CHARACTERS OF SILLY PEOPLE, WITH THE PROPER USES FOR WHICH SUCH ARE DESIGNED. One reason why we chose to end our first book, as we did, with the last chapter, was, that we are now obliged to produce two characters of a stamp entirely different from what we have hitherto dealt in. These persons are of that pitiful order of mortals who are in contempt called good-natured; being indeed sent into the world by nature with the same design with which men put little fish into a pike-pond, in order to be devoured by that voracious water-hero.
But to proceed with our history: Wild, having shared the booty in much the same manner as before, i.e. taken three-fourths of it, amounting to eighteen-pence, was now retiring to rest, in no very happy mood, when by accident he met with a young fellow who had formerly been his companion, and indeed intimate friend, at school. It hath been thought that friendship is usually nursed by similitude of manners, but the contrary had been the case between these lads; for whereas Wild was rapacious and intrepid, the other had always more regard far his skin than his money; Wild therefore had very generously compassionated this defect in his school-fellow, and had brought him off from many scrapes, into most of which he had first drawn him, by taking the fault and whipping to himself. He had always indeed been well paid on such occasions; there are a sort of people who, together with the best of the bargain, will be sure to have the obligation too on their side; so it had happened here: for this poor lad had considered himself in the highest degree obliged to Mr. Wild, and had contracted a very great esteem and friendship for him; the traces of which an absence of many years had not in the least effaced in his mind. He no sooner knew Wild, therefore, than he accosted him in the most friendly manner, and invited him home with him to breakfast (it being now near nine in the morning), which invitation our hero with no great difficulty consented to. This young man, who was about Wild's age, had some time before set up in the trade of a jeweller, in the materials or stock for which he had laid out the greatest part of a little fortune, and had married a very agreeable woman for love, by whom he then had two children. As our reader is to be more acquainted with this person, it may not be improper to open somewhat of his character, especially as it will serve as a kind of foil to the noble and great disposition of our hero, and as the one seems sent into this world as a proper object on which the talents of the other were to be displayed with a proper and just success.
Mr. Thomas Heartfree then (for that was his name) was of an honest and open disposition. He was of that sort of men whom experience only, and not their own natures, must inform that there are such things as deceit and hypocrisy in the world, and who, consequently, are not at five-and-twenty so difficult to be imposed upon as the oldest and most subtle. He was possessed of several great weaknesses of mind, being good-natured, friendly, and generous to a great excess. He had, indeed, too little regard to common justice, for he had forgiven some debts to his acquaintance only because they could not pay him, and had entrusted a bankrupt, on his setting up a second time, from having been convinced that he had dealt in his bankruptcy with a fair and honest heart, and that he had broke through misfortune only, and not from neglect or imposture. He was withal so silly a fellow that he never took the least advantage of the ignorance of his customers, and contented himself with very moderate gains on his goods; which he was the better enabled to do, notwithstanding his generosity, because his life was extremely temperate, his expenses being solely confined to the chearful entertainment of his friends at home, and now and then a moderate glass of wine, in which he indulged himself in the company of his wife, who, with an agreeable person, was a mean-spirited, poor, domestic, low-bred animal, who confined herself mostly to the care of her family, placed her happiness in her husband and her children, followed no expensive fashions or diversions, and indeed rarely went abroad, unless to return the visits of a few plain neighbours, and twice a-year afforded herself, in company with her husband, the diversion of a play, where she never sat in a higher place than the pit.
To this silly woman did this silly fellow introduce the GREAT WILD, informing her at the same time of their school acquaintance and the many obligations he had received from him. This simple woman no sooner heard her husband had been obliged to her guest than her eyes sparkled on him with a benevolance which is an emanation from the heart, and of which great and noble minds, whose hearts never dwell but with an injury, can have no very adequate idea; it is therefore no wonder that our hero should misconstrue, as he did, the poor, innocent, and ample affection of Mrs. Heartfree towards her husband's friend, for that great and generous passion, which fires the eyes of a modern heroine, when the colonel is so kind as to indulge his city creditor with partaking of his table to-day, and of his bed tomorrow. Wild, therefore, instantly returned the compliment as he understood it, with his eyes, and presently after bestowed many encomiums on her beauty, with which, perhaps, she, who was a woman, though a good one, and misapprehended the design, was not displeased any more than the husband.
When breakfast was ended, and the wife retired to her household affairs, Wild, who had a quick discernment into the weaknesses of men, and who, besides the knowledge of his good (or foolish) disposition when a boy, had now discovered several sparks of goodness, friendship, and generosity in his friend, began to discourse over the accidents which had happened in their childhood, and took frequent occasions of reminding him of those favours which we have before mentioned his having conferred on him; he then proceeded to the most vehement professions of friendship, and to the most ardent expressions of joy in this renewal of their acquaintance. He at last told him, with great seeming pleasure, that he believed he had an opportunity of serving him by the recommendation of a gentleman to his custom, who was then on the brink of marriage. "And, if he be not already engaged, I will," says he, "endeavour to prevail on him to furnish his lady with jewels at your shop."
Heartfree was not backward in thanks to our hero, and, after many earnest solicitations to dinner, which were refused, they parted for the first time.
But here, as it occurs to our memory that our readers may be surprised (an accident which sometimes happens in histories of this kind) how Mr. Wild, the elder, in his present capacity, should have been able to maintain his son at a reputable school, as this appears to have been, it may be necessary to inform him that Mr. Wild himself was then a tradesman in good business, but, by misfortunes in the world, to wit, extravagance and gaming, he had reduced himself to that honourable occupation which we have formerly mentioned.
Having cleared up this doubt, we will now pursue our hero, who forthwith repaired to the count, and, having first settled preliminary articles concerning distributions, he acquainted him with the scheme which he had formed against Heartfree; and after consulting proper methods to put it in execution, they began to concert measures for the enlargement of the count; on which the first, and indeed only point to be considered, was to raise money, not to pay his debts, for that would have required an immense sum, and was contrary to his inclination or intention, but to procure him bail; for as to his escape, Mr. Snap had taken such precautions that it appeared absolutely impossible.