Tag Archives: prophecy

Thirteen at Table: 1876

Thirteen at Table.

The Wistarias give the nicest dinner in the Empire City. Their cook is a cordon bleu, a person whose soul lies in her art, who sends up a hot dinner, not one of those greasy, half-cold, unwholesome meals, that sour the temper and the stomach at one and the same moment.

The wines are of the rarest vintages, and always in good condition, the champagne being iced to a delicate coolness, refreshing to the palate after the highly spiced entree, and the claret at that mild warmth which the knowing ones irreverently term “the Sabbath calm.”

The table, too, is always laid to caress the eye; the light coming from wax-candles, with a mild radiance, while the silver and Dresden and flowers bespeak refinement, taste, aestheticism.

Wistaria was a large man, with a melancholy visage and a melancholy manner. He had a habit of looking out into the future with dreamy eyes, as if he was perpetually engaged in watching for the coming of some person or other, like Sister Anne in “Bluebeard.”

Mrs. Wistaria is a very elegant woman, well-read, gracious, and just that class of hostess who makes her house feel to her guests as though it was their own and not hers. By a graceful witchery she reverses things, acting as the guest, while in reality, the chatelaine.

There is one daughter of the house, and one son. Wynnie Wistaria is a bright girl of eighteen, with a murderous pair of black eyes, and lips ruddier than a cherry. Her teeth flash like diamonds, and her figure is one that Rossi would like to drape his luminous colored garments upon.

The son, Geoffrey, is a “swell,” a member of the Megatherium Club, a curled darling, who does Paris in Spring and Newport in the Fall. He is not a bad young fellow, but requires a lot of sitting upon.

Mr. Wistaria is a banker, lives in a palatial residence on Fifth Avenue, and is muchly trusted and respected.

I, James Hartopp, of the firm of Hartopp, Price & Hartopp, brokers, am twenty-eight years of age, tall, not bad-looking, wear my beard, and my share in the firm averages twenty thousand a year.

I met the Wistarias in Italy, in the Spring of ’76. We did Rome, Naples, and Venice together, and before we reached the Mount Cenis Tunnel on our return to Paris I found my heart had deserted to the colors of the piquant, fascinating, winsome Wynnie.

Why should I bore the reader with a physiological analysis of the condition of my feelings up to or subsequent to this palpitating period. Forbid it, ye gods! Olympus knows what I suffered and how I suffered, it is past now—the hopes, fears, agonies, distractions and—but I must not anticipate.

I received an invitation to dinner at No. — Filth Avenue for the 13th of April, 1876. The date is well engraven upon my memory.

At half-past seven o’clock I found myself in the superb drawing-room, and the first arrival.

I had a good minute to caress my beard to a point, to arrange the bow of my white choker, to adjust the pin of the bunch of flowers in my buttonhole, to wipe a speck of dust from my varnished boots, ere Wynnie appeared.

Didn’t she look lovely in diaphanous muslin, in a thousand rills and frills, and fringes and rosettes, and had she not, à deux mains, the bouquet that I had sent her during the day—a bouquet the size of a plum-pudding!

A few moments of delicious dalliance, and her mother rustled in, attired in all the finery of brocaded satin and rose-point and flashing diamonds.

“Ah, Mr. Hartopp. it’s so nice of you to be early— ‘on time,’ as the railway officials say. Punctuality is the soul of—dinner. By-the-way,” she added. ” a word in your ear,” taking me into a bay-window and letting down the lace curtains.

I did not know what was coming. She looked grave. My position toward Wynnie was doubtful. That I was an aspirant to her hand was true, but as yet I had not played my last stake, and there was another player at the same game—a Mr. Horace Upton.

This Upton was an Englishman and a snob. He could see nothing in America; Niagara was “an awfully jolly” jet of water; the Rocky Mountains were beastly; the country was uncivilized, and the cities were nothing but shanties and lager-beer saloons.

The fellow was born with a sneer, and his civility was an impertinence.

The Wistarias tolerated him on account of his great wealth, his father being the possessor of immense coal-mines in Westmoreland, and on account of the letter of introduction which he brought—an earnest recommendation from Lord Dacres.

Wynnie, on occasions, was singularly gracious to him, at others icy. I hated him “all along the line.”

“We shall be thirteen at dinner to-day, Mr. Hartopp; please do not take any notice of it, as Mr. Wistaria is singularly superstitious about this number. Little Bertie Marcy may come in to set us all right, but at this hour I have only just discovered the fact. I could ask no one.”

“Permit me to drop out, Mrs. Wistaria.”

“By no means, you, indeed! We could not possibly get on without you. You talk better across a table than any gentleman of my acquaintance. So you see I could not possibly spare you.”

This was intensely gratifying. There is no oil like subtle flattery—no incense so delicately pungent.

“l mean to mention the fact to my guests as they come in.”

“Would it not be better to trust to chance?”

“I do not care, in Mr. Wistaria’s present state of health, to trust anything to chance.”

The guests came floating and rustling in, and I observed Mrs. Wistaria imparting a word of caution to each.

Mr. Horace Upton arrived. He was the last comer, having the audacity to come at eight o’clock, being invited for half-past seven.

“I can do anything but be punctual,” he observed. “It’s a sort of institution that’s fit for you commercial people. We don’t recognize it in Belgravia.”

“I presume there is some punctuality in the coal pits,” I cut in, red-hot with anger.

Screwing his glass into the corner of his eye, he regarded me from head to foot as if I were some stuffed arrival of an extinct species.

“Ah!” he said.

I had the glorious triumph of taking Wynnie in to dinner. Oh, what an ecstatic thrill vibrated through me as, leaning—yea, leaning, not placing the tips of her fingers upon my coat-sleeve, but pressing her dainty little hand softly downward, and drawing close to me, until l became enveloped in the magic folds of her piquant toilet.

The soup was delicious. It was bisque a l’ecrevisse. When a man arrives at five and twenty he takes to his dinner. It is the budding of the flower that at fifty will give perfume to his life. The salmon cutlets were a study in their pinks and browns and creamy whites, while the Steinberger Cabinet wherewith they were washed down was fit for the table of Kaiser Wilhelm himself. At the entrees, the conversation becomes well turned on; all ice thaws upon the appearance of the cutlets, sweetbreads, and those poems in culinary art that appeal to the senses at this particular period of the ceremony. The accompanying champagne, too, set the tongue a-wagging, and the “whole machine” commences to “go.”

Mrs. Wistaria kept somewhat anxiously gazing at her husband, who sat at the foot of the table, silent, save when spoken to by Mrs. Spype Bodaby, who was on his right, or Mr. Duplex Sincote on his left. Mrs. Bodaby kept chatting to him in a chirpy but colorless manner, and his look was straight out through the windows, on to the avenue, or, for that matter, over to the North River or Jersey.

There was a silence—one of these strange lulls which seems to descend with the softness of snow.

No person seemed inclined to break it. Wynnie was trifling with a petal from one of the flowers of her bouquet. I was gazing rapturously at her shapely hand with its rosebud nails. The remainder of the company seemed more or less absorbed. I shall never forget that silence. I have been to the great Derby race, and felt the hush at the start.

I have been in the Corrida del Toros at Madrid, and have held my breath as the bull rushed forth to his doom.

And I have been at No. __ Fifth avenue, and have known the silence that for one brief moment held us on that I3th day of April, 1876.

Mr. Horace Upton broke it.

“By Jove,” he drawled, “we are thirteen at dinner.”

Mrs. Wistaria had omitted to warn him.

A dull, dead, ashen color seized the host’s face as if in a closing grip, stretching over it like the shadow of death.

Clinching his hands together, and with set teeth, he murmured:

“Thirteen! Can this be true?”

Mrs. Wistaria started to her feet, as did also her sister, Mrs. Penrose Gibbs.

“Certainly not,” cried Mrs. Wistaria, boldly flinging herself between Mr. Gibbs, a very small, inoffensive little man, whose wife rolled him bodily off his chair and beneath the table, “we are but twelve.”

Mr. Wistaria, still in the same attitude, counted, with glowing eves, the number of the guests.

“Twelve!” he muttered, a ray of relief flashing across his face, to be dispelled as quickly, as he hoarsely demanded, “Where is Gibbs?”

“Here,” uttered that unconscious personage, emerging from beneath the table, at the other side, though.

“Gad! I see it all now,” and, plunging his face in his hands, his fingers through his hair, our host seemed shaken by some terrible convulsion.

“George, dearest George, this is folly!” cried Mrs. Wistaria. “Madness! No person attaches the slightest feeling to dining thirteen.”

“I wish I could dine thirteen every day with such a dinner as this,” said Gibbs.

“We dined thirteen at the Stubbs’ several time last year as their ten married daughters with their husbands were stopping there, and we are all alive and well,” chirped Mrs. Spype Bodaby.

“I dined with thirteen fellows at the Star and Garter at Richmond, last year, and, by Jove, I’m the only one alive to-day

This speech came from Mr. Horace Upton, and a savage joy vibrated through me. He was nailing the coffin lid on his hopes.

Wynnie sprang to her father’s side, gently placing her arm around his neck. Mr. Wistaria’s hands were still closed upon his face, his fingers clutching his hair. Wynnie caressingly endeavored to remove them, but the grip was as firm as steel. The livid cheeks immediately beneath the ears were visible, as was also the ashen-hued chin.

A tremulous shudder passed over the man. We were all now dazed, helpless, confused.

Suddenly Mrs. Wistaria uttered a piercing shriek.

“Fly for Doctor Bribston! Help! Help!” she cried, in frenzied accents.

I was horrified to find a great stream of blood pouring down Mr. Wistaria’s chin—pouring in a bright, red rivulet.

I assisted in placing him upon the sofa, in a recumbent position, but in vain did we endeavor to remove his hands from his face.

When Doctor Bribston arrived, he cast one rapid glance at the prostrate form, grasped the pulse, laid his hand upon the heart, and shook his head.

Mr. Wistaria was dead.

He had died of heart disease.

During one of his sojourns in England, be had had his fortune told by a gypsy. This woman, after having examined his line of life, suddenly cast his palm from her, covering her face with her hands.

“Never!” she exclaimed, with a fierce solemnity— “never dine thirteen at table if you can avoid it, for you will die at the table.”

This strange prophecy sank into his very soul, and never would he sit at the table with this doomed number.

It was a strange coincidence. Very strange.

* * * *

I am married to Wynnie.

My wife and I dine out a good deal, and we entertain in proportion, but never shall I make one of thirteen

l have lost several good dinners through this superstition, call it what you will, but the ghastly recollection of that 13th of April, 1876, with all its other dark history can never be erased from my mind.

Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours, Volume 25

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  And a very happy Friday the 13th to all of you!

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.

Encore: Marie Antoinette and the Fortune-Teller: 1782

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1783

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1783

It was on this day in 1793 that Queen Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine. Mrs Daffodil thought that an encore of this post would interest.

An Anecdote of Marie Antoinette

Mrs. [Sarah] Austin, Lady Duff Gordon’s mother, met forty years ago, in Dresden, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who told her this story on the authority of his mother-in-law, the Empress of Russia:

“When Paul and his wife went to Paris, they were called, as is well known, de Comte and la Comtesse du Nord. The Comtesse du Nord accompanied Marie Antoinette to the theater at Versailles. Marie Antoinette pointed out, behind her fan, all the distinguished persons in the house. In doing this, she had her head bent forward; all of a sudden she drew back with such an expression of terror and horror that the Comtesse said, ‘Pardon, madame, mais je sui sur que vous avez vu quelque chose qui vous agite.’

The Queen, after she had recovered herself, told her that there was about the Court, but not of right belonging to it, a woman who professed to read fortunes on cards. One evening she had been displaying her skill to several ladies, and at length the Queen desired to have her own destiny told. The cards were arranged in the usual manner, but when the woman had to read the result she looked horror struck, and stammered out some generalities. The Queen insisted on her saying what she saw, but she declared she could not. ‘From that time,” said Marie Antoinette, ‘the sight of that woman produces in me a feeling I can not describe of aversion and horror and she seems studiously to throw herself in my way.”

Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 14 September 1877: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Lady Duff-Gordon, was, of course, the famous couturière Lucile. “Paul” was Paul I, the Russian emperor, son of Catherine the Great. His wife was Sophie-Dorothée Augusta Luisa von Württemberg, later Empress Marie Feodorovna.  The trip, which lasted 14 months through 1781-82, took them to Poland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France, where the couple was presented at Versailles.

Mrs Daffodil has wondered about the identity of the fortune-teller and thought perhaps it might have been the legendary card-reader Marie-Anne Lenormand [1772-1843], but she was too young to have been reading cards for the French court in the early 1780s. Lenormand later correctly predicted Josephine Beauharnais’s future when she was imprisoned during the Terror.

Other persons have claimed to have divined the fate of the Queen in the verses of Nostradamus and by finding words in the letters of her name and titles. Given Marie Antoinette’s extravagance and unpopularity, one imagines that dark prophesies of death for the Queen were to be found among all classes, and not just with the Initiated.

That Royalist person over at Haunted Ohio has posted about a man who claimed to have seen the ghost of King Louis XVI, a year to the day after he was guillotined. Mrs Daffodil previously posted about the Trianon fish in gold collars who prophesied doom for France, about the search for the Queen’s emeralds, and about Marie Antoinette’s death warrant.

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.

 

“End His Days in Blood:” An Omen at the Birth of Charles I: 1600

Dunfermline Palace, the birthplace of the future King Charles I of England. An engraving by William Miller.

Dunfermline Palace, the birthplace of King Charles I of England. An engraving by William Miller.

A grim and supernatural tale for the anniversary on this day of the birth of King Charles I of England.

No spot appears more entirely calculated for monastic seclusion than Dunfermline. Formerly the walls of the abbey and palace covered a vast extent of that ground, which is now a great part of the town. The deep sequestered woods in which the palace rests, are full of solemn beauty. The high embowering trees almost overshadow the mouldering walls, and give a pensive gloom in unison with the character of the ruin, while the trees clad in their variegated autumnal robes, are rich in all the glow of luxuriant beauty.

The south aspect of the palace is now merely a ruinous and solitary wall, containing two rows of mutilated windows. One of the higher ones belonged to the apartment which Charles the First inhabited. A singular tradition is related, which shews the dark superstition of those times.

When the royal infant was first taken from his mother’s chamber, and placed in his cradle, in the adjoining room, the window suddenly burst open, with a tremendous noise, and a crimson sheet floating in, envelopped the cradle, and shrowded the babe as far as the throat. His Majesty, on being informed of the cause of the noise, prophesied that the child would end his days in blood. On learning that the sheet or mantle reached to the throat, he said that he would lose his head.

Letters from the North highlands, during the summer 1816, Elizabeth Isabella Spence, 1816

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It seems inevitable that, long after the fact, strange stories of omens and portents should be told of tragic Kings and Queens. Mrs Daffodil has previously told of a fortune-teller who predicted the death of Queen Marie Antoinette.  And that royalist person over at the Haunted Ohio blog has told of predictions of the death of the Sun King. There were many ominous tales foreshadowing King Charles’s martyrdom on the scaffold.

There was also this perhaps apocryphal story from an 1840 biography of Cromwell:

There was a rumour prevalent in Huntingdon, that Oliver Cromwell and Charles I., when children nearly of the same age, met at Hinchinbrooke House, the seat of sir Oliver Cromwell, the uncle and godfather of the former. “The youths had not been long together,” says [the Rev. Mark Noble, author of Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell], “before Charles and Oliver disagreed; and as the former was then as weakly as the latter was strong, it was no wonder that the royal visitant was worsted; and Oliver, even at this age, so little regarded dignities that he made the royal blood flow in copious streams from the prince’s nose. This,” adds the same author, “was looked upon as a bad presage for that king, when the civil wars commenced.”

[The account of this pugilistic encounter between Charles and Cromwell is, to say the least of it, by no means improbable. It is well known that Sir Oliver, a true and loyal knight, sumptuously entertained King James on more than one occasion; and the young prince, being twice, at least, of the party, such a falling out is not unlikely to have occurred.] The Life of Oliver Cromwell, George Robert Gleig, 1840

Noble’s Memoirs is said to be “full of errors.” An embellishment of this tale says that the lads fell out when Cromwell refused to yield in some matter, Charles struck him, and young Cromwell vigorously defended himself.  In a case of hammering home the moral, it is said that King James declared that “the blow was to be forgiven, as it was given in defense of a right, and his son must learn to know that right was greater than kings.”

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 Malet Talisman Ring and Its Ghost: 1854

An 1840 dress with bishop sleeves as described in the story. The original is a rather pretty pink. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O13835/dress-unknown/

An 1840 dress with bishop sleeves as described in the story. The original is a rather pretty pink. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O13835/dress-unknown/

Lord Denbigh sent to Mr. Hare an account of a supernatural vision which he had heard from Henry Malet in 1869. Malet said that, in the winter of 1854-55, he was in Paris, and saw a good deal of Palgrave Simpson, the dramatic author. One evening after a dinner Simpson expressed himself a believer in clairvoyant phenomena. A few days afterward Malet received an order to return to London and hold himself in readiness to embark for the Crimea with his regiment.

On the night before his departure for Malta, he received a note from Simpson inclosing an antique ring. The note said: “Do not laugh at me, but while you are in the Crimea wear the inclosed ring. It was given to me by the last representative of an old Hungarian family on her deathbed. In her family it was an heirloom, and considered as a most precious talisman to preserve the wearer from any external harm.”

Malet slipped the ring on his finger without attaching any great importance to the matter, and the next morning sailed from Portsmouth. Mr. Malet thus goes on with the story:

“We touched at Gibraltar, but it was not till our arrival at Malta that I heard from my family. Then I found a letter from my mother dated from Frankfort on the very day of our sailing from England. It said: ‘I have been quite brokenhearted about you and could find no comfort anywhere; but now all is changed, for a most extraordinary reason. This morning, as I lay in bed in broad daylight, and after my maid had brought my hot water, just as I was about to get up, a most beautiful young lady, very fair and dressed in gray silk, drew aside the curtain of my bed and leant over me and said: “Do not be unhappy about your son; no harm shall happen to him.” I am quite certain I have had a vision, yet it seemed as if I were awake; certainly I was so the moment before this happened. The whole thing is as distinct as possible, and as unlike an effect of imagination. Of course, I cannot account for it, but it has made me quite happy, and I know you will come back safe.’

“On receipt of this letter I bethought me of the ring, and begged my mother in reply to describe minutely the appearance of the mysterious visitor. My mother said it was a young woman about twenty-seven years of age, rather pale, with very straight features, large gray eyes and an abundance of brown hair worn in rather an old-fashioned manner. The sleeves of the gray silk dress were what we call ‘bishop sleeves.’

“I sent copies of my mother’s letter to Palgrave Simpson, and he answered me that the description was in the minutest particular the counterpart of the lady who on her deathbed had given him the ring, some sixteen or seventeen years before. It is to be observed that no communication whatever passed between me and my mother between the receipt of the ring and my arrival at Malta, and I will swear that I told no one the story.”

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: John Palgrave Simpson [1807-87] was a writer of popular Victorian melodramas and an adapter of other works, such as A Tale of Two Cities, for the stage. Henry Malet was Sir Henry Charles Eden Malet, 3rd Baronet Wilbury [1835-1904]. He was a Lt Col in the Grenadier Guards who served in the Crimean War. He was present for the lifting of the Siege of Sevastopol.  Sir Henry’s mother, Mary, Lady Malet, was right to be concerned. The War was not going particularly well and news of the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade on 25 October 1854 would have undoubtedly reached her. It was very considerate of the Hungarian lady’s spirit to transfer the protective powers of the ring to a comparative stranger and to kindly reassure Sir Henry’s mother.

The Story of My Life, Augustus J. C. Hare

For other stories related by that master raconteur Augustus Hare see “Saved by the Bell (wire),” “The Ensign Sees a Horror,” and “A Ghostly Murder Victim Appeals to Count Axel von Fersen: c. 1800

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

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

Marie Antoinette and the Fortune-Teller: 1782

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1783

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1783

An Anecdote of Marie Antoinette

Mrs. [Sarah] Austin, Lady Duff Gordon’s mother, met forty years ago, in Dresden, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who told her this story on the authority of his mother-in-law, the Empress of Russia:

“When Paul and his wife went to Paris, they were called, as is well known, de Comte and la Comtesse du Nord. The Comtesse du Nord accompanied Marie Antoinette to the theater at Versailles. Marie Antoinette pointed out, behind her fan, all the distinguished persons in the house. In doing this, she had her head bent forward; all of a sudden she drew back with such an expression of terror and horror that the Comtesse said, ‘Pardon, madame, mais je sui sur que vous avez vu quelque chose qui vous agite.’

The Queen, after she had recovered herself, told her that there was about the Court, but not of right belonging to it, a woman who professed to read fortunes on cards. One evening she had been displaying her skill to several ladies, and at length the Queen desired to have her own destiny told. The cards were arranged in the usual manner, but when the woman had to read the result she looked horror struck, and stammered out some generalities. The Queen insisted on her saying what she saw, but she declared she could not. ‘From that time,” said Marie Antoinette, ‘the sight of that woman produces in me a feeling I can not describe of aversion and horror and she seems studiously to throw herself in my way.”

Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 14 September 1877: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Lady Duff-Gordon, was, of course, the famous couturière Lucile. “Paul” was Paul I, the Russian emperor, son of Catherine the Great. His wife was Sophie-Dorothée Augusta Luisa von Württemberg, later Empress Marie Feodorovna.  The trip, which lasted 14 months through 1781-82, took them to Poland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France, where the couple was presented at Versailles.

Mrs Daffodil has wondered about the identity of the fortune-teller and thought perhaps it might have been the legendary card-reader Marie-Anne Lenormand [1772-1843], but she was too young to have been reading cards for the French court in the early 1780s. Lenormand later correctly predicted Josephine Beauharnais’s future when she was imprisoned during the Terror.

Other persons have claimed to have divined the fate of the Queen in the verses of Nostradamus and by finding words in the letters of her name and titles. Given Marie Antoinette’s extravagance and unpopularity, one imagines that dark prophesies of death for the Queen were to be found among all classes, and not just with the Initiated.

That Royalist person over at Haunted Ohio has posted about a man who claimed to have seen the ghost of King Louis XVI, a year to the day after he was guillotined. Mrs Daffodil previously posted about the Trianon fish in gold collars who prophesied doom for France and about Marie Antoinette’s death warrant.

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.