Tag Archives: adultery

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.


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.


The Comte and Comtesse X: 1912

The Woman of Fashion, James Tissot

The Woman of Fashion, James Tissot

[The narrator writes from Paris.]

Amongst the upper classes it is not an unknown thing for Madame to have un ami, and, as for Monsieur, he very frequently has his chere amie.

This is not considered scandalous in Paris, and I am bound to mention it — to ignore it would be to ignore actuality. The fact of having a lover does not make the Parisienne neglect her home or children or husband, and Monsieur’s petite affaire de coeur does not make his treatment of his wife any less charming. Sometimes the whole world knows of these “friends,” and the virtuous Anglo-Saxon shrivels up with horror when they are casually mentioned. Apropos of this common acceptance of the state of things, I must tell here a story that set tout Paris chattering last year.

The Comte and Comtesse X were excellent friends, well-known Society leaders, and very delightful people. The Comtesse’s “friend” was a man of their set, tres smart, tres distingue. One day Madame was very sad, and her husband noticed it — she and her “friend” had quarrelled. The next day the X’s were at the horse show. As they sat in their places, laughing and chattering with their friends, something happened which had the effect of a bomb thrown in their midst — Monsieur A, Madame’s friend, walked slowly by chattering with a notorious demi-mondaine. There was a concerned and embarrassed silence, then the Comte rose, walked up to Monsieur A and boxed his ears — for had he not insulted his wife! The resulting duel created an enormous amount of interest.

My Parisian Year, Maude Annesley, 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although dueling had been outlawed by King Louis XIII, the authorities, sympathetic to outraged honour, generally looked the other way. Mrs Daffodil can only imagine what the harvest might have been if such a thing had happened in England: the husband would have sued his unhappy wife for divorce, then plunged into a life of reckless dissipation, probably ending with a bullet to the head in a sordid hotel room on the Continent, while the wife, who bitterly regretted her indiscretion and wished herself dead, was barred from decent society and Court Drawing-rooms. While Mrs Daffodil cannot altogether approve of their taste for snails or the Impressionists, the French really do manage their domestic affairs more efficiently.

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

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


Week-end Compendium: 9 January 2016

Random notes 1910 lady writer

That assertive person over at Haunted Ohio has persuaded Mrs Daffodil to substitute for her Saturday posts a “week-end compendium” of the week’s posts, plus archival posts and a notable current link. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously, but will see if this format finds favour with her readers. Heaven knows, Mrs Daffodil could use a little extra time for a spot of tea or reading some improving book, but does not wish to impose an unwelcome new regime.

Mrs Daffodil will add a fashion photo-gravure to her portion of the entertainment and, in future, will warn her readers if she finds any of the Haunted Ohio posts to be unusually tasteless or grewsome, as they are sometimes wont to be. This week’s are odd, but relatively innocuous, unless one recoils at the thought of lizards in one’s stomach. Mrs Daffodil will now turn the floor over to her erstwhile colleague:

In this Weekend Compendium where Mrs Daffodil meets Charles Fort, we find

From Mrs Daffodil:

The Jag Matron, who knows how to handle the toughest cases of the DTs.

A Naughty Story on Ice featuring adultery on skates.

The Captain’s Vision, wherein a bullying sea-captain sees his wife’s ghost. Deaths ensue.

See Mrs Daffodil’s Sunday post on “The Widow’s Baby“; not quite what it seems.

From the Haunted Ohio blog:

Skrats and How to Make Them: DIY Brownies. Allen wrench not included.

The Lizard Cure A Canadian farmer is cured of a multiple lizard infestation by a gypsy.

From the vaults: The Psychic Howler, a discussion of vintage ghost-hunting equipment.

A favorite link from Weekinweird.com: The Warrens and the Enfield Poltergeist case.

French evening gown, c. 1911. This is woven with what appear to be Prince of Wales feathers. A court presentation gown, perhaps? http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/81103?rpp=30&pg=1&ao=on&ft=evening+dress&pos=5

French evening gown, c. 1911. This is woven with what appear to be Prince of Wales feathers. A court presentation gown, perhaps? http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/81103?rpp=30&pg=1&ao=on&ft=evening+dress&pos=5

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

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

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


The Bathing-Suit Brunette: 1910

Summer bathing costume

A Family Secret

By James Ravenscroft

This story is a secret. It was told by one woman to another, and that is why I am able to set it forth here with all the detail that could possibly be pertinent or interesting. In the process of its joyful transmission from tongue to tongue, under the careful guardianship of “I promise to never, never tell a living soul,” words which seem to invariably publish from the housetops, the secret reached me while at an affair at the Langs, who are noted for their success in assembling persons qualified to entertain one another.

Mrs. Lang is a genius. She handed me over to Mrs. Bruce, a meteoric, one-season débutante who had set, the very next winter following the one in which she had blazed out on the social horizon, in a glorious halo of orange blossoms, good wishes and a small palace of her own. Mrs. Bruce—Mrs. Alfred G. Bruce, if you wish a complete introduction, nee Cover, long accent on the “o,” please—is a charming young matron. She is banted into splendid condition physically, and her mouth has a pouting droop that harmonizes finely with the injured look in her brown eyes. Also, Mrs. Bruce is a gifted conversationalist.

As we chatted conspicuously just beneath a side cluster of electric globes, Mrs. Womble, leaning on the arm of Billy Aleshire, the bachelor business partner of her husband, strolled leisurely in our direction. Mrs. Womble, who had been one of the talked-about brides of the previous June, was a tall woman with copper-colored hair, a semi-classic profile and an air which seemed to indicate that she could at times make up her mind. As Mrs. Womble was passing, with a nod and a smile that were heavenly in their charity, Mrs. Bruce suddenly halted her.

“Pardon me, dear,” she purred, with a pretense of privacy, as with her handkerchief she patted Mrs. Womble’s shoulder just at its juncture with her aristocratic neck; “a perfect dab of powder was there. How careless of your maid!”

“Thank you, darling,” breathed Mrs. Womble, glancing carelessly over the perfect shoulder that had just been rescued, presumably, from an inartistic decoration. And then: “Why, Bernie, are you indisposed? No? The lights, perhaps. So few faces can stand being exhibited directly under the glare of electric lights, you know.”

Both smiled beatifically as Mrs. Womble drifted languidly on. Perhaps it is time to say that we all knew each other quite intimately. Knowing, as I think I do, a few of the more common traits of feminine complexity, I regarded with genuine consternation this affectionate indulgence of sisterly amenities. As far as I know, however, it cost Mrs. Womble nothing more than another transmission of her secret.

“Celia’s—I always call her by her first name, we’re such friends, you know,” twittered Mrs. Bruce —“Celia’s lovely, but she’s so deliciously jealous. Of course you’ve heard how, last September, she was on the very verge of suing for a divorce. Haven’t you, really? Oh, I just must tell you! It’s a family secret, you know. About a week after it was all over, Celia told Mrs. Draper, her ownest. bosom chum; and Mrs. Draper told somebody, I forget whom, who told Sara Winans; and Sara told Mrs. Jack Andrews, who told me. Of course you must promise to never breathe it.”

She went on without waiting for a promise. “The big manufacturers were— But, first, let’s get from under this dreadful light.”

We retired to comfortable privacy in a corner of the stairway.

“—were having an all-week exhibit or convention or something of the sort at Atlantic City, and Mr. Womble was a — a — what – do-you-call-it? Oh, yes! A delegate. On the fourth day of his absence Celia received through the mail a photo of him, taken in a bathing suit . Standing beside Mr. Womble, and inside of a bathing suit that was conspicuous for its economy in the making, was a stunning brunette, who was holding his hand and smiling as if she were enjoying herself. Mr. Womble looked like he was not having a bad time. As the ocean was behind them and the beach under their feet, they had evidently posed very publicly for the picture. The photo, which was sent in an envelope, had written on its back, ‘This was sent by a friend who feels that you should know.’

And then there were transpirings. Celia did all the perfectly foolish things she should not have done. She had to act at once, without giving thought a ghost of a chance; she’s just that way. Circumstances led and she followed. Her maid was out, and there being nothing else into which she could pour her outraged soul, she seized the telephone. Old Judge Fowler—he’s her father’s lawyer, you know—had been ever since she could remember—was given a turn, I can imagine, when she got him on the wire and commanded him to provide her, without delay, with a divorce.

“‘The beast has deceived me!’ the astonished judge heard her say. ‘He’s at Atlantic City now with some amiable flirt. I’ll bring you the proof later. Let me have the decree before he gets back, so I can shake it in his wretched face!’ Snap! She’d hung up the receiver before the judge could open his mouth to ask who was talking. I can hear the judge revising Shakespeare as he went back to his affairs: ‘Lord, what fools these women be!’ He must have been more amused than provoked. But he couldn’t get the incident out of his mind, and an hour or so later it occurred to him that perhaps he should endeavor to ascertain the source of that mysterious call. A girl at the telephone exchange kindly co-operated with him, and you can bet he was amazed when he found that the call was from the home of the daughter of his lifelong friend, as well as one of his most valued clients.

The judge immediately called Celia’s number. No answer. Then he called her father’s place of business and began telling him.

“‘Wait!’ yelled Mr. Buckler. ‘I’m coming to your office!’

“A few minutes later he rushed breathlessly in upon the judge. What a state of mind he must have been in!

“‘Five minutes later and I’d have been gone!’ he puffed. ‘I’d been out nearly all morning and was getting ready to go again. Come with me. We must go to Celia at once. You can tell me the rest on the way.’ Celia’s cook was all they found; and all Celia’s cook could tell them was that Celia had left more than an hour ago with a traveling bag and her maid and had not said where she was going or when she would return.

“‘Come on!’ said Mr. Buckler to the judge. ‘Let’s try Atlantic City.’

“Celia, after she’d finished with the judge, called up her father. He was out, the office-boy said. She called her mother’s home; Mrs. Buckler had gone shopping. She called up her ownest bosom chum, Mrs. Draper; she was out calling. Celia then called a messenger boy and sent this telegram to Mr. Womble: ‘Come home immediately.’ Celia was becoming more cyclonic every minute. All at once a new idea crowded out of her mind everything else that she had done or was thinking of doing. She had decided to go to Atlantic City and settle matters herself. She threw a few things, including the bathing-suit photo, into a bag, dressed herself in quicker time than she had ever made since she was ten, and, stuffing a roll of bills into her purse, she was off. Celia never could wait.

“In the downstairs hall she met her maid.

“‘Come, Lena!’ she panted. ‘I’ve got to go out of the city on very, very important business!’

“Lena pulled back as Celia caught her arm and hurried on.

“‘I have no hat,’ she protested; ‘no anything for a trip!’

“‘Never mind the hat and the no anything,’ was Celia’s order. ‘I’ll buy you a hat and a “no anything” when we get there.’

“The deserted wife and the placated maid landed in Atlantic City late in the afternoon. Celia took a motor cab to the boardwalk, and then a roller chair, directing the pusher to the studio named on the back of the photo.

“‘Will you please be good enough to tell me, if you know, who this woman is?’ Celia asked the photographer, handing him her photo.

“I can guess what a tragic effort she was making at dissemblance. I can also guess that the photographer was a man of perception, for he began to banter.

“‘Yes, I’ll tell you,’ he answered, ‘if you’ll promise me you won’t do her bodily harm.’

“Celia said she must have gone rather white, for the photographer quickly became serious.

“‘This woman, madam, is nobody at all. She is—–’

“‘Of course she’s nobody!’ broke in Celia. ‘I know that. What I want to know is her name and address.’

“‘She is,’ the photographer went on, ‘what we call a lay figure. We keep several of them in stock. The boys have their pictures taken with them, in various poses, just for the fun of it. I’ll show you,’ he added, as solicitously as if he had been told that Celia was from Missouri.

“‘Henry,’ calling the boy, ‘bring out the bathing-suit brunette!’

“And the next minute Celia was face to face with the amiable flirt of the photo.

“‘I haven’t any idea,’ he continued obligingly, ‘who the man is in the photo you have. You see, I issue checks for photos to be called for. I presume, though, that he, like all the others, had it taken for a lark.’

“Celia said she must have been getting red, for her face was feeling hot. She said—that is, the story says she said, you understand—that all she could say was, ‘Sorry to trouble you. Thank you very much.’ Celia always summers north, and her boardwalk experience was acquired mostly in Saturday-to-Monday trips; still, she said, she was wondering, disgusted with herself, why it had not included a knowledge of the indiscretion of lay figures.

“Celia and Lena resumed their chair and ordered the pusher to go straight to the hotel where Mr. Womble was staying.

“A few minutes before she got there, Mr. Womble came in for dinner and was handed Celia’s telegram. He rushed wildly to his room and began piling his things into his suit case.

“‘I am Mrs. Womble,’ Celia told the clerk sweetly, when she found that Mr. Womble had just gone to his room. ‘Just register us with him, please—wife and maid—and I’ll go up at once, thank you.’

“The elevator had barely disappeared with Celia and Lena when Mr. Buckler and Judge Fowler rushed into the hotel. When told that Mr. Womble was in and that Mrs. Womble and maid had just gone up, they looked gravely at each other. I know they did, for I can see them doing it. Celia was squeezing and kissing and you’re-my-own-darling-old-hubby-boying Mr. Womble, much to the entertainment of Lena, of course, when there was a knock on the door. Mr. Womble disengaged himself from Celia’s clinging embrace, Lena opened the door and in walked Mr. Buckler and the judge.

“You can guess the rest. It must have been like a play just before the curtain on the last act. There was a regular explanation fest. Mr. Womble had been snapped with the bathing-suit brunette just for fun, as the photographer had said. Celia wept on everybody’s shoulder and was petted and kissed in turn, which, of course, pleased her immensely, and everybody was so happy that the evening was devoted to ‘doing’ the boardwalk.”

“But who sent the photograph?” The query seemed to me more natural than curious.

“Oh, how stupid I am to forget that! It’s the best part of the secret. Of course no one could swear to it, but Charlie Harding, one—perhaps the only one, for all I know—of Celia’s rejected suitors, was in the crowd, and she said herself that the handwriting on the photo looked familiar. Dear old Charlie! I hated to do it, but I had to reject him, and then he went over to Celia.”

And there was an expressive shrug of the pretty shoulders.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly 6 October, 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, the womanly art of keeping secrets and hurling daintily barbed insults! “banted into splendid condition” is a result of following Bantingism, a high-protein, low-fat and low-carbohydrate diet first popularised in the 1860s. Here are some evocative sea-side photographs of a similar era.

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 the Mrs Daffodil story, “A Spot of Bother,” in the compilation of that name on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble.