[C1] "Our Talisman, No. 1," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 11, 1842: Pay Day in the Theatre

Our Talisman—No. 1.


Who says that the day of supernatural wonders, of magic rings, of witches and of wizards, or charms and spells has departed?

The history of five thousand years has amply attested the fact, that in all ages, in all climes, in all places, and among every nation, there have existed various traditions, histories and legends of the existence and power of a race of beings different in their character from all corporeal things; riding on the viewless winds; using the thunderbolt and the lightning as their familiar weapons; and exercising an overwhelming, although invisible influence upon the fortunes and destinies of men. This belief, faith, or superstition, call it what you will, has been current in the minds of men since the flood, and it remains for the slim-waisted exquisite, to exclaim, as he curls his bristled lip, "How dem'd superstitious you are—O! dem."

So much for preface. Now for our own observation in the matter.

On Wednesday evening last, on entering our sanctum, we found our red-headed devil occupying our arm chair, and displaying on one of the fingers of his right hand, a peculiarly shaped ring, upon which his obliquitous eyes were fixed with peculiar intensity.

"Flib, what's the matter? Whose ring is that?"

The sanguine haired youth raised his head, and solemnly observed in his own way:

"That there ring is a talisman—it was brought to me by a spirit—"

"A spirit?"

"Yes, a rale, regular, bona fide spirit, with a tail and two horns—and that's as true as I'm settin' here."

"Why Flib, what's the matter with you, that your phiz is dwindled out as long as Judge's opinion. Your lips are drawn down to your chin, and your eyes are doing their best to look straight ahead for once in their lives. What's the matter? You surely don't mean to tell us that you have been visited by a—a—" (imagine our index finger pointed downward, with a significant gesture.)

"I was a sittin in your arm chair," continued the rapt youth, "I was a sittin' in this here chair a waiten for that Governor's message which haint come yet, and I don't know how it was, but I fell into a gentle sort of doze, you know. Well, I felt a sort of vision coming over me,—just like—(I beg your pardon) like a fit of animal magnetism, and I beheld a peculiarly shaped individual, sittin' right plump on the table before me—"

"What was he like?"

"He was a little bit of a fellow, about a foot high, with a curious sort of look; a remarkably curly tail, and two regular big horns. I had some conversation with him—can't recollect what it was all about—but the upshot of the matter is, that he gave me this ring, and said it would enable me to go to any where at all, or somewhere else—that it would make me invisible, help me to take a dive into the duck pond of men's thoughts, and do a great many other things—that's a fact."

"Well Flib, of course, you don't expect US to believe all this?"

"There's the ring."

He threw it upon the table. We took it up and examining it, found it to be a massive gold circlet, set with a brilliant, which had all the shadowy depth of brightness characteristic of a pure diamond, whether dug from the mine or found within the compass of a beautiful woman's eyelids.

"Flib, some person must have left this ring here by mistake. Take care of it, and—"

Here we were suddenly called away, and saw nothing more of Flib and his ring until next day. Flib came into the sanctum, and presented us with the following story, written in curious characters, with more curious orthography.

We deciphered the writing, corrected the orthography; and this was the manner of the manuscript.

Pay Day at the Theatre.

The morning was cold; the air was keen and biting, and the sky clear and cloudless. It was pay day at the —— Street Theatre in a city that we all wot of.

I made the wish, rubbed the ring, and quick as light, I stood in the box office of the Theatre, unheard, and invisible.

A sharp faced man, with thin aquiline nose, thin lips, and quick, sparkling eyes, half hid among his bulging eyelids, while his face was redolent of the gin-bottle, stood looking over a large account book. He was fashionably clad in a tight bodied black frock coat, black silk vest bulging out with the fashionable stuffing, and with a fine cloth over-coat resting carelessly upon his made-up figure.


"Come in!"

The door opened and the leader of the orchestra, with his hair brushed up nicely from his forehead, appeared, accompanied by the whole band. Behind their heads I took a glimpse of the rough manly visages of the machinists and carpenters of the theatre.

The leader made a polite bow, remarked the coolness of the weather, and observed that he would like to have his small account.

"Why, my dear sir,"—replied the manager, with a supple bow, and insinuating smile,—"I am very sorry—indeed I am exceedingly sorry, but the receipts of the theatre for the past week are not sufficient to pay even the gas expenses of the establishment. I am unable to let you have any thing to-day."

"Indeed!" replied the leader of the orchestra with astonishing coolness. "Gentlemen," he continued, turning to the band, "No money here to-day—what say you?" There was a whispering of a few minutes, and then the leader of the orchestra approached the manager, and with a very polite bow wished him a very good morning, "and," continued he, "by way of passing remark, it may be as well for me to inform you, that it would be very advisable for you to provide the theatre with a new selection of musicians, as the present band will serve you no longer. Again I wish you a very good day!"

He walked out of the box office, and with him trooped his whole band. This was more than the manager intended. He merely wished to cheat the men, not to lose their services. He called them back, and with evident reluctance, drew from his desk a corpulent roll of notes, and paid their demands.

The carpenters and machinists had seen this proceeding, and of course they insisted upon similar treatment. Their demands were likewise settled, and the manager was left alone.

I rubbed the ring, and wished to take a peep into his thoughts.

"D—n the thing!" he muttered to himself, "to think that I should be driven to the folly of paying my debts. Let me see, (looking over his account book) the expenses of the theatre would be, were we to pay everybody, about $85 per night—the receipts—let me see—two and two are four, and two are six—yes, six hundred and fifty dollars per week is a fair average. Six times eighty-five is five hundred and ten—profit $140 per week, after paying all hands. Humph! I've paid nothing of late, and don't intend to. I had to "go through the mill" once, and I'll play the "grab" game this time. My pockets feel flush just now, and were it not for those cursed musicians and carpenters, I should soon be a "made" individual. But, by Jupiter! I'll make it up on the other actors, and as for the actresses—I'll put it into them like all —. D—n it! Who's there—hey?"

The door again opened, and a pale-faced woman entered. The bloom of her cheeks had been nipped by privation and suffering, and she was clad in a thread-bare cloak; her bonnet was of faded straw, rimmed with dingy ribbon, and to all appearance more suited for the warmth of summer, than for the keen and biting air of winter.

"Mr. —, I would like to have some money, if you please," said the female in a mild soft voice.

"Madam, I have none to give you." The manager placed his hands in his pockets, looked at the semi-circular window of the box office, and whistled the air in "La Bayadere" with as much devotion as though he intended to set up a musical academy.

"If it was the merest trifle"—

"Madam, I tell you I have no money."

"Well, my salary is but a small sum," exclaimed the woman—"a mere trifle three dollars—and—and," her voice faltered, and a convulsive motion was perceptible at her throat—"and to tell you the truth, I have not broke bread for two days—my child is starving at home—I have no wood. For God's sake, Mr. —, give me one dollar!" As she said this a flood of tears came to her relief. Full and copiously they rolled down her worn and wasted features, and burying her face in her cloak she gave full vent to her feelings.

The manager continued to gaze at the semi-circular window and whistled "Happy am I," with greater earnestness than ever.

"Madam," he shouted at last, as the female yet remained, "Madam, I'll be d—d if this isn't too much. You can have no money here to-day. If you don't like our arrangements, why you needn't come on the stage any more."

The whistling was resumed; and with heavy step and bended form the poor supernumerary left the Box Office.

And thus, for the space of an hour, the box office was thronged with females, who had toiled and slaved day and night on the boards of a theatre for a beggarly, miserly pittance, and as fast as they applied for their stipend were they refused with expressions of insult and gestures of contempt. They were told to leave the theatre; the Manager did not want their services: not he. He to be sure, was perfectly indifferent about the matter. Some observed that they would have recourse to the law for their dues, and the manager advised them by all means to do so. That they would see how soon they would get their money. He wouldn't keep em out of it for six months: oh, no. He would be the last man to do that.

While the actors and the manager were at their highest point of debate, I, Flib, willed that my person might be visible. The ring was true to me. I became visible, and trotting up to the Manager I presented the bill of the Times, for advertising and so on. The Manager was very sorry but he couldn't pay it; hadn't any money and all that. I put my thumb to my nose. Exit.

Flib is a very bad boy. Ain't he?