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


The family still resolve to hold up their heads.

MICHAELMAS eve happening on the next day, we were invited to burn nuts and play tricks at neighbour Flamborough's. Our late mortifications had humbled us a little, or it is probable we might have rejected such an invitation with contempt: however, we suffered our|selves to be happy. Our honest neigh|bour's goose and dumplings were fine, and the lamb's-wool, even in the opinion of my wife, who was a connoiseur, was thought excellent. It is true, his man|ner of telling stories was not quite so well. They were very long, and very dull, and all about himself, and we had laughed at Page  100 them ten times before: however, we were kind enough to laugh at them once more.

Mr. Burchell, who was of the party, was always fond of seeing some innocent amuse|ment going forward, and set the boys and girls to blind man's buff. My wife too was persuaded to join in the diversion, and it gave me pleasure to think she was not yet too old. In the mean time, my neighbour and I looked on, laughed at every feat, and prais|ed our own dexterity when we were young. Hot cockles succeeded next, questions and commands followed that, and last of all, they sate down to hunt the slipper. As every per|son may not be acquainted with this primaeval pastime, it may be necessary to observe, that the company at this play plant themselves in a ring upon the ground, all, except one who stands in the middle, whose business it is to catch a shoe, which the company shove about under their hams from one to another, something like a weaver's shuttle. As it is impossible, in this case, for the lady who Page  101 is up to face all the company at once, the great beauty of the play lies in hitting her a thump with the heel of the shoe on that side least capable of making a defence. It was in this manner that my eldest daughter was hemmed in, and thumped about, all blowzed, in spirits, and bawling for fair play, fair play, with a voice that might deafen a ballad singer, when confusion on confusion, who should enter the room but our two great acquaintances from town, Lady Blarney and Miss Carolina Wilelmina Amelia Skeggs! Description would but beggar, therefore it is unnecessary to de|scribe this new mortification Death! To be seen by ladies of such high breeding in such vulgar attitudes!. Nothing better could ensue from such a vulgar play of Mr. Flamborough's proposing. We seemed stuck to the ground for some time, as if actually petrified with amazement.

The two ladies had been at our house to see us, and finding us from home, came after us hither, as they were uneasy to know Page  102 what accident could have kept us from church the day before. Olivia undertook to be our prolocutor, and delivered the whole in a summary way, only saying,

"We were thrown from our horses."
At which ac|count the ladies were greatly concerned; but being told the family received no hurt, they were extremely glad: but being in|formed that we were almost killed by the fright, they were vastly sorry; but hearing that we had a very good night, they were extremely glad again. Nothing could ex|ceed their complaisance to my daughters; their professions the last evening were warm, but now they were ardent. They protested a desire of having a more lasting acquain|tance. Lady Blarney was particularly at|tached to Olivia; Miss Carolina Wilelmina Amelia Skeggs (I love to give the whole name) took a greater fancy to her sister. They supported the conversation between themselves, while my daughters sate silent, admiring their exalted breeding. But as every reader, however beggarly himself, is Page  103 fond of high-lived dialogues, with anecdotes of Lords, Ladies, and Knights of the Gar|ter, I must beg leave to give him the con|cluding part of the present conversation.

"All that I know of the matter,"
cried Miss Skeggs,
"is this, that it may be true, or it may not be true: but this I can as|sure your Ladyship, that the whole rout was in amaze; his Lordship turned all manner of colours, my Lady fell into a swoon; but Sir Tomkyn, drawing his sword, swore he was her's to the last drop of his blood."

replied our Peeress,
"this I can say, that the Dutchess never told me a syllable of the matter, and I be|lieve her Grace would keep nothing a se|cret from me. But this you may de|pend upon as fact, that the next morn|ing my Lord Duke cried out three times to his valet de chambre, Jerni|gan, Jernigan, Jernigan, bring me my garters."

Page  104 But previously I should have mentioned the very impolite behaviour of Mr. Bur|chell, who, during this discourse, sate with his face turned to the fire, and at the con|clusion of every sentence would cry out fudge, an expression which displeased us all, and in some measure damped the rising spirit of the conversation.

"Besides, my dear Skeggs,"
continued our Peeress,
there is nothing of this in the copy of verses that Dr. Burdock made upon the occasion."

"I am surprised at that,"
cried Miss Skeggs;"
for he seldom leaves any thing out, as he writes only for his own amuse|ment. But can your Ladyship favour me with a sight of them?"

"My dear creature,"
replied our Peeress,
"do you think I carry such things about me? Though they are very fine to be sure, and I think myself something of a judge; at least I know what pleases my|self. Page  105 Indeed I was ever an admirer of all Doctor Burdock's little pieces; for except what he does, and our dear Coun|tess at Hanover-Square, there's nothing comes out but the most lowest stuff in nature; not a bit of high life among them."

"Your Ladyship should except,"
says t'other,
"your own things in the Lady's Magazine. I hope you'll say there's no|thing low lived there? But I suppose we are to have no more from that quar|ter?"

"Why, my dear,"
says the Lady,
"you know my reader and companion has left me, to be married to Captain Roach, and as my poor eyes won't suffer me to write myself, I have been for some time looking out for another. A proper per|son is no easy matter to find, and to be sure thirty pounds a year is a small sti|pend for a well-bred girl of character, Page  104〈1 page duplicate〉Page  105〈1 page duplicate〉Page  106 that can read, write, and behave in company; as for the chits about town, there is no bearing them about one."

"That I know,"
cried Miss Skeggs,
"by experience. For of the three com|panions I had this last half year, one of them refused to do plain-work an hour in the day, another thought twenty-five guineas a year too small a sa|lary, and I was obliged to send away the third, because I suspected an intrigue with the chaplain. Virtue, my dear La|dy Blarney, virtue is worth any price; but where is that to be found?"

My wife had been for a long time all attention to this discourse; but was particu|larly struck with the latter part of it. Thirty pounds and twenty-five guineas a year made fifty-six pounds five shillings English money, all which was in a manner going a-begging, and might easily be secured in Page  107 the family. She for a moment studied my looks for approbation; and, to own a truth, I was of opinion, that two such places would fit our two daughters ex|actly. Besides, if the 'Squire had any real affection for my eldest daughter, this would be the way to make her every way qualified for her fortune. My wife there|fore was resolved that we should not be de|prived of such advantages for want of assu|rance, and undertook to harangue for the family.

"I hope,"
cried she,
"your Lady|ships will pardon my present presump|tion. It is true, we have no right to pretend to such favours; but yet it is na|tural for me to wish putting my children forward in the world. And I will be bold to say my two girls have had a pret|ty good education, and capacity, at least the country can't shew better. They can read, write, and cast accompts; they un|derstand their needle, breadstitch, cross and change, and all manner of plain-work; they can pink, point, and frill; Page  108 and know something of music; they can do up small cloaths, work upon catgut; my eldest can cut paper, and my youngest has a very pretty manner of telling fortunes upon the cards."

When she had delivered this pretty piece of eloquence, the two ladies looked at each other a few minutes in silence, with an air of doubt and importance. At last, Miss Carolina Wilelmina Amelia Skeggs condescended to observe, that the young ladies, from the opinion she could form of them from so slight an acquaintance, seem|ed very fit for such employments:

"But a thing of this kind, Madam,"
cried she, addressing my spouse,
"requires a thorough examination into characters, and a more perfect knowledge of each other. Not, Madam,"
continued she,
"that I in the least suspect the young ladies virtue, pru|dence and discretion; but there is a form in these things, Madam, there is a form."

Page  109 My wife approved her suspicions very much, observing, that she was very apt to be suspicious herself; but referred her to all the neighbours for a character: but this our Peeress declined as unnecessary, alledg|ing that her cousin Thornhill's recommen|dation would be sufficient, and upon this we rested our petition.