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A short story by Falconbridge

Appearances Are Deceitful

Title:     Appearances Are Deceitful
Author: Falconbridge [More Titles by Falconbridge]

There are a great many good jokes told of the false notions formed as to the character and standing of persons, as judged by their dress and other outward signs. It is asserted, that a fine coat and silvery tone of voice, are no evidence of the gentleman, and few people of the present day will have the hardihood to assert that a blunt address, or shabby coat, are infallible recommendations for putting, however honest, or worthy, a man in a prominent attitude before the world, or the community he moves in. Some men of wealth, for the sake of variety, sometimes assume an eccentric or coarseness of costume, that answers all very well, as long as they keep where they are known; but to find out the levelling principles of utter nothingness among your fellow mortals, only assume a shabby apparel and stroll out among strangers, and you'll be essentially knocked by the force of these facts. However, in this or almost any other Christian community, there is little, if any excuse, for a man, woman, or child going about or being "shabby." Let your garments, however coarse, be made clean and whole, and keep them so; if you have but one shirt and that minus sleeves and body, have the fragments washed, and make not your face and hands a stranger to the refreshing and purifying effects of water.

General Pinckney was one of the old school gentlemen of South Carolina. A man he was of the most punctilious precision in manners and customs, in courtesy, and cleanliness of dress and person; a man of brilliant talents, and, in every sense of the word, "a perfect gentleman!" Mr. Pinckney was one of the members of the first Congress, and during his sojourn in Philadelphia, boarded with an old lady by the name of Hall, I think--Mrs. Hall, a staid, prim and precise dame of the old regime. Mistress Hall was a widow; she kept but few boarders in her fine old mansion, on Chestnut street, and her few boarders were mostly members of Congress, or belonged to the Continental army. Never, since the days of that remarkable lady we read of in the books, who made her servant take her chair out of doors, and air it, if any body by chance sat down on it, and who was known to empty her tea-kettle, because somebody crossed the hearth during the operation of boiling water for tea,--exceeded Mistress Hall in domestic prudery and etiquette; hence it may be well imagined that "shabby people" and the "small fry" generally, found little or no favor in the eyes of the Quaker landlady of "ye olden time."

General Pinckney having served out his term or resigned his place, it was filled by another noted individual of Charleston, General Lowndes, one of the most courteous and talented men of his day, but the slovenliest and most shockingly ill-accoutred man on record. But for the care and watchfulness of one of the most superb women in existence at the time--Mrs. Lowndes,--the General would probably have frequently appeared in public, with his coat inside out, and his shirt over all!

General Lowndes, in starting for Philadelphia, was recommended by his friend Pinckney, to put up at Mistress Hall's; General P. giving General Lowndes a letter of introduction to that lady. Travelling was a slow and tedious, as well as fatiguing and dirty operation, at that day, so that after a journey from Charleston to Philadelphia, even a man with some pretensions to dress and respectable contour, would be apt to look a little "mussy;" but for the poor General's part, he looked hard enough, in all conscience, and had he known the effect such an appearance was likely to produce upon Mistress Hall, he would not have had the temerity of invading her premises. But the General's views were far above "buttons," leather, and prunella. Such a thing as paying deferential courtesies to a man's garments, was something not dreamed of in his philosophy.

"Mrs. Hall's, I believe?" said the General, to a servant answering the ponderous, lion-headed knocker.

"Yes, sah," responded the sable waiter. "Walk dis way, sah, into de parlor, sah."

The General stalked in, leisurely; around the fire-place were seated a dozen of the boarders, the aforesaid "big bugs" of the olden time. Not one moved to offer the stranger a seat by the fire, although his warm Southern blood was pretty well congealed by the frosty air of the evening. The General pulled off his gloves, laid down his great heavy and dusty valice, and quietly took a remote seat to await the presence of the landlady. She came, lofty and imposing; coming into the parlor, with her astute cap upon her majestic head, her gold spectacles upon her nose, as stately as a stage queen!

"Good evening," said the gallant General, rising and making a very polite bow. "Mrs. Hall, I presume?"

"Yes, sir," she responded, stiffly, and eyeing Lowndes with considerable diffidence. "Any business with me, sir?"

"Yes, madam," responded the General, "I--a--purpose remaining in the city some time, and--a--I shall be pleased to put up with you."

"That's impossible, sir," was the ready and decisive reply. "My house is full; I cannot accommodate you."

"Well, really, that will be a disappointment, indeed," said the General, "for I'm quite a stranger in the city, and may find it difficult to procure permanent lodgings."

"I presume not, sir," said she; "there are taverns enough, where strangers are entertained."

The gentlemen around the fire, never offered to tender the stranger any information upon the subject, but several eyed him very hard, and doubtless felt pleased to see the discomfitted and ill-accoutred traveller seize his baggage, adjust his dusty coat, and start out, which he was evidently very loth to do.

Just as Lowndes had reached the parlor door, it occurred to him that Pinckney had recommended him to "put up" at the widow's, and also had given him a letter of introduction to Mrs. Hall. This reminiscence caused the General to retrace his steps back into the parlor, where, placing his portmanteau on the table, he applied the key and opened it, and began fumbling around for his letters, to the no small wonder of the landlady and her respectable boarders.

"I have here, I believe, madam, a letter for you," blandly said the General, still overhauling his baggage.

"A letter for me, sir?" responded the lady.

"Yes, madam, from an old friend of yours, who recommended me to stop with you. Ah, here it is, from your friend General Pinckney, of South Carolina."

"General Pinckney!" echoed the landlady, all the gentlemen present cocking their eyes and ears! The widow tore open the letter, while Lowndes calmly fastened up his portmanteau, and all of a sudden, quite an incarnation spread its roseate hues over her still elegant features.

Lowndes seized his baggage, and, with a "good evening, madam, good evening, gentlemen," was about to leave the institution, when the lady arrested him with:

"Stop, if you please, sir; this is General Lowndes, I believe?"

"General Lowndes, madam, at your service," said he, with a dignified bow.

According to all accounts, just then, there was a very sudden rising about the fire-place, and a twinkling of chairs, as if they had all just been struck with the idea that there was a stranger about!

"Keep your seats, gentlemen," said the General; "I don't wish to disturb any of you, as I'm about to leave."

"General Lowndes," said the widow, "any friend of Mr. Pinckney is welcome to my house. Though we are full, I can make room for you, sir."

The General stopped, and the widow and he became first-rate friends, when they became better acquainted.

[The end]
Falconbridge's short story: Appearances Are Deceitful