The vicar of Wakefield: a tale. Supposed to be written by himself. ... [pt.1]
Goldsmith, Oliver, 1730?-1774.
Page  [unnumbered]

CHAP. IX.

Two ladies of great distinction introduced. Superior finery ever seems to confer su|perior breeding.

MR. Burchell had scarce taken leave, and Sophia consented to dance with the chaplain, when my little ones came running out to tell us that the 'Squire was come, with a crowd of company. Upon our return, we found our landlord, with a couple of under gentlemen and two young ladies richly drest, whom he introduced as women of very great distinction and fashi|on from town. We happened not to have chairs enough for the whole company; but Mr. Thornhill immediately proposed that every gentleman should sit in a lady's lap. Page  82 This I positively objected to, notwithstand|ing a look of disapprobation from my wife. Moses was therefore dispatched to borrow a couple of chairs; and as we were in want of ladies also to make up a set at country dances, the two gentlemen went with him in quest of a couple of partners. Chairs and partners were soon provided. The gentlemen returned with my neigh|bour Flamborough's rosy daughters, flaunt|ing with red top-knots. But there was an unlucky circumstance which was not adverted to; though the Miss Flambo|roughs were reckoned the very best dan|cers in the parish, and understood the jig and the round-about to perfection; yet they were totally unacquainted with country dances. This at first discomposed us: however, after a little shoving and drag|ging, they began to go merrily on. Our music consisted of two fiddles, with a pipe and tabor. The moon shone bright, Mr. Thornhill and my eldest daughter led up the ball, to the great delight of the Page  83 spectators; for the neighbours hearing what was going forward, came flocking about us. My girl moved with so much grace and vi|vacity, that my wife could not avoid disco|vering the pride of her heart, by assuring me, that though the little chit did it so cle|verly, all the steps were stolen from herself. The ladies of the town strove hard to be equally easy, but without success. They swam, sprawled, languished, and frisked; but all would not do: the gazers in|deed owned that it was fine; but neighbour Flamborough observed, that Miss Livy's feet seemed as pat to the music as its echo. After the dance had continued about an hour, the two ladies, who were apprehen|sive of catching cold, moved to break up the ball. One of them, I thought, expres|sed her sentiments upon this occasion in a very coarse manner, when she observed, that by the living jingo, she was all of a muck of sweat. Upon our return to the house, we found a very elegant cold supper, which Mr. Thornhill had ordered to be brought Page  84 with him. The conversation at this time was more reserved than before. The two ladies threw my girls quite into the shade; for they would talk of nothing but high life, and high lived company; with other fashionable to|pics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespear, and the musical glasses. 'Tis true they once or twice mortified us sensibly by slipping out an oath; but that appeared to me as the surest symptom of their distinction, (tho' I am since informed swearing is now perfectly unfashi|onable.) Their finery, however, threw a veil over any grossness in their conversation. My daughters seemed to regard their superior ac|complishments with envy; and what appeared amiss was ascribed to tip-top quality breed|ing. But the condescension of the ladies was still superior to their other accomplishments. One of them observed, that had miss Oli|via seen a little more of the world, it would greatly improve her. To which the other added, that a single winter in town would make her little Sophia quite another thing. My wife warmly assented to both; adding, Page  85 that there was nothing she more ardently wished than to give her girls a single win|ter's polishing. To this I could not help replying, that their breeding was already superior to their fortune; and that greater refinement would only serve to make their poverty ridiculous, and give them a taste for pleasures they had no right to possess.—

"And what pleasures,"
cried Mr. Thornhill,
"do they not deserve, who have so much in their power to bestow? As for my part,"
continued he,
"my fortune is pretty large, love, liberty, and pleasure, are my maxims; but curse me if a settlement of half my estate could give my charming Olivia pleasure, it should be hers; and the only favour I would ask in return would be to add myself to the benefit."
I was not such a stranger to the world as to be ignorant that this was the fashionable cant to disguise the inso|lence of the basest proposal; but I made an effort to suppress my resentment.
"Sir,"
cried I,
"the family which you now con|descend Page  86 to favour with your company, has been bred with as nice a sense of honour as you. Any attempts to injure that, may be attended with very dange|rous consequences. Honour, Sir, is our only possession at present, and of that last treasure we must be particularly careful."
—I was soon sorry for the warmth with which I had spoken this, when the young gentleman, grasping my hand, swore he commended my spirit, though he disapproved my suspicions.
"As to your present hint,"
continued he, I protest
"nothing was farther from my heart than such a thought. No, by all that's tempt|ing, the virtue that will stand a regular siege was never to my taste; for all my amours are carried by a coup de main."

The two ladies, who affected to be ig|norant of the rest, seemed highly displeased with this last stroke of freedom, and be|gan a very discreet and serious dialogue Page  87 upon virtue: in this my wife, the chaplain, and I, soon joined; and the 'Squire him|self was at last brought to confess a sense of sorrow for his former excesses. We talked of the pleasures of temperance, and the sun-shine in the mind unpolluted with guilt. I was well pleased that my little ones were kept up beyond the usual time to be edified by such good conversation. Mr. Thornhill even went beyond me, and demanded if I had any objection to giv|ing prayers. I joyfully embraced the pro|posal, and in this manner the night was passed in a most comfortable way, till at last the company began to think of return|ing. The ladies seemed very unwilling to part from my daughters; for whom they had conceived a particular affection, and joined in a request to have the pleasure of their company home. The 'Squire second|ed the proposal, and my wife added her entreaties: the girls too looked upon me as if they wished to go. In this perplexity I Page  88 made two or three excuses, which my daughters as readily removed; so that at last I was obliged to give a peremptory re|fusal; for which we had nothing but sullen looks and short answers the whole day en|suing.