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Observations on the foregoing dialogue, together with a base design on our hero, which must be detested by every lover
Thus did this dialogue (which though we have termed it matrimonial, had indeed very little savour of the sweets of matrimony in it), produce at last a resolution more wise than strictly pious, and which, if they could have rigidly adhered to it, might have prevented some unpleasant moments, as well to our hero as to his serene consort; but their hatred was so very great and unaccountable that they never could bear to see the least composure in one another's countenance, without attempting to ruffle it. This set "them on so many contrivances to plague and vex one another, that, as their proximity afforded them such frequent opportunities of executing their malicious purposes, they seldom passed one easy or quiet day together.
And this, reader, and no other, is the cause of those many inquietudes which thou must have observed to disturb the repose of some married couples, who mistake implacable hatred for indifference; for why should Corvinus, who lives in a round of intrigue, and seldom doth, and never willingly would, dally with his wife, endeavour to prevent her from the satisfaction of an intrigue in her turn? Why doth Camilla refuse a more agreeable invitation abroad, only to expose her husband at his own table home? In short, to mention no more instances, whence can all the quarrels, and jealousies, and jars, proceed in people who have no love for each other, unless from that noble passion abovementioned, that desire, according to my Lady Betty Modish, of curing each other of a smile.
We thought proper to give our reader a short taste of the domestic state of our hero, the rather to shew him that great men are subject to the same frailties and inconveniences in ordinary life, with little men, and that heroes are really of the same species with other human creatures, notwithstanding all the pains they themselves, or their flatterers, take to assert the contrary; and that they differ 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 the 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 Lretitia began to abate, he 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. Heartfree 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 devour a story with greedy ears; the reader, there
VOL. IV. , K
fore, 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 great 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 Characters naturally inspire low 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 honeymoon 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 great men.
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 anyways sully so great a character, so she hath 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.
Mr. 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 to 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 shew 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 shewn 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 OTHEE PERSON AN INJURY FROM ANY MOTIVE OR 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: