« AnteriorContinuar »
'the worst of the matter is, that if we are to stay all the 'morning here I shall lose my dinner.' Heartfree, pausing a moment and recollecting himself, cried out, 'I 'will bear all with patience.' And then, addressing himself to the commanding officer, begged he might only have a few minutes by himself with his wife, whom he had not seen before since his misfortunes. The great man answered: 'He had compassion on him, and 'would do more than he could answer; but he supposed 'he was too much a gentleman not to know that some'thing was due for such civility.' On this hint, Friendly, who was himself half dead, pulled five guineas out of his pocket; which the great man took, and said, he would be so generous to give him ten minutes; on which one observed, that many a gentleman had bought ten minutes with a woman dearer, and many other facetious remarks were made, unnecessary to be here related. Heartfree was now suffered to retire into a room with his wife, the commander informing him at his entrance, that he must be expeditious, for that the rest of the good company would be at the tree before him, and he supposed he was a gentleman of too much breeding to make them wait.
This tender wretched couple were now retired for these few minutes, which the commander without carefully measured with his watch; and Heartfree was mustering all his resolution to part with what his soul so ardently doated on, and to conjure her to support his loss for the sake of her poor infants, and to comfort her with the promise of Friendly on their account; but all his design was frustrated. Mrs. Heartfree could not support the shock, but again fainted away, and so entirely lost every symptom of life, that Heartfree called vehemently for assistance. Friendly rushed first into the room, and was soon followed by many others, and, what was remarkable, one who had unmoved beheld the tender scene between these parting lovers, was touched to the quick by the pale looks of the woman, and ran up and down for water, drops, &c. with the utmost hurry and confusion. The ten minutes were expired, which the commander now hinted; and seeing nothing offered for the renewal of the term (for indeed Friendly had unhappily emptied his pockets), he began to grow very importunate, and at last told Heartfree, He should be ashamed not to act more like a man. Heartfree begged his pardon, and said, he would make him wait no longer. Then, with the deepest sigh, cried: '0 my angel!' and embracing his wife with the utmost eagerness, kissed her pale lips with more fervency than ever bridegroom did the blushing cheeks of his bride; he then cried: 'The Almighty bless thee; and if 'it be his pleasure, restore thee to life; if not, I beseech 'him we may presently meet again in a better world 'than this.' He was breaking from her, when, perceiving her sense returning, he could not forbear renewing his embrace, and again pressing her lips, which now recovered life and warmth so fast, that he begged one ten minutes more to tell her what her swooning had prevented her hearing. The worthy commander, being perhaps a little touched at this tender scene, took Friendly aside, and asked him what he would give if he would suffer his friend to remain half an hour? Friendly answered, any thing; that he had no more money in his pocket, but he would certainly pay him that afternoon. 'Well then, I'll be moderate,' said he,—' Twenty guineas.' —Friendly answered, ' It is a bargain.' The commander, having exacted a firm promise, cried,—' Then I don't care 'if they stay a whole hour together; for what signifies
'hiding good news! The gentleman is reprieved;'
of which he had just before received notice in a whisper. It would be very impertinent to offer a description of the joy'this occasioned to the two friends, or to Mrs. Heartfree, who was now again recovered. A surgeon, who was happily present, was employed to bleed them all. After which the commander, who had his promise of the money again confirmed to him, wished Heartfree joy, and shaking him very friendly by the hands, cleared the room of all the company, and left the three friends together.
In which the foregoing happy incident is accounted for.
But here, though I am convinced my good-natured reader may almost want the surgeon's assistance also, and that there is no passage in this whole story, which can afford him equal delight: yet, lest our reprieve should seem to resemble that in the Beggar's Opera, I shall endeavour to shew him that this incident, which is undoubtedly true, is at least as natural as delightful; for, we assure him, we would rather have suffered halt mankind to be hanged than have saved one contrary to the strictest rules of writing and probability.
Be it known then (a circumstance which I think highly credible,) that the great Fireblood had been, a few days before, taken in the fact of a robbery, and carried before the same justice of peace, who had, on his evidence, committed Heartfree to prison. This magistrate, who did indeed no small honour to the commission he bore, duly considered the weighty charge committed to him, by which he was entrusted with decisions affecting the lives, liberties, and properties of his countrymen, he therefore examined always with the utmost diligence and caution into every minute circumstance. And, as lie had a good deal balanced, even when he committed Heartfree, on the excellent character given him by Friendly and the maid; and, as he was much staggered on finding that of the two persons, on whose evidence alone Heartfree had been committed, and had been since convicted, one was in Newgate for a felony, and the other was now brought before him for a robbery, he thought proper to put the matter very home to Fireblood at this time. The young Achates was taken, as we have said, in the fact; so that denial he saw was in vain. He therefore honestly confessed what he knew must be proved; and desired, on the merit of the discoveries he made, to be admitted as an evidence against his accomplices. This afforded the happiest opportunity to the justice to satisfy his conscience in relation to Heartfree. He told Fireblood that if he expected the favour he solicited, it must be on condition that he revealed the whole truth to him concerning the evidence which he had lately given against a bankrupt, and which some circumstances had induced a suspicion of; that he might depend on it the truth would be discovered by other means, and gave some oblique hints (a deceit entirely justifiable) that Wild himself had offered such a discovery. The very mention of Wild's name immediately alarmed Fireblood, who did not in the least doubt the readiness of that Great Man to hang any of the gang when his own interest seemed to require it. He therefore hesitated not a moment; but, having obtained a promise from the justice, that he should be accepted as an evidence, he discovered the whole falsehood, and declared that he had been seduced by Wild to depose as he had done.
The justice having thus luckily and timely discovered this scene of villany, alias greatness, lost not a moment in using his utmost endeavours to get the case of the unhappy convict represented to the sovereign; who immediately granted him that gracious reprieve which caused such happiness to the persons concerned; and which we hope we have now accounted for to the satisfaction of the reader.
The good magistrate, having obtained this reprieve for Heartfree, thought it incumbent on him to visit him in the prison, and to sound, if possible, the depth of this affair, that, if he should appear as innocent as he now began to conceive him, he might use all imaginable methods to obtain his pardon and enlargement.
The next day therefore after that when the miserable scene above described had passed he went to Newgate, where he found those three persons, namely, Heartfree, his wife, and Friendly, sitting together. The justice informed the prisoner of the confession of Fireblood, with the steps which he had taken upon it. The reader will easily conceive the many outward thanks, as well as inward gratitude which he received from all three; but those were of very little consequence to him compared with the secret satisfaction he felt in his mind from reflecting on the preservation of innocence, as he soon after very clearly perceived was the case.
When he entered the room Mrs. Heartfree was speaking with some earnestness: as he perceived, therefore, he had interrupted her, he begged she would continue her discourse, which, if he prevented by his presence, he desired to depart; but Heartfree would not suffer it He said, she had been relating some adventures, which perhaps might entertain him to hear, and which she the rather desired he would hear, as they might serve to illustrate the foundation on which this falsehood had been built, which had brought on her husband all his misfortunes. The justice very gladly consented, and Mrs. Heartfree,