Forester, by Maria Edgeworth

The Bet.

Before we follow Forester to the brewery, we must request the attention of our readers to the history of a bet of Mr. Archibald Mackenzie’s.

We have already noticed the rise and progress of this young gentleman’s acquaintance with Sir Philip Gosling. Archibald,

“Whose ev’ry frolic had some end in view, Ne’er played the fool, but played the rascal too,”— Anonymous

cultivated assiduously the friendship of this weak, dissipated, vain young baronet, in hopes that he might, in process of time, make some advantage of his folly. Sir Philip had an unfortunately high opinion of his own judgment; an opinion which he sometimes found it difficult to inculcate upon the minds of others, till he hit upon the compendious method of laying high wagers in support of all his assertions. Few people chose to venture a hundred guineas upon the turn of a straw. Sir Philip, in all such contests, came off victorious; and he plumed himself much upon the success of his purse. Archibald affected the greatest deference for Sir Philip’s judgment; and, as he observed that the baronet piqued himself upon his skill as a jockey, he flattered him indefatigably upon this subject. He accompanied Sir Philip continually in his long visits to the livery-stables; and he made himself familiarly acquainted with the keeper of the livery-stables, and even with the hostlers. So low can interested pride descend! All this pains Archibald took, and more, for a very small object. He had set his fancy upon Sawney, one of his friend’s horses; and he had no doubt, but that he should either induce Sir Philip to make him a present of this horse, or that he should jockey him out of it, by some well-timed bet.

In counting upon the baronet’s generosity, Archibald was mistaken. Sir Philip had that species of good-nature which can lend, but not that which can give. He offered to lend the horse to Archibald most willingly; but the idea of giving it was far distant from his imagination. Archibald, who at length despaired of his friend’s generosity, had recourse to his other scheme of the wager. After having judiciously lost a few guineas to Sir Philip in wagers, to confirm him in his extravagant opinion of his own judgment, Archibald, one evening, when the fumes of wine and vanity, operating together, had somewhat exalted the man of judgment’s imagination, urged him, by artful, hesitating contradiction, to assert the most incredible things of one of his horses, to whom he had given the name of Favourite. Archibald knew, from the best authority— from the master of the livery-stables, who was an experienced jockey — that Favourite was by no means a match for Sawney; he therefore waited quietly till Sir Philip Gosling laid a very considerable wager upon the head of his “Favourite.” Archibald immediately declared, he could not, in conscience — that he could not, for the honour of Scotland, give up his friend Sawney.

“Sawney!” cried Sir Philip; “I’ll bet fifty guineas, that Favourite beats him hollow at a walk, trot, or gallop, whichever you please.”

Archibald artfully affected to be startled at this defiance, and, seemingly desirous to draw back, pleaded his inability to measure purses with such a rich man as Sir Philip.

“Nay, my boy,” replied Sir Philip, “that excuse shan’t stand you in stead. You have a pretty little pony there, that Lady Catherine has just given you; if you won’t lay me fifty guineas, will you risk your pony against my judgment?”

Archibald had now brought his friend exactly to the point at which he had been long aiming. Sir Philip staked his handsome horse Sawney against Archibald’s sorry pony, upon this wager, that Favourite should, at the first trials, beat Sawney at a walk, a trot, and a gallop.

Warmed with wine, and confident in his own judgment, the weak baronet insisted upon having the bet immediately decided. The gentlemen ordered out their horses, and the wager was to be determined upon the sands of Leith.

Sir Philip Gosling, to his utter astonishment, found himself for once mistaken in his judgment. The treacherous Archibald coolly suffered him to exhale his passion in unavailing oaths, and at length rejoiced to hear him consoling himself with the boast, that this was the first wager upon horse-flesh that he had ever lost in his life. The master of the livery-stables stared with well-affected incredulity, when Sir Philip, upon his return from the sands of Leith, informed him, that Favourite had been beat hollow by Sawney; and Archibald, by his additional testimony, could scarcely convince him of the fact, till he put two guineas into his hand, when he recommended his new horse Sawney to his particular care. Sir Philip, who was not gifted with quick observation, did not take notice of this last convincing argument. Whilst this passed, he was talking eagerly to the hostler, who confirmed him in his opinion, which he still repeated as loud as ever, “that Favourite ought to have won.” This point Archibald prudently avoided to contest; and he thus succeeded in duping and flattering his friend at once.

“Sawney for ever!” cried Archibald, as soon as Sir Philip had left the stables. “Sawney for ever!” repeated the hostler, and reminded Mackenzie, that he had promised him half a guinea. Archibald had no money in his pocket; but he assured the hostler, that he would remember him the next day. The next day, however, Archibald, who was expert in parsimonious expedients, considered that he had better delay giving the hostler his half-guinea, till it had been earned by his care of Sawney.

It is the usual error of cunning people to take it for granted, that others are fools. This hostler happened to be a match for our young laird in cunning, and, as soon as he perceived that it was Archibald’s intention to cheat him of the interest of his half-guinea, he determined to revenge himself in his care of Sawney. We shall hereafter see the success of his devices.

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Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 14:44