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than a conjuring wand; and the "Sixinch hone," the only veritable stone of the philosopher.
My place, however, was no sinecure at the commencement of this new career. Besides the washings, sweep ings, boilings, scourings, and other domestic duties which I have already enumerated, I had the minor arrange ments of "the business," in great numbers, to attend to. First, I had to dress the false curls of half the shop girls in our neighbourhood; pick the new hair that we bought, and mend the old wigs. Then I had to wait upon the motions of my Magnus Apollo, our eldest 'prentice-heat his irons when he dressed hair, and bear the blame when he did mischief. And, beyond this, I had to assist my master in a sort of laboratory, up in our back garret; where we imitated the patent oils of "Russia" and "Macassar;" manufactured "Ruspini's tooth powder," and "Day and Martin's blacking ;" and transmuted, by the aid of so many varieties in colouring, simple hog's-lard into "bear's grease," "French lipsalve," or "Marrow pomatum."
I overcame the first difficulty in my trade-that of setting razors-tolerably well. I practised, indeed, upon those which strangers left at our shop to be sharpened, not on our own, which were used in the trade. The owners, too, used sometimes to come back and complain, that their steel, after my labour, cut worse than it had done before. But my master, who had little feeling for persons who shaved themselves, uniformly threw the blame, in such cases, upon the awkwardness of the complainant. Either he had not "strapped" the razor enough-or he had strapped it too much-or he had not dipped it in hot water or he had dipped it in water which was too hot-or (and that was an objection which no grumbler ever could get over) there was something wrong in his manner of holding the weapon. The dispute commonly closing, on the part of Mr Latherbrush, with a proposal (for twopence more paid) to adjust the restive machine himself, or to sell the beard-pestered complainant a "tried pair of razors," which had shaved thousands," and "would shave thousands more;" which proffer, if accepted, probably produced to the ingenious propounder half a crown for a pair of blades,
which had been bought at an ironstall for fourpence.
But I had conquered the difficulty sharpening a razor; and had made so much progress in the faculty of using one, that generally, in the joyous haste of a holiday eve, or Saturday night, when all was hurry and bustle in our shop-when our five chairs were all full, and our Observer was quite thumbed to pieces-when the fire shone bright, and the shavingpot hissed and bubbled-when the candles were fresh snuffed, and master was in good humour, and even our old Dutch clock seemed to tick with unwonted alacrity-mostly, upon pressing occasions like these, when a steel, as may be supposed, twirled in every available finger, I had been entrusted with the chins of our smock-faced customers-(the blackbeards, besides that they were more choleric and dangerous of temper, being the more difficult clients to dismantle of the two) —when an accident fell out, which blighted for ever my prospects in the mystery" and occupation of a bar
"Like reeds, not hair!"
You may recollect perhaps, Mr Editor, that, about thirteen years ago, certain Orders of Council (issued during the war) shut out the Birmingham manufacturers, for a time, from the American market. The joy which pervaded my native town, when these Orders were taken off, was boundless. Some people illuminated their houses; others blew themselves up with gunpowder; balls, routs, and concerts, night after night, were given by every family of any gentility; and the six hackney coaches of Birmingham were bespoke for full-dress parties sixteen deep. But, if it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, I am sure I may say, that's a good wind which blows nobody evil; it happened, on one of these evenings of general rejoicing, that a traveller, who was staying at the "Hen and Chickens" hotel, took a fancy to require the assistance of a hair-dresser.
For my sins, not a single fashionable barber was to be met with! Mr Frizzlewig's people were all engaged for the next week. Mr Tailcomb was sent to; but he "could not come in less than two hours." At last, the waiter (who was to bring a barber,
whether he could get one or no) bethought him of us, and ran down with the gentleman's commands.
Mr Napkin's intimation produced an immense sensation in our back parlour. My master had met with an accident the day before-he was the real barber of whom the story is told, that cut his own thumb through the cheek of his customer. Our big prentice was gone out for all the afternoon, to decorate the young ladies, by contract, at "Hollabaloo House" boarding-school. I—the enfant perdu of the scissars-was the only disposable force! But great exigencies must be met with appropriate exertions of daring. An introduction at the "Hen and Chickens" was an opportunity not to be neglected. John Blowbellows, the blacksmith, who had been grumbling because I was going to shave him, was now informed that he could not be shaved at all; and, with instructions to "cut gently," and "to charge at least half a crown," I was hurried off to" the gentleman at the inn."
The first sight of my new patient set my nerves dancing in all directions. He was a huge, tall, brawny, red-hot Irishman, with a head of hair bright orange, and as curly as that of a negro.
"Cut my hair, boy," he said, in a voice like the grating of waggonwheels; "and, you spalpeen, be handy, for it's these twenty-four hours that I'm waiting for you."
I had cut two descriptions of hair in my time; but Mr M'Boot's was neither of these. In the smooth, straight lock, I succeeded pretty well; for I could cut an inch or so off all round, and tell by my eye when all was even. And in the close crop of the charity-school, I was at home to facility; for it was only running the comb along, close to the scalp, and against the grain, and cutting off everything that appeared above it. But the stranger's hair was neither in the lanky, nor the close hogged mood. It was of a bright red colour, as I have said before-stiff as wire-of an inveterate tight round curl-and bushy to frightfulness, from excess of luxuriant growth. He had started from London with it rather too long; worn it, uncombed, on a three months' journey through Wales; and waited till he reached Birmingham, that he might have it cut in the fashion.
"Cut my hair, I say, you devil's
baby," repeated this knight of the appalling chevelure, imbibing a huge draught from a tumbler of brandy and water, which he was consuming while he dressed, and recommencing, in a horrible voice, to sing "The Lads of Shillelagh," a measure which my entrance had for the moment interrupt ed. I obeyed, but with a trembling hand; the very first sight of his head had discomposed all my faculties. I plunged into the operation of adjusting it as into a voyage over sea, without rudder or compass. I cut a bit here, and a bit there, taking very little off at a time, for fear of losing my way; but the detestable round curl, rolling itself up the moment I let go the end, defeated every hope, every chance, of regularity.
"Thin the rest," blasphemed the sufferer," and so leave it, for I'll not wait." This command put the finishing stroke to my perplexity. Thinning was a process entirely past my skill; but a fresh execration, interrupting "The Lads of Shillelagh," left me no longer any power of thought. I had seen the business of " thinning" performed, although I did not at all comprehend it; I knew that the scissars were to be run through the hair from one side to another with a sort of snip snip-all the way, so I dashed on snip-snip-through the close round curls, quite surprised at my own dexterity, for about a minute and a half; and then, taking up my comb to collect the proceeds of the operation, three-fourths of the man's hair came off at once in my hand!
What followed I have never exactly been clear to. Mr M'Boot, I think, felt the sudden chill occasioned by the departure of his head-gear: at all events, he put his hand to his head, and motioned to rise. I made a rush to the door, muttering something about "heating irons;" but, as I turned round, I saw discovery in his eye. I see him even now, with a countenance more in amazement than in anger, standing, paralyzed, beside the chair upon which he had been sitting, and rubbing his head with the left hand, as doubting if the right had not misinformed him; but, at the moment when the thing occurred, I thought only of my escape. I made but one step to each flight of stairs; clung to the basket of a London coach which happened to be starting at the moment, and, in five minutes, with the
"Thomas Ticklepitcher," said he, "if such indeed thou art, why hast thou left thy home and native city?" He snuffed up huge pinches of black rappee, at least the profits of a whole day's sale,-as he listened to my unlucky adventure with Mr M'Boot. "Thou hast done ill, boy," he said, "to quit thy master. "Twas but a beating at the worst, and such, I doubt, (on general considerations,) had done
thee service rather than mischief. Out of my doors, boy," he continued, "and Heaven be with thee. Begone, lest I be prosecuted for harbouring a rebellious apprentice."
The immediate enforcement of my uncle's command, (for by nothing short of enforcement could I have been induced to obey it,) the post-haste enforcement of that most merciless direction, was delayed, for a moment, by the approach of a customer. "A monster, a very monster, in apparel, And not like a Christian foot-boy.'
It was a wretched-looking child, about thirteen years old-buttoned into a speckled jacket, both too long and too wide for it, and almost extinguished by a hat of (once) shining leather, tied round with a band of tarnished yellow tinsel, whose appearance afforded me this span of respite.
"An ounce of Scotch, Mr Sneezum," wheezed the spectre, in a cracked octave tone, raising its head so as to peep under the brim of its ponderous hat, and so giving me to see that a cravat, white, perhaps, in the previous century, was twisted and tied in a quaint fashion round its neck.
"An ounce of the best Scotch, Mr Sneezum," it continued; " and, if you hear of a foot-boy that wants a place, you are to send him to my master, for I'm going away to-day."
"Going away, you young dog," grumbled my uncle, weighing the snuff, "ay, you are all for going away -never know what a good place is, till you lose it."
"Well, well," returned the vision, coughing-as from an empty stomach, -and pulling up, or rather trying to pull up at heel, the shoe which completed the outline of its four-inch-long kneebreeches, and well splashed cotton stockings, "well, only send any you hear of; for our shopman will grumble wickedly if he has to carry out the physic stuff himself:"--and away the creature paddled out of the shop, looking like a snail in the shell of an unboiled lobster.
This was no encouraging specimen of the condition of London servants; but the fact cut two ways. If servingmen were such, how pitiable their condition! but, if such were serving-men, how easy the situation of a servingman to attain! I saw the "out of my shop," which the elfin lacquey's appearance had interrupted, rising again, and peremptorily, in the eye of my uncle, and I entreated him to allow me to go after the service now becoming vacant. Though not tall enough for the 10th Hussars, I was a colossus compared with the atomy who had just left the counter; and, besides that I dreaded returning to Birmingham, I was (unless in my hopes from my uncle's bounty) entirely without the means of getting there.
Mr Sneezum, to do him justice, had no ill feeling towards me. So that he got me out of his house-he cared very little how-he had not the least wish that I should be starved, if I could live other than at his cost; and so, after a hard word or two, as to leaving my "bounden profession," and some remarks about "rolling stones," which I did not distinctly understand, I got leave to wait upon Mr Camomile Bolus, at the sign of the Pestle and Mortar, near the bottom of St Martin's Lane.
I pondered as I passed between Monmouth Street and Charing Cross, upon what my uncle had delivered as to the abandonment of my lawful calling. But my failure with Mr M'Boot made me doubt whether I had a genius for dressing hair. The distance I had to measure was trifling; two wavers and a resolution brought me to the house of Mr Bolus.
I knocked at the private door,-for
there was a shop, garnished with gallipots, and faded green curtains, but nobody was in it,-I knocked at the private door with a trembling hand, and with a hope, I hardly knew why, that my pigmy acquaintance might open it. At the first knock no one came. A second appeal brought up a little girl, whom I conjectured to be of the Doctor's family, and to whom I stated, with much humility, that I heard they were in want of" a manservant." I suspected that the term 66 man" Iwas a little doubtful in such a case, (though I afterwards found out that I had been totally mistaken in such suspicion.) But I did not quite like the idea of " boy," and there was no word, within my knowledge, of convenient medium.
Mr Bolus was at dinner, so I waited some time in the passage, and saw a huge servant-maid-a mere mountain of dirt and animal matter-run once or twice heavily up and down stairs. Presently, I heard a voice, which, from its penetrating tone, Í judged to be that of my mistress that should be. A kind of cold shivering came over me at the sound. I did not like the key. It struck me as unfavourable to "men" (or other) servants. By this time a raw-boned, sharp-speaking young man, whom I took, from his accent, to be a Welshman, came out of a back parlour, and passed by a cross door into "the shop;" and the next moment, with my heart in my mouth, I was summoned into the presence of Mr Bolus.
The Doctor was a queer little ill-favoured old man, not unlike my honoured relative, Mr Sneezum, in figure. He asked me a multiplicity of questions, the whole of which I answered with that deference and deep respect, which a man generally feels when his next meal depends upon the grace of the person whom he is addressing.
He asked—” In what services I had lived?"
"I had come from the country to seek for service."
"What had I been used to do?"
"I had been a barber; but-mymy hand was not steady enough to shave, and so I had left the business."
Mr Bolus, for my comfort, wore a powdered 'wig himself. Doubtless it was this circumstance which induced him to regard an ex perruquier with a VOL. XIV.
favourable eye. He took my reference for character to my uncle, Mr Sneezum, who (as I observed)" had the honour to supply him with snuff;" and, on the very same afternoon, I had the satisfaction to be formally hired into his service.
"Your worship promised that I should have victuals at discretion?" "And so you shall, you rogue,—at my discretion."
My little predecessor was packed off in the evening, before I arrived at the Doctor's house, possibly lest he should inspire me with notions prejudicial to my new situation. I saw the great servant-maid, who had struck my fancy the day before, and was desired to put on the "livery," which had been worn by the last incumbent. This direction was easily given, but not quite so easily obeyed. As I was nearly three times bigger in dimension than the apparition of the snuff-shop, the suit was as much too little for me as it had been superfluously large for him. The jacket I dragged on with a desperate effort, the cuffs reaching down not more than two inches below my elbow-for the cloth, which was originally coarse and spongy, had become shrunken by long use and repeated wetting.*** Indeed the whole garment was so heavy, and damp, and clammy, that I could have fancied I was wrapping myself in a leaden-coffin, except that a coffin (unless in especial cases) serves one tenant in its life only; whereas, of the inclosure into which I was compressing myself, I was, at least, the two-and-fortieth occupant.
But I got on the jacket, which was too small, and the hat, which was too large the lower parts of the dress were absolutely impracticable. I was then sent my rounds with a huge armpannier of phials and pill-boxes, which I found was perfectly well known as "the Doctor's basket," to all the ragged urchins in the neighbourhood. Afterward, I was desired to make my own bed and the assistant's, one under one counter, and one under the other. And, in conclusion, with a light, wholesome supper of bread and cheese, and a draught of small-beer, (which had not its name for nothing,) I went to rest for the first time in the habitation of my new master.
I would that all those who envy the servant that wears a good livery, could 4 F
"A snipt taffeta fellow."
witness the condition of the servant that wears a bad one. I would that whoever grudges the "bottom-glass" to the butler, had to pass through all the grades by which the butler's dignity is arrived at. Immortal be the memory of that author-I could almost swear that he was a footman himself who wrote a moral lesson to the world in the character (mistaken for humorous) of Scrub. In the service of Mr Bolus, what a martyrdom did I suffer! John Rugby, in the play, had an easy place of it compared to mine; and the old Frenchman, Monsieur Thing-me, was a merciful master.
I got up, in the frost and snow, at six o'clock in the morning, swept shop and watered, rubbed windows and knives, cleaned master's and mistress's and Mr Ap-Bleedaway's, and first floor lodgers' shoes; brushed clothes, carried coals, wiped tables, and dressed master's wig. This was before breakfast. After that meal, (which was very soon over,) I fetched errands for the house, and took the children to school; went round with my master to his patients, and knocked with the bottles, after he had paid the visit. Then I came back, took the old gig home to the stables; afterwards I laid the dinner, for mistress could not eat unless the " man-servant" waited. In the evening I pounded medicines, washed phials, and rinsed mortars-trimmed lamps, shut up shutters, and carried out the composing draughts.-Then came the bit of bread and cheese, with the great servant-maid in the kitchen, the small beer, the making up the beds, and the counter again-and all this performed for a mattress, that I think was stuffed with chesnuts. A scanty allowance of food, (for even Mr Ap-Bleedaway could hardly make it out ;) a small-beer-I taste it now! Master, for economy, used to brew it himself; and a wages (I had almost forgot the livery,) of seven sterling pounds a-year!
I wore out a sad twelvemonths at the sign of The Pestle and Mortar. I believe that I must have died if I had remained in the Doctor's hands a fortnight longer. But, about a week after I had turned my back upon St Martin's-Lane, with three pounds in my pocket, and a year's character to back it,-I heard that Mr Steptoe wanted a servant; and made all expedition to apply for the place.
Mr Steptoe was a dancing-master, and clean another kind of man than my old master, the apothecary. I had seen his bills stuck all over the town in flaming characters-red, black, and yellow, about "weekly assemblies," and "attending schools," and "private lessons," and "cotillons and quadrilles;" and he lived, moreover, quite in the fashionable part of London-in John-street, Tottenham Court Road, or (as he called it,)" Johnstreet, Fitzroy Square."
On mentioning my errand at his house, I was told to wait awhile, until Mr Steptoe had finished "the lesson which he was giving." As I stood in the hall, I heard music, and people dancing up stairs; and some young men passed in and out, like those that used to call on Mr Ap-Bleedaway on a Sunday. Presently the back-parlour door, which was ajar, blew open, and there was a fattish gentleman, rather middle-aged, standing with his feet in the stocks. Then I peeped through the key-hole of the front parlour door, and I saw a young lady figuring round in all manner of postures, and counting time-one, two, three, four-all the while to herself.
By this time Mr Steptoe came down stairs, and he took the elderly gentleman out of the stocks, and told him to use the dumb-bells at home night and morning. Then he turned and spoke to me. He was dressed very gay and fine-quite in buckles and silk-stockings, though it was only the morning; but I was afraid to think too well of the place for all that, for the house had a cold and desolate look, like, and I saw as I came in, that there was no fire in the kitchen.
The first question Mr Steptoe asked me was whether I could play upon the fiddle? And when I answered that I could, (for I had learned a little upon an old violin of Mr Ap-Bleedaway's,) he said that I should be his apprentice, and that he would teach me to dance. But I knew that apprentices got no wages, so I declined his offer with thanks. He shook his head at this, and said he feared" I should not do ;" but, if I could make myself very smart, (for everything about him must be very smart, and he should not give me a livery until he saw whether I suited him,) I might come and try his service for a while.
It was an evil hour for me when I