Tag Archives: Victorian fiction

The Two Valentines: 1867

THE TWO VALENTINES

By Mary Forman
“It is such a bother to be poor!” There had been a long interval of silence in Mrs. Jameson’s little sitting-room, when Gertie made this exclamation. “What is the new bother, Gertie?” The pleased voice and look of kindly inquiry made the young girl blush deeply, as she replied:— “O mamma, never mind. I was only thinking aloud.” “Thinking of what?” “Of some velvet flowers I saw yesterday at Lee’s, which just matched this ribbon,” and Gertie held up a bonnet she was trimming. “Velvet flowers are so lovely for a winter bonnet, and this one needs something.” “I am sure it looks very nice, Gertie.” “Nice!” said the girl, with scornful emphasis; “yes, it is very nice, and that turned silk is nice, and the short sack made out of your old cloak is nice, and cleaned gloves are nice, and” —

“Why, Gertie!” cried her mother, in a voice of amazement.

“But there is nothing stylish or handsome in cleaned gloves, and retrimmed bonnets, and old cloaks turned into sacks, and so I say poverty is a bother.”

“Gertie, put away the bonnet, and come here. Now, little daughter,” said the widow, gently, “tell me the meaning of this sudden tirade against poverty; of the restless tossing I heard from your room last night; of the nervous unquiet of my contented little girl since yesterday?”

There was no answer.

“Gertie, what did Leon Payne say to you last evening?”

“He asked me to be his wife.” The words were jerked out, hastily.

“And you answered…”

“Jane came in to shut up the parlor, not knowing he was there, and she stayed; so he had no answer at all.”

“But he must be answered, Gertie. He has spoken to me, and I told him it must rest with you.”

“Mamma!” this was after a long, deep silence. “He is very rich. When he marries, his wife can have every luxury. If— if it is me, we can have you with us, and Jane need not teach in that horrid school any longer. We were on __Street the other day, and stopped to look in a jeweller’s window , and he pointed out the kind of jewels he would wish his wife to wear. I need not wear old silks then, mamma!”

“Then you intend to accept his offer?”

“I don’t know. You see, there is Harry.”

“But Harry cannot offer you jewels.”

“No, poor Harry! If he had only three thousand dollars, Mr. Ingraham would take him into the firm. He told me all about it last week. But think how long it will take him to save three thousand dollars, and of course his wife must save, and pinch, and economize, till he is able to spend more freely.”

“Yes, dear, there would be no variation on the turned cloth and retrimmed bonnets; no velvet flowers, no jewels.”

“But such a noble, true heart; such tender love!”

“Leon Payne loves you.”

“As much as he loves anything beyond his own pleasure and comfort. He is so thoroughly selfish, so hard, and thinks so much of himself. It is his wife that must be handsomely dressed, ride in her carriage, and reflect credit upon his choice. Mamma, he loves me because I am pretty and can sing well, and can manage his house nicely. Harry loves me because it is me.”

There was a sudden violent jerk at the door bell at that instant, that called Gertie to the door. She came back with flying feet. “Two Valentines, mamma! I had forgotten it was the fourteenth!”

“Two?”

“Yes! O mamma, look!” She had torn off the cover from a dainty package in her hand, and opened a morocco case inside. Upon the black velvet lining lay a parure of glittering diamonds flashing up where a stray sunbeam fell upon them into a glorious sea of color. “Leon Payne!” cried Gertie. “Are they not exquisite?”

violet-poetry

Mrs. Jameson’s lip quivered a little as she looked at her daughter’s flushed face and bright eyes, and her heart sent up a silent but fervent prayer for the future trembling before her eyes. “Look at the other,” she said, quietly.

“Only a copy of verses,” said Gertie. “Violet eyes, and all that sort of thing. But, are not these diamonds magnificent? It is the very set I admired so much when we were out the other day.”

“Gertie, it is eleven o’clock, and I must go to Mrs. Lewis’. Little daughter, you may have callers while I am out;” she drew her child into her arms, and looked with anxious love into her eyes, “Gertie, my darling, be true to your own heart.” And so she left her.

True to her own heart. Gertie Jameson sat down to ponder over the words. The diamonds flashed out their glorious waves of light before her eyes; the copy of verses lay open upon the little work-table, and Gertie sat musing.

Pictures of the past came in rapid succession into her memory. It was ten years ago, but she could still remember the day, since her father had been called to the shadow land. The luxurious country home where she and Jane, her elder sister, were born was sold, and they had come to the city. Her mother, one of the finest amateur pianists of her time, had begun to teach music, and they had lived upon her earnings, until Jane was old enough to take the French class in a large seminary, and Gertie to have singing scholars at home; but even with these additions, their income was very limited. Close economy, self-denial, humble fare, and quiet dress, Gertie could recall much more distinctly than the wealth her father had squandered and lost.

Where did Harry Clarke come upon the scene? Gertie scarcely knew. He was a step-son of her mother’s brother, and had come to the city to make his fortune. Far away in the central part of Pennsylvania nestled a small farm where Harry was born, where father and mother had died, and which was the boy’s sole patrimony. The rent of this domain scarcely sufficed to clothe the young clerk, but he had been winning his way in the house of Ingraham & Co., and now, if he could make three thousand dollars, might be a partner. The farm might sell for part of that sum, but where was the rest to come from? queried Gertie. Yet, over Harry’s memory picture the little maiden lingered lovingly. There was no part of her life so pleasant to dwell upon as that where he figured. Long walks and talks, duets over the old piano, chats by fire-light, moonlight, and gas-light. He was so tender and loving, so honorable and true; so respectful to her mother, so tender to Jane, and so ready to advise or assist Jane’s betrothed, a fellow clerk, who was waiting the turn in fortune’s wheel that would enable him to marry. Was not such love as he offered worth any sacrifice?

Leon Payne came in only six months before this musing fit fell upon Gertie. She had met him at a musical party. She had bewitched him by her pretty, piquant beauty, her grace and her voice; he had dazzled her by his handsome face— Harry was not handsome, poor fellow, Gertie sighed— and wealthy. But the young girl knew with a woman’s intuition, that under the courtly manner, flattering attentions, and devoted air, there was a hard, selfish nature, a cruel jealousy, and a suspicious and hot temper. Yet, he was so rich, and Gertie knew all the torture and misery of genteel poverty.

“Be true to my own heart!” She said the words aloud, as she rose and walked across the room. “Do I love Leon Payne? If he should lose his wealth, would I be a true, loving wife to him still? Could I wear old bonnets and turned dresses for his sake?” She took up the diamonds, and put them on while she spoke. They flashed brilliantly against the deep crimson of her neat dress, and heightened the effect of her young, fresh beauty. “If he were poor and ill, could I work for him as—as I could do for Harry?” It burst from her lips in a sort of cry, and she tore off the jewels and replaced them on their velvet bed. “I could bear all this for Harry, but not for Leon Payne. I will be true to my own heart.”

The winter was gliding into spring, when Mrs. Jameson sat in a luxurious house on ___Street, waiting the home-coming of two brides. The parlor in which she waited was richly furnished. Velvet carpets covered the floors, velvet curtains draped the windows, long mirrors threw back the light of large chandeliers, costly pictures in heavily gilt frames hung upon the walls. Above, large bed-rooms were filled with handsomely appointed furniture. In one room laces, velvets, flowers, and silks fit for a royal trousseau , filled drawers and wardrobe; the dining-room was spread for a rich and varied repast, and the widow’s own dress, though only black silk, was rich and handsomely made.

“My little Gertie,” said Mrs. Jameson, softly, “how will she reign over this palace?” A quieter home, but pleasant, too, was waiting for Jane, whose husband had received an anonymous gift, that enabled him to accept a business opening long looked upon as an unattainable felicity. But Jane was to spend a few days with Gertie before going to her own home, and the mother looked for two brides, as I said before.

It was nearly midnight when the carriage drove up. Gertie was first in her mother’s arms, and then, as Jane took her place, the little bride stood in the centre of the long parlors pale with astonishment. She had tossed off her bonnet, and the simple straw lay upon the velvet carpet, while the soft gray dress of the mistress of the house seemed oddly out of place.

“Where am I?” she gasped, at last.

“At home , darling.” And her husband passed his arm round her waist. “Home!” “It is not a very long story,” he said, looking down into her wondering eyes; “but I did not tell you before because I wanted to see if you loved me .”

She nestled close to him, letting her head fall upon his bosom. “The farm, Gertie,” he said, softly, “was full of oil.” “Oil?” “Petroleum! I sold it for more money than Leon Payne ever possessed. Now, pet, run up stairs, mother will show you the room, and let me see how some of the finery there suits you.”

“But it is nearly midnight.” “Never mind. We want a queen to preside over the supper.”

Mrs. Jameson led her away, while Jane and her husband stood as bewildered as Gertie had been. Suddenly the bridegroom started forward to grasp Harry’s hand.

“Then it was you,” he said, “who sent me the bundle of greenbacks?” “Are we not brothers?” said Harry, quietly. There was a little talk then, with husky voices and moist eyes, and Jane was still looking gratefully into Harry’s face, when the door opened and Gertie flashed in. All the light had come back to her eyes, the rich color to her cheeks; and the shining silk revealed snowy arms and shoulders, while rich lace fell in full folds round the sweeping skirts. Upon her clustering curls rested a wreath of white flowers, and rare bracelets clasped her wrists. She made a low reverence to her husband.

“Lovely!” he cried. “But, pet, wear the diamonds to-night.”

“What diamonds?”

“The ones I sent you for a Valentine.”

You sent me! Harry! I sent them back to Leon Payne.”

It was certainly ten years later, when one evening at one of Mrs. Clarke’s receptions, Mrs. Leon Payne said to her, pointing to her jewels:— “It was the oddest thing about these diamonds. Somebody sent them to Leon for a Valentine, years ago. He could never guess where they came from, for of course the lady must have been wealthy; though why she sent a lady’s parure to a gentleman is a mystery. Are they not lovely, Mrs. Clarke?”

“Very lovely,” and Gertie smiled, as she thought of the day ten years before, when she was true to her own heart .

Godey’s Lady’s Book February 1867

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is certain that all of her readers will take this salutary Valentine lesson to their bosoms: Always be true to your heart!  It would also not do any harm to have a quiet geological survey done of the Beloved’s rustic farm.

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 Widow’s Baby: 1888

the widow's baby

THE WIDOW’S BABY.

Any unfortunate being who ever attempted to smuggle anything from the Continent, and fell into the hands of Captain Peter Muggins, of her British Majesty’s Customs, on landing at Dover, never forgot the circumstance.

The captain was the one to vindicate the honour of the said British Majesty. He was a short, stout, red-faced, well-fed, and exceedingly ill-tempered son of Mars. His martial tread and loud-voiced oaths did not convey the idea of a carpet-knight, yet he had never faced the foe, nor “sought the bubble reputation at the cannon’s mouth.” No, he had contented himself with filling the “Queen’s Tobacco pipe,” as the kiln where contraband goods were formerly burned was somewhat profanely styled.

The captain was prepared to “fix” anyone who carried ashore one cigar, one inch of lace, a pair of gloves, or any other item.

As he stood thus, watching the coming ashore of the passengers with a “stony British stare,” he espied a lady who walked with the gentle, appealing, uncertain step of a young widow.

She was followed by a nurse, wearing the cap and apron of a French bonne and in the arms of this nurse was a baby, in long and flowing white robes.

The captain was on the alert.

The lady came up to him, and, throwing back her long crape veil, addressed him in deep, musical accents:

“You are the custom officer, sir?”

“I am,” responded the captain, rather gruffly.

Now, the widow was sufficiently beautiful to disarm even the ill-nature of Captain Muggins, and just the style of beauty he would be sure to admire.

The widow was beautiful, with a clear, brown eye—or, rather, two of them velvet-lidded, heavy fringed, full and languid, prone to be cast down modestly and upraised suddenly, to the no small confusion of the luckless male bystander.

She wore the full attire of woe. A small crape bonnet, with a slight frost-work of white under its brim, rested on her glossy black hair. Such hair waving, and shining, and blue-black.

Her brow, so smooth and broad, was undisfigured by lunatic fringe or bang. Her eyebrows were black and delicate, but straight, not arched. Her nose might be a trifle large, but it was beautifully formed and clearly chiselled and her mouth was beautiful, the lips so full, so heartlike, in their proud arch, their colouring so fresh and rich.

Then her complexion was of a soft, ruddy, indescribable brunette tint, impossible to picture in words, but wholly charming; her chin was so finely moulded, and her throat full and round.

Altogether, the irascible captain thought “The finest woman I’ve seen for years!” For the widow’s form fully equalled her face, and she was handsomely dressed.

“I am, madam,” he repeated. Where is your luggage?”

“Here it is. I am alone—that is with the exception of my nurse and baby. I have to travel so much now and always alone.”

Tears seemed very close to the widow’s lovely eyes, and a mournfully appealing tone touched even the ironclad heart of Captain Muggins.

“All right, ma’am. Have nothing to declare, I suppose?”

“Nothing. Please examine my trunks, for I long to rest, and my baby has been quite seasick, poor darling.”

The trunks were examined carefully for, however fine a woman the widow might be, “duty before sentiment” was the captain’s motto.

Nothing was found, and the trunks were passed.

The widow took her baby from the nurse’s arms, and hushed it to sleep as it had evinced signs of disquietude by beginning to whimper.

“A fine child, ma’am,” said the captain, who hated babies like poison.

“Is he not beautiful, my Henry?—the image of his dear—oh!” a sob completed the sentence.

He was beautiful at least as much as could be seen of him, for he was one mass of lace and embroidery, his rosy face half concealed by a filmy veil.

“He is a fine fellow; how old might he be?” The captain’s parboiled eyes shone with interest, he admired the widow more every moment.

“Seven months to-morrow—poor little darling! To think how much he has travelled!”

“He has, ma’am?”

“Yes by his dear father’s strange will I live six weeks in Paris and six in England alternately.”

“Rather troublesome for you, ma’am.”

“Oh, I don’t mind for myself,” said the bewitching widow, with a swift upward flash of her adorable eyes, “but my poor little boy—fancy, I might risk his health, might even lose him.” Here she seemed about to give way to her feelings, but just then the captain murmured “Oh, I hope not,” sympathetically, the bonne came up to say that the carriage waited, and with a hurried, “Thank you so much—good-by,” the beautiful widow disappeared.

“Ah! that’s something like a woman!” ejaculated the captain, as he resumed his official duties. He felt that Providence had been guilty of gross injustice in not providing him with just such a wife, instead of poor, faded, weak-eyed, heart-broken Mrs Muggins. In three weeks the beautiful widow returned to France, and in six weeks she again had her luggage examined by the Captain, who became more deeply interested than before. This sort of thing continued for nearly a year. Captain Muggins was now violently enamoured of the lovely widow, who long ago had informed him that her name was Mrs Cecil, and that her husband’s death had left her very wealthy, though sadly inconvenienced by the terms of his strange will.

Master Henry throve apace he grew wonderfully large and heavy, and was a remarkably good boy—so quiet.

“He is quite a sailor,” said the captain, as he stood examining the trunks after rather a stormy voyage.

“Yes; and, poor darling, he cried so very dreadfully during the passage, he is quite worn out.”

When the widow and the captain had been acquainted a year or so the head officer of the department sent for Captain Muggins one day.

He received him in his private office, and remarked as soon as he saw him: “I sent for you, Muggins, for I know you’re very sharp.”

“Thank you, sir,” replied the captain, pleased by the compliment.

“Well, Muggins, I have something rather unpleasant to say.”

“Yes, sir.” The captain felt rather alarmed.

“I’ve received information that a noted smuggler has been getting ahead of us for a year, bringing over diamonds, laces, &c— thousands of pounds worth of valuables. I have known it for some time but though I’ve tried every way, I’m blowed if I can spot him.”

The captain’s red face grew redder.

“I hope, sir, you don’t imagine that I neglect my duty,” he said humbly.

Like all other bullies, he was a great coward.

“No, I don’t. But it is quite possible that some one has been a little too smart for you.”

“I scarcely think that possible,” said the captain indignantly.

“Well, well, the thing is that the game is going on, and I want to tell you what I am going to do. I’ve sent to Scotland Yard for one of their sharpest men, and he’ll be on the wharf the next trip.”

No crimson dye of Eastern fame could equal the tint of Captain Muggin’s face. A detective put on his wharf—to overlook him!

He dared not offer a remonstrance but anyone who knew him could judge for themselves what a nice time his wife and daughter would enjoy when he returned to his home, as they were always the helpless victims of his fury when any indignity was put upon him by outsiders.

He left the office and returned to his duties. His blood boiled with indignation, and he scarcely replied to the many questions asked him during the day by those with whom he came in contact through his official position.

When the steamer arrived and her passengers flowed ashore in a stream, the captain espied the widow advancing with her usual smile, her nurse and her baby. “Ah! how are you my friend?” said the charmer, in her usual soft, melodious accents.

“Well, thank you. How is Master Henry?”

“Oh, so well, so beautiful!”

The trunks were passed, and after a few pleasant words the widow prepared to depart, but just as Julia, the bonne had announced the carriage, a quiet-looking man, in a salt-and-pepper suit, stepped up and laid a profane hand on the beautiful shoulder of the charming widow.

“Caught again, Iky!” he said, in a pleasant manner.

The widow started. She glanced around in terror, alarm.

“No use, Iky!” said the salt-and-pepper man. “I’ve been wondering why you kept so quiet. Game up, old boy.”

The captain stood by in speechless amazement while the detective arrested the beautiful widow.

And the baby, Master Henry, what of him?

He was disrobed of his lace and his embroidery, and he proved to be one mass of smuggled goods adroitly built together on the foundation of a bottle of the best French brandy, and furnished with a waxen face and an apparatus to make a noise resembling the cry of an infant.

The captain is still employed as an officer of Her Majesty’s Customs, but he is more humble, for his beautiful widow was a smart young smuggler from Paris. He was singularly handsome and made up well as a woman, and he had brought thousands of pounds’ worth of valuables through right before the redoubtable captain’s nose and as long as the captain lives he will never hear the last of the widow’s baby.— Prize Tit Bit.

The American Magazine 1888

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really has nothing else to add except her admiration for the ingenious young smuggler and his cunning crying-baby scheme, which reminds her of this apparatus:

A mechanical genius has hit upon the most effectual means of securing ladies travelling by railway from male intruders. This is his advertisement, which needs no comment “Artificial Babies for Travellers.— Common travelling infants, yielding intermittent cries of fear, and capable of being put into the pocket, 10s. Second class, crying not too loudly, but lamentably and insupportably, 20s. Third class, full squallers, with a very piercing and aggravating voice of five octaves, £2. The same, arranged as a prompt repeater, £2 6s Fifth class, first quality, capable of continued squalling, £3.”

Otago Witness, 8 January 1876: p. 5

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.