GREAT EXAMPLES OF GREATNESS IN WILD, SHEWN AS WELL BY HIS BEHAVIOUR TO BAGSHOT AS IN A SCHEME LAID, FIRST, TO IMPOSE ON HEARTFREE BY MEANS OF THE COUNT, AND THEN TO CHEAT THE COUNT OF THE BOOTY. Wild undertook therefore to extract some money from Bagshot, who, notwithstanding the depredations made on him, had carried off a pretty considerable booty from their engagement at dice the preceding day. He found Mr. Bagshot in expectation of his bail, and, with a countenance full of concern, which he could at any time, with wonderful art, put on, told him that all was discovered; that the count knew him, and intended to prosecute him for the robbery, "had not I exerted (said he) my utmost interest, and with great difficulty prevailed on him in case you refund the money--" "Refund the money!" cryed Bagshot, "that is in your power: for you know what an inconsiderable part of it fell to my share." "How!" replied Wild, "is this your gratitude to me for saving your life? For your own conscience must convince you of your guilt, and with how much certainty the gentleman can give evidence against you." "Marry come up!" quoth Bagshot; "I believe my life alone will not be in danger. I know those who are as guilty as myself. Do you tell me of conscience?" "Yes, sirrah!" answered our hero, taking him by the collar; "and since you dare threaten me I will shew you the difference between committing a robbery and conniving at it, which is all I can charge myself with. I own indeed I suspected, when you shewed me a sum of money, that you had not come honestly by it." "How!" says Bagshot, frightened out of one half of his wits, and amazed out of the other, "can you deny?" "Yes, you rascal," answered Wild, "I do deny everything; and do you find a witness to prove it: and, to shew you how little apprehension I have of your power to hurt me, I will have you apprehended this moment."--At which words he offered to break from him; but Bagshot laid hold of his skirts, and, with an altered tone and manner, begged him not to be so impatient. "Refund then, sirrah," cries Wild, "and perhaps I may take pity on you." "What must I refund?" answered Bagshot. "Every farthing in your pocket," replied Wild; "then I may have some compassion on you, and not only save your life, but, out of an excess of generosity, may return you something." At which words Bagshot seeming to hesitate, Wild pretended to make to the door, and rapt out an oath of vengeance with so violent an emphasis, that his friend no longer presumed to balance, but suffered Wild to search his pockets and draw forth all he found, to the amount of twenty-one guineas and a half, which last piece our generous hero returned him again, telling him he might now sleep secure. but advised him for the future never to threaten his friends.
Thus did our hero execute the greatest exploits with the utmost ease imaginable, by means of those transcendent qualities which nature had indulged him with, viz., a bold heart, a thundering voice, and a steady countenance.
Wild now returned to the count, and informed him that he had got ten guineas of Bagshot; for, with great and commendable prudence, he sunk the other eleven into his own pocket, and told him with that money he would procure him bail, which he after prevailed on his father, and another gentleman of the same occupation, to become, for two guineas each, so that he made lawful prize of six more, making Bagshot debtor for the whole ten; for such were his great abilities, and so vast the compass of his understanding, that he never made any bargain without overreaching (or, in the vulgar phrase, cheating) the person with whom he dealt.
The count being, by these means, enlarged, the first thing they did, in order to procure credit from tradesmen, was the taking a handsome house ready furnished in one of the new streets; in which as soon as the count was settled, they proceeded to furnish him with servants and equipage, and all the insignia of a large estate proper to impose on poor Heartfree. These being all obtained, Wild made a second visit to his friend, and with much joy in his countenance acquainted him that he had succeeded in his endeavours, and that the gentleman had promised to deal with him for the jewels which he intended to present his bride, and which were designed to be very splendid and costly; he therefore appointed him to go to the count the next morning, and carry with him a set of the richest and most beautiful jewels he had, giving him at the same time some hints of the count's ignorance of that commodity, and that he might extort what price of him he pleased; but Heartfree told him, not without some disdain, that he scorned to take any such advantage; and, after expressing much gratitude to his friend for his recommendation, he promised to carry the jewels at the hour and to the place appointed.
I am sensible that the reader, if he hath but the least notion of greatness, must have such a contempt for the extreme folly of this fellow, that he will be very little concerned at any misfortunes which may befal him in the sequel; for to have no suspicion that an old schoolfellow, with whom he had, in his tenderest years, contracted a friendship, and who, on the accidental renewing of their acquaintance, had professed the most passionate regard for him, should be very ready to impose on him; in short, to conceive that a friend should, of his own accord, without any view to his own interest, endeavour to do him a service, must argue such weakness of mind, such ignorance of the world, and such an artless, simple, undesigning heart, as must render the person possessed of it the lowest creature and the properest object of contempt imaginable, in the eyes of every man of understanding and discernment.
Wild remembered that his friend Heartfree's faults were rather in his heart than in his head; that, though he was so mean a fellow that he was never capable of laying a design to injure any human creature, yet was he by no means a fool, nor liable to any gross imposition, unless where his heart betrayed him. He therefore instructed the count to take only one of his jewels at the first interview, and reject the rest as not fine enough, and order him to provide some richer. He said this management would prevent Heartfree from expecting ready money for the jewel he brought with him, which the count was presently to dispose of, and by means of that money, and his great abilities at cards and dice, to get together as large a sum as possible, which he was to pay down to Heartfree at the delivery of the set of jewels, who would be thus void of all manner of suspicion and would not fail to give him credit for the residue.
By this contrivance, it will appear in the sequel that Wild did not only propose to make the imposition on Heartfree, who was (hitherto) void of all suspicion, more certain; but to rob the count himself of this sum. This double method of cheating the very tools who are our instruments to cheat others is the superlative degree of greatness, and is probably, as far as any spirit crusted over with clay can carry it, falling very little short of diabolism itself.
This method was immediately put in execution, and the count the first day took only a single brilliant, worth about three hundred pounds, and ordered a necklace, earrings, and solitaire, of the of three thousand more, to be prepared by that day sevennight.
The interval was employed by Wild in prosecuting his scheme of raising a gang, in which he met with such success, that within a few days he had levied several bold and resolute fellows, fit for any enterprize, how dangerous or great soever.
We have before remarked that the truest mark of greatness is insatiability. Wild had covenanted with the count to receive three-fourths of the booty, and had, at the same time, covenanted with himself to secure the other fourth part likewise, for which he had formed a very great and noble design; but he now saw with concern that sum which was to be received in hand by Heartfree in danger of being absolutely lost. In order therefore to possess himself of that likewise, he contrived that the jewels should be brought in the afternoon, and that Heartfree should be detained before the count could see him; so that the night should overtake him in his return, when two of his gang were ordered to attack and plunder him.