Imagens das páginas

chiefly in the immensity of their greatness, or, as the vulgar erroneously call it, villany. Now therefore, that we may not dwell too long on low scenes, in a history of this sublime kind, we shall return to actions of a higher note, and more suitable to our purpose. When the boy Hymen had, with his lighted torch, driven the boy Cupid out of doors; that is to say, in common phrase, when the violence of Mr. Wild's passion (or rather appetite) for the chaste Laetitia began to abate, be returned to visit his friend Heartfree, who was now in the liberties of the Fleet, and had appeared to the commission of bankruptcy against him. Here he met with a more cold reception than he himself had apprehended. Heartfree had long entertained suspicions of Wild, but these suspicions had from time to time been confounded with circumstances, and principally smothered with that amazing confidence, which was indeed the most striking virtue in our hero. Heartsree was unwilling to condemn his friend without certain evidence, and laid hold on every probable semblance to acquit him; but the proposal made at his last visit had so totally blackened his character in this poor man's opinion, that it entirely fixed the wavering scale, and he no longer doubted but that our hero was one of the greatest villains in the world. Circumstances of great improbability often escape men who devoura story with greedy ears; the reader therefore cannot wonder that Heartfree, whose passions were so variously concerned, first for the fidelity, and secondly for the safety of his wife; and lastly, who was so distracted with doubt concerning the conduct of his friend, should at his first relation pass unobserved the incident of his being committed to the boat by the captain of the privateer, which he had at the time of his telling, so lamely accounted for ; but now when Heartfree came to reflect on the whole, and with a high prepossession against Wild, the absurdity of this fact glared in his eyes, and struck him in the most sensible manner. At length a thought of £reat horror suggested itself to his imagination, and this was, whether the whole was not a fiction, and Wild, who was, as he had learned from his own mouth, equal to any undertaking how black soever, had not spirited away, robbed and murdered his wife. Intolerable as this apprehension was, he not only turned it round and examined it carefully in his own mind, but acquainted young Friendly with it at their next interview. Friendly, who detested Wild, (from that envy probably, with which these GREAT chak Acters naturally inspire iow fellows,) encouraged these suspicions so much, that Heartfree resolved to attack our hero, and carry him before a magistrate. This resolution had been some time taken, and Friendly, with a warrant and a constable, had with the utmost diligence searched several days for our hero; but whether it was that in compliance with modern custom he had retired to spend the honey-moon with his bride, the only moon indeed in which it is fashionable or customary for the married parties to have any correspondence with each other; or perhaps his habitation might for particular reasons be usually kept a secret: like those of some few great men, whom unfortunately the law hath left out of that reasonable as well as honourable provision, which it hath made for the security of the persons of other greatmen. But Wild resolved to perform works of supererogation in the way of honour, and though no hero is obliged to answer the challenge of my lord chief justice, or indeed of any other magistrate ; but may with unblemished reputation, slide away from it; yet such was the bravery, such the greatness, the magnanimity of Wild that he appeared in person to it. Indeed envy may say one thing, which may lessen the glory of this action, namely, that the said Mr. Wild knew nothing of the said warrant or challenge ; and as thou mayest be assured, reader, that the malicious fury will omit nothing which can any ways sully so great a character, so she bath endeavoured to account for this second visit of our hero to his friend Heartfree, from a very different motive than that of asserting his own innocence. -oCHAPTER X. JMr. Wild, with unprecedented generosity visits his friend Heartfree, and the ungrateful reception he met with. It hath been said then, that Mr. Wild not being able on the strictest examination to find in a certain spot of human nature called his own heart, the least grain of that pitiful low quality called honesty, and resolved, perhaps, a little too generally, that there was no such thing. He therefore imputed the resolution with which Mr. Heartfree had so positively refused to concern himself in murder, either to a fear of bloodying his hands, or the apprehension of a ghost, or lest he should make an additional example in that excellent book called, God's Revenge against Murder; and doubted not but he would (at least in his present necessity) agree without scruple to a simple robbery, especially where any considerable booty should be proposed, and the safety of the attack plausibly made appear; which if he could prevail on him to undertake, he would immediately afterwards get him impeached, convicted, and hanged. He no sooner therefore had discharged his duties to Hymen, and heard that Heartfree had procured himself the liberties of the Fleet, than he resolved te visit him, and to propose a robbery with all the allurements of profit, ease, and safety. This proposal was no sooner made, than it was answered by Heartfree in the following manner: ‘I might have hoped the answer which I gave to your former advice would have prevented me from the danger of receiving a second affront of this kind. An affront I call it, and surely if it be so to call a man a villain, it can be no less to show him you suppose him one. Indeed it may be wondered how any man can arrive at the boldness, I may say impudence, of first making such an overture to another; surely it is seldom done, unless to those who have previously betrayed some symptoms of their own baseness. If I have therefore shown you any such, these insults are more pardonable ; but I assure you, if such appear, they discharge all their malignance outwardly, and reflect not even a shadow within; for to me baseness seems inconsistent with this rule, of DoING No other PERSoN AN INJURY FROM ANY MOTIVE of ON ANY considerATION whatever. This, sir, is the rule by which I am determined to walk, nor can that man justify disbelieving me, who will not own, he walks not by it himself. But whether it be allowed to me or no, or whether I feel the good effects of its being practised by others, I am resolved to maintain it : for surely no man can reap a benefit from my pursuing it equal to the comfort I myself enjoy : for what a ravishing thought! how replete with ecstacy must the consideration be, that Almighty Goodness is by its own nature engaged to reward me! How indifferent must such a persuasion make a man to all the occurrences of this life : What trifles must he represent to himself both the enjoyments and the afflictions of this world; how easily must he acquiesce under missing the former, and how patiently will he submit to the latter, who is convinced that his failing of a transitory imperfect reward here, is a most certain argument of his obtaining one permanent and complete hereafter | Dost thou think then, thou little, paltry, mean animal, (with such language did he treat our truly Great Man,) that I will forego such comfortable expectations for any pitiful reward which thou canst suggest or promise to me; for that sordid lucre for which all pains and labour are undertaken by the industrious, and all barbarities and iniquities committed by the vile; for a worthless acquisition, which such as thou art can possess, can give, or can take away ? The former part of this speech occasioned much yawning in our hero, but the latter roused his anger; and he was collecting his rage to answer, when Friendly and the constable, who had been summoned by Heartfree, on Wild's first appearance, entered the room, and seized the Great Man just as his wrath was bursting from his lips. WQM.. XEI. g

The dialogue which now ensued, is not worth relating: Wild was soon acquainted with the reason of this rough treatment, and presently conveyed before a magistrate.

Notwithstanding the doubts raised by Mr. Wild's lawyer on his examination, he insisted that the proceeding was improper; for that a Writ de Homine replegiando should issue, and on the return of that a Capias in Wither-. nam, the justice inclined to commitment, so that Wild was driven to other methods for his defence. He therefore acquainted the justice, that there was a young man likewise with him in the boat, and begged that he might be sent for, which request was accordingly granted, and the faithful Achates (Mr. Fireblood) was soon produced to bear testimony for his friend, which he did with so much becoming zeal, and went through his examination with such coherence, (though he was forced to collect his evidence from the hints given him by Wild in the presence of the justice and the accusers,) that as here was direct evidence against mere presumption, our hero was most honourably acquitted, and poor Heartfree was charged by the justice, the audience, and all others, who afterwards heard the story, with the blackest ingratitude, in attempting to take away the life of a man, to whom he had such eminent obligations.

Lest so vast an effort of friendship as this of Fireblood's should too violently surprise the reader in this degenerate age, it may be proper to inform him, that beside the ties of engagement in the same employ, another nearer and stronger alliance subsisted between our hero and this youth, which latter was just departed from the arms of the lovely Laetitia, when he received her husband's message; an instance which may also serve to justify those strict intercourses of love and acquaintance, which so commonly subsist in modern history between the husband and gallant, displaying the vast force of friendship, contracted by this more honourable than legal alliance, which is thought to be at # resent one of the strongest bonds of amity between

« AnteriorContinuar »