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The Mississippi Bubble

How the Star of Good Fortune Rose and Set and Rose Again, by a Woman's Grace, for One John Law of Lauriston

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Sadler's Wells, on this mild and cheery spring morning, was a scene of fashion and of folly. Hither came the élite of London, after the custom of the day, to seek remedy in the reputed qualities of the springs for the weariness and lassitude resultant upon the long season of polite dissipations which society demanded of her votaries. Bewigged dandies, their long coats of colors well displayed as they strutted about in the open, paid court there, as they did within the city gates, to the powdered and painted beauties who sat in their couches waiting for their servants to bring out to them the draft of which they craved healing for crow's-feet and hollow eyes. Here and there traveling merchants called their wares, jugglers spread their carpets, bear dancers gave their little spectacles, and jockeys conferred as to the merits of horse or hound. Hawk-nosed Jews passed among the vehicles, cursed or kicked by the young gallants who stood about, hat in hand, at the steps of their idols' carriages. "Buy my silks, pretty lady, buy my silks! Fresh from the Turkey walk on the Exchange, and cheaper than you can buy their like in all the city—buy my silks, lady!" Thus the peddler with his little pack of finery. "My philter, lady," cried the gipsy woman, who had left her donkey cart outside the line. "My philter! 'Twill keep-a your eyes bright and your cheeks red for ay. Secret of the Pharaohs, lady; and but a shilling!" "Have ye a parrot, ma'am? Have ye never a parrot to keep ye free and give ye laughter every hour? Buy my parrot, lady. Just from the Gold Coast. He'll talk ye Spanish, Flemish or good city tongue. Buy my parrot at ten crowns, and so cheap, lady!" So spoke the ear-ringed sailor, who might never have seen a salter water than the Thames. "Powder-puffs for the face, lady," whispered a lean and weazen-faced hawker, slipping among the crowd with secrecy. "See my puff, made from the foot of English hares. Rubs out all wrinkles, lady, and keeps ye young as when ye were a lass. But a shilling, a shilling. See!" And with the pretense of secrecy the seller would sidle up to a carriage of some dame, slip to her the hare's foot and take the shilling with an air as though no one could see what none could fail to notice.