IN WHICH OUR HERO CARRIES GREATNESS TO AN IMMODERATE HEIGHT. Let us remove, therefore, as fast as we can, this detestable picture of ingratitude, and present the much more agreeable portrait of that assurance to which the French very properly annex the epithet of good. Heartfree had scarce done reading his letters when our hero appeared before his eyes; not with that aspect with which a pitiful parson meets his patron after having opposed him at an election, or which a doctor wears when sneaking away from a door when he is informed of his patient's death; not with that downcast countenance which betrays the man who, after a strong conflict between virtue and vice, hath surrendered his mind to the latter, and is discovered in his first treachery; but with that noble, bold, great confidence with which a prime minister assures his dependent that the place he promised him was disposed of before. And such concern and uneasiness as he expresses in his looks on those occasions did Wild testify on the first meeting of his friend. And as the said prime minister chides you for neglect of your interest in not having asked in time, so did our hero attack Heartfree for his giving credit to the count; and, without suffering him to make any answer, proceeded in a torrent of words to overwhelm him with abuse, which, however friendly its intention might be, was scarce to be outdone by an enemy. By these means Heartfree, who might perhaps otherwise have vented some little concern for that recommendation which Wild had given him to the count, was totally prevented from any such endeavour; and, like an invading prince, when attacked in his own dominions, forced to recal his whole strength to defend himself at home. This indeed he did so well, by insisting on the figure and outward appearance of the count and his equipage, that Wild at length grew a little more gentle, and with a sigh said, "I confess I have the least reason of all mankind to censure another for an imprudence of this nature, as I am myself the most easy to be imposed upon, and indeed have been so by this count, who, if he be insolvent, hath cheated me of five hundred pounds. But, for my own part," said he, "I will not yet despair, nor would I have you. Many men have found it convenient to retire or abscond for a while, and afterwards have paid their debts, or at least handsomely compounded them. This I am certain of, should a composition take place, which is the worst I think that can be apprehended, I shall be the only loser; for I shall think myself obliged in honour to repair your loss, even though you must confess it was principally owing to your own folly. Z--ds! had I imagined it necessary, I would have cautioned you, but I thought the part of the town where he lived sufficient caution not to trust him. And such a sum!---The devil must have been in you certainly!"
This was a degree of impudence beyond poor Mrs. Heartfree's imagination. Though she had before vented the most violent execrations on Wild, she was now thoroughly satisfied of his innocence, and begged him not to insist any longer on what he perceived so deeply affected her husband. She said trade could not be carried on without credit, and surely he was sufficiently justified in giving it to such a person as the count appeared to be. Besides, she said, reflections on what was past and irretrievable would be of little service; that their present business was to consider how to prevent the evil consequences which threatened, and first to endeavour to procure her husband his liberty. "Why doth he not procure bail?" said Wild. "Alas! sir," said she, "we have applied to many of our acquaintance in vain; we have met with excuses even where we could least expect them." "Not bail!" answered Wild, in a passion; "he shall have bail, if there is any in the world. It is now very late, but trust me to procure him bail to-morrow morning."
Mrs. Heartfree received these professions with tears, and told Wild he was a friend indeed. She then proposed to stay that evening with her husband, but he would not permit her on account of his little family, whom he would not agree to trust to the care of servants in this time of confusion.
A hackney-coach was then sent for, but without success; for these, like hackney-friends, always offer themselves in the sunshine, but are never to be found when you want them. And as for a chair, Mr. Snap lived in a part of the town which chairmen very little frequent. The good woman was therefore obliged to walk home, whither the gallant Wild offered to attend her as a protector. This favour was thankfully accepted, and, the husband and wife having taken a tender leave of each other, the former was locked in and the latter locked out by the hands of Mr. Snap himself.
As this visit of Mr. Wild's to Heartfree may seem one of those passages in history which writers, Drawcansir-like, introduce only BECAUSE THEY DARE; indeed, as it may seem somewhat contradictory to the greatness of our hero, and may tend to blemish his character with an imputation of that kind of friendship which savours too much of weakness and imprudence, it may be necessary to account for this visit, especially to our more sagacious readers, whose satisfaction we shall always consult in the most especial manner. They are to know then that at the first interview with Mrs. Heartfree Mr. Wild had conceived that passion, or affection, or friendship, or desire, for that handsome creature, which the gentlemen of this our age agreed to call LOVE, and which is indeed no other than that kind of affection which, after the exercise of the dominical day is over, a lusty divine is apt to conceive for the well-drest sirloin or handsome buttock which the well-edified squire in gratitude sets before him, and which, so violent is his love, he devours in imagination the moment he sees it. Not less ardent was the hungry passion of our hero, who, from the moment he had cast his eyes on that charming dish, had cast about in his mind by what method he might come at it. This, as he perceived, might most easily be effected after the ruin of Heartfree, which, for other considerations, he had intended. So he postponed all endeavours for this purpose till he had first effected that, by order of time, was regularly to precede this latter design; with such regularity did this our hero conduct all his schemes, and so truly superior was he to all the efforts of passion, which so often disconcert and disappoint the noblest views of others.