Heartfree had not been long in Newgate before his frequent conversation with his children, and other instances of a good heart, which betrayed themselves in his actions and conversation, created an opinion in all about him that he was one of the silliest fellows in the universe. The ordinary himself, a very sagacious as well as very worthy person, declared that he was a cursed rogue, but no conjuror.
What indeed might induce the former, i.e. the roguish part of this opinion in the ordinary, was a wicked sentiment which Heartfree one day disclosed in conversation, and which we, who are truly orthodox, will not pretend to justify, that he believed a sincere Turk would be saved. To this the good man, with becoming zeal and indignation, answered, I know not what may become of a sincere Turk; but, if this be your persuasion, I pronounce it impossible you should be saved. No, sir; so far from a sincere Turk’s being within the pale of salvation, neither will any sincere Presbyterian, Anabaptist, nor Quaker whatever, be saved.
But neither did the one nor the other part of this character prevail on Friendly to abandon his old master. He spent his whole time with him, except only those hours when he was absent for his sake, in procuring evidence for him against his trial, which was now shortly to come on. Indeed this young man was the only comfort, besides a clear conscience and the hopes beyond the grave, which this poor wretch had; for the sight of his children was like one of those alluring pleasures which men in some diseases indulge themselves often fatally in, which at once flatter and heighten their malady.
Friendly being one day present while Heartfree was, with tears in his eyes, embracing his eldest daughter, and lamenting the hard fate to which he feared he should be obliged to leave her, spoke to him thus: “I have long observed with admiration the magnanimity with which you go through your own misfortunes, and the steady countenance with which you look on death. I have observed that all your agonies arise from the thoughts of parting with your children, and of leaving them in a distrest condition; now, though I hope all your fears will prove ill grounded, yet, that I may relieve you as much as possible from them, be assured that, as nothing can give me more real misery than to observe so tender and loving a concern in a master, to whose goodness I owe so many obligations, and whom I so sincerely love, so nothing can afford me equal pleasure with my contributing to lessen or to remove it. Be convinced, therefore, if you can place any confidence in my promise, that I will employ my little fortune, which you know to be not entirely inconsiderable, in the support of this your little family. Should any misfortune, which I pray Heaven avert, happen to you before you have better provided for these little ones, I will be myself their father, nor shall either of them ever know distress if it be any way in my power to prevent it. Your younger daughter I will provide for, and as for my little prattler, your elder, as I never yet thought of any woman for a wife, I will receive her as such at your hands; nor will I ever relinquish her for another.” Heartfree flew to his friend, and embraced him with raptures of acknowledgment. He vowed to him that he had eased every anxious thought of his mind but one, and that he must carry with him out of the world. “O Friendly!” cried he, “it is my concern for that best of women, whom I hate myself for having ever censured in my opinion. O Friendly! thou didst know her goodness; yet, sure, her perfect character none but myself was ever acquainted with. She had every perfection, both of mind and body, which Heaven hath indulged to her whole sex, and possessed all in a higher excellence than nature ever indulged to another in any single virtue. Can I bear the loss of such a woman? Can I bear the apprehensions of what mischiefs that villain may have done to her, of which death is perhaps the lightest?” Friendly gently interrupted him as soon as he saw any opportunity, endeavouring to comfort him on this head likewise, by magnifying every circumstance which could possibly afford any hopes of his seeing her again.
By this kind of behaviour, in which the young man exemplified so uncommon an height of friendship, he had soon obtained in the castle the character of as odd and silly a fellow as his master. Indeed they were both the byword, laughing-stock, and contempt of the whole place.
The sessions now came on at the Old Bailey. The grand jury at Hicks’s-hall had found the bill of indictment against Heartfree, and on the second day of the session he was brought to his trial; where, notwithstanding the utmost efforts of Friendly and the honest old female servant, the circumstances of the fact corroborating the evidence of Fireblood, as well as that of Wild, who counterfeited the most artful reluctance at appearing against his old friend Heartfree, the jury found the prisoner guilty.
Wild had now accomplished his scheme; for as to remained, it was certainly unavoidable, seeing Heartfree was entirely void of interest with the and was besides convicted on a statute the infringers of which could hope no pardon.
The catastrophe to which our hero had reduced this wretch was so wonderful an effort of greatness, that it probably made Fortune envious of her own darling; but whether it was from this envy, or only from that known inconstancy and weakness so often and judiciously remarked in that lady’s temper, who frequently lifts men to the summit of human greatness, only
ut lapsu graviore ruant;
certain it is, she now began to meditate mischief against Wild, who seems to have come to that period at which all heroes have arrived, and which she was resolved they never should transcend. In short, there seems to be a certain measure of mischief and iniquity which every great man is to fill up, and then Fortune looks on him of no more use than a silkworm whose bottom is spun, and deserts him. Mr. Blueskin was convicted the same day of robbery, by our hero, an unkindness which, though he had drawn on himself, and necessitated him to, he took greatly amiss: as Wild, therefore, was standing near him, with that disregard and indifference which great men are too carelessly inclined to have for those whom they have ruined, Blueskin, privily drawing a knife, thrust the same into the body of our hero with such violence, that all who saw it concluded he had done his business. And, indeed, had not fortune, not so much out of love to our hero as from a fixed resolution to accomplish a certain purpose, of which we have formerly given a hint, carefully placed his guts out of the way, he must have fallen a sacrifice to the wrath of his enemy, which, as he afterwards said, he did not deserve; for, had he been contented to have robbed and only submitted to give him the booty, he might have still continued safe and unimpeached in the gang; but, so it was, that the knife, missing noble parts (the noblest of many) the guts, perforated only the hollow of his belly, and caused no other harm than an immoderate effusion of blood, of which, though it at present weakened him, he soon after recovered.
This accident, however, was in the end attended with worse consequences: for, as very few people (those greatest of all men, absolute princes excepted) attempt to cut the thread of human life, like the fetal sisters, merely out of wantonness and for their diversion, but rather by so doing propose to themselves the acquisition of some future good, or the avenging some past evil; and as the former of these motives did not appear probable, it put inquisitive persons on examining into the latter. Now, as the vast schemes of Wild, when they were discovered, however great in their nature, seemed to some persons, like the projects of most other such persons, rather to be calculated for the glory of the great man himself than to redound to the general good of society, designs began to be laid by several of those who thought it principally their duty to put a stop to the future progress of our hero; and a learned judge particularly, a great enemy to this kind of greatness, procured a clause in an Act of Parliament a trap for Wild, which he soon after fell into. By this law it was made capital in a prig to steal with the hands of other people. A law so plainly calculated for the destruction of all priggish greatness, that it was indeed impossible for our hero to avoid it.
If we had any leisure we would here digress a little on that ingratitude which so many writers have observed to spring up in the people in all free governments towards their great men; who, while they have been consulting the good of the public, by raising their own greatness, in which the whole body (as the kingdom of France thinks itself in the glory of their grand monarch) was so deeply concerned, have been sometimes sacrificed by those very people for whose glory the said great men were so industriously at work: and this from a foolish zeal for a certain ridiculous imaginary thing called liberty, to which great men are observed to have a great animosity.
This law had been promulgated a very little time when Mr. Wild, having received from some dutiful members of the gang a valuable piece of goods, did, for a consideration somewhat short of its original price, reconvey it to the right owner; for which fact, being ungratefully informed against by the said owner, he was surprized in his own house, and, being overpowered by numbers, was hurried before a magistrate, and by him committed to that castle, which, suitable as it is to greatness, we do not chuse to name too often in our history, and where many great men at this time happened to be assembled.
The governor, or, as the law more honourably calls him, keeper of this castle, was Mr. Wild’s old friend and acquaintance. This made the latter greatly satisfied with the place of his confinement, as he promised himself not only a kind reception and handsome accommodation there, but even to obtain his liberty from him if he thought it necessary to desire it: but, alas! he was deceived; his old friend knew him no longer, and refused to see him, and the lieutenant-governor insisted on as high garnish for fetters, and as exorbitant a price for lodging, as if he had had a fine gentleman in custody for murder, or any other genteel crime.
To confess a melancholy truth, it is a circumstance much to be lamented, that there is no absolute dependence on the friendship of great men; an observation which hath been frequently made by those who have lived in courts, or in Newgate, or in any other place set apart for the habitation of such persons.
The second day of his confinement he was greatly surprized at receiving a visit from his wife; and more so, when, instead of a countenance ready to insult him, the only motive to which he could ascribe her presence, he saw the tears trickling down her lovely cheeks. He embraced her with the utmost marks of affection, and declared he could hardly regret his confinement, since it had produced such an instance of the happiness he enjoyed in her, whose fidelity to him on this occasion would, be believed, make him the envy of most husbands, even in Newgate. He then begged her to dry her eyes, and be comforted; for that matters might go better with him than she expected. “No, no,” says she, “I am certain you would be found guilty. DEATH. I knew what it would always come to. I told you it was impossible to carry on such a trade long; but you would not be advised, and now you see the consequence-now you repent when it is too late. All the comfort I shall have when you are NUBBED [Footnote: The cant word for hanging.] is, that I gave you a good advice. If you had always gone out by yourself, as I would have had you, you might have robbed on to the end of the chapter; but you was wiser than all the world, or rather lazier, and see what your laziness is come to — to the CHEAT, [Footnote: The gallows.] for thither you will go now, that’s infallible. And a just judgment on you for following your headstrong will; I am the only person to be pitied; poor I, who shall be scandalised for your fault. THERE GOES SHE WHOSE HUSBAND WAS HANGED: methinks I hear them crying so already.” At which words she burst into tears. He could not then forbear chiding her for this unnecessary concern on his account, and begged her not to trouble him any more. She answered with some spirit, “On your account, and be d — d to you! No, if the old cull of a justice had not sent me hither, I believe it would have been long enough before I should have come hither to see after you; d — n me, I am committed for the FILINGLAY, [Footnote: Picking pockets.] man, and we shall be both nubbed together. ‘I faith, my dear, it almost makes me amends for being nubbed myself, to have the pleasure of seeing thee nubbed too.” “Indeed, my dear,” answered Wild, “it is what I have long wished for thee; but I do not desire to bear thee company, and I have still hopes to have the pleasure of seeing you go without me; at least I will have the pleasure to be rid of you now.” And so saying, he seized her by the waist, and with strong arm flung her out of the room; but not before she had with her nails left a bloody memorial on his cheek: and thus this fond couple parted.
Wild had scarce recovered himself from the uneasiness into which this unwelcome visit, proceeding from the disagreeable fondness of his wife, had thrown him, than the faithful Achates appeared. The presence of this youth was indeed a cordial to his spirits. He received him with open arms, and expressed the utmost satisfaction in the fidelity of his friendship, which so far exceeded the fashion of the times, and said many things which we have forgot on the occasion; but we remember they all tended to the praise of Fireblood, whose modesty, at length, put a stop to the torrent of compliments, by asserting he had done no more than his duty, and that he should have detested himself could he have forsaken his friend in his adversity; and, after many protestations that he came the moment he heard of his misfortune, he asked him if he could be of any service. Wild answered, since he had so kindly proposed that question, he must say he should be obliged to him if he could lend him a few guineas; for that he was very seedy. Fireblood replied that he was greatly unhappy in not having it then in his power, adding many hearty oaths that he had not a farthing of money in his pocket, which was, indeed, strictly true; for he had only a bank-note, which he had that evening purloined from a gentleman in the playhouse passage. He then asked for his wife, to whom, to speak truly, the visit was intended, her confinement being the misfortune of which he had just heard; for, as for that of Mr. Wild himself, he had known it from the first minute, without ever intending to trouble him with his company. Being informed therefore of the visit which had lately happened, he reproved Wild for his cruel treatment of that good creature; then, taking as sudden a leave as he civilly could of the gentleman, he hastened to comfort his lady, who received him with great kindness.
There resided in the castle at the same time with Mr. Wild one Roger Johnson, a very GREAT MAN, who had long been at the head of all the prigs in Newgate, and had raised contributions on them. He examined into the nature of their defence, procured and instructed their evidence, and made himself, at least in their opinion, so necessary to them, that the whole fate of Newgate seemed entirely to depend upon him.
Wild had not been long in confinement before he began to oppose this man. He represented him to the prigs as a fellow who, under the plausible pretence of assisting their causes, was in reality undermining THE LIBERTIES OF NEWGATE. He at first threw out certain sly hints and insinuations; but, having by degrees formed a party against Roger, he one day assembled them together, and spoke to them in the following florid manner:
“Friends and fellow-citizens, — The cause which I am to mention to you this day is of such mighty importance, that when I consider my own small abilities, I tremble with an apprehension lest your safety may be rendered precarious by the weakness of him who hath undertaken to represent to you your danger. Gentlemen, the liberty of Newgate is at stake; your privileges have been long undermined, and are now openly violated by one man; by one who hath engrossed to himself the whole conduct of your trials, under colour of which he exacts what contributions on you he pleases; but are those sums appropriated to the uses for which they are raised? Your frequent convictions at the Old Bailey, those depredations of justice, must too sensibly and sorely demonstrate the contrary. What evidence doth he ever produce for the prisoner which the prisoner himself could not have provided, and often better instructed? How many noble youths have there been lost when a single alibi would have saved them! Should I be silent, nay, could your own injuries want a tongue to remonstrate, the very breath which by his neglect hath been stopped at the cheat would cry out loudly against him. Nor is the exorbitancy of his plunders visible only in the dreadful consequences it hath produced to the prigs, nor glares it only in the miseries brought on them: it blazes forth in the more desirable effects it hath wrought for himself, in the rich perquisites acquired by it: witness that silk nightgown, that robe of shame, which, to his eternal dishonour, he publicly wears; that gown which I will not scruple to call the winding-sheet of the liberties of Newgate. Is there a prig who hath the interest and honour of Newgate so little at heart that he can refrain from blushing when he beholds that trophy, purchased with the breath of so many prigs? Nor is this all. His waistcoat embroidered with silk, and his velvet cap, bought with the same price, are ensigns of the same disgrace. Some would think the rags which covered his nakedness when first he was committed hither well exchanged for these gaudy trappings; but in my eye no exchange can be profitable when dishonour is the condition. If, therefore, Newgate — ” Here the only copy which we could procure of this speech breaks off abruptly; however, we can assure the reader, from very authentic information, that he concluded with advising the prigs to put their affairs into other hands. After which, one of his party, as had been before concerted, in a very long speech recommended him (Wild himself) to their choice.
Newgate was divided into parties on this occasion, the prigs on each side representing their chief or great man to be the only person by whom the affairs of Newgate could be managed with safety and advantage. The prigs had indeed very incompatible interests; for, whereas the supporters of Johnson, who was in possession of the plunder of Newgate, were admitted to some share under their leader, so the abettors of Wild had, on his promotion, the same views of dividing some part of the spoil among themselves. It is no wonder, therefore, they were both so warm on each side. What may seem more remarkable was, that the debtors, who were entirely unconcerned in the dispute, and who were the destined plunder of both parties, should interest themselves with the utmost violence, some on behalf of Wild, and others in favour of Johnson. So that all Newgate resounded with WILD for ever, JOHNSON for ever. And the poor debtors reechoed THE LIBERTIES OF NEWGATE, which, in the cant language, signifies plunder, as loudly as the thieves themselves. In short, such quarrels and animosities happened between them, that they seemed rather the people of two countries long at war with each other than the inhabitants of the same castle.
Wild’s party at length prevailed, and he succeeded to the place and power of Johnson, whom he presently stripped of all his finery; but, when it was proposed that he should sell it and divide the money for the good of the whole, he waved that motion, saying it was not yet time, that he should find a better opportunity, that the cloathes wanted cleaning, with many other pretences, and within two days, to the surprize of many, he appeared in them himself; for which he vouchsafed no other apology than that they fitted him much better than they did Johnson, and that they became him in a much more elegant manner.
This behaviour of Wild greatly incensed the debtors, particularly those by whose means he had been promoted. They grumbled extremely, and vented great indignation against Wild; when one day a very grave man, and one of much authority among them, bespake them as follows:
“Nothing sure can be more justly ridiculous than the conduct of those who should lay the lamb in the wolfs way, and then should lament his being devoured. What a wolf is in a sheep-fold, a great man is in society. Now, when one wolf is in possession of a sheep-fold, how little would it avail the simple flock to expel him and place another in his stead! Of the same benefit to us is the overthrowing one prig in favour of another. And for what other advantage was your struggle? Did you not all know that Wild and his followers were prigs, as well as Johnson and his? What then could the contention be among such but that which you have now discovered it to have been? Perhaps some would say, Is it then our duty tamely to submit to the rapine of the prig who now plunders us for fear of an exchange? Surely no: but I answer, It is better to shake the plunder off than to exchange the plunderer. And by what means can we effect this but by a total change in our manners? Every prig is a slave. His own priggish desires, which enslave him, themselves betray him to the tyranny of others. To preserve, therefore, the liberty of Newgate is to change the manners of Newgate. Let us, therefore, who are confined here for debt only, separate ourselves entirely from the prigs; neither drink with them nor converse with them. Let us at the same time separate ourselves farther from priggism itself. Instead of being ready, on every opportunity, to pillage each other, let us be content with our honest share of the common bounty, and with the acquisition of our own industry. When we separate from the prigs, let us enter into a closer alliance with one another. Let us consider ourselves all as members of one community, to the public good of which we are to sacrifice our private views; not to give up the interest of the whole for every little pleasure or profit which shall accrue to ourselves. Liberty is consistent with no degree of honesty inferior to this, and the community where this abounds no prig will have the impudence or audaciousness to endeavour to enslave; or if he should, his own destruction would be the only consequence of his attempt. But while one man pursues his ambition, another his interest, another his safety; while one hath a roguery (a priggism they here call it) to commit, and another a roguery to defend; they must naturally fly to the favour and protection of those who have power to give them what they desire, and to defend them from what they fear; nay, in this view it becomes their interest to promote this power in their patrons. Now, gentlemen, when we are no longer prigs, we shall no longer have these fears or these desires. What remains, therefore, for us but to resolve bravely to lay aside our priggism, our roguery, in plainer words, and preserve our liberty, or to give up the latter in the preservation and preference of the former?”
This speech was received with much applause; however, Wild continued as before to levy contributions among the prisoners, to apply the garnish to his own use, and to strut openly in the ornaments which he had stripped from Johnson. To speak sincerely, there was more bravado than real use or advantage in these trappings. As for the nightgown, its outside indeed made a glittering tinsel appearance, but it kept him not warm, nor could the finery of it do him much honour, since every one knew it did not properly belong to him; as to the waistcoat, it fitted him very ill, being infinitely too big for him; and the cap was so heavy that it made his head ache. Thus these cloathes, which perhaps (as they presented the idea of their misery more sensibly to the people’s eyes) brought him more envy, hatred, and detraction, than all his deeper impositions and more real advantages, afforded very little use or honour to the wearer; nay, could scarce serve to amuse his own vanity when this was cool enough to reflect with the least seriousness. And, should I speak in the language of a man who estimated human happiness without regard to that greatness, which we have so laboriously endeavoured to paint in this history, it is probable he never took (i.e. robbed the prisoners of) a shilling, which he himself did not pay too dear for.
The dead-warrant, as it is called, now came down to Newgate for the execution of Heartfree among the rest of the prisoners. And here the reader must excuse us, who profess to draw natural, not perfect characters, and to record the truths of history, not the extravagances of romance, while we relate a weakness in Wild of which we are ourselves ashamed, and which we would willingly have concealed, could we have preserved at the same time that strict attachment to truth and impartiality, which we have professed in recording the annals of this great man. Know then, reader, that this dead-warrant did not affect Heartfree, who was to suffer a shameful death by it, with half the concern it gave Wild, who had been the occasion of it. He had been a little struck the day before on seeing the children carried away in tears from their father. This sight brought the remembrance of some slight injuries he had done the father to his mind, which he endeavoured as much as possible to obliterate; but, when one of the keepers (I should say lieutenants of the castle) repeated Heartfree’s name among those of the malefactors who were to suffer within a few days, the blood forsook his countenance, and in a cold still stream moved heavily to his heart, which had scarce strength enough left to return it through his veins. In short, his body so visibly demonstrated the pangs of his mind, that to escape observation he retired to his room, where he sullenly gave vent to such bitter agonies, that even the injured Heartfree, had not the apprehension of what his wife had suffered shut every avenue of compassion, would have pitied him.
When his mind was thoroughly fatigued, and worn out with the horrors which the approaching fate of the poor wretch, who lay under a sentence which he had iniquitously brought upon him, had suggested, sleep promised him relief; but this promise was, alas! delusive. This certain friend to the tired body is often the severest enemy to the oppressed mind. So at least it proved to Wild, adding visionary to real horrors, and tormenting his imagination with phantoms too dreadful to be described. At length, starting from these visions, he no sooner recovered his waking senses, than he cryed out — “I may yet prevent this catastrophe. It is not too late to discover the whole.” He then paused a moment; but greatness, instantly returning to his assistance, checked the base thought, as it first offered itself to his mind. He then reasoned thus coolly with himself:— “Shall I, like a child, or a woman, or one of those mean wretches whom I have always despised, be frightened by dreams and visionary phantoms to sully that honour which I have so difficultly acquired and so gloriously maintained? Shall I, to redeem the worthless life of this silly fellow, suffer my reputation to contract a stain which the blood of millions cannot wipe away? Was it only that the few, the simple part of mankind, should call me a rogue, perhaps I could submit; but to be for ever contemptible to the prigs, as a wretch who wanted spirit to execute my undertaking, can never be digested. What is the life of a single man? Have not whole armies and nations been sacrificed to the honour of ONE GREAT MAN? Nay, to omit that first class of greatness, the conquerors of mankind, how often have numbers fallen by a fictitious plot only to satisfy the spleen, or perhaps exercise the ingenuity, of a member of that second order of greatness the ministerial! What have I done then? Why, I have ruined a family, and brought an innocent man to the gallows. I ought rather to weep with Alexander that I have ruined no more, than to regret the little I have done.” He at length, therefore, bravely resolved to consign over Heartfree to his fate, though it cost him more struggling than may easily be believed, utterly to conquer his reluctance, and to banish away every degree of humanity from his mind, these little sparks of which composed one of those weaknesses which we lamented in the opening of our history.
But, in vindication of our hero, we must beg leave to observe that Nature is seldom so kind as those writers who draw characters absolutely perfect. She seldom creates any man so completely great, or completely low, but that some sparks of humanity will glimmer in the former, and some sparks of what the vulgar call evil will dart forth in the latter: utterly to extinguish which will give some pain, and uneasiness to both; for I apprehend no mind was ever yet formed entirely free from blemish, unless peradventure that of a sanctified hypocrite, whose praises some well-fed flatterer hath gratefully thought proper to sing forth.
The day was now come when poor Heartfree was to suffer an ignominious death. Friendly had in the strongest manner confirmed his assurance of fulfilling his promise of becoming a father to one of his children and a husband to the other. This gave him inexpressible comfort, and he had, the evening before, taken his last leave of the little wretches with a tenderness which drew a tear from one of the keepers, joined to a magnanimity which would have pleased a stoic. When he was informed that the coach which Friendly had provided for him was ready, and that the rest of the prisoners were gone, he embraced that faithful friend with great passion, and begged that he would leave him here; but the other desired leave to accompany him to his end, which at last he was forced to comply with. And now he was proceeding towards the coach when he found his difficulties were not yet over; for now a friend arrived of whom he was to take a harder and more tender leave than he had yet gone through. This friend, reader, was no other than Mrs. Heartfree herself, who ran to him with a look all wild, staring, and frantic, and having reached his arms, fainted away in them without uttering a single syllable. Heartfree was, with great difficulty, able to preserve his own senses in such a surprize at such a season. And indeed our good-natured reader will be rather inclined to wish this miserable couple had, by dying in each other’s arms, put a final period to their woes, than have survived to taste those bitter moments which were to be their portion, and which the unhappy wife, soon recovering from the short intermission of being, now began to suffer. When she became first mistress of her voice she burst forth into the following accents:— “O my husband! Is this the condition in which I find you after our cruel separation? Who hath done this? Cruel Heaven! What is the occasion? I know thou canst deserve no ill. Tell me, somebody who can speak, while I have my senses left to understand, what is the matter?” At which words several laughed, and one answered, “The matter! Why no great matter. The gentleman is not the first, nor won’t be the last: 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, cryed 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 something 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, cryed, “Oh, 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 cryed, “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, anything; 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, cryed, “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 at 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.
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 Beggars’ 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 half 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 he 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, at her husband’s desire, began the relation from the first renewal of Wild’s acquaintance with him; but, though this recapitulation was necessary for the information of our good magistrate, as it would be useless, and perhaps tedious, to the reader, we shall only repeat that part of her story to which he is only a stranger, beginning with what happened to her after Wild had been turned adrift in the boat by the captain of the French privateer.
Mrs. Heartfree proceeded thus: “The vengeance which the French captain exacted on that villain (our hero) persuaded me that I was fallen into the hands of a man of honour and justice; nor indeed was it possible for any person to be treated with more respect and civility than I now was; but if this could not mitigate my sorrows when I reflected on the condition in which I had been betrayed to leave all that was dear to me, much less could it produce such an effect when I discovered, as I soon did, that I owed it chiefly to a passion which threatened me with great uneasiness, as it quickly appeared to be very violent, and as I was absolutely in the power of the person who possessed it, or was rather possessed by it. I must however do him the justice to say my fears carried my suspicions farther than I afterwards found I had any reason to carry them: he did indeed very soon acquaint me with his passion, and used all those gentle methods which frequently succeed with our sex to prevail with me to gratify it; but never once threatened, nor had the least recourse to force. He did not even once insinuate to me that I was totally in his power, which I myself sufficiently saw, and whence I drew the most dreadful apprehensions, well knowing that, as there are some dispositions so brutal that cruelty adds a zest and savour to their pleasures, so there are others whose gentler inclinations are better gratified when they win us by softer methods to comply with their desires; yet that even these may be often compelled by an unruly passion to have recourse at last to the means of violence, when they despair of success from persuasion; but I was happily the captive of a better man. My conqueror was one of those over whom vice hath a limited jurisdiction; and, though he was too easily prevailed on to sin, he was proof against any temptation to villany.
“We had been two days almost totally becalmed, when, a brisk gale rising as we were in sight in Dunkirk, we saw a vessel making full sail towards us. The captain of the privateer was so strong that he apprehended no danger but from a man-of-war, which the sailors discerned this not to be. He therefore struck his colours, and furled his sails as much as possible, in order to lie by and expect her, hoping she might be a prize.” (Here Heartfree smiling, his wife stopped and inquired the cause. He told her it was from her using the sea-terms so aptly: she laughed, and answered he would wonder less at this when he heard the long time she had been on board; and then proceeded.) “This vessel now came alongside of us, and hailed us, having perceived that on which we were aboard to be of her own country; they begged us not to put into Dunkirk, but to accompany them in their pursuit of a large English merchantman, whom we should easily overtake, and both together as easily conquer. Our captain immediately consented to this proposition, and ordered all his sail to be crowded. This was most unwelcome news to me; however, he comforted me all he could by assuring me I had nothing to fear, that he would be so far from offering the least rudeness to me himself, that he would, at the hazard of his life, protect me from it. This assurance gave me all the consolation which my present circumstances and the dreadful apprehensions I had on your dear account would admit.” (At which words the tenderest glances passed on both sides between the husband and wife.)
“We sailed near twelve hours, when we came in sight of the ship we were in pursuit of, and which we should probably have soon come up with had not a very thick mist ravished her from our eyes. This mist continued several hours, and when it cleared up we discovered our companion at a great distance from us; but what gave us (I mean the captain and his crew) the greatest uneasiness was the sight of a very large ship within a mile of us, which presently saluted us with a gun, and now appeared to be a third-rate English man-of-war. Our captain declared the impossibility of either fighting or escaping, and accordingly struck without waiting for the broadside which was preparing for us, and which perhaps would have prevented me from the happiness I now enjoy.” This occasioned Heartfree to change colour; his wife therefore passed hastily to circumstances of a more smiling complexion.
“I greatly rejoiced at this event, as I thought it would not only restore me to the safe possession of my jewels, but to what I value beyond all the treasure in the universe. My expectation, however, of both these was somewhat crost for the present: as to the former, I was told they should be carefully preserved; but that I must prove my right to them before I could expect their restoration, which, if I mistake not, the captain did not very eagerly desire I should be able to accomplish: and as to the latter, I was acquainted that I should be put on board the first ship which they met on her way to England, but that they were proceeding to the West Indies.
“I had not been long on board the man-of-war before I discovered just reason rather to lament than rejoice at the exchange of my captivity; for such I concluded my present situation to be. I had now another lover in the captain of this Englishman, and much rougher and less gallant than the Frenchman had been. He used me with scarce common civility, as indeed he shewed very little to any other person, treating his officers little better than a man of no great good-breeding would exert to his meanest servant, and that too on some very irritating provocation. As for me, he addressed me with the insolence of a basha to a Circassian slave; he talked to me with the loose licence in which the most profligate libertines converse with harlots, and which women abandoned only in a moderate degree detest and abhor. He often kissed me with very rude familiarity, and one day attempted further brutality; when a gentleman on board, and who was in my situation, that is, had been taken by a privateer and was retaken, rescued me from his hands, for which the captain confined him, though he was not under his command, two days in irons: when he was released (for I was not suffered to visit him in his confinement) I went to him and thanked him with the utmost acknowledgment for what he had done and suffered on my account. The gentleman behaved to me in the handsomest manner on this occasion; told me he was ashamed of the high sense I seemed to entertain of so small an obligation of an action to which his duty as a Christian and his honour as a man obliged him. From this time I lived in great familiarity with this man, whom I regarded as my protector, which he professed himself ready to be on all occasions, expressing the utmost abhorrence of the captain’s brutality, especially that shewn towards me, and the tenderness of a parent for the preservation of my virtue, for which I was not myself more solicitous than he appeared. He was, indeed, the only man I had hitherto met since my unhappy departure who did not endeavour by all his looks, words, and actions, to assure me he had a liking to my unfortunate person; the rest seeming desirous of sacrificing the little beauty they complimented to their desires, without the least consideration of the ruin which I earnestly represented to them they were attempting to bring on me and on my future repose.
“I now passed several days pretty free from the captain’s molestation, till one fatal night.” Here, perceiving Heartfree grew pale, she comforted him by an assurance that Heaven had preserved her chastity, and again had restored her unsullied to his arms. She continued thus: “Perhaps I give it a wrong epithet in the word fatal; but a wretched night I am sure I may call it, for no woman who came off victorious was, I believe, ever in greater danger. One night I say, having drank his spirits high with punch, in company with the purser, who was the only man in the ship he admitted to his table, the captain sent for me into his cabin; whither, though unwilling, I was obliged to go. We were no sooner alone together than he seized me by the hand, and, after affronting my ears with discourse which I am unable to repeat, he swore a great oath that his passion was to be dallied with no longer; that I must not expect to treat him in the manner to which a set of blockhead land-men submitted. ‘None of your coquette airs, therefore, with me, madam,’ said he, ‘for I am resolved to have you this night. No struggling nor squalling, for both will be impertinent. The first man who offers to come in here, I will have his skin flea’d off at the gangway.’ He then attempted to pull me violently towards his bed. I threw myself on my knees, and with tears and entreaties besought his compassion; but this was, I found, to no purpose: I then had recourse to threats, and endeavoured to frighten him with the consequence; but neither had this, though it seemed to stagger him more than the other method, sufficient force to deliver me. At last a stratagem came into my head, of which my perceiving him reel gave me the first hint. I entreated a moment’s reprieve only, when, collecting all the spirits I could muster, I put on a constrained air of gayety, and told him, with an affected laugh, he was the roughest lover I had ever met with, and that I believed I was the first woman he had ever paid his addresses to. Addresses, said he; d — n your dresses! I want to undress you. I then begged him to let us drink some punch together; for that I loved a can as well as himself, and never would grant the favour to any man till I had drank a hearty glass with him. O! said he, if that be all you shall have punch enough to drown yourself in. At which words he rung the bell, and ordered in a gallon of that liquor. I was in the meantime obliged to suffer his nauseous kisses, and some rudenesses which I had great difficulty to restrain within moderate bounds. When the punch came in he took up the bowl and drank my health ostentatiously, in such a quantity that it considerably advanced my scheme. I followed him with bumpers as fast as possible, and was myself obliged to drink so much that at another time it would have staggered my own reason, but at present it did not affect me. At length, perceiving him very far gone, I watched an opportunity, and ran out of the cabin, resolving to seek protection of the sea if I could find no other; but Heaven was now graciously pleased to relieve me; for in his attempt to pursue me he reeled backwards, and, falling down the cabbin stairs, he dislocated his shoulder and so bruised himself that I was not only preserved that night from any danger of my intended ravisher, but the accident threw him into a fever which endangered his life, and whether he ever recovered or no I am not certain; for during his delirious fits the eldest lieutenant commanded the ship. This was a virtuous and a brave fellow, who had been twenty-five years in that post without being able to obtain a ship, and had seen several boys, the bastards of noblemen, put over his head. One day while the ship remained under his command an English vessel bound to Cork passed by; myself and my friend, who had formerly lain two days in irons on my account, went on board this ship with the leave of the good lieutenant, who made us such presents as he was able of provisions, and, congratulating me on my delivery from a danger to which none of the ship’s crew had been strangers, he kindly wished us both a safe voyage.”
The first evening after we were aboard this vessel, which was a brigantine, we being then at no very great distance from the Madeiras, the most violent storm arose from the northwest, in which we presently lost both our masts; and indeed death now presented itself as inevitable to us: I need not tell my Tommy what were then my thoughts. Our danger was so great that the captain of the ship, a professed atheist, betook himself to prayers, and the whole crew, abandoning themselves for lost, fell with the utmost eagerness to the emptying a cask of brandy, not one drop of which they swore should be polluted with salt water. I observed here my old friend displayed less courage than I expected from him. He seemed entirely swallowed up in despair. But Heaven be praised! we were all at last preserved. The storm, after above eleven hours’ continuance, began to abate, and by degrees entirely ceased, but left us still rolling at the mercy of the waves, which carried us at their own pleasure to the south-east a vast number of leagues. Our crew were all dead drunk with the brandy which they had taken such care to preserve from the sea; but, indeed, had they been awake, their labour would have been of very little service, as we had lost all our rigging, our brigantine being reduced to a naked hulk only. In this condition we floated above thirty hours, till in the midst of a very dark night we spied a light, which seeming to approach us, grew so large that our sailors concluded it to be the lantern of a man of war; but when we were cheering ourselves with the hopes of our deliverance from this wretched situation, on a sudden, to our great concern, the light entirely disappeared, and left us in despair encreased by the remembrance of those pleasing imaginations with which we had entertained our minds during its appearance. The rest of the night we passed in melancholy conjectures on the light which had deserted us, which the major part of the sailors concluded to be a meteor. In this distress we had one comfort, which was a plentiful store of provisions; this so supported the spirits of the sailors, that they declared had they but a sufficient quantity of brandy they cared not whether they saw land for a month to come; but indeed we were much nearer it than we imagined, as we perceived at break of day. One of the most knowing of the crew declared we were near the continent of Africa; but when we were within three leagues of it a second violent storm arose from the north, so that we again gave over all hopes of safety. This storm was not quite so outrageous as the former, but of much longer continuance, for it lasted near three days, and drove us an immense number of leagues to the south. We were within a league of the shore, expecting every moment our ship to be dashed in pieces, when the tempest ceased all on a sudden; but the waves still continued to roll like mountains, and before the sea recovered its calm motion, our ship was thrown so near the land, that the captain ordered out his boat, declaring he had scarce any hopes of saving her; and indeed we had not quitted her many minutes before we saw the justice of his apprehensions, for she struck against a rock and immediately sunk. The behaviour of the sailors on this occasion very much affected me; they beheld their ship perish with the tenderness of a lover or a parent; they spoke of her as the fondest husband would of his wife; and many of them, who seemed to have no tears in their composition, shed them plentifully at her sinking. The captain himself cried out, ‘Go thy way, charming Molly, the sea never devoured a lovelier morsel. If I have fifty vessels I shall never love another like thee. Poor slut! I shall remember thee to my dying day.’ Well, the boat now conveyed us all safe to shore, where we landed with very little difficulty. It was now about noon, and the rays of the sun, which descended almost perpendicular on our heads, were extremely hot and troublesome. However, we travelled through this extreme heat about five miles over a plain. This brought us to a vast wood, which extended itself as far as we could see, both to the right and left, and seemed to me to put an entire end to our progress. Here we decreed to rest and dine on the provision which we had brought from the ship, of which we had sufficient for very few meals; our boat being so overloaded with people that we had very little room for luggage of any kind. Our repast was salt pork broiled, which the keenness of hunger made so delicious to my companions that they fed very heartily upon it. As for myself, the fatigue of my body and the vexation of my mind had so thoroughly weakened me, that I was almost entirely deprived of appetite; and the utmost dexterity of the most accomplished French cook would have been ineffectual had he endeavoured to tempt me with delicacies. I thought myself very little a gainer by my late escape from the tempest, by which I seemed only to have exchanged the element in which I was presently to die. When our company had sufficiently, and indeed very plentifully feasted themselves, they resolved to enter the wood and endeavour to pass it, in expectation of finding some inhabitants, at least some provision. We proceeded therefore in the following order: one man in the front with a hatchet, to clear our way, and two others followed him with guns, to protect the rest from wild beasts; then walked the rest of our company, and last of all the captain himself, being armed likewise with a gun, to defend us from any attack behind — in the rear, I think you call it. And thus our whole company, being fourteen in number, travelled on till night overtook us, without seeing anything unless a few birds and some very insignificant animals. We rested all night under the covert of some trees, and indeed we very little wanted shelter at that season, the heat in the day being the only inclemency we had to combat with in this climate. I cannot help telling you my old friend lay still nearest me on the ground, and declared he would be my protector should any of the sailors offer rudeness; but I can acquit them of any such attempt; nor was I ever affronted by any one, more than with a coarse expression, proceeding rather from the roughness and ignorance of their education than from any abandoned principle, or want of humanity.
“We had now proceeded very little way on our next day’s march when one of the sailors, having skipt nimbly up a hill, with the assistance of a speaking trumpet informed us that he saw a town a very little way off. This news so comforted me, and gave me such strength, as well as spirits, that, with the help of my old friend and another, who suffered me to lean on them, I, with much difficulty, attained the summit; but was so absolutely overcome in climbing it, that I had no longer sufficient strength to support my tottering limbs, and was obliged to lay myself again on the ground; nor could they prevail on me to undertake descending through a very thick wood into a plain, at the end of which indeed appeared some houses, or rather huts, but at a much greater distance than the sailor assured us; the little way, as he had called it, seeming to me full twenty miles, nor was it, I believe, much less.”
The captain declared he would, without delay, proceed to the town before him; in which resolution he was seconded by all the crew; but when I could not be persuaded, nor was I able to travel any farther before I had rested myself, my old friend protested he would not leave me, but would stay behind as my guard; and, when I had refreshed myself with a little repose, he would attend me to the town, which the captain promised he would not leave before he had seen us.
“They were no sooner departed than (having first thanked my protector for his care of me) I resigned myself to sleep, which immediately closed my eyelids, and would probably have detained me very long in his gentle dominions, had I not been awaked with a squeeze by the hand by my guard, which I at first thought intended to alarm me with the danger of some wild beast; but I soon perceived it arose from a softer motive, and that a gentle swain was the only wild beast I had to apprehend. He began now to disclose his passion in the strongest manner imaginable, indeed with a warmth rather beyond that of both my former lovers, but as yet without any attempt of absolute force. On my side remonstrances were made in more bitter exclamations and revilings than I had used to any, that villain Wild excepted. I told him he was the basest and most treacherous wretch alive; that his having cloaked his iniquitous designs under the appearance of virtue and friendship added an ineffable degree of horror to them; that I detested him of all mankind the most, and could I be brought to yield to prostitution, he should be the last to enjoy the ruins of my honour. He suffered himself not to be provoked by this language, but only changed his manner of solicitation from flattery to bribery. He unript the lining of his waistcoat, and pulled forth several jewels; these, he said, he had preserved from infinite danger to the happiest purpose, if I could be won by them. I rejected them often with the utmost indignation, till at last, casting my eye, rather by accident than design, on a diamond necklace, a thought, like lightning, shot through my mind, and, in an instant, I remembered that this was the very necklace you had sold the cursed count, the cause of all our misfortunes. The confusion of ideas into which this surprize hurried me prevented my reflecting on the villain who then stood before me; but the first recollection presently told me it could be no other than the count himself, the wicked tool of Wild’s barbarity. Good heavens! what was then my condition! How shall I describe the tumult of passions which then laboured in my breast? However, as I was happily unknown to him, the least suspicion on his side was altogether impossible. He imputed, therefore, the eagerness with which I gazed on the jewels to a very wrong cause, and endeavoured to put as much additional softness into his countenance as he was able. My fears were a little quieted, and I was resolved to be very liberal of promises, and hoped so thoroughly to persuade him of my venality that he might, without any doubt, be drawn in to wait the captain and crew’s return, who would, I was very certain, not only preserve me from his violence, but secure the restoration of what you had been so cruelly robbed of. But, alas! I was mistaken.” Mrs. Heartfree, again perceiving symptoms of the utmost disquietude in her husband’s countenance, cryed out, “My dear, don’t you apprehend any harm. — But, to deliver you as soon as possible from your anxiety — when he perceived I declined the warmth of his addresses he begged me to consider; he changed at once his voice and features, and, in a very different tone from what he had hitherto affected, he swore I should not deceive him as I had the captain; that fortune had kindly thrown an opportunity in his way which he was resolved not foolishly to lose; and concluded with a violent oath that he was determined to enjoy me that moment, and therefore I knew the consequence of resistance. He then caught me in his arms, and began such rude attempts, that I skreamed out with all the force I could, though I had so little hopes of being rescued, when there suddenly rushed forth from a thicket a creature which, at his first appearance, and in the hurry of spirits I then was, I did not take for a man; but, indeed, had he been the fiercest of wild beasts, I should have rejoiced at his devouring us both. I scarce perceived he had a musket in his hand before he struck my ravisher such a blow with it that he felled him at my feet. He then advanced with a gentle air towards me, and told me in French he was extremely glad he had been luckily present to my assistance. He was naked, except his middle and his feet, if I can call a body so which was covered with hair almost equal to any beast whatever. Indeed, his appearance was so horrid in my eyes, that the friendship he had shewn me, as well as his courteous behaviour, could not entirely remove the dread I had conceived from his figure. I believe he saw this very visibly; for he begged me not to be frightened, since, whatever accident had brought me thither, I should have reason to thank heaven for meeting him, at whose hands I might assure myself of the utmost civility and protection. In the midst of all this consternation, I had spirits enough to take up the casket of jewels which the villain, in falling, had dropped out of his hands, and conveyed it into my pocket. My deliverer, telling me that I seemed extremely weak and faint, desired me to refresh myself at his little hut, which, he said, was hard by. If his demeanour had been less kind and obliging, my desperate situation must have lent me confidence; for sure the alternative could not be doubtful, whether I should rather trust this man, who, notwithstanding his savage outside, expressed so much devotion to serve me, which at least I was not certain of the falsehood of, or should abide with one whom I so perfectly well knew to be an accomplished villain. I therefore committed myself to his guidance, though with tears in my eyes, and begged him to have compassion on my innocence, which was absolutely in his power. He said, the treatment he had been witness of, which he supposed was from one who had broken his trust towards me, sufficiently justified my suspicion; but begged me to dry my eyes, and he would soon convince me that I was with a man of different sentiments. The kind accents which accompanied these words gave me some comfort, which was assisted by the repossession of our jewels by an accident so strongly savouring of the disposition of Providence in my favour.
“We left the villain weltering in his blood, though beginning to recover a little motion, and walked together to his hut, or rather cave, for it was under ground, on the side of a hill; the situation was very pleasant, and from its mouth we overlooked a large plain and the town I had before seen. As soon as I entered it, he desired me to sit down on a bench of earth, which served him for chairs, and then laid before me some fruits, the wild product of that country, one or two of which had an excellent flavour. He likewise produced some baked flesh, a little resembling that of venison. He then brought forth a bottle of brandy, which he said had remained with him ever since his settling there, now above thirty years, during all which time he had never opened it, his only liquor being water; that he had reserved this bottle as a cordial in sickness; but, he thanked heaven, he had never yet had occasion for it. He then acquainted me that he was a hermit, that he had been formerly cast away on that coast, with his wife, whom he dearly loved, but could not preserve from perishing; on which account he had resolved never to return to France, which was his native country, but to devote himself to prayer and a holy life, placing all his hopes in the blessed expectation of meeting that dear woman again in heaven, where, he was convinced, she was now a saint and an interceder for him. He said he had exchanged a watch with the king of that country, whom he described to be a very just and good man, for a gun, some powder, shot, and ball, with which he sometimes provided himself food, but more generally used it in defending himself against wild beasts; so that his diet was chiefly of the vegetable kind. He told me many more circumstances, which I may relate to you hereafter: but, to be as concise as possible at present, he at length greatly comforted me by promising to conduct me to a seaport, where I might have an opportunity to meet with some vessels trafficking for slaves; and whence I might once more commit myself to that element which, though I had already suffered so much on it, I must again trust to put me in possession of all I loved.
“The character he gave me of the inhabitants of the town we saw below us, and of their king, made me desirous of being conducted thither; especially as I very much wished to see the captain and sailors, who had behaved very kindly to me, and with whom, notwithstanding all the civil behaviour of the hermit, I was rather easier in my mind than alone with this single man; but he dissuaded me greatly from attempting such a walk till I had recruited my spirits with rest, desiring me to repose myself on his couch or bank, saying that he himself would retire without the cave, where he would remain as my guard. I accepted this kind proposal, but it was long before I could procure any slumber; however, at length, weariness prevailed over my fears, and I enjoyed several hours’ sleep. When I awaked I found my faithful centinel on his post and ready at my summons. This behaviour infused some confidence into me, and I now repeated my request that he would go with me to the town below; but he answered, it would be better advised to take some repast before I undertook the journey, which I should find much longer than it appeared. I consented, and he set forth a greater variety of fruits than before, of which I ate very plentifully. My collation being ended, I renewed the mention of my walk, but he still persisted in dissuading me, telling me that I was not yet strong enough; that I could repose myself nowhere with greater safety than in his cave; and that, for his part, he could have no greater happiness than that of attending me, adding, with a sigh, it was a happiness he should envy any other more than all the gifts of fortune. You may imagine I began now to entertain suspicions; but he presently removed all doubt by throwing himself at my feet and expressing the warmest passion for me. I should have now sunk with despair had he not accompanied these professions with the most vehement protestations that he would never offer me any other force but that of entreaty, and that he would rather die the most cruel death by my coldness than gain the highest bliss by becoming the occasion of a tear of sorrow to these bright eyes, which he said were stars, under whose benign influence alone he could enjoy, or indeed suffer life.” She was repeating many more compliments he made her, when a horrid uproar, which alarmed the whole gate, put a stop to her narration at present. It is impossible for me to give the reader a better idea of the noise which now arose than by desiring him to imagine I had the hundred tongues the poet once wished for, and was vociferating from them all at once, by hollowing, scolding, crying, swearing, bellowing, and, in short, by every different articulation which is within the scope of the human organ.
But however great an idea the reader may hence conceive of this uproar, he will think the occasion more than adequate to it when he is informed that our hero (I blush to name it) had discovered an injury done to his honour, and that in the tenderest point. In a word, reader (for thou must know it, though it give thee the greatest horror imaginable), he had caught Fireblood in the arms of his lovely Laetitia.
As the generous bull who, having long depastured among a number of cows, and thence contracted an opinion that these cows are all his own property, if he beholds another bull bestride a cow within his walks, he roars aloud, and threatens instant vengeance with his horns, till the whole parish are alarmed with his bellowing; not with less noise nor less dreadful menaces did the fury of Wild burst forth and terrify the whole gate. Long time did rage render his voice inarticulate to the hearer; as when, at a visiting day, fifteen or sixteen or perhaps twice as many females, of delicate but shrill pipes, ejaculate all at once on different subjects, all is sound only, the harmony entirely melodious indeed, but conveys no idea to our ears; but at length, when reason began to get the better of his passion, which latter, being deserted by his breath, began a little to retreat, the following accents, leapt over the hedge of his teeth, or rather the ditch of his gums, whence those hedgestakes had long since by a batten been displaced in battle with an amazon of Drury.
[Footnote: The beginning of this speech is lost.] — “Man of honour! doth this become a friend? Could I have expected such a breach of all the laws of honour from thee, whom I had taught to walk in its paths? Hadst thou chosen any other way to injure my confidence I could have forgiven it; but this is a stab in the tenderest part, a wound never to be healed, an injury never to be repaired; for it is not only the loss of an agreeable companion, of the affection of a wife dearer to my soul than life itself, it is not this loss alone I lament; this loss is accompanied with disgrace and with dishonour. The blood of the Wilds, which hath run with such uninterrupted purity through so many generations, this blood is fouled, is contaminated: hence flow my tears, hence arises my grief. This is the injury never to be redressed, nor even to be with honour forgiven.” “M—— in a bandbox!” answered Fireblood; “here is a noise about your honour! If the mischief done to your blood be all you complain of, I am sure you complain of nothing; for my blood is as good as yours.” “You have no conception,” replied Wild, “of the tenderness of honour; you know not how nice and delicate it is in both sexes; so delicate that the least breath of air which rudely blows on it destroys it.” “I will prove from your own words,” says Fireblood, “I have not wronged your honour. Have you not often told me that the honour of a man consisted in receiving no affront from his own sex, and that of woman in receiving no kindness from ours? Now, sir, if I have given you no affront, how have I injured your honour?” “But doth not everything,” cried Wild, “of the wife belong to the husband? A married man, therefore, hath his wife’s honour as well as his own, and by injuring hers you injure his. How cruelly you have hurt me in this tender part I need not repeat; the whole gate knows it, and the world shall. I will apply to Doctors’ Commons for my redress against her; I will shake off as much of my dishonour as I can by parting with her; and as for you, expect to hear of me in Westminster-hall; the modern method of repairing these breaches and of resenting this affront.” “D— n your eyes!” cries Fireblood; “I fear you not, nor do I believe a word you say.” “Nay, if you affront me personally,” says Wild, “another sort of resentment is prescribed.” At which word, advancing to Fireblood, he presented him with a box on the ear, which the youth immediately returned; and now our hero and his friend fell to boxing, though with some difficulty, both being encumbered with the chains which they wore between their legs: a few blows passed on both sides before the gentlemen who stood by stept in and parted the combatants; and now both parties having whispered each other, that, if they outlived the ensuing sessions and escaped the tree, one should give and the other should receive satisfaction in single combat, they separated and the gate soon recovered its former tranquillity.
Mrs. Heartfree was then desired by the justice and her husband both, to conclude her story, which she did in the words of the next chapter.
“If I mistake not, I was interrupted just as I was beginning to repeat some of the compliments made me by the hermit.” “Just as you had finished them, I believe, madam,” said the justice. “Very well, sir,” said she; “I am sure I have no pleasure in the repetition. He concluded then with telling me, though I was in his eyes the most charming woman in the world, and might tempt a saint to abandon the ways of holiness, yet my beauty inspired him with a much tenderer affection towards me than to purchase any satisfaction of his own desires with my misery; if therefore I could be so cruel to him to reject his honest and sincere address, nor could submit to a solitary life with one who would endeavour by all possible means to make me happy, I had no force to dread; for that I was as much at my liberty as if I was in France, or England, or any other free country. I repulsed him with the same civility with which he advanced; and told him that, as he professed great regard to religion, I was convinced he would cease from all farther solicitation when I informed him that, if I had no other objection, my own innocence would not admit of my hearing him on this subject, for that I was married. He started a little at that word, and was for some time silent; but, at length recovering himself, he began to urge the uncertainty of my husband’s being alive, and the probability of the contrary. He then spoke of marriage as of a civil policy only, on which head he urged many arguments not worth repeating, and was growing so very eager and importunate that I know not whither his passion might have hurried him had not three of the sailors, well armed, appeared at that instant in sight of the cave. I no sooner saw them than, exulting with the utmost inward joy, I told him my companions were come for me, and that I must now take my leave of him; assuring him that I would always remember, with the most grateful acknowledgment, the favours I had received at his hands. He fetched a very heavy sigh, and, squeezing me tenderly by the hand, he saluted my lips with a little more eagerness than the European salutations admit of, and told me he should likewise remember my arrival at his cave to the last day of his life, adding, O that he could there spend the whole in the company of one whose bright eyes had kindled — but I know you will think, sir, that we women love to repeat the compliments made us, I will therefore omit them. In a word, the sailors being now arrived, I quitted him with some compassion for the reluctance with which he parted from me, and went forward with my companions.
“We had proceeded but a very few paces before one of the sailors said to his comrades, ‘D— n me, Jack, who knows whether yon fellow hath not some good flip in his cave?’ I innocently answered, The poor wretch hath only one bottle of brandy. ‘Hath he so?’ cries the sailor; ”fore George, we will taste it;’ and so saying they immediately returned back, and myself with them. We found the poor man prostrate on the ground, expressing all the symptoms of misery and lamentation. I told him in French (for the sailors could not speak that language) what they wanted. He pointed to the place where the bottle was deposited, saying they were welcome to that and whatever else he had, and added he cared not if they took his life also. The sailors searched the whole cave, where finding nothing more which they deemed worth their taking, they walked off with the bottle, and, immediately emptying it without offering me a drop, they proceeded with me towards the town.
“In our way I observed one whisper another, while he kept his eye stedfastly fixed on me. This gave me some uneasiness; but the other answered, ‘No, d — n me, the captain will never forgive us: besides, we have enough of it among the black women, and, in my mind, one colour is as good as another.’ This was enough to give me violent apprehensions; but I heard no more of that kind till we came to the town, where, in about six hours, I arrived in safety.
“As soon as I came to the captain he enquired what was become of my friend, meaning the villanous count. When he was informed by me of what had happened, he wished me heartily joy of my delivery, and, expressing the utmost abhorrence of such baseness, swore if ever he met him he would cut his throat; but, indeed, we both concluded that he had died of the blow which the hermit had given him.
“I was now introduced to the chief magistrate of this country, who was desirous of seeing me. I will give you a short description of him. He was chosen (as is the custom there) for his superior bravery and wisdom. His power is entirely absolute during his continuance; but, on the first deviation from equity and justice, he is liable to be deposed and punished by the people, the elders of whom, once a year assemble to examine into his conduct. Besides the danger which these examinations, which are very strict, expose him to, his office is of such care and trouble that nothing but that restless love of power so predominant in the mind of man could make it the object of desire, for he is indeed the only slave of all the natives of this country. He is obliged, in time of peace, to hear the complaint of every person in his dominions and to render him justice; for which purpose every one may demand an audience of him, unless during the hour which he is allowed for dinner, when he sits alone at the table, and is attended in the most public manner with more than European ceremony. This is done to create an awe and respect towards him in the eye of the vulgar; but lest it should elevate him too much in his own opinion, in order to his humiliation he receives every evening in private, from a kind of beadle, a gentle kick on his posteriors; besides which he wears a ring in his nose, somewhat resembling that we ring our pigs with, and a chain round his neck not unlike that worn by our aldermen; both which I suppose to be emblematical, but heard not the reasons of either assigned. There are many more particularities among these people which, when I have an opportunity, I may relate to you. The second day after my return from court one of his officers, whom they call SCHACH PIMPACH, waited upon me, and, by a French interpreter who lives here, informed me that the chief magistrate liked my person, and offered me an immense present if I would suffer him to enjoy it (this is, it seems, their common form of making love). I rejected the present, and never heard any further solicitations; for, as it is no shame for women here to consent at the first proposal, so they never receive a second.
“I had resided in this town a week when the captain informed me that a number of slaves, who had been taken captives in war, were to be guarded to the sea-side, where they were to be sold to the merchants who traded in them to America; that if I would embrace this opportunity I might assure myself of finding a passage to America, and thence to England; acquainting me at the same time that he himself intended to go with them. I readily agreed to accompany him. The chief, being advertised of our designs, sent for us both to court, and, without mentioning a word of love to me, having presented me with a very rich jewel, of less value, he said, than my chastity, took a very civil leave, recommending me to the care of heaven, and ordering us a large supply of provisions for our journey.
“We were provided with mules for ourselves and what we carried with us, and in nine days reached the sea-shore, where we found an English vessel ready to receive both us and the slaves. We went aboard it, and sailed the next day with a fair wind for New England, where I hoped to get an immediate passage to the Old: but Providence was kinder than my expectation; for the third day after we were at sea we met an English man-of-war homeward bound; the captain of it was a very good-natured man, and agreed to take me on board. I accordingly took my leave of my old friend, the master of the shipwrecked vessel, who went on to New England, whence he intended to pass to Jamaica, where his owners lived. I was now treated with great civility, had a little cabin assigned me, and dined every day at the captain’s table, who was indeed a very gallant man, and at first, made me a tender of his affections; but, when he found me resolutely bent to preserve myself pure and entire for the best of husbands, he grew cooler in his addresses, and soon behaved in a manner very pleasing to me, regarding my sex only so far as to pay me a deference, which is very agreeable to us all.
“To conclude my story; I met with no adventure in this passage at all worth relating, till my landing at Gravesend, whence the captain brought me in his own boat to the Tower. In a short hour after my arrival we had that meeting which, however dreadful at first, will, I now hope, by the good offices of the best of men, whom Heaven for ever bless, end in our perfect happiness, and be a strong instance of what I am persuaded is the surest truth, THAT PROVIDENCE WILL SOONER OR LATER PROCURE THE FELICITY OF THE VIRTUOUS AND INNOCENT.”
Mrs. Heartfree thus ended her speech, having before delivered to her husband the jewels which the count had robbed him of, and that presented her by the African chief, which last was of immense value. The good magistrate was sensibly touched at her narrative, as well on the consideration of the sufferings she had herself undergone as for those of her husband, which he had himself been innocently the instrument of bringing upon him. That worthy man, however, much rejoiced in what he had already done for his preservation, and promised to labour with his utmost interest and industry to procure the absolute pardon, rather of his sentence than of his guilt, which he now plainly discovered was a barbarous and false imputation.
But we have already, perhaps, detained our reader too long in this relation from the consideration of our hero, who daily gave the most exalted proofs of greatness in cajoling the prigs, and in exactions on the debtors; which latter now grew so great, i. e., corrupted in their morals, that they spoke with the utmost contempt of what the vulgar call honesty. The greatest character among them was that of a pickpocket, or, in truer language, a file; and the only censure was want of dexterity. As to virtue, goodness, and such like, they were the objects of mirth and derision, and all Newgate was a complete collection of prigs, every man being desirous to pick his neighbour’s pocket, and every one was as sensible that his neighbour was as ready to pick his; so that (which is almost incredible) as great roguery was daily committed within the walls of Newgate as without.
The glory resulting from these actions of Wild probably animated the envy of his enemies against him. The day of his trial now approached; for which, as Socrates did, he prepared himself; but not weakly and foolishly, like that philosopher, with patience and resignation, but with a good number of false witnesses. However, as success is not always proportioned to the wisdom of him who endeavours to attain it, so are we more sorry than ashamed to relate that our hero was, notwithstanding his utmost caution and prudence, convicted, and sentenced to a death which, when we consider not only the great men who have suffered it, but the much larger number of those whose highest honour it hath been to merit it, we cannot call otherwise than honourable. Indeed, those who have unluckily missed it seem all their days to have laboured in vain to attain an end which Fortune, for reasons only known to herself, hath thought proper to deny them. Without any farther preface then, our hero was sentenced to be hanged by the neck: but, whatever was to be now his fate, he might console himself that he had perpetrated what
————— Nec Judicis ira, nec ignis.
Nec poterit ferrum, nec edax abolera vetustas.
For my own part, I confess, I look on this death of hanging to be as proper for a hero as any other; and I solemnly declare that had Alexander the Great been hanged it would not in the least have diminished my respect to his memory. Provided a hero in his life doth but execute a sufficient quantity of mischief; provided he be but well and heartily cursed by the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the oppressed (the sole rewards, as many authors have bitterly lamented both in prose and verse, of greatness, i. e., priggism), I think it avails little of what nature his death be, whether it be by the axe, the halter, or the sword. Such names will be always sure of living to posterity, and of enjoying that fame which they so gloriously and eagerly coveted; for, according to a GREAT dramatic poet —
Not more survives from good than evil deeds.
Th’ aspiring youth that fired th’ Ephesian dome
Outlives in fame the pious fool who rais’d it
Our hero now suspected that the malice of his enemies would overpower him. He therefore betook himself to that true support of greatness in affliction, a bottle; by means of which he was enabled to curse, swear, and bully, and brave his fate. Other comfort indeed he had not much, for not a single friend ever came near him. His wife, whose trial was deferred to the next sessions, visited him but once, when she plagued, tormented, and upbraided him so cruelly, that he forbad the keeper ever to admit her again. The ordinary of Newgate had frequent conferences with him, and greatly would it embellish our history could we record all which that good man delivered on these occasions; but unhappily we could procure only the substance of a single conference, which was taken down in shorthand by one who overheard it. We shall transcribe it therefore exactly in the same form and words we received it; nor can we help regarding it as one of the most curious pieces which either ancient or modern history hath recorded.
ORDINARY. Good morrow to you, sir; I hope you rested well last night.
JONATHAN. D— n’d ill, sir. I dreamt so confoundedly of hanging, that it disturbed my sleep.
ORDINARY. Fie upon it! You should be more resigned. I wish you would make a little better use of those instructions which I have endeavoured to inculcate into you, and particularly last Sunday, and from these words: “Those who do evil shall go into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” I undertook to shew you, first, what is meant by EVERLASTING FIRE; and, secondly, who were THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS. I then proceeded to draw some inferences from the whole; [Footnote: He pronounced this word HULL, and perhaps would have spelt it so.] in which I am mightily deceived if I did not convince you that you yourself was one of those ANGELS, and, consequently, must expect EVERLASTING FIRE to be your portion in the other world.
JONATHAN. Faith, doctor, I remember very little of your inferences; for I fell asleep soon after your naming your text. But did you preach this doctrine then, or do you repeat it now in order to comfort me?
ORDINARY. I do it in order to bring you to a true sense of your manifold sins, and, by that means, to induce you to repentance. Indeed, had I the eloquence of Cicero, or of Tully, it would not be sufficient to describe the pains of hell or the joys of heaven. The utmost that we are taught is, THAT EAR HATH NOT HEARD, NOR CAN HEART CONCEIVE. Who then would, for the pitiful consideration of the riches and pleasures of this world, forfeit such inestimable happiness! such joys! such pleasures! such delights? Or who would run the venture of such misery, which, but to think on, shocks the human understanding? Who, in his senses, then, would prefer the latter to the former?
JONATHAN. Ay, who indeed? I assure you, doctor, I had much rather be happy than miserable. But [Footnote: This part was so blotted that it was illegible.]
. . . . . . .
ORDINARY. Nothing can be plainer. St . . . .
. . . . . . .
Jonathan. . . . . If once convinced . . . . no man . . lives of . . . . . whereas sure the clergy . . opportunity . better informed . . . . . all manner of vice
ORDINARY. . are. atheist . . . deist ari.. cinian. hanged.. burnt.. oiled. oasted. . . . dev . . his an . . . . ell fire . . ternal da . . . tion.
JONATHAN. You . . . to frighten me out of my wits. But the good . . . is, I doubt not, more merciful than his wicked.. If I should believe all you say, I am sure I should die in inexpressible horrour.
ORDINARY. Despair is sinful. You should place your hopes in repentance and grace; and though it is most true that you are in danger of the judgment, yet there is still room for mercy; and no man, unless excommunicated, is absolutely without hopes of a reprieve.
JONATHAN. I am not without hopes of a reprieve from the cheat yet. I have pretty good interest; but if I cannot obtain it, you shall not frighten me out of my courage. I will not die like a pimp. D— n me, what is death? It is nothing but to be with Platos and with Caesars, as the poet says, and all the other great heroes of antiquity. . . .
ORDINARY. Ay, all this is very true; but life is sweet for all that; and I had rather live to eternity than go into the company of any such heathens, who are, I doubt not, in hell with the devil and his angels; and, as little as you seem to apprehend it, you may find yourself there before you expect it. Where, then, will be your tauntings and your vauntings, your boastings and your braggings? You will then be ready to give more for a drop of water than you ever gave for a bottle of wine.
JONATHAN. Faith, doctor! well minded. What say you to a bottle of wine?
ORDINARY. I will drink no wine with an atheist. I should expect the devil to make a third in such company, for, since he knows you are his, he may be impatient to have his due.
JONATHAN. It is your business to drink with the wicked, in order to amend them.
ORDINARY. I despair of it; and so I consign you over to the devil, who is ready to receive you.
JONATHAN. You are more unmerciful to me than the judge, doctor. He recommended my soul to heaven; and it is your office to shew me the way thither.
ORDINARY. No: the gates are barred against all revilers of the clergy.
JONATHAN. I revile only the wicked ones, if any such are, which cannot affect you, who, if men were preferred in the church by merit only, would have long since been a bishop. Indeed, it might raise any good man’s indignation to observe one of your vast learning and abilities obliged to exert them in so low a sphere, when so many of your inferiors wallow in wealth and preferment.
ORDINARY. Why, it must be confessed that there are bad men in all orders; but you should not censure too generally. I must own I might have expected higher promotion; but I have learnt patience and resignation; and I would advise you to the same temper of mind; which if you can attain, I know you will find mercy. Nay, I do now promise you you will. It is true you are a sinner; but your crimes are not of the blackest dye: you are no murderer, nor guilty of sacrilege. And, if you are guilty of theft, you make some atonement by suffering for it, which many others do not. Happy is it indeed for those few who are detected in their sins, and brought to exemplary punishment for them in this world. So far, therefore, from repining at your fate when you come to the tree, you should exult and rejoice in it; and, to say the truth, I question whether, to a wise man, the catastrophe of many of those who die by a halter is not more to be envied than pitied. Nothing is so sinful as sin, and murder is the greatest of all sins. It follows, that whoever commits murder is happy in suffering for it. If, therefore, a man who commits murder is so happy in dying for it, how much better must it be for you, who have committed a less crime!
JONATHAN. All this is very true; but let us take a bottle of wine to cheer our spirits.
ORDINARY. Why wine? Let me tell you, Mr. Wild, there is nothing so deceitful as the spirits given us by wine. If you must drink, let us have a bowl of punch — a liquor I the rather prefer, as it is nowhere spoken against in Scripture, and as it is more wholesome for the gravel, a distemper with which I am grievously afflicted.
JONATHAN (having called for a bowl). I ask your pardon, doctor; I should have remembered that punch was your favourite liquor. I think you never taste wine while there is any punch remaining on the table.
ORDINARY. I confess I look on punch to be the more eligible liquor, as well for the reasons I before mentioned as likewise for one other cause, viz., it is the properest for a DRAUGHT. I own I took it a little unkind of you to mention wine, thinking you knew my palate.
JONATHAN. You are in the right; and I will take a swinging cup to your being made a bishop.
ORDINARY. And I will wish you a reprieve in as large a draught. Come, don’t despair; it is yet time enough to think of dying; you have good friends, who very probably may prevail for you. I have known many a man reprieved who had less reason to expect it.
JONATHAN. But if I should flatter myself with such hopes, and be deceived — what then would become of my soul?
ORDINARY. Pugh! Never mind your soul — leave that to me; I will render a good account of it, I warrant you. I have a sermon in my pocket which may be of some use to you to hear. I do not value myself on the talent of preaching, since no man ought to value himself for any gift in this world. But perhaps there are not many such sermons. But to proceed, since we have nothing else to do till the punch comes. My text is the latter part of a verse only:
—— To the Greeks FOOLISHNESS.
The occasion of these words was principally that philosophy of the Greeks which at that time had overrun great part of the heathen world, had poisoned, and, as it were, puffed up their minds with pride, so that they disregarded all kinds of doctrine in comparison of their own; and, however safe and however sound the learning of the others might be, yet, if it anywise contradicted their own laws, customs, and received opinions, AWAY WITH IT— IT IS NOT FOR US. It was to the Greeks FOOLISHNESS.
In the former part, therefore, of my discourse on these words, I shall principally confine myself to the laying open and demonstrating the great emptiness and vanity of this philosophy, with which these idle and absurd sophists were so proudly blown up and elevated.
And here I shall do two things: First, I shall expose the matter; and, secondly, the manner of this absurd philosophy.
And first, for the first of these, namely, the matter. Now here we may retort the unmannerly word which our adversaries have audaciously thrown in our faces; for what was all this mighty matter of philosophy, this heap of knowledge, which was to bring such large harvests of honour to those who sowed it, and so greatly and nobly to enrich the ground on which it fell; what was it but FOOLISHNESS? An inconsistent heap of nonsense, of absurdities and contradictions, bringing no ornament to the mind in its theory, nor exhibiting any usefulness to the body in its practice. What were all the sermons and the savings, the fables and the morals of all these wise men, but, to use the word mentioned in my text once more, FOOLISHNESS? What was their great master Plato, or their other great light Aristotle? Both fools, mere quibblers and sophists, idly and vainly attached to certain ridiculous notions of their own, founded neither on truth nor on reason. Their whole works are a strange medley of the greatest falsehoods, scarce covered over with the colour of truth: their precepts are neither borrowed from nature nor guided by reason; mere fictions, serving only to evince the dreadful height of human pride; in one word, FOOLISHNESS. It may be perhaps expected of me that I should give some instances from their works to prove this charge; but, as to transcribe every passage to my purpose would be to transcribe their whole works, and as in such a plentiful crop it is difficult to chuse; instead of trespassing on your patience, I shall conclude this first head with asserting what I have so fully proved, and what may indeed be inferred from the text, that the philosophy of the Greeks was FOOLISHNESS.
Proceed we now, in the second place, to consider the manner in which this inane and simple doctrine was propagated. And here — But here the punch by entring waked Mr. Wild, who was fast asleep, and put an end to the sermon; nor could we obtain any further account of the conversation which passed at this interview.
The day now drew nigh when our great man was to exemplify the last and noblest act of greatness by which any hero can signalise himself. This was the day of execution, or consummation, or apotheosis (for it is called by different names), which was to give our hero an opportunity of facing death and damnation, without any fear in his heart, or, at least, without betraying any symptoms of it in his countenance. A completion of greatness which is heartily to be wished to every great man; nothing being more worthy of lamentation than when Fortune, like a lazy poet, winds up her catastrophe aukwardly, and, bestowing too little care on her fifth act, dismisses the hero with a sneaking and private exit, who had in the former part of the drama performed such notable exploits as must promise to every good judge among the spectators a noble, public, and exalted end.
But she was resolved to commit no such error in this instance. Our hero was too much and too deservedly her favourite to be neglected by her in his last moments; accordingly all efforts for a reprieve were vain, and the name of Wild stood at the head of those who were ordered for execution.
From the time he gave over all hopes of life, his conduct was truly great and admirable. Instead of shewing any marks of dejection or contrition, he rather infused more confidence and assurance into his looks. He spent most of his hours in drinking with his friends and with the good man above commemorated. In one of these compotations, being asked whether he was afraid to die, he answered, “D— n me, it is only a dance without music.” Another time, when one expressed some sorrow for his misfortune, as he termed it, he said with great fierceness — “A man can die but once.” Again, when one of his intimate acquaintance hinted his hopes, that he would die like a man, he cocked his hat in defiance, and cried out greatly — “Zounds! who’s afraid?”
Happy would it have been for posterity, could we have retrieved any entire conversation which passed at this season, especially between our hero and his learned comforter; but we have searched many pasteboard records in vain.
On the eve of his apotheosis, Wild’s lady desired to see him, to which he consented. This meeting was at first very tender on both sides; but it could not continue so, for unluckily, some hints of former miscarriages intervening, as particularly when she asked him how he could have used her so barbarously once as calling her b — and whether such language became a man, much less a gentleman, Wild flew into a violent passion, and swore she was the vilest of b — s to upbraid him at such a season with an unguarded word spoke long ago. She replied, with many tears, she was well enough served for her folly in visiting such a brute; but she had one comfort, however, that it would be the last time he could ever treat her so; that indeed she had some obligation to him, for that his cruelty to her would reconcile her to the fate he was tomorrow to suffer; and, indeed, nothing but such brutality could have made the consideration of his shameful death (so this weak woman called hanging), which was now inevitable, to be borne even without madness. She then proceeded to a recapitulation of his faults in an exacter order, and with more perfect memory, than one would have imagined her capable of; and it is probable would have rehearsed a complete catalogue had not our hero’s patience failed him, so that with the utmost fury and violence he caught her by the hair and kicked her, as heartily as his chains would suffer him, out of the room.
At length the morning came which Fortune at his birth had resolutely ordained for the consummation of our hero’s GREATNESS: he had himself indeed modestly declined the public honour she intended him, and had taken a quantity of laudanum, in order to retire quietly off the stage; but we have already observed, in the course of our wonderful history, that to struggle against this lady’s decrees is vain and impotent; and whether she hath determined you shall be hanged or be a prime minister, it is in either case lost labour to resist. Laudanum, therefore, being unable to stop the breath of our hero, which the fruit of hemp-seed, and not the spirit of poppy-seed, was to overcome, he was at the usual hour attended by the proper gentleman appointed for that purpose, and acquainted that the cart was ready. On this occasion he exerted that greatness of courage which hath been so much celebrated in other heroes; and, knowing it was impossible to resist, he gravely declared he would attend them. He then descended to that room where the fetters of great men are knocked off in a most solemn and ceremonious manner. Then shaking hands with his friends (to wit, those who were conducting him to the tree), and drinking their healths in a bumper of brandy, he ascended the cart, where he was no sooner seated than he received the acclamations of the multitude, who were highly ravished with his GREATNESS.
The cart now moved slowly on, being preceded by a troop of horse-guards bearing javelins in their hands, through streets lined with crowds all admiring the great behaviour of our hero, who rode on, sometimes sighing, sometimes swearing, sometimes singing or whistling, as his humour varied.
When he came to the tree of glory, he was welcomed with an universal shout of the people, who were there assembled in prodigious numbers to behold a sight much more rare in populous cities than one would reasonably imagine it should be, viz., the proper catastrophe of a great man.
But though envy was, through fear, obliged to join the general voice in applause on this occasion, there were not wanting some who maligned this completion of glory, which was now about to be fulfilled to our hero, and endeavoured to prevent it by knocking him on the head as he stood under the tree, while the ordinary was performing his last office. They therefore began to batter the cart with stones, brick-bats, dirt, and all manner of mischievous weapons, some of which, erroneously playing on the robes of the ecclesiastic, made him so expeditious in his repetition, that with wonderful alacrity he had ended almost in an instant, and conveyed himself into a place of safety in a hackney-coach, where he waited the compulsion with a temper of mind described in these verses:
Suave mari magno, turbantibus aequora ventis,
E terra alterius magnum spectare laborem.
We must not, however, omit one circumstance, as it serves to shew the most admirable conservation of character in our hero to his last moment, which was, that, whilst the ordinary was busy in his ejaculations, Wild, in the midst of the shower of stones, &c., which played upon him, applied his hands to the parson’s pocket, and emptied it of his bottle-screw, which he carried out of the world in his hand.
The ordinary being now descended from the cart, Wild had just opportunity to cast his eyes around the crowd, and to give them a hearty curse, when immediately the horses moved on, and with universal applause our hero swung out of this world.
Thus fell Jonathan Wild the GREAT, by a death as glorious as his life had been, and which was so truly agreeable to it, that the latter must have been deprobably maimed and imperfect without the former; a death which hath been alone wanting to complete the characters of several ancient and modern heroes, whose histories would then have been read with much greater pleasure by the wisest in all ages. Indeed we could almost wish that whenever Fortune seems wantonly to deviate from her purpose, and leaves her work imperfect in this particular, the historian would indulge himself in the license of poetry and romance, and even do a violence to truth, to oblige his reader with a page which must be the most delightful in all his history, and which could never fail of producing an instructive moral.
Narrow minds may possibly have some reason to be ashamed of going this way out of the world, if their consciences can fly in their faces and assure them they have not merited such an honour; but he must be a fool who is ashamed of being hanged, who is not weak enough to be ashamed of having deserved it.
We will now endeavour to draw the character of this great man; and, by bringing together those several features as it were of his mind which lie scattered up and down in this history, to present our readers with a perfect picture of greatness.
Jonathan Wild had every qualification necessary to form a great man. As his most powerful and predominant passion was ambition, so nature had, with consummate propriety, adapted all his faculties to the attaining those glorious ends to which this passion directed him. He was extremely ingenious in inventing designs, artful in contriving the means to accomplish his purposes, and resolute in executing them: for as the most exquisite cunning and most undaunted boldness qualified him for any undertaking, so was he not restrained by any of those weaknesses which disappoint the views of mean and vulgar souls, and which are comprehended in one general term of honesty, which is a corruption of HONOSTY, a word derived from what the Greeks call an ass. He was entirely free from those low vices of modesty and good-nature, which, as he said, implied a total negation of human greatness, and were the only qualities which absolutely rendered a man incapable of making a considerable figure in the world. His lust was inferior only to his ambition; but, as for what simple people call love, he knew not what it was. His avarice was immense, but it was of the rapacious, not of the tenacious kind; his rapaciousness was indeed so violent, that nothing ever contented him but the whole; for, however considerable the share was which his coadjutors allowed him of a booty, he was restless in inventing means to make himself master of the smallest pittance reserved by them. He said laws were made for the use of prigs only, and to secure their property; they were never therefore more perverted than when their edge was turned against these; but that this generally happened through their want of sufficient dexterity. The character which he most valued himself upon, and which he principally honoured in others, was that of hypocrisy. His opinion was, that no one could carry priggism very far without it; for which reason, he said, there was little greatness to be expected in a man who acknowledged his vices, but always much to be hoped from him who professed great virtues: wherefore, though he would always shun the person whom he discovered guilty of a good action, yet he was never deterred by a good character, which was more commonly the effect of profession than of action: for which reason, he himself was always very liberal of honest professions, and had as much virtue and goodness in his mouth as a saint; never in the least scrupling to swear by his honour, even to those who knew him the best; nay, though he held good-nature and modesty in the highest contempt, he constantly practised the affectation of both, and recommended this to others, whose welfare, on his own account, he wished well to. He laid down several maxims as the certain methods of attaining greatness, to which, in his own pursuit of it, he constantly adhered. As —
1. Never to do more mischief to another than was necessary to the effecting his purpose; for that mischief was too precious a thing to be thrown away.
2. To know no distinction of men from affection; but to sacrifice all with equal readiness to his interest.
3. Never to communicate more of an affair than was necessary to the person who was to execute it.
4. Not to trust him who hath deceived you, nor who knows he hath been deceived by you.
5. To forgive no enemy; but to be cautious and often dilatory in revenge.
6. To shun poverty and distress, and to ally himself as close as possible to power and riches.
7. To maintain a constant gravity in his countenance and behaviour, and to affect wisdom on all occasions.
8. To foment eternal jealousies in his gang, one of another.
9. Never to reward any one equal to his merit; but always to insinuate that the reward was above it.
10. That all men were knaves or fools, and much the greater number a composition of both.
11. That a good name, like money, must be parted with, or at least greatly risqued, in order to bring the owner any advantage.
12. That virtues, like precious stones, were easily counterfeited; that the counterfeits in both cases adorned the wearer equally, and that very few had knowledge or discernment sufficient to distinguish the counterfeit jewel from the real.
13. That many men were undone by not going deep enough in roguery; as in gaming any man may be a loser who doth not play the whole game.
14. That men proclaim their own virtues, as shopkeepers expose their goods, in order to profit by them.
15. That the heart was the proper seat of hatred, and the countenance of affection and friendship.
He had many more of the same kind, all equally good with these, and which were after his decease found in his study, as the twelve excellent and celebrated rules were in that of king Charles the first; for he never promulgated them in his lifetime, not having them constantly in his mouth, as some grave persons have the rules of virtue and morality, without paying the least regard to them in their actions: whereas our hero, by a constant and steady adherence to his rules in conforming everything he did to them, acquired at length a settled habit of walking by them, till at last he was in no danger of inadvertently going out of the way; and by these means he arrived at that degree of greatness, which few have equalled; none, we may say, have exceeded: for, though it must be allowed that there have been some few heroes, who have done greater mischiefs to mankind, such as those who have betrayed the liberty of their country to others, or have undermined and overpowered it themselves; or conquerors who have impoverished, pillaged, sacked, burnt, and destroyed the countries and cities of their fellow-creatures, from no other provocation than that of glory, i. e., as the tragic poet calls it,
a privilege to kill,
A strong temptation to do bravely ill;
yet, if we consider it in the light wherein actions are placed in this line,
Laetius est, quoties magno tibi constat honestum;
when we see our hero, without the least assistance or pretence, setting himself at the head of a gang, which he had not any shadow of right to govern; if we view him maintaining absolute power, and exercising tyranny over a lawless crew, contrary to all law but that of his own will; if we consider him setting up an open trade publickly, in defiance not only of the laws of his country but of the common sense of his countrymen; if we see him first contriving the robbery of others, and again the defrauding the very robbers of that booty, which they had ventured their necks to acquire, and which without any hazard, they might have retained; here sure he must appear admirable, and we may challenge not only the truth of history, but almost the latitude of fiction, to equal his glory.
Nor had he any of those flaws in his character which, though they have been commended by weak writers, have (as I hinted in the beginning of this history) by the judicious reader been censured and despised. Such was the clemency of Alexander and Caesar, which nature had so grossly erred in giving them, as a painter would who should dress a peasant in robes of state or give the nose or any other feature of a Venus to a satyr. What had the destroyers of mankind, that glorious pair, one of whom came into the world to usurp the dominion and abolish the constitution of his own country; the other to conquer, enslave, and rule over the whole world, at least as much as was well known to him, and the shortness of his life would give him leave to visit; what had, I say, such as these to do with clemency? Who cannot see the absurdity and contradiction of mixing such an ingredient with those noble and great qualities I have before mentioned? Now, in Wild everything was truly great, almost without alloy, as his imperfections (for surely some small ones he had) were only such as served to denominate him a human creature, of which kind none ever arrived at consummate excellence. But surely his whole behaviour to his friend Heartfree is a convincing proof that the true iron or steel greatness of his heart was not debased by any softer metal. Indeed, while greatness consists in power, pride, insolence, and doing mischief to mankind — to speak out — while a great man and a great rogue are synonymous terms, so long shall Wild stand unrivalled on the pinnacle of GREATNESS. Nor must we omit here, as the finishing of his character, what indeed ought to be remembered on his tomb or his statue, the conformity above mentioned of his death to his life; and that Jonathan Wild the Great, after all his mighty exploits, was, what so few GREAT men can accomplish — hanged by the neck till he was dead.
Having thus brought our hero to his conclusion, it may be satisfactory to some readers (for many, I doubt not, carry their concern no farther than his fate) to know what became of Heartfree. We shall acquaint them, therefore, that his sufferings were now at an end; that the good magistrate easily prevailed for his pardon, nor was contented till he had made him all the reparation he could for his troubles, though the share he had in bringing these upon him was not only innocent but from its motive laudable. He procured the restoration of the jewels from the man-of-war at her return to England, and, above all, omitted no labour to restore Heartfree to his reputation, and to persuade his neighbours, acquaintance, and customers, of his innocence. When the commission of bankruptcy was satisfied, Heartfree had a considerable sum remaining; for the diamond presented to his wife was of prodigious value, and infinitely recompensed the loss of those jewels which Miss Straddle had disposed of. He now set up again in his trade: compassion for his unmerited misfortunes brought him many customers among those who had any regard to humanity; and he hath, by industry joined with parsimony, amassed a considerable fortune. His wife and he are now grown old in the purest love and friendship, but never had another child. Friendly married his elder daughter at the age of nineteen, and became his partner in trade. As to the younger, she never would listen to the addresses of any lover, not even of a young nobleman, who offered to take her with two thousand pounds, which her father would have willingly produced, and indeed did his utmost to persuade her to the match; but she refused absolutely, nor would give any other reason, when Heartfree pressed her, than that she had dedicated her days to his service, and was resolved no other duty should interfere with that which she owed the best of fathers, nor prevent her from being the nurse of his old age.
Thus Heartfree, his wife, his two daughters, his son-inlaw, and his grandchildren, of which he hath several, live all together in one house; and that with such amity and affection towards each other, that they are in the neighbourhood called the family of love.
As to all the other persons mentioned in this history in the light of greatness, they had all the fate adapted to it, being every one hanged by the neck, save two, viz., Miss Theodosia Snap, who was transported to America, where she was pretty well married, reformed, and made a good wife; and the count, who recovered of the wound he had received from the hermit and made his escape into France, where he committed a robbery, was taken, and broke on the wheel.
Indeed, whoever considers the common fate of great men must allow they well deserve and hardly earn that applause which is given them by the world; for, when we reflect on the labours and pains, the cares, disquietudes, and dangers which attend their road to greatness, we may say with the divine that a man may go to heaven with half the pains which it costs him to purchase hell. To say the truth, the world have this reason at least to honour such characters as that of Wild: that, while it is in the power of every man to be perfectly honest, not one in a thousand is capable of being a complete rogue; and few indeed there are who, if they were inspired with the vanity of imitating our hero, would not after much fruitless pains be obliged to own themselves inferior to MR. JONATHAN WILD THE GREAT.
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