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Who was that Poor Woman? by Jonathan F. Kelley


I do not know a feminine—from the piney woods of Maine to the Neuces—so given to popularity, newspaper philippics, and city item bombards, as Aunt Nabby Folsom, of the town of Boston. The name and doings of Aunt Nabby are linked with nearly all popular cabals in Faneuil Hall, the “Temple,” “Chapel,” or Melodeon—from funeral orations to political caucusses—Temperance jubilees to Abolition flare ups; for Aunt Nabby never allows wind, weather or subject, time, place or occasion, to prevent her “full attendance.” The police, and over-zealous auditors, at times snake her down or crowd her old straw bonnet, but Aunt Nabby is always sure of the polite attention of the “Reporters,” and shines in their notes, big as the biggest toad in the puddle.

Indeed, Aunt Nabby is one of 'em!—a perfect she-male Mike Walsh. She will have her say, though a legion of constables stood at the door; her principal stand-point is the freedom of speech and woman's rights, and she goes in tooth and nail agin law, Marshal Tukey, and the entire race-root and rind of the Quincys—particularly strong! Aunt Nabby is subject to a series, too tedious to mention, of “sells” by the quid nuncs and rapscallions of the day, and one of these “sells” is the pith of my present paper.

It so fell out, when Jenny Lind arrived here, about every fool within five-and-fifty miles ran their heels and brazen faces after the Nightingale and her carriage wherever she went, from her bed-chamber to her dinner table, from her drawing-room to the Concert Hall. It took Barnum and his whole “private secretary” force and equal number of policemen and servants, besides Stephens himself, of the Revere, and his bar-keeper, to keep the mob from rushing pell-mell up stairs and surrounding Jenny as Paddy did the Hessians.

Now and then a desperate fellow got in—had an audience, grinned, backed down and went his way, tickled as a dog with two tails. Others were victimized by notes from Barnum (!) or Miss Lind's “private secretary,” offering an interview, and many of these transactions were “rich and racy” enough, in all conscience, for the pages of a modern Joe Miller. But Aunt Nabby Folsom's time was about as rich as the raciest, and will bear rehearsing—easy.

“Good morning, sir,” said a pleasing-looking, neatly-dressed, elderly lady, to the two scant yards of starch and dickey behind Stephens' slab of marble at the Revere.

“Good morning, ma'am,” responded the clark, who, not knowing exactly who the lady was, jerked down his well-oiled and brushed “wig and whiskers” to the entire satisfaction of the matronly lady, who went on to say—

“I wish to see Miss Lind, sir.”

“Guess she's engaged, ma'am.”

“Well, but I've an invitation, sir, from Miss Lind, to call at 9 A. M. to-day. I like to be punctual, sir; my time is quite precious; I called precisely as desired; Miss Lind appointed the time; and——”

“Oh, very well, very well, ma'am,” said the clark, with a flourish, “if Miss Lind has invited you——”

“Why, of course she has! Here's her—”

“O, never mind, ma'am; all correct, I presume.”

The “pipes” and bells soon had the attendance of a gang of white-jacketed, polish-faced Paddies, and the elderly lady was marshalled, double-file, towards the apartments of the Nightingale.

Jenny had but just “turned out,” and was “feeding” on the right wing and left breast of a lark, the leg of a canary, “a dozen fried” humming bird eggs—her customary fodder of a morning.

The servants passed the countersigns, and the elderly lady was admitted—the Nightingale, without disturbing the ample folds of her camel's hair dressing-gown—a present from the Sultan of all the Turkies, cost $3,000—motioned the matron to squat, and as soon as she got her throat in talking order, said—

“Goot mornins.”

“How do you do?” responds the old lady.

“Pooty well, tank'ees. You have some breakest? No!”

“No, ma'am. I've had my breakfast three hours ago.”

“Yes? indeed! you rise up early, eh?—Well, it is goot for ze hels, eh?”

“So my doctor says,” responded the matron. “But I like to get up and be stirring around.”

“Ah! yes; you stir around, eh? What you stir around?”

“Well, Miss Lind, I'll tell you what I stir around. I-stir-the-monsters (Miss Lind looks sharp) who-try-to-trample-on-the-universal-rights-of-woman! (The matron 'up' and gesticulating like the brakes of an engine—Miss Lind drops her eating tools—eyes of the two servants bulge out!) A-n-d I-stir-the-demagogues-who-assemble-in-Faneuil-Hall (down with the brakes!), to prevent-the-freedom-of-speech (rush upon the brakes!), a-a-n-d-put-me-down!”

It was evident that the appetite of the Nightingale was getting spoiled—she looked suspicious, and, just in time to prevent the female orator—who was no other personage, of course, than Aunt Nabby Folsom, from ripping into a regular caucus fanfaronade of gamboge and gas, a knock upon the door announced a “call” for Miss Lind, to dress and appear to a fresh lot of bores—yclept the Mayor and his suit of Deacons, soup, pork and bean-venders.

“Ah! yes; I will be ready in one min't. Madame, you will please come again; once more, adieu—good mornins—adieu!”

And Aunt Nabby, in spite of her ancient teeth, found herself bowed—half way down stairs—into the hall, and clean out doors, before she caught her breath to say another word upon the interminable subject of the freedom of speech and woman's rights!

But Aunt Nabby “blowed”—O! didn't she blow to the various tea and toast coteries, scandal and slang express women—and the various knots of anxious crowds who stood about Bowdoin Square during the Lind mania! Aunt Nabby had had a genuine tete-a-tete with the Nightingale—and, ecod, an invitation to call again! But Jenny Lind, and her cordon of sentinels, secretaries and suckers, were “fly” for the old screech owl, when again and again she beset the clark and the stairways of the Revere. Though Aunt Nabby hung on and growled dreadfully, she finally caved in and kept away.

When Jenny Lind gave the proceeds of one concert to charitable purposes, among the items set down in the list was—“A poor woman— one hundred dollars!

“Why, it's you, of course,” said a quid-nunc, to Aunt Abby, as she held the Evening Transcript in her hands, in the store of Redding &Co., and observed the interesting item above alluded to.

“Well, so I think,” says Aunt Nabby. “If I ain't a poor woman, and a var-tuous woman, and a good and true woman (down came her brakes on the book piles), I'd like to know where—where, on this univarsal yearth (down with the brakes), you'd find one! One hundred dollars to a poor woman,” she continued, reading the item. “I must be the person—yes, Abigail, thou art the man!” she concluded in her favorite apothegm.

The quid gave Abby the residence of the Agent (!) who was to disburse the Lind charities, and away went Abby to the Agent, who happened to be an amateur joker; knowing Aunt Abby, and smelling a “sell,” he told the old 'un that Mr. Somerby, of No. —Cornhill, the joker of the Post, was the Agent, and would shell out next morning, at nine o'clock. At that hour, S. had Aunt Nabby in his sanctum. He knew the ropes, so assured Abby that there was a mistake; Charles Davenport, of Cornhill, rear of Joy's building, was the man. Charles D. informed Aunt Nabby, that he had declined to disburse for Miss Lind, but that Bro. Norris, of the Yankee Blade, had the pile, and was serving it out to an excited mob. Norris declared that she was in error. She was not, by a jug full, the only, poor woman in town, and didn't begin to be the poor woman set forth in Miss Lind's schedule! But Aunt Nabby wasn't to be done! She besieged Miss Lind—followed her to the cars—mounted the platform—Jenny espied her, and to avoid a harangue on the freedom of speech and woman's rights, hid her head in her cloak. The last exclamation the Nightingale heard from the screech owl, was—

“Miss Jane Lind—who was that poor wom-a-n?”


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