Tag Archives: death

Miss Georgine’s Husband: A Gothic Tale, Part Two

Hand and rose coffin furniture.

Hand and rose coffin furniture.

Part one is here.

In a minute all the consequences rushed on my mind, but I couldn’t help that. We took him and put him to bed in our best room, and as soon as the light fell on his face, I saw it was marked for death. I sat up with him all night. He didn’t sleep much, and seemed to want to talk, and I knew it could not make much difference, so I let him have his way. He told me he had written home by every mail for more than a year after he stopped getting any letters in return. From all I could make out he had gone on just in his old way, trying first one thing and then another, always thinking he was just going to make a great fortune.

“But I never was unfaithful to Georgine, not for one moment,” said he. “I always loved her and I never distrusted her. When my health failed, and I knew I must die, I felt I must see Georgine once more. I landed in New York, and there I heard she was married, and saw her walking with her husband.”

And then he begged me to ask Miss Georgine to come and see him if only for a moment, before he died.

“I will never betray her!” said he. “No one will think it strange that she should come to see me. But oh, mammy,”—he used to call me mammy,— “I can’t leave the world till I see her once more.”

The next morning at breakfast-time I went up to the house, and told the Judge and Miss Georgine that Mr. Bogardus was at my house; that he hadn’t many hours to live, and would take it kind if they would come and see him.

“Poor young man, is he so low?” says the Judge. “He should have come to us; but he was always fond of you, Dolly. I will certainly come over, and you must take anything he needs from the house.” And then he turns to his daughter and says, “You will go to see your poor cousin, Georgine?”

“Why no, I think not!” says she, pouring out her coffee as unconcerned as could be. “I never took any special interest in your clerk, papa, and I am not fond of doleful scenes. I don’t think I could endure to be in the house with a dying person.”

I saw Mr. Livingstone look at her as she said these last words, and he answered her very gravely: —“Sometime, Georgine, you will have to be in the room with a dying person.”

“Time enough when it comes!” said she lightly. “Of course I am sorry for the poor man, but it is quite out of the question that I should go to see him. He is nothing to me! ”

I wasn’t going to be put off like that. I followed her to her room and says I to her, “Mrs. Livingstone, what answer am I to carry to that dying man?”

“Tell him I will not see him!” said she, speaking hard and slow. “He is nothing to me, nor I to him.”

“Won’t you send him your forgiveness?” I asked her.

“No!” she cried passionately. “I will never forgive him—never. Tell him that, if you like.”

“Mrs. Livingstone,” said I, “you will bring down the judgment of Heaven on your head!” And with that I left her. I wasn’t afraid of her, whoever else was.

It was hard to go back to Mr. Bogardus with such a message, but he would have me tell him her very words. He groaned, and was silent for a few minutes, and then says he, “Dolly, tell her she shall see me, alive or dead!” And then he fainted, and I had hard work to bring him to. Later in the day Judge Cleaveland and Mr. Livingstone came down. Mr. Bogardus didn’t say much to them, only thanked the Judge for his goodness to him, and begged forgiveness if he had ever injured him. The Judge said everything that was kind—he was a good deal softened in those days. Then Mr. Livingstone asked Mr. Bogardus if he should read and pray with him, and Mr. Bogardus said yes. So Mr. Livingstone read a chapter, and made a beautiful prayer. He was a very religious man in his quiet way, which made it the more strange that he should be taken with Miss Georgine. When he got up from his knees, Mr. Bogardus stretched out his hand to him.

“Thank you, Livingstone; you have done me good!” said he, squeezing his hand hard. “I want to tell you that there is no bitterness in my heart toward any human being. It is all washed away. God bless you! ”

Honey, it did me good to hear him speak in that way to the man who was, as you might say, standing in his shoes. The minute they were gone Mr. Bogardus fainted once more. I thought he would never breathe again, but he did, and seemed to brighten up a good deal. Zack thought he was better, but I didn’t. I had seen too many people die, not to know the lighting up for death. About midnight, when we were both sitting by him, he asked to be raised up and have his head laid on my breast, and then he asked Zack to get him some fresh water from the spring. When we were alone together, he looked up in my face and says he, —“Mammy, tell Georgine that I have never been unfaithful to her, and I shall be faithful still. She must see me, alive or dead.”

Says I, “Oh, Mr. Bogardus, my dear boy, you mustn’t bear malice now.”

“I don’t!” said he. “I told Livingstone true when I said that all bitterness was washed away. But it is borne in on my mind, that for her own sake, alive or dead, Georgina must see me, and you must tell her so. Will you? ”

“I will!” says I. I never mistrusted that he meant anything but that she should come and look at him after he was dead.

“That ’s all! ” said he. “Kiss me, mammy. You ’ve been more like a mother to me than any woman was before, and you won’t lose by it, I know.”

Then I kissed him, and he just laid his head on my breast and with one sigh he was gone.

Never mind me, Miss Bessy, honey! You see I loved him dearly, with all his faults, and dying on my breast and all . . .

We laid him out, Zack and I, and though I’ve done the same for many a one, I never saw a sweeter smile on the face of man, woman, or child, than rested on his. As soon as it was time in the morning, I went up to the house and told them as they sat at breakfast.

“So he is gone, poor soul!” says the Judge, wiping his eyes. “Take no trouble about the funeral, Dolly; I will arrange it all. Georgine, can you find some mourning for Dolly? I dare say she will like to wear it.”

“I should be much obliged if you would, Mrs. Livingstone,” says I.

She told me to come to her room and she would see. So I went up after breakfast, and she pulled out a couple of nice black dresses and a black bonnet and crape veil which she had worn a year before in mourning for her grandma.

“There, you may have those!” said she, in a careless, contemptuous way, “though I don’t see why you should wear mourning. But I suppose you think it’s genteel.”

She always riled me when she spoke in that way, but I kept myself down, and after I had thanked her for the things, I told her Mr. Bogardus’ message. She winced a little in spite of herself, and the scared look came into her eyes again, but it was gone in a minute, and she said coldly, —“Dolly, there has been enough of this! If you mention that person’s name to me again we shall quarrel! ”

I had no call to mention it again, for I had cleaned my conscience, and that was enough. Mr. Bogardus was buried next day from the church, the weather being warm and our house small. Mr. Livingstone sent the carriage for Zack and me, and Zack and Mr. Livingstone, and some gentlemen from the village, were the bearers. It was quite a large funeral, and the coffin and everything was as nice as one could wish to see.

The next morning Judge Cleaveland and Mr. Livingstone went down to the city to some convention, expecting to be gone a week. That very day the cook they had brought from New York took offense at something, and she and the other woman packed up and went over to the village, leaving Miss Georgine alone. So she sent down to ask if Zack and I would come up and stay, because she was expecting company; so we went, of course. I found everything at sixes and sevens—no cake in the house fit to look at, all the summer fruit spoiling to be done up, and so on. I sent for my niece Car’line to come and help, and we soon got things in order.

The second night, I sent Zack and Car’line off to bed, and sat up till late, attending to some plum cake I had in the great oven. It was a fancy of mine when I had any special baking, to do it late in the evening, when I had the kitchen to myself. Well, I got my cake done to my liking — I little knew what kind of party I was baking for— and then I thought I would take a look through the house and see that all was right, as I used to do when I lived there before.

The house was an odd one in its shape. A long, wide hall ran through the front part. When it got to the back it turned in an L, as they say now, and went on to a side door, and in this side hall were the stairs. At the top of them was Miss Georgine’s own room, and at the foot a door leading by a passage to the kitchen. Half-way from this door to the front was the library door, with a narrow glass window over it.

I had opened the passage door, and had just turned down the lamp that always burned at the foot of the stairs, when I saw that there was a light in the library. Thinks I, “What in the world is Miss Georgine doing in the library at this time of night?” Before I could move I heard some one’s hand on the lock, and stood still to see who it should be. Miss Bessy, as sure as you sit there, I saw the appearance of Mr. Bogardus, just as he used to look when he was a young man and worked in that library for Judge Cleaveland. I wasn’t scared, that I know of, but I couldn’t move. He came straight toward me, but didn’t look at me, and passing as close to me as I am to you he walked rather slowly up the stairs to Miss Georgine’s room. When he reached it, he turned and looked at me, holding up his hand in a warning kind of way, and then he opened the door and went in.

I couldn’t go up-stairs — something held me back. I sat down on the bottom stair and listened a long time, but I didn’t hear a sound, and by and by I crept away to bed, my teeth chattering as if I had an ague fit.

The next morning I was in the dining room when Miss Georgine came down. Child, I shouldn’t have known her! She was gray as ashes, only with a purple spot in each cheek, and her face was all drawn and sunken. She looked thirty years older than when she went to bed.

Says I, “Mrs. Livingstone, are you sick?”

“I have a headache, but the air will drive it off,” says she, proud to the last. “I think, Dolly, that as our friends have written to put off their visit, I will go down to the city to Mr. Livingstone. I need a little change, and I suppose you won’t mind staying here a few days with Car’line for company,” says she. “You won’t be afraid without your husband, will you?”

Well, I was,—a little, —after what I had seen, there is no denying it; but I felt that somehow she ought to be with her husband; so I said, “Oh no, I wasn’t afraid, I had Carline for company, and the gardener could sleep in the house.” I helped Miss Georgine put up her things, and dressed her. She was quiet and gentle-like for her, but when I said, “Mrs. Livingstone, I ’m afraid you ain’t well enough for such a long ride all by yourself,” she just laughed that hard laugh I hated so to hear.

“You’re nervous yourself, Dolly!” says she. “I have only a headache, but you know that always makes me look ghastly. It will all be gone in an hour.”

I didn’t say any more, but I knew better. On the steps she turned to me and held out her hand.

“Good-by, Dolly,” said she. “You’ve always been good to me, and I’m afraid I have sometimes been cross to you, but don’t remember it against me.”

Child, I was always glad she said that. I watched the carriage away, and then I went back to her room and put it all in nice order with my own hands. I felt full of anxiety, and I kept myself as busy as I could. Zack didn’t come back the next day, nor the next; but the morning of the fourth day, Car’line looked out of the window when she got up, and says she, “Aunt Dolly, Uncle Zack’s coming on horseback as hard as he can drive. Something must have happened! ”

Something had happened, sure enough. Zack had been riding ever since midnight, and he could hardly speak, he was so tired; but at last he got it out. Miss Georgine had died in a fit the night before, and the body was to be brought home that day.

“What time did she die?” I asked presently.

“It was just half-past eleven when she took the first fit,” said he; “and she died at the same hour last night.” Then I knew.

Well, they brought her home in her coffin and laid her in the front parlor, and when all was done, I went to the Judge and told him I was going to watch myself, and nobody else would be needed. You see, I didn’t know what might happen, and I didn’t want stories going all over the country. I told Zack he might take a blanket and lie down on the sofa in the back parlor, and I would sit up.

About half-past eleven, I went into the room where the corpse lay. I had half a mind to call Zack to go with me, but I knew how tired he was, and I let him sleep. There was a shaded lamp in the room, and I had a candle in my hand that I set down on a table nearby, and stood a few minutes looking at her. She wasn’t a pleasant corpse to look at. Those same purple spots were on her cheeks, and a dark frown on her forehead; but the worst was that her eyes wouldn’t stay shut. I had tried every way to close them, and the doctor had tried, but they wouldn’t stay shut!

I turned away and went to the window, when something, I don’t know what, made me look round. Then I saw him for the second time — saw Mr. Bogardus looking into his wife’s coffin, with just the same sad, sweet smile that was on his face when he bade me goodbye. As I stood looking—for I had no power to move –the appearance stooped down, and seemed to kiss the corpse, and then it vanished away, and I saw it no more.

I was like one turned to stone for a few minutes. When I came to myself, Miss Bessy, there was a change! Her eyes were shut, closed as naturally as a sleeping babe’s, with the long curled lashes resting on her cheeks. The ugly purple spots had faded away; the face was like fine marble, and the pale lips had a meek, peaceful look, such as I had never seen them wear since the days that she and Mr. Bogardus were lovers.

That’s all the story. Poor Miss Georgine was buried next day, alongside the only man she ever really loved. I can’t but hope it was well with both of them, poor unlucky children. The doctor, he talked learnedly about contraction of muscles and what not, but doctors don’t know everything, and he hadn’t seen what I had. My own opinion is that she wasn’t free to go till it was made up, and that they made it up then.

Lucy Ellen Guernsey.

The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 34, 1874

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Lucy Ellen Guernsey was a writer of moral fiction, with titles such as Rhoda’s Education; or, Too Much of a Good Thing and Myra Sherwood’s Cross, and How She Bore It. This tale seems rather an anomaly in her oeuvre, much of which was published by the American Sunday-School Union. Miss Guernsey never married.

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.


Miss Georgine’s Husband: A Gothic Tale, Part One


—Did I ever see a ghost? I don’t know just what you mean by a ghost, Miss Bessy, but if you mean the appearance of a person after I had seen him die with my own eyes, and laid him out with my own hands .’

I don’t exactly know about telling you the story. You see, it’s a true story, and a very solemn one, and I shouldn’t like to have it laughed at, or to have any one tell me I didn’t see what I did see. But you was always a pretty-behaved young lady, and you know I can’t refuse you anything, so if you will sit down quiet and take your work, I’ll tell you all about it, my dear.

You know, honey, I’m a very old woman, and when I was young I was a slave to old Judge Cleaveland, over on the Flats. There were slaves in York State then. I was born down in Maryland, but the Judge moved up to these parts when I was very small, and brought his servants with him. We were well enough treated. Judge Cleaveland was a hard, high-tempered man, and used to have awful ugly fits sometimes, but, like most folks of that kind, he could keep his temper well enough when it suited him, and he knew it was easy enough for his servants to run away if they didn’t like their treatment. When I was eighteen I married Zack Davis, the coachman, and after that we lived mostly in a house of our own. We were free by that time, and we bought a nice little log-house and some land for a garden, but we worked up at the house all the same.

The old Judge was a widower when he moved up here, but very soon he married a pretty young lady from the Mohawk Valley. She was only eighteen, and a sweet child as ever I saw. The Judge meant to be good to her, I guess, but she never seemed very happy. When the second little girl was born the Judge was dreadfully disappointed. I suppose he wanted a son, to inherit his great estate and keep up the family name. He never was the same to his wife after that. He was polite to her, especially before company, but he had a kind of cold, sneering way with her that I could see cut her to the heart. Her health failed, and she went home to her father’s house for a change, and there she died. The Judge seemed a good deal cast down by her death — more than I should have expected. I dare say some things came back to him when it was too late. After the funeral he shut up the house and went abroad. He was in foreign parts or down in New York for ten years and more. The young ladies, Miss Anna and Miss Georgine, stayed with their grandma some years, and then they were put to school in New York. All that time Zack and I lived in the old house, to take care of it. It was lonesome enough sometimes, especially in winter, but though I used to go all over the great rooms alone by day and by night, I never saw anything then — not a thing.

Well, when the young ladies were sixteen and seventeen, the Judge wrote and told me to clean up the rooms, and have everything ready, for he was coming home. His wild land was growing very valuable, and there was no one to see to it properly, and for that and other reasons he had decided to come home to the Flats to live. So at the time set they came, with loads of new furniture and carpets and what not, and a very nice widow lady for housekeeper. She had a son, an officer in the army and a very fine man, who would willingly have supported her, but she preferred to do for herself.

I expected to see Miss Anna the favorite, as she was the elder, and Miss Georgine had so disappointed her pa by not being a boy; but I soon found out it was the other way. Miss Anna was not pretty. She looked like her ma, and had just such a quiet, gentle way with her. She was afraid of her father, too, as her mother had been, and with some reason — and she was afraid of her sister. She didn’t care much for company, but liked best to sit down and sew or read. Miss Georgine was like her father, and had just his free, bold way. She wasn’t afraid of anything at all except that she should not be first in everything. She was very handsome, with regular features, and beautiful wavy black hair, and long curled eyelashes. I don’t know that I ever saw a handsomer girl, but for real goodness and truth she was no more to be compared to Miss Anna than a great red woodpecker is to a little sweet bluebird. She always contrived to get the best of everything, and if she got into any trouble or mischief, she generally made her father believe it was Miss Anna’s fault. She made a great show of openness and saying what she thought, but she didn’t think all she said, by a great deal.

When Miss Anna was about eighteen, Mrs. Gracie’s son came to visit his mother, and a very fine, sober, nice young man he was. Everyone liked him, especially the Judge, who could not make enough of him till he found that the captain and Miss Anna were taking to each other; then he began to cool off. Captain Gracie stayed at the tavern in the village, and called most every day to see his mother, and before he left he asked the Judge for Miss Anna. Then there was a time. The Judge went into one of his furious rages, ordered both mother and son out of the house, and shut Miss Anna up in her room. Miss Georgine was as bad as her father, and the way they treated that poor girl was shameful. But Miss Anna had got her spunk up, and she contrived — I never knew how —to send word to Captain Gracie. A few days after, when the Judge was out about his land, Captain Gracie drove up to the door, and asked for Miss Anna. She must have expected him, for she came down in her traveling-dress, and with her bag in her hand. Miss Georgine stormed and scolded and sent all ways for her father, but nobody could find him, and in fact I don’t think anybody tried. Miss Anna bade her sister a kind farewell and got into the carriage, and that was the last we saw of her for many a year. They were married that same day in the city, and went away wherever his regiment was. Captain Gracie sent her father his address and a copy of his marriage lines, but the Judge never took any notice; only he handed me the paper and told me to pack up her clothes and things and send them to her. I don’t approve of runaway matches as a general thing, but I can’t say I blamed Miss Anna one bit.

About this time Judge Cleaveland found out that he needed a clerk. or secretary as he called it; so he sent for Mr. Bogardus, a cousin of his wife’s, to come and live in his house and attend to his business. Mr. Bogardus was a fine, handsome man, about thirty, very grave and sober; but with beautiful manners—a real fine gentleman. The Judge made much of him in his pompous, condescending way. Miss Georgina began by being very cold and scornful, but she soon changed her tone when she found her cousin did not take any particular notice of it or of her, and began to be very polite to him. He had a fine voice, and played beautifully on the violin, and she used to ask him to sing and play with her, especially when they had company; but he almost always excused himself and would often stay in the library till midnight, writing or reading. He seemed like a smart man, and yet he never accomplished anything for himself. He was one of the unlucky ones, poor fellow.

But the more Mr. Bogardus kept out of Miss Georgine’s way, the more she courted him. That was her fashion. If there were ten men in the room and she had nine of them around her, she didn’t care anything about it till she got the tenth. She always had plenty of sweethearts, being such a beauty and a great heiress besides. Mr. Bogardus resisted a good while, but by and by l saw a change. He began to be more attentive to his cousin — to sing with her evenings, and sometimes to go out riding and walking with her. Miss Georgina was altered too. I never saw her so gentle and so — “lovable?” yes, that’s just the word, my dear! as she was that summer; and I thinks to myself, “My beauty, you ’re caught at last, but I wonder what your father will say.” For you see he looked on Mr. Bogardus only as a kind of upper servant, for all he was Mrs. Cleaveland’s own cousin.

The Judge didn’t seem to notice for a while, but by and by I think he got his eyes open. He went down to New York for a week or two, and when he came back, he called Mr. Bogardus and told him he had found him a fine position with a gentleman who was going out to Brazil to set up some kind of manufactures, — a place of great trust, and where he would make a fortune in no time. Mr. Bogardus was much pleased. He was always ready to take up any new notion, and he thought he should make himself rich directly. But Miss Georgine had a bad headache that day, and she wasn’t well for a week afterward.

The very day Mr. Bogardus left, I was sitting in my own door, and as I looked up I saw Miss Georgine walking across the field toward my house. I was rather surprised, for she wasn’t fond of walking, and almost always rode her pony wherever she wanted to go. She walked in a weary kind of way too, and when she came near, I saw she looked very pale. I got out the rocking-chair for her, and made much of her, but she sat down on a little stool and put her beautiful head in my lap, as her poor mother had done many a time, and says she, bursting out crying, .

“Oh, Aunt Dolly! My husband’s gone!”

Honey, you might have knocked me down with a feather. I couldn’t think what she meant at first, and thought she had got light-headed from being out in the sun.

“Child!” says I, “you don’t know what you are saying!”

“Yes I do—too well!” says she; and then she told me between her sobs that she and Mr. Bogardus had been privately married while her father was away, the day that they went down to the city together, and that they meant to keep it quiet till Mr. Bogardus made his fortune.

“I never meant to tell anybody,” says she, “but, Aunt Dolly, I couldn’t bear it all alone, and I knew I could trust you!”

Well, I could have wished she had chosen someone else, but I tried to comfort her as well as I could. Presently I said, “Ah, child, you can feel for your poor sister now!”

“That was very different!” says she, lifting up her head as proud as could be; “I haven’t disgraced myself as Anna did. My husband is a gentleman — not a servant’s son! ”

When she said that, Miss Bessy, I knew she had more yet to suffer.

Says I, “Miss Georgine, I shall never betray you, you may be sure, but you ought to tell your pa. Suppose he finds it out: what will he say, and what will you do? ”

“He won’t find it out!” says she, “and if he does, I shall know what to do.” But then she put her head down in my lap again, and oh, how she did cry! I couldn’t but pity her, though she showed such a wrong spirit; and I tried to tell her of a better comfort than mine, but she wouldn’t hear a word of that. She didn’t want any cant, she said. By and by I made her some tea and coaxed her to drink it and to eat a little, and when the sun got low, I walked home with her. She was always gentler with me after that, and whenever she got a letter from Mr. Bogardus she would come and tell me about it. I was on thorns for a while, and watched her as a cat watches a mouse; but everything went on as usual, and nobody but our two selves knew or mistrusted anything about the matter.

Miss Georgine got her letters pretty regular for about six months, and then they stopped, and she never had another. At first she pined a good deal, and l was afraid she was going into a decline; but presently I saw a change. Her old proud self came back, only harder and colder than before. She was handsomer than ever, and more fond of company and admiration. One day I ventured to ask her if she had heard any more of Mr. Bogardus.

Oh, how her eyes flashed as she said, “Never mention that man’s name to me again! He has shamed and deserted me!” says she.

“You don’t know that,” says I; “he may be dead.”

“He isn’t dead!” she answered. “My father heard he was married to a rich Spanish widow up at the mines.”

“I don’t believe it!” says I boldly. “It isn’t a bit like him.” For you see I had come to know him pretty well. I had nursed him in his sick turns, of which he had a good many, and though I didn’t approve of the secret marriage, I liked him and felt like standing up for him.

“Never mention his name to me again, Dolly!” says she, and I didn’t for a long time, till the day came that I had to do it.

Well, the time went on, year after year in much the same way. Our folks spent the summers on their own estate, and the winters in New York or at the South with the Judge’s family, spending a deal of money and seeing a deal of fine company. It was nine years that very spring since Mr. Bogardus went away, when, after they had been home a couple of days, Miss Georgine rode over to see me. She brought me a fine gown and some other things from New York, and after she had showed them to me, says she, speaking proud and careless like, —

“Aunt Dolly, I want you to come up to the house next week, to make my wedding cake and keep house a while, because I am going to be married.”

Miss Bessy, I couldn’t believe my ears; and says I, “Miss Georgina, I don’t know as I quite understand you.”

“You are growing stupid, Dolly!” says she pettishly. “I’m going to be married to Mr. Philip Livingstone, and I want you to make the cake.”

I don’t know what made me, but I spoke right out. “Mrs. Bogardus,” says I, “have you told your pa and Mr. Livingstone about your first marriage?”

“How dare you call me by that name?” says she, and her eyes fairly blazed. “No, I have not told them and I shall not. You can, if you choose!” says she. “How much do you mean to ask me as the price of keeping the secret I was fool enough to tell you?”

Then I flared up. “Mrs. Bogardus,” says I, “there’s the door. Please walk out of it, and don’t come insulting a woman in her own house that thinks as much of herself as you do, if she is black! If that’s what you think of me, you may get someone else to make your cake! ” says I.

Well, she saw she had gone too far. Like her father, she could command her temper well enough when she chose, and she knew she couldn’t get any one to make such cake as mine, if she went down on her knees to them. Besides, I knew all the ways of the house, and they couldn’t do without me. So she came down and said she was sorry, and she did not mean anything, and so on, till she coaxed me round, and I promised to do all she wanted.

“But if it was the last word I ever spoke, I do say you ought to tell Mr. Livingstone,” says I. “What if Mr. Bogardus should come back some day?”

I knew I was doing right, but I felt sorry for her when I saw how pale she turned. long ago,” says she, “ and if he were not, it is nearly nine years since I heard from him, and that is enough to release me. But you’ll be glad to hear,” says she, “that I have coaxed my father to write to sister Anna, and ask her and her son to the wedding. You know she is a widow now, and there is no use in keeping up the quarrel any longer.”

So then I agreed to make the cake, and keep house for her father while she was away. They were coming back to spend the summer at home. But I didn’t feel happy. I knew she was doing wrong, and that harm would come of it.

The wedding went off nicely. Mr. Livingstone was a fine, handsome man, a good deal older than Miss Georgine. He looked good and sensible, and it was easy to see that he fairly worshiped his wife. My heart ached for both of them, because I knew as things were they never could be happy. You see I felt sure Mr. Bogardus wasn’t dead.

How did I feel sure? Well, it was just like this. Whenever any of my folks had died away from me, I had always seen them in my dreams that same night. I saw my own brother, who was drowned in the lake, and my aunt with her baby, and Miss Georgine’s mother. Now Mr. Bogardus was fond of me. He said once that l was more like a mother than any one had ever been to him, and I knew he wouldn’t die without coming to let me know.

Miss Anna, that was, and her boy were at the wedding and stayed a fortnight after. She wore her deep widow’s weeds, and looked thin and worn, but she had a sweet, placid, happy look, worth more than all her sister’s beauty. She told me that through all her trials, in sickness and loneliness, and losing her husband and her children, she had never regretted her marriage, not one minute.

The boy was a fine, manly fellow, the image of his father. The Judge took to him greatly, and wanted Mrs. Gracie to come home to live; but she excused herself and said she must take care of her husband’s mother, who was feeble and needed her. She told me privately that she didn’t think such a life would be good for her boy, and I dare say she was right.

The bride and bridegroom came home after a month and settled down with us for the summer, and the day she came home, I noticed a scared look in Miss Georgine’s face that I never saw there before.

That night I was sitting in my own house (and glad enough I was to get back to it), when someone knocked softly at the door. Zack opened it, and the minute he did so, he cried out, “Lord ’a’ mercy!” I jumped up, and then I thought surely I saw a ghost, but I didn’t. It was Mr. Bogardus himself, but oh how thin and pale, and with his beautiful hair white as snow!

“Will you take me in, Dolly?” says he. “I am sick to death, old friend, and I have come to die with you.”

[To be continued tomorrow at this link. Mrs Daffodil, who understands the impatience of some modern readers with the leisurely progress of nineteenth century fiction, assures those readers that there will be a ghost.]

Lucy Ellen Guernsey.

The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 34, 1874


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: 27 January 2016

Leap Year ladies wooing a very self-satisfied snowman.

Leap Year ladies wooing a very self-satisfied snowman.

Mrs Daffodil, who entered into the so-called “Week-end Compendium” arrangement at the behest of that persuasive person over at the Haunted Ohio blog, wishes to poll her readers as to the continuation of the compendium. Mrs Daffodil can revert to posts designed to educate, elevate, and amuse or continue this omnibus format. Mrs Daffodil will ask that you write your vote for “Continue” or “Revert” in an impeccable copper-plate hand on white or ivory note-paper with your crest engraved at the top and send it to the comments section of this blog. Mrs Daffodil thanks you.

In this week’s posts:

Mrs Daffodil is shocked, shocked by the vile goings-on among a group of club-women arranging a patriotic entertainment in A Lady Washington Tea Party Comes to Grief.

A 1903 enamel and diamond motor-car brooch. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18191/lot/45/

A 1903 enamel and paste motor-car brooch. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18191/lot/45/

The Automobile Girl, it is explained, has chosen motoring for its fashion possibilities. Other voices, advocating veils and warm coats, weigh in.

It being Leap Year, Mrs Daffodil thought it would be amusing to look at some of the topsy-turvey traditions of the Leap Year and its Proposals.  Mrs Daffodil sees much potential for an economical refurbishing of one’s wardrobe if one chooses one’s prey carefully.

On Sunday, in spite of her reluctance to encourage prattling tots, Mrs Daffodil shares the touching story of “Nellie’s Leap Year Proposal.”

Leap Year Joke: If there is any girl who doesn’t like to pop the questions even if it is leap year, she can get around it by asking her young man if he’d be willing to fill in his name on her marriage certificate. The Christian Recorder 9 October 1884

From Mrs Daffodil’s archives: Two rival prostitutes fight it out.

Contemplating the possibilities of Leap Year.

Contemplating the possibilities of Leap Year.

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, we find much that is distasteful:

A Ghost With the Smell of a Charnel House infests a property near London. Olefactory unpleasantness ensues.

A visit to a Dead-House at Munich, (part of the “Little Visits to the Great Morgues of Europe” series) reveals grewsome sights and the smell of antiseptic. Much nicer than the Paris Morgue, however.

From the archives, a shocking history of electric practical jokes.

There are some quite exciting links this week: An author solves a 160-year-old mystery involving an erstwhile portrait of Pocahontas.

The quest for Dicken’s pet Raven, Grip.

A truly evocative Great War knitting project, which inspired a documentary: Tell Them of Us.

And an amusing look at historic advice for writers of romantic fiction.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all Leap Year Ladies the best of luck. (Girl with Good Luck Charms, Raphael Kirchner, 1902 http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/girl-wearing-lucky-charms-from-the-series-girls-with-good-luck-charms-553207

Mrs Daffodil wishes all Leap Year Ladies the best of luck. (Girl with Good Luck Charms, Raphael Kirchner, 1902) http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/girl-wearing-lucky-charms-from-the-series-girls-with-good-luck-charms-553207

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.

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.

A Corpse Dressed for a Ball: 1830s


death and the maiden Death's Doings 1827


“’Tis no use talking to me, mother, I will go to Mrs P—.’s party to—night, if I die for it—that’s flat! You know ‘as well asl do, that Lieutenant N— is to be there, and he’s going to leave town to-morrow—so up I go to dress.”

“Charlotte, why will you be so obstinate? You know how poorly you have been all the week; and Dr — says late hours are the worst things in the world for you.”

“ Pshaw, mother! nonsense, nonsense.”

“Be persuaded for once, now, I beg! Oh, dear, dear, what a night it is too—it pours with rain, and blows a perfect hurricane! You’ll be wet, and catch cold, rely on it. Come now, won’t you stop and keep me company to-night? That’s a good girl!”

“Some other night will do as well for that, you know; for now l’ll go to Mrs P ——’s if it rains cats and dogs. So up—up—up I go! ” singing jauntily, ‘Oh, she shall dance all dress’d in white, So ladylike…’

Such were, very nearly, the words, and such the manner, in which Miss J—— expressed her determination to act in defiance of her mother’s wishes and entreaties. She was the only child of her widowed mother, and had, but a few weeks before, completed her twenty-sixth year, with yet no other prospect before her than bleak single blessedness. A weaker, more frivolous, and conceited creature never breathed—the torment of her amiable parent, the nuisance of her acquaintance. Though her mother’s circumstances were very straitened, sufficing barely to enable them to maintain a footing in what is called the middling genteel class of society, this young woman contrived, by some means or other, to gratify her penchant for dress, and gadded about here, there, and every where, the most showily dressed person in the neighbourhood. Though far from being even pretty-faced, or having any pretensions to a good figure—for she both stooped and was skinny—she yet believed herself handsome; and by a vulgar, flippant forwardness of demeanour, especially when in mixed company, extorted such attentions, as persuaded her that others thought so.

For one or two years she had been an occasional patient of mine. The settled pallor—the tallowiness of her complexion, conjointly with other symptoms, evidenced the existence of a liver complaint; and the last visits I had paid her, were in consequence of frequent sensations of oppression and pain in the chest, which clearly indicated some organic disease of her heart.  I  saw enough to warrant me in warning her mother of the possibility of her daughter’s sudden death from this cause, and the imminent peril to which she exposed herself by dancing, late hours, etc.; but Mrs —’s remonstrances, gentle and affectionate as they always were, were thrown away upon her headstrong daughter.

It was striking eight by the church clock, when Miss J—, humming the words of the song above mentioned, lit her chambercandle by her mother’s, and withdrew to her room to dress, soundly rating the servant-girl by the way, for not having starched some article or other which she intended to have worn that evening. As her toilet was usually a long and laborious business, it did not occasion much surprise to her mother, who was sitting by the fire in their little parlour, reading some book of devotion, that the church chimes announced the first quarter past nine o’clock, without her daughter’s making her appearance. The noise she had made overhead, in walking to and fro to her drawers, dressing-table, etc. had ceased about half an hour ago, and her mother supposed she was then “engaged at her glass, adjusting her hair,” and preparing her complexion.

“Well, I wonder what can make Charlotte so very careful about her dress to—night!” exclaimed Mrs J—, removing -her eyes from the book, and gazing thoughtfully at the fire; “Oh! it must be because young Lieutenant N — is to be there. Well, I was young myself once, and it’s very excusable in Charlotte—heigho!” She heard the wind howling so dismally without, that she drew together the coals of her brisk fire, and was laying down the poker, when the clock of — church struck the second quarter after nine.

“Why, what in the world can Charlotte be doing all this while?” she again inquired. She listened—“I have not heard her moving for the last three.quarters of an hour! I’ll call the maid and ask.” She rang the bell, and the servant appeared.

“Betty, Miss J— is not gone yet, is she?”

“La, no, Ma’am,” replied the girl, “I took up the curling irons only about a quarter of an hour ago, as she had put one of her curls out; and she said she should soon be ready. She’s burst her new muslin dress behind, and that has put her into a way, Ma,am.”

“Go up to her room, then, Betty, and see if she wants any thing; and tell her it’s half-past nine o’clock,” said Mrs J—. The servant accordingly went up stairs, and knocked at the bed-room door, once, twice, thrice, but received no answer. There was a dead silence, except when the wind shook the window. Could Miss J— have fallen asleep? Oh, impossible! She knocked again, but unsuccessfully, as before. She became a little flustered; and, after a moments pause, opened the door, and entered. There was Miss J— sitting at the glass. “Why, la, Ma’am,” commenced Betty in a petulant tone, walking up to her, “here have I been knocking for these five minutes, and”— Betty staggered,horror-struck, to the bed, and uttering a loud shriek, alarmed  Mrs J—, who instantly tottered up stairs, almost palsied with fright.—Miss J— was dead!

I was there within a few minutes, for my house was not more than two streets distant.  It was a stormy night in March: and the desolate aspect of things without—deserted streets—the dreary howling of the wind, and the incessant pattering of the rain, contributed to cast a gloom over my mind, when connected with the intelligence of the awful event that had summoned me out, which was deepened into horror by the spectacle I was doomed to witness. On reaching the house, I found Mrs J— in violent hysterics, surrounded by several of her neighbours, who had been called in to her assistance. I repaired instantly to the scene of death, and beheld what I shall never forget. The room was occupied by a white-curtained bed. There was but one window, and before it was a table, on which stood a looking-glass, hung with a little white drapery; and various articles of the toilet layscattered about—pins, brooches, curling-papers, ribands, gloves, etc. An arm-chair was drawn to this table, and in it sat Miss J—, stone dead. Her head rested upon her right hand, her elbow supported by the table; while her left hung down by her side, grasping a pair of curling irons. Each of her wrists were encircled by a showy gilt bracelet. She was dressed in a white muslin frock, with a little bordering of blonde. Her face was turned towards the glass, which, by the light of the expiring candle, reflected with frightful fidelity the clammy fixed features, daubed over with rouge and carmine—the fallen lower jaw—and the eyes directed full into the glass, with a cold, dull stare, that was appalling. On examining the countenance more narrowly, I thought I detected the traces of a smirk of conceit and self-complacency, which not even the palsying touch of Death could wholly obliterate. The hair of the corpse, all smooth and glossy, was curled with elaborate precision; and the skinny sallow neck was encircled with a string of glistening pearls. The ghastly visage of Death thus leering through the tinselry of fashion—the “vain show” of artificial joy—was a horrible mockery of the fooleries of life!

Indeed, it was a most humiliating and shocking spectacle. Poor creature! struck dead in the very act of sacrificing at the shrine of female vanity!—She must have been dead for some time, perhaps for twenty minutes, or half an hour, when I arrived, for nearly all the animal heat had deserted the body, which was rapidly stiffening.  I attempted, but in vain, to draw a little blood from the arm. Two or three women present proceeded to remove the corpse to the bed, for the purpose of laying it out. What strange passiveness! No resistance offered to them while straightening the bent right arm, and binding the jaws together with a faded white riband, which Miss J— had destined for her waist that evening!

On examination of the body, we found that death had been occasioned by disease of the heart. Her life might have been protracted possibly for years, had she but taken my advice, and that of her mother. I have seen many hundreds of corpses, as well in the calm composure of natural death, as mangled and distorted by violence; but never have I seen so startling a satire upon human vanity, so repulsive, unsightly, and loathsome a spectacle as a corpse dressed for a ball!

Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician, Volume 1, Samuel Warren, 1835

corpse at a ball deaths doings 1928

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There was an entire genre of cautionary literature about the perils of ball-going. Young ladies were warned against late hours, over-heated rooms, unduly stimulating beverages, low-cut gowns, and over-familiar gentlemen. They were cautioned to tell their Mothers everything, and to wear wraps coming and going, lest they end a frigid corpse like Frozen Charlotte. One would think, to read these well-intentioned screeds, that a young person’s reputation, virtue, health, and life were at dire risk whenever she left the house. Here is a sample specimen, entitled “Eleven Modes of Suicide.” Mrs Daffodil’s readers will consider themselves warned.

Dr Warren, while he may have derived much satisfaction at his diagnostic ability, seems a censorious, misogynistic prig. Given what Mrs Daffodil knows of how the face of a corpse strangely alters after death, it is unlikely that even the most assiduous observer could detect a “smirk of conceit” in the countenance of the recently deceased. One fears that the doctor’s hateful personal prejudices have compromised his observational powers.

One also wonders why, if the young lady was “the torment of her amiable parent, the nuisance of her acquaintance,” would the good Doctor have wished her life protracted, “possibly for years” except for his own personal vanity in not wishing to lose a patient?

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 Dart of Death: c. 1880s

dart of death

Lady Waterford said, ‘Now I must tell you the story. Somers came to Highcliffe this year. I like having Somers for a cousin, he is always so kind and pleasant, and tells me so many things that are interesting. I felt it particularly this year, for he was suffering so much from a piece of the railroad that had got into his eye and he was in great pain, but he was just as pleasant as ever. “Oh, love has sore eyes,” he said, but he would talk. The next day he insisted on going off to Lymington to see Lord Warwick, who was there, and who had been ill; and it was an immense drive, and when he came back, he did not come down, and Pattinson said, “Lord Somers is come back, but he is suffering so much pain from his eyes that he will not be able to have any dinner.” So I went up to sit with him. He was suffering great pain, and I wanted him not to talk, but he said, “Oh, no; I have got a story quite on my mind, and I really must tell you.” And he said that when he got to Lymington, he found Lord Warwick ill in bed, and he said, “I am so glad to see you, for I want to tell you such an odd thing that has happened to me. Last night I was in bed and the room was quite dark (this old-fashioned room of the inn at Lymington which you now see). Suddenly at the foot of the bed there appeared a great light, and in the midst of the light the figure of Death just as it is seen in the Dance of Death and other old pictures – a ghastly skeleton with a scythe and a dart: and Death balanced the dart, and it flew past me, just above my shoulder, close to my head, and it seemed to go into the wall; and then the light went out and the figure vanished. I was as wide awake then as I am now, for I pinched myself hard to see, and I lay awake for a long time, but a last I fell asleep. When my servant came to call me in the morning, he had a very scared expression of face, and he said, ‘A dreadful thing has happened in the night, and the whole household of the inn is in the greatest confusion and grief, for the landlady’s daughter, who slept in the next room, and the head of whose bed is against the wall against which your head now rests, has been found dead in her bed.’

The Story of My Life, Augustus Hare

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Hare, in a footnote, says that he heard the story again from Lord Warwick himself. This was George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick [1818-1893]. Somers was Charles, 3rd Earl of Somers [1819-1883]. He was married to a sister of the well-known photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers might be interested to know that the illustration is entitled “Death in the Woolpack.”  Anthrax, also known as “Woolsorters’ Disease,” was a dire occupational hazard of that profession. See this fine article on “Le Maladie de Bradford,” for more on the subject.

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 Dart of Death anecdote is found in Chris Woodyard’s, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

A Father’s Anguish: 1827

Our Darling Victorian coffin plateIn honour of Father’s Day, a post in a sombre and very different vein from our recent forays into bridal phantoms and follies. It has been suggested by some historians that high childhood mortality made parents indifferent to their infant losses. While 19th century families tended to be large ones, few were untouched by the death of a child. This piece poignantly expresses a universal anguish, which even at this remove, arouses our sympathy.

 “There are a thousand impressions which we receive during our earthly pilgrimage, and which at the time are interesting, and often deep and solemn. But as soon as they have gone by, and we return to the active pursuits of life, they gradually become less and less vivid till they are wholly gone. All can look back to such events, and they seem like pleasant or troubled dreams; and all wish that they had something to recall the circumstances of the scenes, so that they could live them over in all their detail. It is for this purpose I now write these pages, that when one and another event shall have partially obliterated what now seems as if it could never be forgotten, I may recall it to my own mind and feelings, and to those of my dear wife. For her eye and mine alone I write. 

“Our dear little boy was born at sunrise, October 6th, 1827. Mrs. Todd had been remarkably well and active since our marriage, and probably his premature birth was owing to her over-exertion. At his birth, none seemed to think he could live but a short time; but with great exertions he was made to revive. He was small, but promised, humanly speaking, to do well. He soon opened his eyes, and began to notice sounds and objects of sight. For a week we had no fears concerning him, and enjoyed as much as parents could enjoy. When I went out, I hastened home to see my dear child lie in his mother’s arms, and, at the sound of my voice, open his dark-blue eyes and turn them toward me. We began to talk of a name, and in my own mind I had begun to form many little plans concerning him. 

“As we had been married not quite seven months, the enemies of religion at first made a great noise about it, and threw out a multitude of stories; but as it was well known that I had not been out of Groton for eight months previous to our marriage, and as Mrs. Todd’s character stood far above all suspicion, the stories only buzzed a while through the region, never disturbing us, and never injuring us in the least. 

“On Saturday, the little boy being a week old, we weighed him again, and found that he had lost. Here I first began to fear that he would not be spared to us. Still, he seemed well, and his nurse appeared to have no fears concerning him. 

“In the afternoon of the same day he was evidently sick, and we began to be alarmed. Every thing was done for him which could be. That night he rested pretty well. 

“Sabbath morning he was evidently very sick—appeared to have something like fits—and during breakfast he turned so black as greatly to alarm his mother; but from this he soon recovered. I was obliged to leave at half-past ten o’clock, to go into the pulpit. I left the child in his nurse’s arms, and tears in the eyes of his mother. I endeavored to conceal my fears and feelings, and went into the pulpit with a heavy heart. As soon as possible I was at home, and found the child worse, and his mother greatly distressed. It was then evident that he could not live. When I really came to the conclusion that he must die—our own sweet boy, our first-born, must die—it was almost insupportable. As we then came to the conclusion that he must leave us, we determined to give him formally to our covenant-God in baptism. I immediately wrote a note to our friend, Mr. Chaplin, requesting him to bring his venerable father down to baptize our dying child. Mrs. Todd’s dressing-table was placed before her bed, the baptismal font was placed on it, and the family stood around the room. The child was in the arms of the nurse. The venerable old man, Doctor Chaplin, prayed with deep feeling and great appropriateness. I was kneeling by the side of the bed and holding my dear Mary’s hand, while we both wept, and endeavored to give our child to God. The prayer ended, I took the dear babe in my arms and presented him to Doctor Chaplin. The old man was eighty-four years old, upward of six feet high, silver locks, and the most venerable person I ever saw. Our child was eight days old, fair, well-proportioned, and seventeen inches in length. Striking contrast, indeed! He was solemnly baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by the name of John William— the former name being his father’s, and the latter that of his friend. The bell rang for meeting while the ordinance was administering, and I was obliged to go again into the pulpit, expecting to find my child a corpse on my return. I walked alone to meeting, with my eyes flowing. It was an agony which I can remember, but can not describe. On entering the pulpit, I felt somewhat composed: attempted to read that beautiful hymn beginning,

“’It is the Lord, enthroned in light/Whose claims are all divine/Who has an undisputed right/ To govern me and mine.’

“Immediately a thousand inexpressible feelings rushed through my heart. I choked, hesitated, faltered, wept, and sat down after reading one stanza. The audience felt for me, and very many wept. I preached as well as I could, hardly knowing what I was about, and again hastened home, and again found our dear child alive.

“It was now toward night, and he continued to have spasms, in which he would turn black, groan, and seem to be in great pain. I sent immediately for a physician, who put him in warm water, and he revived; but it was only for a time. During the whole afternoon the nurse held him in her lap without moving. In the evening, hoping it would endanger Mrs. Todd less, I had him removed into my study. He was carried out, and it was the last time his weeping mother ever saw him alive. I was in and out of the study during the evening, but was for the most part with my wife. At ten o’clock he had an awful spasm. I went in, and was told he was no more. I gazed at him: his beautiful little features were all composed and set, and it seemed as if Death had indeed now set his seal. All hope was cut off, all doubt removed. I returned to my dear Mary, and was obliged to tell her our first-born was no more. She burst into grief the most passionate, and it seemed as if her very frame would  be crushed under the burden. We spake but little: it was, that God ruled; that our dear boy had gone to his bosom; that we trusted he would be among the angels, himself an angel; and that we should meet him again beyond the shores of mortality. I then knelt by the bed of Mrs. Todd, and we prayed, our right hands joined, and we committed and gave ourselves away to God.

“At eleven o’clock I left Mrs. Todd and went into the study; and here was the most severe trial I was called to undergo. I found the child was not dead: he had revived, and was now in great agony; it was the agony of death. He was in the arms of Miss Chaplin, his eyes open, his arms thrown out, his little fists clenched, and every muscle brought into intense action. They dared do nothing to relieve the little sufferer. I immediately gave him paregoric, and anointed his chest with warm olive-oil. His pains were less intense after that. As he lay with his eyes open, I spoke to him, called him ‘ John;’ he turned his head and bright eyes toward me with an expressiveness that I shall never forget. I do not pretend he knew me or my voice; but it was such a look as a dying child might wish to leave with his father, if he could choose. I sat without turning my eyes from him for an hour, and then returned to inform his mother that he was still living. I did not see him again alive; for he ceased to breathe soon after the Sabbath was over. I never saw such suffering before; and it seemed as if God had indeed cursed our race, and had most awfully written his displeasure with sinners on the features of our dying boy. Mysterious system! that such a child should suffer so intensely! But ‘clouds and darkness are round about Him,’ which we trust will one day all be rolled away.

“Early on Monday morning I opened my study door. The room was solitary, the windows open, and the cold winds of a chilly morning were sighing through the shutters. The room was in perfect order. In a corner, near my book-case, were two chairs, and a white cloth between them. I went slowly and lifted the cloth, and there lay my sweet boy, pale as the cloth which covered him; the beautiful white robe of the grave was upon him; his little hands were folded on his bosom; he was dressed for the coffin. Never did I see a countenance so beautiful. Every part was well-proportioned and perfect. His dark-brown hair was parted on his forehead under his cap. It seemed as if death never could gather a fairer flower. I stood over him for a long time, and, if possible, loved my boy more in death than in life.

“For fear of injuring Mrs. Todd, we had rather a private funeral, that afternoon, at half-past three o’clock. There may have been fifty present, all of whom seemed to feel for us. The good old man was our pastor. He talked well to us: they sung a hymn, and he made the prayer. The little creature was put into a mahogany coffin, with a plate on the top with the following inscription: ‘John W.Todd, who died October 15, 1827, aged nine days.’ Without any parade or bell, he was carried in a chaise, and I rode alone in my chaise, and saw him softly laid in Doctor Chaplin’s tomb, in the very spot where the good man himself expects to lie. When that event takes place, I intend to have him placed beside the old man’s head, or on his breast, that in the morning of the Resurrection they may rise together. It seemed to be his wish to have him entombed there, and it was gratifying to us, for it seems as if even the grave would be sanctified by his remains.”

Years afterward he wrote:

“I shall perish sooner than forget the feelings which I had clinging around our dear first-born. I know that we did not deserve him, and that it was all right; but my aching heart too frequently goes back to that dear lost one, and the gems of all the earth could not compensate for the loss of that one. Is he now alive? Shall we ever know him? Will that beautiful form ever come up again from the tomb? Oh, the agony of that moment when the little coffin-lid was actually closed! May God in mercy spare me from ever witnessing another such scene!”

John Todd: the story of his life told mainly by himself, edited by John Todd [son], 1876

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Rev. John Todd, minister and author, was born in Rutland, Vermont, 9 October, 1800 and died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 24 August, 1873. His mother, whose mental state was tenuous at best, became a hopeless lunatic after Todd’s father was badly injured in a carriage accident just before his birth. The accident prevented his father from practicing his profession of doctor and the family slid into poverty. After his father’s early death, the family was dispersed. Todd was sent to live with his Aunt. Somehow he acquired an education and was graduated from Yale in 1822. He spent the following year in teaching, then entered Andover theological seminary, and in 1827 was ordained a minister of the Congregational church in Groton. His autobiography was edited by his son, also named John Todd, and is full of affecting incidents and charming anecdotes. His unsettled youth made him a kindly and indulgent father.

This is an excerpt from The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard, which is also available for Kindle.

You will find more stories of fathers, kindly, heartless, and ghostly at Saturday Snippets.

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.


Saturday Snippets 18 May 2013: Milliners, Fan Drill, Dressing for the Photographer

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Every Saturday you will find in “Saturday Snippets” items of interest, some of which may have been written to Mrs Daffodil’s “Facebook” page in the preceding week, but which were too short to form an entire post without the reader feeling unsatisfied.  Mrs Daffodil has an ample stock of The Horrors and will be glad to hear from her readers if items of a more grewsome character would gratify their tastes.


I know of no situation more agreeable than that of a fashionable Milliner. Everything around her is seducing:–the gauze and lawn take whatever shape her fancy directs. She arranges those flowers fashioned by art, whose vivid colors dare to rival the brilliant productions of nature. This handsome hat, this aigrette, this bouquet, acquire triple value from her plastic hand!

Beyond that glazed partition behold that assemblance of young beauties; they hold the needle and the scissors—how happily employed! Taste, or rather Fashion, directs their labor. The Graces preside over their dress; coquetry beams in their eyes;

Here on the right are the three Graces; this is the freshness of Hebe, the gait of Juno, and the beauty of Venus. There, on the left, is a sprightly brunette, a wood nymph, whose furtive glance inflamed the satyr. At the further end is a fair damsel with blue seducing eyes: it is the Queen of Cypress, who holds even the most rebellious hearts in subjection. In the morning the fashionable milliner resembles the artificial flowers around her; –at night she is the rose in all its lustre! Her worshippers increase as the star of day proceeds in its course; when Phebus has completed his career she enjoys her greatest triumph. She is the finest production of nature—the most desires.

Corinna holds the needle with grace; Victoria forms the bonnet with delicious taste; Agale plaits the gauze! What a charming occupation! Oh! That I were a milliner, or a milliner’s girl—happy young beauty, who in the closet of love preserves a heart as pure, as fresh, as the color of the flowers! What coquetry in her gait!—what a divine waist!—it is a young milliner who walks before me; she carries a light bandbox full of ribbons and roses—what grace!—what attractions!—all eyes following this charming object!—they cannot lose sight of her!

Amiable modesty! May you be ever the favorite virtue of the young milliner’s girl!  Paris paper Dutchess Observer [Poughkeepsie, NY] 13 August 1823: p. 4

 Pert miss (in bloomers): “You stare at me, sir, as though you expected to see me wearing horns!”

Innocent young man: “Yes, I thought you might be the gnu woman!” Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 2 October 1895: p. 4

 A novel public entertainment was given in St. Louis a few nights ago for the benefit of one of the churches of that city. It was a “fan-drill” given by twelve beautiful young ladies thoroughly trained to the work, the object being to illustrate the uses of the fan as an interpreter of the various emotions. Elkhart [IN] Daily Review 27 January 1881: p. 2  [If you missed it, a recent post discussed historic and extravagant fans of society ladies; Mrs Daffodil also offered some excellent advice on the use of fans as a weapon.]

A Curious Experiment. A late foreign paper contains the following: “The doctors specially devoted to the care of cholera patients at Alexandria, have tried a curious experiment, the object of which is to ascertain whether that disease is caused by a peculiar state of the outward air, as has been supposed. They sent up two balloons, one from a village as yet untainted by the epidemic, and the other from Alexandria. A quarter of fresh beef was suspended to each balloon, which was allowed to float for a certain time in the air. On making these balloons descend, the meat which had floated over Alexandria was completely putrefied, whereas that which had been suspended over the healthy village was perfectly fresh. The quarters of beef had been cut off the same animal. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

Four spinsters at O’Fallon, Mo., couldn’t agree on a color for painting their house, so each had her favorite color on a portion of the building, drawing lots for the portion. The result is an artistic phenomenon. Boston [MA] Journal 25 May 1891: p. 2 

The Laces of Germany are not important. A History of Hand-made Lace, Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson, 1904, p. 51 

At a village a short distance from Dover, the child of a poor woman was lying at the point of death, when a gentle tap was heard at the door. The visitor turned out to be the sexton’s wife, who asked whether it was likely the child would be long dying, as her husband wanted to go out, but would delay his departure if it was thought death would shortly take place! Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1864

How to Dress for the Photographer

It is a good rule to follow never to wear a new dress to the photographer’s. Not only do you show awkwardness that comes from wearing something with which you are not entirely familiar, but it is a well-known fact that new clothes are stiffer and hang in less graceful folds than do clothes that have been worn. The old frock has taken on the curves and lines of your body. It seems to have absorbed something of your personality.

  And, of course, the old frock, if it is becoming, may be worn for a photograph when you might not select it for a party. If it is a little faded, or even shows signs of wear, this will not show in the photograph.

  You may have noticed that certain pictures taken some time ago are almost grotesque now, while others of the same date are still satisfactory portraits. If you stop to observe you will see that the pictures that are still pleasing show no freaks or extremes of fashion. Collars and collar lines seem to be the details that most quickly lookout of date; hence the wisdom in always having your picture taken with a low neck line if possible.     

Hats, too, date a picture. The picture you had taken without a hat you will like to display for a longer time than the picture that shows its date by the hat you wore.

  Jewelry does not add to the effect of a picture and often detracts much. Baltimore [MD] American 9 October 1921: p. 5

If you are drawn to stories of Madwomen in the Attic as sketched by Miss Bronte or the grotesque tales of the German fantasists, you may enjoy this story of The Bird-Woman Horror.