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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

Part 4 out of 4

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the butler, 'that I know much good of you. The night that
gentleman's daughter was deluded to our house, you were one of
them.'--'So then,' cried Sir William, 'I find you have brought a
very fine witness to prove your innocence: thou stain to
humanity! to associate with such wretches!' (But continuing his
examination) 'You tell me, Mr Butler, that this was the person
who brought him this old gentleman's daughter.'--'No, please your
honour,' replied the butler, 'he did not bring her, for the
'Squire himself undertook that business; but he brought the
priest that pretended to marry them.'--'It is but too true,'
cried Jenkinson, 'I cannot deny it, that was the employment
assigned me, and I confess it to my confusion.'

'Good heavens!' exclaimed the Baronet, 'how every new discovery
of his villainy alarms me. All his guilt is now too plain, and I
find his present prosecution was dictated by tyranny, cowardice
and revenge; at my request, Mr Gaoler, set this young officer,
now your prisoner, free, and trust to me for the consequences.
I'll make it my business to set the affair in a proper light to
my friend the magistrate who has committed him. But where is the
unfortunate young lady herself: let her appear to confront this
wretch, I long to know by what arts he has seduced her. Entreat
her to come in. Where is she?'

'Ah, Sir,' said I, 'that question stings me to the heart: I was
once indeed happy in a daughter, but her miseries--' Another
interruption here prevented me; for who should make her
appearance but Miss Arabella Wilmot, who was next day to have
been married to Mr Thornhill. Nothing could equal her surprize at
seeing Sir William and his nephew here before her; for her
arrival was quite accidental. It happened that she and the old
gentleman her father were passing through the town, on their way
to her aunt's, who had insisted that her nuptials with Mr
Thornhill should be consummated at her house; but stopping for
refreshment, they put up at an inn at the other end of the town.
It was there from the window that the young lady happened to
observe one of my little boys playing in the street, and
instantly sending a footman to bring the child to her, she learnt
from him some account of our misfortunes; but was still kept
ignorant of young Mr Thornhill's being the cause. Though her
father made several remonstrances on the impropriety of going to
a prison to visit us, yet they were ineffectual; she desired the
child to conduct her, which he did, and it was thus she surprised
us at a juncture so unexpected.

Nor can I go on, without a reflection on those accidental
meetings, which, though they happen every day, seldom excite our
surprize but upon some extraordinary occasion. To what a
fortuitous concurrence do we not owe every pleasure and
convenience of our lives. How many seeming accidents must unite
before we can be cloathed or fed. The peasant must be disposed to
labour, the shower must fall, the wind fill the merchant's sail,
or numbers must want the usual supply.

We all continued silent for some moments, while my charming
pupil, which was the name I generally gave this young lady,
united in her looks compassion and astonishment, which gave new
finishings to her beauty. 'Indeed, my dear Mr Thornhill,' cried
she to the 'Squire, who she supposed was come here to succour and
not to oppress us, 'I take it a little unkindly that you should
come here without me, or never inform me of the situation of a
family so dear to us both: you know I should take as much
pleasure in contributing to the relief of my reverend old master
here, whom I shall ever esteem, as you can. But I find that, like
your uncle, you take a pleasure in doing good in secret.'

'He find pleasure in doing good!' cried Sir William, interrupting
her. 'No, my dear, his pleasures are as base as he is. You see in
him, madam, as complete a villain as ever disgraced humanity. A
wretch, who after having deluded this poor man's daughter, after
plotting against the innocence of her sister, has thrown the
father into prison, and the eldest son into fetters, because he
had courage to face his betrayer. And give me leave, madam, now
to congratulate you upon an escape from the embraces of such a

'O goodness,' cried the lovely girl, 'how have I been deceived!
Mr Thornhill informed me for certain that this gentleman's eldest
son, Captain Primrose, was gone off to America with his new
married lady.'

'My sweetest miss,' cried my wife, 'he has told you nothing but
falsehoods. My son George never left the kingdom, nor was
married. Tho' you have forsaken him, he has always loved you too
well to think of any body else; and I have heard him say he would
die a batchellor for your sake.' She then proceeded to expatiate
upon the sincerity of her son's passion, she set his duel with Mr
Thornhill in a proper light, from thence she made a rapid
digression to the 'Squire's debaucheries, his pretended
marriages, and ended with a most insulting picture of his

'Good heavens!' cried Miss Wilmot, 'how very near have I been to
the brink of ruin! But how great is my pleasure to have escaped
it! Ten thousand falsehoods has this gentleman told me! He had at
last art enough to persuade me that my promise to the only man I
esteemed was no longer binding, since he had been unfaithful. By
his falsehoods I was taught to detest one equally brave and

But by this time my son was freed from the encumbrances of
justice as the person supposed to be wounded was detected to be
an impostor. Mr Jenkinson also, who had acted as his valet de
chambre, had dressed up his hair, and furnished him with whatever
was necessary to make a genteel appearance. He now therefore
entered, handsomely drest in his regimentals, and, without
vanity, (for I am above it) he appeared as handsome a fellow as
ever wore a military dress. As he entered, he made Miss Wilmot a
modest and distant bow, for he was not as yet acquainted with the
change which the eloquence of his mother had wrought in his
favour. But no decorums could restrain the impatience of his
blushing mistress to be forgiven. Her tears, her looks, all
contributed to discover the real sensations of her heart for
having forgotten her former promise and having suffered herself
to be deluded by an impostor. My son appeared amazed at her
condescension, and could scarce believe it real.--'Sure, madam,'
cried he, 'this is but delusion! I can never have merited this!
To be, blest thus is to be too happy.'--'No, Sir,' replied she,
'I have been deceived, basely deceived, else nothing could have
ever made me unjust to my promise. You know my friendship, you
have long known it; but forget what I have done, and as you once
had my warmest vows of constancy, you shall now have them
repeated; and be assured that if your Arabella cannot be yours,
she shall never be another's.'-- 'And no other's you shall be,'
cried Sir William, 'if I have any influence with your father.'

This hint was sufficient for my son Moses, who immediately flew
to the inn where the old gentleman was, to inform him of every
circumstance that had happened. But in the mean time the 'Squire
perceiving that he was on every side undone, now finding that no
hopes were left from flattery or dissimulation, concluded that
his wisest way would be to turn and face his pursuers. Thus
laying aside all shame, he appeared the open hardy villain. 'I
find then,' cried he, 'that I am to expect no justice here; but I
am resolved it shall be done me. You shall know, Sir,' turning to
Sir William, 'I am no longer a poor dependent upon your favours.
I scorn them. Nothing can keep Miss Wilmot's fortune from me,
which, I thank her father's assiduity, is pretty large. The
articles, and a bond for her fortune, are signed, and safe in my
possession. It was her fortune, not her person, that induced me
to wish for this match, and possessed of the one, let who will
take the other.'

This was an alarming blow, Sir William was sensible of the
justice of his claims, for he had been instrumental in drawing up
the marriage articles himself. Miss Wilmot therefore perceiving
that her fortune was irretrievably lost, turning to my son, she
asked if the loss of fortune could lessen her value to him.
'Though fortune,' said she, 'is out of my power, at least I have
my hand to give.'

'And that, madam,' cried her real lover, 'was indeed all that you
ever had to give; at least all that I ever thought worth the
acceptance. And now I protest, my Arabella, by all that's happy,
your want of fortune this moment encreases my pleasure, as it
serves to convince my sweet girl of my sincerity.'

Mr Wilmot now entering, he seemed not a little pleased at the
danger his daughter had just escaped, and readily consented to a
dissolution of the match. But finding that her fortune, which was
secured to Mr Thornhill by bond, would not be given up, nothing
could exceed his disappointment. He now saw that his money must
all go to enrich one who had no fortune of his own. He could bear
his being a rascal; but to want an equivalent to his daughter's
fortune was wormwood. He sate therefore for some minutes employed
in the most mortifying speculations, till Sir William attempted
to lessen his anxiety.--'I must confess, Sir' cried he, 'that
your present disappointment does not entirely displease me. Your
immoderate passion for wealth is now justly punished. But tho'
the young lady cannot be rich, she has still a competence
sufficient to give content. Here you see an honest young soldier,
who is willing to take her without fortune; they have long loved
each other, and for the friendship I bear his father, my interest
shall not be wanting in his promotion. Leave then that ambition
which disappoints you, and for once admit that happiness which
courts your acceptance.'

'Sir William,' replied the old gentleman, 'be assured I never yet
forced her inclinations, nor will I now. If she still continues
to love this young gentleman, let her have him with all my heart.
There is still, thank heaven, some fortune left, and your promise
will make it something more. Only let my old friend here (meaning
me) give me a promise of settling six thousand pounds upon my
girl, if ever he should come to his fortune, and I am ready this
night to be the first to join them together.'

As it now remained with me to make the young couple happy, I
readily gave a promise of making the settlement he required,
which, to one who had such little expectations as I, was no great
favour. We had now therefore the satisfaction of seeing them fly
into each other's arms in a transport. 'After all my
misfortunes,' cried my son George, 'to be thus rewarded! Sure
this is more than I could ever have presumed to hope for. To be
possessed of all that's good, and after such an interval of pain!
My warmest wishes could never rise so high!'--'Yes, my George,'
returned his lovely bride, 'now let the wretch take my fortune;
since you are happy without it so am I. O what an exchange have I
made from the basest of men to the dearest best!--Let him enjoy
our fortune, I now can be happy even in indigence.'--'And I
promise you,' cried the 'Squire, with a malicious grin, 'that I
shall be very happy with what you despise.'--'Hold, hold, Sir,'
cried Jenkinson, 'there are two words to that bargain. As for
that lady's fortune, Sir, you shall never touch a single stiver
of it. Pray your honour,' continued he to Sir William, 'can the
'Squire have this lady's fortune if he be married to another?'--
'How can you make such a simple demand,' replied the Baronet,
'undoubtedly he cannot.'--'I am sorry for that,' cried Jenkinson;
'for as this gentleman and I have been old fellow spotters, I
have a friendship for him. But I must declare, well as I love
him, that his contract is not worth a tobacco stopper, for he is
married already.'--'You lie, like a rascal,' returned the
'Squire, who seemed rouzed by this insult, 'I never was legally
married to any woman.'--'Indeed, begging your honour's pardon,'
replied the other, 'you were; and I hope you will shew a proper
return of friendship to your own honest Jenkinson, who brings you
a wife, and if the company restrains their curiosity a few
minutes, they shall see her.'--So saying he went off with his
usual celerity, and left us all unable to form any probable
conjecture as to his design.--'Ay let him go,' cried the 'Squire,
'whatever else I may have done I defy him there. I am too old now
to be frightened with squibs.'

'I am surprised,' said the Baronet, 'what the fellow can intend
by this. Some low piece of humour I suppose!'--'Perhaps, Sir,'
replied I, 'he may have a more serious meaning. For when we
reflect on the various schemes this gentleman has laid to seduce
innocence, perhaps some one more artful than the rest has been
found able to deceive him. When we consider what numbers he has
ruined, how many parents now feel with anguish the infamy and the
contamination which he has brought into their families, it would
not surprise me if some one of them--Amazement! Do I see my lost
daughter! Do I hold her! It is, it is my life, my happiness. I
thought thee lost, my Olivia, yet still I hold thee--and still
thou shalt live to bless me.'--The warmest transports of the
fondest lover were not greater than mine when I saw him introduce
my child, and held my daughter in my arms, whose silence only
spoke her raptures. 'And art thou returned to me, my darling,'
cried I, 'to be my comfort in age!'--'That she is,' cried
Jenkinson, 'and make much of her, for she is your own honourable
child, and as honest a woman as any in the whole room, let the
other be who she will. And as for you 'Squire, as sure as you
stand there this young lady is your lawful wedded wife. And to
convince you that I speak nothing but truth, here is the licence
by which you were married together.'--So saying, he put the
licence into the Baronet's hands, who read it, and found it
perfect in every respect. 'And now, gentlemen,' continued he, I
find you are surprised at all this; but a few words will explain
the difficulty. That there 'Squire of renown, for whom I have a
great friendship, but that's between ourselves, as often employed
me in doing odd little things for him. Among the rest, he
commissioned me to procure him a false licence and a false
priest, in order to deceive this young lady. But as I was very
much his friend, what did I do but went and got a true licence
and a true priest, and married them both as fast as the cloth
could make them. Perhaps you'll think it was generosity that made
me do all this. But no. To my shame I confess it, my only design
was to keep the licence and let the 'Squire know that I could
prove it upon him whenever I thought proper, and so make him come
down whenever I wanted money.' A burst of pleasure now seemed to
fill the whole apartment; our joy reached even to the common
room, where the prisoners themselves sympathized,

--And shook their chains
In transport and rude harmony.

Happiness was expanded upon every face, and even Olivia's cheek
seemed flushed with pleasure. To be thus restored to reputation,
to friends and fortune at once, was a rapture sufficient to stop
the progress of decay and restore former health and vivacity. But
perhaps among all there was not one who felt sincerer pleasure
than I. Still holding the dear-loved child in my arms, I asked my
heart if these transports were not delusion. 'How could you,'
cried I, turning to Mr Jenkinson, 'how could you add to my
miseries by the story of her death! But it matters not, my
pleasure at finding her again, is more than a recompence for the

'As to your question,' replied Jenkinson, 'that is easily
answered. I thought the only probable means of freeing you from
prison, was by submitting to the 'Squire, and consenting to his
marriage with the other young lady. But these you had vowed never
to grant while your daughter was living, there was therefore no
other method to bring things to bear but by persuading you that
she was dead. I prevailed on your wife to join in the deceit, and
we have not had a fit opportunity of undeceiving you till now.'

In the whole assembly now there only appeared two faces that did
not glow with transport. Mr Thornhill's assurance had entirely
forsaken him: he now saw the gulph of infamy and want before him,
and trembled to take the plunge. He therefore fell on his knees
before his uncle, and in a voice of piercing misery implored
compassion. Sir William was going to spurn him away, but at my
request he raised him, and after pausing a few moments, 'Thy
vices, crimes, and ingratitude,' cried he, 'deserve no
tenderness; yet thou shalt not be entirely forsaken, a bare
competence shall be supplied, to support the wants of life, but
not its follies. This young lady, thy wife, shall be put in
possession of a third part of that fortune which once was thine,
and from her tenderness alone thou art to expect any
extraordinary supplies for the future.' He was going to express
his gratitude for such kindness in a set speech; but the Baronet
prevented him by bidding him not aggravate his meanness, which
was already but too apparent. He ordered him at the same time to
be gone, and from all his former domestics to chuse one such as
he should think proper, which was all that should be granted to
attend him.

As soon as he left us, Sir William very politely stept up to his
new niece with a smile, and wished her joy. His example was
followed by Miss Wilmot and her father; my wife too kissed her
daughter with much affection, as, to use her own expression, she
was now made an honest woman of. Sophia and Moses followed in
turn, and even our benefactor Jenkinson desired to be admitted to
that honour. Our satisfaction seemed scarce capable of increase.
Sir William, whose greatest leasure was in doing good, now looked
round with a countenance open as the sun, and saw nothing but joy
in the looks of all except that of my daughter Sophia, who, for
some reasons we could not comprehend, did not seem perfectly
satisfied. 'I think now,' cried he, with a smile, 'that all the
company, except one or two, seem perfectly happy. There only
remains an act of justice for me to do. You are sensible, Sir,'
continued he, turning to me, 'of the obligations we both owe Mr
Jenkinson. And it is but just we should both reward him for it.
Miss Sophia will, I am sure, make him very happy, and he shall
have from me five hundred pounds as her fortune, and upon this I
am sure they can live very comfortably together. Come, Miss
Sophia, what say you to this match of my making? Will you have
him?'--My poor girl seemed almost sinking into her mother's arms
at the hideous proposal.--'Have him, Sir!' cried she faintly.
'No, Sir, never.'--'What,' cried he again, 'not have Mr
Jenkinson, your benefactor, a handsome young fellow, with five
hundred pounds and good expectations!'--'I beg, Sir,' returned
she, scarce able to speak, 'that you'll desist, and not make me
so very wretched.'--'Was ever such obstinacy known,' cried he
again, 'to refuse a man whom the family has such infinite
obligations to, who has preserved your sister, and who has five
hundred pounds! What not have him!'--'No, Sir, never,' replied
she, angrily, 'I'd sooner die first.'--'If that be the case
then,' cried he, 'if you will not have him--I think I must have
you myself.' And so saying, he caught her to his breast with
ardour. 'My loveliest, my most sensible of girls,' cried he, 'how
could you ever think your own Burchell could deceive you, or that
Sir William Thornhill could ever cease to admire a mistress that
loved him for himself alone? I have for some years sought for a
woman, who a stranger to my fortune could think that I had merit
as a man. After having tried in vain, even amongst the pert and
the ugly, how great at last must be my rapture to have made a
conquest over such sense and such heavenly beauty.' Then turning
to Jenkinson, 'As I cannot, Sir, part with this young lady
myself, for she has taken a fancy to the cut of my face, all the
recompence I can make is to give you her fortune, and you may
call upon my steward to-morrow for five hundred pounds.' Thus we
had all our compliments to repeat, and Lady Thornhill underwent
the same round of ceremony that her sister had done before. In
the mean time Sir William's gentleman appeared to tell us that
the equipages were ready to carry us to the inn, where every
thing was prepared for our reception. My wife and I led the van,
and left those gloomy mansions of sorrow. The generous Baronet
ordered forty pounds to be distributed among the prisoners, and
Mr Wilmot, induced by his example, gave half that sum. We were
received below by the shouts of the villagers, and I saw and
shook by the hand two or three of my honest parishioners, who
were among the number. They attended us to our inn, where a
sumptuous entertainment was provided, and coarser provisions
distributed in great quantities among the populace.

After supper, as my spirits were exhausted by the alternation of
pleasure and pain which they had sustained during the day, I
asked permission to withdraw, and leaving the company in the
midst of their mirth, as soon as I found myself alone, I poured
out my heart in gratitude to the giver of joy as well as of
sorrow, and then slept undisturbed till morning.


The Conclusion

The next morning as soon as I awaked I found my eldest son
sitting by my bedside, who came to encrease my joy with another
turn of fortune in my favour. First having released me from the
settlement that I had made the day before in his favour, he let
me know that my merchant who had failed in town was arrested at
Antwerp, and there had given up effects to a much greater amount
than what was due to his creditors. My boy's generosity pleased
me almost as much as this unlooked for good fortune. But I had
some doubts whether I ought in justice to accept his offer. While
I was pondering upon this, Sir William entered the room, to whom
I communicated my doubts. His opinion was, that as my son was
already possessed of a very affluent fortune by his marriage, I
might accept his offer without any hesitation. His business,
however, was to inform me that as he had the night before sent
for the licences, and expected them every hour, he hoped that I
would not refuse my assistance in making all the company happy
that morning. A footman entered while we were speaking, to tell
us that the messenger was returned, and as I was by this time
ready, I went down, where I found the whole company as merry as
affluence and innocence could make them. However, as they were
now preparing for a very solemn ceremony, their laughter entirely
displeased me. I told them of the grave, becoming and sublime
deportment they should assume upon this Mystical occasion, and
read them two homilies and a thesis of my own composing, in order
to prepare them. Yet they still seemed perfectly refractory and
ungovernable. Even as we were going along to church, to which I
led the way, all gravity had quite forsaken them, and I was often
tempted to turn back in indignation. In church a new dilemma
arose, which promised no easy solution. This was, which couple
should be married first; my son's bride warmly insisted, that
Lady Thornhill, (that was to be) should take the lead; but this
the other refused with equal ardour, protesting she would not be
guilty of such rudeness for the world. The argument was supported
for some time between both with equal obstinacy and good
breeding. But as I stood all this time with my book ready, I was
at last quite tired of the contest, and shutting it, 'I
perceive,' cried I, 'that none of you have a mind to be married,
and I think we had as good go back again; for I suppose there
will be no business done here to-day.'--This at once reduced them
to reason. The Baronet and his Lady were first married, and then
my son and his lovely partner.

I had previously that morning given orders that a coach should be
sent for my honest neighbour Flamborough and his family, by which
means, upon our return to the inn, we had the pleasure of finding
the two Miss Flamboroughs alighted before us. Mr Jenkinson gave
his hand to the eldest, and my son Moses led up the other; (and I
have since found that he has taken a real liking to the girl, and
my consent and bounty he shall have whenever he thinks proper to
demand them.) We were no sooner returned to the inn, but numbers
of my parishioners, hearing of my success, came to congratulate
me, but among the rest were those who rose to rescue me, and whom
I formerly rebuked with such sharpness. I told the story to Sir
William, my son-in-law, who went out and reprove them with great
severity; but finding them quite disheartened by his harsh
reproof, he gave them half a guinea a piece to drink his health
and raise their dejected spirits.

Soon after this we were called to a very genteel entertainment,
which was drest by Mr Thornhill's cook. And it may not be
improper to observe with respect to that gentleman, that he now
resides in quality of companion at a relation's house, being very
well liked and seldom sitting at the side-table, except when
there is no room at the other; for they make no stranger of him.
His time is pretty much taken up in keeping his relation, who is
a little melancholy, in spirits, and in learning to blow the
French- horn. My eldest daughter, however, still remembers him
with regret; and she has even told me, though I make a great
secret of it, that when he reforms she may be brought to relent.
But to return, for I am not apt to digress thus, when we were to
sit down to dinner our ceremonies were going to be renewed. The
question was whether my eldest daughter, as being a matron,
should not sit above the two young brides, but the debate was cut
short by my son George, who proposed, that the company should sit
indiscriminately, every gentleman by his lady. This was received
with great approbation by all, excepting my wife, who I could
perceive was not perfectly satisfied, as she expected to have had
the pleasure of sitting at the head of the table and carving all
the meat for all the company. But notwithstanding this, it is
impossible to describe our good humour. I can't say whether we
had more wit amongst us now than usual; but I am certain we had
more laughing, which answered the end as well. One jest I
particularly remember, old Mr Wilmot drinking to Moses, whose
head was turned another way, my son replied, 'Madam, I thank
you.' Upon which the old gentleman, winking upon the rest of the
company, observed that he was thinking of his mistress. At which
jest I thought the two miss Flamboroughs would have died with
laughing. As soon as dinner was over, according to my old custom,
I requested that the table might be taken away, to have the
pleasure of seeing all my family assembled once more by a
chearful fireside. My two little ones sat upon each knee, the
rest of the company by their partners. I had nothing now on this
side of the grave to wish for, all my cares were over, my
pleasure was unspeakable. It now only remained that my gratitude
in good fortune should exceed my former submission in adversity.

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