Making Purchases, or Misfortunes Never Come Single
Introductory Note: “Making Purchases” is a comic sketch detailing the hopes and despairs of a young woman preoccupied with money, fashion, and the promise of a beneficial marriage. Borrowing from the tradition of the fairy tale, the story plays with the notion of a wicked stepmother and her young charge.
HAVING received a large sum of money, which I had for a length of time most anxiously expected,—in high spirits I went forth on that most delightful of female expeditions, namely, to make purchases. Disdainfully I passed all the cheap shops, where a few days previously I was happy to satisfy my moderate and real wants. I now directed my proud steps to the most fashionable and extravagant establishment in the town. Here I exhausted whole cases of fancy articles, tossed over the delicate finery with the satisfied and independent air of one who had no wish to enter on their books (the wish would have been unavailing even had I felt it!) and after having kept half a dozen gentlemanly and obliging attendants running “to and fro” from “warehouse” to “shew-room,” from “magazine” to “depot,” of their immense establishment, during the greater part of the morning,—at length I condescended to make a selection, ordering home specimens of almost every new-fashioned article they had placed before my longing eyes.
While one of the young men drew forth his gold-and-amethyst pencil-case to write out my account on an embossed sheet of perfumed pink paper, I fell into a reverie, which was not broken by the low tone of the writer’s queries (although I heard them as in a pleasant dream), such as, “Twelve yards of that splendid blond I think?” “Did this lady select three or four of these superb lace dresses?” “You have only given me two pieces of this delightful white satin, and three were to be put away.” “How many dozen of those magnificent silk-stockings?” &c. &c.
My charming reverie was caused by a letter I had received that morning from him who loved me beyond all the world: this dear being, although faultless in my eyes, was detested by my step-mother, who had within the last month banished him from our house, and kept strict watch lest I might find some means of communicating with, or seeing him. Vain precaution! there was a dear little sly Irish flower-girl, who had thoughts full of schemes, and blue eyes full of innocence, and she generally sold me every morning a fresh bouquet, in which was concealed a small note from poor Alfred. The day of my shopping expedition she had called as usual with her basket of flowers, and “mine own” (which she carefully handed to me, and afterwards pretended to offer to change it for a better) contained a plan for my elopement on the third evening from the date, and concluding with execrations against my step-mother, expressed with more sincerity than moderation. With trembling delight I concealed this note in my purse, along with my newly-arrived treasure; and in thinking over the whole matter at the shop, the idea of my purse reminded me to pay for my purchases. Looking up, I saw the young men politely waiting, with the account, until my waking dream was over; so I apologized for keeping them, and instantly searched in my reticule:—Oh! horror of horrors! my purse was not there,—I had drawn it out in the street with my handkerchief!
I could not restrain my agonized exclamations, nor conceal my distress from the by-standers, who assailed me with “Where did you drop it, Ma’m?” Stupid interrogatory! as if I would not have picked it up had I known where it fell!
Behind the counter but one yawning shopman adhered to me in my fallen fortunes, and he had lost all his alacrity: he stood looking another way, and listlessly drumming with his fingers on the counter, until at length drawling out something about “very sorry ree-ally,” he proceeded to deposit carefully in their former places all my fancy articles.
Two beautiful girls close to me, who were pouring forth gold in showers from their purses, lifted their eye-glasses and laughed in my face: (they might have spared this, as they did not offer to pay my account;) but I was too much agonized about my loss, to attend much to their rudeness. Fevered with anxiety about the fate of my letter (which, I remembered, was foolishly “directed in full” to me), I rose, and endeavouring to conceal the real state of my feelings beneath a smile of heroic indifference, coldly exclaimed, “It is of no consequence:” an assertion which must have been rendered extremely doubtful by my preceding manner. Slowly and sorrowfully I directed my course along the same streets which I had traversed in the morning with happy activity: and, as I could not succeed in concealing my pecuniary loss from my lynx-eyed step-mamma on arriving at home, I was obliged to bear lectures about carelessness, giddiness, and the like, which lasted until bed-time, together with every mortifying suggestion and conjecture as to my little fortune having fallen into the hands of pick-pockets, whereas I might have consoled suffering innocence by its proper application.
Thus passed all that wretched day: the hope I felt that some acquaintance of ours might find my purse, being quite counteracted by the dread of my severe relation seeing the letter it contained.
The first article which met my sight next day in one of the morning papers, was an advertisement of my loss inserted by my step-mother, who accurately described both the purse and our residence. In the course of the day a parcel was thrown down the area, and the servant who carried it up to her room, concluded it must have been my purse: I devoutly hoped not,—yet, some way, when ordered to go to the boudoir, I could not help thinking perhaps I should see my money restored, and that most likely the people had destroyed my letter!
The stately severe inhabitant of the boudoir handed me a letter (happily a greasy-looking one, sealed with a thimble, so it was not my letter!) thus it ran:—“Madm, has u hadwertized the lost of ure purse, i cee inn the papers, this his to hinform u has i dusn’t mean 2 reeturn the munny: butt has I fown a lettr inn itt, axin on a yung uman 2 run a way from ure house, an blowin u up lik funn, i sens that ere lettr bak, an hadvizes u 2 luke arter the yung uman, has shee an her Bo sims a pare off sli uns. Ures til deth, Jigamaree.
When I had read this consoling epistle, I was desired to prepare instantly for our departure for France, which was now hastened by a week on my account (to escape which separation, Alfred had arranged the elopement). So here I am, staying at a convent near Blois; and, during the two remaining years of my minority, I shall have nothing to do but think of the loss of my purse, my letter, my fashions, my money, and my lover, all of which were closely dependant on each other.—Have I not cause to exclaim “Misfortunes never come single!” as a very elegant but starving poet so pathetically observed, when he saw his wife’s three little new-born babies!1“Misfortunes never come single” is a quote from J. Addison’s The Spectator, “No. 7. THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 1710-1711.”
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Sullivan, Charlotte, F.. "Making Purchases, or Misfortunes Never Come Single." The Comic Offering, or, Ladies’ Melange of Literary Mirth, vol. 2, 1832, pp. 307-12. Edited by Natasha Menezes. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 5 February 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/making-purchases-or-misfortunes-never-come-single/.
6 June 2020
4 February 2023
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|↑1||“Misfortunes never come single” is a quote from J. Addison’s The Spectator, “No. 7. THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 1710-1711.”|