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


Fortune seems resolved to humble the fa|mily 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 compa|ny. The only obstacle to our preferment was in obtaining the 'Squire's recommenda|tion; 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 Page  112 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! And this I am assured of, that London is the only place in the world for all man|ner 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 Ame|lia 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?"
re|turned 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 obser|vations I usually made to impress my wife with an opinion of my sagacity; for if the Page  113 girls succeeded, then it was a pious wish fulfilled; but if any thing unfortunate en|sued, 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 neighbour|ing 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 stout|ly; but it was as stoutly defended. How|ever, 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, Page  114 and can buy and sell to very good ad|vantage; you know all our great bar|gains 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 pru|dence, 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 be|ing over, we had at last the satisfaction of seeing him mounted upon the Colt, with a deal box before him to bring home gro|ceries 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 sis|ters had tied his hair with a broad black ribband. We all followed him several paces from the door, bawling after him Page  115 good luck, good luck, till we could see him no longer.

He was scarce gone, when Mr. Thorn|hill's butler came to congratulate us upon our good fortune, saying, that he over|heard his young master mention our names with great commendations.

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 a pleasing account from Mr. Thornhill of us all, that, after a few previous enquiries more, they hoped to be perfectly satisfied.

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, they 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 mes|sage, that she actually put her hand to her Page  116 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 be|haviour was in some measure displeasing; nor could we now avoid communicating our happiness to him, and asking his ad|vice: although we seldom followed ad|vice, 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 af|fair of this sort demanded the utmost cir|cumspection.—This air of diffidence Page  117 highly displeased my wife.

"I never doubted, Sir,"
cried she,
"your readi|ness 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 per|sons who seem to have made use of it themselves."
"Whatever my own conduct may have been, madam,"
re|plied 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 apprehen|sive this answer might draw on a repartee, making up by abuse what it wanted in wit, I changed the subject, by seeming to won|der what could keep our son so long at the fair, as it was now almost night-fall.—
"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 Page  118 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.—

"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 good boy,"
returned she,
"I knew you would touch them off. Between our|selves, 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 Page  119 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 the mo|ney."
"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 I perceive they are only copper varnished over."
cried my wife,
"not silver, the rims not silver!"
cried I,
"no more silver than your sauce-pan."
"And so,"
returned she,
"we have parted with the Colt, and have only got a groce of green spectacles, with copper rims Page  120 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 again,
"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 specta|cles, you know, are better than no|thing."

By this time the unfortunate Moses was undeceived. He now saw that he had in|deed 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 Page  121 a pretence of having one to sell.

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."