new look come into her eyes, a suspicious, watchful look; it grew and deepened, the eyes filled with fear; the next instant she had left the window; the next, she had rushed into the room.

“I am here, Dolly, my darling—I am here. I must kiss you—I can’t live without kissing you,” she exclaimed. She made a long stride towards the little figure, and clasped the lifeless wax image to her breast. The next terrible moment shriek after shriek filled the room. I can never forget that sound. I can never forget the look on that woman’s face. She had spurned the little figure, which lay prone on the ground, and incoherent, wild, and mad words began to pour in a torrent from her lips. Mrs. Austin and Mr. Forrester both rushed on the scene. They did not notice me; from the first no one had seen me. I don’t know what impulse came over me just then, but I have felt since that I was guided by a Power higher and greater than my own. As if there wings to my feet, I ran from the room. I burst open the door of the night nursery where the dying child lay.

“Give her to me,” I said to the nurse. “Wrap something warm round her, and give her to me at once. She lives; perhaps she will not die; perhaps she will recover. At any rate, give her to me, at once . . . this moment. . . . It is the only chance.”

The woman stared at me as if I were mad. I did not mind her; the strength of a dozen women seemed to have got into me. When the nurse tried to prevent me, I pushed her aside. Quick as thought, I wrapped a warm blanket round the child, and rushing down the passage, carried her into the room where the poor mother was raving madly.

“Here she is,” I said, “your own child, your very own. She lives; take her, save her —let your great love save her—oh, I believe it will.” I put the child into Mrs. Forrester’s arms. The moment she lifted it she stopped muttering. The little one opened her sleepy eyes and gazed full up at her mother. She saw no scars, no ugliness in the well-loved face. She put up her hot hand to stroke it. Mrs. Forrester turned and bore her quickly out of the room.

The mother herself nursed the child back to life and health. Little Dorothea never took the smallpox.

The Woman at Home, “Stories from the Diary of a Court Dressmaker,” L.T. Meade, 1895: pp.  434 -444

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who has something in her eye, can add nothing to this tale.

That grim and grewsome [sic] person over at Haunted Ohio shared a strange story one Halloween about a ghastly wax effigy of a child with a less happy ending.

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 Modern Mother: 1928

 

the modern flapper mother The Decatur Review 18 March 1928

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers who celebrate it a very happy, and perhaps less strenuous, Mothering Sunday.

Although the clarity of the cartoon is not of the best, this was one of Ethel Hays’s spritely cartoons, from 1928.  She was widely known for her “Flapper Fanny” cartoons and her book illustrations.

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

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

Genevieve, Whose Husband was Domestic: 1909

evenings at home 1919

Genevieve Whose Husband Was Domestic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wa-a-yah-ow!” remarks Jimmy-boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

His Third Wife: 1875

Mr. Cooley’s Third.

My neighbor Cooley married his third wife a short time ago, and the day after he came home with her his oldest boy, the son of his first wife, came into the room where she was sitting alone sewing. Placing his elbows on the table he began to be sociable. The following conversation ensued:

Boy: How long d’you expect you’ll last?

Mrs. C.: What on earth do you mean?

Boy: Why ma, she held on for about ten years. I reckon you’re good for as much as her. I hope so anyhow. I’m kinder sick of funerals. They made an awful fuss when they stowed ma away, and a bigger howl when they planted Emma. So I’d jes’ as leave you keep around awhile. But pa, he has his doubts about it.

Mrs. C.: Doubts! Tell me what you mean this instant.

Boy: Oh, nothing! On the day Emma got away, pa came home from the funeral, and when he ripped the crape off his hat he chucked it in the bureau drawer and said: “Lay there till I want you again,” so I s’pose the old man must be expectin’ you to step out some time or other. In fact, I see him conversing with the undertaker yesterday; with him, makin’ some kind of permanent contract with him, I s’pose. The old man is always huntin’ for a bargain.

Mrs. C.: You ought to be ashamed to talk of your father in that manner.

Boy:  Oh, he don’t mind it. I often hear I the fellows jokin’ him about his wives. He’s a good natured man. Anybody can get along with him if they understand him. All you’ve I got to do is to be sweet on him, and he’ll be like a lamb. Now, Emma, she used to get mad, heave a plate, or a coal scuttle, most any thing at him. And ma, she’d blow him up about 15,000 times a day; both of them would bang me till got disgusted. And pa didn’t like it. Treat me well, give me candy and money, and you’ve got pa sure. Emma used to smack me; and when pa said he was opposed to it she’d go at him with an umbrella, or flat-iron, and maul him. I guess you and me will jog along all right together, and by the time pa gets another wife I’ll be big enough not to care how many airs she puts on. What I want is time. You stick for three or four years, and then the old man can consolidate as much as he’s a mind to, and I won’t scare worth a cent. It’s only the fair thing anyway. Enough of this family’s money has been used on coffins and tombstones, and we ought to knock off for awhile. Good morning. I b’lieve I’ll go to school

Mrs. Cooley did not enjoy her honeymoon as much as she expected.

The San Francisco [CA] Examiner 8 October 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Just as the nineteenth-century press made jokes about “Merry Widows” and their hunt for new husbands, the widower was shown as no less eager to remarry.

AN AMENDED EPITAPH

There is a good story going the rounds of Bishop Wilmer, a well-known United States divine. One of his friends lost a dearly beloved wife, and in his worry, caused these words to be inscribed on her tombstone: “The light of mine eyes has gone out.” The bereaved married within a year. Shortly afterwards the Bishop was walking through the graveyard with another gentleman. When they arrived at the tomb the latter asked the Bishop what he would say of the present state of affairs, in view of the words on the tombstone. “I think,” said the Bishop, “the words ‘But I have struck another match,’ should be added.”

Bay of Plenty Times, 24 February 1896: p. 3

Since wife-mortality was often high, due to childbirth, some husbands might be suspected of following in the footsteps of the infamous Bluebeard, with multiple wives sent to their doom. One can understand this new bride’s trepidation:

SHOWING HER ROUND

The widower had just taken his fourth wife, and was showing her round the village. Among the places visited was the churchyard, and the bride paused before a very elaborate tombstone that had been erected by the bridegroom. Being a little near-sighted, she asked him to read the inscriptions, and, in reverent tones he read:

“Here lies Susan, beloved wife of John Smith and Jane, beloved wife of John Smith, and Mary, beloved wife of John Smith.”

He paused abruptly, and the bride, leaning forward to see the bottom line, read to her horror:

“Be ye also ready.”

North Otago Times, 7 June 1913, Page 1

 

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 Terror on the Street Car: 1889

Gee whiz don't I wish every day was the fourth

HE WAS A TERROR.

An Unruly Boy Who Run a Whole Car to Suit Himself.

About the middle of the car were a lady and a boy about live years of age, evidently mother and son, says the New York Sun. The train had scarcely moved out of the depot before the boy began to “cut up,” running up and down the aisle and making remarks to passengers. The mother called to him several times and finally said : “James, I certainly shall tell your father.”

“How can you when he’s run away and nobody knows where he is?’ replied the boy.

This settled the mother for a time, but when the boy sought to raise a window she leaned forward and said:

“James, I shall surely punish you.”

“If you do I’ll tell that a policeman arrested grandpa,” he retorted. She let him alone for another interval, but as he began to worry a bird in a cage, which one of the passengers was transporting, she sternly said :

“James, come here.”

“Not now.”

“Right off! You are a bad boy, and I shan’t let you come with me again.”

“Yes, you will.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Then I’ll tell that the reason papa ran away is because Mr. Davis came to our house so much.”

This prostrated the mother, and she began to read, and had nothing further to say, while the boy roamed up and down the car unchecked until he finally fell asleep on a vacant seat. He had one more shot in reserve, however. As he lay down he called out:

“Say, mamma, wake me up when we get to grandma’s. I want to hear her swear and take on because papa turned her out doors last summer!”

The Record-Union [Sacramento CA] 29 December 1889: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As a well-known American entertainer once remarked, “Kids say the darndest things!”

One would observe with interest the future career of a child with such a capacity for blackmail. He would be spoilt for choice. He might become a master criminal, a ruthless captain of industry, or a politician.

Mrs Daffodil has written about the horrors of spoilt children in Enfants terribles of New York.

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 Noble Revenge: 1868

child pine coffin

The Noble Revenge

The coffin was a plain one—a poor miserable pine coffin. No flowers on its top, no lining of the rose-white satin for the pale brow; no smooth ribbons about the coarse shroud. The brown hair was laid decently back, but there was no crimped cap, with its neat tie beneath the chin. The sufferer from cruel poverty smiled in her sleep; she had found bread, rest, and health.

“I want to see my mother,” sobbed a poor child, as the city undertaker screwed down the top.

“You can’t—get out of the way, boy, why don’t somebody take the brat?”

“Only let me see her one minute;” cried the hopeless, helpless orphan, clutching the side of the charity box, and as he gazed into the rough face anguishing tears streamed rapidly down the cheek, on which no childish bloom ever lingered. Oh! It was pitiful to hear him cry “Only once, only once, let me see my mother.”

Quickly and brutally the hard-hearted monster struck the boy away, so that he reeled from the blow. For a moment the boy stood panting with grief and rage, his blue eyes distended, his lips sprang apart, a fire glittering through his tears as he raised his puny arm, and with a most unchildish accent screamed, “When I’m a man I’ll kill you for that.”
There was a coffin and a heap of earth between the mother and the poor, forsaken child—a monument stronger than granite, built in his boy heart to the memory of the heartless deed.

* * *

The Court House was crowded to suffocation.

“Does any one appear as this man’s counsel? Asked the judge.

There was silence when he finished, until, with lips tightly pressed together, a look of strange intelligence blended with haughty reserve upon his features, a young man stepped forward with a firm tread and kindly eye, to plead of the erring and friendless. He was a stranger but from his first sentence there was a silence. The splendor of his genius entranced—convinced.

The man who could not find a friend was acquitted.

“May God bless you, I cannot.”

“I want no thanks,” replied the stranger with ice coldness.

“I—I believe you are unknown to me.”

“Man! I will refresh your memory. Twenty years ago you struck a broken-hearted boy away from his mother’s coffin. I was that poor boy.”

The man turned livid.

“Have you rescued me, then, to take away my life?”

“No. I have a sweeter revenge; I have saved the life of a man whose brutal deed has rankled in my breast for twenty years. Go! And remember the tears of a friendless child.”

The man bowed his head in shame and went from the presence of a magnanimity as grand to him as incomprehensible, and the noble young lawyer felt God’s smile in his soul forever after.

The Olathe [KS] Mirror 5 March 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A pauper’s funeral was the final insult to the poor, who often went into debt–foolishly, said social reformers–to provide a decent burial for their loved ones. While undertakers were sometimes accused of exploiting the poor–quoting them a price for a funeral that was precisely the amount that the burial club had just paid out–they also waited years for payment that sometimes did not come.

One wonders what crime the city undertaker had committed to bring him within the shadow of the gallows. Mrs Daffodil suspects that he had a lucrative contract to provide subjects to the local medical school and, needing to fill his quota, he helped some clients  to join the Choir Invisible prematurely.

 

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 Mother’s Ghost Visits Her Child: 1870s

1870s mother and child

A PLEASANT GHOST STORY

Supposed Visit of a Dead Mother to Her Child

A rather a queer story is told and can be vouched for by over a dozen persons in Springfield. It appears about three years ago a young man living in Summit got married, and in due time his wife gave birth to a child, which was a girl. When the child was about one year old the mother died. About five months later the young widower became lonely and took unto himself another wife. But before doing so he took all his first wife’s clothing, packed it in a trunk, locked it up, and allowed no one to have charge of the key but himself. Among the clothing put away was her wedding shawl and a pillow his wife had made for her first-born, and also some toys she had bought just before she died. Then he brought home wife No. 2, who, it is said, made as good a mother as the average step-mothers do. Things went on lively till one night last week, when there was a party at the next neighbor’s house. So, after putting the babe in its little bed, the father and mother No. 2 went over to spend the evening at the party. Shortly after they left, two men came along on their way to the party also. They saw a wonderful light in the house as though it might be on fire. They also heard the cries of the babe, as though in great pain. They went to the house, and as soon as they reached the door the light went out, and all was silent as the grave within. They hastened on to the house where the party was and told the man what they had seen and heard in his house as they came by. Five or six men, including the owner of the house, started to investigate the report. When they arrived they found every room and door fast as they were when the owner left. On going inside everything was found to be in its place except the child, which, after a long search, was found upstairs under the bed on which its mother died, covered up with its mother’s wedding shawl and its little head resting on the pillow its mother made for it, sound asleep. Alongside of it lay its playthings. On examining the trunk it was found to be locked and nothing missing except the above mentioned articles. Now, how the things got out of the trunk and the key in the owner’s pocket, and he half a mile from it, and how the child got upstairs, is a mystery. The above may sound a little dime-novelish, but, as, we said before, the facts of the case can be and are vouched for by over a dozen respectable citizens of Springfield.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 16 September 1878: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is shuddering at the notion of “as good a mother as the average step-mother.” Although there are certainly many splendid step-mamas, it is often the “average” ones–or at least the classic “Wicked Stepmothers”–who end up in the papers and the dock for cruelty.  

That collector of ghostly horrors over at Haunted Ohio previously shared the story above and added an additional fillip:

A Dead Mother Visits Her Living Child—She Sits at Its Cradle and Caresses It.

Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.

Richmond, VA., Jan. 23.

A strange story is current in certain circles here. About two years ago Mr. A. married. In due time he became a father, but the wife died when the child was a few months old. On her deathbed she exhibited intense anxiety as to the fate of the little one she was to leave behind her, and earnestly besought her husband to confide it, after her death, to the care of one of her relatives. He promised, and, I believe, did for a while let the child stay in charge of the person whom the mother had designated. Some weeks ago, however, Mr. A. again married, and at once reclaimed the child, who as yet had never learned to speak a word, and was unable to crawl. One day this child was left alone for a few moments in its stepmother’s bedroom, lying in a crib or cradle some distance from the bed. When Mrs. A. returned she was amazed to see the child smiling and crowing upon the middle of the bed—In her astonishment she involuntarily asked:

“Who put you here, baby?”

“Mamma!” responded quite distinctly the child that had never before spoken a word.

On a strict inquiry throughout the household it was found that none of the family had been in the room during Mrs. A’s brief absence from it. This, it is solemnly averred, was but the beginning of a series of spiritual visitations from the dead mother. Whenever the child was left alone it could be heard to laugh and crow as if delighted by the fondlings and endearments of someone, and on these occasions it was frequently found to have changed its dress, position, &c., in a manner quite beyond its own unaided capacity.

Finally, as the account is, the first Mrs. A. appeared one night at the bedside of Mr. A. and his second wife, and earnestly entreated that her darling should be restored to the relative whom she had indicated as the guardian of the child on her death bed. The apparition, which, it is declared, was distinctly seen and heard by both Mr. A. and his wife, promised to haunt them no more if her wish was complied with. Both Mr. A. and his wife were too much awe-stricken to reply; but the next day the child was carried back as directed by the ghostly visitant. Such is the story as seriously avouched by the principal parties concerned, who are most respectable and intelligent people, and no spiritualists.

New Philadelphia [OH] Democrat 10 February 1871: p. 2

It’s practically obligatory for the ghostly mother in this genre of story to assert her dominance over her successor or make sure that her children are being properly treated. Even with some advances in obstetrics, women knew that death was a possibility with every pregnancy and anxiety over what would become of their motherless children is a constant theme in death-bed narratives. But perhaps mother-love never really dies.

For a previous story of a ghostly mother who threatened a new stepmother, see this post. That story also appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past

Mrs Daffodil has told the heart-warming story of a ghost-mother who comes to assist her dying boy to the Other Side. And a shiversome tale of a phantom mother’s revenge.

 

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.

Naming the Royal Baby: 1903-1937

welcome little stranger sprigged pincushion c. 1800-1899

Welcome Little Stranger layette pincushion, c. 1800-1899. Such ornamental pincushions were a popular gift to a new mother. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/661170

Mrs Daffodil joins the entire Empire in welcoming the newest Little Stranger of the Royal family, the as-yet-unnamed son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There is, of course, much interest in what the new baby prince will be called.  History shows that whatever name the proud parents select, it will instantly become the nom du jour.

BOOM IN ROYAL NAMES.

Names, according to Carlyle, are the most important of all clothings. His Majesty the King may, therefore, be looked upon as Master Clothier to the rising generation, for without doubt “Albert Edward” is the most popular name of the hour (says a London paper).

A study of the baptismal registers of several famous churches reveals this interesting fact. Within the last few weeks the registers of such typical middle-class churches as St. Pancras, St. Mary, Whitechapel. St. Clement Danes, in the Strand, and the pro-cathedral at Liverpool have been scanned, and at each of these the register bristles with Albert Edwards. Fluctuations of national sentiment are reflected as in a looking-glass in the registers of the churches named. At the time of the Coronation several girl babies were christened Corona, while on the declaration of peace quite a number of little Misses Peace confronted the clergy. When Queen Victoria died many thousands of mothers christened their newly-born children after that illustrious monarch. One loyal mother called her child Victoria Alexandra. There is quite a run on Alexandra in the parish of St. Pancras…

Particular periods of our history have invariably brought forth fashions in names. Perhaps the most striking instance on record of this curious, but inevitable, influence is that of the Puritan period, when such names as Prudence; Mercy, Faith, Hope, Charity, and so on came into vogue, to say nothing of such extravagances as Love-not-the-World, Original Sin, and the notorious name of Praise-God Barebones’ son —to wit, If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned-Barebones. The register at St. Clement Danes Church shows that among the educated and professional classes simple names are favored, while the less refined indulge in far more pretentious nomenclature. “Marys and Anns and Susans are going clean out of fashion with the lower classes,” said one parish clerk, “and Irenes and Penelopes and Gladiolas are all the rage. “Only,” he added pathetically, “they will call them Irons and Penny-lopes.”

Oamaru [NZ] Mail 11 October 1902: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Albert Edward,” was the birth name of King Edward VII. Although Queen Victoria had wished him to be crowned as “King Albert Edward,” he declared that he did not wish to “undervalue the name of Albert” and diminish the status of his father with whom the “name should stand alone.”

British history records many unusual appellations such as the Sitwell brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, Sir Cloudesley Shovell, artist Inigo Jones, and Sir Kenelm Digby.  And, of course, one thinks of the many “aesthetic” boy’s names so popular in late Victorian or Edwardian fiction:  Algernon, Cecil, Vyvyan, Cyril, Ernest, or Clovis.

Traditionally, royal infants are saddled with a string of names, causing difficulty at the font or the wedding altar. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex was christened “Henry Charles Albert David;” while his father, Charles, Prince of Wales, started life as “Charles Philip Arthur George,” which a nervous Lady Diana Spencer reassembled as “Philip Charles Arthur George,” while taking her wedding vows.

ROYAL NAMES

It is unusual for a Royal baby to be christened with a single name, as Prince Harald of Norway was recently. His father, Prince Olaf, has five names, and English Royalties have generally run to about the same number. King George V had eight, but four of them—George, Andrew, Patrick, David bore a territorial significance. Queen Victoria had only two; the choice was a matter of dispute at the font, and the Prince Regent grudgingly sanctioned Victoria—”to come after the other” (Alexandrina). But in the matter of plenitude of names the Bourbon-Parma family seem to take precedence. The Empress Zita, mother of the deposed Austrian Emperor, Karl, has 10 Christian names, and her 11 brothers and sisters distributed 63 among them.

Otago [NZ] Daily Times 1 June 1937: p. 16

There is some suggestion that the new parents will choose an “unusual” or (the horror!) an American name. Political battles have often been fought over the name of an infant, who slumbers on, blissfully unaware of the controversy.

NAMING A ROYAL BABY.

London, January 4.— Reynolds newspaper says that the Royal personages at Sandringham are quarrelling over the name to be given to the latest grandson of King Edward. Those who are swayed by German influences want the new Prince called William, after the Kaiser, while another party wants him called George, and still others favour the name of Nicholas, after the Czar of Russia.

Three hundred and twenty-two British subjects have written to the Prince of Wales giving him interesting suggestions as to the naming of his baby.

New Zealand Herald 21 February 1903: p. 9

Punch, of course, had something to say on the question of what to call a newly hatched Prince:

Mr. Punch thinks that the most appropriate title for the little Prince [Albert Victor] would be “Duke of Cornwall,” seeing that he must necessarily remain so long a minor (miner.)

Cheshire [England] Observer 23 January 1864: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil supposes that the only way to satisfy everyone will be to simply string together a plethora of Royal names, perhaps in alphabetical order: Albert, Andrew, Charles, David, Edmund, Edward, Frederick, George, Henry, Patrick, Philip, William. Or possibly, in the way celebrity couples’ truncated names are joined by the media, the child will be christened “Harry-ghan.”

For other stories of Royal babies, see The Royal Baby and the Slum BabySaturday Snippets: Royal Baby Edition, Royal Children and their Toys, A Royal Nursery Contretemps, and Royal babies and their cradles. 

 

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.