Category Archives: Seductions

A Dangerous Pair of Stockings: 1883

A Dangerous Pair of Stockings

A man at Albert Lea, Minn., had the worst time explaining a telegram to his wife. He is a sporting man, who does a good deal of fishing and hunting, and he had a pair of rubber wading stockings which he wore when hunting marshes. A friend of his wanted a pair of them, and he promised to send to New York and get them. The two men were great friends, and the man who had been promised the wading-stockings, and who lived at North Branch, got ready to go hunting last fall, and wanted them, so he telegraphed to his Albert Lea friend, as follows:

“Send my stockings at once, as I need them bad. YOUR BLONDE DARLING.”

The dispatch came to the man’s residence, and his wife opened it, and her hair stood right up straight. When the innocent husband came home she put on a refrigerator expression, and handed him a pair of her own old stockings, done up in a paper, and told him he better send them to his blonde darling at North Branch. He was taken all of a heap, and asked her what she meant, and said he had no blonde darling at North Branch or any other branch; and after he had said he did not know a woman any-where, and never thought of supplying stockings to anybody but his wife, she handed him the telegram. He scratched his head, blushed, and then she thought she had him, but finally he laughed right out loud, and went to his room, where he keeps his guns and things, and brought out the new pair of rubber wading stockings, that he had bought for his friend, each of which would hold a bushel of wheat, and handed them to his wife, and asked her how she thought they would look on a blonde darling. Then he told her they were for his sporting friend, of a male persuasion, and she asked his pardon, but insisted that the telegram had a bad look on the face of it, and was enough to scare any wife out of her wits and stockings. The wading stockings were expressed to the friend with a letter, telling him to be mighty careful in future how he telegraphed.

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Concord, NH] 25 January 1883: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must  take the wife’s side: the telegram certainly did have a “bad look” to it and one cannot blame her for being upset.  For all she knew, it could have been a genuine instance of a stocking mis-communication which would inevitably lead to a domestic tragedy. One is relieved that this was not another and hopes that the “blonde darling” ceased his “kidding” in future.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of a wag who, as a “joke,” sent out half a dozen telegrams to random acquaintances, reading: “All is discovered. Fly at once!”  The men decamped and were never seen again. In the wrong hands, telegraphy is a dangerous weapon.

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

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

 

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The Wife’s Answer: 1895

Weiland, Johannes; Young Girl Reading, 1870; Leeds Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/young-girl-reading-38472

The Wife’s Answer.

BY CHRISTINE MARTINEZ,

The fishing fleet had set out early in the morning from the little harbour of Leeport. The atmosphere was very clear, and the boats could still be seen in the distance, strung out in a long line across the horizon, far out at sea. A few sailors’ wives, children, and old men, still loitered on the wharves, all in excellent humour, for with such weather there should certainly be a fine haul of fish. The sea was admirably blue, but, lashed by the wind it broke into little waves, which rushed, white capped, toward the shore. ‘Do you see papa’s sloop, yet mamma?’ asked a little fellow, who had stayed away from school that morning in order to see his father start with the fleet. His mother had a fine telescope, a luxury that her neighbours envied her. In such clear weather as this, if they could not distinguish the men they could at least recognise most of the fishing smacks. The boy would have remained a long time watching his father’s sloop, the Laurent, as it grew smaller and smaller in the distance, out his mother led him away. They must go back to the house to their work. They loitered by the harbour, which had lost its animation now that its fleet of fishing craft was gone. Mrs Fanshawe stopped mechanically in the centre of the wharf to look at a fine brig, the Harding, which came every week with a cargo of assorted merchandise. A sailor, leaning over the rail of the ship, saw her, and waved his cap gayly to her. She turned away and hurried up the street to her home. Two hours later the loungers in the main street of the village were greatly surprised to see Captain Robert Fanshawe, the owner of the fishing sloop Ajax, hastening angrily homeward. He had not entered the house before the neighbours had ran to learn the reason of his sudden return. Why had he come back? The backstay of the Ajax had been broken, and Fanshawe was compelled to come back to port for repairs. These were already under way, and, once he had seen his men at work, he had come up to see his wife a moment.

‘Your wife she has gone out but she will be back directly.’ He was pouring out a glass of cider from the pitcher he had drawn that morning before leaving, when he noticed the inkstand open on the table, and the pen beside it, still wet with ink. It was his son’s pen and inkstand, but as the little fellow never wrote during the day, he concluded that his wife must have been writing. Almost at the same moment he noticed a letter in the blue vase on the mantel-piece, and, without thinking, he opened it and read, ‘Dear Mrs Fanshawe, I love you more than I can tell. I implore you to set a time when we can meet. You are free; your husband is gone. Harry Evans.”

“Oh, Heavens!” cried Fanshawe, Harry Evans! He knew him well, this handsome sailor of the Harding, who had already ruined more than one home in Leeport; a tall fellow, as tall as Fanshawe himself, fair, with the complexion of a girl, and tender blue eyes. He sprang up to rush to the wharf and strangle the audacious rascal, when he heard his wife returning. Evidently she had answered that insulting letter, and she would tell him what answer she had given. He trusted his wife. ‘I hurried back,’ she said, as she came in. ‘I heard of the accident as I was doing my marketing.’ As she laid on the table the purchases she had made, he had time to thrust the letter back into the vase. He would wait for her to speak. Mrs Fanshawe continued to busy herself with her household duties. He watched her, and he found her still young, browned like himself, a most graceful woman in her No. 3 boot, and with a waist still slender. From time to time she looked at him with a smile. She was not surprised to see him looking sombre after the accident. She did not say anything about it, for she knew to discuss the accident would annoy him.

‘Wife, have you nothing new to tell me?’

‘Nothing, my dear husband.’

His face contracted as with a sudden pain. His wife, thinking it due to chagrin at the accident, kissed him tenderly. He pressed her to him with unaccustomed force. Never, even in the fiercest tempest, had he suffered as he suffered now. Suspicion entering his simple, loyal heart, ravaged it terribly.

‘Well, good-bye. I am going to the wharf. We shall go out with the next tide if the backstay is repaired. Good-bye!’

She accompanied him to the end of the street, and bade him farewell so frankly, that he asked himself if it were possible that such a woman could lie. He was about to go to the Harding, and taunt Harry Evans with his infamy, when one of his crew saw him and came after him. Compelled to return to his vessel, he had time to reflect. A sudden fit of rage, a fight would prove nothing, and he would never know the truth. So he calmly watched the work of repairs, which was going on apace. At twelve o’clock his wife brought him his lunch; at five his son came to kiss him good-bye and that evening he set sail again, after having seen the Harding sail out of Leeport.

The following Saturday, after a terrible tempest, the fishing fleet returned to Leeport, laden with a fine catch of fish. Captain Fanshawe looked quickly to see if the Harding was at the wharf, but she was not there. Disembarking, he learned that the Harding had gone down in the storm, in sight of Owl’s Head Bluff, and that all on board had been lost. Harry Evans, then, was dead. His wife alone knew the truth; he would not dare to question her; he would never know the truth; he would doubt her always. From that time everyone in Leeport remarked that Captain Fanshawe had grown taciturn. They asked his wife the reason, but she replied evasively that she did not know. His crew found him rougher than before and more avaricious. He often returned to Leeport on Sunday morning and left again the same evening without a night’s rest. One week he came on Tuesday, and the news spread that the Ajax had brought back the corpse of a drowned man. He had returned earlier than usual, he said, in order to bury the drowned man. Accompanied by two of his crew, he made his deposition before a commissioner of deeds, and the latter had him sign the declaration that the body of a drowned man had been recovered by the Ajax at a point fifteen miles south-south-west of Owl’s Head Bluff, measuring five feet ten inches in height, dressed in a blue shirt, trousers of gray cloth, and neckerchief of black silk, no papers, no marks to establish identity supposed, from the place of drowning, in default of other evidence, to be one of the crew of the Harding. Early the next morning a funeral procession traversed the little village, and bore to the church the remains of the unknown sailor found by the Ajax. Behind the coffin walked the crew of the Ajax, their captain at their head, and behind the men came the wives, sisters, or mothers of the sailors. The religious ceremony was brief, and the unknown dead was conducted to the cemetery by the great family of sailors of Leeport, who honour themselves in thus honouring the remains of others.

‘Get yourselves ready,’ announced Captain Fanshawe to his men, ‘we go to sea directly.’

Fanshawe led his wife to a little knoll a few paces away from the cemetery. He wished to speak to her in private. ‘Wife,’ he said, ‘do you know for whom you have come to pray?’

She trembled and pressed her husband’s hand. She had never seen him so solemn. ‘The man we have just buried was Harry Evans.’

Mrs Fanshawe turned pale. Her husband tendered her a paper, stained as with water. ‘Wife, I have doubted your fidelity. My punishment is to accuse myself of it. I read the letter he dared to write to you, and I have been very miserable. The other night when this drowned man was found, I searched him. I could not show to others, not even to the commissioner of deeds, the only paper he had on him, in a little bag of oiled silk. The water had dimmed it a little, but I have read it nevertheless.’

It was the answer written to the handsome sailor by Mrs Fanshawe.

‘Sir, I love my husband ; that is the sole answer I can make to your letter. I shall say nothing to my husband, for he would kill you. Never come here again.’

‘Wife, do you forgive me?’

‘Oh, my poor husband, how you have suffered!’

From that day Captain Fanshawe grew young and gay again and he honours and trusts his wife as a jewel beyond price.

Observer, 14 September 1895: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  She was, indeed, a “jewel beyond price,” if all she could say is “my poor husband, how you have suffered!”  A woman of the paste-gem variety would have been indignant at the slur to her honour; it would not have been unthinkable for her to resort to spiteful words or the skillet on the skull.

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 New, Frank Guest Book: 1915

Visitors’ Book The Manor House. Studland 1908 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1255992

A NEW, FRANK GUEST BOOK

One Which Will Prove Helpful to the Hostess and Bring Comfort to Guests

At one of the big country houses a new sort of guest book has been installed and it bids likely to prove a tremendous success. At this place there is a guest house, an annex for the accommodation of guests, and in each of the sleeping rooms therein is a guest book, bound to match the furnishings of the room. One is covered with block printed English chintz, another has a cover of rose brocade, bound on with gilt braid and still another is in black and white printed linen. But the bindings are not the interesting part of the guest books.

At a week-end party a little while ago each guest was requested to make a new use of the guest book. After registering the guest was to make truthful comment on the guest house, and, in fact, the whole house—friendly criticism as well as praise.

Monday morning, before the party broke up, the hostess gathered the books before her on a table, and read out the comments to the guests, and the result was decidedly entertaining.

Here are some of the entries:

“The hot water in the bathroom assigned to me,” wrote the guest, “does not run well. I like the way the windows are shaded so that the early sun doesn’t waken one.”

Another wrote; “Why didn’t you say that my room was pink so that I could have brought pink lingerie and negligee? DO tell me next time what color my room will be. Your maid has a lovely way of wrapping a hot water bottle in blue Canton flannel at the bottom of the bed each night. It is delightful.”

“The south window in my room rattled in the wind, and never did I see anything more comfortable than that little reading stand and light by my bedside,” read another.

And this: “I think the futurist paper in your dining room is awful. I and my lovely new dinner gown swore at it horribly, and I really think neutral-toned walls are far better in the dining room. But your guest house is a dream, and really I’m not cross about that fascinating dining room paper.”

There were other entries, each written frankly. And they were not only interesting to the guests, they were of real help to the hostess. For one thing, she had little wooden pegs made, and placed a box of them in each room so that they could be wedged into rattling windows, and so save sleepless hours. After this she does intend to tell her guests—the women of them—the color of their rooms. A plumber took five minutes to fix the hot water—and but for that entry she might never have known of its slowness and her guests might always have been inconvenienced.

It is a clever idea, this new guest book, far more interesting than the old book that was merely a record of names and dates.

Tulsa [OK] World 24 February 1915: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has known a great many hostesses who kept private “guest books” about the idiosyncracies of her guests: their favourite foods, their preferred amusements, positions on important political questions, sensitive conversational topics, mistresses or lovers du jour—a hundred-and-one helpful and compromising details that a hostess needs to create a delightful country-house stay or a lucrative black-mail.

This hostess is to be commended for inventing, well in advance of Tripadvisor, the candid hotel review. Mrs Daffodil feels, however, that while wooden pegs are a useful stop-gap measure, the truly considerate hostess would look into having the windows replaced.

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.

 

Letters from the Grave: 1850s

 

Romney, George; A Hand Holding a Letter; Kendal Town Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-hand-holding-a-letter-143151

The curtain has but recently fallen on a touching drama of society, whose hero’s name I could give you if I chose. Though I suppress the chief actor’s name, the play has naught of fanciful construction, being really a natural series of terrible facts.

The personage in question, who is in the enjoyment of a high social position, a handsome establishment and a large fortune, had, as a consequence of a youthful folly, a natural daughter, whose mother died a few years after her seduction. The seducer, afterwards marrying, had not force of character enough to confess to his young wife the existence of this poor child, and having long confined himself to a mere mercenary care of the latter, he finally neglected her altogether.

The aged mother of this parvenu, being cognizant of the circumstances, was deeply moved by this abandonment, though she herself was barely supported by her snobbish son, in lodgings respectably distant from his own sumptuous hotel. But Madame N—–, the mother, who had in days gone by pinched herself to pay for her son’s education, and having nothing but the little pension she now received from him, nevertheless took all possible care of the forsaken child. And the child grew up to be a fine young girl capable of taking up some occupation. The occupation chosen was art.

Hortense, that was the girl’s name, applied herself to it with all her mind and heart, and struggled bravely against the many difficulties which society stupidly puts in the way of unmarried women in their efforts at self-support. She thus reached her twentieth year, her grandmother her seventy-eighth. While the father of one, the son of the other, gave magnificent balls, delicious dinners, vain fêtes in his rich hotel, the young girl and the old woman suffered the most cruel privations—the requests for a little supplementary aid from the rich man being often left unanswered.

One night the poor old woman died. At the simple funeral which he gave her the son necessarily came into contact with his daughter, and, glad of the chance to persuade himself that she now had a livelihood, departed, leaving her a trifling pecuniary assistance. A few weeks rolled by, and society’s whirlpool engulphed him deeper than ever.

Winter came. He gave a ball one night, and the salons of his hotel were crowded with the fashionables of the court and of the city. The rooms were dazzling with the light, the rich toilets, the French and foreign uniforms, the decorations, the gilded ceilings, the polished mirrors, the everything that could lend a lustre to the scene. The conservatory, lit up by colored lanterns, afforded little mysterious corners, where beautiful and romantic Polish women listened to the whisperings of love. The English ladies present danced with untiring gaiety; the daughters of Italy, listlessly extended on the sofas, kept up their flowery chat; the Parisiennes, with a Frenchwoman’s eye to good things, began to look for the magnificent supper which was to be served by Chevet. The rich man had the world in his salons. He revelled in ostentation and vanity, he was intoxicated with the great names announced at his door, his cup of pride was filled to the brim, and when ministers of state, with waistcoats bedizened with honorary orders, came to shake him by the hand, his delirium was not far from that when Cæsar, at the culmination of unheard-of power, exclaimed, “I feel myself a god.” Our parvenu mentally said, “I feel myself a duke.”

A group of guests had surrounded him, loading him down with praises of his fête as they sipped his delicious sherbets. A great foreign lady complimented him upon the completeness of his conservatory; an ambassador told him that his ball was the thousand and second night. The rich man, crammed with vanity, was fast losing his senses, when suddenly a valet de chambre enters, passes through the aristocratic circle, and presents to his exalted master a large letter on a golden salver.

The rich man, brusquely awakened from his dream, followed into his empyrean of pride, deprived of his aureole of glory, and nettled at being brought down to earth again by so vulgar a matter, exclaimed,

“You stupid rascal, idiot, donkey! could you not choose another time!”

And he pushed away the salver with an angry movement; but as the servant resisted a little, his eyes fell upon the peaceful cause of the disturbance, the letter, and in an instant he turned frightfully pale.

By his half-stifled cry, by the haggard eyes which he could not remove from that mysterious letter, every one about him saw that something extraordinary had occurred.

The guests politely drew aside, whispering to themselves, exchanging looks and words of surprise. Soon our Crœsus found himself alone with the valet in the middle of the salon, and still before his face the obstinately presented letter.

He had recognized in the address the handwriting of his mother, who had been dead eight months!

He seized the letter with a trembling hand and succeeded with difficulty in reaching the adjacent library, where he locked himself in, to the great surprise of his guests, who had followed his movements with wondering eyes. There he fell, rather than sat down on a sofa and looked at this terrible letter, sent him from the grave and bearing the unmistakable trace of a hand long since cold in death.

He summoned up all his strength, excitedly broke the black seal of the letter, and read as follows:

“My son, your daughter is suffering! her ill-requited labor does not suffice to keep want away from her door. In the midst of your opulence remember her. Your mother begs you to do it; your mother who is now looking upon you and knows what is passing in your heart.”

Then followed the signature.

In intense excitement the gentleman rang a bell; a servant answered it.

“Who brought this letter?” he asked.

The lackey replied that it was a young girl poorly clad, who had been nearly run over by the equipage of a Russian count, as it dashed into the courtyard of the hotel.

The host returned to his salon with a pale and troubled face; a cloud had settled over his fête, and his guests saw it without understanding the reason.

He retired early, before the party had broken up, but could not sleep, so strong a hold did the ghostly features of this demand from his dead mother take upon his imagination.

In the morning he sent two hundred francs to the young artist, who, in point of fact, had not money enough to buy bread to eat nor colors to work. What would this miserable sum do to rescue her from such distress? But the gentleman probably thought he had been very generous.

The winter past, he went to Italy.

Months went by, and the circumstance became erased from his mind. One evening at Naples, he had just returned with a brilliant company of tourists from an excursion to an island near by. As he entered his room he discovered on a table a letter bearing the Paris postmark. He opened it carelessly, continuing his chat with his friends. But suddenly he became agitated, turned away and left the room. It was another call from the grave; it was his mother again imploring aid for his child. Finally, several months after, in Paris, at his own house, as he was just stepping into his carriage for a drive in the Bois, another letter was handed him, another appeal, and this time more earnest, more imperious, more solemn than ever before.

He now determined to rid himself at once of the annoyance; he was becoming blasé to the emotion. He went to his lawyer and constituted in favor of Mademoiselle L—–, artiste, a life pension, just sufficient, if not to live on, at least to keep her from starving— exacting at the same time that he should have handed over to him in a lump all the letters which might yet remain in the hands of her who had received this trust so admirably conceived, so terribly made use of!

In fact, as you have, perhaps, all ready divined, the poor old mother dying had foreseen the future miseries of the young girl, for she well understood the character of her precious son. Hence, she had the sublime inspiration of the letters, and, thanks to them, the maiden—that child of love, protected by death—was snatched from a poverty so full of perils to one of her age—her sex, and, above all, her abandonment. 

Frank Leslie’s Weekly.22 October 1859.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a pity that the shock occasioned by the letters from beyond the grave was not fatal. His daughter would then have had a claim upon his estate and could have lived happily ever after without repeated calls upon the cold charity of such a heedless father. A life pension “sufficient, if not to live on, at least to keep her from starving,” suggests that he had not learnt anything from the salutary letters. Mrs Daffodil hopes that his mother decided to appear in person, preferably in a state of advanced decomposition in a bloody shroud, a visit which might have proved more effective than writing.

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 Scotsman and the Lady of Doubtful Propriety: 1870

Francis Leon,  Harvard Theatre Collection

“THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD.”

A TRUE TALE.

Some months ago, in Melbourne, when the noonday sun was at its height and the main thoroughfare of the city, Bourke street, thronged with its usual crowd of sight-seers, business people, and members of tho “upper ten doing the block,” no little sensation was created by the appearance of a more than ordinarily showily dressed lady, chignoned and panniered in the latest fashion, who threaded the busy and wondering crowd and disappeared through the portals of a well-known photographer’s doorway not a hundred miles from the gateway of the Theatre Royal. Arrived in the studio the lady’s portrait was taken, apparently satisfactorily, for she retired to an inner room, which was furnished among other surroundings, with articles of the toilet, provided for the convenience of “gentlemen only” awaiting a sitting. Seated in the further corner of the room, patiently biding his time, was an elderly gentleman of Scottish extraction, prim, sedate, adamantine of feature and sparing of speech. The lady of fashion, with but a passing glance at the staid old person, took her position opposite the cheval glass, and after an admiring gaze at the face reflected therein, proceeded to divest herself of the head appendage, yclept in the 19th century a bonnet, “Eh, but its a braw lassie, and a vera fine head o’ hair too!” said the Scot, surveying the flaxen ringlets and tail which reached far below the waist of the lady in question.

“‘Tis a braw lassie,” he repeated to himself with a chuckle, evidently enjoying his contemplation of the fair belle before him. But his delight gave way to surprise as he perceived the lady deliberately proceed to unbutton her dress, and shaking its folds from her, step forth from them to the centre of the room. The old gentleman was bewildered and highly distressed. He was a decent modest man, with a wife and “bairns at hame,” and here he found himself in the presence of a lady evidently of doubtful propriety. Coughing, sneezing, and loudly blowing his nose for the purpose of calling the attention of the damsel to the fact of his being in the room, only convinced him that she was already aware of that fact, for casting a slight glance over her left shoulder, she threw him a look which he at once interpreted as seductive and bold to a degree. Still further was the old man astonished when the fair creature proceeded to unhook and cast aside her (it must he said) stays, and audible mutterings arose from him. “Eh, but it’s right down immodest, it should na be allowed in a Christian country; it’s dreadfu immoral and I’ll no stay to see it.” Thus determined, the indignant and terrified Scot rose with the intention of leaving the room, but easier said than done, the flaxen-haired beauty had possession, and turning full round, she, to the intense horror of the immaculate man, proceeded to disencumber her legs of her—but this was too much: human nature in the shape of a virtuous and indignant Scotchman could stand no more, so with a smothered “Heaven a mercy me” and a frantic bound, he cleared the room and fled. But not so easy to escape; for the fair unknown, with lengthy agile strides, pursued, and was beside him ere he reached the outer door; one more gaze, and the now terrified man fairly shrieked and darted forth unto open air; whilst peal upon peal of laughter followed from the operator, his assistant, and the fair and frail one also, who turned out to be no other than Mr George Darrell, in his burlesque costume of the “Young Girl of the Day,”

Evening Star 9 August 1870: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Darrell was a well-regarded Australian actor, singer, and playwright. He was known as “Gentleman George,” and usually played male roles. However, in 1869 he took the part of “Marina” in the burlesque HMS Galatea and sang “The Young Girl of the Day”, and one of his own songs, “Doing the Block,” to much acclaim.

The illustration at the head of the post is of Francis Leon, one of the most acclaimed of 19th-century female impersonators.

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 Voice in the Fog: 1888

My Irish Friend.

Many of the apparitions that are reported are of phantasms that appear in fulfilment of a promise made to survivors during life. Of this class I [W.T. Stead, journalist and Spiritualist] came, in the course of my census, upon a very remarkable case.

Among my acquaintances is an Irish lady, the widow of an official who held a responsible position in the Dublin Post Office. She is Celt to her backbone, with all the qualities of her race. After her husband’s death she contracted an unfortunate marriage—which really was no marriage legally— with an engineer of remarkable character and no small native talent. He, however, did not add to his other qualities the saving virtues of principle and honesty. Owing to these defects my friend woke up one fine morning to find that her new husband had been married previously, and that his wife was still living.

On making this discovery she left her partner and came to London, where I met her. She is a woman of very strong character, and of some considerable although irregular ability. She has many superstitions, and her dreams were something wonderful to hear. After she had been in London two years her bigamist lover found out where she was, and leaving his home in Italy followed her to London. There was no doubt as to the sincerity of his attachment to the woman whom he had betrayed, and the scenes which took place between them were painful, and at one time threatened to have a very tragic ending.

Fortunately, although she never ceased to cherish a very passionate affection for her lover, she refused to resume her old relations with him, and after many stormy scenes he departed for Italy, loading her with reproaches. Some months after his departure she came to me and told me she was afraid something had happened to him. She had heard him calling her outside her window, and shortly afterwards saw him quite distinctly in her room. She was much upset about it.

I pooh-poohed the story, and put it down to a hallucination caused by the revival of the stormy and painful scenes of the parting. Shortly afterwards she received news from Italy that her late husband, if we may so call him, had died about the same time she heard him calling her by her name under her window in East London.

I only learnt when the above was passing through the press that the unfortunate man, whose phantasm appeared to my friend, died suddenly either by his own hand or by accident. On leaving London he drank on steadily, hardly being sober for a single day. After a prolonged period of intoxication he went out of the house, and was subsequently found dead, either having thrown himself or fallen over a considerable height, at the foot of which he was found dead.

I asked Mrs. G. F.—to write out for me, as carefully as she could remember it after the lapse of two years, exactly what she saw and heard. Here is her report:—

The Promise.

In the end of the summer of 1886 it happened one morning that Irwin and myself were awake at 5.30 a.m., and as we could not go to sleep again, we lay talking of our future possible happiness and present troubles. We were at the time sleeping in Room No. 16, Hotel Washington, overlooking the Bay of Naples. We agreed that nothing would force us to separate in this life—neither poverty nor persecution from his family, nor any other thing on earth. (I believed myself his wife then.) We each agreed that we would die together rather than separate. We spoke a great deal that morning about our views of what was or was not likely to be the condition of souls after death, and whether it was likely that spirits could communicate, by any transmitted feeling or apparition, the fact that they had died to their surviving friends. Finally, we made a solemn promise to each other that whichever of us died first would appear to the other after death if such was permitted.

“Well, after the fact of his being already married came to light, we parted. I left him, and he followed me to London on December ’87. During his stay here I once asked if he had ever thought about our agreement as to as to who should die first appealing to the other; and he said, ‘Oh, Georgie, you do not need to remind me; my spirit is a part of yours, and can never be separated nor dissolved even through all eternity; no, not even though you treat me as you do; even though you became the wife of another you cannot divorce our spirits. And whenever my spirit leaves this earth I will appear to you.’

“Well, in the beginning of August ’88 he left England for Naples; his last words were that I would never again see him; I should see him, but not alive, for he would put an end to his life and heart-break. After that he never wrote to me; still I did not altogether think he would kill himself. On the 22nd or 23rd of the following November (’88), I posted a note to him at Sarno post office. No reply came, and I thought it might be he was not at Sarno, or was sick, or travelling, and so did not call at the post office, and so never dreamed of his being dead.”

Its Fulfilment.

Time went on and nothing occurred till November 27th (or I should say 28th, for it occurred at 12.30, or between 12 and 1 a.m., I forget the exact time). It was just at that period when I used to sit up night after night till 1, 2, and 3 o’clock a.m. at home doing the class books; on this occasion I was sitting close to the fire, with the table beside me, sorting cuttings. Looking up from the papers my eyes chanced to fall on the door, which stood about a foot and a half open, and right inside, but not so far in but that his clothes touched the edge of the door, stood Irwin; he was dressed as I last had seen him—overcoat, tall hat, and his arms were down by his sides in his natural, usual way. He stood in his exact own perfectly upright attitude, and held his head and face up in a sort of dignified way, which he used generally to adopt on all occasions of importance or during a controversy or dispute. He had his face turned towards me, and looked at me with a terribly meaning expression, very pale, and as if pained by being deprived of the power of speech or of local movements.

“I got a shocking fright, for I thought at first sight he was living, and had got in unknown to me to surprise me. I felt my heart jump with fright, and I said, ‘Oh !’ but before I had hardly finished the exclamation, his figure was fading way, and, horrible to relate, it faded in such a way that the flesh seemed to fade out of the clothes, or at all events the hat and coat were longer visible than the whole man. I turned white and cold, felt an awful dread; I was too much afraid to go near enough to shut the door when he had vanished. I was so shaken and confused, and half paralysed, I felt I could not even cry out; it was as if something had a grip on my spirit, I feared to stir, and sat up all night, fearing to take my eyes off the door, not daring to go and shut it. Later on I got an umbrella and walked tremblingly, and pushed the door close without fastening it. I feared to touch it with my hand. I felt such a relief when I saw daylight and heard the landlady moving about.

“Now, though I was frightened, I did not for a moment think he was dead, nor did it enter my mind then about our agreement. I tried to shake off the nervousness, and quite thought it must be something in my sight caused by imagination, and nerves being overdone by sitting up so late for so many nights together. Still, I thought it dreadfully strange, it was so real.”

A Ghost’s Cough.

Well, about three days passed, and then I was startled by hearing his voice outside my window, as plain as a voice could be, calling,’Georgie! Are you there, Georgie?’ I felt certain it was really him come back to England. I could not mistake his voice. I felt quite flurried, and ran out to the hall door, but no one in sight. I went back in, and felt rather upset and disappointed, for I would have been glad if he had come back again, and began to wish he really would turn up. I then thought to myself, ‘Well, that was so queer. Oh, it must be Irwin, and perhaps he is just hiding in some hall door to see if I will go out and let him in, or what I will do. So out I went again. This time I put my hat on, and ran along and peeped into hall doors where he might be hiding, but with no result. Later on that night I could have sworn I heard him cough twice right at the window, as if he did it to attract attention. Out I went again. No result.

“Well, to make a long story short, from that night till about nine weeks after that voice called to me, and coughed, and coughed, sometimes every night for a week, then three nights a week, then miss a night and call on two nights, miss three or four days, and keep calling me the whole night long, on and off, up till 12 midnight or later. One time it would be, ‘Georgie! It’s me! Ah, Georgie!’ Or, ‘Georgie, are you in? Will you speak to Irwin?’ Then a long pause, and at the end of, say, ten minutes, a most strange, unearthly sigh, or a cough—a perfectly intentional, forced cough, other times nothing but, ‘Ah, Georgie!’ On one night there was a dreadful fog. He called me so plain, I got up and said, ‘Oh, really! that man must be here; he must be lodging somewhere near, as sure as life; if he is not outside I must be going mad in my mind or imagination.’ I went and stood outside the hall door steps in the thick black fog. No lights could be seen that night. I called out, ‘Irwin ! Irwin! here, come on. I know you’re there, trying to humbug me, I saw you in town; come on in, and don’t be making a fool of yourself.’

“Well, I declare to you, a voice that seemed within three yards of me, replied out of the fog, ‘It’s only Irwin,’ and a most awful, and great, and supernatural sort of sigh faded away in the distance. I went in, feeling quite unhinged and nervous, and could not sleep. After that night it was chiefly sighs and coughing, and it was kept up until one day, at the end of about nine weeks, my letter was returned marked, ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ together with a letter from the Consul to say he had died on November 28th, 1888, the day on which he appeared to me.”

The Question of Dates.

On inquiring as to dates and verification Mrs. F replied :—

“I don’t know the hour of his death, but if you write to Mr. Turner, Vice Consul, Naples, he can get it for you. He appeared to me at the hour I say; of course there is a difference of time between here and Naples. The strange part is that once I was informed of his death by human means (the letter), his spirit seemed to be satisfied, for no voice ever came again after; it was as if he wanted to inform and make me know he had died, and as if he knew I had not been informed by human agency.

“I was so struck with the apparition of November 28th, that I made a note of the date at the time so as to tell him of it when next I wrote. My letter reached Sarno a day or two after he died. There is no possible doubt about the voice being his, for he had a peculiar and uncommon voice, one such as I never heard any exactly like, or like at all in any other person. And in life he used to call me through the window as he passed, so I would know who it was knocked at the door, and open it. When he said, ‘Ah!’ after death, it was so awfully sad and long drawn out, and as if expressing that now all was over and our separation and his being dead was all so very, very pitiful and unutterable; the sigh was so real, so almost solid, and discernible and unmistakable, till at the end it seemed to have such a supernatural, strange, awful dying away sound, a sort of fading, retreating into distance sound, that gave the impression that it was not quite all spirit, but that the spirit had some sort of visible and half-material being or condition. This was especially so the night of the fog, when the voice seemed nearer to me as I stood there, and as if it was able to come or stay nearer to me because there was a fog to hide its materialism. On each of the other occasions it seemed to keep a good deal further off than on that night, and always sounded as if at an elevation of about 10ft. or 11ft., from the ground, except the night of the fog, when it came down on a level with me as well as nearer.

Georgina F___.

Real Ghost Stories, W.T. Stead, 1921: p. 222-30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While appreciating this narrative as a splendid and chilling ghost story, Mrs Daffodil cannot help but wonder if a man so singularly lacking in candour and honesty and so enraged by the lady’s rejection of him might not have asked an Italian friend to write ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ on her letter and forged an epistle from the Consul on pilfered letterhead.  The very material “Signor O’Neill,” of course, was in England all along, calling, coughing, and sighing piteously under the lady’s window, aided in his gaslighting efforts by the kindly English fog.  If it did not happen that way, Mrs Daffodil suggests that her version would make an admirable plot for a thrilling motion picture.

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

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

 

An April Fool: 1898

AN APRIL FOOL.

Rowland Grey.

Mrs. Chetwynd, wife of the eminent publisher, had been a trying wife to an excellent husband for thirty years. When she died, it must be confessed that it was something of a relief, though John Chetwynd, decorous in all things, scarcely acknowledged it even to himself. The big house at Surbiton, in which Philistia had so greatly triumphed, speedily becoming intolerable, the widower, in very deep black, went to do his mourning abroad. He was a handsome, well-preserved man of sixty, who had eschewed society and stuck to business, with the result that he was the predestined victim of the first clever woman who might come in his way.

He had had no time for travel till now; had actually never even done tourist Switzerland. It was in the middle of a balmy September when he drifted to Montreux; and the blue lake, the scarlet creepers, the great beds of begonias, the gay, white hotels, came on him as a startling surprise. Montreux is a naughty little town in winter. By the time the lovely white narcissus has covered the green slopes of Les Avants, no one has a rag of reputation left.

But when Mr. Chetwynd came out into the garden of the Hotel d’Edelweiss et de la Grande Bretagne on a dazzling, dewy morning, Montreux had not quite awakened from her summer somnolence, and was innocently charming. Truth to tell, Mr. Chetwynd was first bewildered, then bored. The hotel had misled him by its sub-title, and was full of chattering old foreign ladies. Besides, an orthodox widower, in deep mourning, does not make acquaintances. He was one of those uncomfortable men who do not smoke, and, in consequence, have never properly learnt to be idle. Nor did his French go beyond a timid petition for that menu that has become an English word, because the Briton simply cannot pronounce it.

It was three days before he became aware of the presence of a compatriot in the person of a very pretty young governess called “mademoiselle” by two weedy, overdressed French bits of precocity. It was many a long month before he knew that Miss Violet Baynes had found out all about him before he had been at the Edelweiss a night. This young person was twenty-four. She dressed with an ingénue simplicity that was the perfection of well-concealed art, and Mr. Chetwynd thought she was eighteen. Her grey frock, big, shady, white hat, and peach-blossom complexion, were set off most happily by a background of flaming crimson foliage, a foreground of turquoise lake. Pierre, with lean legs in striped socks; Camille, en bébé, though much too old for that style of costume, only set off her natural grace to further advantage. Mr. Chetwynd was struck by the group. For two days he looked and longed. On the third he daringly ventured on “good morning,” and was rewarded by a dimple-revealing smile. On the fourth he was entering a small summer-house, where he was in the habit of reading the Times, when, to his surprise, he found it tenanted. Miss Baynes sat there sewing at something frilly, minus the big hat, and plus a vision of hair in curly disorder.

She exhibited all the shyness the publisher felt, and then broke the ice with such success that, within half an hour, they were chattering as if they were old friends, Pierre and Camille meanwhile making mud-pies on the gravel with toy alpenstocks. Lesson time came too soon. There was no sign of Miss Baynes at table d’hôte. When Mr. Chetwynd strolled in the garden after dinner, and looked at the moon on the lake, his mind was so pleasingly engaged, he hardly felt lonely.

Next morning they met again. The publisher heard, with much satisfaction, that Madame de Fauche, the mamma of the smirking Camille, was an invalid, wintering at Montreux. Also that Miss Baynes was an orphan. He did not move on to Glion, as he had intended, and informed his confidential clerk that he should be abroad some time longer.

One day Violet confided to him, with the prettiest hesitation, that she had tried to write; that little stories of hers had appeared here and there. He had never alluded to his own vocation, and Miss Violet was all astonishment when she heard of it.

“You are really Mr. Chetwynd? Oh, if I had known, I should never, never have dared to tell you. Only you have been so good and kind, and I am so lonely.” She raised a great pair of dewy grey eyes to her companion irresistibly as she spoke.

“Now you must promise to let me help you,” began the publisher of two leading magazines into which a legion of beginners had striven in vain to enter.

Miss Baynes showed her lovely curling lashes, and hung her head. “Oh, I could not,” she began, bashfully. “My work is so poor. I know I am not clever, and you__” She broke off most expressively, and refused to renew the subject.

Next morning she sat mending a pathetically shabby little glove. “Such hands as hers ought never to go shabby,” thought the solid Chetwynd, and the thought so haunted him that he finally creaked into a shop in the Grande Rue and bashfully bought half a dozen pairs of a wary vendor, who thus disposed of the worst, dearest, and ugliest of her stock.

He rather dreaded being thanked, but he could not keep away from the little summer-house that was redder with autumn tints every day. On this occasion it disclosed an affecting little tableau, framed in bowery creepers. Violet Baynes sat at the table, with her face hidden, her slender shoulders shaken with sobs. She was all in white, and there was no sign of Pierre or Camille, no sound of their shrill voices. Round her lay a snowstorm of manuscript sheets, a few partly torn across. It was too much for the elderly lover to see unmoved.

“Miss Baynes, Violet, what is the matter? Do let me try and comfort you.”

“Oh, my kind friend, I am very, very silly, I know, but Harvey and Medway have refused my poor novel, and I had so hoped to have been able to tell you good news about it. I did want you so to read it!”

“Did you send it in like that?” asked Chetwynd, waxing practical, and gathering up the sheets with an accustomed hand.

The artful Violet was playing her trump card now. She had only just finished the novel, and she had been engaged to a sub-editor long enough to know that only type-written copy gives a novice any chance of being read.

“Of course I did. I am much too dreadfully poor to pay for type-writing.”

Mr. Chetwynd had by this time picked it all up, and noted that it was very illegible. But he was too much in love to be daunted. He held it tightly, and said firmly, “Now I have got it, I shall read it!”

An April smile came across his tearful listener’s pretty face. She put her small hand upon his with an appealing sweetness that thrilled him.

“I will read it to you,” she said, softly, “and you shall tell me if the poor thing is worth typing.”

It took four mornings. She used to sit in a low deck chair that afforded distracting glimpses of ankles and small shoes. She had the “excellent thing in woman,” a low voice, which sometimes seemed to tremble a little when the middle-aged hero talked to the young heroine. The heroine—Gladys, of course– refused a baronet and a captain, and was finally landed in a pair of rather elderly arms. It was neither clever nor original, but it was not worse than books often issued by other firms, if never by that of the pre-eminent Chetwynd and Chetwynd.

That love is blind, proved true, as usual. Mr. Chetwynd had married his senior’s mature daughter early, after the manner of the good apprentice. But he had never loved till now.

“There is charm and freshness in your little story, and the ending is particularly good. If we can come to terms, I shall be quite willing to publish—let me see, what is it?—‘A Heart of Gold.’ Give me the copy. I will see to the typing.”

That evening Miss Baynes found a note in her room containing a cheque for fifty pounds.

Two days later Mr. Chetwynd took his courage in both hands, and proposed to his new writer. He did it so well that Mr. Jim Beresford-Smith quite enjoyed the letter telling him all about it, and the pleasing reflection that he was engaged to one of the smartest little girls in England.

Miss Baynes listened with the grace of a Récamier, but her reply was rather disappointing: “I cannot answer you at once. I am too surprised, too unworthy of the great honour you have done me. Besides, it is too soon after. We must wait. Let us say good-bye till the spring, till my book comes out, and then I will give my decision.”

“Of course she was right,” reflected Mr. Chetwynd, after he had agreed to the hard condition, comforted by that small word, “we.”

He went back, and was horribly afraid to face his own press readers. The acceptance of “A Heart of Gold,” without their intervention, filled these worthies with an excusable indignation. “Flimsy rubbish,” was the kindest verdict privately recorded against it. Then it was found that the title had been appropriated, and there was quite a buzz among the minor paragraph-mongers. Gradually an uneasy conviction stole over Mr. Chetwynd that there was a lot of unaccountable log-rolling in connection with “George Henderson.” He was old-fashioned, and detested the modern method.

No answer had as yet come from Violet, in spite of another Grandisonian appeal on his part, and the book would be out next week.

The thirty-first of March found Mr. Chetwynd seated alone in his severely mahogany dining-room, with a howling East wind making the rain clash against the panes. A wet Sunday is always abominable, and this was a peculiarly depressing specimen. Surbiton, from the window, was a dismal contrast to a memory of Montreux, all sunshine, flowers, and soft, sympathetic grey eyes, above a grey frock.

He had little appetite for breakfast, and looked to his letters for the amusement the post so seldom affords. There were two papers, halfpenny evening papers of the sort he abhorred, with great red marks.

“George Eliot, George Sand, George Fleming, and George Egerton. It is, perhaps, premature to suggest that the new recruit to the formidable ranks of the Georges will equal these; yet George Henderson, whose first novel is to appear on Monday, makes her literary début under fortunate circumstances. Issued by Messrs. Chetwynd and Chetwynd under the pleasing title April Folly, it is whispered that the book has already received the hall-mark of distinct literary approval.”

“Slovenly, vulgar trash!” growled Chetwynd, adjusting his pince-nez for the second, but in no way prepared for the blow it was destined to inflict.

“Our Swiss correspondent informs us that an interesting literary wedding has just taken place at Montreux. The charming young lady who prefers to be known as ‘George Henderson,’ was privately married to the energetic sub-editor of Mr. Worthingham’s new venture, the ‘Merry-go-Round.’” There was a further panegyric of “this thoroughly up-to-date journal,”—but poor Chetwynd read no more.

It began to dawn on him that this simple little girl had been an actress from first to last, and it was hard to tell whether he was most hurt or angry. The rain poured down in torrents, and he felt the East wind in his aching bones. He saw his own bald reflection in the looking-glass. “No fool like an old fool,” he murmured, bitterly, and “April Folly,” “April Folly,” stared at him from all the advertisement columns till he was fairly sickened.

The weather was very different in Montreux, where Jim Beresford-Smith had had rather a nasty fall from his bicycle because he had imprudently tried to put his arm round his wife’s waist in an unfrequented bit of the road to Villeneuve. She had been telling him how she had written her first novel, and how she had got it accepted.

“You see, Jim, he fell in love with me directly, and that made it easy enough. Men are blind, though, for he believed all my nonsense about having tried Harvey and Medway, and never seemed to see I’d put him in.” “Poor old chap,” said Jim, with a pitying air of magnanimity; but it is possible that, later, he learnt to feel less compassion for Mr. Chetwynd.

To-Day 16 April 1898: pp. 320-5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has a strong suspicion that “Rowland Grey” is the nom de plume of a young person possessed of a peach-blossom complexion and dewy grey eyes.

In fact, Miss Rowland Grey was associated with the Savoy circle (her brother was an intimate friend of W.S. Gilbert) and wrote novels such as Lindenblumen and Other Stories and In Sunny Switzerland.

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.