Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Diamond cut Diamond
By Bernard Mandeville (16701733)
DECIO, a man of great figure, that had large commissions for sugar from several parts beyond sea, treats about a considerable parcel of that commodity with Alcander, an eminent West India merchant; both understood the market very well, but could not agree: Decio was a man of substance, and thought nobody ought to buy cheaper than himself; Alcander was the same, and not wanting money, stood for his price. Whilst they were driving their bargain at a tavern near the exchange, Alcanders man brought his master a letter from the West Indies, that informed him of a much greater quantity of sugars coming for England than was expected. Alcander now wished for nothing more than to sell at Decios price, before the news was public; but being a cunning fox, that he might not seem too precipitant, nor yet lose his customer, he drops the discourse they were upon, and, putting on a jovial humour, commends the agreeableness of the weather, from whence falling upon the delight he took in his gardens, invites Decio to go along with him to his country house, that was not above twelve miles from London. It was in the month of May, and as it happened upon a Saturday in the afternoon, Decio who was a single man, and would have no business in town before Tuesday, accepts of the others civility, and away they go in Alcanders coach. Decio was splendidly entertained that night, and the day following; the Monday morning, to get himself an appetite, he goes to take the air upon a pad of Alcanders, and coming back meets with a gentleman of his acquaintance, who tells him news was come the night before, that the Barbadoes fleet was destroyed by a storm, and adds that before he came out, it had been confirmed at Lloyds coffee-house, where it was thought sugars would rise twenty-five per cent by change time. Decio returns to his friend, and immediately resumes the discourse they had broke off at the tavern: Alcander, who thinking himself sure of his chap, did not design to have moved it till after dinner, was very glad to see himself so happily prevented; but how desirous so ever he was to sell, the other was yet more eager to buy; yet both of them, afraid of one another for a considerable time, counterfeited all the indifference imaginable; till at last Decio, fired with what he had heard, thought delays might prove dangerous, and, throwing a guinea upon the table, struck the bargain at Alcanders price. The next day they went to London; the news proved true, and Decio got five hundred pounds by his sugars. Alcander, whilst he had strove to over-reach the other, was paid in his own coin; yet all this is called fair dealing; but I am sure neither of them would have desired to be done by, as they did to each other.