"the powdered-headed ancestor had not been under a cloud for more than six weeks, when Miss Tox breathed on his benignant visage, and polished him up with a piece of wash-leather."

This puzzled me for a few seconds, until I remember "shammy" = chamois, a very soft porous leather that used to be very popular for removing water from automobile after home washing. A chamois is a French mountain goat, in simplest terms, but I doubt that what my father called a shammy was an import.