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- Nothing to Eat - 3/7 -

In dreams wildest fancy I doubt if he dreamed, That time in its changes that wears rocky shores, Should change what so changeless certainly seemed, Till Merdle, Jack Merdle, would own twenty stores, Much more own a bank, e'en the horse that he rode, Or pay half the debts of the wild oats he sowed.

I knew when he worked at his old father's trade, And thought he would stick to his wax and the last, But Fortune, the fickle, incontinent jade, A turn to his fortune has given a cast; "A wife with a fortune," which men hunt in packs, To Jack was the fortune that fell to his share; A fortune that often is such a hard tax, That men hurry through it with "nothing to spare," With "nothing to eat," or a house "fit to live in," With "nothing half decent" to put on their backs, With nothing "exclusive" to have or believe in, "Except what is common to common street hacks."

So fortune and comfort, that should be like brothers, Though fought for and bled for where fortunes are made, Though sought for and failed of by ten thousand others, Are not worth the fighting and fuss that is made.

But fortune for Merdle by Cupid was cast, And bade him look higher than wax and the last, That Merdle his father, with good honest trade, Had used with the stitches his waxed end had made.

I knew when old Merdle lived down by the mill, I often went fishing and Jack dug the bait; But Jack Merdle then never thought he should fill With fish and roast meat such a full dinner plate: Nor I, when my line which I threw for a trout While Jack watched the bob of the light floating cork, Ever thought of the time in a "Merdle turn out" To ride, or to dine with a pearl handle fork In Jack's splendid mansion, where taste, waste and style, Contend for preemption, as then by the mill, Old Merdle contended with fortune the while, For bread wherewithal Jack's belly to fill.


I never thought then little Kitty Malone As heir to old Gripus would bring him the cash, 'Pon which as a banker Jack Merdle has shone, And Kitty in fashion has cut such a dash; Nor when as a girl not a shoe to her feet, She accepted my offers of coppers or candy, She would tell me in satin "we've nothing to eat," While eating from silver or sipping her brandy, And wond'ring that Merdle, the Jack I have named, Should bring home a friend--('twas thus she exclaimed-- The day that I've mentioned--a day to remember-- When Merdle and I in his carriage and bays, Through Avenue Five on a day in September, Drove up to a mansion with gas-light ablaze.)

Mrs. Merdle At Home.

She Discourseth of Nothing to Eat and the Cost thereof.

Why Merdle--why did you bring Dinewell to-day? So very, though welcome, so quite unexpected!

For dinner, if any, I'm sure I can't say, Our servants with washing are all so infected.

If any's provided, 't is nothing but scraps Of pot-luck or pick up of some common fare; Or something left over from last week perhaps, Which you've brought a friend, and an old one, to share.

I never, I'm sure now, so much was ashamed, To think he'll discover--what's true to the letter-- We've nothing, or next to't that's fit to be named, For one who is used every day to what's better.

But what can you expect if you come on a Monday? Our French cook's away too, I vow and declare-- But if you would see us with something to spare, Let's know when you're coming, or come on a Sunday; For that of all others, for churchmen or sinners, A day is for gorging with extra good dinners.


If Merdle had told me a friend would be here, A dinner I'd get up in spite of the bills-- I often tell butcher he's wonderful dear-- He says every calf that a butcher now kills, Will cost near as much as the price of a steer, Before all the banks in their discount expanded And flooded the country with 'lamp-black and rags,' Which poor men has ruined and shipwrecked and stranded On Poverty's billows and quick-sands and crags.

And that is just what, as our butcher explains, The dickens has played with our beef and our mutton; But something is gained, for, with all of his pains, The poor man won't make of himself such a glutton.

I'm sure if they knew what a sin 't is to eat, When things are all selling at extravagant prices, That poor folks more saving would be of their meat, And learn by example how little suffices.

I wish they could see for themselves what a table-- What examples we set to the laboring poor, In prudence, and saving, in those who are able To live like a king and his court on a tour.

I feel, I acknowledge, sometimes quite dejected To think, as it happens with you here today, To drop in so sudden and quite unexpected, How poor we are living some people will say.

Mrs. Merdle goes to Market.

With prices outrageous they charge now for meat, And servants so worthless are every day growing, I wonder we get half enough now to eat, And shouldn't if 't want for the fact of my going To market to cheapen potatoes and beef, And talk to the butchers about their abuses, And listen to stories beyond our belief, They tell while they cheat us, by way of excuses.

And grocers--do tell us--is 't legal to charge Such prices for sugar, and butter, and flour?

Oh, why don't the Mayor in his wisdom enlarge Both weight and measure as he does 'doubtful power?'

The Dinner-bell Rings.

Mrs. Merdle Describes the Sufferings of Dyspepsia and its Remedy.

But come, now, I hear by the sound of the ringing That dinner is ready; and time none to spare To finish our eating in time for the singing At Niblo's; or at Burton's drop in for a stare.

To 'kill time' the object, whatever the source is, And that is the reason we sit at the table And call for our dinner in slow-coming courses, To kill, while we eat, all the time we are able.

Though little, I told you, that's worthy your taste You'll find on our table, pray don't think us mean-- Your welcome is ample--that's better than waste-- Oh! here comes the soup in a silver tureen-- 'Tis mock turtle too--so good for digestion: That kills me by inches, the wretched complaint Dyspepsia--to cure which, I take by suggestion Port-wine in the soup, when I feel slightly faint.

The Dinner Table Talk.

Now soup, if you like made of beef very nice, You'll find this the next thing to the height of perfection; And eaten with ketchup, or thickened with rice, Will suit you I know, if this is your selection.

My own disposition to this one inclines, But dreadful dyspepsia destroys all the pleasure Of dinner, except it's well tinctured with wines Which plan I adopt as a health-giving measure.

A table well ordered, well furnished, and neat, No wonder our nature for ever is tempting; And I'd like to know if Mahomet could beat Its pleasures--dyspepsia for ever exempting-- With all that he promised in paradise gained, With Houris attendant in place of the churls With which we are worried, tormented, and pained-- The colored men servants, or green Irish girls.

Mrs. Merdle doubts Paradise's Uneating Pleasure.

Though Houris are handsome, though lovely the place--

Nothing to Eat - 3/7

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