CONTAINING SCENES OF SOFTNESS, LOVE, AND HONOUR ALL IN THE GREAT STILE. The count had disposed of his jewel for its full value, and this he had by dexterity raised to a thousand pounds; this sum therefore he paid down to Heartfree, promising him the rest within a month. His house, his equipage, his appearance, but, above all, a certain plausibility in his voice and behaviour would have deceived any, but one whose great and wise heart had dictated to him something within, which would have secured him from any danger of imposition from without. Heartfree therefore did not in the least scruple giving him credit; but, as he had in reality procured those jewels of another, his own little stock not being able to furnish anything so valuable, he begged the count would be so kind to give his note for the money, payable at the time he mentioned; which that gentleman did not in the least scruple; so he paid him the thousand pound in specie, and gave his note for two thousand eight hundred pounds more to Heartfree, who burnt with gratitude to Wild for the noble customer he had recommended to him.
As soon as Heartfree was departed, Wild, who waited in another room, came in and received the casket from the count, it having been agreed between them that this should be deposited in his hands, as he was the original contriver of the scheme, and was to have the largest share. Wild, having received the casket, offered to meet the count late that evening to come to a division, but such was the latter's confidence in the honour of our hero, that he said, if it was any inconvenience to him, the next morning would do altogether as well. This was more agreeable to Wild, and accordingly, an appointment being made for that purpose, he set out in haste to pursue Heartfree to the place where the two gentlemen were ordered to meet and attack him. Those gentlemen with noble resolution executed their purpose; they attacked and spoiled the enemy of the whole sum he had received from the count.
As soon as the engagement was over, and Heartfree left sprawling on the ground, our hero, who wisely declined trusting the booty in his friends' hands, though he had good experience of their honour, made off after the conquerors: at length, they being all at a place of safety, Wild, according to a previous agreement, received nine-tenths of the booty: the subordinate heroes did indeed profess some little unwillingness (perhaps more than was strictly consistent with honour) to perform their contract; but Wild, partly by argument, but more by oaths and threatenings, prevailed with them to fulfil their promise.
Our hero having thus, with wonderful address, brought this great and glorious action to a happy conclusion, resolved to relax his mind after his fatigue, in the conversation of the fair. He therefore set forwards to his lovely Laetitia; but in his way accidentally met with a young lady of his acquaintance, Miss Molly Straddle, who was taking the air in Bridges-street. Miss Molly, seeing Mr. Wild, stopped him, and with a familiarity peculiar to a genteel town education, tapped, or rather slapped him on the back, and asked him to treat her with a pint of wine at a neighbouring tavern. The hero, though he loved the chaste Laetitia with excessive tenderness, was not of that low sniveling breed of mortals who, as it is generally expressed, TYE THEMSELVES TO A WOMANS APRON-STRINGS; in a word, who are tainted with that mean, base, low vice, or virtue as it is called, of constancy; therefore he immediately consented, and attended her to a tavern famous for excellent wine, known by the name of the Rummer and Horseshoe, where they retired to a room by themselves. Wild was very vehement in his addresses, but to no purpose; the young lady declared she would grant no favour till he had made her a present; this was immediately complied with, and the lover made as happy as he could desire.
The immoderate fondness which Wild entertained for his dear Laetitia would not suffer him to waste any considerable time with Miss Straddle. Notwithstanding, therefore, all the endearments and caresses of that young lady, he soon made an excuse to go down stairs, and thence immediately set forward to Laetitia without taking any formal leave of Miss Straddle, or indeed of the drawer, with whom the lady was afterwards obliged to come to an account for the reckoning.
Mr. Wild, on his arrival at Mr. Snap's, found only Miss Doshy at home, that young lady being employed alone, in imitation of Penelope, with her thread or worsted, only with this difference, that whereas Penelope unravelled by night what she had knit or wove or spun by day, so what our young heroine unravelled by day she knit again by night. In short, she was mending a pair of blue stockings with red clocks; a circumstance which perhaps we might have omitted, had it not served to show that there are still some ladies of this age who imitate the simplicity of the ancients.
Wild immediately asked for his beloved, and was informed that she was not at home. He then enquired where she was to be found, and declared he would not depart till he had seen her, nay not till he had married her; for, indeed, his passion for her was truly honourable; in other words, he had so ungovernable a desire for her person, that he would go any length to satisfy it. He then pulled out the casket, which he swore was full of the finest jewels, and that he would give them all to her, with other promises, which so prevailed on Miss Doshy, who had not the common failure of sisters in envying, and often endeavouring to disappoint, each other's happiness, that she desired Mr. Wild to sit down a few minutes, whilst she endeavoured to find her sister and to bring her to him. The lover thanked her, and promised to stay till her return; and Miss Doshy, leaving Mr. Wild to his meditations, fastened him in the kitchen by barring the door (for most of the doors in this mansion were made to be bolted on the outside), and then, slapping to the door of the house with great violence, without going out at it, she stole softly up stairs where Miss Laetitia was engaged in close conference with Mr. Bagshot. Miss Letty, being informed by her sister in a whisper of what Mr. Wild had said, and what he had produced, told Mr. Bagshot that a young lady was below to visit her whom she would despatch with all imaginable haste and return to him. She desired him therefore to stay with patience for her in the mean time, and that she would leave the door unlocked, though her papa would never forgive her if he should discover it. Bagshot promised on his honour not to step without his chamber; and the two young ladies went softly down stairs, when, pretending first to make their entry into the house, they repaired to the kitchen, where not even the presence of the chaste Laetitia could restore that harmony to the countenance of her lover which Miss Theodosia had left him possessed of; for, during her absence, he had discovered the absence of a purse containing bank-notes for 900 pounds, which had been taken from Mr. Heartfree, and which, indeed, Miss Straddle had, in the warmth of his amorous caresses, unperceived drawn from him. However, as he had that perfect mastery of his temper, or rather of his muscles, which is as necessary to the forming a great character as to the personating it on the stage, he soon conveyed a smile into his countenance, and, sealing as well his misfortune as his chagrin at it, began to pay honourable addresses to Miss Letty. This young lady, among many other good ingredients had three very predominant passions; to wit, vanity, wantonness, and avarice. To satisfy the first of these she employed Mr. Smirk and company; to the second, Mr. Bagshot and company; and our hero had the honour and happiness of solely engrossing the third. Now, these three sorts of lovers she had very different ways of entertaining. With the first she was all gay and coquette; with the second all fond and rampant; and with the last all cold and reserved. She therefore told Mr. Wild, with a most composed aspect, that she was glad he had repented of his manner of treating her at their last interview, where his behaviour was so monstrous that she had resolved never to see him any more; that she was afraid her own sex would hardly pardon her the weakness she was guilty of in receding from that resolution, which she was persuaded she never should have brought herself to, had not her sister, who was there to confirm what she said (as she did with many oaths), betrayed her into his company, by pretending it was another person to visit her: but, however, as he now thought proper to give her more convincing proofs of his affections (for he had now the casket in his hand), and since she perceived his designs were no longer against her virtue, but were such as a woman of honour might listen to, she must own--and then she feigned an hesitation, when Theodosia began: "Nay, sister, I am resolved you shall counterfeit no longer. I assure you, Mr. Wild, she hath the most violent passion for you in the world; and indeed, dear Tishy, if you offer to go back, since I plainly see Mr. Wild's designs are honourable, I will betray all you have ever said." "How, sister!" answered Laetitia; "I protest you will drive me out of the room: I did not expect this usage from you." Wild then fell on his knees, and, taking hold of her hand, repeated a speech, which, as the reader may easily suggest it to himself, I shall not here set down. He then offered her the casket, but she gently rejected it; and on a second offer, with a modest countenance and voice, desired to know what it contained. Wild then opened it, and took forth (with sorrow I write it, and with sorrow will it be read) one of those beautiful necklaces with which, at the fair of Bartholomew, they deck the well-bewhitened neck of Thalestris queen of Amazons, Anna Bullen, queen Elizabeth, or some other high princess in Drollic story. It was indeed composed of that paste which Derdaeus Magnus, an ingenious toy-man, doth at a very moderate price dispense of to the second-rate beaus of the metropolis. For, to open a truth, which we ask our reader's pardon for having concealed from him so long, the sagacious count, wisely fearing lest some accident might prevent Mr. Wild's return at the appointed time, had carefully conveyed the jewels which Mr. Heartfree had brought with him into his own pocket, and in their stead had placed in the casket these artificial stones, which, though of equal value to a philosopher, and perhaps of a much greater to a true admirer of the compositions of art, had not however the same charms in the eyes of Miss Letty, who had indeed some knowledge of jewels; for Mr. Snap, with great reason, considering how valuable a part of a lady's education it would be to be well instructed in these things, in an age when young ladies learn little more than how to dress themselves, had in her youth placed Miss Letty as the handmaid (or housemaid as the vulgar call it) of an eminent pawnbroker. The lightning, therefore, which should have flashed from the jewels, flashed from her eyes, and thunder immediately followed from her voice. She be-knaved, be-rascalled, be-rogued the unhappy hero, who stood silent, confounded with astonishment, but more with shame and indignation, at being thus outwitted and overreached. At length he recovered his spirits, and, throwing down the casket in a rage, he snatched the key from the table, and, without making any answer to the ladies, who both very plentifully opened upon him, and without taking any leave of them, he flew out at the door, and repaired with the utmost expedition to the count's habitation.