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SPECULATION IN WHISKERS ; OR, SHAVING IN A BROKER’S OFFICE.
BY SOL SMITH.

There lived in Milledgeville, in 1832, a dandified individual whom we will call Jenks. This individual had a tolerably favorable opinion of his personal appearance. His fingers were hooped with rings, and his shirt bosom was decked with a magnificent breastpin ; coat, hat, vest and boots were made exactly to fit; he wore kid gloves of remarkable whiteness ; his hair was oiled and dressed in the latest and best style ! and, to complete his killing appearance, he sports an enormous pair of Real Whiskers! Of these whiskers,[1] Jenks was as proud as a young cat is of her tail, when she first discovers she has one.

I was sitting one day in a broker’s office, when Jenks came in to inquire the price of exchange on New York. He was invited to sit down, and a cigar was offered him. Conversation turning on the subject of buying and selling stocks, a remark was made by a gentleman present, that he thought no person should sell out stock in such-and-such a bank at that time, as it must get better in a few days.

“I will sell any thing I’ve got, if I can make any thing on it,” remarked Jenks.

“Oh, no,” replied one—“not any thing ; you wouldn’t sell your Whiskers?”

A loud laugh followed at this chance remark. Jenks immediately answered : “I would—but who would want them? Any person making the purchase would lose money by the operation, I’m thinking.”


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“Well,” I observed, “I would be willing to take the speculation, if the price could be made reasonable.”

“Oh, I’ll sell 'em cheap,” answered Jenks, winking at the gentlemen present.

“What do you call cheap?” I inquired.

“I’ll sell 'em for fifty dollars” Jenks answered, puffing forth a cloud of smoke across the counter, and repeating the wish.

“Well, that is cheap : and you’ll sell your whiskers for fifty dollars?”

“I will.”

“Both of them?”

“Both of them.”

I’ll take them! When can I have them?”

“Any time you choose to call for them.”

“Very well—they’re mine. I think I shall double my money on them, at least.”

I took a bill of sale, as follows:

“Received of Sol Smith Fifty Dollars in full for my crop of whisker, to be worn and taken care of by me, and delivered to him when called for.

J. JENKS.”

The sum of fifty dollars was paid, and Jenks left the broker’s office in high glee, flourishing Five Central Bank X’s, and telling all his acquaintances of the great bargain he had made in the sale of his whiskers.

The broker and his friends laughed at me for being taken in so nicely. “Never mind,” said I, “let those laugh that win ; I’ll make a profit out of those whiskers, depend on it." [2]

For a month after this, whenever I met Jenks, he asked me when I intended to call for my whiskers?

“I’ll let you know when I want them,” was always my answer. “Take good care of them,--oil them occasionally; I shall call for them one of these days.”

A splendid ball was to be given to the members of the Legislature. I ascertained that Jenks was one of the managers—


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he being a great ladies’ man, (on account of his whiskers, I suppose,) and it occurred to me that before the ball took place, I might as well call for my whiskers.

One morning I met Jenks in a barber’s shop. He was adonising before a large mirror and combing up my whiskers at a wonderful rate.

“Ah! there you are, old fellow,” said he, speaking to my reflection in the glass, “Come for your whiskers, I suppose?”

“Oh, no hurry,” I replied, as I sat down for a shave.

“Always ready, you know,” he answered, giving a final tie to his cravat.

“Come to think of it,” I said, musingly, as the barber began to put the lather on my face. “Perhaps now would be as good a time as another ; you may sit down and let the barber try his hand at the whiskers.”

“You couldn’t wait until to-morrow, could you?” he asked hesitatingly. “Theres a ball tonight, you know –——.”

“To be sure there is, and I think you ought to go with a clean face ; at all events, I don’t see any reason why you should expect to wear my whiskers to that ball ; so sit down.”

He rather sulkily obeyed, and in a few moments his cheeks were in a perfect foam of lather. The barber flourished his razor, and was about to commence operations, when I suddenly changed my mind!

“Stop, Mr. Barber,” I said ; “you needn’t shave off those whiskers just yet.” So he quietly put up his razor, while Jenks started up from the chair, in something very much resembling a passion.

“This is trifling!” [3] he exclaimed. You have claimed your whiskers—take them.”

“I believe a man has a right to do as he pleases with his own property,” I remarked, and left Jenks washing his face.

At dinner that day the conversation turned upon the whisker affair. It seems the whole town had got wind of it, and


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Jenks could not walk the streets without the remark being continually made by the boys—“There goes the man with old Sol’s whiskers.” And they had grown to an immense size, for he dared not trim them. In short, I became convinced Jenks was waiting very impatiently for me to assert my rights in the property. It happened that several of the party were sitting opposite me at dinner who were present when the singular bargain was made, and they all urged me to take the whiskers that very day, and thus compel Jenks to go to the ball whiskerless, or stay at home. I agreed with them it was about time to reap my crop, and promised that if they would all meet me at the broker’s shop where the purchase had been made, I would made a call on Jenks that evening, after he had dressed for the ball. All promised to be present at the proposed shaving operation in the broker’s office, and I sent for Jenks and the barber. On the appearance of Jenks, it was evident he was much vexed at the sudden call upon him, and his vexation was certainly not lessened when he saw the broker’s office was filled to overflowing by spectators, anxious to behold the barbarous proceeding.

“Come, be in a hurry,” he said, as he took a seat, and leaned his head against the counter for support. “I can’t stay here long ; several ladies are waiting for me to escort them to the ball.”

“True, very true—you are one of the managers—I recollect. Mr. Barber, don’t detain the gentleman—go to work at once.”

The lathering was soon over, and with about three strokes of the razor, one side of his face was deprived of its ornament.

“Come, come,” said Jenks, “push ahead—there is no time to be lost—let the gentleman have his whiskers—he is impatient.”

“Not at all,” I replied coolly, “I’m in no sort of a hurry, myself—and now I think of it, as your time must be precious


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at this particular time, several ladies being in waiting for you to escort them to the ball, I believe I’ll not take the other whisker to-night!”

A loud laugh from the by-standers, and a glance in the mirror, caused Jenks to open his eyes to the ludicrous appearance he cut with his single whisker, and he began to insist upon my taking the whole of my property! But that wouldn’t do. I had the right to take it when I chose—I was not obliged to take all at once! and I chose to take but half at that particular period—indeed, I intimated to him very plainly that I was not going to be a very hard creditor ; and that if he “behaved himself,” perhaps I should never call for the balance of what he owed me!

When Jenks became convinced I was determined not to take the remaining whisker, he began, amidst the loudly expressed mirth of the crowd, to propose terms of compromise—first offering me ten dollars, then twenty, thirty, forty, fifty! to take off the remaining whisker. I said firmly, “My dear sir, there is no use in talking—I insist on your wearing that whisker for me a month or two.”

“What will you take for the whisker?” he at length asked.“Won’t you sell them back to me?”

“Ah,” replied I, “now you begin to talk as a business man should. Yes, I bought them on speculation—and I’ll sell them if I can obtain a good price.”

“What is your price?”

“One hundred dollars—must double my money.”

“No less?”
“Not a farthing less—and I’m not anxious to sell even at that price.”

“Well, I’ll take them,” he groaned, “there’s your money ; and here, barber, shave off this infernal whisker in less than no time—I shall be late at the ball.”

The barber accomplished his work, and poor Jenks was whiskerless! He went to the ball, but before the night was over, he wished he hadn’t—————


Notes:

Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure. Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 42-46.(University of Virginia Alderman Library).

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Probable typesetter error; "whisders" in original.

[2] Probable typesetter error; original omits final quotation mark.

[3] Probable typesetter error; original omits final quotation mark.

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