Miseries of a
That poverty is at times very unhandyyea, humiliating, we can bear
witness; but that any persons should make their poverty an everlasting
subject of shame and annoyance to themselves, is the most contemptible
nonsense we know of. During our junior days, while officiating as shop
boy, behind a counter in a southern city, we used to derive some fun
from the man[oe]uvres of a dandy-jack of a fellow in the same
establishment. He was of the bullet-headed, pimpled and stubby-haired
genus, but dressed up to the nines; and had as much pride as
two half-Spanish counts or a peacock in a barnyard.
Charley was mostly engaged in the ware rooms, laboratory, etc., up
stairs. He would arrive about 7 A. M., arrayed in the costume of the
latest style, as he flaunted down Chestnut Streetby the way, it
was a long, idle tramp, out of his road to do so,his hair all
frizzled up, hat shining and bright as a May morn, his dickey so stiff
he could hardly expectorate over his goatee, while his
stunnin' scarf and dashing pin stuck out to the admiration of
Charley's extensive eyes, and the astonishment of half the clerks and
all the shop boys along the line of our Beau Brummell's promenade!
It was very natural to conceive that Charley was impressed with the
idea, that he was the envy of half the men, and the beau ideal
of all the women he met! But your real dandy is no particular lover of
women; he very naturally so loves himself that he lavishes all his fond
affection upon his own person. So it was with our beauhe
wouldn't have risked dirtying his hands, soiling his patent leathers,
or disarranging his scarf the thirteenth of an inch, to save a lady
from a mad bull, or being run down by a wheelbarrow! Charley, to be
sure, would walk with them, talk with them, beau them to the theatre,
concert or ball room, provided alwaysthey were dressed all but to
within half an inch of their lives! The man who introduced a new and
stunnin' hat, scarf, or coat, Charley would swear friendship to, on
sight! A shabby, genteel person was his abomination; a patch or darn,
utterly horrifying! He lived, moved, breathedideally, his ideality
based, of course, upon ridiculous superfluities of lifeleather and
prunella, entirely. Charley looked upon a dirty day as upon a
villanously-dressed person, while a bright, shining morngiving him
amplitude to make a grand dash, won from him the same encomiums to
the producer that he would bestow on the getter-up of an elegant pair
of cassimerescommendable works of an artist! The genus dandy,
whether of savage or civilized life, is a felicitous subject for
peculiar, speculative, comparative analogy or analysis; we shall
pursue the shadow no farther, but come to the substance.
After arriving at the establishment, Charley would strip off his
top hamper, placing his finery in a closet with the care and
diligence of a maiden of thirty, and upwards. Then, donning a rude pair
of over-alls and coat, he condescended to go to work. Now, in the said
establishment, our beau had few friends; the men, girls, and
boys were down upon him; the men, because of his dandyism; the
females hated him, because Charley stuck his long nose up at
shop girls, and wouldn't no more notice them in the streets, than if
they were chimney sweepers or decayed esculents! We boys didn't like
him no how, generally, though it was policy for him to treat us
tolerably decent, because his pride made it imperiously necessary that
some of the little breeches should do small chores, errands, bringing
water from the street, carrying down to the shop goods, etc.,
which might otherwise devolve upon himself. But men, girls and boys
were always scheming and practising jokes and tricks upon the beau. The boys would all rush off to dinnerfirst having so dirtied the
water, hid the towels and soap, that poor Charley would necessarily be
obliged to go down into the public street and bring up a bucket of the
clean element to wash his begrimed face and hands. And mark the
difficulties and diplomacy of such an arrangement. Charley would
slip down into the lower entry, peep out to see if any body was
looking,if a genteel person was visible, the beau held back
with his bucket; after various reconnaissances, the coast would appear
clear, and the beau would dash out to the pump, agitate the
iron-tailed cow with the force and speed of an infantile
earthquakesnatch up the bucket, and with one dart hit the
doorway, and glide up stairs, thanking his stars that nobody seen him
In one of these forays for water, the beau was
decidedly cornered by two of the shop girls. They, sly creatures,
observed poor Charley from an upper landing of the stairway, in the
entry below, watching his chance to get a clear coast to fill his dirty
bucket. The moment the beau darted out, down rush the girlsslam to
the door and bar it!
The beau, dreaming of no such diabolical inventions, gives
the pump an awful surge, fills the bucket, looks down the
street, andO! murder, there come two ladiesthe first cuts of
the city, to whom Charley had once the honor of a personal
introduction! With his face turned over his shoulder at the ladies
his nether limbs desperately nerved for tall walking,he
dashes at the supposed open entryway, andnearly knocked the panel out
of the door, smashing the bucket, spilling the water, and slightly
It was almost a cruel joke, in the girls, who, taking advantage of
the stunning effect of the operation, unbarred the door and vanished,
before poor Charley picked himself up and scrambled into the lower
store to recuperate.
Weeks ran on; the beau had enjoyed a respite from the wiles of his
persecutors, when one morning he was forced to come down into the store
in his working gear, well be-spattered with oleaginous substances, dust
and dirt; in this gear, Charley presented about as ugly and primitive a
looking Christian, as might not oftenbefore California life was
dreamed ofbe seen in a city. We did quite an extensive retail
tradethe store was rarely free from ton-ish citizens, mostly
fine ladies, in quest of fine perfumes, soaps, oils, etc., to sweeten
and decorate their own beautiful selves. But, before venturing in, our
beau had an eye about the horizon, to see that no impediments
offered; things looked safe, and in comes the beau.
We were upon very fair terms with Charley, and he was wont to regale
us with many of his long stories about the company he faced
into, the conquests he made, and the times he had with this and that,
in high life. Fanny Kemble was about that timebelle of the season!
Lioness of the day! setting corduroy in a high fever, and raising
an awful furoregenerally! Alas! how soon such thingscave in!
Charley got behind the counter to stow away some articles he had
brought down, and began one of his usual harangues:
Theatre, last night, Jack?
No; couldn't get off; wanted to, said we.
O, you missed a grand opportunity to see the fashion beauty and
wealthy people of this city! Such a house! Crowded from pit to dome,
met a hundred and fifty of my friendsladies of the first families in
town, with all the 'high boys' of my acquaintance!
And how did Fanny do Juliet? we asked.
Do it? Elegant! I sat in the second stage box with the two Misses
W. (Chestnut street belles!) and Colonel S. and Sam. G., and his sister
(all nobs of course!), and they were truly entranced with Miss
Kemble's Juliet! I threw for Miss G. her elegant bouquet,Fanny kissed
her fingers to me, and with a look at me, as I stood up so(the
beau gave a tall rear up and was about to spread himself, when
glancing at the door, he seestwo ladies! right in the store!)
thunder! he exclaims.
If the beau had been hit by a streak of lightning, he would not have
dropped sooner than he did, behind the counter.
The ladies proved to be nobody else than those of the very
two Misses W. themselves; they lived close by, and frequently came to
the store. Beneath our counter were endless packages, broken glass,
refuse oils, rancid perfumes, dust, dirt, grease, charcoal, soap, and
about everything else dingy and offensive to the eye and nose. The
place afforded a wretched refuge for a hull so big and nice as our
beau's, but there he was, much in our way too, with the mournful
fact, for Charley, that if those fine ladies stayed less than half an
hour, without overhauling about every article in the store, it would be
a white stone indeed in the fortunes of the beau! The ladies sat; they
dickered and examinedwe exhibited and put away, the beau lying
crouched and crucifying at our feet, and we sniggering fit to burst at
the contretemps of the poor victim. Charley stood it with the
most heroic resignation for full twenty minutes, when the two Misses W.
got up to go. Casting their eyes towards the door, who should be about
to pass but the divine Fanny!
Fanny Kemble! Seeing the two Misses W., whose recognition and
acquaintance was worth cultivatingeven by the haughty queen of the
drama and belle of the hour; she rushed in, they all had a talkand
you know how women can talk, will talk for an hour or two, all
about nothing in particular, except to talk. Imagine our
beau,Phancy his phelinks, as Yellow Plush says, and to
heighten the effect, in comes the boss! He comes behind the counterhe
sees poor Charley sprawlinghe roars out:
By Jupiter! Mr. Whackstack, are you sick? dead?
Dead? utters Fanny.
A man dead behind your counter, sir? scream the Misses W.!
With one desperate splurge, up jumps the beau; rushes out, up
stairsgets on his clothes, and we did not see him again for over two