“She looks most like Mother:” 1868

the feast of the bean king twelfth night

The Feast of the Bean King (Twelfth Night), Jacob Jordaens, 1640-45 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/the-feast-of-the-bean-king/MwEBgGg74T1f2g

A Story from Paris

A Paris letter tells us the following story of a Twelfth Night fete in that city:

A wealthy family in the aristocratic Boulevard Malesherbes were amusing themselves in seeking the king’s portion, or the ring in the festal cake, when a lady of the company says to the hostess:

“I wish my portion to be given to the poorest little boy we can find in the street.”

The servant was dispatched on this cold night, and not far from the house he found a ragged urchin trembling with cold and hunger. He brought him up, was ordered into the saloon, where a thousand lights glittered and sparkling fire gladdened and surprised him. As he drew his portion which the benevolent lady had promised; and as luck would have it, the little fellow found the ring, and, of course, he was king. They all shouted out, that being king must choose a queen. He was asked so to do, and, looking around the company, he chose the very lady who had proposed to cede her portion of the cake. He was asked why he chose her. He said: “I don’t know; she looks most like mother!”

“Whose mother?”

“My mother! I never knew her, but was stolen away from her, and here is her portrait!”

With this he drew from out of his ragged coat a likeness proved to be that of the very lady herself, who, while in Italy, had her child stolen from her, and how he turns up a poor little ragged Savoyard, dragging along a miserable existence in Paris while his mother by an intuition, perhaps, felt that in the air near to where she was, was one so near to her.

The Hornellsville [NY] Tribune 20 August 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would a child stolen from his mother still retain her portrait? Surely those who took the child would have disposed of anything of value. Still, it is a pretty story, and we must not cavil too much at a holiday story with a happy ending. Twelfth Night Parties were the riotous end to the Christmas season. Here are some details of the feast:

Twelfth Night Parties

In England and on the Continent this used to be the time chosen for elaborate masked balls and parties. A ring was concealed in an immense cake, and the guest obtaining it was made . “king” or “queen.” It is a matter of history that Mary, Queen of Scots, honored her maid Mary Seaton, by robing her in her own royal apparel to be the ” Queen of Twelfth Night.”

Tradition says that on this day every vestige of Christmas green must be taken down and burned. This is a peace offering to evil spirits, and assures good luck to the household.

Invitations to a Twelfth Night party afford an opportunity for the pen-and-ink artist to show her skill. A bonfire piled high with holly wreaths, or a cake with a ring suspended over it, is a suitable decoration. If there is no open fireplace for the burning of the greens, there may be a back yard, where the decorations may be offered with due ceremony.

Twelfth Night Cakes

Cakes are to Twelfth Night what the tree is to Christmas. In London, on the night before this festival, there are always crowds before the bakery shop windows to see the wonderful examples of cakes both great and small; these are ornamented with mechanical toys, live birds, and all sorts of grotesque decorations.

Decorations for a Twelfth Night Table

This decorative scheme was carried out in England, and is easily adaptable by any hostess who can imagine how things will look and then carry out the idea. The centrepiece was a court jester’s cap made in sections of different colors, with bells on the points. A circle of snapping-cracker paper caps surrounded it. At either end of the table there was a crimson, cushion, on which rested gorgeous gilt crowns for the King and Queen. When the cake was passed, the guest who received the bean hidden in the cake, was the King; the pea designated the Queen, and the clove the Court Jester. The other guests appropriated the snapping caps, crowns were donned, and a merry time ensued.

“Dame Curtsey’s” book of novel entertainments for every day in the year, Ellye Howell Glover,1907: pp 5-7

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical 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 Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

 

 

The Cost of a Fine Lady

The Groans of Husbands.

If any one doubts that we live in the Age of Toys—at an epoch when taste runs more than ever before in the way of articles of embellishment and luxury—he must entertain that doubt at a distance from this metropolis. Indeed, we know not exactly where he will be able to “lay the flattering unction to his soul,” since even the small villages and incipient settlements in the country take their air from New York, and follow as nearly as possible in the footsteps of those who follow the Parisian setters of fashion. The taste or fancy obeys, too, the law of all propensities and habits, of being stimulated by gratification to larger demands. We have been growing steadily in this respect for a dozen years, and now reach a stature in extravagance that enables us to look over the heads of most of our transatlantic neighbors, and take to ourselves the proud consciousness of outdoing them in almost everything.

Look at the dresses of our ladies; observe them in the ball-room or at the opera; or at a simple home reception. That opera shawl is worn by a poor man’s wife; it is merely an imitation of ermine, with chenille [sic] fringe of pink, white or blue, yet it costs twenty-eight dollars. Observe the dress of the lady in the private box, of blue chene silk, with uncut velvet flounces, painted with rich clusters of flowers, and fringed with silk; she paid, last week, $120 for the dress material, besides $20 to her mantua-maker. The India cashmere shawl she has thrown off so carelessly, cost fifteen hundred dollars. The lady near her wears one with a scarlet centre, for which her husband, who has since advertised his goods as “selling off under cost,” paid $1200 to the importer. Her dress is of brown silk with fringed velvet flounces in a tartan plaid pattern; she purchased it some time since for ninety dollars, and it was thought a bargain. She and her friend are going to a party after the opera. Their head-dresses are “very simple,” –one has a head-piece composed of imitation pearls and delicate white ostrich plumes, mixed with bows of scarlet velvet ribbon looped with pearls, and chenille; there is a fall of white blonde lace upon it; the bandeau across the back of the head is also of mock pearls, and the ends of the ribbon are about half a yard in length. The price was only twelve dollars. The other has a bandeau of black velvet, wound with gold cord, and a fall of guipure lace; a bunch of golden grapes and leaves at the sides is mixed with red velvet flowers, and the streamers are of black crimson velvet ribbon.

fall colored headdress and bouquet red velvet leaves gilt mid 19th c

If you go to the morning reception of one of the ladies, you will probably find her attired in a blue chene silk, with flounces of “dead velvet” flowers; its price unmade was $110. At a party given by one to her fashionable friends, she would wear a dress of white Montante silk, with a border a yard deep of brilliant flowers, wrought in velvet or satin, with the rich tints of their summer bloom—the waist and sleeves trimmed to correspond; this “love of a dress” was got for one hundred dollars unmade, and was a Christmas present from a relative. A friend of hers, who wears a white silk, brocaded with gold in waving figures, and paid for the material $150, feels some self-complacency in her evident superiority.

brussels lace mantilla2

The bride, who is receiving the compliments of her visits, wears a scarf of Point d’Alencon that cost her father $1,500. The Valenciennes flouncing, a quarter of a yard deep, on the dress of one of her friends, is worth $100 a yard. Her mother wears a cape of Point d’Aiguille without ground, for which Stewart charged her $160; and her sister a collar and sleeves of Point d’Alencon, of which the price was $150. The elderly lady, who is giving her a word of advice about her future life ,wears a collar of flat point lace, with raised flowers, wrought in the most delicate needle work, for which she gave forty dollars, and thought it a bargain. Another young lady sports flounces of Point d’Aiguille at $70 the yard; and dangles from her gloved fingers a point d’Alencon handkerchief exquisitely worked in buttonhole stitch, with a centre piece of a few square inches of linen cambric, for which her papa gave a check for $200.

venetian lace handkerchief

Her aunt has one in French work, richly and heavily embroidered, that was only ninety dollars. Her cousin wears a white taffety silk dress with three flounces ornamented with broad wreaths in satin or gorgeous flowers—cost $85. Or would you study the tastes of our ladies on a fine day in Broadway! You will see, perchance, a cape of Russian sable from Genin’s at sixteen hundred dollars; or one of Hudson Bay sable at half that sum, or down through several gradations to $200, with victorines and cuffs to match from $85 to $200, in addition. In the evening again, you may see the latest importation of luxury in a Turkish scarf of muslin, embroidered with a gold and pink silk, worth $100, with dress to match, bought for $150, spangled with stars of gold, and having a wreath of delicate embroidery at the bottom. The handkerchief that matches this costume is wrought in a heavy pattern of silver and gold, representing birds of paradise and flowers, with a centre of linen cambric, and was “thrown away” at twenty dollars.. The head dress, which cost the same, is a barb, embroidered with silver, gold and colored silk. The fan is of white chene silk, painted with wreaths of flowers, and finished with heavy silk fringe. This was only fifteen dollars, and is so recently imported that it is not yet in the market. Its peculiarity is that it can be slipped up to the end of the handle, and expanded in a parasol at the owner’s pleasure.

carved conch parure tiara and bracelet

If you have a fancy for jewelry you may easily count up a fortune on the persons of our belles. That set of diamonds, consisting of necklace, bracelet, brooch and ear-rings, is worth $8,500. The pearl set which adorns the maiden of sixteen, cost $1,845. The sprigs represent the buds of the cotton plant. The gold and diamond bracelet pap bought at $1,800; it is superbly set in black enamel and gold—now the favorite setting. The one with the stone cameo representing a Grace holding a delicate wreath over her head, is worth $1200. But the prettiest device is one mama selected on Broadway the other day; quite new! It is a massive gold rattlesnake with glistening scales of diamonds, sparkling like imprisoned sunshine. It may be worn as a girdle, or a necklace, or in five folds around the wrist as a bracelet. On the top of the head is a cluster of large diamonds; the eyes are brilliant rubies, and the sharp teeth are of gold. The price of this captivating creature was but $800. You may see a superb necklace of eighty-seven diamonds in gold festoons, that cost $1,300; and that fashionable bracelet of broad green enamel, bordered with diamonds, representing bows of ribbon confined with braided bands, studded with brilliant gems, was bought at $1500. The set of large sapphires, with diamonds clustering around them, confined by a rope of chased gold, was $2,140. The diamond ring which sparkles on that lady’s finger, of five and a half carats, is worth $1500; and the ear-rings set in black enamel, $1600 the pair. You may see, also, a new style of necklace, formed of a network of black enamel and diamonds, with pendant shafts of gold headed with gems; the price of this, with a corresponding brooch, was $1300 The set of larger diamonds are worth fifteen thousand dollars. The prevailing fancy this winter has been for coral sets, exquisitely wrought. Look at that magnificent rose colored set, representing Cupid embedded in flowers, and birds in the ear-rings hovering over the rich clusters of blossoms. Its price was $550.

carved conch parure necklace and earrings and brooch

You have perhaps seen B.’s gold tea set—consisting of tea urn, tea and coffee pots, sugar bowl and cream pitcher, with twelve cups, saucers, and spoons—for $15,000. Or the gold dinner set, with fish, crumb and pie knives, preserve spoons, fruit basket, grape scissors, sugar tongs, and eighteen knives and forks for only $1,000. We do not yet use gold very generally, but if you take tea with Mrs. A__, she will show you a new tea set of six pieces worth $800—which was hung on her Christmas tree, and point you to a silver epergne with four branches, for the centre of her table, that cost $600; you will have water or lemonade handed you in a tankard and goblet of richly chased silver, on a slaver to match, of the finest workmanship, representing vintage scenes—price $335; and before you leave, the lady will ask your admiration for her last present of two paintings on porcelain—one representing Rubens’ Children, the other by Corfalis—a Festival of Artists—for which the connoisseur is to pay $325.

silver gilt epergne

Smaller articles of luxury are on the same scale. The fish knife and fork used at a dinner, with full length figures of bacchantes on the handles, were not purchased under $85; the crumb-knife with a chased horn-of-plenty for the handle—for $45. The plum cake at the wedding party you attended last week—weighing 75 pounds—with its frost work ornaments six feet high, cost $100; the pyramid, 3 ½ feet high, with classic figures supporting the roof of a temple crowned with wreaths of flowers, $50; meringues in baskets and other attractive forms, $15 each, the boned turkey in jelly, pedestal and all, $15. Your imagination will supply the innumerable articles that must accompany and keep in countenance these elegant trifles.

It will thus be seen that fashion and society in our city, require expensive aids, and embellishments. Ladies are beginning to complain of the enormous taxes levied on “position and advantageous connection;” their husbands have groaned long under the burden. One tells us she is compelled to forego parties though she loves them dearly, and is well fitted to adorn and enjoy them; she really cannot afford to spend two hundred dollars on a dress and its accompaniments, and must, therefore, give up the pleasure. Another who has lightened her purse and oppressed he heart to be splendid, is half sick with chagrin, because another has eclipsed her in extravagance. Many who really have no wish to cramp their means and beggar their children for such empty triumphs, complain that their friends will drop them if they are not magnificent, and that cold shoulders are turned on any thing in the way of a shawl and dress under $500, or an inferior set of sables. There is certainly no doubt that profuse expenditure in dress, furniture and living, is made the test of respectability and the passport to society in our city. The veriest booby or the silliest woman, who can shine in what money can purchase, may command respect denied to worth, excellence and talent, when allied to moderate means.

This is not as it should be. We do not object to the toy mania when it does not break the limits prescribed by nature and reason. Let the rich spend their wealth in luxuries, trifles and in superb decorations, and let others admire the gewgaws if they choose; but let not the better riches of mind and heart be less prized—infinitely superior as they are. Let such of our dames as can afford to indulge their tastes be magnificent; but let the “public opinion” that would exclude from society those who can not afford more than simple elegance, be crushed out of existence. It is unworthy of republicans—unworthy of Christians—unworthy of intelligent beings.

N.Y. Express.

Alexandria [VA] Gazette 21 January 1857: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Strong words, indeed, when everybody knows that the whims of the upper classes give employment to the poor even though the rich may be a trifle careless in paying their bills to impoverished seamstresses. The expensive caprices of the aristocracy also give those less fortunate something to read in the papers on wet afternoons. This article, for example, on “The Cost of a Curtsey,” telling of the expenses attendant on being present at Court, and this one, on “Where that $10,000-a-Year Dress Allowance Goes” must have inspired much amusement and a hearty thankfulness among the working classes that they had not the worries and cares of the wealthy.

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.

Mrs Daffodil’s New Year’s Greetings

Mrs Daffodil thanks her readers for visiting

and wishes them all a “fan”-tastic New Year.

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.

 

Mrs Daffodil Sends Holiday Greetings

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers a very Happy Christmas

and all good things in the New Year!

 

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 Simply Splendid Christmas Treat: 1897

dancing round the christmas tree

Making It Easy.

“Dear me, I don’t see how you can do it!”

“Do what? Just let the young people have an out and out merry time of it on Christmas night?” “You say your sister’s family are coming to dinner, your girl of course goes out in the evening, and yet half a dozen or more young folks are coming to visit in the evening. Of course you’ll have to get up the treat.”

“Oh, the treat won’t trouble anybody. I’m going to do exactly as we did last year.”

“Yes, but those stylish Merlin girls on the hill told our Ida—she was away last Christmas, you remember—that they spent last Christmas evening at your house, and never had a pleasanter time in their lives. They mentioned particularly that the refreshments were splendid! Ida wondered what you had.”

“Well, it’s easily told. When Tom and the girls said they wished six or eight of their friends, the Merlins among the rest, could come to the house Christmas night, I said they could and welcome if they were willing to do as we used to in our New England home.”

“‘Pray how was that?’ asked Tom, bridling a little.

“I reminded him that Norah expected to go on her little Christmasing as soon as dinner was over, and that I always helped her clear away so lengthy a feast. The table I told him should be neatly spread with nothing on it but the cloth, cups and saucers, plates and paper napkins. On the sideboard should be a platter of cold turkey which I would slice after dinner, chips, fancy crackers, salteens, a pie or two, cake, nuts and raisins, figs and grapes, all ready prepared for serving. A pot of coffee, also one of chocolate, should be on the range. Whenever he or any of the other ladies chose to invite a young lady to the dining room they could treat her to whatever the sideboard afforded, or make merry by running to the kitchen for a cup of hot drink.

“I certainly think those young people were going and coming from the dining room the whole evening through. Tom had sniffed a little and observed something about ‘a regular counter lunch’ when the proposal was made, but this year he proposed carrying out the same program, or I might perhaps more properly say menu.

“I remember Tom called out, ‘The pie’s given out, mammy.’ ‘All right,’ I said, ‘go to the pantry and get another.’ And pretty soon Lizzie wailed, ‘The coffee’s all gone, mammy.’ ‘All right,’ said I placidly, ‘go to work and make some more.’ Then a prolonged cry, ‘O mammy, the turkey has all disappeared.’ ‘Never mind, go to the cellar-way and get the bones.’ There were some pickings left, and I did set up a chicken ‘gainst a special call.

“They picked both turkey frame and chicken bare; Susie’s children were here, you know, so there were fourteen young people in all, and now I have described what the Merlin girls styled ‘splendid refreshments.’ Tom last year ventured something about ice cream, but I told him no, there could be no fussing about anything extra, the general provision of the season would be enough. And we found it a very simple matter to clear away the sideboard treat the next morning, while it gave me scarcely anything extra to do on Christmas afternoon.”

This is a very true showing of what has been done time and time again in a large family, when the young people wanted a little company on Christmas night, and after the long, abundant dinner it was too much for the tired housewife to think of getting up a regularly laid “treat.” It has been proven often that an entirely informal company is the merriest one imaginable, and it is a great mistake to crowd so much into a joyous holiday that all pleasure is lost in a sense of cruel fatigue…

There is quite an art in making things easy, and on holidays the most scrupulous housewife is fully justified in refusing to undertake anything like an extra spread. Just set young people to helping themselves, and my! how the good things will disappear. It is doubly jolly to see Tom or Will pouring chocolate into a tiny cup which he must fill and refill until he must needs search about for more of the raw material. There is always a kind of good comradeship in sharing these merry feasts, especially when it becomes the part of prudence for some matronly girl to advise as to how much coffee or chocolate goes into making another potful. Do not refuse the merry-making because of the work involved. Make things easy, and they will be all the merrier, and young people are much the same all the world around.

Christian Work 16 December 1897: p 1020

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This will be Mrs Daffodil’s last post for 2017. Should readers wish for more tips on making the holidays merry and bright, she can recommend the “Christmas” tab for stories on Christmas tree dances , New Year’s Eve “wish” trees and other entertainments.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the best of everything for the holidays and peace, health, and prosperity in the New Year.

And cake.

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.

 

Corn Balls for Christmas: A Thrilling Tale: 1870s

harriet ann corn balls

HARRIET ANN’S CHRISTMAS

by Mary E. Wilkins

I was 12 years old three weeks before that Christmas , but I was small for my age and looked no more than 10. There were four of us. I was the eldest. Then there were a girl of 10, one of 8 1/2 and a boy of 7. In October we had moved to the house on the shore of Lonesome lake, which was very lonesome indeed. It was a solitary little sheet of water on the top of a hill, almost a mountain. There were no neighbors nearer than a mile. Father had moved to this farm on Lonesome lake because his father had died that fall, and the property had to be divided between him and his brother, Uncle William. Uncle William was not married, though he was older than father, and he and father and grandfather had always lived together and work the home farm, sharing the profits.

After grandfather’s death father and Uncle William had some difference. I never knew what it was about. One night after I had gone to bed I heard them talking loud, and the next morning father and Uncle William looked very sober at breakfast and mother had been crying. That afternoon she told us that we were going to move because the property was to be divided, and were to have the farm on Lonesome lake, near Lebanon. Lebanon is a little village about ten miles from Wareville, where we were living then. Mother said she was sorry to go away because she had lived there so long, and she was afraid she would be pretty lonesome in the new home, but she said we must make the best of it. Uncle William was the eldest son and had a right to the first choice of the property, and of course since he was a bachelor, it would be very hard for him to go to live at Lonesome lake.

We children rather liked the idea of moving and began packing at once. Flory and Janey had their dolls and their wardrobes all packed within an hour. Flory was the sister next to me, and I thought her rather old to play with dolls. I had given up dolls long before I was as old as she.

Two weeks after grandfather died we were all moved and nearly settled in our new home. There had been no one living in the house for several years, except when father and Uncle William, went up there every year in haying time to cut and make hay. Everything seemed pretty damp and dismal at first, but when we got our furniture set up and the fires started it looked more cheerful. The house was large, with two front rooms looking on the lake, which was only about 20 feet distant. One of these rooms was our sitting room; the other was our parlor. Back of these rooms was a very large one, which was our kitchen and dining room. There were a dark bedroom in the middle of the house, a bedroom out of the kitchen, one where father and mother slept, out of the sitting room, and four chambers.

Thanksgiving came about a week after we had moved, and we had a rather forlorn day. We all missed grandfather and Uncle William. I am sure mother cried a little before we sat down to the table, and father looked sober.

When Thanksgiving was over, we began to think about Christmas . Mother had promised us a Christmas tree. The year before we had all the measles and been disappointed about going to the tree at the Sunday school, and mother had said, “Next year you shall have a tree of your own if nothing happens.” Of course, something had happened. Poor grandfather had died, and we had moved, and we wonder if that would put a stop to the tree. Mother looked a little troubled at first when we spoke of it. Then she said if we should not be disappointed if we did not have many presents and the tree did not have much on it except popcorn and apples she would see what she could do.

Then we children began to be full of little secrecies. Mysterious bits of wool and silk and colored paper and cardboard were scattered about the house, and we were always shutting doors and jumping and hiding things when a door was opened. Each of us was making something for father and mother, even Charles Henry. He was working a worsted motto, “God Bless Our Home.” Then, of course, we were all making presents for one another.

It was a week and one day before Christmas . We had our presents at most done, and mother had promised to take two of us the very next day and go down to the village to do some shopping-we had been saving money all the year to come boughten presents -when the news about Uncle William came. A man rode over from Wareville quite late at night and brought word that Uncle William was dangerously sick and father and mother must come at once if they wanted to see him alive. Mother said there was nothing for it but they must go. She said if they had not come away just as they had, with hard words between father and Uncle William, she would have let father go alone and staid with us children; but, as it was, she felt that she must go too. She and father, though I can understand now that they felt anxious while trying to conceal it from us, did not think there was any real danger in our staying alone. They reasoned that nobody except the people in the village would know we were alone, and there was not probably one ill disposed person there, certainly not one who would do us harm. Then, too, it was winter and we were off the main traveled road, and tramps seemed very improbable. We had enough provisions in the house to last us for weeks, and there was a great stock of firewood in the shed. Luckily the barn was connected with the house, so I did not have to go out of doors to milk–it was fortunate that I knew how–and we had only one cow.

Mother staid up all that night and baked, and father split up kindling wood and got everything ready to leave. They started early next morning, repeating all their instructions over and over. We felt pretty lonesome when they had gone, I especially, not only because I was the eldest and felt a responsibility for the rest, but because father had given me a particular charge. I was the only one who knew that there was $583, some money which father had from the sale of a wood lot in Wareville a month after we had moved and had kept in the house ever since, locked up in the secret drawer in the chest in the dark bedroom.

Father had been intending to drive over to Wilton, where there was a bank, and deposit the money, but had put it off from one week to another, and now Wilton was too far out of his way for him to go there before going to see poor Uncle William.

Father called me into the parlor the morning they started, told me about the money and charged me to say nothing concerning it to the others. “It is always best when there is money to be taken care of to keep your own counsel,” said father. He showed me the secret drawer in the chest in the dark bedroom, the existence of which I had never suspected before, thought I was 12 years old, and he taught me how to open it and shut it. If the house caught fire, I was to get the children out first, then go straight to the secret drawer and save the money. If there had been no possibility of fire, I doubt if father would have told me about the money at all, and I would have been saved a great deal of worry.

The money was on my mind constantly after father and mother were gone. I kept thinking, “Suppose anything should happen to that money while I have the charge of it.” I knew what a serious matter it would be, because father had not much money and was saving this to buy cows in the spring, when he expected to open a milk route. I was all the time planning what I should do in case the house caught fire and in case the robbers came. The first night after father and mother went I did not sleep much, though the others did. We three girls slept in one room, with Charley in a little one out of it, and we were all locked in.

The next night I slept a little better and did not feel so much afraid, and the next day Samuel J. Wetherhed came, and we all felt perfectly safe after that. He came about 10 o’clock in the morning and knocked on the south door, and we all jumped. I don’t suppose anybody had knock on that door three times since we had lived there, it was such a lonesome place. We were scared and did not dare to go to the door, but when he knocked the second time I blustered up enough courage. I told Flory, who was as large as I and stronger, to take the carving knife, hide it under her apron and stand behind me. Of course I thought at once of the money and that this might be a robber. Then I opened the door a crack and peeped out. The minute I saw the man who stood there I did not feel afraid at all, and Flory said afterward that she felt awful ashamed of the carving knife and afraid that he might see it and be hurt in his feelings.

He stood there, smiling with such a pleasant smile. He did not look very old, not near as old as father, and he was quite well dressed. He was very good looking, and that, with his pleasant smile, won our hearts at once. He more than smiled-be fairly laughed in such a good natured way when he saw how we were all peeking, for the younger children was behind Flory, and I found afterward that Charley, who had great notions of being smart and brave, though he was so little, because he was a boy, had the poker, shaking it at the stranger. The man laughed and said in such a pleasant voice, pleasanter this his smile even: “Now, don’t you be scared, children. I am Samuel J. Wetherhed.”

The man said that as if it settled everything, and we all felt that it did, though we had never heard of Samuel J. Wetherhed in our lives. We felt that we ought to know all about him, and Janey said that night that she was sure she had seen his name in The Missionary Herald, and he must be a deacon who gave a great deal to missions.

Samuel J. Wetherhed went on to tell us more about himself, though I am sure we should have been satisfied with the name. “I have married sister who lives in Wareville. She married a man of the name of Stackpole.” said he, and we all nodded wisely at that and felt that it was an introduction. We knew Mr. Stackpole. He was the man to whom father had sold his woodland. “I went to visit my sister last week,” said the man. “I haven’t got any settled work. Yesterday my sister’s husband saw your father, and he told me how he had left you all alone up here and felt sort of worried, and I thought as long as I was just loafing around and no use to anybody I might just as well come up here and look after you a little and stay till your folks got back and look out there didn’t say wolves or robbers or anything get you.” The man laughed again in such a pleasant, merry way when he said that, and then he went on to tell us that his sister’s husband said Uncle William was better and the doctor thought he would get well, but he guessed father and mother would have to stay there for awhile. We asked the man in, and he made himself at home at once.

It seemed to me I had never seen a man so very kind as he was, and he was so quick to see things that needed to be done. He went out of his own accord and drew a pail of water, and he brought in wood for the sitting room fire. We children all agreed when we went up stairs to bed that night that there never was a man so good, except father. We had told him our plans for Christmas , and he was so much interested. He said of course we could have a tree. He would cut a fine tree, and if Uncle William was not well enough for father and mother to leave him on Christmas day he would go to Wareville himself and stay with Uncle William, so they could come home. He said, too, that he could go down to the village on foot, and if we would make out a list of the things we wanted he would go down and buy them for us. He went the very next day. We gave him all our money, and be brought back everything we wanted. We decided to make him some presents , too and I began a little wash leather money bag, like the one I had made for father. Flory made a penwiper and Janey a worsted bookmark.

Samuel J. Wetherhed cut a beautiful tree for us, taking us all into the woods to pick it out. Then he set it up in the parlor so firmed that it did not shake. He rigged some sockets for candles and help us string popcorn for decorations and make candy bags. He could sew as well as mother. Samuel J. Wetherhed was the most industrious man I ever saw. He was not idle a minute. He milked and did all the barn chores, he made the fires and drew water and swept the floors and washed the milk pails for me, and all his spare time he was at work upon our Christmas preparations as busily as we were. He found some boards and tools of father’s and made some wonderful things with them. There was a nice box, which he showed us how to line with flannel, for mother to keep knives and forks in, a little boat for Charley and a number of other things.

I felt much easier in my mind about the money after Samuel J. Wetherhed came.

We have given Samuel the bedroom out of the kitchen to sleep in. He said he would rather have that, because it was so handy for him to build the fire in the morning, and I did not have the first suspicion that anything was wrong until the night of the day but one before Christmas . I had been sleeping well since Samuel came through feeling so safe, though I had as I afterward remembered, often started awake, because I thought I heard a noise, but that night I did not go to sleep as soon as usual. I was very much excited thinking about Christmas and father and mother coming home. Samuel had gone down to the village that morning and got a letter for me from mother in which she said that they were coming home Christmas morning, since Uncle William was well enough to be left. We were all delighted the more so because we thought now that Samuel could stay and have our Christmas tree with us. He laughed and thanked us when we said so, but in a moment afterward I notice that he looked very sober, even sad. Well, thinking over everything made me very wide awake, and I guess it must have been as late as 11 o’clock when I was sure I heard somebody down stairs in the sitting room, which was directly under our room. I thought at once that it might be a robber and perhaps I ought to speak to Samuel in case he should not hear the noise. I waited till I heard the noise again very plain and was sure that I knew where it was-some one was trying to open the door of the dark bedroom, which stuck and had to be forced down before pulling. The children did not awake, and I made up my mind that I would not speak to them and get them scared to death. I thought that I would go down stairs very softly, steal past the sitting room door and go through the other day to the kitchen and wake up Samuel.

I got up and put on my dress. Then I went down stairs, and I don’t believe I made any more noise than a cat. I saw a faint light shining from the dark bedroom, and I knew I had not been mistaken. Then all of a sudden I thought that father and mother might have come home and father be looking to see if the money was safe. I thought I would make sure before I called Samuel.

I went into the sitting room and crept across to the dark bedroom, keeping close to the wall. I peeked in, and there was Samuel rummaging in the chest where the money was. Then I knew that, however good Samuel might be in other ways, he could take things. It was an awful shock. I wonder why I did not scream and run, but I kept still. I went back up stairs and locked myself into the chamber and sat down on the edge of the bed to think. It did not seem to me that it was of any use for me to stay down stairs and watch Samuel. I did not think he could find the secret drawer without any help. I could not stop his taking the money if he was determined. Then, too, I reasoned that if he did not find it that night there would be time enough for me to hide it tomorrow, and father and mother were coming home next day.

I did not sleep any that night. I took off my dress and lay down. Before daybreak I had my plans all made. I tried to treat Samuel just as usual when I saw him in the morning, and I guess I did. After breakfast I carried a pitcher of water into the parlor as if I were going to water the plants. Then I lighted a match and touched it to one of the candles on the Christmas tree to make it appear as if I had only wanted to see how it would look, and then I touched it to the tree, and it blazed up. I waited until I dared wait no longer, and then I dashed on the water and screamed fire at the top of my lungs. They all came running in Samuel first. He rushed for more water and the fire was out in a minute, but the tree was badly singed, and the children began to cry.

“Now, don’t you cry,” said Samuel “I’ll go this minute and cut another tree.”

So Samuel started off and Charley with him, and then I made Flory and Janey go upstairs. “You two have just got to go up stairs and stay there while I fix a surprise,” said I. Surprises were a favorite amusement with us children. Flory and Janey laughed and ran off up stairs for a minute.

I set some molasses on to boil. Then I got the money out of the secret drawer and made six little parcels of it, rolled as tightly as I could and wrapped in letter paper. Then as soon as the molasses was boiled I made popcorn balls. Luckily I had enough corn popped. When I called the girls down stairs, I had two plates of corn balls. The bills in one were of extra size with strings attached all ready to hang on the tree, and in six of them were hidden the little rolls of money. The balls in the other plate were smaller, and those were to be eaten at once.

When Samuel and Charley came home, I gave them some of the little corn balls, and when Samuel had set up the tree I hung on the others. Then I thought the money was safe, but I wondered all the time what I should do if Samuel should come to me and ask me right out where the money was for I did not want to tell a lie.

That night we all went up stairs as usual, but I did not go to sleep. It was not very late when I heard Samuel moving about below, and presently he came to the foot of the stairs and called me.

I went to my door. My heart was beating so hard it seemed to choke me. “What do you want,” I made out say as softly as I could, so as not to wake the children.

“Come down here a minute,” said Samuel, and I went down to the sitting room. I want to ask you a question,” said Samuel. He tried to smile, but he was very pale and looked as if he was as frightened as I was. I was so afraid he would asked me right out, “Where is the money?” but he did not.

“I only want to ask if your father left some money in the house when he went away,” said he, looking away from me as if he were ashamed.

“Yes he did,” said I. I had to or tell a lie.

“Well,” said Samuel in a queer , shaking voice, “I would like to borrow that money for a little while. I need some money right away, and as long as your father ain’t using it”-

“I would rather you waited and ask father,” I said. “I don’t think father would like it if I lent you money.”

“I will make it right with your father,” said Samuel. “Did your father tell you where the money was?”

“Yes he did,” I answered. I had to or tell a lie. I trembled for the next question.

“Where did he tell you it was?” asked Samuel.

“In the chest in the dark bedroom,” said I. That was the truth, and it did no harm.

“Whereabouts in the chest?”

“In the secret drawer.”

“Oh! So there’s a secret drawer. Did you father tell you how to open it?”

I said he did.

“Well, you just come in here and show me how to open it,” said Samuel.

I went with Samuel into the dark bedroom and showed him how to open the drawer. I could see nothing else to do. I stood back while he opened it. I wonder if it would be wrong for me to cry out as if I were astonished when he discovered that the money was gone. Then all of a sudden I heard a sound that made my heart jump with joy. I heard sleighbells and then father’s voice shouting to the horse. “Father has come,” said I.

Samuel made one leap and was gone, rushing through the kitchen and out the back door.

I ran and unbolted the south door, and there was father and mother come home sooner than I expected. When I saw their faces, I just broke down and sobbed and sobbed and told them all about it in such queer snatches that they thought it first I was out of my mind. Father said afterward that he never heard such a jumble of popcorn balls and secret drawers and Samuel. When father fairly understood what had happened, he lighted the lantern and searched out in the barn and the sheds to be sure that Samuel was not lurking about the premises, but he did not find him. Father said he knew the man; that he belonged to a good family, but had been sort of shiftless and unlucky.

When we were all settled down again for the night and I felt so safe and happy with father and mother at home, I could not help feeling troubled about poor Samuel out in the storm. I hope he would not die of cold and be found dead when the snow melted in the spring. There was quite a severe snowstorm. That was the reason why father and mother had reached home so late. They had been obliged to drive slowly on account of the gathering snow.

We were just sitting down to our Christmas dinner next day when we all stopped and listened. Then the sound came again, and we were sure that somebody was out in the storm calling faintly for help.

“It is the man!” said mother. “Do go quick as you can.” Mother has been worrying about Samuel all day. She said she did not want him to perish if he had tried to wrong us, and father had been all around the farm looking for him. He thought, however, that he had gone down to the village the night before.

We opened the door, and we could hear the calls for help quite plainly. Father pulled on his big boots and started out. The storm was very thick. Soon we could not see father, but we could hear his shouts and the faint cries in response, and then we saw father coming back half carrying Samuel J. Wetherhed.

Samuel was pretty well exhausted, beside being frightened and ashamed when he saw where he was, back in the house of the man he had tried to rob. He tried to stop on the threshold of the outer door, spent as he was. “I guess you-don’t-know,” he began, but father interrupted him. “Come along in!” cried father in a hearty way that he has. “You have been good to my children and as long as you didn’t do what you set out to there’s no use talking about it.”

Samuel was pretty well exhausted. He had spent the night in an old barn on the other side of the mountain and had been floundering about in circles all day, trying to find the road. However, he was able to eat some Christmas dinner with us, though he hesitated about that, as he had done about entering the door, and all of a sudden his knife and fork, bent his head down over his plate, and we saw that he was crying, though we tried to take no notice.

Samuel stayed with us that night and was present at the Christmas tree, though he seemed very sober and dashed his hand across his eyes a good many times when his name was called and he got his little presents .

The next day the storm had stopped, and father put the horse in the sleigh and took Samuel down to Lebanon to take the train. We never saw him again after he had shaken hands with us all and thanked mother in a voice that trembled so that he could scarcely speak and father had driven him off in the sleigh.

That day we girls pulled the corn balls to pieces and found the bills inside, not sticky at all. The next day father took the money to the bank, though he said he didn’t know corn balls were safer, since robbers knew that money was in banks, but he didn’t think they had any suspicion of its being in corn balls.

We spent the next Christmas in our old home in Wareville, for father and Uncle William had made up and we had gone back there to live. We had a tree, and the day before Christmas a great box came by express with a handsome present for each of us. There was no name sent with them, but we always knew as well as we wanted to, and father and mother thought so, too, that they had come from Samuel J. Wetherhed, who, we had heard, had settled out west and was doing very well.

The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia PA] 21 December 1899

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well-done, Harriet Ann!  Mrs Daffodil considers that she was being over-scrupulous in not at least slightly paltering with the truth, but a happy ending and a happy Christmas all round.

 

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 Ghost in Brocade: 1906

ghost in brocade dressA

The Ghost in Brocade

On hoardings, in fields, on the covers of magazines, on the back sheets of newspapers, an advertisement headed “S.S.S.” appears with the regularity of the sun. Additional information is accorded to the curious by the expansion of these mystic signs into the words, “Sarah’s Salutary Sauce “–a condiment invented by Sarah Brag to tickle the palates of the epicures.

Her husband, a compositor in the office of a provincial journal, made a fortune out of it for both of them. He commenced quite in a small way by advertising it in the columns he set up, while Sarah, renting suitable premises in the town, personally manufactured her invention. The advertisements were read, the sauce was approved of, and as circles on the water its fame widened round the world. In twenty years Mr. and Mrs. Brag were almost millionaires, and having turned their concern into a limited liability company, retired to enjoy an old age of well-earned ease and comfort at Alliston Hall. “S.S.S.” did its work well, and for once fortune bestowed her favours on the deserving.

They were wholly unlike the millionaires of commerce or of fiction, these two. For they were neither anxious to get into society nor desirous of displaying their wealth with ostentation. Mr. Brag, indeed, had rubbed off some of his natural roughness whilst shouldering his way through the world, but Sarah his wife was as much a cook as she had been when she presided over the kitchen of Alliston Hall. Now she sat in the drawing-room, and could without doubt have set up as a fine lady had she so desired. But her heart was ever in the back premises, and her visits there were by no means infrequent. She remained always the uneducated, rough, warm-hearted woman, devoted to her home and to her husband. I knew her value better than anyone, save perhaps Helen; and both of us were extremely fond of her, and indeed of Mr. Brag also. They were a typical Mr. and Mrs. Boffin.

But who am I, you will ask—and who is Helen, too? Well, I who tell you this story am Geoffrey Beauchamp, an idle Oxonian and private secretary to Mr. Brag.

When I left Balliol, my father, failing in business, took his loss of money and reputation so seriously that he died of a broken heart, and joined my mother in the next world, whither she had long preceded him. Finding myself an orphan, penniless, and without a profession, I cast about for employment. I answered an advertisement for a secretary. In this way it was that I became acquainted with Mr. Brag. For three years past I have looked after his affairs—that is to say, I have written his letters, advised him as best I could, and have stood between his too kindly soul and the hungry horde of money-hunters. And he on his part has treated me more like a son than a paid servant, which I have not failed to appreciate. So comfortable at position and so kindly a friend come not to every man.

Then there is Helen. She is looked upon as the daughter of the house, as indeed she is, seeing that she was born at the Hall.

When Sir Ralph Alliston died after a spendthrift career, he left his only child without a penny. The Hall was sold, and the proceeds went to pay off the mortgages and the rest of the debts. So Helen, poor helpless girl, had no choice but to go out as a governess. But Sarah Brag soon changed all that. She remembered Helen as a child, and when the Hall was purchased by the money made out of “S.S.S.” she sought out the orphan and insisted upon her returning.

“As my own child.” explained the good soul; “seein’ that ‘J. ’ and me ain’t bin bless’d with babies. Not that I’m a lady, my dear, nor could ever have a daughter like you. But we’ll put it like that to satisfy the ‘conveniences ‘ of society.”

What could Helen do but accept an offer so kindly and so liberally made. So she came back to her ancestral home, and found existence made as pleasant for her as Mr. and Mrs. Brag could make it. Then it came about that as I was young and Helen altogether charming we fell in love with each other, much to the delight, be it said, of our patrons. Eventually it was arranged that I should be Helen’s husband, and that she should expect to inherit the substantial profits from “S.S.S.”

“And if I might advise Mr. Beauchamp,” said Mrs. Brag, beaming, “ you should take the name and arms of Alliston, by right of ‘Elen here; so that when we are dead and gone the old family will still be in the old place where they have been for Lord knows what number of years.

“Think,” cried Mrs. Brag, jubilantly, “of the ancestors you’ll have. Why there’s a church chock full of ’em—all knights and bar’nites. Fine, ain’t it?”

I agreed that it was “fine,” and with Helen’s consent, indeed at her express wish, I promised the worthy couple to take the name of Alliston when I should lead the last scion of the family to the altar.

And this was the position of affairs when the ghost came; and I do not think there were four happier people in the whole world up to that time. Lady Marian spoilt it all.

Lady Marian was the ghost’s name. She had been a Georgian beauty a couple of hundred years ago—had rustled in silken brocade in the midst of Jacobite conspiracies. Her husband had preferred King George to King James, and desirous of keeping his head and property had given her to understand as much. But it would seem that excitement was the breath of Lady Marian’s nostrils and she made the Hall a centre of intrigue, which included the midnight visits of Jesuit priests, of French emissaries from his Majesty over the water, and of sulky Squires who cursed the Hanoverian in their cups.

Sir Walter Alliston, being a jealous husband as well as a loyal subject, disapproved of his wife’s pranks, and accused her of using politics for the masking of intrigues against his honour and her own. The lady, being of high spirit, denied the accusation, and swore never again to speak to her husband. He, more furious than ever, kept a close watch upon her, and one evening found a masked gallant leaving her apartments. Without a moment’s hesitation he ran the intruder through with his rapier. When he tore off the vizor he found to his horror that the victim was Lady Marian herself, disguised for some excursion. Dying, she cursed him and his, and declared that she would haunt him and his descendants evermore.

“And she’s kept her word!” said Mrs. Brag, who told me the story, “for when Sir Walter died she walked down the picture gallery the night before. She always comes to tell when one of the family is to die. I ’eard as she was seen just before ’Elen’s father went off, and when Lady Alliston died in giving birth to that dear girl I saw the ghost myself.”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Brag! There are no such things as ghosts,” I said.

“Oh, ain’t there, but there is. I tell you, as I’m a livin’ breathin’ woman I saw the Lady Marian gliding along the picture gallery in brocade and ‘igh-‘eeled shoes, just as she were when alive.”

“Have you seen the ghost since you bought the Hall, Mrs. Brag?”

“God forbid, my dear; for if Lady Marian comes again it will only be to take away ’Elen, seein’ as she’s the last of them.”

As Mrs. Brag, with the superstition of an uneducated person, firmly believed in the warning apparition. I was not surprised on returning from a month’s holiday in Switzerland shortly before Christmas, to find her in a state of great alarm at the reappearance of her bugbear. Two weeks before my return Lady Marian, brocade, high-heeled shoes, cane and all, had twice, been seen in the picture gallery—on each occasion at the midnight hour.

Mrs. Brag was certain that it meant Helen’s death, and unable utterly to keep feeling of any kind to herself, had succeeded in infecting the whole house with her fears. Not a servant would enter the Long Gallery, as it was called, after dark; and even Mr. Brag, sceptic as he was, became uneasy when he came to think of what it might mean.

The girl herself did not look so well as when I had left for my holiday. She was pale and thin, and singularly silent. Her eyes, too, seemed unnaturally bright. After Mrs. Brag had delivered herself of the story, and had stated her intention of calling in the vicar to exorcise the ghost, I was left alone in the drawing-room with Helen.

“My darling, you look ill,” I said, clasping her in my arms; “surely you do not believe in all this nonsense.”

She shivered. “I don’t know,” she said, nervously. “Both the housekeeper and the butler have seen the ghost. Mrs. Brag is always talking about it, and really I am beginning to think there must be some truth in it.”

“Nonsense l nonsense ! All this talk and fuss has made you nervous and ill; hasn’t it, dear?”

“Yes, Geoffrey; I was quite well until the ghost came.”

I saw very plainly how matters stood. Helen was sensitive and highly strung, and Mrs. Brag’s foolish talk had wrought her up to such a pitch that the tortured nerves reacted on her delicate body. She was never a strong girl, but she was always very healthy. Worry was evidently what had made her ill. I no longer wondered that the Allistons had died when Lady Marian was rumoured to have appeared. They were a nervous race. I realised therefore that if I did not do something to exorcise this spirit, if such it were, Helen would become seriously ill, and might even die.

“It is a good thing I returned,” I said to Mr. Brag, when Helen retired to dress for dinner. “That girl will die if this sort of thing goes on.”

“I dessay, I dessay, Geoffrey; but how do you propose to stop it?”

“Find out the trick, to be sure.”

“But how do you know it’s a trick, Geoffrey?”

“I’m sure of it. Tell me, have you seen the ghost?”

“Lor’ no. I ain’t a coward, Geoffrey, but wild ‘orses wouldn’t drag me to that gallery at night. I ain’t seen it, but Parsons and Mrs. Jackson ’ave.”

“Or think they have. What they have seen is some one dressed up as Lady Marian, mark me. Or else they suffer from hallucination. Parsons is sober, I know.”

“Oh, yes; and even if he ain’t, Mrs. Jackson is. She never touches a drop to my knowledge. No, ‘tain’t drink, whatever it is.”

“And they both declare that they have seen the ghost?”

“Lor’, yes. They take their oaths they have.”

“Then it must be a trick. And if I catch the person who is playing it I’ll—well, I’ll make the false ghost a real one. Will you let me take charge of this matter, Mr. Brag?”

“Of course, Geoffrey. I was just waitin’ for you to come back. Find out what’s wrong, and knock all this stuff out of my old woman’s head. She’s mostly in hysterics o’ nights.”

“And no wonder when Helen looks so ill. Believe me, ghosts went out when gas came in. I think I shall manage to prove to you that this spectral Lady Marian is very substantial flesh and blood.”

“But she may not be,” urged Mr. Brag, somewhat dubiously. “Lots of these ‘igh families ’ave their ghosts to see ’em into the next world, I believe. Besides, who could be playin’ this wild trick?”

“Ah, that’s just what we have to find out.”

But it was not so easy to find out. I questioned Mrs. Jackson and Parsons in the most exhaustive manner. They corroborated each other’s story with such verisimilitude and wealth of detail as to leave no doubt in my mind of their good faith. Evidently they had seen a brocaded lady in the picture gallery; but, of course, it could be no such thing as a visitant from the other world. That was where they went wrong. I was certain it was someone playing a trick.

“Oh, you may laugh, sir,” said Mrs. Jackson. She was such a stiff old dame. “But I do assure you that I saw the ghost with my own eyes. I was coming through the long gallery from Miss Alliston’s room and in the moonlight it came on, clack, clack, clack, in high-heeled shoes. I could hear distinctly the rustle of the dress, and as it swept past me I smelt a perfume like that of dried roseleaves. It was Lady Marian sure enough, as I saw from the portrait in the gallery. I fainted dead away, Mr. Beauchamp, sir; and when I came to myself it was gone.”

I confess to feeling a trifle uncomfortable at all this. Then Parsons took up the story.

“I didn’t faint, sir, not bein’ a woman,” said he, “but my flesh was mighty creepy as it went past. I stared at it like a stuck pig, though it was plain enough in the moonlight. It vanished all of a sudden by the painted winder at the end of the gallery.”

“What were you doing in the Long Gallery at that hour, Parsons?”

“Comin’ from master, sir. He’d a bad cold, and I took him up some ‘ot rum and water. I wouldn‘t go to that there gallery again, sir, for all the crown jewels. It was a ghost, sure enough.”

“Oh, was it!” said I, showing plainly by my tone that I did not think it was. “Call the servants Parsons.”

In a few minutes all the domestics in the house were assembled, and a very white-faced crowd they were. Many of them would have been frightened away from the Hall had it not been that the place was such a good one. I suppose, too, it was a case in which they felt there was comfort in numbers. I harangued them pretty freely for what I termed their nonsensical fears.

“Men and women come to years of sense,” I went on, “well—I’m surprised. How can you believe such rubbish? Some one of you is playing a trick; and who it is I shall find out, so beware all of you.”

Of course they protested vehemently. But that was to be expected.

“However,” I said, “you can take this warning from me. I shall watch in the gallery myself with a straight-shooting revolver, and if that ghost appears it shall have a taste of it. I am not going to have your master and mistress and Miss Alliston frightened by this silly trick.”

Again they all protested. But I sent the lot of them away with more blood in their cheeks. Then I turned upstairs to dress for dinner. As I did so I noticed a pretty, timid-looking young woman whose face I did not recognise. She glanced at me uneasily, and was evidently disturbed.

“Who are you?” I asked, abruptly, pausing before her.

“Jane Riordan, sir,” she replied with a curtsey. “I am new here.”

“What are you?”

“Under-housemaid, sir. Oh, please, sir, do you really think there is a ghost?”

“No, you silly girl. The dead never return to this world.”

“Please, sir, what about the Witch of Endor and Samuel, sir?”

“Oh, you are a theologian, I see. Well we won’t discuss that apparition. You must just look upon that as a miracle and not be afraid.”

She shuddered, and looked over her shoulder apprehensively.

“I am terribly afraid, sir, it’s no use my denying it. I shall ask mistress to let me go.”

“You will ask nothing of the kind,” said I in my most peremptory manner.

“Your going would only be the signal for general flight. You‘ll stay here like a sensible girl, until all this mystery is cleared up.”

“Oh, sir, but will it be cleared up?”

“Of course it will, and by a very substantial leaden bullet, too. Now get on with your work and don’t be a fool.”

I saw that there was only one way to deal with the thing, so that I spoke more brusquely to the girl than I would have otherwise done. Besides, she irritated me; she seemed so absolutely terrified with fear. She was calculated to infect the rest of them, though they seemed bad enough as it was. I went off to dress in no very good humour,

Mr. Brag’s want of common sense over this affair amazed me. Usually he was a cool headed and logical man as was conclusively proved by the position to which he had attained. Yet apparently he was as nervous and distaught now, as any of the women. The ghost seemed to have been too much for him; to have knocked the grit out of him, so to speak. He was no more fit than a baby to deal with the situation. I put down his short-coming at this juncture in no small degree to his lack of education.

Then there was the constant chatter of his wife, of whom this element of the supernatural had taken firm hold. She never ceased talking about it, and I suppose the strongest mind is in the end influenced by reiteration. It seemed as if Mrs. Brag’s mind were becoming unhinged.

I was glad that I returned so opportunely. At least if I could throw no light on the subject I could go to work with a cool head and an unprejudiced mind to clear it up.

Mrs. Brag continued to talk of little else but the ghost, whose appearance she seemed to think was quite in keeping with the season. It was astounding the numbers of legends she seemed to have accumulated. Headless phantoms, churchyard apparitions, ghosts in armour, and clanking chains and “presences,” who she said could not be seen but only felt in the most horrific way—upon all these she descanted in the most appalling manner. Helen shuddered, Mr. Brag shook his head portentously, and I must confess that even I felt uncomfortable. The old lady seemed so to environ us with the atmosphere of the supernatural that when a coal dropped from the fire we all jumped, and she shrieked. It was really a most terrible state of things especially for Christmas.

I asked her about Jane Riordan. My question fortunately turned the subject, for it seemed that Mrs. Brag had a good deal to say about this young woman.

“Ah,” she said, “hers is a sad history, my dear. Her father and mother were fellow-servants of mine when I was cook here. The name wasn’t Riordan, for that’s Jane’s married name. Craik’s what we called ‘em—‘Enry and Liza Craik, butler and housekeeper.”

Helen looked up with interest. “Henry Craik ? ” she said, “ why that was the man who stole my mother’s jewels!”

“The same, my dear. Oh, he was a bad one he was; but yet you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in ’is mouth to look at ’im. Liza was always sayin’ as ‘e ‘d die in gaol and disgrace ’er, and ’e did.”

“Were the jewels recovered Mrs. Brag?”

“No, Geoffrey, they weren’t. My Lady missed ‘em one morning after a ball ’ere, when the ‘ouse was full of guests. The whole box was stolen—five or six thousand pounds’ worth, no less; and she only saved what she wore at the ball. All kinds of people were suspected of ’aving gone to ’er room and taken ’em, but no one thought as Craik had done it.”

“I heard something of the story myself,” observed Mr. Brag. “He was caught selling a bracelet, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, J., he was. He got leave to visit a dying friend in London, the old fox; and the friend was a pawnbroker, and ’e told the police, seein’ as ‘e recognised the bracelet from the ’and bills put about. Craik was arrested and sent to gaol for years. He died there, and they never got anything out of ‘im. Where he hid the jewels no one knows, and no one ever will, my dears; for twenty years ’ave gone by since they were stolen.”

“And how does Jane Riordan come to be here?” I asked.

“Her mother died the other day and sent her to me, my dear. ‘Liza and I were born in the village and lived here for years as ’ousekeeper and cook. I can’t say as I liked ‘er over much, she was sly and deceitful; but I don’t think she had anything to do with Craik stealing the jewels. He was bad enough to do that by himself. When he died in gaol Liza wrote to me, and I sent her money to bring up Jane. Then Jane married a bad husband, who left ‘er and when Liza died she came ’ere and asked me to ‘elp ’er for ’er mother’s sake. So I made ‘er under’ousemaid. I think she’s a fool, Geoffrey, but honest enough.”

“She appeared to be nervous, however.”

“And no wonder with this ’orrid ghost,” cried Mrs. Brag, looking round. “I tell you what, J., if you don’t get the parson to exorcise that thing, I’ll leave the ’ouse, that I will.”

“Steady, old lady, we must see what Geoffrey can do first. He’s watching in the Long Gallery tonight.”

“Oh, Geoffrey, the ghost’ll ’ave you for sure.”

“The ghost will have a dose of lead, Mrs. Brag. If you hear a shot, don’t be alarmed.”

“But you can’t shoot ghosts, Geoffrey, they’re shadows, my dear. You can see through ’em.”

“I daresay. I never saw one myself. But this ghost is pretty substantial I’ll be bound. But tell me, Mrs. Brag; was anything ever found out about the jewels?”

“No!” said Helen, before the old lady could answer. “I remember my father searched everywhere for them and offered a big reward. He saw Craik, too: but he refused to say what he had done with them, and Mrs. Craik protested she knew nothing about it. They have been lost for years now.”

“H’m. I wonder if Jane Riordan knows anything about them.”

“That she don’t,” said Mrs. Brag, with energy. “Liza was an honest woman I know; and the gal seems straight enough. If they’d ’ad the jewels they wouldn’t ‘ave lived in poverty so.”

“Still, Craik might have told his wife where he concealed them.”

“No Geoffrey, dear. She’d ’ave come to my Lady or Sir Ralph about them, and got paid for bringing ’em back. If she knew anything she’d ‘ave told for ’er own sake: for she was as poor as poor. Jane told me the most ’arrowing tales of ‘ardship.”

“I’ll question Jane myself,” said I, after some thought. “If these jewels could be recovered they would suit Helen very well.”

Helen laughed and Mrs. Brag beamed.

“If its jewels she wants I will give ‘er ‘eaps. Won’t I, J.?”

“She’s only to ask and to ‘ave,” said Mr. Brag; “but I wish I saw you more rosy and ’ealthy, my dear.”

“I’m afraid this ghost is upsetting my nerves terribly,” said Helen; “do what I will I can’t help thinking about it.”

“Oh, J., can’t we ‘ave some ‘oly water and get it away?” implored Mrs. Brag.

“’Oly water, no. I won’t have no popery here, Sarah. S.S.S. shall never go to fatten the priests if I can ‘elp it. I’m surprised at you, I am.”

“She is over-wrought, Mr. Brag,” said Helen, rising. “Indeed, I think we all are, with this horrid Lady Marian about. Come along to bed, Mrs. Brag. I’ll come up with you.”

“You’ll have to stay with me all night, my dear,” whimpered the old lady, “for I don’t know as Geoffrey firin’ off pistols won’t be as bad as the ghost. Are you goin’ to stay up too, J.?”

“There is no necessity,” I interposed. “I can watch quite well alone. When Mr. Brag hears a shot he can come to me if he likes.”

“Oh, I’ll come fast enough,” said the old man, sturdily; “’tain’t flesh and blood I’m scared of, though I don’t like the other thing. However, if the blessed thing belongs to this world or the next it’s quite certain we’ve got to put a stop to its goin’s on ’ere. If you don’t catch it, Geoffrey, we’ll shut up the house and go abroad. I‘m getting quite skeery myself, and I ain’t got over much nerve to speak of.”

“Well, let me try my hand at exorcising the thing, Mr. Brag. If I can’t manage it we’ll do what you say. Helen will die if this sort of thing goes on.”

“Lord, you don’t think it’s come for ’er?”

“No, I don’t. It is some trick, I tell you. Leave me to find it out,”

Mr. Brag shook his head doubtfully and retired to bed in his turn. Left alone I started on an exploration of the house with a lamp in one hand and a revolver in the other. I examined all the doors and windows, and found them securely bolted and barred. I looked into what rooms I could, from cellar to attic, and found them empty. It was quite clear that beyond the inmates of the house there was no one. Then I made for the happy hunting ground of the ghost.

It had lately been snowing, but now the night was frosty and clear. A bright moon dispelled the darkness and the white world without was as clear as day.

The Long Gallery stretched the whole length of the west wing. On one side a row of tall windows admitted a good light on to the pictures on the opposite wall. There was a fair collection of these, but the Allistons had never been sufficiently artistic in their tastes, or sufficiently acute in their judgment, to acquire masterpieces.

The portraits of Helen’s ancestors were of most interest to me. There was a long series of them, dating from the Tudor time and representing some of the best work of the masters. These were let into the oak panelling with their gilded frames, and could not be detached from the wall. At the further end of the gallery was an ornate window of stained glass, and through this the moonlight fell now weaving coloured arabesques of the floor and portraits. Here I paused before the picture of Lady Marian Alliston.

She must have been a supremely beautiful woman, this Jacobite conspirator, with the high spirit and strong will. Here she was portrayed as tall and stately of figure. A proud expression was on her almost swarthy face, and in the slenderest of white hands she gripped a walking-cane. In a dress of rich brocade, with jewels on neck and arms, red-heeled shoes, and the towering head-dress of the period, she looked every inch a queen, and in her day must surely have moved and ruled as one. I could imagine those imperious brows frowning at the mention of the Elector! I could fancy those firm lips speaking the curse on her too hasty husband. There was something about this fair dead woman which reminded me of Beatrix Esmond; filled with the joy of life and born to dominate by the power of beauty and intellect. Yet she failed as Thackeray‘s heroine failed; but died more nobly, in the prime of loveliness without withering out into sad old age. Had Sir Walter’s rapier not struck through the proud heart she might have been a Sarah Jennings. As it was she was thwarted by Fate; and it was her sad destiny to appear as a bird of ill-omen to those who sat in her seat of pride. Yet I could imagine her wrath when alive at the idea that her fair phantom would descend to scaring an old cook and her plebian husband. How ironical a fate!

But all this preamble leads to nothing. Although I watched in the gallery until dawn I saw no ghost. It was bitterly cold; and the vigil was uncomfortable and in vain. Lady Marian did not appear. I did not even hear the rustle of her skirts, much less set eyes on her face; and when I descended to breakfast, after an hour or so of sleep, it was to laugh at the superstitions of my friends.

“It is as I thought,” said I. “Parsons and Mrs. Jackson both dreamed they saw the phantom. Lady Marian is too wise to revisit the scene of her death.”

“Ah, but she don’t appear every night,” protested Mrs. Brag, wisely. “You wait, Geoffrey. She’ll freeze your blood yet.”

“Not while she knows that an armed watcher has his eye on her, Mrs. Brag.”

“You still believe it is a trick, Geoffrey?”

“If Lady Marian’s phantom is not merely the creation of Parson’s and Mrs. Jackson’s dreams, I still believe it is a trick.”

But trick or no trick, all my vigils were in vain. Night after night for quite two weeks I watched in that infernal gallery for the ghost which never came. Yet notwithstanding my disappointment I could not rid myself of the feeling that there was some mystery about the apparition. It was possible that my public announcement to shoot the so-called ghost had scared the person who, I truly believed, represented it. With this idea I went on a new tack, and once more assembled the household.

“I have watched for fourteen nights, more or less,” I said, “and no ghost has come to scare me. Therefore, I believe Mr. Parsons and Mrs. Jackson have been deceived in thinking they saw one. There is no phantom here, so you can all set your minds at rest. For my part,” and this was the most important point of my speech, “I intend to watch no more. If Lady Marian comes again she must go without an audience. Now all of you go away, and let me have no more of this rubbish.”

Butler and housekeeper were both indignant at my aspersions, but they knew better than to protest openly, and went away with the rest of the servants to grumble in secret. An air of calm pervaded the table, and Mrs. Brag began to pluck up courage. Also Helen, to prove what was undermining her health, became more cheerful and less hysterical. My common sense had exorcised the ghost so far, but it had not solved the mystery. Determined to fathom this I still continued to watch in the gallery. But no one knew of my vigils, not even Helen; so if the trickster came, he or she, whatsoever it might he, would find me waiting.

For two or three nights the gallery was empty as the palm of my hand. But on the fourth night my chance came, and with it the ghost.

It was about midnight, and the moon shining through the clear glass of the side windows and reflecting her light from an expanse of snow made the gallery almost as brilliant as day. I was hidden behind a curtain, midway along the gallery, and half drowsily was looking out into the maze of shadow and silver radiance. Suddenly in the absolute stillness I heard a faint sound. It was a tapping of heels, the rustle of silk skirts, and in a moment under the painted window I saw the ghost. It appeared from nowhere, and I must confess it startled me very considerably.

It was Lady Marian sure enough. I was sufficiently close to it to see that. There she stood, with the tall head-dress and cane, and rich brocaded gown, exactly as she was represented in her portrait. I caught just a glimpse of her face, but it was not sufficient for me to say with certainty whether it was identical with that in the picture. But the figure was certainly the same. I sat quite still and watched, and waited, one finger ready on the trigger of my revolver.

With the clacking sound described by Mrs. Jackson it came down the gallery. The stick tapped, and the long train rustled, and the moonlight played upon the rich hues of the brocade. It did not come near me, but kept close by the range of the family pictures, fingering the frames and passing its white hand over the surfaces. At times it stopped, and with bent head scrutinised more closely the faces of the portraits. Then it began to glide back more swiftly than it had come. I rose, perhaps too incautiously, and I must have made some noise, for before I could raise my revolver to take aim the ghost started, retreated rapidly towards the painted window, and vanished.

Yes, before my very eyes it vanished. I hurried to the spot where I had last seen it, but not a trace of anything could I find. Unless it had dropped through the floor or had passed through a solid wall I could not see for the life of me how it had got away. Could it be a true phantom after all? No, my reason wouldn’t allow such a supposition. Beyond doubt it was flesh and blood—some member of the household got up to resemble Lady Marian. I was more than ever perplexed.

I related everything to Mr. Brag next morning. But he kept my story carefully from his wife and Helen. They were recovering their spirits somewhat, and it would not do to damp them again by saying that I had seen the thing myself. Mr. Brag, indeed, was considerably agitated at this seeming confirmation of the apparition, and it was as much as ever I could do to talk him out of the conviction that spiritual it was.

“But what on earth can it be, man?” he said.

“Well,” I replied, “ I have some sort of idea, but at present I won’t state it lest I should prove to be wrong. I propose that you watch with me to-night, Mr. Brag, and together we’ll see if we can’t unmask the ghost.”

“But do you think it will come again tonight?”

“I can’t say. Perhaps not. It may be that the trickster, whoever it may be, has had a fright and will delay further operations for a while. It is someone in the house, I am convinced of that. When I announced that I would watch nothing was seen of it. But directly I said I would give up watching, Lady Marian appears. What we must do is to watch regularly, Mr. Brag; even should it not appear for a week or more.”

It turned out that I was right. Night after night we concealed ourselves behind the curtain, I with my revolver, Brag with a large dinner bell, with which he intended alarming the house when Lady Marian was captured. This went on for no less than ten nights. Then I took Mrs. Brag and Helen into confidence and arranged a pretended departure from the house. I went off to London with great fuss and ceremony. But I got out of the train at the first station and returned to the hall by road secretly. And at eleven o’clock that night Brag and I were in our hiding place once more. And it was Christmas Eve, the very time when ghosts should be abroad, according to legend.

“Now,” I whispered, “the ghost is off its guard; take my word for it he or she, whichever it is, will come.” Brag said nothing, but gripped viciously at the handle of his dinner-bell.

It fell out as I had anticipated. Shortly after midnight Lady Marian re-appeared in the same guise as before. I could hear Brag’s teeth chattering as he saw the apparition. The moonlight was as strong as it had been on the previous occasion, and Lady Marian, clacking and tapping as before, moved through it in precisely the same way. She glided along by the pictures and fingered the frames. Suddenly we heard her give a joyous exclamation, and there was a sliding sound as of something pushed back. A portrait vanished, and a black cavity was seen in its place.

Now was the time. I jumped up, and poising my revolver fired as truly as I could, and at the same moment Brag’s bell clanged out vigorously. There was a shriek and a hurried scamper. Then as before the ghost of Lady Marian vanished before we could reach the spot.

“Where the deuce has she gone?” cried Brag, who was still ringing his bell hard.

“Through a sliding panel,” I replied, guessing the means of exit was through the cavity.

As I lighted the lamp there was more noise and pattering of feet, and the half-dressed servants in all stages of déshabille and alarm came crowding into the gallery. Some carried lights, others pokers and sticks, but one and all were as frightened as they well could be. And no wonder; for the clamour of Brag’s bell was enough to wake the dead. Then came Helen and Mrs. Brag fully dressed, for they both had waited up to witness the success of my scheme.

And it was a success—greater than I had dared to dream. As I said, a picture—that of Lady Marian had vanished—that is it had slid back into the wall, leaving a cavity which we proceeded to examine. Therein we found an iron box fast locked. But Brag soon had it torn open, to find that it contained velvet lined drawers and trays all heaped with the most splendid jewellery. Gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds —the mass glittered like a rainbow.

“See, Helen, your mother’s long lost jewels. So this is what the ghost of Lady Marian came for.”

“My gracious!” cried Mrs. Brag, dropping on her knees. “Look, my dear, all my Lady’s jewels! You’ll wear them at your wedding after all.”

But Helen did not look at them. She just stared at me, nervous and shaking.

“Geoffrey, who is the ghost?”

“Cannot you guess? Jane Riordan.”

“Impossible! Isn’t she here?”

“No, miss,” said Parsons, glancing round at the servants, “she ain’t with us.”

“Oh, Geoffrey, I hope you haven’t shot her.”

“Serve ‘er right if ‘e ‘as,” cried Brag. “But don’t cry, my pretty, she went through another sliding panel. Come, Geoffrey, let us look.”

“The spring is in the frame, Mr. Brag. I’m sure of that.”

Instantly a dozen hands were busy with the frames, and we soon came upon a spring in that of a picture at the far end of the gallery. It opened noiselessly, and I stepped into the open space, followed by Brag bearing the lamp. We proceeded along a narrow passage, ascended a flight of stone steps and finally emerged through another sliding panel into the back part of the house. On our way we picked up the tall cane, the grey wig and head-dress and the brocade skirt.

“She stripped herself to get away,” said Brag, nodding. “Let us go to her room. She has one to herself, you know. Asked my old woman to give her one as a special favour; and for Eliza Craik’s sake she got it.

The room was reached and we found it empty, with the last remnants of the disguise on the floor. On going to the back door we discovered that it was open, and through it Jane Riordan had vanished into the night never to return.

So it was that I exercised the ghost of Lady Marian. On Christmas Day at breakfast we discussed thoroughly the stirring events of the night. Mrs. Brag was filled with anger at the way in which Jane Riordan had tricked her.

“I wonder how she knew about my Lady’s jewels,” she said.

“Oh, there’s no difficulty in guessing that,” I replied. “The father must have told his wife where he had hidden them. I daresay he intended to fetch them himself when he came out of gaol. But he died before his sentence expired. However, he let his wife know, and she, of course, told Jane, who came here and tried to get them by masquerading as Lady Marian’s ghost.”

“And Eliza must have told her that story, Geoffrey. We often talked of the ghost. Oh, what a wicked woman!”

“But I wonder why Mrs. Craik, being poor, did not try to get the jewels for herself. She would hardly wait twenty years before doing so.”

It was Helen who said this, and I who replied.

“Well, I expect Mrs. Craik was either afraid, or did not learn from her husband behind which picture the jewels were hidden. I expect her reason was the last; for Jane, as I told you, went up and down the wall fingering the frames in order to find the right one. That was why she appeared so often in the gallery. Had she known the true hiding-place one appearance and visit would have done. I see now that she feigned fear to me in order to ward off suspicion. From her looks I never thought she would be so clever.”

“Ah, my dear,” said Mrs. Brag, “she married a scamp, and I daresay, after hearing the story from Liza, he put her up to the trick.”

“She brought the dress with her, I suppose?”

“She must have; and it was to carry on her wicked pranks that she made such a point of having a separate room.”

“I wonder how she knew of the secret passage,” said Brag.

“Liza again,” cried his wife. “She was years here before I came, and so was Craik. I daresay they found the secret passage together and made use of it when they stole the jewels. And now I come to think of it, my dears, it was an actor Jane Riordan married. Oh, I’m well quit of her, I am.”

“Yes, thank goodness she’s gone,” said Brag.

“We don’t want no row about the thing. We’ve got the jewels, and Helen shall wear them on her wedding day.”

“And what‘s more, we’ve got rid of the ghost,” said I, smiling. “I don’t think you can ever believe in ghosts again after this, eh, Mrs. Brag?”

“No, Geoffrey, I can‘t. I daresay the ghost of Lady Marian that I saw myself was either Craik or his wife dressed up. No, I’ll never believe in ghosts again.” Nor did she.

So this was our Christmas ghost, which was no ghost. But true or false it was a very seasonable apparition; and brought to Helen the Christmas gift of her mother’s jewels. She wore them at her wedding with me shortly afterwards; for next Christmas there was no Miss Alliston, but a pretty Mrs. Beauchamp. Nor was there any ghost. Lady Marian, in the person of Jane Riordan, had fulfilled her mission, and we never saw her again.

The Dancer in Red and Other Stories, Fergus Hume, 1906

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is always so satisfying when a ghost story contains lost jewels, sumptuous brocade dresses, and tap-tap-tapping 18th-century heels. Mrs Daffodil will note that the “idle Oxonian” narrator seems a bit contemptuous of those he terms uneducated, nervous, and hysterical, a common failing among “cool-headed” sorts. One is dubious about whether his devotion to Helen outweighs his snobbishness. But a happy ending to a Christmas ghost story is always welcome. The author, Mr Hume, is not always so forgiving to the females in his tales; one would have expected Jane Riordan to be have been found dead at the foot of the stone staircase in the secret passage or to become trapped in a secret compartment where her mouldering bones would be found years later.

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.