Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

for his destruction, and to make his innocence appear to the world as white as it was in his own opinion.

We cannot help mentioning a circumstance here, though we doubt it will appear very unnatural and incredible to our reader; which is, that notwithstanding the former character and behaviour of Heartfree, this story of his embezzling was so far from surprising his neighbours, that many of them declared they expected no better from him. Some were assured he could pay forty shillings in the pound, if he would. Others had overheard hints formerly pass between him and Mrs. Heartfree, which had given them suspicions. And, what is most astonishing of all is, that many of those who had before censured him for an extravagant heedless fool, now no less confidently abused him for a cunning, tricking, avaricious knave.

-o- - CHAPTER XIII.

Something concerning Fireblood, which will surprise; and

somewhat touching one of the Miss Snaps, which will

greatly concern the reader.

However, notwithstanding all these censures abroad

and in despite of all his misfortunes at home, Heartfree in Newgate enjoyed a quiet, undisturbed repose, while our hero, nobly disdaining rest, lay sleepless all night; partly from the apprehensions of Mrs. Heartfree's return before he had executed his scheme; and partly from a suspicion lest Fireblood should betray him; of whose infidelity he had, nevertheless, no other cause to maintain any fear, but from his knowing him to be an accomplished rascal, as the vulgar term it, a complete GREAT MAN in our language. And indeed, to confess the truth, these doubts were not without some foundation; for the very same thought unluckily entered the head of that noble youth, who considered, whether he might not possibly sell himself for some advantage to the other side, as he had yet no promise from Wild; but this was, by the sagacity of the latter, prevented in the morning with a profusion of promises, which showed him to be of the most . generous temper in the world, with which Fireblood was extremely well satisfied; and made use of so many protestations of his faithfulness, that he convinced Wild of the injustice of his suspicions. At this time an incident happened, which, though it did not immediately affect our hero, we cannot avoid relating, as it occasioned great confusion in his family, as well as in the family of Snap. It is indeed a calamity highly to be lamented, when it stains untainted blood, and happens to an honourable house. An injury never to be repaired. A blot never to be wiped out. A sore never to be healed. To detain my reader no longer; Miss Theodosia Snap was now safely delivered of a male infant, the product of an amour which that beautiful (O that I could say, virtuous) creature had with the Count. Mr. Wild and his lady were at breakfast, when Mr. Snap, with all the agonies of despair both in his voice and countenance, brought them this melancholy news. Our hero, who had (as we have said) wonderful good-nature when his greatness or interest was not concerned, instead of reviling his sister-in-law, asked with a smile: “Who was the father?” But the chaste Laetitia, we repeat the chaste, for well did she now deserve that epithet; received it in another manner. She fell into the utmost fury at the relation, reviled her sister in the bitterest terms, and vowed she would never see nor speak to her more. Then burst into tears, and lamented over her father, that such dishonour should ever happen to him and herself. At length she fell severely on her husband, for the light treatment which he gave this fatal accident. She told him, he was unworthy the honour he enjoyed, of marrying into a chaste family. That she looked on it as an af. front to her virtue. That if he had married one of the naughty hussies of the town, he could have behaved to her in no other manner. She concluded with desiring her father to make an example of the slut, and to turn her out of doors; for that she would not otherwise enter his house, being resolved never to set her foot within the

same threshold with the trollop, whom she detested so much the more, because (which was perhaps true) she was her own sister. So violent, and indeed so outrageous was this chaste lady's love of virtue, that she could not forgive a single slip (indeed the only one Theodosia had ever made) in her own sister, in a sister who loved her, and to whom she owed a thousand obligations. Perhaps the severity of Mr. Snap, who greatly felt the injury done to the honour of his family, would have relented, had not the parish-officers been extremely pressing on this occasion, and for want of security, conveyed the unhappy young lady to a place, the name of which, for the honour of the Snaps, to whom our hero was so nearly allied, we bury in eternal oblivion; where she suffered so much correction for her crime, that the goodnatured reader of the male kind may be inclined to compassionate her, at least to imagine she was sufficiently punished for a fault, which, with submission to the chaste Laetitia, and all other strictly virtuous ladies, it should be either less criminal in a woman to commit, or more so in a man to solicit her to it. But to return to our hero, who was a living and strong instance, that human greatness and happiness are not always inseparable. He was under a continual alarm of frights, and fears, and jealousies. He thought every man he beheld wore a knife for his throat, and a pair of scissors for his purse. As for his own gang particularly, he was thoroughly convinced there was not a single man amongst them, who would not, for the value of five shillings, bring him to the gallows. These apprehensions so constantly broke his rest, and kept him so assiduously on his guard, to frustrate and circumvent any designs which might be forming against him, that his condition, to any other than the glorious eye of ambition, might seem rather deplorable, than the object of envy or desire.

CHAPTER XIV. In which our hero makes a speech well worthy to be celebrated; and the behaviour of one of the gang, perhaps more unnatural than any other part of this history. TheRE was in the gang a man named Blueskin; one of those merchants who trade in dead oxen, sheep, &c. in short, what the vulgar call a Butcher. This gentleman had two qualities of a great man, viz. undaunted courage, and an absolute contempt of those ridiculous distinctions of Meum and Tuum, which would cause endless disputes, did not the law happily decide them by converting both into Suum. The common form of exchanging property by trade seemed to him too tedious; he therefore resolved to quit the mercantile profession, and, falling acquainted with some of Mr. Wild's people, he provided himself with arms, and enlisted of the gang. In which he behaved for some time with great decency and order, and submitted to accept such share of the booty with the rest, as our hero allotted him. But this subserviency agreed ill with his temper; for we should have before remembered a third heroic quality, namely, ambition, which was no inconsiderable part of his composition. One day, therefore, having robbed a gentleman at Windsor of a gold watch; which, on its being advertised in the newspapers, with a considerable reward, was demanded of him by Wild, he peremptorily refused to deliver it. ‘How, Mr. Blueskins’ says Wild, ‘you will not deliver the watch 7" “No, Mr. Wild,” answered he ; “I have taken it, and will keep it; or, if I dispose of it, I will dispose of it myself, and keep the money for which I self it.’ ‘Sure,' replied Wild, “you have not the assurance to pretend you have any property or right in this watch!” “I am certain,” returned Blueskin, whether I have any right in it or no, you can prove none.” “I will undertake,” cries the other, “to show I have an absolute right to it, and that by the laws of our gang, of which I am providentially at the head.” “I know not who put you at the head of it,' cries Blueskin; “but those whe did, certainly did it for their own good, that you might conduct them the better in their robberies, inform them of the richest booties, prevent surprises, pack juries, bribe evidence, and so contribute to their benefit and safety; and not to convert all their labour and hazard to your own benefit and advantage.’ ‘You are greatly mistaken, Sir,” answered Wild; “you are talking of a legal society, where the chief magistrate is always chosen for the public good, which, as we see in all the legal societies of the world, he constantly consults, daily contributing, by his superior skill, to their prosperity, and not sacrificing their good to his own wealth, or pleasure, or humour: But in an illegal society or gang, as this of ours, it is otherwise; for who would be at the head of a gang, unless for his own interest ? And without a head, you

know you cannot subsist. Nothing but a head, and obedience to that head, can preserve a gang a moment from destruction. It is absolutely better for you to content yourselves with a moderate reward, and enjoy that in safety at the disposal of your chief, than to engross the whole with the hazard to which you will be liable without his protection. And surely, there is none in the whole gang, who has less reason to complain than you; you have tasted of my favours; witness that piece of ribbon you wear in your hat, with which I dubbed you captain.—Therefore pray, captain, deliver the watch.’— ‘D—n your cajoling,’ says Blueskin: “Do you think I value myself on this bit of ribbon, which I could have bought myself for sixpence, and have worn without your leave 7 Do you imagine I think myself a captain because you whom I know not empowered to make one, call me so? The name of captain is but a shadow : The men and the salary are the substance: And I am not te be bubbled with a shadow. I will be called captain no longer, and he who flatters me by that name, I shall think affronts me, and I will knock him down, I assure you.”—“Did ever a man talk so unreasonably "cries Wild. “Are you

« AnteriorContinuar »