William Allen Butler

Nothing to Wear

MISS FLORA M'FLIMSEY, of Madison Square,
Has made three separate journeys to Paris,
And her father assures me, each time she was there,
That she and her friend, Mrs. Harris

(Not the lady whose name is so famous in history,
But plain Mrs. H., without romance or mystery),
Spent six consecutive weeks, without stopping,
In one continuous round of shopping-
Shopping alone, and shopping together,

At all hours of the day, and in all sorts of weather,
For all manner of things that a woman can put
On the crown of her head, or the sole of her foot,
Or wrap round her shoulders, or fit round her waist,
Or that can be sewed on, or pinned on, or laced,
Or tied on with a string, or stitched on with a bow
In front or behind, above or below;
For bonnets, mantillas, capes, collars, and shawls;
Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls;
Dresses to sit in, and stand in, and walk in;
Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in;
Dresses in which to do nothing at all;
Dresses for winter, spring, summer, and fall;
All of them different in color and shape,
Silk, muslin, and lace, velvet, satin, and crape,
Brocade and broadcloth, and other material,
Quite as expensive and much more ethereal;

In short, for all things that could ever be thought of,
Or milliner, modiste or tradesman be bought of,

From ten-thousand-franc robes to twenty-sous frills;
In all quarters of Paris, and to every store,

While M'Flimsey in vain stormed, scolded, and swore,
They footed the streets, and he footed the bills!

The last trip, their goods shipped by the steamer Arago
Formed, M'Flimsey declares, the bulk of her cargo,
Not to mention a quantity kept from the rest,
Sufficient to fill the largest-sized chest,
Which did not appear on the ship's manifest,
But for which the ladies themselves manifested
Such particular interest, that they invested
Their own proper persons in layers and rows

Of muslins, embroideries, worked underclothes,

Gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs, and such trifles as those;
Then, wrapped in great shawls, like Circassian beauties,

Gave good-by to the ship, and go by to the duties.
Her relations at home all marveled, no doubt,
Miss Flora had grown so enormously stout
For an actual belle and a possible bride;

But the miracle ceased when she turned inside out,

And the truth came to light, and the dry-goods be


Which, in spite of Collector and Custom-house sentry,

Had entered the port without any entry.

And yet, though scarce three months have passed since the


This merchandise went, on twelve carts, up Broadway,

This same Miss M'Flimsey of Madison Square,

The last time we met was in utter despair,

Because she had nothing whatever to wear!

Nothing to wear! Now, as this is a true ditty,
I do not assert-this, you know, is between us-
That she's in a state of absolute nudity,

Like Powers's Greek Slave or the Medici Venus;
But I do mean to say, I have heard her declare,
When at the same moment she had on a dress
Which cost five hundred dollars, and not a cent less,
And jewelry worth ten times more, I should guess,
That she had not a thing in the wide world to wear!

I should mention just here, that out of Miss Flora's
Two hundred and fifty or sixty adorers,

I had just been selected as he who should throw all
The rest in the shade, by the gracious bestowal

On myself, after twenty or thirty rejections,

Of those fossil remains which she called her "affections,"
And that rather decayed but well-known work of art
Which Miss Flora persisted in styling her "heart."
So we were engaged. Our troth had been plighted,
Not by moonbeam or starbeam, by fountain or grove,
But in a front parlor, most brilliantly lighted,
Beneath the gas-fixtures, we whispered our love.
Without any romance, or raptures, or sighs,
Without any tears in Miss Flora's blue eyes,
Or blushes, or transports, or such silly actions,
It was one of the quietest business transactions,
With a very small sprinkling of sentiment, if any,
And a very large diamond imported by Tiffany.
On her virginal lips, while I printed a kiss,
She exclaimed, as a sort of parenthesis,

And by way of putting me quite at my ease,
"You know I'm to polka as much as I please,

And flirt when I like-now, stop, don't you speak

And you must not come here more than twice in the


Or talk to me either at party or ball,

But always be ready to come when I call;

So don't prose to me about duty and stuff,

If we don't break this off, there will be time enough

For that sort of thing; but the bargain must be

That, as long as I choose, I am perfectly free

For this is a kind of engagement, you see,

Which is binding on you, but not binding on me."

Well, having thus wooed Miss M'Flimsey and gained her,
With the silks, crinolines, and hoops that contained her,
I had, as I thought, a contingent remainder
At least in the property, and the best right
To appear as its escort by day and by night;

And it being the week of the Stuckups' grand ball-
Their cards had been out a fortnight or so,
And set all the Avenue on the tiptoe-
I considered it only my duty to call,

And see if Miss Flora intended to go.
I found her-as ladies are apt to be found,
When the time intervening between the first sound
Of the bell and the visitor's entry is shorter
Than usual-I found; I won't say-I caught her,
Intent on the pier-glass, undoubtedly meaning
To see if perhaps it didn't need cleaning.

She turned as I entered-"Why, Harry, you sinner,
I thought that you went to the Flashers' to dinner!”
"So I did," I replied; "the dinner is swallowed,
And digested, I trust, for 'tis now nine and more,

So being relieved from that duty, I followed
Inclination, which led me, you see, to your door;
And now will your ladyship so condescend
As just to inform me if you intend

Your beauty, and graces, and presence to lend

(All of which, when I own, I hope no one will borrow)

To the Stuckups', whose party, you know, is to-morrow?"

The fair Flora looked up, with a pitiful air,

And answered quite promptly, "Why, Harry, mon cher,

I should like above all things to go with you there,

But really and truly-I've nothing to wear." "Nothing to wear! Go just as you are;

Wear the dress you have on, and you'll be by far,

I engage, the most bright and particular star

On the Stuckup horizon-" I stopped, for her eye, Notwithstanding this delicate onset of flattery, Opened on me at once a most terrible battery

Of scorn and amazement. She made no reply, But gave a slight turn to the end of her nose

(That pure Grecian feature), as much as to say, "How absurd that any sane man should suppose That a lady would go to a ball in the clothes,

No matter how fine, that she wears every day!" So I ventured again: "Wear your crimson brocade;" (Second turn up of nose)-"That's too dark by a shade." "Your blue silk"-"That's too heavy." "Your pink""That's too light.”

"Wear tulle over satin"-"I can't endure white."

"Your rose-colored, then, the best of the batch"

"I haven't a thread of point-lace to match."

"Your brown moire antique"-"Yes, and look like a Quaker." "The pearl-colored"-"I would, but that plaguy dressmaker

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