By Oscar Wilde, retold by Alex Stringer
Level: upper intermediate
Word count: 1839
Poor Hughie Erskine! He was such a good-looking young man with his short brown hair, handsome face and grey eyes, but he never realized the great truths of modern life: Romance is for the rich, not the poor. If you’re unemployed, there’s no point being charming, you should be practical instead. It’s far better to have a regular income than to be an interesting person.
Hughie was popular with both men and women and he had many abilities, but he couldn’t make money. When his father died, in his will he left Hughie an army sword and a book on military history and nothing else. Hughie hung the sword over his mirror and put the book on his shelf between a fox hunting magazine and a guide to horse racing. He lived on two hundred pounds a year that an old aunt paid him.
He’d tried every way of making money. He’d gone on the Stock Market for six months, but where the other traders were bulls and bears, Hughie was only a butterfly. He’d tried the tea business for a little longer but he was soon bored. Then he tried selling dry sherry but it was no good: his sherry was too dry. In the end he became nothing, a charming but useless young man with perfect looks and no profession.
He was also in love with a girl called Laura Merton. She was the daughter of a retired army officer who had lost his temper and his digestion in India and had never found either of them again. Notes
Laura loved Hughie and he was ready to kiss her shoes. They were the best-looking couple in London, but they didn’t have a penny between them. Laura’s father liked Hughie very much but he absolutely refused to allow them to get engaged.
‘Come and ask me again when you’ve got ten thousand pounds of your own, and we’ll see,’ he used to say. When he said this, Hughie was very sad and Laura had to comfort him.