Tag Archives: unlucky 13

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.

“I’m Not Superstitious, But–“: 1926

“I’m Not Superstitious, But—“

Nina Wilcox Putnam

America’s Only Woman Humorist [!!?!?!]

As Sir Walter Raleigh said, when spreading his coat over the mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, “Step on it, kid, this is your lucky day and mine, too. I only regret that I have but one coat to lay down for my country.”

And how true it is that some things bring you luck, providing you believe they do, certainly was proved to me not long ago when I luckily picked up the telephone receiver on a busy wire and heard that the cook was leaving over at Miss Demeanor’s. I was lucky and quick enough to beat all the other ladies in Dinglewood to luring her.

The cooks, if any, which we have had this part year have positively caused a draft going through our kitchen, that’s how fast they went. And now, quite by accident, I run across the fact that this cook was leaving, so naturally I ran across and asked would she come to us, and she said she would, and so I went right on back home and scrubbed the kitchen floor, washed the windows, tied red bows on the kitchen curtains, moved the best easy chair, radio and five-foot bookshelf out there, also a few little other odds and ends into her quarters such as my long mirror, my best red room slippers, and etc. to make her feel thoroughly comfortable.

The Conquering Cook Comes

Well, the next morning, which was when we was expecting her, I fixed myself up as attractive as possible and sat down to wait for her. Pretty soon the doorbell give a loud ring, and my heart give a ditto leap, and I though, oh heavens, there she is and hurried to answer. Well, it was, actually she had showed. I took her bags and carried them upstairs and showed her her room, asked was there anything I could do for her, found she would fancy a little cake and tea, and then I left her in privacy while I went down to fix things up like she wanted, and while I was doing so, the bell rang again, and this time who would it be only that Mabel Bush, the one that’s married to Joe Bush of the Hawthorne Club.

Well, at first I thought where Mabel must have been shopping, on account she had something with her from pretty near every department of the Emporium. But no, she was merely going away for a coupula weeks and had brought some stuff she wanted to park with me while she was gone.

Say dear, she says when she had got her breath. I wonder would you mind taking care of my goldfish while I and Joe is out in Kansas visiting mother. He’s a real sweet little feller, ain’t you, Otto? See how cute he is, Jennie? And he don’t bite or anything unless he’s crossed. With that she hauled out one of the meanest looking goldfish I ever saw in my life. It gives me an awful funny look right off, but naturally I merely says why hello, Otto, nice Otto, pretty feller, of course I’ll take care of him, Mabel, what does he eat? Oh, fishcakes, she says, or any old thing. Now go to your Aunt Jennie, Otto, that’s the boy!

Mabel Dodges the Jinx

Well, I took his glass globe and put I on the table, a little uneasy over how the new cook would feel about another mouth to feed after I had told her there was only three in the family. But before I got a chance to go do any heavy worrying, Mabel had pulled a wild-looking fern out from a handbag, and set the poor helpless thing at my feet. ‘There!’ she says “I’m sure you don’t mind looking after that; all you got to do is water it once a day with double-filtered water, brush its leaves, pick the spiders and seeds off it, and give it a little sunshine.

Then before I had a chance to kick she was after me with another coupla bundles. “This is just the canary,” she says, “and here, my dear, is my peacock fan and my opal pin. Of course I’m not a bit superstitious, but I always say there is no use taking silly chances, and there have been three wrecks around mother’s neighbourhood lately, and I hate to leave them in the house in case burglars was to break in, so you don’t mind if I leave them with you, do you?”

Why Mabel Bush, I says, do you mean to tell me you are superstitious about taking them things with you? I says, why you ought to be ashamed of such ideas. I wouldn’t be so childish, why what harm can a father fan and few opals do? Well, she says, of course they can’t do any harm, I know that, so you really won’t mind keeping them until I get back? I says of course not, dear, but honest, I think you ought to take them along, just to overcome such nonsensical ideas.

Jennie Takes no Chances.

Well, Mabel wouldn’t insult my intelligence by taking them things off the place once she had brought them, so she left them and went on her way. And after she had done so, why I put the livestock around the dining-room, and then I didn’t quite know where to put that opal pin and Mabel’s peacock fan for safe-keeping. Of course I didn’t have the faintest feeling about keeping them in the house, even with a new cook there, so I left ‘em lay where she put them.

Then I picked up a pin off the floor, walking around so’s to make sure the point was towards me, and went out in the kitchen to ask Mary, the new cook, did she know anybody owning a second-hand black cat they didn’t need? Not that I really thought it would do any good, but some people have the idea a black cat is lucky, and while I personally myself certainly don’t believe in any such nonsense, why as long as I had the idea in my head I thought I might as well get a black cat to kinda counteract the idea of that fan and opals. Well, it seems Mary had a cat meeting my specifications up to her house and she offered to go right up and get it, but I wasn’t taking any chances of letting her out. So  says, oh no, don’t bother, I will go, where is it? And she says no. 13 West 113th St.

Luck Looks Up.

That number, of course, didn’t sound awful good to me, but I says to myself, now don’t be silly, it is a pure coincidence, you go get that cat just the same. So I did, and there was a ladder standing over the front door when I got there. Not that I minded this any more than poison, and naturally I hadn’t come all that long way in order to be turned back by a mere childish superstition. So I went under the ladder and knocked on the door and after a while somebody put their head out the window and says what do you want? And I says, Mary, that’s my cook, at least she was when I left home, told me her daughter had a black cat. And the party in the window says Mary’s daughter ain’t ever here Fridays, but I’ll get you the cat. So she done so in a bag, and my good luck started right away.

Well, anyways, I was lucky enough to get home alive and without being arrested in spite of the bloody murder that animal was yelling. And I was lucky with it another way, on account no sooner was that cat established in our home than I no longer had to bother feeding my goldfish. I didn’t haf to bury it, the nice kitty attended to all that.

Naturally, however, I had to replace Otto, so I ordered another poor fish of exactly the same pattern, ordered it kept down in the fish department of the Emporium until Mabel got ready to come back. It was just as well, anyways, on account the new cook claimed she never could of stood the noise it didn’t make.

Welcoming the Horseshoe

Now of course I wasn’t one bit superstitious about them opals being in the house, but I have to admit I commenced dropping tea spoons right after Mabel parked stuff with me. Not that I believe it really is unlucky to drop a spoon, but once I got the idea why I felt there wouldn’t be any actual harm in doing everything I could to counteract the thought. And so it was certainly rather cheering when Junior brought in a nice horseshoe with three nails in it. I had a good time gilding it up, and panting a few forget me nots on it, so’s nobody would think anything peculiar when I hung it up over the parlor mantel.

Ad nobody did, not even when by accident in hanging it, I happened to brush Mabel’s peacock fan off the mantel and into the open fire. I felt awful bad about this and what to do certainly was the question. It was one thing to page a new gold fish, but not a soul I knew kept even one peacock, and so he only thing I could hope for was that Mabel had her stuff well insured.

I wouldn’t want to lay the blame on any of Mabel’s belongings. I am not that kind of a fool, but it’s the truth that the very day I bought a picture postal of a peacock in order to make things up to Mabel the best I could, why somebody, the cat, so the cook said, left the dining room window open, let Mabel’s fern freeze, and of course, the only one of the same style our florist had in stock was twice as big and four times as expensive. But that didn’t matter so bad, because all I would have to do when she come back would be to say look, dear, what wonderful care I have taken of your plant, just see how it has grown and etc.

Worse and More of It.

Hot Bozo! As if that wasn’t enough the darn canary bird she had left on my hands commenced moulting. We could hear him at it every morning earl, and never once got dressed and down in time to stop him. So I had to go spend a couple or three dollars on hair tonic and after he drank the first couple of bottles he begun to look better. Just the same he had a distinctly shingle bobbed appearance by the time I got a letter from Mabel telling where she would be home in two days and if it wasn’t too much bother, would I mind ordering milk and ice, and loaning them a little coal, and running over to air the house and tell the furnace man to build a fire and ask the newspaper man to commence leaving the Morning Yell again. And she hoped it wouldn’t be too much bother.

So I done like she asked, and I addition carted all her stuff over for her—all, that is to say, except them opals. Look as I could, I wasn’t able to locate that pin any place. I stubbed my toe looking and every one knows that meant you’re going some place where you’re not welcome without that jewel? The cook got sore when I asked if she had seen the darn thing, and says well, if she wasn’t trusted, there was no use in he r staying any longer. So she took her bag, wages and departure.

And still I couldn’t find no pin, so I decided, well, that cook never would of left me flat like that and walked out unless she really had stolen it, after all! Not that I’m the least superstitious, but I might of known I wouldn’t have a minute’s luck with opals in the house. I don’t believe in any superstition in the world, but there has certainly been nothing go right since Mable left them stones here, and what and the world am I gonner tell her when I see her tomorrow?

One Superstition Left

Well, naturally there wasn’t nothing to do except tell her the truth. And so when Mabel come home and I was over there to her house with everything ready for her like she had asked, and she says how lovely and neighborly of you, dear, I’m afraid it’s been a terrible lot of bother. Why, of course I says, not in the least, darling. It’s been no bother at all. It’s been a pleasure. But, I says, I got bad news for you. I lost your opal pin, dear, not that I’m one bit superstitious, but it certainly brought me bad luck all the while it was with me and now it’s gone.

And she says, why Jennie Jules, she says, it was never there at all. I didn’t leave it there. I took it along with me after all, on account of the way you kidded me about being superstitious! And I give her one look. No! I says, meaning yes. So you never left it! I says. Well, I do guess there is one superstition I do believe in, after all, which is that when a person’s nose itches it means they are going to kiss a fool, and so, if you’ve got a mirror handy, I believe I’ll get the job over with right now.

The Sunday news [Charleston SC 17 January 1926

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just in time for the 13th of the month, this whimsical account touches on just about every common superstition of the early twentieth century, as well as the problem of Keeping a Cook. Peacock feathers, opals, and black cats were all considered unlucky, although sceptics tried to reason people out of their fears of jinxes and hoodoos and fashion tried to trump superstition, all to no avail; some individuals still believe these articles to be problematic even to-day.

That rankly superstitious person over at Haunted Ohio has a theory, writing:

“Judging by the persistence of ‘superstitions,’ one wonders if, in the same way humans need certain vital gut bacteria and an exposure to dirt in childhood to maintain a healthy immune system, humans need a salutary dose of the illogical from time to time to top up whatever part of the brain it feeds.”

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 Hoodooed Princesses: 1913

The "hoodooed" princesses of 1913.

The “hoodooed” princesses of 1913. Above, from left to right: Augustine Victoria, wife of Manual of Portugal, reported estranged within a month of their marriage, but now apparently on excellent terms with her husband again; Princess William, of Sweden, who found her husband, her father-in-law, and the Swedish court too dreadfully dull and ran away to Paris. Below: Princess Isabella, of Austria, who burned her bridal gown on her wedding night, left her husband and has procured an annulment; Princess Ernest August, of Cumberland, the Kaiser’s only daughter, whose happiness was endangered by a question of state and who was finally saved from her brothers by her father; Princess Eitel, wife of a son of the Kaiser. The latter’s reckless career has been ineffectually hushed up.

Hoodoo of 1913 Catches Five Princesses

Beauties of Royalty Find Love Jinx Hard to Escape.

Paris, France, Jan. 3. “So the prince and the princess were married and they lived happily ever afterward.”

That old fairy tale idea is sadly knocked in the head this year of 1913. No less than six royal princesses have gone on the rocks in their voyages toward a happy union. Some of the matrimonial craft have been patched up and are again navigating but, all in all, the proportion of rifted hearts and blighted romances in circles of the purple just at present makes the lot of the throne tenants far from enviable. The modest newlyweds in a cottage, with their baby, their vine-clad porch and their humble pleasures may well look with pity upon the high places of wealth, pomp and splendor.

First, there is the dramatic story of the princess who burned her wedding gown in her bed chamber on the bridal night. A tragic culmination to what was believed to be a pure love match. Little by little the tale of Prince George of Bavaria and Archduchess Isabella Marie, of Austria, has come out. He was a dashing officer, decorated by the Kaiser, the best middle-weight boxer in Germany. She was not only a pretty girl, but a great wit, a jolly good fellow.

And a hag of a gypsy plunged them into woe!

Whether the prince had been a trifle wild, as royal youths often are doesn’t matter. It would have happened just as it did anyway. The archduchess, when the prince, whom she dearly loved, proposed, foolishly put him off for 24 hours instead of falling into his arms with a “yes.”

Consults Family Gypsy.

She consulted the family gypsy.

“Ottilie—Ottilie,” whispered the crone. “I see an Ottilie who will come between you and your husband.”

The next day the archduchess accepted her prince, consulting her heart. She renounced her Austria royal rights to facilitate the marriage. Everywhere the union was admired. The two were supremely happy, it appeared to those around them.

Tells of Vision.

Overwrought on the night of her wedding, a vision appeared to her. Here is the story in her own words to one of her maids:

“When, upon my arrival in Munich, I entered my bedchamber in the evening, I suddenly remembered the words of the gypsy. The room itself looked mysterious. When I undressed myself and went to bed—how can I describe my horror.

“I beheld on the white pillow three drops of fresh, red blood. I jumped out of bed, trembling, and rang the bell. Nobody came. I began to pray. Soon I heard a weird noise and, looking around, I saw distinctly the figure of a pretty young girl in a night gown, staring at my ironically. How she had come in, I do not know. She just walked to the bed and occupied it without a world. I trembled all over.

“Madame,” she whispered, “this is not your bed, it is mine.”

“She was pretty, with dark long lashes and black eyes, just as the gypsy had told me. I asked:

“Are you Otillie?” She nodded and whispered: “Certainly I am. What do you want of me?”

When the princess opened her eyes, the prince was kneeling over her, keeping a towel with cold water on her head. She wildly questioned him. Who was Otillie? He stammered and stumbled, as he well might, perhaps never having heard the name before.

“It’s true,” she cried. A wild scene ensured. A few hours later they had separated forever.

The marriage was annulled. Prince George took his place alongside the three divorced sovereigns of Europe, King Frederick August, of Saxony; Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig, of Hesse, and Prince Albert I, of Monaco.

Solves Problem With Death.

But to proceed with this fateful year’s developments.

The hateful subterfuge of a morganic marriage is a possible resort when a prince falls in love with a “common” girl. But what when a princess prefers a commoner to all the sickly crowned youth put before her for her selection?

The latter was the problem of the beautiful Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and she solved it with—death.

It is a sad position which the house of Saxe-Weimar occupies—ancient and royal as the hills, but so impecunious their palace furnishings are threadbare.

The princess had been betrothed to a dissipated, middle-aged cousin, and had broken the engagement only by personal appeal to the Kaiser. A young lieutenant, whom she may have loved, had shot himself dead for her in Athens five years before and the crown princess of Greece, sister to the Kaiser, had wept real tears at his burial. The men of the house had in several cases found happiness outside of the purple. Her uncle, Duke Bernard, found a loving wife, and her brother, Prince Hermann, was also serene in his possession of a life partner not born to the palace. Her own father had fled to America in his youth and had even worked as a waiter in New York for a time. But what of the women of the family? Such exits from court restraint were barred to them. She was a proud girl, past 25, living a life without love.

There appeared the young von Bleichroeder, member of the banking house which is said to have made possible the German victory over France in 1870. The Kaiser, pitying the melancholy royal girl—he had even looked with favor on the young lieutenant—consented, but the grand duke of Saxony, head of the house, would not listen.

Is Made a Prisoner.

Then came an incident in the forest of Fontainebleau, near Paris. A gypsy’s child was killed by a magnificent motor car and in the car, it came out, had been the handsome young banker and Princess Sophie. After that Sophie kept to her room in the ancient, threadbare palace. She was practically under arrest.

She slept late one morning. A maid knocked long and hard and finally dared to push open the door. Across the bed lay a white form, a pistol clutched in her hand and an untied packet of letters half strewn upon the coverlet.

She had been called the most lovely princess in the world, but of this world she was no longer.

The Scandal of Princess William.

Then there is the scandal of the princess William. Lacking perhaps the tragic elements of the stories of Sophie and Isabella, it yet is not without its melancholy features. She had been a grand duchess of Russia, used to the gay and sometimes wanton life of the court of St. Petersburg. She is wedded to a cold Swedish prince. Her money buys him a palace. She is everything and he is nothing. The liveliest dancer, the brightest wit, the most sparkling figure in all Sweden, she is forced to endure the companionship of a stupid husband and the frown of an austere royal father-in-law. Of course she should have borne her trials, for the sake of her children if for no other reason, but modern human nature is prone to break restraints. Patient Griselda’s are rare today. She ran away to Paris. Ugly rumors followed. It was said she had betrayed her husband’s country to her fatherland—had sold Swedish military secrets to Russia. But such tales always rise in such circumstances. Perhaps we had better believe the dashing princess herself—that Stockholm was too deadly dull for endurance.

Honor First, Then Love.

It is hard for Americans to understand the circumstances which caused Prince Ernest Augustus, of Cumberland, to exclaim: “For me and my family honor comes first, then love!” He was and is dead in love with the Kaiser’s only daughter, now his wife, when he said it. We must remember how the iron hand of Bismarck closed upon and crushed the house of Hanover. It was a bitter wrong not forgot.

For a time it looked as though a bit of almost ancient history might defeat one of the few royal love matches. But the Kaiser is not so eager for crushing hearts—he has seen too many saddening incidents. He thought twice before he took a step which might have shattered his pretty daughter’s happiness—have made her a second Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar. His impetuous and imperialistic sons thought differently. They would have bereft the Hanoverian house of its last vestige of claim to its honors. But the Kaiser’s will prevailed. So it ever will be known whether the prince of Cumberland would have carried out his threat of resigning from the German army and retiring with his bride to live a peaceful, secluded life on their estate sin upper Austria, letting thrones go hang. The Kaiser undoubtedly breathed freer. His sons and his daughters and his relatives to the nth degree are not the least of his troubles. He was already worrying over his son, Eitel Frederick. Prince Eitel is a heavy, phlegmatic sort of individual. His wife, Sophie, of Oldenburg, is several years older, many times a millionaire, and a lover of good times, like Princess William, of Sweden.

Mystery in Manuel’s Life.

Lastly we come to the mysterious case of Manuel, late king of Portugal, and his bride, Augustine Victoria. They are not living together apparently in good terms. The absence of Manuel during his bride’s serious illness just after their marriage is unexplained, but the less said of it the better. Let us hope their royal bark is well enough repaired to weather all further storms.

El Paso [TX] Herald 3 January 1914: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: And a very happy Friday the Thirteenth to all! Mrs Daffodil is always amused by how distorted accounts of European royalty are in the American press. Let us look first at the story of Archduchess Isabella of Austria and Prince Georg of Bavaria. One does not find the story of the gypsy hag in the traditional histories. However, the Duchess’s wedding gown and trousseau were burnt just before the wedding. There were rumours that the Archduchess was in some way implicated. The couple were quite unhappy. They separated before the honeymoon was over; the marriage was annulled for nonconsummation (despite family statements that the couple merely had fundamental incompatabilities of character); and the discarded bridegroom later became a Catholic priest.  Archduchess Isabella became a nurse, serving gallantly in the First World War. She became engaged to a surgeon, but Emperor Franz Joseph refused his permission to marry. She never wed another.

Princess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (really, these smaller noble houses are as bad as the Russians or the Spanish with their strings of surnames.) fell in love with Baron Hans von Bleichröder, a wealthy banker of Heidelburg, but because of the difference in their station and religion, she was forbidden to marry him. While on holiday with von Bleichröder, Sophie hit and killed a child in France. Von Bleichröder paid compensation to the family and Sophie’s family tried to hush up the affair, but Sophie’s depression over taking a life and the scandal over her love affair with the banker led her to commit suicide in 1913.

Princess William of Sweden was the unhappy Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. She and Prince Wilhelm had one child before divorcing. The Prince, who was known to have many artistic and scholarly interests, began a relationship with sculptor Jeanne de Tramcourt immediately after the divorce; they lived happily together for many years until she was killed in an automobile accident. Grand Duchess Maria married a Russian Prince, escaped the Russian Revolution, opened an embroidery atelier, and wrote two books about her eventful life.

Sophie of Oldenburg married Prince Eitel Frederick, the brutal second son of the Kaiser. They divorced amid mutual accusations of adultery.

King Manuel of Portugal and his Dresden-china bride, Princess Augusta Victoria, initially separated during an illness early in their marriage. One speculates about nameless diseases; Manuel had formed a deep attachment to actress and dancer Gaby Deslys in Paris; he only gave her up when she moved to the United States in 1911. He married Princess Augusta Victoria in 1914.

Prince Ernst August ‘s father, Prince Ernest Augustus, 3rd Duke of Cumberland, refused to give up his claim to the throne of Hanover and also styled himself Duke of Brunswick. When Prince Ernst wished to marry Princess Viktoria Luise, only daughter of the Kaiser, the Duke of Cumberland turned over the Brunswick title to his son and became reconciled with the Hohenzollerns. The wedding was the last great gathering of European sovereigns before the Great War brought down so many royal dynasties.

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 Fourteenth Man: 1858

Frontispiece of the Annual Report of The Thirteen Club.

Frontispiece of the Annual Report of The Thirteen Club.

[A correspondent from Paris tells of the dire number thirteen.]

“That thirteen is an unlucky number all the world knows. No house numbered thirteen but what suffered troubles and deaths beyond all reason. Thirteen at table is certain death to some member of the company before the year is out. One of the Rothschilds paid a large sum of money once to have all the numbers of a street changed so that a house he had selected might be relieved of the disastrous number. The thirteenth of the month—particularly if it comes on a Friday—is awful to everyone. No thirteen in this world but what brought sadness and misfortune! At least so it is generally presumed on this side of the water.

The occupation of ‘No. 14’ is a recognized one in Paris, serving as it does to designate certain individuals who, for a slight compensation and unrestrained liberty concerning the victuals, consent to add one to any unfortunate dinner party which by mistake only counts thirteen. ‘No. 14’ has a white cravat, a tolerable looking dress coat, and a tolerably prepossessing countenance for his stock in trade. His address is always known to habitual entertainers, and he is ever within call for an emergency. Silent, but industrious, he fills most respectably a fourteenth chair, thus averting calamity from the heads of all the others.

But heresy and unbelief have crept into the minds of some wild young fellows in Bordeaux. They are determined if possible to destroy the ancient superstition, and for that purpose have resolved to form themselves into a society to be called the ‘Independent Thirteeners’—or something equally bold—which shall have banquets to be invariably attended by thirteen persons, such banquets always to be given on Fridays. And, reckless as to the sorrows and deaths this will bring upon them, they have further determined to have a regular grand ‘blow-out,’ if I may so express myself, the thirteenth Friday of each year! The members will at each banquet upset the salt and not throw any over their left shoulders! They will purposely cross their knives so as to quarrel with each other, will commence all their journeys on Friday, and, in short, pitch in to Friday and number thirteen generally. In addition to all this they offer to receive with delight and affection as members of their club, persons supposed to be afflicted with what is called along the coasts of the Mediterranean the ‘evil eye,’ to counteract the effect of which so many coral horns are worn in Genoa, Naples and other places where, also, to avoid their harming influence, persons with the ‘eye’ never receive in a shake of the hands more than two fingers, the two middle ones and the thumb being carefully turned down in defence. When all this unfortunate club are dead from such willful perversity, I will write and let you know about it.”

Detroit [MI] Free Press 11 July 1858: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While thirteen is considered a most unlucky number in many cultures, “thirteen at table” was especially lethal, as we see in this curious story about King Alfonso XII of Spain.

Last year, when visiting the cholera-stricken people of Aranjuez, the King dined with his suite. During the first course one of the guests asked permission to withdraw. It was naturally desired to know why, and this person naively replied.: “Because there are thirteen at table,” which was the fact.

The King laughed greatly at this incident, and insisted that every one should keep his place. Then, still laughing, he turned to the Duke las Castillejos, son of Marshal Prim, and aide-de-camp of General Pavia and said to the Duke, “Take down the names of the persons present, so that we can prove if the proverb is true. I am curious to know which of us it will be that will die this year,” added the King with his habitual good humour.

Of the ” thirteen at dinner ” it was the King who was the first to die.

The Medium and Daybreak 5 February 1886: p. 87

The King died, aged only 27, in 1885. He had been suffering from consumption, but the official cause of death was dysentery—perhaps acquired during his tour of cholera-stricken villages? Despite his “habitual good humour,” the King was plagued by deaths among his relatives, wives, and would-be wives, a circumstance attributed to an unlucky ring.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on the hi-jinks of “The Thirteen Club.” Such iconoclastic organisations were immensely popular, if one takes everything one reads in the newspapers seriously. Here is an account of an ill-fated Parisian attempt at stamping out superstition.

The Fatal Thirteen.

Some weeks ago a strong-minded Parisienne started the Thirteen club, so named because at the luncheons and dinners the members organized among themselves on the 13th of the month, and they always sat down thirteen in number, but when that date coincided with a Friday the day was celebrated with special rejoicings. Moreover, the members pledged themselves to make an active propaganda among their friends and relatives with the view of crushing the superstition attached to the fatal thirteen. One enthusiastic recruit even suggested starting a weekly paper in support of the movement and she brought out one number at her own expense. It was shown to me at the time, and I am not surprised that the publication went no further. But now I hear that the strong-minded president of the club had a motor accident recently on Friday the 13th and that when she reached home she found burglars had entered her house. She at once resigned her membership, and the Thirteen club is dead. Idaho Statesman [Boise, ID] 8 March 1908: p. 6

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.