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Chapter 23
"Your horses of the Sun," he said,
"And first-rate whip Apollo!
Whate'er they be, I'll eat my head,
But I will beat them hollow."
Fred Vincy, we have seen. had a debt on his mind, and though no such
immaterial burthen could depress that buoyant-hearted young gentleman for
many hours together, there were circumstances connected with this debt which
made the thought of it unusually importunate. The creditor was Mr. Bambridge a
horse-dealer of the neighborhood, whose company was much sought in
Middlemarch by young men understood to be "addicted to pleasure." During the
vacations Fred had naturally required more amusements than he had ready
money for, and Mr. Bambridge had been accommodating enough not only to
trust him for the hire of horses and the accidental expense of ruining a fine
hunter, but also to make a small advance by which he might be able to meet
some losses at billiards. The total debt was a hundred and sixty pounds.
Bambridge was in no alarm about his money, being sure that young Vincy had
backers; but he had required something to show for it, and Fred had at first given
a bill with his own signature. Three months later he had renewed this bill with the
signature of Caleb Garth. On both occasions Fred had felt confident that he
should meet the bill himself, having ample funds at disposal in his own
hopefulness. You will hardly demand that his confidence should have a basis in
external facts; such confidence, we know, is something less coarse and
materialistic: it is a comfortable disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom
of providence or the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the still greater
mystery of our high individual value in the universe, will bring about agreeable
issues, such as are consistent with our good taste in costume, and our general
preference for the best style of thing. Fred felt sure that he should have a present
from his uncle, that he should have a run of luck, that by dint of "swapping" he
should gradually metamorphose a horse worth forty pounds into a horse that
would fetch a hundred at any moment--"judgment" being always equivalent to an
unspecified sum in hard cash. And in any case, even supposing negations which
only a morbid distrust could imagine, Fred had always (at that time) his father's
pocket as a last resource, so that his assets of hopefulness had a sort of
gorgeous superfluity about them. Of what might be the capacity of his father's
pocket, Fred had only a vague notion: was not trade elastic? And would not the
deficiencies of one year be made up for by the surplus of another? The Vincys
lived in an easy profuse way, not with any new ostentation, but according to the
family habits and traditions, so that the children had no standard of economy,
and the elder ones retained some of their infantine notion that their father might
pay for anything if he would. Mr. Vincy himself had expensive Middlemarch
habits--spent money on coursing, on his cellar, and on dinner-giving, while
mamma had those running accounts with tradespeople, which give a cheerful
sense of getting everything one wants without any question of payment. But it