Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

with envy, little expecting herself even to attain so independent a station.

Mrs. Sponge was an artful woman. Bad as she was, she was always aiming at something of a character; this was a great help to her trade. While she watched keenly to make every thing turn to her own profit, she had a false fawning way of seeming to do all she did out of pity and kindness to the distressed; and she seldom committed an extortion, but she tried to make the persons she cheated believe themselves highly obliged to her kindness. But thus pretending to be their friend, she gained their confidence; and she grew rich herself, while they thought she was only shewing favour to them. Various were the arts she had of getting rich; and the money she got by grinding the poor, she spent in the most luxurious living; while she would haggle with her hungry customers for a farthing, she would spend pounds on the most costly delicacies for herself.

Mrs. Sponge, laying aside that haughty look and voice, well known to such as had the misfortune to be in her debt, put on the hypocritical smile and soft canting tone, which she always assumed, when she meant to flatter her superiors, or take in her dependents. “ Betty,” said she, “ I am reo solved to stand your friend. These are sad times “ to be sure. Money is money now.

Yet I am re« solved to put you into a handsome way of living. " You shall have a barrow, and well furnished too." Betty could not have felt more joy or gratitude, if she had been told that she should have a coach. " (), madanı!" said Betty it is impossible. I have

not a penny in the world towards helping me to

set up.” " I will take care of that,” said Mrs. Sponge; “ only you must do as I bid you. You

must pay me interest for my money; and you will, of course, be glad also to pay so much every

night

[ocr errors]

66

tom.

" night for a nice hot supper which I get ready " quite out of kindness, for a number of poor work"sing people. This will be a great comfort for “ such a friendless girl as you, for my victuals and “ drink are the best, and my company

the mer“ riest of any house in all St. Giles's.” Betty thought all this only so many more favours, and courtesying to the ground, said, “ To be sure, “ ma'am, and thank you a thousand times into the " bargain. I never could hope for such a rise in 6. life.”

Mrs. Sponge knew what she was about. Betty, was a lively girl, who had a knack at learning any thing; and so well looking through all her dirt and rags, that there was little doubt she would get cus

A barrow was soon provided, and five shillings put into Betty's hands. Mrs. Sponge kindly condescended to go to shew her how to buy the fruit ; for it was a rule with this prudent gentlewoman, and one from which she never departed, that no one should cheat but herself; and suspect. ing from her own heart the fraud of all other dealers, she was seldom guilty of the weakness of being imposed upon.

Betty had never possessed such a sum before, She grudged to lay it out all at once, and was ready to fancy she could live upon the capital. The crown, however, was laid out to the best advantage. Betty was carefully taught in what manner to cry her oranges; and received many useful lessons how to get off the bad with the good, and the stale with the fresh. Mrs. Sponge also lent her a few bad sixpences, for which she ordered her to bring home good ones at night. Betty stared. Mrs Sponge said, “ Betty, those who would get money,

must not be too nice about trifles. Keep one of 66 these sixpences in your hand, and if an ignorant young customer gives you a good sixpence, do P 2

you

65

66

66

you immediately slip it into your other hand, 6 and give him the bad one, declaring, that it is the

very one you have just received, and be ready to “ swear that you have not an other sixpence in the 66 world. You must also learn how to treat different

sorts of customers. To some you may put off, “ with safety, goods which would be quite unsa“ leable to others. Never offer bad fruit, Betty, to 66 those who know better; never waste the good on * those who may be put off with worse; put good

oranges at top to attract the eye, and the mouldy ones under for sale."

Poor Betty had not a nice conscience, for she had never learnt that grand, but simple rule of all moral obligation. Never do that to another which you would not have another do to you. She set off with her barrow, as proud and as happy as if she had been set up in the finest shop in Covent Garden. Betty had a sort of natural good temper, which made her unwilling to impose, but she had no principle which told her it was a sin to do so. She had such good success, that, when night came, she had not an orange left. With a light heart, she drove her empty barrow to Mrs. Sponge's door. She went in with a merry face, and threw down on the counter every farthing she had taken. Betty,” said Mrs. Sponge, “ I have a right to it all, as it was got by

iny money. But I am too generous to take it. 06 I will therefore only take sixpence for this day's

my five shillings. This is a most reason« able interest, and I will lend you the same sum 16 to trade with to-morrow, and so on; you only

paying me sixpence for the use of it every night, 66 which will be a great bargain to you. You must " also pay me my price every night for your supper, “ and you shall have an excellent lodging above « stairs; so you see every thing will now be pro

66

use of

66 vided

6 vided for you in a genteel manner, through my “ generosity *.”

Poor Betty's gratitude blinded her so completely, that she forgot to calculate the vast proportion which this generous benefactress was to receive out of her little gains. She thought herself a happy creature, and went in to supper with a number of others of her own class. For this supper, and for more porter and gin than she ought to have drunk, Betty was forced to pay so high, that it ate up all the profits of the day, which, added to the daily interest, made Mrs. Sponge a rich return for her five shillings.

Betty was reminded again of the gentility of her new situation, as she crept up to bed in one of Mrs. Sponge's garrets, five stories high. This loft, to be sure, was small, and had no window, but what it wanted in light was made up in coinpany, as it had three beds, and thrice as many lodgers. Those gentry had one night, in a drunken frolic, broken down the door, which happily had never been replaced ; for, since that time, the lodgers had died much seldomer of infectious distempers, than when they were close shut in. For this lodging Betty paid twice as much to her good friend as she would have done to a stranger. Thus she continued, with great industry and a thriving trade, as poor as on the first day, and not a bit nearer to saving money enough to buy her even a pair of shoes, though her feet were nearly on the ground.

One day, as Betty was driving her barrow througli a street near Holborn, a lady from a window called

* For an authentic account of numberless frauds of this kind, see that very useful work of Mr. Colquhoun on the Police of the Metropolis of London,

out

She ques

out to her that she wanted some oranges.

While the servant went to fetch a plate, the lady entered into some talk with Betty, having been struck with her honest countenance and civil manner. tioned her as to her way of life, and the profits of her trade; and Betty, who had never been so kindly treated before by so genteel a person, was very communicative. She told her little history as far as she knew it, and dwelt much on the generosity of Mrs. Sponge, in keeping her in her house, and trusting her with so large a capital as five shillings. At first it sounded like a very good-natured thing; but the lady, whose husband was one of the justices of the new police, happened to know more of Mrs. Sponge than was good, which led her to inquire still further. Betty owned, that to be sure it was not all clear profit, for that besides that the high price of the supper and bed ran away with all she got, she paid sixpence a-day for the use of the five shillings. “ how long have you done this? said the lady. " About a year madam." The lady's eyes were at once opened. girl,” said she, “ do you know that you have already paid for that single five shillings the enor

mous sum of 11. 10s. ? I believe it is the most, s profitable five shillings Mrs. Sponge ever laid out.”

- (, no, madam," said the girl, “ thạt good “ gentlewoman does the same kindness to ten or “ twelve other poor friendless creatures like me."“ Does she so?" said the lady," then I never heard “ of a more lucrative trade than this woman car$ ries on, under the mask of charity, at the expence " of her poor deluded fellow-creatures.”

• But, madam,” said Betty, who did not comprehend this lady's arithmetic, “ what can I do? $ I now contrive to pick up a morsel of bread withgo out begging or stealing. Mrs. Sponge has been

56 And

« My poor

« AnteriorContinua »