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

CHAP. XVII.

Scarce any virtue found to resist the power of long and pleasing temptation.

AS I only studied my child's real hap|piness, the assiduity of Mr. Williams pleased me, as he was in easy circumstances, prudent, and sincere. It required but very little encouragement to revive his former passion; so that in an evening or two after he and Mr. Thornhill met at our house, and surveyed each other for some time with looks of anger: but Williams owed his landlord no rent, and little re|garded his indignation. Olivia, on her side, acted the coquet to perfection, if that might be called acting which was her real character, pretending to lavish all her ten|derness on her new lover. Mr. Thornhill Page  170 appeared quite dejected at this prefe|rence, and with a pensive air took leave, though I own it puzzled me to find him so much in pain as he appeared to be, when he had it in his power so easily to remove the cause, by declaring an honourable pas|sion. But whatever uneasiness he seemed to endure, it could easily be perceived that Olivia's anguish was still greater. After any of these interviews between her lovers, of which there were several, she usually re|tired to solitude, and there indulged her grief. It was in such a situation I found her one evening, after she had been for some time supporting a fictitious gayety.—

"You now see, my child,"
said I,
"that your confidence in Mr. Thornhill's pas|sion was all a dream: he permits the ri|valry of another, every way his inferior, though he knows it lies in his power to secure you by a candid declaration him|self."
"Yes, pappa,"
returned she,
"but he has his reasons for this delay: I know he has. The sincerity of his looks and words convince me of his real esteem. Page  171 A short time, I hope, will discover the ge|nerosity of his sentiments, and convince you that my opinion of him has been more just than yours."
"Olivia, my dar|ling,"
returned I,
"every scheme that has been hitherto pursued to compel him to a declaration, has been proposed and plan|ned by yourself, nor can you in the least say that I have constrained you. But you must not suppose, my dear, that I will be ever instrumental in suffering his ho|nest rival to be the dupe of your ill-placed passion. Whatever time you re|quire to bring your fancied admirer to an explanation shall be granted; but at the expiration of that term, if he is still regardless, I must absolutely insist that honest Mr. Williams shall be rewarded for his fidelity. The character which I have hitherto supported in life demands this from me, and my tenderness, as a parent, shall never influence my in|tegrity as a man. Name then your day, let it be as distant as you think proper, and in the mean time take care to let Page  172 Mr. Thornhill know the exact time on which I design delivering you up to an|other. If he really loves you, his own good sense will readily suggest that there is but one method alone to prevent his losing you for ever."
—This propo|sal, which she could not avoid considering as perfectly just, was readily agreed to. She again renewed her most positive promise of marrying Mr. Williams, in case of the other's insensibility; and at the next oppor|tunity, in Mr. Thornhill's presence, that day month was fixed upon for her nuptials with his rival.

Such vigorous proceedings seemed to re|double Mr. Thornhill's anxiety: but what Olivia really felt gave me some uneasiness. In this struggle between prudence and passion, her vivacity quite forsook her, and every op|portunity of solitude was sought, and spent in tears. One week passed away; but her lover made no efforts to restrain her nuptials. The succeeding week he was still assiduous; but not more open. On the Page  173 third he discontinued his visits entirely, and instead of my daughter testifying any im|patience, as I expected, she seemed to re|tain a pensive tranquillity, which I looked upon as resignation. For my own part, I was now sincerely pleased with thinking that my child was going to be secured in a continuance of competence and peace, and frequently applauded her resolution, It was within about four days of her in|tended nuptials, that my little family at night were gathered round a charming fire, telling stories of the past, and laying schemes for the future. Busied in forming a thousand projects, and laughing at what|ever folly came uppermost,

"Well, Mo|ses,"
cried I,
"we shall soon, my boy, have a wedding in the family, what is your opinion of matters and things in general?"
"My opinion, father, is, that all things go on very well; and I was just now thinking, that when sister Livy is married to farmer Williams, we shall then have the loan of his cyder|press and brewing tubs for nothing."
"That Page  174 we shall, Moses,"
cried I,
"and he will sing us Death and the Lady, to raise our spirits into the bargain."
"He has taught that song to our Dick,"
cried Moses;
"and I think he goes thro' it very prettily."
"Does he so,"
cried I,
"then let us have it: where's little Dick? let him up with it boldly."
"My brother Dick,"
cried Bill my youngest,
"is just gone out with sister Livy; but Mr. Williams has taught me two songs, and I'll sing them for you, pappa. Which song do you chuse, the Dying Swan, or the Elegy on the death of a mad dog?"
"The elegy, child, by all means,"
said I,
"I never heard that yet; and Deborah, my life, grief you know is dry, let us have a bottle of the best gooseberry wine, to keep up our spirits. I have wept so much at all sorts of elegies of late, that without an enlivening glass I am sure this will overcome me; and So|phy, love, take your guitar, and thrum in with the boy a little."

Page  175
An ELEGY on the Death of a Mad Dog.
GOOD people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wond'rous short,
It cannot hold you long.
In Isling town there was a man,
Of whom the world might say,
That still a godly race he ran,
Whene'er he went to pray.
A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes;
The naked every day he clad,
When he put on his cloaths.
And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mungrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
And curs of low degree.
This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
Page  176 The dog, to gain his private ends,
Went mad and bit the man.
Around from all the neighbouring streets,
The wondering neighbours ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.
The wound it seem'd both sore and sad,
To every christian eye;
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.
But soon a wonder came to light,
That shew'd the rogues they lied,
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that dy'd.

"A very good boy, Bill, upon my word, and an elegy that may truly be called tragical. Come, my children, here's Bill's health, and may he one day be a bishop."

"With all my heart,"
cried my wife;
"and if he but preaches as well as he Page  177 sings, I make no doubt of him. The most of his family, by the mother's side, could sing a good song: it was a com|mon saying in our country, that the family of the Blenkinsops could never look strait before them, nor the Hugginses blow out a candle; that there were none of the Gro|grams but could sing a song, or of the Marjorams but could tell a story."
"However that be,"
cried I,
"the most vulgar ballad of them all generally pleases me better than the fine modern odes, and things that petrify us in a single stanza; productions that we at once de|test and praise. Put the glass to your brother, Moses. The great fault of these elegists is, that they are in despair for griefs that give the sensible part of man|kind very little pain. A lady loses her lap-dog, and so the silly poet runs home to versify the disaster."

"That may be the mode,"
cried Moses,
"in sublimer compositions; but the Ra|nelagh Page  178 songs that come down to us are perfectly familiar, and all cast in the same mold: Colin meets Dolly, and they hold a dialogue together; he gives her a fair|ing to put in her hair, and she presents him with a nosegay; and then they go together to church, where they give good advice to young nymphs and swains to get married as fast as they can."

"And very good advice too,"
cried I,
"and I am told there is not a place in the world where advice can be given with so much propriety as there; for, as it per|suades us to marry, it also furnishes us with a wife; and surely that must be an excellent market, my boy, where we are told what we want, and supplied with it when wanting."

"Yes, Sir,"
returned Moses,
"and I know but of two such markets for wives in Europe, Ranelagh in England, and Fontarabia in Spain. The Spanish mar|kept Page  179 is open once a year, but our Eng|lish wives are saleable every night."

"You are right, my boy,"
cried his mother,
"Old England is the only place in the world for husbands to get wives."
"And for wives to manage their husbands,"
interrupted I.
"It is a proverb abroad, that if a bridge were built across the sea, all the ladies of the Continent would come over to take pattern from ours; for there are no such wives in Europe as our own.

"But let us have one bottle more, De|borah, my life, and Moses give us a good song. What thanks do we not owe to heaven for thus bestowing tranquillity, health, and competence. I think myself happier now than the greatest monarch upon earth. He has no such fire-side, nor such pleasant faces about it. Yes, Deborah, my dear, we are now growing old; but the evening of our life is like|ly to be happy. We are descended from Page  180 ancestors that knew no stain, and we shall leave a good and virtuous race of children behind us. While we live they will be our support and our pleasure here, and when we die they will trans|mit our honour untainted to posterity. Come, my son, we wait for your song: let us have a chorus. But where is my darling Olivia? That little cherub's voice is always sweetest in the concert."
—Just as I spoke Dick came running in.
"O pappa, pappa, she is gone from us, she is gone from us, my sister Livy is gone from us for ever"
"Gone, child"
"Yes, she is gone off with two gentlemen in a post chaise, and one of them kissed her, and said he would die for her; and she cried very much, and was for coming back; but he persuaded her again, and she went into the chaise, and said, O what will my poor pappa do when he knows I am undone!"
"Now then,"
cried I,
"my children, go and be miserable; for we shall never en|joy one hour more. And O may heaven's Page  181 everlasting fury light upon him and his! Thus to rob me of my child! And sure it will, for taking back my sweet inno|cent that I was leading up to heaven. Such sincerity as my child was possest of. But all our earthly happiness is now over! Go, my children, go, and be miserable and infamous; for my heart is broken within me!"
"Father,"
cried my son,
"is this your fortitude?"
"Forti|tude, child! Yes, he shall see I have for|titude! Bring me my pistols. I'll pur|sue the traitor. While he is on earth I'll pursue him. Old as I am, he shall find I can sting him yet. The villain! The perfidious villain!"
—I had by this time reached down my pistols, when my poor wife, whose passions were not so strong as mine, caught me in her arms.
"My dearest, dearest husband,"
cried she,
"the bible is the only weapon that is fit for your old hands now. Open that, my love, and read our anguish into patience, for she has vilely deceived
—Her sor|row represt the rest in silence.—
"Indeed, Page  182 Sir,"
resumed my son, after a pause,
"your rage is too violent and unbecom|ing. You should be my mother's com|forter, and you encrease her pain. It ill suited you and your reverend cha|racter thus to curse your greatest enemy: you should not have curst the wretch, villain as he is."
"I did not curse him, child, did I?"
"Indeed, Sir, you did; you curst him twice."
"Then may heaven forgive me and him if I did. And now, my son, I see it was more than human benevolence that first taught us to bless our enemies! Blest be his holy name for all the good he has given, and for that he has taken away. But it is not, it is not, a small distress that can wring tears from these old eyes, that have not wept for so many years. My Child!—To undo my darling! May confusion seize! Heaven forgive me, what am I about to say! You may re|member, my love, how good she was, and how charming; till this vile moment all her care was to make us happy. Had Page  183 she but died! But she is gone, the honour of our family contaminated, and I must look out for happiness in other worlds than here. But my child, you saw them go off: perhaps he forced her away? If he forced her, she may yet be innocent."
"Ah no, Sir!"
cried the child,
"he only kissed her, and called her his angel, and she wept very much, and leaned upon his arm, and they drove off very fast."
"She's an ungrateful creature,"
cried my wife, who could scarce speak for weeping,
"to use us thus. She never had the least constraint put upon her affections. The vile strumpet has basely deserted her pa|rents without any provocation, thus to bring your grey hairs to the grave, and I must shortly follow."

In this manner that night, the first of our real misfortunes, was spent in the bit|terness of complaint, and ill supported sal|lies of enthusiasm. I determined, how|ever, to find out our betrayer, wherever Page  184 he was, and reproach his baseness. The next morning we missed our wretched child at breakfast, where she used to give life and chearfulness to us all. My wife, as before, attempted to ease her heart by reproaches.

"Never,"
cried she,
"shall that vilest stain of our family again darken those harmless doors. I will never call her daughter more. No, let the strumpet live with her vile seducer: she may bring us to shame, but she shall never more de|ceive us."

"Wife,"
said I,
"do not talk thus hard|ly: my detestation of her guilt is as great as yours; but ever shall this house and this heart be open to a poor returning re|pentant sinner. The sooner she returns from her transgression, the more welcome shall she be to me. For the first time the very best may err; art may persuade, and novelty spread out its charm. The first fault is the child of simplicity; but every other the offspring of guilt. Yes, Page  185 the wretched creature shall be welcome to this heart and this house, tho' stained with ten thousand vices. I will again hearken to the music of her voice, again will I hang fondly on her bosom, if I find but repentance there. My son, bring hither my bible and my staff; I will pusue her, wherever she is, and tho' I cannot save her from shame, I may prevent the continuance of iniquity."