The singer meets a "dark girl dressed in blue" on a stagecoach. She fools him into paying her fare. They go to a bar. She hands him a banknote to pay their bill. She leaves; he is arrested for passing a bad bill. He is freed but forced to pay the bill
Dark Girl Dressed in Blue, The Complete text(s) *** A *** From J. H. Johnson (ed.), Bawdy Ballads and Lusty Lyrics, pp. 47-49. Variatons from Spaeth, Read 'em and Weep, pp. 76-78, are noted at the end. 'Twas on a Friday morning, The first day of August; When of that day I ever think, My heart feels ready to bust! I jumped into a Broadway stage The Central Park going to, On a seat by the right-hand side of the door, Sat a dark girl dressed in blue. Now we hadn't gone very far, When the lady looked so strange; The driver knocked down for his fare, Says she, "I have no change; I've only a ten-dollar bill, O dear, what shall I do?" Said I, "Allow me to pay," "O, thank you, sir," Says the dark girl dressed in blue. We chatted and talked as we onward walked, About one thing or the other; She asked me, too (O wasn't it kind?) If I had a father or a mother. Says I, "Yes, and a grandmother, too; But pray, miss, what are you?" "O, I'm chief engineer in a milliner's shop," Says the dark girl dressed in blue. We walked about for an hour or two, Through the park, both near and far; Then to a large hotel we went -- I stepped up to the bar; She slipped in my hand a ten-dollar bill, I said, "What are you going to do?" "O, don't think it strange, I must have change." Said the dark girl dressed in blue. We had some slight refreshments, And I handed out the bill; The bar-keeper counted out the change, And the bill dropped in the till: 'Twas in currency and silver change; There was a three-cent piece or two; So I rolled it up, and gave it to The dark girl dressed in blue. She thanked me, and said, "I must away; Farewell, till next we meet; For on urgent business I must go To the store in Hudson street," She quickly glided from my sight, And soon was lost to view; I turned to leave -- when by my side Stood a tall man dressed in blue! This tall man said, "Excuse me, sir, I'm on the 'special force'; That bill was bad -- please come with me" -- I had to go, of course. Said I, "For a lady I obtained the change," Says he, "Are you telling me true? What's her name?" Says I, "I don't know, She was a dark girl dressed in blue." My story they believed -- though I was deceived, But said I must hand back the cash; I thought it was a sin, as I gave her the tin -- Away went ten dollars smash! So, all young men, take my advice, Be careful what you do, When you make the acquaintance of ladies strange, Especially a dark girl dressed in blue. Variations in Spaeth: (punctuation variants not noted) Add first verse: From a village up the Hudson, To New York here I came, To see the park call'd Central, And all places of great fame. But what I suffer'd since I came I now will tell to you, How I lost my heart and senses too, Thro' a dark girl dress'd in blue. Chorus: She was a fine girl, fol de riddle I do, A charmer fol de riddle oh. 8.1 -- "though": Spaeth "thought"
The authorship here is an interesting question. It is not unlikely that the American versions derive from Harry Clifton, who was apparently the source of the 1868 sheet music.
But then there is the Scottish broadside, dated 1850-1870. It is undeniably the same song (same plot, same chorus, many of the same words). But it is set in Glasgow rather than New York, the vehicle is an omnibus rather than a stagecoach, etc. More significant, the woman is caught in the end, with a "reversible dress." Original or derivative? I could argue for either; each text has parts which appear to have been excised from the other. - RBW