University of Virginia Library

No Page Number


Now, Heaven rest the Phœnicians for their pleasant invention
of the art of travel.

This is to be a story of love and pride, and the hero's name is
Hypolet Leathers.

You have smiled prematurely, my friend and reader, if you
“think you see” Mr. Leathers foreshadowed, as it were, in his

(Three mortal times have I mended this son of a goose of a
pen, and it will not—as you see by the three unavailing attempts
recorded above—it will not commence, for me, this tale, with a
practicable beginning.)

The sun was rising (I think this promises well)—leisurely rising
was the sun on the opposite side of the Susquehannah. The tall
corn endeavored to lift its silk tassel out of the sloppy fog that
had taken upon itself to rise from the water and prognosticate a
hot fair day, and the driver of the Binghamton stage drew over


Page 115
his legs a two-bushel bag as he cleared the street of the village,
and thought that, for a summer's morning, it was “very cold”—
wholly unaware, however, that, in murmuring thus, he was expressing
himself as Hamlet did while waiting for his father's
ghost upon the platform.

Inside the coach were three passengers. A gentleman sat by
the window on the middle seat, with his cloak over his lap, watching
the going to heaven of the fog that had fulfilled its destiny.
His mind was melancholy—partly for the contrast he could not
but draw between this exemplary vapor and himself, who was
“but a vapor,”[1] and partly that his pancreas began to apprehend
some interruption of the thoroughfare above—or, in other words,
that he was hungry for his breakfast, having gone supperless to
bed. He mused as he rode. He was a young man, about twenty-five,
and had inherited from his father, John Leathers, a gentleman's
fortune, with the two drawbacks of a name troublesome
to Phœbus (“Phœbus! what a name!”), and premature gray
hair. He was, in all other respects, a finished and well-conditioned
hero—tall, comely, courtly, and accomplished—and had
seen the sight-worthy portions of the world, and knew their differences.
Travel, indeed, had become a kind of diseased necessity
with him—for he fled from the knowledge of his name, and
from the observation of his gray hair, like a man fleeing from
two fell phantoms. He was now returning from Niagara, and
left the Mohawk route to see where the Susquehannah makes its
Great Bend in taking final leave of Mr. Cooper, who lives above;


Page 116
and at the village of the Great Bend he was to eat that day's

On the back seat, upon the leather cushion, behind Mr. Leathers,
sat two other chilly persons, a middle-aged man and a girl
of sixteen—the latter with her shawl drawn close to her arms,
and her dark eyes bent upon her knees, as if to warm them (as
unquestionably they did). Her black curls swung out from her
bonnet, like ripe grapes from the top of an arbor—heavy, slumberous,
bulky, prodigal black curls—oh, how beautiful! And I
do not know that it would be a “trick worth an egg” to make
any mystery of these two persons. The gentleman was John
Mehidy, the widowed tailor of Binghamton, and the lady was
Nora Mehidy, his daughter; and they were on their way to New
York to change the scene, Mrs. Mehidy having left the painful
legacy of love—her presence—behind her. For, ill as he could
afford the journey, Mr. Mehidy thought the fire of Nora's dark
eyes might be put out with water, and he must go where every
patch and shred would not set her a weeping. She “took it
hard,” as they describe grief for the dead in the country.

The Great Bend is a scene you may look at with pleasure,
even while waiting for procrastinated prog, and Hypolet Leathers
had been standing for ten minutes on the high bank around which
the Susquehannah sweeps, like a train of silver tissue after a
queen turning a corner, when passed him suddenly tripped Nora
Mehidy bonnetless, and stood gazing on the river from the outer
edge of the precipice. Leathers' visual consciousness dropped
into that mass of clustering hair like a ring into the sea, and disappeared.
His soul dived after it, and left him with no sense or
remembrance of how his outer orbs were amusing themselves.
Of what unpatented texture of velvet, and of what sifting of diamond


Page 117
dust were those lights and shadows manufactured! What
immeasurable thickness in those black flakes—compared, with all
locks that he had ever seen, as an edge of cocoa-meat, fragrantly
and newly broken, to a torn leaf, limp with wilting. Nora stood
motionless, absorbed in the incomparable splendor of that silver
hook bent into the forest—Leathers as motionless, absorbed in
her wilderness of jetty locks—till the barkeeper rang the bell for
them to come to breakfast. Ah, Hypolet! Hypolet! what dark
thought came to share, with that innocent beefsteak, your morning's

That tailors have, and why they have, the handsomest daughters,
in all countries, have been points of observation and speculation
for physiology, written and unwritten. Most men know
the fact. Some writers have ventured to guess at the occult secret.
But I think “it needs no ghost, come from the grave,” to
unravel the matter. Their vocation is the embellishment—partly
indeed the creation—of material beauty. If philosophy sit on
their shears (as it should ever), there are questions to decide
which discipline the sense of beauty—the degree in which fashion
should be sacrificed to becomingness, and the resistance to the
invasion of the poetical by whim and usage, for example—and as
a man thinketh—to a certain degree—so is his daughter. Beauty
is the business-thought of every day, and the desire to know
how best to remedy its defects is the ache and agony of the tailor's
soul, if he be ambitious. Why should not this have its exponent
on the features of the race, as other strong emotions have—plastic
and malleable as the human body is, by habit and practice.
Shakspere, by-the-way, says—

'Tis use that breeds a habit in a man,


Page 118
and I own to the dulness of never till now apprehending that this
remarkable passage typifies the steeping of superfine broadcloth
(made into superfine habits) into the woof and warp of the tailor's
idiosyncracy. Q. E. D.

Nora Mehidy had ways with her that, if the world had not been
thrown into a muss by Eve and Adam, would doubtless have been
kept for queens. Leathers was particularly struck with her never
lifting up her eyelids till she was ready. If she chanced to be
looking thoughtfully down when he spoke to her, which was her
habit of sadness just now, she heard what he had to say and
commenced replying—and then, slowly, up went the lids, combing
the loving air with their long lashes, and no more hurried
than the twilight taking its fringes off the stars. It was adorable
—altogether adorable! And her hands and lips, and feet and
shoulders, had the same contemptuous and delicious deliberateness.

On the second evening, at half past five—just half an hour too
late for the “Highlander” steamer—the “Binghamton stage”
slid down the mountain into Newburgh. The next boat was to
touch at the pier at midnight, and Leathers had six capacious
hours to work on the mind of John Mehidy. What was the process
of that fiendish temptation, what the lure and the resistance,
is a secret locked up with Moloch—but it was successful! The
glorious chevelure of the victim—(sweet descriptive word—chevelure!)—the
matchless locks that the matchlocks of armies should
have defended—went down in the same boat with Nora Mehidy,
but tied up in Mr. Leathers' linen pocket-handkerchief! And,
in one week from that day, the head of Hypolet Leathers was
shaven nude, and the black curls of Nora Mehidy were placed
upon its irritated organs in an incomparable WIG!!


Page 119

A year had elapsed. It was a warm day, in No. 77 of the Astor,
and Hypolet Leathers, Esq., arrived a week before by the
Great Western, sat aiding the evaporation from his brain by lotions
of iced lavender. His wig stood before him, on the blockhead that
was now his inseparable companion, the back toward him; and
as the wind chased off the volatile lavender from the pores of his
skull, he toyed thoughtfully with the lustrous curls of Nora Mehidy.
His heart was on that wooden block! He dressed his own
wig habitually, and by dint of perfuming, combing, and caressing
those finger-like ringlets—he had tangled up his heart in their
meshes. A phantom, with the superb face of the owner, stayed
with the separated locks, and it grew hourly more palpable and
controlling. The sample had made him sick at heart for the
remainder. He wanted the rest of Nora Mehidy. He had come
over for her. He had found John Mehidy, following his trade
obscurely in a narrow lane, and he had asked for Nora's hand.
But though this was not the whole of his daughter, and he had
already sold part of her to Leathers, he shook his head over his
shiny shears. Even if Nora could be propitiated after the sacrifice
she had made (which he did not believe she could be), he
would as lief put her in the world of spirits as in a world above
him. She was his life, and he would not give his life willingly to
a stranger who would take it from him, or make it too fine for his
using. Oh, no! Nora must marry a tailor, if she marry at all—
and this was the adamantine resolution, stern and without appeal,
of John Mehidy.

Some six weeks after this, a new tailoring establishment of
great outlay and magnificence was opened in Broadway. The
show-window was like a new revelation of stuff for trowsers, and
resplendent, but not gaudy, were the neckcloths and waistcoatings


Page 120
—for absolute taste reigned over all. There was not an article
on show possible to William street—not a waistcoat that, seen in
Maiden lane, would not have been as unsphered as the Lost
Pleiad in Botany Bay. It was quite clear that there was some
one of the firm of “Mehidy & Co.” (the new sign) who exercised
his taste “from within, out,” as the Germans say of the process
of true poetry. He began inside a gentleman, that is to say, to
guess at what was wanted for a gentleman's outside. He was a
tailor-gentleman, and was therefore, and by that quality only, fitted
to be a gentleman's tailor.

The dandies flocked to Mehidy & Co. They could not be
measured immediately—oh no! The gentleman to be built was
requested to walk about the shop for a half hour, till the foreman
got him well in his eye, and then to call again in a week. Meantime
he would mark his customer in the street, to see how he
performed. Mehidy & Co. never ventured to take measure for
terra incognita. The man's gait, shrug, speed, style, and quality,
were all to be allowed for, and these were not seen in a minute.
And a very sharp and stylish looking fellow seemed that
foreman to be. There was evidently spoiled some very capable
stuff for a lord when he was made a tailor.

“His leaf,
By some o'er hasty angel, was misplaced
In Fate's eternal volume.”
And, faith! it was a study to see him take a customer's measure!
The quiet contempt with which he overruled the man's indigenous
idea of a coat!—the rather satirical comments on his peculiarities
of wearing his kerseymere!—the cool survey of the adult to be
embellished, as if he were inspecting him for admission to the


Page 121
grenadiers!—On the whole, it was a nervous business to be measured
for a coat by that fellow with the devilish fine head of black

And, with the hair upon his head, from which Nora had once
no secrets—with the curls upon his cheek and temples which had
once slumbered peacefully over hers, Hypolet Leathers, the foreman
of “Mehidy & Co.,” made persevering love to the tailor's
magnificent daughter. For she was magnificent! She had just
taken that long stride from girl to woman, and her person had
filled out to the imperial and voluptuous model indicated by her
deliberate eyes. With a dusky glow in her cheek, that looked
like a peach teinted by a rosy twilight, her mouth, up to the
crimson edge of its bow of Cupid, was moulded with the slumberous
fairness of newly wrought sculpture, and gloriously beautiful
in expression. She was a creature for whom a butterfly
might do worm over again—to whose condition in life, if need be,
a prince might proudly come down. Ah, queenly Nora Mehidy!

But the wooing—alas! the wooing throve slowly! That lovely
head was covered again with prodigal locks, in short and massive
clusters, but Leathers was pertinacious as to his property in
the wig, and its becomingness and indispensableness—and to be
made love to by a man in her own hair!—to be obliged to keep
her own dark curls at a respectful distance!—to forbid all intercourse
between them and their children-ringlets, as it were—it
roughened the course of Leather's true love that Nora must
needs be obliged to reason on such singular dilemmas. For,
though a tailor's daughter, she had been furnished by nature with
an imagination!

But virtue, if nothing more and no sooner, is its own reward,
and in time “to save its bacon.” John Mehidy's fortune was


Page 122
pretty well assured in the course of two years, and made, in his
own line, by his proposed son-in-law, and he could no longer refuse
to throw into the scale the paternal authority. Nora's hair
was, by this time, too, restored to its pristine length and luxuriousness,
and, on condition that Hypolet would not exact a new
wig from his new possessions, Nora, one summer's night, made
over to him the remainder. The long-exiled locks revisited their
natal soil, during the caresses which sealed the compact, and a
very good tailor was spoiled the week after, for the married
Leathers became once more a gentleman at large, having bought,
in two instalments, at an expense of a hundred dollars, a heart,
and two years of service, one of the finest properties of which
Heaven and a gold ring ever gave mortal the copyhold!


“Man's but a vapor,
Full of woes,
Cuts a caper,
And down he goes.”

Familiar Ballads.