Tag Archives: poison

A Jar of Sugared Fruit: 1869

little girl and grandmother offering sweet

WAS IT INSANITY?

Madame Rosine was sewing some light, dainty stuff; her nervous fingers flashed to and fro in the twilight, and the diamond bracelet on her white arm glistened like the eye of a snake, as she held her needle up to the fading light, and inserted the gossamer thread.

The world generally, I confess, uses women up in about forty years: they shrivel and grow grim and enervated in its atmosphere…But, Madame was an exception; she grew rounder and rosier and plumper every year; every year nature seemed to discover some unfinished beauty in her which she proceeded with artist hand to “touch up.” There was a sense of color, and light and warmth in her stately presence, that fascinated me, as well as her younger pupils.

It was after school-hours, yet Madame, who was a very conscientious teacher, was expounding to me patiently a chapter in Ancient History. A very ancient and profound chapter in the story of the world.

How the old heroes met death; stoically, yet as a king of terror. How the terrible king held high revel in the bleak walls and grave-like secrecy of the inquisition. How men’s lives were wrenched out of them by sheer physical force, and death was made hideous by his association with all that was vile and cruel in man.

“Those were frightful times!” said I with a shudder. “I’m glad we got over them before I was born!”

“We haven’t got over them, my dear,” said Madame, with her courtly smile. “We have arrived at great achievements in medicine, certainly, and great attainments in art. Every year we are conquering the world’s roughness, and making it easier to live—we have yet to perfect the science of death. We are perfecting ourselves in every thing—only in this we are barbarous; we let men gulph out of existence brutishly.”

“It is a difficult field of study, Madame,” said I, “and dangerous.”

“And so,” continued Madame, not noticing the interruption, “not a hand is lifted, not a voice raised; we die hideously, when the passage might be made dewy and fragrant as a walk over a land of flowers. We keep our halt, our sick and suffering, hovering cruelly on the brink of death, when death is inevitable, and no one leads them kindly by the hand down the dismal road. They are left to crawl out of life alone, and open the doors of the other world with their own trembling hands, because we are too cowardly to be courteous; we will not venture to usher them in thither while there is a better life, and glow and pleasure left—we send them out in the dark.”

Madame’s voice grew into a thoughtful whisper, and she looked dreamily out into the twilight, as she said these words.

I looked up at the lady, as she sat there in the flash of the yellow sunset, her silk dress falling about her in shining folds, her dark eye and crimson cheek catching strange luster as she spoke. Yes, she was indeed the model of a Frenchwoman, well dressed, well cared-for, tasteful and philosophic.

Madame Rosine was my teacher; she was also the teacher of my younger sisters, who, during our father’s absence, were left with her in her cottage on the sea-shore.

The cottages on the sea-shore were very sparse; they were let out to strangers during the summer months, who came down to bathe and reinvigorate themselves with the fresh sea air.

She and her old grandmother, a queer, half silly, but kindly old lady, inhabited the little white house just beyond the turn of the hills, where they swept off from the shore, leaving the white line of beach-sand for the waves and the bathers. There were one or two other little pupils, from among the summer residents.

My father thought a deal of Madame’s French; and of her powers of training. And Madame thought a deal of my father. We had been very happy at the cottage this summer; the sunshiny, breezy days had passed like a swift flight of birds that paused to dip their wings in the radiant waters, and vanished beyond the hills.

Madame Rosine arose and approached the doorway which looked out on the far line of beach, and the brimming, heaving sea, tinged with the ruddy light of the departing sun.

“I believe,” said she, “grandmother is getting too old to trust with the children.”

A nodding, smiling old woman in a red kerchief came, leaning on her stick, up the gravel path, a little child toddling on in advance of her.

It was little Fanchette, my sister, with her hands and tiny white apron full of green, shiny seaweed.

She held the dripping mass up to Madame’s gaze as she skipped eagerly forward.

“Me dot a fower!” she cried.

Madame withdrew her silken dress from possible contact: an expression of disgust warped her face. She had sent the little thing out so clean and shining, to be admired by the gazers on the seashore, an attractive exposition of her system and her care.

But with the self-control which she inculcated in her pupils, she checked the expression; her face resumed its courteous complacency as the old woman came slowly up the path.

“I think, grandmother,” said she, “these walks are getting too much for you. The children are too much of a charge—I will accompany them myself next time.”

It was grandmother’s charge to walk with the little ones on the beach of an afternoon, and to take the little day-pupils home. The toddling things liked the old woman well; she was “grandmother” by election to the whole of them, and that she sometimes wandered off with them for half a day or so, did not discredit her claims in their eyes.

“Rosine,” said she, “thou wilt not deprive me of the little ones!” Her old voice quivered.

Madame did not answer. She was busy disgorging Fanchette’s little apron of its contents.

The next day, bright and early, I saw the old grandmother, staff in hand, making her swift way toward the gate, her ruffled cap blowing back in the breeze, and Fanchette, with a many furtive glance backward, trudging valiantly by her side.

I supposed that they were only going down for milk, but school-time came, and Fanchette’s face was absent.

I did not trouble myself much about the child; it was safe and happy, no doubt, and I had my head full of French verbs.

We were expecting my father up that day; he would come in the afternoon train. He usually came out once a week. On that day Madame always wore red ribbons in her hair, and looked younger and more coquettish than usual. She was also very kind to us on those days; we had cakes and sweetmeats for lunch, and made a sort of gala-day of it.

But if my father came and little Fanchette was unaccountably absent—what then?

I saw that Madame grew uneasy as the morning waned, and her uneasiness reflected itself in me. We spent the intervening time between lessons, in walking down to the gate, and glancing up and down the road for the fugitives. Madame had a saintly patience with that childish old grandmother, but it gave way as the day passed, and no sign of them appeared.

“I will go out,” said she, “Sophie, and take a walk along the shore. Doubtless they are there among the shells.”

Madame walked thoughtfully along the shore, while I, less anxious, strolled on, flinging pebbles into the water. The tide was rising; nearer and nearer came the creeping waves; they wetted my feet; they drove me further and further from the beach toward the line of rocks overhanging it.

Just then, where the water and the rocks met, and a tangled mass of scraggy, wild growth overhung the steep ascent, I caught a glimpse, just above my head, of some red, glittering object, and parting the bushes, there lay Fanchette asleep, her rosy face pressed against the stones. A dangerous sleep in such a chamber, when the tide was rising.

“Madame! Madame!” I cried, “I have found her!”

Madame came quickly back; she stretched up her round, strong arms, and caught the child hastily down from its eyrie. She turned homeward without a word; not a word during all the long walk, either to Fanchette or me.

As we reached the cottage gate, who should look up from the porch, and smiling, knock the ashes from her pipe, but the old grandmother.

“Ah, aha!” said she, cunningly, eyeing Madame with that half fearing, half defiant expression which I have seen in the eyes of animals when doubtful of their master’s intentions toward them. “Ah, yes! too hot, too hot, you see, to bring the little one home. Grandmother only left her to cool a little!”

To cool! If Fanchette had not happened to wear her red dress, she might have been cooling under the waves tonight, I thought to myself.

It seemed, however, that Fanchette had strolled away from the old woman, who, in her bewilderment at losing her, and terror of Madame Rosine, had thought of no better way to shield herself than to deny the fact.

Fanchette, all curled and smiling, was ready to be brought in when my father, immediately on his arrival, asked for his favorite child.

We said nothing about her recent adventure.

“I so hate to disturb your dear father, Sophie,” said the complacent Madame, “he has already so much on his mind.”

Madame waited assiduously upon my father on these days, spread his hot biscuit with her own dainty fingers, and showed him an attention which my own sweet mother never did; but I think my father liked it. We were little half-orphans, for my mother had died in giving birth to Fanchette, but Madame often declared she felt like a mother to us.

Madame was alone in the world.

“Monsieur,” said she, sweetly, on the day of my father’s visit, “I am alone; I am very sad; but I feel sure that the good God watches over me and the dear old lady. What, else, should become of us, two poor, lone waifs by the seashore!”

Madame was alone in the world, but she owned the little cottage, or would own it on grandmother’s death, and a snug little sum in the bank, it was said.

My father looked into the lady’s eyes and smiled when she said that so pathetically, and I heard him call her Rosine.

The sunshine streamed over her and little Fanchette, who, wearied with her recent exploits, curled herself up in Madame’s loving arms, and fell fast asleep. A very sweet picture it made, and as my father had something of an artist eye, no doubt it pleased him.

The next day as I walked in the garden, I saw the old grandmother sitting solitary upon a stone; she did not lift her eyes, nor speak to me. The blithe, cheery look that kept her foolish old face like foggy sunshine was all gone out; she looked gray and wrinkled, and sullen.

I did not dare to speak to the old woman when she was in this mood, and strolled on through the garden, among the fallen leaves. Presently, as I stooped among a clump of flowers to gather a low forget-me-not, I heard another footstep rustle the fallen leaves, and Madame passed swiftly, without seeing me.

She was evidently looking for her grandmother. I heard her utter a low exclamation when she came upon the wretched object sitting there alone. Oh, but this was a trying old woman! and Madame certainly had a saintly patience with her!

I trembled in my hiding-place when I heard Madame’s voice speaking sternly and gravely in French; so severely I had never heard her voice sound before, but I did not catch the words.

As I passed out again, when the conversation ceased, the old woman still sat crouching on her stone; her face had a cowed, scared look, and she shrunk away from me.

She continued thus sullen and solitary for days, occasionally varying her grimness by a flight to the sea-shore, whence she would have to be brought home by the maid-servant, or by Madame herself. Or she would sit for long, monotonous hours in the doorway, neither knitting nor smoking as her wont.

The children shunned her; by one leap their old favorite had taken herself out of the cheery little circle of their lives, and become a thing mysterious and apart. Not a child came up to her for a kiss, or to show her new primer, or bring her a flower to smell; they eyed her askance and walked away.

Certainly this old woman, growing into a specter, was making an ominous reputation for the school, and undoing all Madame’s patient labor for success.

Yet Madame Rosine’s saintly patience and politeness was a model to her pupils; she took her own shawl of an evening, and wrapped it about grandmother’s shoulders; the crimson shawl that grandmother used to covet.

“The dear old mother,” she said, “one would fain make her comfortable, if one only could. My dear Sophie, we must always respect the aged, be they ever so ungrateful.”

Ungrateful, indeed, the old lady was; when Madame’s jeweled fingers pressed her angular shoulders with the luxurious shawl dropping down its ruddy folds, the recipient of this kindness repelled her with a gesture of aversion. She got up feebly, and put the crimson drapery from her. After that she hobbled off to bed.

Madame’s eye followed her as she left the room, with a glance of philosophic consideration, as if meditating the possibility of further experiments in her behalf.

After this the old woman kept her bed most of the time; but she had a notion that she would not be treated us a child; a dainty cloth was therefore spread in her room at meal-times, and Madame herself prepared an orderly repast to set before her. The old lady would sit up at the table, querulous and provoking, but eat nothing; some time afterward I would hear her shuffling feet coming down the stairway to sit in the ashes of the kitchen, where she munched a mouthful with the servant, betaking herself back in terror if she heard Madame’s stately step approaching.

But gradually she gave up that; she grew whiter and thinner, and finally kept her bed altogether.

We were sent up in the afternoons to pay our respects to her, shrinking back in childish awe from the spectral figure bolstered up before us, and making our courtesies brief as possible.

One day she seemed to rouse up a little as we entered; she nodded her withered head to us in its wide-frilled cap, and apparently wished to speak; but we could not understand the mumbling words, and shrank nervously toward the door.

The old woman lifted with her trembling hands a gaudy tulip from a vase on the table, and held it toward Fanchette. Fanchette could not withstand the temptation; she faltered slowly, slowly up, and took the flower from the shaking, bony hand; then the wrinkled donor smiled, a wrinkled, quavering, ghost of a smile, and placed her hand on the child’s curling head. Fanchette was not thinking of her old friend much; her childish eyes were wandering over the white-spread table, whose array of jelly and other good things was far more attractive. A nice white bowl of gruel stood near the edge; she stretched up on her tiny tiptoes and peered into it.

The sunshine streamed in over the snowy table, the clean old woman and the gaily-dressed child. We stood at the door and looked, but did not approach. Overcoming all her scruples, the little epicure had mounted to a chair. The invalid drew the table slowly toward her. Apparently she had a whim that they should have a meal together; these two children, the one hoary-headed, the other with her downy, sunshiny hair just lighting with a golden luster her infantile head, used to be attached to each other once; the old attraction seemed to be coming up again as they sat sunning together.

With her trembling hands the old woman took some sugared fruit from a jar, and held it all glistening with crystal sweetness toward the child.

The sight was too much for those of us who did not want to appear covetous, and had outgrown the ingenuousness of childhood.

We politely withdrew.

Madame was on the stairs as we came out; apparently she had been waiting. She, good lady, was always so anxious about us.

“Fanchette ?” she said, quickly, seeing, as we swept out into the garden, that the little one was missing.

We pointed merrily up the stairs, and I saw Madame gather up her long robe and rush up swiftly like a young girl.

I can not tell what had come over me in regard to Madame lately; I took a strange, dreamy interest in every thing she did, and watched her with an apparently motiveless fascination. Why did she hurry up stairs so? Would we, would Fanchette be punished for staying too long with the old lady? Or for touching her dainties, which we had been forbidden to do? An interesting woman, my father always said; and she had become so to me.

***

The old lady was dead. Her troublesome, querulous life had flickered out at last. She lay up stairs folded in the linen so long prepared for her. She had died in the night. Madame, who had sat up all that long solemn night, looked worn and white this morning; she had dark lines under her eyes, and was strangely restless and uneasy, as people are apt to be who have overtasked their strength.

“I so wanted the poor soul to die easy, Sophie,” said she to me, who, being the oldest pupil, was honored with Madame’s confidence occasionally.

As we stood in the breezy, white draped room, and looked at the solemn face from which death had swept out all the silliness and insignificance, there was a stir of the gauzy window-drapery. Madame started: it was only little Fanchette, who peered in with curious, frightened face, and sped away.

Madame called the child, but she would not return; she held aloof from Madame all that day, and would not be caressed or cared for, though it appeared to me she did not look well. But children have queer and eccentric instincts, and Fanchette was an odd child. She wandered about in the garden, and eyed us askance all day, like a bird that has alighted among strangers a moment, and will take wing presently.

When I came down the stairway I found Fanchette sitting in the sunny porch. “Come in, darling,” said I, “to luncheon. We’ve got something good.”

Fanchette was a little epicure; “something good” always won her heart. This time she did not stir. “Me dot somesin dood,” said she. She put her tiny hand in her tiny pocket, and drew out the confection old grandmother had given her yesterday. The cunning little one, arrested by Madame’s entrance in the midst of her dainty revel with the old woman, had pocketed the delicacy.

“It will make you sick, Fanchette,” said I, prudently.

“Did it make granny sick?” said the child, turning her feverish little face up toward the window where her dead friend lay.

I did not answer. Madame called me, and I left the child to her feast.

The pupils were all running wild with the liberty and change death made in the house. I had to assist in keeping the little things quiet, and I had to go to the village for Madame. The death of the poor old woman had upset the usual routine altogether.

When I returned, I saw Fanchette lying curled up among the honeysuckle leaves; the shadow of them flickered over her red dress. The child was asleep. Madame came hastily out to see how I had succeeded with my shopping; she stopped as she saw Fanchette lying there.

“The child,” said she, “will get her death! Run up with the things, Sophie, and I will wake her up.”

Anxious to show my purchases, I waited impatiently in the upper chamber. Apparently, it took a long time to wake Fanchette.

I listened. A cry rang through the house that thrilled me to my finger-ends, and some one came staggering heavily up, as if burdened with a dead weight.

It was Madame; her white face blanched to a death-like hue; her eyes set. The burden she carried was Fanchette.

“Oh, God?” she cried, “who will make death easy for me!”

 For little Fanchette was dead.

***

The line of demarcation between sanity and insanity physicians tell us is very difficult to discern. It melts off indistinctly between the passions, the emotions, and even the intellectual and philosophic processes of the mind.

This woman was sane when she essayed to study the problem of death. But when the little innocent child unwittingly entered through the door which she had dared to open for the decrepit and miserable old woman, reason, long clouded with subtle and metaphysical arguments, went out in the gust. Its light never was relit.

The cottage by the sea-shore, where Fanchette had partaken of the death feast whose subtle poisons Madame had prepared with skillful hands, is deserted and in ruins. But to the moping maniac, whose cell I sometimes visit, Fanchette and the old grandmother are often present; they come together, hand in hand, whispering and eyeing her together.

A. M. Hoyt

Beadle’s Monthly, Volume 3, 1869: p.524-529

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Moping maniac,” indeed… It seems a shocking lapse of judgement on the part of the philosophic and conscientious Madame Rosine—so enchanted with dewy and fragrant death—that she did not think to reserve a sweet or two from the old lady’s jar for use in an emergency.

 

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

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

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The Undertaker’s Revenge: c. 1930s

The Lowry Mausoleum in Ironton, Ohio.

The Lowry Mausoleum in Ironton, Ohio.

Today’s guest-narrator tells the bizarre and gruesome story of an undertaker’s revenge.

The story began innocently enough in Ironton, Ohio in 1933, when Dr. Joseph Lowry was found dead in his bed. He was thought to have had a stroke and was laid to rest next to his late wife in his $40,000 mausoleum in Woodland Cemetery. His estate amounted to around $300,000.

Official suspicions were first aroused when a key to a safe deposit box was found in the Lowry house, but the box could not be located. It was whispered that several of Lowry’s strong boxes had been emptied by his sister Alice Barger and nephew Clark, who were said to have borrowed money from Lowry in the past. An autopsy was ordered, but on the exhumation morning when the authorities needed a key to the mausoleum, the Bargers were nowhere to be found. Eventually the authorities burned a hole through the heavy metal doors with a welding torch.

Dr. Lowry’s body was autopsied at a local funeral home. There was no sign of a stroke. In addition to previously unnoticed marks of asphyxiation, a surprise awaited. …

But Mrs Daffodil will let the author tell the story in her own discursive way:

Many years ago I ran across a story called “The Coffin with the Plate Glass Front or The Undertaker’s Revenge” by Jean Dolan, which was part of the Ohio Valley Folk Research Project, a collection of locally-collected folk-tales. Part of the story concerned a doctor disemboweled by an undertaker, which, as I am a lover of the grim and gruesome, I filed away for future reference, assuming it was just a folktale.

Then, as I was writing Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio, I spoke with a genealogy librarian from Briggs-Lawrence County Public Library in Ironton, Ohio. She told me about some of the hauntings at the library and mentioned something about a disemboweled doctor who had formerly lived on the site.

Alarm bells went off. I had assumed the story was just a story, but the librarian graciously sent me newspaper clippings about the sensational story to prove that it wasn’t a fake.

Was he murdered? Why were his insides removed? Here we enter into the realm of conjecture. What follows is entirely speculative, based on local hearsay, gossip, and innuendo, sometimes a more reliable source of truth than the most carefully sworn testimony:

The story goes that when Dr. Lowry’s wife Sarah died in 1931, he ordered a very expensive, custom-made polished wood coffin. When it arrived, it had a slight scratch. Dr. Lowry noticed it at once. The undertaker murmured that it could easily be repaired. The French polisher could be on the job within the hour….

Dr. Lowry cut him short. It wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t be imposed upon with shoddy, second-rate goods. He insisted on being shown the coffins in stock and selected one, a top-of-the-line model, to be sure, with the genuine imitation mahogany veneer but a good deal less costly than the custom-made coffin. Dr. Lowry knew perfectly well that the custom coffin could be fixed but perhaps he was having second thoughts about the Dear Departed, or it may have been one of those minor economies that keep the rich richer than you and me.

The undertaker had not insisted on payment when the order was placed. He went home with a splitting headache and his wife put cool cloths on his forehead while he railed against the miserly doctor. He was his usual unctuous professional self by the time he next saw the doctor at the funeral. But he had the coffin taken up into the loft of the carriage house and covered with a horse blanket. On sleepless nights he brooded over the unpaid coffin invoice.

So when the news came that Dr. Lowry was dead, the undertaker danced a little jig of delight. He had sworn that Lowry would go to go his eternal rest in that expensive casket but it had been made for the Doctor’s wispy little wife and the dead man’s bulging midsection made it impossible to close the lid. Piece of cake, said the undertaker, preening himself on his ingenuity.  He simply scooped out the internal organs, shoveled in a few handfuls of excelsior, stitched up the now much‑diminished belly, and voila! Not only was the coffin a perfect fit but the old man looked trimmer than he had ever looked in life. The heirs congratulated him on how well the old man looked. Only a few people seemed puzzled by the corpse’s diminished height. Oh well, they went away thinking, the dead always look smaller… It had been a simple matter to take up the old man’s legs a bit so the undertaker could cram him into the coffin crafted for the five-foot Sarah.

Soon, however, rumors began to fly around the town that the old man’s death wasn’t altogether a natural one. There was some suspicion that someone had helped the old boy along—either by poison or a pillow over the face.

Dr. Lowry was removed from his $40,000 mausoleum in his plate-glass-fronted coffin. The autopsy revealed a startling secret, but not the one expected. When questioned, the undertaker admitted that he’d taken a few liberties with the old man’s innards. Motivated entirely by spite, he said cheerfully. The undertaker led the authorities to the place he’d buried the remains of the Doc, but the parts in question were too far gone to be analyzed for poison.  Any possible case against the heirs was dismissed for lack of evidence.

It is said that Dr Lowry haunts the Briggs-Lawrence County Public Library in Ironton—the site of Dr Lowry’s former home where he was found dead….He has also been seen roaming the cemetery in search of his missing insides.

Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio, Chris Woodyard

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is grateful for her guest’s ghost story contribution. Another story involving a doctor, poison, a ghost, and entrails, may be found at the Haunted Ohio blog. One wonders if the disemboweled Dr Lowry’s ghost could have been placated by the substitution of ersatz entrails: trimmings from a local slaughterhouse perhaps or bits of an opossum run over by a motor-car?

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

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

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

 

The Ghost of a Poisoned Princess: Naples: c. 1895

The Bay of Naples with Vesuvius in the Distance.

The Bay of Naples with Vesuvius in the Distance.

There was something in the atmosphere of the Villa Crawford which always made people wish to tell of the most interesting things that had ever happened to them. Sitting out on the great terrace after dinner, listening to the waves lapping against the rocks, a sheer three hundred feet below, watching the moonlight fling its silver witchery over that magic sea while distant Naples showed like a chaplet of wet pearls on the curve of the bay, and Vesuvius threw out its angry glow and an occasional tongue of flame, confidences that would have shunned the light of day were murmured over the coffee and cigarettes. The “Principino,” as he was still called, began by railing at the adverse fate which condemned him to pass so much of his time in Naples.

“Is it not too absurd,” he exclaimed, “that I, who detest Naples, and love Turin, am the Prince of Naples and have got to live in Naples, while my cousin who adores the place and hates Turin, is the Count of Turin and is condemned to live there!”

“And what is the matter with Naples that you dislike it so much, Monseigneur?”

“Oh, I don’t know — it is not my atmosphere, I suppose. I belong in the North and I cannot take to Southern ways. Besides, I had a very distressing experience in Naples. I got a shocking fright there! Yes, a real fright — and that is an emotion which I shall never forget.”

This was too promising an opening to neglect and after a little persuasion the Prince related the following story, of which all the incidents except those concerning himself were more or less known to my brother, for they centred round a tragedy which had attained the unenviable fame of a “cause celebre.”

“The heroine and victim of it was a certain Princess M__ a young girl of great wealth and beauty, and unhappily for her, an orphan, living under the guardianship of her uncle and aunt, who, until she should marry, or come of age, were to administer her fortune for her. As the time approached for one or both of these events to take place, the passion of avarice excited in her guardians by her great possessions became so overwhelming that they felt they could never part with their use of them. They did not apparently arrive at murder point all at once; they compromised by marrying her to a young man of their own choice, who, it was understood, was not to interfere with their administration of the estates. But either he turned restive when he was in a position to do so, or, (as seems most likely) their increasing cupidity could no longer brook any bar to absolute and complete possession. During her short married life, which was not a happy one, the Prince of Naples formed a strong friendship for the rather friendless girl, and the news of her alarmingly sudden death, reaching him during his own absence from the town, was a great shock to him. Those around him, anxious to spare his feelings, took care that he should not hear the circumstances of her end, which, there was no doubt, had been a violent one. 

“Having left her own house, perfectly well, to visit her uncle and aunt, she became mortally ill on her return home and died a few hours later in fearful pain and with every symptom of poisoning, black spots appearing on her skin and her face becoming horribly disfigured. The southern horror of death hurried the poor child into her grave before any proper investigation had taken place, the hastily summoned physicians believing her death to be the result of an accident and not wishing to wound her husband’s feelings by insisting on an autopsy.

“But, when on the reading of her will, it became known that she had left her entire fortune unconditionally to her well-beloved uncle and aunt, public indignation was aroused and a trial ensued. But it was impossible to convict the offenders; there is nothing so difficult to obtain in the South as evidence; the fear of retaliation on the part of their families is too great. The widower appeared unwilling to implicate them, and it was thought that his silence was probably due to some nefarious pre-matrimonial arrangement of which the Princess’ late guardians could produce the proof. The prosecution finally fell through and the murderers — as they were generally accounted to be — left in quiet possession of their blood stained gains.

“It was some two months after the Princess M—’s death, that the Prince of Naples, from whom, as I have said, the more painful details of her end had somehow been kept, was returning to his quarters alone one night, his road taking him past Palazzo M—. ‘It was towards one o’clock in the morning,’ he said, ‘ and a full moon was making the city light as day. I left my cab, as was my custom, at the bottom of the street, and went up on foot, on the side opposite Palazzo M—. I was not thinking of Princess M— at that moment, being merely in haste to reach my quarters. As I passed the palace I noticed that a woman was standing on the central balcony (one story above ground) leaning over and looking out towards Capri, her figure very clear in the moonlight against the closed shutters behind her. I did not glance at her a second time, but passed on, and it was not until I had gone some distance further up the street that a question presented itself to my mind. Those shutters were tightly closed; the fastenings were all on the inside; how could that woman have got out on to the balcony? I resolved to go back and find out, for I was really puzzled. Retracing my steps I halted in the middle of the street directly before the balcony and looked up. Then my blood froze in my veins, for standing there, gazing down at me, was my dead friend, with the most mournful expression I have ever seen on a human countenance. Her eyes were fixed on mine with entire recognition and some sad appeal which her lips were not permitted to frame. Thus we stood confronting each other while some minutes must have passed. I had time to convince myself that I had been right — that the window behind her was tightly closed from within. The unusually bright moonlight showed me every detail of her appearance. She was dressed in white, there were dark, livid looking patches on her face and hands, and also on her dress. I particularly noticed her hands, for the moonlight played brilliantly on a large ruby ring which I had never seen her wear.

“Suddenly she disappeared and I was alone, staring at the empty balcony and the tightly closed shutters. We of the House of Savoy are not cowards, but in that moment I learnt what fear was; my knees were giving way under me and it was all that I could do to reach my quarters on foot. May I never have such another experience!

“After that I insisted on learning all the particulars of Princess M— ‘s death. You know what they were. For some unexplained reason she had been buried, wearing that ruby ring.”

A Diplomatist’s Wife in Many Lands, Mrs Hugh Fraser 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Prince of Naples or “Principino,” was Victor Emmanuel [1869-1947], later King of Italy. The Prince of Naples title is similar to our Prince of Wales so he was the “princeling” or perhaps “the little prince.” (His majesty was a diminutive man.)  He seems to refer to himself in the third person at the start, as if distancing himself from events, but is compelled into the first person by his horror at the apparition.

Mrs Fraser’s diplomat-wife’s discretion and dashes make it difficult to locate the victim or the precise date of this story. Born Mary Crawford, Mrs Fraser was brought up in Italy and it was there that she met her husband. They were married in 1874, posted to Peking and Vienna and returned to Rome in 1882.

Located at Sant’ Agnello, Sorrento, the Villa Crawford, was formerly the Villa Renzi, but was renamed when he purchased it in 1885 by the author Francis Marion Crawford, Mrs Fraser’s brother, who was famous for his weird tales. Mrs Fraser was posted with her husband to Chile in 1885, then to Tokyo in 1889 so this tale was probably spun after she had returned to Italy after her husband’s death in 1894.  In 1896 Crawford published a book called Taquisara, about an aunt and uncle attempting to poison their niece, an Italian Princess. The author obviously used the facts of the cause celebre in his roman à clef.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that she has not found the story of the real poisoned princess, which is a pity, as Mrs Daffodil has a professional interest in the subject. There are some very useful poisons to be found in Italy.

Saturday Snippets: 20 July 2013: Butter colour poison, 1910 tattoo removal, coffins on a shaving mug, a blighted bride, refreshing summer drink receipt.

 

Saturday Snippets for a Sultry Saturday

Saturday Snippets for a Sultry Saturday

The following laconic epistle may be seen in the window of a London cofeeshop: “Stolen from this window a china cup and saucer; the set being now incomplete, the thief may have the remainder at a bargain.” Brooklyn [NY] Eagle 11 April 1863: p. 4

 Sorrowful

Medical man. “Come, come, my dear madam, there is evidently something wrong; make a confidant of me.”

Blighted bride: “Well, doctor, it was always my great ambition (sob) to be the wife of a dry-goods (sob) merchant, and now I have thrown myself away upon a hardware (sob) dealer, and, although the dear fellow is as kind as he can be, (sob) and brings me home any quantity of scissors and files, and door-knobs and things, yet what are these to the (sob) wounded spirit that expected oceans of brocade and point lace?” (sob, sob, sob.)The Alleghenian [Ebensburg, PA] 9 August 1860: p. 1

Coffins on His Shaving-Cup

A young man in want of a shave recently went into a little barber-shop in Harlem, sat down in a chair, leaned back, and was about to shut his eyes to keep the lather out, when they fell upon an array of wonderfully decorated shaving-cups. On one was the picture of a hearse flanked by two upright coffins; on another was a dummy engine standing on a section of the elevated road, and others displayed pictures of a milk-wagon, a tombstone, a saw or a trowel. The barber explained that the hearse-and-coffin cup belonged to an undertaker with an eye to business, who had got enough custom from his novel advertisement to pay his shaving bill for the next ten years. An engineer on the elevated road owned the cup with the dummy engine on it. The other cups belonged to a milk-dealer, a stone-cutter, a carpenter, and a bricklayer. The barber said he had an order for a cup from a neighboring shoemaker which would eclipse all the other cups. It would contain a tiny photography of the shoemaker on a swinging sign bearing his name and the legend, “Repairing Neatly Done.” Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 19 July 1885:  p. 11.

What Bad Butter Color Can Do

Another case of fatal poisoning from swallowing “less than a teaspoonful” of a butter color supposed to contain some preparation of coal tar is recorded. The victim was a 2-year-old boy of Chippewa County, Wis., who was discovered in the act of tasting the contents of a bottle containing the color. It was taken away from him almost instantly, but the mother was not greatly alarmed (supposing that a material sold for use in butter could hardly be dangerous), and did not send for a physician until four hours later, when the child began to vomit. Collapse and coma followed, succeeded by an agonizing death in the afternoon of the next day.  Am. Cheesemaker. Logansport [IN] Pharos 30 August 1898: p. 7

 UNUSUAL OPERATION

St. Louis, March 6. Claude Chappell has had two square inches of skin covered with tattoo marks removed from the back of each hand at a hospital here. Skin from another part of the body was grafted on the hands. Chappell is an accountant and has trouble in getting work because of the tattoo marks, which were pricked in while he was making the trip around the world in the battleship squadron. Boston [MA] Journal 7 March 1910: p. 4 

A COOL AND REFRESHING SUMMER DRINK

From the receipt book of a Western member of Congress.

The following is said to make a pleasant beverage: Take one pint of whiskey, stir in one spoonful of whiskey; add one pint of whiskey and beat well with a spoon.

Take one gallon of water and let a servant carry it away beyond your reach; then put two spoonfuls of water in a tumbler, immediately throw it out and fill with whiskey. Flavor with whiskey to suit your taste.

When it is to be kept long in warm climates, add sufficient spirit to prevent souring. The Alleghenian [Ebensburg, PA] 9 August 1860: p. 1

 Love may be blind, but no one has as yet discovered that its hearing is impaired. Girls who have given themselves up to the habit of warbling Pinafore airs should line their seal hats with this. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 2 January 1880: p. 4

 A Few Errata.

  A number of errors crept into the story on the first page of last week’s issue, writes A. W. Bellew, in The Yankee Blade, the printer being intoxicated and the editor being off, that is to say, off on a hunting expedition:

  For “she fell into a river,” read “reverie.”

  For “he wore red headed hair,” read “he was an hereditary heir.”

  For “in front of the mansion he had the bull pup,” read “to pull up.”

  For “darling, this is your nasal morn,” read “natal.”

  For “I never was awfully hungry in my life,” read “angry.”

  For “you say she ate me with a smile,” read “satiate.”

  For “she did not for a moment cease her violent trombone,” read “trembling.”

  For “he gently threw her played out shawl around her, “read “plaid.”

  For “some said it was the spinage meningitis,” read “spinal”

For Herbert, I know you rascal,” etc., read “risk all.”

  For “she saw his lip grip ale,” read “grow pale.”

  For “is it possible! And me owe for board, with nothing to sustain me,” read “overboard”.

  For “he threw both arms around her ancient maiden aunt,” etc.; period after “her.”

  For “but my age must be renumbered,” read “remembered.”

  For “her heart was filled with et ceteras,” read “ecstasies.”

  For’ You are my last darling,” read “lost.”

  For “I am thin, I am wholly thin,” read “thine.” Newark [OH] Daily Advocate  28 November 1888: p. 4

LATEST INVENTION FOR ROBBING.

The most impudent occurrence that we have ever yet heard of in the art of robbery is thus related in a Paris paper:—A lady went the other day into a shop in the Rue Richelieu to buy a cashmere shawl, and, having arranged the price, took from her purse a bank-note, and was in the act of handing it to the cashier’s counter, when a man, who had been observed watching her at the shop door, rushed in, struck the lady, and snatching the note from her hand, exclaimed, “I have already forbidden you to buy a shawl, but will watch you, and you shall not have one.” He then went out of the shop, and the lady fainted away. On her revival, the master of the shop began to condole with her on this scene of violence, and regretted she had so brutal a husband. “My husband!” cried the lady, “I never saw the man before.” It turned out that she had been robbed; pursuit was instantly made after the audacious rogue, but it was all in vain; he had got clear off. Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine, Volume 13, 1861

THE latest thing in bon-bons are wink-drops, which appear innocent enough to the uninitiated, but are dainty little sugared receptacles for holding such stimulants as wine, brandy, or French liqueur. It is said that their consumption is growing to an alarming extent, fashionable women being the principal consumers. Godey’s Lady’s Book January 1896

Dog Trained to Steal

A woman was arrested in Paris for shoplifting not long ago, and it was noticed that she carried a bright looking King Charles spaniel on her arm. The police happened to examine the pup rather carefully, and were surprised to find that it was trained to help the woman at her trade. The dog was schooled to snatch a piece of lace in its mouth and then hide its head under the woman’s arm.  Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 22 October 1905: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil fervently hopes that her readers have serviceable fans and cakes of ice to recline upon in this beastly summer heat. Over at the Haunted Ohio blog you will find a suggestion for telling when the weather is about to break by using the Leech Barometer, a handy prognosticating tool which one can make at home. The necessary blood-sucking creatures may be acquired by consulting one’s medical man or by standing bare-legged in a farm pond or lake.

Saturday Snippets: 15 June 2013: A voice from the grave, indulgent papas, the Vendor of Paternity, fathers’ ghosts

fatherson

Mrs Daffodil has scoured the papers for items for Father’s Day week-end, finding tales of fathers good, bad, and ghostly.

A VOICE FROM THE GRAVE

How a Young Woman Heard Her Father’s Speech in a Phonograph

A pathetic story is that told in connection with the phonograph. A judge in a southern state came to Cincinnati not long ago, says a writer in the Commercial. He had never heard the phonograph. When he visited an office he spoke into the funnel and was amazed and amused to hear his own voice repeated afterward through the tubes of the machine.

Two days after he returned home he died suddenly. His daughter came to Cincinnati on business, and while here a friend took her to hear a phonograph. It was a curious coincidence that she should have been escorted to the very office her father had visited but a short time before. The young woman, who was in deep mourning, was very much entertained by some of the musical selections the phonograph repeated.

The operator afterward picked up a cylinder from a pile, placed it in the phonograph and said: “listen to this.” The young woman placed the tubes again to her ear, the bar was pulled out, and the cylinder began to revolve. Before a dozen words had been repeated the woman in black swooned. Not until she recovered was the cause of her fainting known.

The voice that had come to her ears from the phonograph was that of her dead father. It was as a voice from the grave. She afterward purchased a phonograph and the cylinder containing her father’s speech was given to her. It is carefully cherished in her southern home. Chicago Herald (Chicago, IL) 25 February 1891: p. 6 

IDENTITY ASCERTAINED.— The identity of the dead soldier who was found on the bloody field of Gettysburg, with the picture of his three pretty little children tightly clasped in his hands, has been ascertained within a day or two. The wide publicity given to the touching circumstances through the medium of the press produced the desired result. The name of the deceased was Hummiston, and his widow and three children reside at Portville, Cattaraugus County, New York. Large numbers of photographic copies of the picture upon which the dying eyes of the warrior-father closed have been sold, and the profits realized from their sale will be appropriated to the benefit of the children. It is hoped that a sufficient sum may be realized in this way, and by future sales, to aid materially in the education of the little ones who were made orphans at Gettysburg. Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1864 

An Unnatural Father.

“My dear,” she said, as he finally laid down his paper, “how did your last deal in wheat come out?”

“Lost about $20,000,” he growled.

“Why you said you were sure of making $50,000.”

“So I was, but I didn’t.”

“That’s a downright shame. You know that Nellie is to marry the Count Italiani, and that he wants $50,000 for his title.”

“Can’t help that.”

“Well, it’s awful mean. Nellie is waiting for her count, and the count is waiting for his money, and here you drop $20,000 as if your daughter’s happiness was the last thing to be thought of. I don’t think you have a father’s heart in you.”

Evening News [San Jose, CA] 12 January 1886: p. 4

For a curious profession, and one which is little known, commend us to the Parisian Vendor of Paternity. He appears to be an individual who takes upon himself the risk of severe punishment if detected in the carrying out of his business, which is to stand in the place of a father to young men who wish to marry and cannot get the sanction of their parents. The Vendor of Paternity here steps in and goes through all the formalities at the Mayor’s office. Marion [OH] Daily Star 13 May 1901 

In one of our sleeping-cars in American there was an old bachelor who was annoyed by the continued crying of a child and the ineffectual attempts of the father to quiet it. Pulling aside the curtain and putting out his head, he said: “Where is the mother of that child? Why doesn’t she stop that nuisance?” The father said very quietly: “The mother is in the baggage-car in her coffin; I am traveling home with the baby. This is the second night I have been with the child, and the little creature is worrying for its mother. I am sorry if its plaintive cries disturb any one in this car.” Wait a minute,” said the old bachelor. The old man got up and dressed himself, and compelled the father to lie down and sleep, while he took the babe himself. The old bachelor stilling the cry of that babe all night was a hero. And the man who for the sake of others, gives up a lawful gratification in his own house in the social circle, is as great a hero as though he stood upon the battlefield. J.B. Gough. Elkhart [IN] Weekly Review 22 January 1880: p. 6

Equal to the Occasion.

She is a cute little Detroit girl of 7, and the proprietor of the store at which she called is a great friend of the family, says The Free Press.

“How much for one of these picture books?” she inquired of him.

“Just two kisses,” for he wanted to make her a present.

“I’ll take six,” she said in a cool, businesslike way as she tucked them under her arm and started for the door. “Papa will call and settle.”

The proprietor would like to have discharged have a dozen clerks that appreciated the scene, but it was the busy season. Sandusky [OH] Star 22 February 1899: p. 2

 FATHER’S GHOST WHISPERED

New York, July 13. Mrs. Ida Shaper of Brooklyn told a magistrate her father’s ghost had appeared and whispered that Mrs. Clara Steiner had stolen her diamond ring. Mrs. Steiner was held. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 12 July 1913: p. 3 

What Van Left Off

Van is 4 years old and very proud of the fact that he can dress himself in the morning, all but the buttons “that run up and down ahind.”

Van isn’t enough of an acrobat yet to make his small fingers thus do duty between his shoulder blades. So he backs up to papa and gets a bit of help.

  One morning Van was in a great hurry to get on to some important work he had on hand—the marshaling of an army or something of the sort. So he hurried to get into his clothes, and of course they bothered him, because he was in a hurry and didn’t take as much pains as usual. Things would get upside down, “hind side ‘fore,” while the way the arms and legs of these same things got mixed was dreadful to contemplate. So I am afraid it was not a very pleasant face that came to papa for the finishing touches.

“There, everything is on now,” shouted Van.

“Why, no, Van,” said papa soberly. “You haven’t put everything on yet.”

Van carefully inspected all his clothes, from the tips of his small toes up to the broad collar about his neck. He could find nothing wanting.

  ‘You haven’t put your smile on yet,” said papa, with the tiny wrinkles beginning to creep about his own eyes. “Put it on, Van, and I’ll button it up for you.”

  And if you will believe me Van began to put it on then and there. After that he almost always remembered that he couldn’t really call himself dressed for the day until he had put a sunny face atop the white collar and the necktie. Sandusky [OH] Star February 22, 1899 p. 2 

A Hungarian boy, believing his father’s ghost was stoning the home at night, dug up and burned the corpse. Denver [CO] Post 7 November 1902: p. 12 

BOY SEES FATHER’S GHOST; TAKES POISON

Muncie, April 5. Terrorized, as he said, by the nightly visits of his father’s ghost to his bedside, the father having committed suicide three years ago, Edward Wilson, 11, drank a quantity of laudanum, and was found apparently dying, but his life may be saved. He fought those who tried to save him. The boy complained that his father’s spirit has been coming to his bedside and laying its icy hand upon his brow. Cincinnati [OH] Post 5 April 1909: p. 2 

The Apparition in the Elevator

Some years ago a young man came to Chicago from Germany. His father had cut him off from his annuity. He lived in the same house where I lived. He finally obtained a place in one of the big grain elevators here. I do not know what the place was except that he had something to do on the top floor, away up under the roof.  Several men were employed with him in the same place. One day while he was dusting he suddenly stopped and asked his assistants who that nicely dressed old man was that was standing back there by the shaft. Strangers are never allowed in these big elevators, and to see one there well dressed was enough to excite comment. His companions looked in the direction indicated and said they saw no one. He insisted, and when they laughed at him he went to the place where he saw the figure standing. On his approach it vanished.

The young man fainted. He recovered and then asked his companions to make a note of the occurrence, the date and the time of day. He said the figure he saw was that of his father. In twelve days he received a letter from the old country telling him of his father’s death. The date and time agreed with the date and time of the occurrence I have described. The letter informed him that his father had forgiven him and remembered him in his will. He returned to the fatherland, got his portion of the estate and is living there now. You may say what you please, but I have never felt like scoffing from the time I heard this story. The spirit of that boy’s father appeared to him on the top floor of that elevator. Eugene Field in Chicago News. Idaho Statesman [Boise, ID] 25 December 1891: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: For a story of the mysterious image of a father and his favourite child who appeared in the window-glass of a house of mourning, please visit the Haunted Ohio blog for today. Mrs Daffodil wishes for her readers the fondest and most indulgent of Papas and extends the compliments of the day to all such gentlemen.

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 Woman With the Ounce of Arsenic: 1894

Victorian Poison Bottle

Victorian Poison Bottle

THE WOMAN WITH THE OUNCE OF ARSENIC

A Drug-store stood at the Fourth Avenue corner of the street in which I boarded. One evening of that winter of 1870 I entered to buy some soda-mint tablets. The only clerk in the place appeared pre-occupied until I mentioned the word ‘soda,’ when he started from his reverie and ran to a shelf at the back of the shop. Then he wrung his hands and became hysterical. In a piteous voice, he stammered that an hour before a woman had bought an ounce of baking-soda.

‘I weighed out the proper quantity, and gave it to her,’ he continued frantically. ‘But, O my God! I took it from the wrong bottle! We’ve been taking stock and the bottles aren’t in their usual places. I’m not myself to-day—had a quarrel with my sweetheart last night—she’s refused to see me again! We’ve been engaged.’

‘That doesn’t interest me,’ I broke in. ‘What have you done?’

‘Done? Oh, yes. Great heavens! When a man’s in love he ought to give up business. Why?’

‘True enough,’ I shouted at the half-crazed chap, scenting a news story of some kind; ‘but what blunder have you committed?’

‘I’ve given the woman an ounce of arsenic, instead of soda!’

‘Good Lord! Report the accident to the police at once. Shut the shop and come with me to the stationhouse,’ I commanded.

As we ran along the avenue, I scanned the face of every woman we met. As we dashed into the Thirtieth Street station-house, the six o’clock relief was going on post. We told our story to the lieutenant, adding that the woman, if a cook, probably intended to have hot biscuits for dinner and that many deaths were likely to follow the meal. The lieutenant recalled the platoon and gave them special instructions to cover the case.

‘Leave no means untried to find that woman before she opens the package,’ were his orders. ‘Throw a scare into the whole neighborhood, so that nobody will eat fresh bread to-night. Enter every tenement and knock at every door. Ring the bell of every private house in this precinct and give warning. Insist on seeing a responsible member of each and every family. Be as emphatic as you can. A general alarm will go out from Headquarters.’

I took a cab to Police Headquarters, promising the driver an extra dollar if he did not spare his horse.

As I entered the superintendent’s office without ceremony, Chief Jordan, to whom I had become well known while working on the Nathan murder case during the previous summer, was lighting an after-dinner cigar. I told him what had occurred at the Fourth Avenue pharmacy. Within an hour, every patrolman from Fourteenth Street to Thirty-fourth was conducting a house-to-house canvass for ‘The Woman with the Ounce of Arsenic’

Before midnight, the entire city was in commotion. The disquieting announcement was made in every theatre and many playgoers hastened to their homes. Hundreds of people brought medicines to pharmacies for examination, not understanding the form in which the poison had been sold. Countless packages of baking-powders, soda, borax and other harmless salts were consigned to sewers. Many hysterical women were attacked with imaginary pains and passed the night in sleepless dread: several feeble-minded men were thrown completely off their mental balance. The morning newspapers gave much space to the threatened calamity. The city editor of my journal offered $500 reward for the delivery of the unopened package.

Meanwhile, the efforts of the distressed pharmacist’s clerk were unremitting. His employer stood by him nobly. A thousand posters were placed upon fences and bill-boards during the night. ‘Your Life In Danger!’ in red letters a foot high stared from blank walls, acquainting citizens that death in an unusual form was stalking about town. The New Haven railway station, at Twenty-sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, set apart two prominent spaces for warnings. Many drug-stores displayed alarm circulars in their windows, generally with the added words: ‘Such carelessness could not have occurred at our pharmacy.’ (That is human nature!) The entire community was living in nearness to an impending calamity. At the end of the third day, city ambulances were kept busy taking to the hospitals men and women who thought themselves poisoned. Physicians were much overworked.

When Sunday arrived, every preacher on Manhattan Island referred to the impending horror. During the second week of anxiety, repetition of the details had increased the quantity of poison to one pound.

Such was the suspense in newspaper offices that one city editor went crazy and shot himself because he and forty reporters could not locate ‘The Woman with the Ounce of Arsenic.’

I called at the pharmacy on Fourth Avenue several times daily and the distress of the clerk was pitiful to see. He had wasted to a shadow of his former self, for he neither slept nor ate. He actually forgot Emily until she came to the shop to see him. She was pleased with the notoriety into which her affinity had sprung. Paul was absent when she called a second time; but she spoke of him with sympathetic kindness and left a message of hope. But the young man’s nervousness increased. He finally took to his bed in his room back of the pharmacy, where he became delirious. The girl had him moved to her mother’s home, where she faithfully nursed him. When reason returned, he would sob and berate himself.

I had called to see him one afternoon during the third week of suspense and was seated at his bedside, doing what I could to comfort him, when the small boy at the pharmacy, breathless and hatless, burst into the room. Between gasps, he shouted: ‘I’ve found ‘er!’

‘Where?’ I exclaimed, clutching him by the arm.

‘On de top floor,’ the boy managed to say.

‘What top floor?’ shrieked the sick man.

‘Dr. Palmer’s—our boss’s.’

‘Who is she?’ I asked, making for the door.

‘Wife of de janitor.’

I took a long breath. This woman belonged to a class of toilers never seen upon the streets in daylight —who emerge from their haunts only after dark.

‘Over the drug-store?’ I asked, half-incredulous.

‘Cert!’ from the lad.

Paul was out of bed and dressing furiously. I went ahead to the street and was fortunate in catching a cab returning empty to the Harlem railway station. In a few moments, Paul and the boy joined me. We drove to the pharmacy. Forgetting his weakness, Paul shot ahead of me up the stairway in the side hall, two steps at a jump for four flights. He did not wait to knock, but pushing open the door to the janitor’s apartments, was confronted by the woman whose vague image he had carried in his mind for twenty-odd days. He was so greatly relieved that he collapsed. He was speechless. He could only take the woman in his arms and cling to her.

When I reached the top of the last flight of stairs, out of breath, I was barely able to ask the mystified creature for the small package of soda the clerk had sold her. With Paul still clinging to her, she stepped to a closet and took it down from a shelf. It was unopened.

‘I found a box of bakin’ powder,’ she explained, ‘an’ didn’t use this.’

When I called to see Paul Dorwin, ten years later, he took me into the poison-room, pointed to a shrouded figure, and said:

‘I own this shop and skeleton. It’s the only skeleton in our family, I tell Emily.’

News Hunting on Three Continents, Julius Chambers, 1921 [Originally published in 1894, when it appeared over Chambers’ byline, as told first-person by the pharmacist.]

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A happy ending for a story more often concluded in real life with a call for the undertaker’s man.  While druggists sometimes stored deadly poisons in bottles with rough sides or even studded with points to alert them to the deadly contents, errors at the chemist’s and in the home were all too common. Mrs Daffodil’s own father died after he mistakenly stirred some Rough on Rats into his afternoon tea. As I told the coroner, I had pleaded with him not to keep the rat poison in the old sugar sifter, no matter how convenient it was for the application in corners.