The cat had been put out, the children were in bed, and Lysander John Appleton, worn out with the terrors of another day, was prepared to spend an evening in peace.
“Dear, dear, dear,” said Mrs. Lysander John, looking up from her paper. “Isn’t it horrible?”
“What?” snorted her husband.
“Seventy-five people killed by a flood in Italy! Just think of the poor little orphans’.”
(Silence for two minutes.) “Oh, my, how can the Lord permit such terrible things. A man shot his wife and five of her sisters in Laurel, Del., last night. The rooms looked like a slaughter house when he got through. I am glad he killed himself and saved the people the expense of trying such a brute. His poor, poor wife! What she must have endured living with a man of that disposition.”
(The clock ticks about ten times.) “Oh listen to this. Oh, Lysander John, my heart aches so I can scarcely read it. Oh, my, oh my, this life is a troubled vale! Just think, five people killed in a train wreck in Georgia. The sorrow that goes into their homes to-night reaches my heart.”
Silence while Mrs. Appleton wiped the tears from her eyes, and turned the page. Then a scream, “A bride and groom killed on their wedding trip! The poor dears. Just think of the happiness with which they started out, and now the journey ends in two coffins. Maybe they will be buried In one coffin. I think that would be so sweet.”
(Silence for two minutes that was finally broken by violent sobbing.) “A girl of sixteen poisoned her own sister in Massillon, Ohio. It is too horrible to be true. Oh, Lysander John, how grateful we should be that none of our children ever did a thing like that! The poor, Poor, POOR mother!”
Mrs. Lysander John reached blindly for her apron to wipe away her tears, her handkerchief having been soaked in previous enjoyment of the news, and then she turned tearful eyes toward Lysander John, only to find his chair vacant. Upstairs there was a sound of heavy shoes being kicked off viciously to the floor.
“The men,” said Mrs. Lysander John to herself, picking up her newspaper and preparing to read some more, “are SO Unfeeling.”
The Atchison [KS] Weekly Globe 31 March 1910: p. 4
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Indeed. The press in the nineteenth century, particularly in the United States, was avid for a sensation. “If it bleeds, it leads,” about sums it up. Mrs Daffodil has previously examined some of the blood-thirsty themes of the press in this post: “Poison! Arson! Death His Bride!”
It was traditionally the role of the pater familias to read the newspaper to the family gathered round the fireside, eliding or pruning judiciously, when the gore or the body count was deemed harmful to the sensibilities of his listeners. Mrs Daffodil wonders at the patience of Mr Appleton at having his newspaper snatched away by a woman so lacking in womanly delicacy. She suspects that, one day, particularly when Mr Appleton longs to read of the outcome of some sporting contest, he will snap and there will be yet another horrid murder for the unfeeling public to slaver over in the morning edition.
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 anecdote
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.