Tag Archives: infidelity

The Wife’s Answer: 1895

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

The Wife’s Answer.


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

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

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

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

‘Nothing, my dear husband.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Wife, do you forgive me?’

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

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

Observer, 14 September 1895: p. 6

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

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

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



The Two-Edged Secret: A Diverting French Tale: 1893

Dolche Far Niente by Auguste Toulmouche, painter of the fashionable French world.

Dolce Far Niente by Auguste Toulmouche, painter of the fashionable French world.


People who Live in Glass Houses should not Hire Detectives.

Breakfast was nearly over, and the Baron and Baronne Silber were chatting as affectionately as lovers. She had just come from her boudoir and he from his racing stables, training-courses, paddocks, etc., at Viroflay. Absorbed all day long in business in Paris, he had fallen into the habit of visiting his stud of evenings, in order to be present at dawn during the speeding of his horses.  

Baron Karl Silber, an Austrian banker and financier, was an unknown nobody ten years before. Now you could not open a morning journal of commerce, sport, or anything else without running across some mention of his business, his races and racers, his balls, or his wife’s beauty.  

Above all, his wife’s beauty, for Silber, who denied himself nothing, had indulged himself at forty in the dangerous luxury of marrying charming Marguerite de Francmont, with whom all Paris had danced during four successive seasons, but whose poverty had reserved her for a marriage of this kind.  

They lived happily enough, and Silber, recognizing his wife’s really uncommon intelligence, did nothing— save in matters of finance — without consulting her with a frank and tender deference.

“Then,” said he presently, rolling a last strawberry in sugar, “Guerin did come?”  

“Yes, last night, just after you had started for Viroflay. I saw him and explained to him fully how you were the victim of indiscretions that brought suspicion upon you. ‘Everything that passes at the stable,’ said I, ‘is reported straightway to the book-makers of the Rue Vivienne. They know in advance what horse will run or be withdrawn; what horse carries the stable’s money or is meant to win; briefly, daily and regularly, we are betrayed by some one. But by whom?  Know this we must, for they are beginning to accuse us of dishonest practices.'”  

“And he said?”  

“Nothing, but asked if you suspected any one of your men?”  

“No special one, by Jove! I simply suspect them all.”  

“Precisely what I told him. Whereupon he took notes and his departure, assuring me that a special agent would be at once put in charge of so delicate a matter. He will report so soon as he discovers anything.”  

“Which will be soon, I hope. You have had no other visitor, my dear?”  

“Not one; I dined alone and spent the evening with mother. But you, Karl, what did you do at Viroflay?”  

“Always the same thing; audited accounts, paid out money, examined the colts, and by three o’clock was out with the trainers speeding the racers. Kronstadt is not doing as well as he should; we shall have a hard pull to keep him in shape for the twenty-fifth. Why, hello! it’s ten o’clock; I must go, it’s time for business.” 

 “But you seem so fatigued, my poor Karl!”  

“Zounds! I ought to be; I was up before the sun.”  

“But need you go to Viroflay so often, Karl?”  

“Every day, if I could, my dear; ‘the eye of the master,’ you know — above all, in the care of race-horses. And I have, praise heaven, an eye that sees clearly.”  

“Undoubtedly, my dear,” Marguerite assented calmly, tracing the table-cloth with the tip of her rosy nail; “but Geurin, I trust, will see clearer still. It is really as amusing as a play to me, dearest, to have anything to do with a detective whom they talk so much of as they talk of this Guerin.”  

Two hours later, Karl Silber, lying back in an easy-chair in his office in the Rue Richelieu, smoked, with half-closed eyes, the purest products of the Havana tobacco-fields. Near him, in a chair no less luxurious and with a weed drawn from the same source between his lips, young De Payzac — with a somewhat doubtful past — lolled and talked with wide open eyes, making the most of his position of intimate friend of so rich and renowned a man as the Baron Silber.  

“The fact is, Baron,” said he, continuing the subject upon which he was launched, “you are, or ought to be, the happiest man in Paris to-day. Just think of it, the pot of money you’ve made at a single stroke — more than I would need to amuse me a whole long year.”  

“One would say that fact annoyed you,” Silber returned, lazily, without stirring himself.  

“Annoyed me? Not the least in the world, baron. I’m too much your friend for that. But when I contrast our two destinies! Why, everything in the world succeeds with you. Your business, look at it; it goes like a conflagration. Your racing, too, which heaven knows why you took it into your head to try; whether your own horses win or lose, it matters not; you find a way to win with the horses of others.”  

“In a word,” Silber interrupted, with some show of temper, “you mean to imply, like the rest, that I purposely allow my own horses to be beaten?”  

Payzac continued with an imperturbable calm and a lightly shrugged shoulder.  

“But all of which is as nothing,” said he, “compared with the fact that not only are you the legitimate possessor of the most beautiful woman in Paris, but you also know one not less lovely who lives in a more mysterious quarter of the city.”  

This time the banker sat erect, as if pulled with a spring, and looked about him uneasily.  

“Payzac,” said he, “s-s-sh! You risk too much at times. You, and you only, are to know that side of my life, a secret that must not be noised abroad.”  

“Of course,” said Payzac, “I know it, for to whom else than me do you owe the acquaintance of the fair and beautiful Wanda?”  

“Also the happiness of being loved for myself alone,” assented Silber, gratefully. “That poor foreign girl, with her sensitive soul — positively, Payzac, she loves me like a faithful dog, though I seek always to treat her like a companion and friend. Nothing so binds women to us as letting them believe they fully share in our lives. The Baronne, for instance, who thinks I tell her everything, because I’ve the air of deciding nothing without consulting her. The result? An occupied mind for her and an affection for me — calm, possibly, but solid and devoted.”  

“Who could doubt it?” cried Payzac, fervently, diligently blowing smoke-rings above his head. “But then, as I said, Baron, everything succeeds with you. Your Viroflay combination is simply a masterpiece; which, by the way, reminds me, Silber, that I’ve a favor to ask of you.” And the needy parasite, judging the ground well prepared, came to the true object of his visit.  

A fortnight later the Baron and Baronne were again finishing breakfast in the little breakfast-room where we met them first, and where, now as then, the Baron had just come in from a night at his stables.  

“Haven’t you lost something, Karl?” demanded the Baronne, suddenly, at the same time drawing from her pocket a railroad pass.  

“Parbleu! yes,” said the Baron, “and a hunt I had for it, too, last night. Where did you find it, love?”  

Before the Baronne could answer, the door opened and a servant entered, hearing a card on a salver.  

“Ah, Guerin!” said Karl. “May he come in here, dearest? A personage so potent should be treated like a family friend.”  

And Madame consenting, the world-famed detective was ushered in. Freshly shaven, sedately dressed, monocle in eye, and portfolio in hand, he looked like the head-clerk of a legal firm, and beamed upon his employers with the satisfied air of a bearer of good news.  

“Well, Monsieur,” said the Baronne, in fine humor herself, “have you discovered anything?”  

“Everything, Madame,” Guerin returned calmly, depositing his portfolio on the table. “A curious story it is, too, and with a woman in it, of course, as I thought from the start.” 

“Perhaps, then,” said the Baron, with a meaning look at his wife, “you would desire, monsieur, to be alone with me a while?” 

But Guerin, priding himself upon his skill as a raconteur, and preferring two auditors to one, made signs that he could gloss over things when necessary, and plunged into his story.  

“The truth is, Baron,” said he, alter a little thought, “we never have had a case that gave us so much trouble as this. Usually we have to trail people who, suspecting nothing, take no precautions. Here, on the contrary, all were under cover. It took us nearly a week to learn that Wilhelm, the book-maker of the Rue Vivienne, had a lady-love, and to find out who she was took us longer still, as Wilhelm visits her very irregularly. She is a foreigner — a Polish girl — who lives a secluded life in a little gem of a house in the vicinity of La Muette .”  

“The vicinity of La Muette!” mechanically repeated the Baron, going red and white by turns; “La Muette! — the little wretch!”  

“Yes,” said Guerin, though not comprehending; “but what will interest you most of all is that Wanda — the Polish girl’s name, you know — on certain evenings receives another visitor, and that he — this visitor — comes from your Viroflay stables. You see the mouse in the cheese, do you not, Baron?” and Guerin smiled significantly.  

“The little wretch!” cried Silber again, starting up in his chair.  

“Exactly,” said Guerin, carelessly; “but you would see more than one of the same kind, Baron, were you a week in my place. Well, it is she — this Wanda — who sells to Wilhelm — for a round sum, of course — the secrets of your stable, by which every one profits but you, baron. Nothing remains to be done, now, but to learn the name of this man who gives this girl the information that she, in turn, imparts to the book-maker.”  

“Ah!” said Silber, with sudden vivacity, “you do not know his name then.”  

“And nothing is done after all, then, monsieur,” chimed in the Baronne, with resentful surprise.  

“On the contrary, everything is done, Madame,” firmly declared Guerin, pouring his demi-tasse of brandy into his coffee-cup and draining it at a gulp; “everything, I repeat, because you do not know my agent, Coutourier. This is the way it happened: you see.” 

“But we don’t — we don’t see, Guerin, or want to see, either!” Silber cried, recklessly. “We see too much already — more than is necessary.”  

“On the contrary, M. Guerin,” Marguerite protested, sweetly, “your story is most interesting; proceed, if you please.”  

“Then, as I said,” continued Guerin, “it happened in this way. They go to bed very early at Viroflay, and, last night — other nights, also — when all were asleep, a man slipped out of there with great precautions, went to the station, took a train for Paris, and reached the La Muette house about eleven P. M. Two hours later he came out again, took a fiacre, and was driven back to Viroflay, where his absence had been noticed by no one.”  

“The name of this man — you do not know it, you say?” demanded the Baronne, becoming thoughtful.  

“Not yet, Madame; but…”  

“Pooh!” said Silber, “it must have been my trainer, Hawkins; he’s a great hand for girls and the only man at Viroflay rich enough to have a nest in the Muette quarter.”  

“And has Hawkins a railroad pass, do you know, Baron — as this man last night had?” Guerin pursued, eagerly.  

“A pass? You are sure he had a pass, Monsieur?” cried Marguerite, considering intently the great red face of her husband, suddenly beaded with perspiration.  

“Absolutely, for Coutourier shadowed him all the way from Viroflay, trying to see his face, which he kept concealed, and heard him tell the Saint Lazare officials that he had somehow misplaced it. With a detail like that to work on, it won’t take long to nab the fellow.”  

“M. Guerin,” interrupted the Baronne with sparkling eyes, “no — go no further. We know all we need to know; we shall do the rest. Decidedly, with your assistance one can learn anything!”  

“It is my trade, Madame,” replied Guerin, modestly; “but if Madame likes and has time to spare, there are other details of this business that it would amuse Madame greatly to hear.”  

“Go on; I am not at all hurried. Give us the details, Monsieur,” and Mme. Silber smiled invitingly, with her eyes fixed always on the Baron’s face with an indefinable gaze. Proud of his success and warmed by his demi-tasse of eau-de-vie, Guerin settled back in his chair and crossed his legs comfortably.  

“Two words, Madame,” said he, “and the milk of the cocoa-nut is yours. That Viroflay personage, first befooled by the book-maker and the book-maker’s lady-love, is a second time befooled by his — would you guess it? — by his wife, who has a lover.”  

Guerin paused for the laugh that did not come.  

Silber and his wife were evidently indisposed to hilarity. White as the cloth her fingers drummed on, the Baronne bit her lips and gazed straight before her, and Karl, with an effort to pull himself together, called tremulously for the brandy.  

“Wanda, I must tell you,” continued Guerin, “for my agent watched her house, too — Wanda, of course, numbers among her other friends a certain M. Rene de Payzac.”  

The Silbers started, each in a different way.  

“De Payzac! He makes three, then!” the Baron gasped out, losing all vestige of self-command.  

“Oh, no, not at least as you mean, Baron. Payzac is merely an old friend of Wanda’s, who limits himself now to replenishing his pockets through his one-time idol. Coutourier overheard them one night in the garden, and learned the whole story. He wanted forty louis, and she wouldn’t give them to him, and he threatened, if she didn’t, to tell her ‘ friend ‘ how she sold to the book-maker the secrets of his stable. ‘Tell him if you dare,’ says she, ‘and I will in turn tell him with whom his wife spends her evenings when they believe him safely engaged with his horses!'”  

Guerin broke off to laugh heartily. But still no one imitated him, and vexed at this lack of interest in his amusing “details,” he rose, took his hat, and began a cool adieu. He was tired of talking thus to the walls.  

“What do we owe you, sir?” said Silber, stiffly. “It is useless to trouble you to call here again. We’ll drop this business where it stands.” 

“A thousand francs, Baron,” replied the chief of the Guerin agency; “but the name of the Viroflay unknown — you still lack that?”  

“We do not need it, sir,” growled Silber; “and a thousand francs, Guerin! You’re wrong; you can’t be serious; you’ll surely make a reduction?”  

Guerin did not at once reply; he was carefully selecting a cigar from the box before him. This done, he raised his eyes, fixed them upon the discomfited couple and read the situation.  

“No,” said he, firmly, “a thousand francs, Baron, just as I said. And if you haven’t the worth of your money at that, you are, indeed, hard to please!”  

Whereupon Guerin, the bill buttoned safe in his pocket, smilingly bowed himself out, leaving the Baron, the Baronne, and, unluckily for himself, De Payzac, who chanced in at the moment, to explain things at their ease.  

Translated for the Argonaut from the French of Leon de Tinseau by E. C.  Waggener.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 3 July 1893 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Leon de Tinseau [1844-1921], also known as Count Antoine Joseph Leon Tinseau, was a 19th-century French aristocrat and literary personage, best known for his novels of Parisian manners. Mrs Daffodil thinks that this tale would have furnished a plot tailor-made for one of M. Feydeau’s comic farces.

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