Tag Archives: imposters

The Intruder: 1908

the intruder illustration

THE INTRUDER

Roland Ashford Phillips

Although I quietly, hopefully, tried the door, I found it, unfortunately, locked. Yet on second reflection I did not wonder at it, but tiptoed across the porch to where a window, half raised made me an excellent substitute for an entrance. I noiselessly stepped into the darkened interior and felt my way over the thick, sound-muffling rugs.

I walked the length of the wide, silent hall, heading for the dining-room. I wanted a good stiff drink of brandy, and knew I should find some there. The gloom was oppressive and velvet-like, and I was compelled to seek my way slowly and carefully, hand to the wall. However, I reached the room in question, after groping blindly about, recognizing the broad, heavy-curtained doorway. It was strange that the curtains were drawn; generally they were fastened back with huge gilt cords, tied in awkward knots.

As I slipped between them and carefully drew them together behind me, the big clock on the staircase chimed rhythmically, and I marveled at the lateness of the hour. I really should have come earlier; but one soon forgets so many things when at the club.

The carpet in the dining-room was even softer, kinder than the others, and for this I was indeed grateful, for it is very annoying to disturb one’s friends in the wee hours; even the dearest of them.

I kept near to the wall and groped blindly along, for the light buttons were somewhere at hand — a complete row of them, controlling every room in the house. I suppose I must have completed a half-circuit of the room before something unreal and fear-compelling came upon me.

Even when I had reached the row of ebony buttons, and my forefinger was upon the third — the one that would light this room—I hesitated, fearful. I did not immediately understand it; I had never before had a similar feeling, and by no means am I a weak and sensitive man. Yet this moment my nerves failed me; the muscles in my finger refused to obey — refused to press the button and command the room to light.

For a long, pregnant interval I stood there motionless and undecided. Then the realization came abruptly; the sensation was identical with a light, harmless shock of an electric battery. I have often gripped the brass receivers of one and felt the sharp, not unpleasant waves twitch and creep the length of my arms and tingle in every nerve.

This, then, was the impression it gave me. But gradually, bit by bit, I felt these invisible waves swerve my eyes to one impressive spot. I might turn my head at will, but always, always magnetic-like, they swung back again in obedience to this sensitive, compelling power. Dimly at first, and then more definable, I began to understand. Mosaic-like, my brain pieced the many continuous thrills; pieced them until, abruptly, it flashed over me: Someone else beside myself was in this room.

I took a deep breath after that. How near this particular someone was and in what position, remained for me to find out. Almost mechanically my finger sought the third button again, and I ran my finger-tip thoughtfully over the smooth surface. The passing of a moment brought me to the realization that the better thing for me to do was to press the button and face whatever the light might disclose; be it man, thing or devil.

No sooner had I decided than my finger obeyed almost instinctively. A sharp, sudden click, and then a blinding flood of wondrous yellow light, dazzling and overpowering. A dozen wall-brackets leaped into life. At first I was unable to see, but waited, expectant; then slowly and definitely the objects took form, like a city through a rising mist.

The man was seated calmly in a huge, comfortable Morris chair, legs crossed and fingers lightly tapping upon the broad arm. Like myself, he was in full evening dress. His overcoat was flung carelessly across a chair; his silk hat, crushed flat, lay upon it; and at his feet, near the serving table stood a well-labeled kit-bag.

I do not know how long we watched each other. His wide, black eyes betrayed no surprise at what the light had so abruptly disclosed; and they were not of a bad sort — his eyes—rather large for a man, and well-lashed; only his mouth, thin-lipped and drooping, weakened his otherwise boldly molded features.

I instinctively waited for him to speak; and I did not have long to wait.

“Well,” he began, in a remarkably soft, well-mannered tone, “this is rather a sudden and unexpected visit.”

My finger slipped from the button where it had rested unconsciously.

“Very!” I admitted bluntly. The tapping of his fingers ceased — long, white, well-manicured they were.

“My guests generally ring before entering,” he continued. “What is it you wish?”

I could not immediately frame an answer. He must have noted my embarrassment for he continued:

“I think I have the prior right to that question.”

“And why the prior?” I queried.

His eyes narrowed; they were most unpleasant to look upon at such a time! It was plain he did not care to argue further.

“Because,” he answered cynically, “this is my house and you are an intruder.”

I tried hard, very hard, not to show my amazement; yet he must have noticed it with those piercing eyes of his, in spite of my attempted control, for he waved a hand toward a chair that stood near.

“Sit down!” he commanded, and I did not hesitate. After I had slipped into the chair and crossed my legs, we were scarcely six feet distant from each other.

“I repeat my question,” he went on coldly.

“You — you are Mr. Charles Fisher?” I asked, dry-lipped.

“Yes,” curtly, “I am the owner here.” I put my hands to the chair-arms, perhaps unconsciously following his position.

“I have heard of you — often; you are very well known — I did not expect — so sudden a meeting.” I was surprised at my own boldness.

“Evidently you had no idea of an immediate introduction, eh?” and he laughed dryly.

“To tell the truth,” I admitted undaunted, “I was unprepared.”

“I have seen you frequently at the clubs,” he went on, “yet I have never learned your name, nor the nature of your business.” This latter remark appeared to amuse him, and he chuckled to himself. After this outburst he studied my face narrowly.

“I suppose,” he began, and waved a hand vaguely about the room —“I suppose this glass and silverware interests you a great deal more than — than an introduction.”

“Possibly,” I admitted.

“But it is clumsy stuff to handle. Surely you could not have made away with much of it, eh?” He appeared interested.

“If a man knew his business,” I reflected, after a pause.

“Ah!” brightening, “then you admit that the object of your visit is robbery.”

“You are free to choose your own opinion,” I returned quickly. Again he narrowed his eyes upon me, admiring, so I imagined, my self-repose. He cleared his throat quietly.

“You seem to be very familiar with my house and its contents,” he ventured.

I smiled grimly. “And why should I not? I have been here a great, great many times. I have been to every reception save the one given to-night. Let’s see — there were house-warmings, suppers, club-breakfasts, bridge, and even, even if I remember correctly, a wedding.”

The other’s face remained perfectly immovable. I fancied he was mentally studying his lists, took the occasion to laugh outright.

“Why — why I know Mrs. Fisher well very well indeed. I have dined with her — gone to the opera and–”

“Sh-h-h-h!” he arrested, lifting a warning forefinger. “She is asleep upstairs.”

“I’ll wager she is in the blue room, eh?” I ventured boldly; yet the next moment I regretted that I had spoken so. The man’s hands tightened upon the chair-arms; his face hardened.

“See here,” he snapped, “you know too much about my family affairs. Altogether too much for — for —

“For an intruder, eh?” I finished.

“Yes, for an intruder, a thief, a common, contemptible sneak-thief. A man who will worm his way into the best society and then gloat, openly, sneeringly. Come, now, what is it you were after — cut glass, silver?”

“But,” I remonstrated, “you admitted a moment ago they were too bulky; besides, I brought nothing to carry it in. . . . And don’t you know,” I added slowly, so that my words might sting, “that Mrs. Fisher’s jewels in the small bronze box on her dressing-table would prove the more valuable to me?”

The man’s face went colorless. He slipped a hand to his inner pocket and brought out a neat, shining revolver, which he calmly put upon the chair-arm. I watched him fascinated. There was something grim and ugly about that death-dealing thing between us; and more so now, for the muzzle pointed straight for my breast. The man very deliberately placed his hand over it.

“I have resolved to turn you over to the police,” he began sternly. “I have had enough of your remarks – quite enough. I might have been lenient with you heretofore, but you have grown insulting. Meanwhile I am going to ask that you refrain from any disturbances. This beneath my hand is a late model — an automatic; and it will shoot seven times in less than seven seconds. I hope you will not be venturesome.”

His words rang sharp and chilling to my ears. There was that indefinite something about them that lent me fear; a certain tone that bespoke an utter dependence. I was conscious that he meant exactly what he said.

I rapidly conjured my brain for a possible, plausible method of escape. Could I not somehow, someway, appeal to his weakness? If so, what was it? Here was a man who, by his own admission, was a club member— a man about town. A brilliant idea flashed to me. I had caught a glimpse of a backgammon board and a dice cup on a side table. Would he agree to the proposition ? Would it appeal to him? I lost no time in finding out.

“I believe,” I began, earnestly, hopefully, “that you are a square man; and that you are willing to give me a fair, square chance to help myself.”

“Go on,” he urged.

“We shall throw the dice between us — three times. If you win, I will calmly submit to arrest; I shall say nothing about this affair. But — if I win, you are to release me. You will allow me to leave the house as a guest, by the front door, under the lights. Is it a bargain?” Twice he wet his lips; and twice he started to speak.

“I agree,” he said at last.

Upon the broad arm of the chair I threw first. The rattle of the ivory dice was the only sound. The man opposite me underwent a complete change. Life came to his eyes and cheeks; his breath quickened. I realized that the love of chance was his weakness. The revolver lay neglected upon the chair-arm. As the dice fell clicking on the wood we both bent forward, expectant.

“Eight!” he broke out impetuously, and reached for the cubes. Calmly he shook the dice cup and toppled the squares to the chair-arm.”

“Twelve!” he laughed, and brushed the dice back with a tremulous hand. “I win.” Again I shook while he watched with flushed cheeks. “Ten!” I announced quietly. He nodded quickly and gathered up the dice.

“Not so hard to beat,” he returned, as the bits of ivory rattled to the wood. A pause.

“You win!” he faltered hoarsely, as eight spots alone showed. “Your last throw— careful.”

Once more and for the last time my hand flirted the dice to the polished chair-arm. A bit of silence followed the rattle.

“Twelve!” I broke out. “You still have a chance.”

He took the dice from my hand, shook them quickly and set them hard to the wood, yet kept the cup over the result, as if fearful of the disclosure.

“The hoodoo is still with me,” he announced graciously, after he had uncovered them. “I have but eleven.”

I swept the dice away and rose slowly from the chair. Now that the night was mine I intended to make good use of it. My brain raged with half-formed ideas. One of them alone seemed feasible.

“You may go!” the man spoke up abruptly from his chair.

“And —and the lights?” I reminded.

He looked at me in surprise.

“The hall and porch are rather dark,” I explained.

“I was of an opinion that men of your profession generally preferred the dark,” he offered coolly. I was minded as he sat there, sneeringly, his thin-lipped mouth drooping, to attempt to strike him to the floor before he could shoot, but happily my better judgment prevailed, and with an effort I controlled my temper.

“Suppose — Suppose someone should see me leaving — through the window?” I argued. “It wouldn’t look just right.”

He eyed me a moment in silence, evidently weighing my words, then shrugged his shoulders. “Well,” he deliberated, “now that you are so familiar with my house and the occupants and have bested me at dice, you may switch on your own lights.”

I swayed for a second, only half believing my ears; that he should so easily, readily play into my plan at the opportune moment seemed hardly possible.

“Thank you,” I said, with assumed calmness; and with this I strode over to the row of ebony buttons and without hesitation pressed the fourth and sixth ones. The former led to the upstairs chamber and the latter to the hall.

When I turned the man was laughing. “Not so very wise as you thought, eh? The lower hall isn’t lighted.”

Although aware of this I betrayed surprise. “You’re right,” I confessed, “I have pressed the wrong button. If you will allow me–”

“Never mind!” he snapped decisively. “You’ve tampered enough for one night. I should turn you over to the police; but I have given my word — I want you to go out ahead. I’m going to follow close behind — and no foolishness; remember, I’ve the revolver and I shall not hesitate to use it.”

Still I waited. I prayed for time as a dying man might for life. “Do you know,” I hedged, “that when I came into this room I had my mind made up for something to drink — some brandy. It’s damp outside; it was a rather tiresome journey here and will be a lengthy one back.”

“Well,” he wavered, nodding finally toward the sideboard, “help yourself, but be quick about it.” I took my time moving across the room; picked up and carefully examined a number of bottles, chose one and from it filled a thin glass half to the brim.

“To the intruder!” I exclaimed, and raised the glass to the level of my eyes.

As I was about to set back the glass, something so startling happened that the man whirled about toward the drawn curtains; and I, surprised likewise, stood mute and silent watching him,

“What was that?” he faltered.

“I could not say for certain,” I returned. “Though it sounded like a footfall on the stairs. Perhaps it is Mrs. Fisher.”

His eyes narrowed. “This will never do,” he burst out.

“Never mind,” I interrupted hastily; “just inform her that — that I am a friend of yours — a club-friend. She won’t suspect.”

The sound was repeated; there could be no mistaking; it was a footfall. The man acted like a lunatic.

“You fool!” he snarled, “turn out the lights — quick!” And then without further words he sprang across the room toward the row of buttons. It was a bold move and an abrupt one; but not altogether a thoughtful one, for within six feet of where I stood the revolver lay unguarded upon the chair-arm. Before he had reached the buttons I had possessed myself of the weapon.

He pressed the button, but not the right one. Not alone was the dining-room brilliantly lighted, but the lower hall suddenly shot into a glow.

Immediately the hall curtains parted and a woman, kimono-clad, stepped softly between them.

“Charlie,” she began, “did you just arrive home? Did you want me to come down? The lights were turned on, so I thought— ”

The man against the wall turned a blank, questioning face toward me; and, in spite of the intense situation, I smiled.

“This — this is a friend of mine, Milly,” I began abruptly. “A member of the club. By a strange coincidence his name is identical with ours. We have had a quiet chat— the two of us — and a little game; he was just leaving when you came in.”

I stepped over, gathered up his coat and hat and handed them to him. He smiled as he took them.

“Thanks!” he said; and I knew it had two meanings.

I snapped on the porch lights. “Mr. Fisher will leave his kit-bag,” I interrupted, as he moved toward it. “He has something in it that will interest us.”

Only a second did his brow cloud; then he was smiling and bowing pleasantly. I preceded him down the hall.

“Good night!” I said at the door.

“Good night!” he returned, and walked away into the gloom,

Metropolitan Magazine, Vol. 29, Issue 2 November 1908: pp. 206-210

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite the failure of  the faux-Mr Fisher’s scheme, one has to admire his ingenuity and his pluck.  But to be successful housebreaker one needs more than nerves of steel and bravura bravado; one needs a reasonable amount of good fortune. His unluckiness in encountering the genuine householder instead of a fellow sneak-thief must have dismayed and disheartened him.  Mrs Daffodil would not be surprised to learn that, after resigning his clubs, he either joined the Salvation Army or went to the devil in Monte Carlo.

One does wonder how the actual Mr Fisher explained the contents of the kit-bag to his wife.

 

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

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

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“They look as if they were somebody:” Two Would-be Swells: 1891

NEW YORK’S MYSTERIES.

“Van Gryse ” reveals the Devices of two Female Would-Be Swells.

Any one who has been a student of life in the metropolis, who knows the faces on the avenue and in the lobby on first-nights as well as he knows those on the Rialto and Wall Street, can not but have noticed that new feminine type which has come to the fore in the last twenty years, but which is as yet unclassified.

No one seems to know under what head this type should come, or what name to call it. Yet every one knows of it, and a few people have watched its gradual development with thoughtful interest. It has two or three salient characteristics, but none of these are as yet prominent enough to warrant one in classifying it as a new specimen evolved by metropolitan life.

The women of this class seem to be female prototypes of the cheap swells among men. At certain places during certain hours of the day you may see them — not in large quantities, for they are not a numerous order, but scattered through the crowd of well-dressed fashionables. The casual way-farer, though he may have been born and bred between four brick walls and have never seen the sunset except at the end of a street through a cobweb of telegraph wires, may pass them by unthinkingly as women of the patrician rich world. For they are perfect in every outward appointment of elegance and good taste.

An accomplished and sharp-eyed flaneur will notice that their smooth completeness of appearance is here and there ruffled— there is too strong a suggestion of rice-powder about their faces, their shoes are worn a little, and though they assume a look of bland and somewhat haughty complacence, their glance is at times restless and quick. They appear to be nervously on the alert to apprehend every admiring and approving look directed toward them. They expect and desire admiration, and though they make a good attempt to hide this expectation, it sometimes will not be hidden.

There are generally two of them — a mother and a daughter — and a stranger passing them would say to himself: ” There go two typical, well-dressed, aristocratic New York women of the highest class.” It is a natural supposition. They look as if bom to every luxury and comfort. In dress they are perfect — not merely perfect in the general air of their clothes, but perfect in detail. They look healthy and fresh and blooming. Their hair shines as though a maid brushed it by the hour every day. Their lips are red and smooth, and their eyes clear. They wear the newest fashion in everything — not such new fashions as will grow cheap and shoddy, but the new fashions which will only be adopted by the rich and exclusive. When a fashion falls to Fourteenth Street, they are done with it forever.

In air and appearance they look as if they were somebody.

They do not appear to notice the passers-by, but they forge along with a self-confident, haughty swing, their eyelids indolently drooping and their mouths curved into smiles of rather blase indifference. The daughter — you may see her almost any week-day morning, shopping on Twenty-Third Street — is rather pretty and very good form. She is a slender girl, about twenty-five, dressed always with quiet elegance. Her face, which is delicate, almost sallow, with dark eyes and a few locks of hair on her temples, is marred by a somewhat arrogant and cross expression. She looks like a young lady who was spoiled and could be querulous if she were thwarted.

She appears to lead the life of a woman of means and fashion. In the morning, in her warm street-suit and rich furs, she goes shopping. Sometimes her mother is with her–a pleasant-faced and refined-looking woman — but generally she is alone. She always shops in the best and most expensive stores, and she has a way of asking for what she wants which makes you think she could buy up the whole place if she wanted. On the contrary, however, she is almost invariably dissatisfied with the wares placed before her. She seems to disdain them, and an air of scornful irritation crosses her face as she pushes them aside and goes away. When she does make a purchase, were it but a spool of thread or a handkerchief, she would not dream of carrying it. It must be sent. And, as she gives the address, she leans across the counter and speaks it very low.

At all the openings of the most expensive places for hats and women’s clothes she is present. With her lorgnon up, she goes peering about at the new chiffons. She takes many of them in her hand and examines them disparagingly. They rarely suit her. When she was in Paris, last year, she saw just those same things — and now they are old and passe. The only way to get your clothes and have them at all chic is to go over there yourself and buy them. A modiste’s taste is invariably inclined to be shoddy.

When she gets out into the crisp winter sunshine, she tucks her trim little hands into her sable muff and walks briskly up the avenue, “toward home.” All the fellows in the club windows make flattering comments upon her as she swings along — a most attractive figure, with her neatly hung skirts, her pointed shoes, her close hat setting so snugly over her beautiful, smooth-braided hair, her sallow, high-bred face, with the rice-powder thick on the bridge of her nose, and her general air of calm unconcern. When she gets far uptown, she turns suddenly to the left, and, walking down a block, waits on the corner for a car. While she stands here, one sees how nervously alert and sharp this young woman’s indifferent eyes can become. They shoot anxious glances up and down the street. When the car comes, she springs into it with undignified speed, and nestled in a corner of it, her feet buried in the straw, the draughts blowing her hair about, she is borne across town to regions of corner-groceries and dingy boarding–houses, unkempt children, and frowsy maids-of-all-work.

She does not stay in this obscurity for long. That evening, at half-past eight, she and her mother have just rustled into their seats in the parquet for a Bernhardt first-night. She has on a pale-gray dress and wears some long-stemmed Jack roses fastened on her corsage. Her pale-gray wrap is thrown back to show these, for Jack roses are very rare at this season.

Her black hair is braided up under a little gray-gauze theatre-hat. She is altogether as well dressed as any one in the house, and many people look at her and ask who she is. Nobody knows, however. This is particularly strange, for she appears to know every one who is any one. She points them out to her mother, speaking of them with intimate personal comment, as though they were her friends since childhood :

The lady to the right, in the red hat, is Mrs. So-and-So. She has grown fat since she was at Lennox — the So-and-So women were always inclined to run to fat. That was Tommy Thingumbob there by the door. Isn’t he getting bald ? He must be tired, poor fellow ; he was up till all hours last night leading Mrs. Montgomery-Jenkins’s german. That girl there, with the turned-up nose, is the youngest of the Marshmallow girls — Toosie. They say she is going to marry young Doosenbury — the Doosenbury whose sister eloped with the coachman. Awfully sad affair. It nearly killed her mother. Betty Smith is sitting in the first row of the balcony with the Tompkinses. Betty looks very pretty to-night, yellow becomes her — and so on, and so on all through the evening. To hear her talk, you would think this young woman the most intimate friend of these people, upon whom she comments in rather a loud key. Then, when the lady next her is looking at her with curious admiration, she suddenly feels that the little filagree-edged comb is slipping out of her back hair, and draws off her glove that her hand may be free to readjust it. The hand thus revealed is wonderfully slim, white, and delicate, and is covered with pretty rings — not magnificent rings, they are not the thing for a young lady, but dainty, pretty rings of small, glittering stones.

Half-an-hour after the performance is over, she and her mother are in the corner of the cross-town car, on the last stage of their homeward journey. They sit close together, for it is biting cold. The people in the car are a sordid-looking lot, who stare stolidly at the two ladies. Through the rattling windows come in freezing blasts of air, and no matter how deeply you bury your feet in the straw, it is impossible to keep them warm. When they finally get to the wretched boarding-house where they live, it is past twelve and the house is dark. They stumble upstairs, tired and stiff, to the two tiny rooms, under the leads, which is their home. It is so cold up here that there is already a skim of ice on the water in the pitchers, and before they retire they spread their heavy ulsters and cloaks over the beds to act as coverlets. The mother is soon asleep, but the daughter, the ruling passion strong even in an atmosphere like that of a cold-storage warehouse, dallies long and lovingly over the putting away of her finery, smoothes it out, hangs it up, puts it into boxes, and folds it into bureau-drawers, finally becomes so engrossed that she takes out some of her new costumes still in process of construction, and, shivering in her meagre deshabille, holds them off at arm’s length, rapturously gloating on their beauty.

The creating and wearing of a new dress is the great event of her life. All morning she and her mother sit up in their little room, their feet against an oil-stove, cutting, snipping, and fitting on. The solemnity of the occasion is such that they do very little talking, but bend over their work in absorbed silence. An observer would hardly recognize them as the two aristocratic ladies who created quite a sensation at “Fedora” last night. The mother is now a fat and somewhat blowsy person, shrouded in a voluminous “Mother Hubbard,” her front hair twined round hair-pins. The nymph-like daughter looks thin and haggard in the searching light; her curls have gone, and her hair is wound up in a tight little knob on the back of her head. Her wrapper is dirty and faded, and hangs round her long, straight figure in limp folds. Even her rings have disappeared, locked up in a little box on the toilet-table.

In the afternoon she will go for a stroll on the avenue, and come home at half-past four, happy in the consciousness that for two hours she has been a swell. Such is the life of this modern Cinderella. She cares for nothing but this daily masquerade. Her existence is singularly lonely and profitless. She has no “circle,” no friends. She will not associate with the people in the boarding-house — the feeble, half-starved, shabby-genteel kind which haunt such barren places — and she has no means of knowing any other sort of people. The goal of her ambition is to be a fine lady, not in fact, but in appearance, and for this she lives.

She and her mother have a tiny income, left them by her dead father. They are both remarkably clever dress-makers, and if they had chosen to ply this trade, they could have placed themselves in thoroughly comfortable circumstances. But the daughter would not hear of such a thing. Their talents are employed to copy the various dresses she sees in the shops, on the streets, at the theatres, in order that she and her mother may make a good showing when they walk abroad.

Their manner of living is poor past belief. They are only half-fed, and certainly half-frozen. For sometimes the materials that the daughter chooses to buy are extremely expensive, and when there is a particularly fashionable first-night, they save out of their breakfasts and dinners enough to buy the two best seats in the house.

They always buy these themselves. The young lady has no followers, no beaux, no best man. The men whom she sees at the boarding-house are not of a kind to suit her elegant taste, and the men whom she sees on Fifth Avenue are unattainable. For, with all her faults and frivolities, she is a cut above vulgar sidewalk flirtation. She wants always to do the correct thing, and she would as soon think of bowing to a man she did not know as she would of wearing a bustle. Moreover, she is not particularly fond of men or flirtation. If they look at her admiringly on the avenue, she is quite satisfied. She would rather a great deal have one of those long, new cloaks, edged with Russian sable, than a lover. Such capacity for feeling or emotion as she possesses has all been swallowed up in her inordinate love of dress. She is one of the products of the life of a metropolis — the husk of a woman, a creature entirely passionless, heartless, and soulless.

New York, January 7, 1891. Van Gryse.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 14 August 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really…. Mrs Daffodil feels that the author is being unduly severe upon the young woman who would rather have a cloak edged with Russian sable than a lover. The cloak is assuredly a better value. The mother and daughter lead a sad enough life without being excoriated for their little deception. One suspects that class distinctions and the vulgar subject of money enter into this prejudice. It is doubtful that the author would have called Mrs Vanderbilt or Mrs Marshal Field of Chicago, “heartless” or a “husk of a woman” for her “inordinate love of dress.”

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.

 

Beloved Harry’s Widow: 1857

mourningwidowFEMALE SHARP PRACTICE

Some years ago a young gentleman living in Crawford county “went west,” settled in a western city, and became rich. He married a lady residing in the city where he located. After he had been married about six months, he prepared to visit Crawford county in company with his bride. But a few days before he was to start, he was accidentally killed by a crate of crockery falling upon him from the second story of his warehouse. The event was duly communicated to his family in Ohio. This was about eighteen months ago.

About three months since, the father of the deceased was startled to see a carriage drive up to his door. A very interesting lady, dressed in mourning, stepped out and introduced herself as the widow of the dead son. Great was the joy of the household at the visit of their beloved son and brother’s relict. She said she was going to Rhode Island, and could not resist the opportunity of seeing the parents of her “beloved Harry.” This was accompanied by a flood of tears and “furnace sighs.” Three weeks passed by and she had worked her way deep into the affections of the family. She was regarded as a daughter—as a sister. The hour came for her departure—they had exchanged miniatures—the farewells were said—the blubbering was at its very height, when she called the old gentleman to one side, and with great embarrassment told him that she had lost her pocket-book on the cars, containing all but a trifle of her funds. She felt diffidence in making the request, but if she could not apply to her “beloved Harry’s” father, to whom could she go!

The old man’s heart melted, and in a moment his wallet was produced, and ten X’s of the Seneca County Bank were tendered and accepted. She departed—alas, that dear friends must part! Time flew, and a month passed, but noting was heard from “beloved Harry’s” relict. The old gentleman became alarmed and addressed a letter to the father of his son’s wife, detailing the circumstances of her visit. An answer came. It is stated that the widow of his late son was at home—had not been away—and that from the description given, the woman who personated her was a servant girl who had lived with them, and had gleaned enough of the history of Harry’s family in Ohio, to enable her to play his wife. Tiffin (Ohio) Ad. Feb. 13

Sheboygan [WI] Journal 12 March 1857: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only admire the nerve of the servant girl who took a very great risk for what seems like little gain. A truly inspired imposter would have poisoned Harry’s mother and married his father. Or perhaps coaxed Harry’s father to change his will in her favor to benefit her and Harry’s putative unborn child–then arranged an accident. A cautionary tale of what can happen when servants listen at doors.

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.