The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
Fortune seems resolved to humble the family of Wakefield. Mortifications are often more painful than real calamities
When we were returned home, the night was dedicated to schemes of future conquest. Deborah exerted much sagacity in conjecturing which of the two girls was likely to have the best place, and most opportunities of seeing good company. The only obstacle to our preferment was in obtaining the 'Squire's recommendation; but he had already shewn us too many instances of his friendship to doubt of it now. Even in bed my wife kept up the usual theme: 'Well, faith, my dear Charles, between ourselves, I think we have made an excellent day's work of it.'--'Pretty well,' cried I, not knowing what to say.--'What only pretty well!' returned she. 'I think it is very well. Suppose the girls should come to make acquaintances of taste in town! This I am assured of, that London is the only place in the world for all manner of husbands. Besides, my dear, stranger things happen every day: and as ladies of quality are so taken with my daughters, what will not men of quality be! Entre nous, I protest I like my Lady Blarney vastly, so very obliging. However, Miss Carolina Wilelmina Anielia Skeggs has my warm heart. But yet, when they came to talk of places in town, you saw at once how I nailed them. Tell me, my dear, don't you think I did for my children there?'--'Ay,' returned I, not knowing well what to think of the matter, 'heaven grant they may be both the better for it this day three months!' This was one of those observations I usually made to impress my wife with an opinion of my sagacity; for if the girls succeeded, then it was a pious wish fulfilled; but if any thing unfortunate ensued, then it might be looked upon as a prophecy. All this conversation, however, was only preparatory to another scheme, and indeed I dreaded as much. This was nothing less than, that as we were now to hold up our heads a little higher in the world, it would be proper to sell the Colt, which was grown old, at a neighbouring fair, and buy us an horse that would carry single or double upon an occasion, and make a pretty appearance at church or upon a visit. This at first I opposed stoutly; but it was as stoutly defended. However, as I weakened, my antagonist gained strength, till at last it was resolved to part with him.
As the fair happened on the following day, I had intentions of going myself, but my wife persuaded me that I had got a cold, and nothing could prevail upon her to permit me from home. 'No, my dear,' said she, 'our son Moses is a discreet boy, and can buy and sell to very good advantage; you know all our great bargains are of his purchasing. He always stands out and higgles, and actually tires them till he gets a bargain.'
As I had some opinion of my son's prudence, I was willing enough to entrust him with this commission; and the next morning I perceived his sisters mighty busy in fitting out Moses for the fair; trimming his hair, brushing his buckles, and cocking his hat with pins. The business of the toilet being over, we had at last the satisfaction of seeing him mounted upon the Colt, with a deal box before him to bring home groceries in. He had on a coat made of that cloth they call thunder and lightning, which, though grown too short, was much too good to be thrown away. His waistcoat was of gosling green, and his sisters had tied his hair with a broad black ribband. We all followed him several paces, from the door, bawling after him good luck, good luck, till we could see him no longer.
He was scarce gone, when Mr Thornhill's butler came to congratulate us upon our good fortune, saying, that he overheard his young master mention our names with great commendation.
Good fortune seemed resolved not to come alone. Another footman from the same family followed, with a card for my daughters, importing, that the two ladies had received such pleasing accounts from Mr Thornhill of us all, that, after a few previous enquiries, they hoped to be perfectly satisfied. 'Ay,' cried my wife, I now see it is no easy matter to get into the families of the great; but when one once gets in, then, as Moses says, one may go sleep.' To this piece of humour, for she intended it for wit, my daughters assented with a loud laugh of pleasure. In short, such was her satisfaction at this message, that she actually put her hand in her pocket, and gave the messenger seven-pence halfpenny.
This was to be our visiting-day. The next that came was Mr Burchell, who had been at the fair. He brought my little ones a pennyworth of gingerbread each, which my wife undertook to keep for them, and give them by letters at a time. He brought my daughters also a couple of boxes, in which they might keep wafers, snuff, patches, or even money, when they got it. My wife was usually fond of a weesel skin purse, as being the most lucky; but this by the bye. We had still a regard for Mr Burchell, though his late rude behaviour was in some measure displeasing; nor could we now avoid communicating our happiness to him, and asking his advice: although we seldom followed advice, we were all ready enough to ask it. When he read the note from the two ladies, he shook his head, and observed, that an affair of this sort demanded the utmost circumspection.--This air of diffidence highly displeased my wife. 'I never doubted, Sir,' cried she, 'your readiness to be against my daughters and me. You have more circumspection than is wanted. However, I fancy when we come to ask advice, we will apply to persons who seem to have made use of it themselves.'--'Whatever my own conduct may have been, madam,' replied he, 'is not the present question; tho' as I have made no use of advice myself, I should in conscience give it to those that will.'--As I was apprehensive this answer might draw on a repartee, making up by abuse what it wanted in wit, I changed the subject, by seeming to wonder what could keep our son so long at the fair, as it was now almost nightfall.--'Never mind our son,' cried my wife, 'depend upon it he knows what he is about. I'll warrant we'll never see him sell his hen of a rainy day. I have seen him buy such bargains as would amaze one. I'll tell you a good story about that, that will make you split your sides with laughing--But as I live, yonder comes Moses, without an horse, and the box at his back.'
As she spoke, Moses came slowly on foot, and sweating under the deal box, which he had strapt round his shoulders like a pedlar.- - 'Welcome, welcome, Moses; well, my boy, what have you brought us from the fair?'--'I have brought you myself,' cried Moses, with a sly look, and resting the box on the dresser.--'Ay, Moses,' cried my wife, 'that we know, but where is the horse?' 'I have sold him,' cried Moses, 'for three pounds five shillings and two- pence.'--'Well done, my goqd boy,' returned she, 'I knew you would touch them off. Between ourselves, three pounds five shillings and two-pence is no bad day's work. Come, let us have it then.'--'I have brought back no money,' cried Moses'again. 'I have laid it all out in a bargain, and here it is,' pulling out a bundle from his breast: 'here they are; a groce of green spectacles, with silver rims and shagreen cases.'--'A groce of green spectacles!' repeated my wife in a faint voice. 'And you have parted with the Colt, and brought us back nothing but a groce of green paltry spectacles!'--'Dear mother,' cried the boy, 'why won't you listen to reason? I had them a dead bargain, or I should not have bought them. The silver rims alone will sell for double money.'--'A fig for the silver rims,' cried my wife, in a passion: 'I dare swear they won't sell for above half the money at the rate of broken silver, five shillings an ounce.'--'You need be under no uneasiness,' cried I, 'about selling the rims; for they are not worth six-pence, for I perceive they are only copper varnished over.'--'What,' cried my wife, 'not silver, the rims not silver!' 'No,' cried I, 'no more silver than your saucepan,' --'And so,' returned she, 'we have parted with the Colt, and have only got a groce of green spectacles, with copper rims and shagreen cases! A murrain take such trumpery. The blockhead has been imposed upon, and should have known his company better.'-- 'There, my dear,' cried I, 'you are wrong, he should not have known them at all.'--'Marry, hang the ideot,' returned she, 'to bring me such stuff, if I had them, I would throw them in the fire.' 'There again you are wrong, my dear,' cried I; 'for though they be copper, we will keep them by us, as copper spectacles, you know, are better than nothing.'
By this time the unfortunate Moses was undeceived. He now saw that he had indeed been imposed upon by a prowling sharper, who, observing his figure, had marked him for an easy prey. I therefore asked the circumstances of his deception. He sold the horse, it seems, and walked the fair in search of another. A reverend looking man brought him to a tent, under pretence of having one to sell. 'Here,' continued Moses, 'we met another man, very well drest, who desired to borrow twenty pounds upon these, saying, that he wanted money, and would dispose of them for a third of the value. The first gentleman, who pretended to be my friend, whispered me to buy them, and cautioned me not to let so good an offer pass. I sent for Mr Flamborough, and they talked him up as finely as they did me, and so at last we were persuaded to buy the two groce between us.'