Now Merdle, en passant, I had known for a score
Of years, when a dinner with Jones, Brown or Smith
As good as one gets for a quarter or more,
Was a thing unthought of, or else but a myth
In Merde's day-dreaming of things yet in store,
When hope painted visions of a painted abode,
And hope never hoped for anything more--
I'm sure never dreamed he would dine a la mode.
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.)