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Jane Marcet

The Orange Boy

A Story

T HE next day Willy's Mother told him the following story:—

"A poor boy named Harry Wilson, one day that he was walking in London, saw a lady with two children, who was crossing the street, without observing a carriage, which was driving at full speed against them. The lady, who carried the youngest child in her arms, had just passed, when, alarmed at the sound of the carriage, she turned round and beheld her eldest son, who, in affright had fallen at the feet of the horses. They were so spirited, that the coachman had the greatest difficulty in reining them in; and the poor child must have been run over, if Harry had not, with great presence of mind, sprung forward, seized him, and carried him in safety to his mother's arms. She burst into tears of joy; and thanking Harry with the warmest expressions of gratitude, pulled out her purse and put a sovereign into his hand. Harry stared at the gold; and concluding she had made a mistake, told her it was not a shilling, but a sovereign, that she had given him. 'Keep it,' she said; 'you deserve it for saving my dear boy's life; but if you are as prudent as you are courageous, you will not spend it idly, but try to turn it to account.' Harry, overjoyed at the possession of such a treasure, returned home to relate all that had passed to his father; and, showing him the gold, asked what the lady could mean by desiring him to turn it to account.

" 'Why,' said his father, she wishes you, instead of spending it, to make it increase.'

" 'How can I do that?' replied the boy; I may lay it by and not spend it, but it will never increase; money will not grow.'

" 'That is true,' returned his father; 'but there are other means of increasing it. Suppose you were to buy a quantity of oranges with your sovereign, and carry them about the streets and sell them, you would be able to sell them for more than you paid for them. The sovereign is worth twenty shillings; now, if you sell the oranges for more, your money will be increased.'

"Harry liked the thoughts of selling oranges very much; so his father took him to an orange merchant, whose warehouse was full of boxes of oranges, and he inquired whether he could buy one of them for a sovereign. They gave him one of the smallest, and his father carried it home. He then filled a basket with oranges, which he told Harry to carry about the streets and sell for a penny each. Harry went about crying, 'Fine oranges, a penny a piece; who'll buy my oranges?' The first day he sold about fifty oranges, and at the end of the week he had sold all that the box contained, excepting a few which he had given to his brothers and sisters, and two or three which he had eaten himself. He now began to count over the money he had received for the oranges, which he had carefully laid up in a box. It was some trouble to count it, for he had taken almost the whole in halfpence; so he piled these up in heaps of twenty-four, which made a shilling each, and to his surprise he found that he had got twenty-eight shillings. 'So, then, my sovereign is turned into twenty-eight shillings,' said he, exultingly; 'father was quite right in saying that it might increase, though it would not grow.' It then suddenly struck him, that it might not be fair to sell his oranges for more than they cost him, and he ran to ask his father about it. 'It is quite fair,' said his father; 'you have had the trouble of carrying them about the streets for a week, and it is right that you should be paid for your labour; if you had not been occupied in selling oranges, you would have gone on errands, or I should have given you something or other to do, as I usually do.'

" 'Yes; but, father,' replied Harry, 'when I go about such odd jobs, I do not gain more than two or three shillings a week, and now, you see, I have got eight shillings!'

" 'That is because you had a sovereign to begin with. No person can set up in any trade unless he has some money to begin with.'

" 'No, to be sure,' replied Harry; 'he must have money to buy the oranges, or whatever else he wants to sell. But I wonder, father, that people don't all go to the orange merchant to buy oranges, he sells them so much cheaper than I and others do, who cry them about the streets; for you know he sold me as many oranges for twenty shillings, as I sold again for twenty-eight shillings.'

" 'The orange merchant sells them wholesale,  that is, a whole  box at once, a great many at a time: if he opened a box and sold them retail, that is, only a few at a time as you did, he must have a man to stand at the counter on purpose to serve the retail customers; the wages of that man might, perhaps, be eight shillings a week so he must sell his retail oranges at a penny a piece, as you do, or he would lose by them.'

" 'Then does he get nothing by the oranges he sells wholesale?' inquired Harry.

" 'That is rather a foolish question, Harry. Men do not buy and sell for their amusement, as children sometimes do; they carry on their trade for the purpose of gaining a livelihood; and what they gain on the sale of their goods is called profit:  thus, the orange merchant makes a profit by selling his oranges for more than he paid for them, as you gained eight shillings profit by the sale of your oranges.'

" 'And where did he buy them so cheap?' inquired Harry.

"He bought them in distant countries where they grow, and are much more plentiful and cheaper than they are here.'

"Harry was quite satisfied with this explanation, and returned to the orange merchant to buy another box; 'but now,' said he, 'that I have twenty-eight shillings, I can buy a larger box.' Harry ventured to ask the merchant what country the oranges came from; he told him it was Portugal; and finding that he took an interest in his merchandise, took him down to the wharf where there was a vessel unlading oranges. Harry was astonished at the immense number of chests there were; the merchant told him, that 'he wrote to a correspondent at Lisbon, a town in Portugal, to buy these oranges for him; and after that, he had to pay their freight, that is, the expense of their being brought over in the ship; and yet,' said he, 'I make a good profit by selling them here wholesale.'  'And so do I,' said Harry, 'by selling them retail; for I got eight shillings profit on the box I bought of you.'  'That is quite right, my lad,' said the merchant; 'and now that you have twenty-eight shillings to lay out, I will let you have a much larger box.' Harry was very glad that the orange merchant was not displeased at his selling the oranges dearer than he did himself, for he could not help fancying that he might have thought it wrong. By the sale of this larger box of oranges, Harry made above thirty shillings; and he went on buying wholesale, and selling retail, till he made a good deal of money, and was able to purchase a new suit of clothes which he wanted badly. He bought also a little table, with which he made a stall; so that he had not the trouble of carrying the oranges about in a basket, and could spread out a great many more on the stall than he could carry in a basket; and they were rubbed so bright, and looked so nice, and he was so clean and tidy in his new clothes, that people liked to buy of him, and so he sold a great number of oranges."

When Willy's mother had proceeded thus far, she said, "the story was so long, that she thought she must finish it another day."

"I am sorry for that," said Willy, "it is so amusing; and now I understand all about buying and selling, wholesale, and retail, and making profits; but there is nothing about borrowing money, and paying something over if a man gives you credit, as the toyman did?"

"We shall hear something about that to-morrow, Willy."