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A Kansas City Aristocrat
by [?]

I sometimes rejoice with an exceeding great joy and take something on myself that the ICONOCLAST is read by a million truth-loving Americans, as I am thereby enabled not only to make it uncomfortable for frauds and fakes, but to hold an occasional bypedal puppy up by the subsequent end that Scorn may sight him and stick her cold and clammy finger so far through his miserable carcass that Goliah might hang his helmet on the protruding point. Sometime ago I found America’s meanest man in Massachusetts: I have just discovered the most contemptible of all God’s creatures in Kansas City. Some may suppose that the first discovery excludes the last; but such forget that there is the same difference between cussedness and contemptibility that exists between the leopard and the louse, between a Cuban hurricane and the crapulous eructations of a chronic hoodlum. I want the world to take an attentive look at one Walter S. Halliwell, to make a labored perscrutation of this priorient social pewee, this arbiter eligantarium of corn-fed aristocracy, this Beau Brummel of the border, for though Argus had a compound microscope glued to his every eye he might never look upon the like again. He resembles a pigmy statue of Priapus carved out of a guano bed with a muck rake and smells like a maison d’joie after an Orange Society celebration of the Battle of the Boyne. Mr. Halliwell evidently has an idea rumbling round in his otherwise tenantless attic room that he’s a Brahmin of the Brahmins, an aristocrat dead right, a goo-goo for your Klondyke galways, a Lady Vere de Vere in plug hat and “pants.” He’s the Ward McAllister of Kay-See, the model of the chappies, and traces his haughty lineage back in an unbroken line to the primordial anthropoid swinging by his prehensile tail to a limb of the Ash tree Ygdrasyl and playfully scratching the back of the hungry behemoth with the jawbone of an erstwhile ichthyosaurian. Walter S. Halliwell was born when quite young, where or why deponent saith not, and had gotten thus far on life’s tow-path, absorbing such provender as he could come at, before I chanced to hear of him. As there be tides in the affairs of men which taken at the flood lead on to fortune, so there be waves which straddled at the proper time will bear a Halliwell on their niveous crest to the dizzy heights of fame, quicker’n the nictitation of a thomas-cat. Walter made connection with the climbing wave, and here he is, bumping the macrencephalic end of himself against the milky-way and affrighting the gibbous moon. His opportunity to make an immortal ass of himself, to earn catasterism and be placed among the stars as an equine udder, thus happened to hap: Kay-See was to have a “Karnival” modeled upon the pinchbeck rake with which Waco worked the gullible country folk once upon a time–when she so far forgot herself as to trade on womanly beauty to make it a bunco-steerer for her stores. The chief attraction wass to be a “Kween Karnation” and her maids of honor, the latter consisting of the most beautiful young ladies of the various Missouri towns. I presume that these fair blossoms were (or will be, for I know not the date of the brummagen blowout) paraded through the streets bedized in royal frippery to make a hoodlum holiday while the megalophanous huckster worked the perspiring mob with peanuts and soda pop, and the thrifty merchant marked his shopworn wares up 60 per cent, and sold them to confiding country men “at a tremendous sacrifice.” I infer from the dispatches that Halliwell was made lord high executioner of the “Karnival”–at least accorded ample space in which to wildly wave his asinine ears. Miss Edna Whitney, described as being “one of the most beautiful young ladies of Chillicothe,” was put forward by her friends as a candidate for the honor of representing that city at the royal court of “Kween Karnation,” the citizens to determine the matter by a voting contest. Now Miss Whitney, while dowered with great beauty, popular and of good repute, is a working girl instead of a fashionable butterfly, being employed in a cigar factory. When it appeared certain that she would bear off the honor, the snobocracy of Chillicothe, furious at being “trun down” by a working girl, appealed to Halliwell to exclude her from the contest, and this miserable parody of God’s masterpiece promptly wired that her business occupation was an insuperable barrier. How’s that for a country boasting of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”–its press and politicians ever prating of “the dignity of labor”! The contest, I’m told, was open to all “respectable young women”; but a working girl, though pure as the lily and fair as the rose, is not considered “respectable” by the would-be patricians of Corncob Corners and the grand panjandrum of the Kay-See Karnival! Working girls must not presume to be pretty or popular or enter into contests for holiday honors with the high-born daughters of successful swindlers, but will be kindly permitted by the lordly Halliwell to stand on the curb and see beauts who are only by the grace of boodle, roll by like triumphant Sylla on Fortune’s bike. During the Saturnalia in ancient Rome the master acknowledged the brotherhood of man by ministering to his slave; but Kansas City, thanks to the omnipotent Halliwell, has cut the working class off from mankind–the hewers of wood and drawers of water are no longer considered human! Surely we are making rapid “progress”–are nearing that point in time when the working people will enter a protest against insult added to injury by tying a few bow-knots in the rubber necks of presumptuous parvenues. If it be a disgrace for a woman to work then is this nation in a very bad way, for few of us are the sons or daughters “of an hundred earls”–can go back more than a generation or two without finding a maternal ancestor blithely swinging the useful sad-iron or taking a vigorous fall out of the wash-tub. The parents of some of the wealthiest people of Kansas City, the bon-ton of the town, smelled of laundry soap, the curry-comb or night-soil cart. Some made themselves useful as hash- slingers in cheap boarding houses or chambermaids in livery stables, nursery maids or barbers, while others kept gambling dens, boozing-kens or even run variety dives. There is now a bright young woman working for a wealthy man in Kansas City for six dollars a week. The wife of her employer was once her mother’s servant and laundered her infantile linen. The ex-servant, scarce able to read or write, ugly by nature and gross by instinct, is now a glorious star in Fashion’s galaxy, while the child whose diapers she used to deodorize, compelled by poverty to accept employment, is socially ostracized. People of gentle blood–those who for many generations back have been educated men and cultured women, do not act as do Halliwell and the snobocrats of Chillicothe. These are giving a very exact imitation of people who lately came up from the social gutter, and it were interesting to know how far we would have to trace their “genealogical tree” before finding something much worse than a working woman. It is said that “three generations make a gentleman”; and if that be true there is some hope of Halliwell’s great-grandsons–granting, of course, that the pusillanimous prig is not too epicene to provide himself with posterity. Day by day it becomes more evident that the purse-proud snobocracy of New York’s old rat- catchers and sprat peddlers is fast getting a foothold in the West, that the social gulf between the House of Have and that of Have-Not, is steadily widening and deepening–that we have reached that point in national decay where gold suffices to “gild the straitened forehead of the fool,” where WEALTH instead of WORTH” makes the man and want of it the fellow.” Of course it is not to be expected that working girls, however worthy, will be generally carried on the visiting list of wealthy women, that their society will be sought by the followers of Fashion. None expect this, and few desire it. King Cophetua’s beggar maid would have cut a sorry figure at court ere his favor raised her to fortune. For C
inderella to attend the Bradley-Martin ball clothed in rags would be embarrassing both to herself and the company. The woman who must work for a living has little time for the diversions of the wealthy; and is usually too proud to accept costly social courtesies which she cannot repay in kind. Society divides naturally into classes, dilettantism and pococurantism dawdling luxuriously here, labor at hand-grip with Destiny there. “Birds of a feather flock together,” say the old copy-books, and Fortune gives to each such plumage as she pleases. Still, boodle does not map out all the social metes and bounds. It was said of old that every door opens to a golden key, but this is not altogether true. The honest working girl shuns the society of the wealthy wanton, and the stupid ignoramus, whatsoever his fortune, is accorded no seat at the symposiac–is blackballed by the brotherhood of brains. Imagine Goethe giving Richter the “marble heart” or Byron snubbing Burns because of his lowly birth! The world would be quick to rebuke their arrogance, would assure them that a singer was not esteemed for his siller, but for his song. In the carnival case it was a question of beauty not of boodle, of popularity instead of purses, and to exclude from the contest a candidate of the working class was to acknowledge her superiority and avenge defeat with brutal insult that would shame the crassest boor. The King of Syracuse was not ashamed to contend with the humblest for Olympian honors, nor the Emperor of Rome to measure swords with Thracian gladiators to prove his skill at arms. Ever does genius sympathize with folly and the truly learned with the unlettered; but Mammon “least erect of all the angelic host that fell from heaven,” puts the mark of the beast on the brazen foreheads of all who bow down to his abominations. When working-girls are treated thus, what wonder that some of them become imbittered, discouraged, and go head-long to the devil–affording the wretched pharisees whose brutality wrought their ruin, an opportunity to “rescue” them and pose before the world as Christian philanthropists! What inducement has a young and beautiful woman to toil early and late for an honest livelihood when by so doing she forfeits the right to be called respectable–is flouted by even the paltry plutocracy of a country town and proclaimed a social pariah by such a headless phthirius pubis as Halliwell! If labor be no longer respectable wherein are our thousands of virtuous working girls superior to prostitutes? Clearly if the dictum of Halliwell be correct it were better for the daughter of poverty to regard her face as her fortune and hasten to sell herself–with approval of law and blessings of holy church–to some old duffer with ducats and be welcomed by the “hupper sukkle” as a bright and shining ornament. Or if no beducated old duffer can be come at, she might marry the first shiftless he-thing that offers itself and pick up a luxurious livelihood for her family among her gentlemen friends, as so many enterprising society women now do, and be “respectable” to her heart’s content–even a devout church member and prominent in “rescue” work among fallen women. Somehow I cannot help wondering whether Halliwell’s respectability be not due to some ancestor who was too lazy to work and too cowardly to steal. To the grand army of working women I would say, Be not discouraged by such gross affronts, prompted by splenetic hearts and spewed forth by empty heads. You may be flouted on the one hand by a few purse-proud parvenues and pitied on the other hand by bedizened prostitutes, but the great world, which learned long ago that the reptile as well as the eagle can reach the apex of the pyramid, estimates you at your true worth and binds upon your pure brows the victor’s wreath, while ringing ever in your ears like a heavenly anthem are the words of Israel’s wisest–“A good name is more precious than fine gold.”

P.S.–Since the foregoing was put in print I have received Kansas City papers giving a fuller account of the affair, and it is in every way more miserable than I had imagined. Halliwell, who is bossee of the whole business, says he sent the telegram at the request of the board of lady managers of the flower parade–in other words, that, at the solicitation of a lot of snobby old females, he made even a greater ass of himself than nature had originally intended. Mrs. J. K. Cravens, chairman of the aforesaid board, denies that the ladies had anything to do with the matter, then flies into a towering passion “cusses out” the newspapers, figuratively speaking, rips her silk lingerie to ribbons, and otherwise conducts herself like a woman educated in a logging camp. I shall not attempt to decide the question of veracity between Halliwell and Mrs. Cravens, but that one is a mental vacuum and the other a ripsnortin’ old virago is established beyond the peradventure of a doubt. Everybody connected with the Karnival is doing the Artful Dodger act to escape the withering storm of indignation which the pitiful episode called forth from the American people. The most encouraging feature of the whole affair is the withdrawal of several of Chillicothe’s society girls from the contest because of the gratuitous insult tendered Miss Whitney in the Halliwell telegram, thus indicating that the old town’s upper ten is not composed exclusively of pudding heads and parvenues.