« AnteriorContinuar »
her husband had been obliged to her guest than her eyes sparkled on him with a benevolence, which is an emanation from the heart, and of which great and noble minds, whose hearts never swell but with an injury, can have no very adequate idea; it is therefore no wonder that our hero should misconstrue, as he did, the poor, innocent and simple affection of Mrs. Heartfree towards her husband's friend, for that great and generous passion, which fires the eyes of a modern heroine, when the colonel is so kind as to indulge his city creditor with partaking of his table to-day, and of his bed to-morrow. Wild therefore instantly returned the compliment, as he understood it, with his eyes, and presently after bestowed many encomiums on her beauty, with which perhaps she, who was a woman, though a good one, and mis-apprehended the design, was not displeased any more than the husband.
When breakfast was ended, and the wife retired to her household affairs, Wild, who had a quick discernment into the weaknesses of men, and who, besides the knowledge of his good (or foolish) disposition when a boy, had now discovered several sparks of goodness, friendship, and generosity in his friend, began to discourse over the accidents which had happened in their childhood, and took frequent occasions of reminding him of those favours which we have before mentioned his having conferred on him; he then proceeded to the most vehement professions of friendship, and to the most ardent expressions of joy in this renewal of their acquaintance. He at last told him, with great seeming pleasure, that he believed he had an opportunity of serving him by the recommendation of a gentleman to his custom, who was then on the brink of marriage, ' And, if he be not already engaged, I will,' says he, ' endeavour to prevail on him to furnish his lady 'with jewels at your shop.'
Heartfree was not backward in thanks to our hero, and, after many earnest solicitations to dinner, which were refused, they parted for the first time.
But here, as it occurs to our memory that our readers may be surprised (an accident which sometimes happens in histories of this kind) how Mr. Wild the elder in his present capacity, should have been able to maintain his son at a reputable school, as this appears to have been, it may be necessary to inform him, that Mr. Wild himself was then a tradesman in good business ; but, by misfortunes in the world, to wit, extravagance and gaming, he had reduced himself to that honourable occupation which we have formerly mentioned.
Having cleared up this doubt, we will now pursue our hero, who forthwith repaired to the Count, and, having first settled preliminary articles concerning distributions, he acquainted him with the scheme which he had formed against Heartfree; and, after consulting proper methods to put it in execution, they began to concert measures for the enlargement of the Count; on which the first, and indeed only point to be considered, was to raise money, not to pay his debts, for that would have required an immense sum, and was contrary to his inclination or intention, but to procure him bail ; for, as to his escape, Mr. Snap had taken such precautions that it appeared absolutely impossible.
Great examples of Greatness in Wild, shewn as well by his behaviour to Bagshot, as in a scheme laid, first to impose on Heartfree by means of the Count, and then to cheat the Count of the booty.
Wild undertook, therefore, to extract some money from Bagshot, who, notwithstanding the depredations made on him, had carried off a pretty considerable booty from their engagement at dice the preceding day. He found Mr. Bagshot in expectation of his bail, and, with a countenance full of concern, which he could at any time, with wonderful art, put on, told him, that all was discovered; that the Count knew him, and intended to prosecute him for the robbery, had not I exerted (said he) my utmost interest, and with great difficulty prevailed on him in case you refund the money—' Refund the money!' cried Bagshot, ' that is in your power: for you know what an 'inconsiderable part of it fell to my share.' 'How!' replied Wild, ' is this your gratitude to me for saving your 'life? For your own conscience must convince you of 'your guilt, and with how much certainty the gentleman 'can give evidence against you.' 'Marry come up,' quoth Bagshot, ' I believe my life alone will not be in danger. 'I know those who are as guilty as myself. Do you tell
'me of conscience?' 'Yes, sirrah !' answered our hero,
taking him by the collar, 'and, since you dare threaten 'me, I will shew you the difference between committing a 'robbery and conniving at it, which is all I can charge 'myself with. I own indeed I suspected, when you shewed 'me a sum of money, that you had not come honestly by 'it.' 'How,' says Bagshot, frightened out of one half of his wits, and amazed out of the other, ' can you deny?' '—Yes, you rascal,' answered Wild, 'I do deny every'thing, and do you find a witness to prove it; and, to 'shew how little apprehensions I have of your power to 'hurt me, I will have you apprehended this moment.'— At which words he offered to break from him; but Bagshot laid hold of his skirts, and, with an altered tone and manner, begged him not to be so impatient. 'Re'fund then, sirrah,' cries Wild, 'and perhaps I may take 'pity on you.'—' What must I refund?' answered Bagshot. 'Every farthing in your pocket,' replied Wild; 'then I may have some compassion on you, and not only 'save your life, but, out of an excess of generosity, may 'return you something.' At which words Bagshot seeming to hesitate, Wild pretended to make to the door, and rapt out an oath of vengeance with so violent an emphasis, that his friend no longer presumed to balance, but suffered Wild to search his pockets, and draw forth all he found, to the amount of twenty-one guineas and a half, which last piece our generous hero returned him again; telling him, he might now sleep secure, but advised him for the future never to threaten his friends.
Thus did our hero execute the greatest exploits with the utmost ease imaginable, by means of those transcendent qualities which nature had indulged him with, viz., a bold heart, a thundering voice, and a steady countenance.
Wild now returned to the Count, and informed him that he had got ten guineas of Bagshot; for, with great and commendable prudence, he sunk the other eleven into his own pocket; and told him with that money he would procure him bail, which he after prevailed on his father, and another gentleman of the same occupation, to become, for two guineas each; so that he made lawful prize of six more, making Bagshot debtor for the whole ten; for such were his great abilities, and so vast the compass of his understanding, that he never made any bargain without over-reaching (or, in the vulgar phrase, cheating) the person with whom he dealt.
The Count being, by these means, enlarged, the first thing they did, in order to procure credit from tradesmen, was the taking a handsome house ready furnished in one of the new streets; in which, as soon as the Count was settled, they proceeded to furnish him with servants and equipage, and all the insignia of a large estate proper to impose on poor Heartfree. These being all obtained, Wild made a second visit to his friend, and with much joy in his countenance acquainted him that he had succeeded in his endeavours, and that the gentleman had promised to deal with him for the jewels which he intended to present his bride, and which were designed to be very splendid and costly; he therefore appointed him to go to the Count the next morning, and carry with him a set of the richest and most beautiful jewels he had, giving him at the same time some hints of the Count's ignorance of that commodity, and that he might extort what price of him he pleased; but Heartfree told him, not without some disdain, that he scorned to take any such advantage; and, after expressing much gratitude to his friend for his recommendation, he promised to carry the jewels at the hour, and to the place appointed.
I am sensible that the reader, if he hath but the least notion of Greatness, must have such a contempt for the extreme folly of this fellow, that he will be very little concerned at any misfortunes which may befal him in the sequel; for, to have no suspicion that an old schoolfellow, with whom he had, in his tenderest years, contracted a friendship, and who, on the accidental renewing of their acquaintance, had professed the most passionate regard for him, should be very ready to impose on him; in short, to conceive that a friend should, of his own accord, without any view to his own interest, endeavour