« AnteriorContinuar »
New instances of Friendly's folly, &e.
To return to my history, which, having rested itself a little, is now ready to proceed on its journey: Fireblood was the person chosen by Wild for this service. He had, on a late occasion, experienced the talents of this youth for a good round perjury. He immediately, therefore, found him out, and proposed it to him: when receiving his instant assent, they consulted together, and soon framed an evidence, which, being communicated to one of the most bitter and severe creditors of Heartfree, by him laid before a magistrate, and attested by the oath of Fireblood, the justice granted his warrant: and Heartfree was accordingly apprehended and brought before him.
When the officers came for this poor wretch they found him meanly diverting himself with his little children, the younger of whom sat on his knees, and the elder was playing at a little distance from him with Friendly. One of the officers, who was a very good sort of a man, but one very laudably severe in his office, after acquainting Heartfree with his errand, bade him come along and be
d d, and leave those little bastards, for so, he said, he
supposed they were, for a legacy to the parish. Heartfree was much surprised at hearing there was a warrant for felony against him; but he shewed less concern than Friendly did in his countenance. The elder daughter, when she saw the officer lay hold on her father, immediately quitted her play, and, running to him, and bursting into tears, cried out: 'You shall not hurt Papa.' One of the other ruffians offered to take the little one rudely from his knees; but Heartfree started up, and, catching the fellow by the collar, dashed his head so violently against the wall, that, had he had any brains, he might possibly have lost them by the blow.
The officer, like most of those heroic spirits who insult men in adversity, had some prudence mixt with his zeal for justice. Seeing, therefore, this rough treatment of his companion, he began to pursue more gentle methods, and very civilly desired Mr. Heartfree to go with him, seeing he was an officer, and obliged to execute his warrant; that he was sorry for his misfortune, and hoped he would be acquitted. The other answered, he should patiently submit to the laws of his country, and would attend him whither he was ordered to conduct him; then taking leave of his children with a tender kiss, he recommended them to the care of Friendly; who, promised to see them safe home, and then to attend him at the justice's, whose name and abode he had learnt of the constable.
Friendly arrived at the magistrate's house just as that gentleman had signed the Mittimus against his friend; for the evidence of Fireblood was so clear and strong, and the justice was so incensed against Heartfree, and so convinced of his guilt, that he would hardly hear him speak in his own defence, which the reader perhaps, when he hears the evidence against him, will be less inclined to censure: for this witness deposed, 'That he had been, 'by Heartfree himself, employed to carry the orders of 'embezzling to Wild, in order to be delivered to his wife; 'that he had been afterwards present with Wild and her 'at the inn, when they took coach for Harwich, where she 'shewed him the casket of jewels, and desired him to tell 'her husband, that she had fully executed his command; 'and this he swore to have been done after Heartfree had 'notice of the commission, and in order to bring it within 'that time, Fireblood, as well as Wild, swore that Mrs. 'Heartfree lay several days concealed at Wild's house 'before her departure for Holland.'
When Friendly found the justice obdurate, and that all he could say had no effect, nor was it any way possible for Heartfree to escape being committed to Newgate, he resolved to accompany him thither: where, when they arrived, the turnkey would have confined Heartfree (he having no money) among the common felons; but Friendly would not permit it, and advanced every shilling he had in his pocket to procure a room in the Press-yard for his friend, which indeed, through the humanity of the keeper, he did at a cheap rate.
They spent that day together, and, in the evening, the prisoner dismissed his friend, desiring him, after many thanks for his fidelity, to be comforted on his account. 'I know not,' says he, 'how far the malice of my enemy 'may prevail; but whatever my sufferings are, I am con'vinced my innocence will somewhere be rewarded. If, 'therefore, any fatal accident should happen to me (for 'he who is in the hands of perjury may apprehend the 'worst), my dear Friendly, be a father to my poor chil'dren ;' at which words the tears gushed from his eyes. The other begged him not to admit any such apprehensions; for that he would employ his utmost diligence in his service, and doubted not but to subvert any villainous design laid 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.
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 shewed 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 accident 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 goodnature 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 of the honour he enjoyed, of marrying into a chaste family. That she looked on it as an affront 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