Miseries Of A Dandy

That poverty is at times very unhandy--yea, 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

hment. 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 Street--by 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 beau--he 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 always--they 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, breathed--ideally, his ideality based, of course, upon

ridiculous superfluities of life--leather and prunella, entirely.

Charley looked upon "a dirty day" as upon a villanously-dressed person,

while a bright, shining morn--giving 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 cassimeres--commendable

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 dinner--first 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 earthquake--snatch up the

bucket, and with one dart hit the doorway, and glide up stairs,

thanking his stars that nobody "seen him do it!"

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 girls--slam 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, and--O! murder,

there come two ladies--the 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, and--nearly knocked

the panel out of the door, smashing the bucket, spilling the water, and

slightly killing himself!

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 often--before California life was

dreamed of--be seen in a city. We did quite an extensive retail

trade--the 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 time--belle of the season! Lioness

of the day! setting corduroy in a high fever, and raising an awful

furore--generally! Alas! how soon such things--cave 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 friends--ladies 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 sees--two ladies! right in the store!) thunder!" he


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 examined--we 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 cultivating--even by the haughty queen of the

drama and belle of the hour; she rushed in, they all had a talk--and 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 counter--he sees poor Charley

sprawling--he 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

stairs--gets on his clothes, and we did not see him again for over two