THE LOW AND PITIFUL BEHAVIOUR OF HEARTFREE; AND THE FOOLISH CONDUCT OF HIS APPRENTICE. His misfortunes did not entirely prevent Heartfree from closing his eyes. On the contrary, he slept several hours the first night of his confinement. However, he perhaps paid too severely dear both for his repose and for a sweet dream which accompanied it, and represented his little family in one of those tender scenes which had frequently passed in the days of his happiness and prosperity, when the provision they were making for the future fortunes of their children used to be one of the most agreeable topics of discourse with which he and his wife entertained themselves. The pleasantness of this vision, therefore, served only, on his awaking, to set forth his present misery with additional horror, and to heighten the dreadful ideas which now crowded on his mind.
He had spent a considerable time after his first rising from the bed on which he had, without undressing, thrown himself, and now began to wonder at Mrs. Heartfree's long absence; but as the mind is desirous (and perhaps wisely too) to comfort itself with drawing the most flattering conclusions from all events, so he hoped the longer her stay was the more certain was his deliverance. At length his impatience prevailed, and he was just going to despatch a messenger to his own house when his apprentice came to pay him a visit, and on his enquiry informed him that his wife had departed in company with Mr. Wild many hours before, and had carried all his most valuable effects with her; adding at the same time that she had herself positively acquainted him she had her husband's express orders for so doing, and that she was gone to Holland.
It is the observation of many wise men, who have studied the anatomy of the human soul with more attention than our young physicians generally bestow on that of the body, that great and violent surprize hath a different effect from that which is wrought in a good housewife by perceiving any disorders in her kitchen; who, on such occasions, commonly spreads the disorder, not only over her whole family, but over the whole neighbourhood. --Now, these great calamities, especially when sudden, tend to stifle and deaden all the faculties, instead of rousing them; and accordingly Herodotus tells us a story of Croesus king of Lydia, who, on beholding his servants and courtiers led captive, wept bitterly, but, when he saw his wife and children in that condition, stood stupid and motionless; so stood poor Heartfree on this relation of his apprentice, nothing moving but his colour, which entirely forsook his countenance.
The apprentice, who had not in the least doubted the veracity of his mistress, perceiving the surprize which too visibly appeared in his master, became speechless likewise, and both remained silent some minutes, gazing with astonishment and horror at each other. At last Heartfree cryed out in an agony, "My wife deserted me in my misfortunes!" "Heaven forbid, sir!" answered the other. "And what is become of my poor children?" replied Heartfree. "They are at home, sir," said the apprentice. "Heaven be praised! She hath forsaken them too!" cries Heartfree: "fetch them hither this instant. Go, my dear Jack, bring hither my little all which remains now: fly, child, if thou dost not intend likewise to forsake me in my afflictions." The youth answered he would die sooner than entertain such a thought, and, begging his master to be comforted, instantly obeyed his orders.
Heartfree, the moment the young man was departed, threw himself on his bed in an agony of despair; but, recollecting himself after he had vented the first sallies of his passion, he began to question the infidelity of his wife as a matter impossible. He ran over in his thoughts the uninterrupted tenderness which she had always shewn him, and, for a minute, blamed the rashness of his belief against her; till the many circumstances of her having left him so long, and neither writ nor sent to him since her departure with all his effects and with Wild, of whom he was not before without suspicion, and, lastly and chiefly, her false pretence to his commands, entirely turned the scale, and convinced him of her disloyalty.
While he was in these agitations of mind the good apprentice, who had used the utmost expedition, brought his children to him. He embraced them with the most passionate fondness, and imprinted numberless kisses on their little lips. The little girl flew to him with almost as much eagerness as he himself exprest at her sight, and cryed out, "O papa, why did you not come home to poor mamma all this while? I thought you would not have left your little Nancy so long." After which he asked her for her mother, and was told she had kissed them both in the morning, and cried very much for his absence. All which brought a flood of tears into the eyes of this weak, silly man, who had not greatness sufficient to conquer these low efforts of tenderness and humanity.
He then proceeded to enquire of the maid-servant, who acquainted him that she knew no more than that her mistress had taken leave of her children in the morning with many tears and kisses, and had recommended them in the most earnest manner to her care; she said she had promised faithfully to take care of them, and would, while they were entrusted to her, fulfil her promise. For which profession Heartfree expressed much gratitude to her, and, after indulging himself with some little fondnesses which we shall not relate, he delivered his children into the good woman's hands, and dismissed her.
A SOLILOQUY OF HEARTFREE'S, FULL OF LOW AND BASE IDEAS, WITHOUT A SYLLABLE OF GREATNESS. Being now alone, he sat some short time silent, and then burst forth into the following soliloquy:--
"What shall I do? Shall I abandon myself to a dispirited despair, or fly in the face of the Almighty? Surely both are unworthy of a wise man; for what can be more vain than weakly to lament my fortune if irretrievable, or, if hope remains, to offend that Being who can most strongly support it? but are my passions then voluntary? Am I so absolutely their master that I can resolve with myself, so far only will I grieve? Certainly no. Reason, however we flatter ourselves, hath not such despotic empire in our minds, that it can, with imperial voice, hush all our sorrow in a moment. Where then is its use? For either it is an empty sound, and we are deceived in thinking we have reason, or it is given us to some end, and hath a part assigned it by the all-wise Creator. Why, what can its office be other than justly to weigh the worth of all things, and to direct us to that perfection of human wisdom which proportions our esteem of every object by its real merit, and prevents us from over or undervaluing whatever we hope for, we enjoy, or we lose. It doth not foolishly say to us, Be not glad, or, Be not sorry, which would be as vain and idle as to bid the purling river cease to run, or the raging wind to blow. It prevents us only from exulting, like children, when we receive a toy, or from lamenting when we are deprived of it. Suppose then I have lost the enjoyments of this world, and my expectation of future pleasure and profit is for ever disappointed, what relief can my reason afford? What, unless it can shew me I had fixed my affections on a toy; that what I desired was not, by a wise man, eagerly to be affected, nor its loss violently deplored? for there are toys adapted to all ages, from the rattle to the throne; and perhaps the value of all is equal to their several possessors; for if the rattle pleases the ear of the infant, what can the flattery of sycophants give more to the prince? The latter is as far from examining into the reality and source of his pleasure as the former; for if both did, they must both equally despise it. And surely, if we consider them seriously, and compare them together, we shall be forced to conclude all those pomps and pleasures of which men are so fond, and which, through so much danger and difficulty, with such violence and villany, they pursue, to be as worthless trifles as any exposed to sale in a toy-shop. I have often noted my little girl viewing, with eager eyes, a jointed baby; I have marked the pains and solicitations she hath used till I have been prevailed on to indulge her with it. At her first obtaining it, what joy hath sparkled in her countenance! with what raptures hath she taken possession! but how little satisfaction hath she found in it! What pains to work out her amusement from it! Its dress must be varied; the tinsel ornaments which first caught her eyes produce no longer pleasure; she endeavours to make it stand and walk in vain, and is constrained herself to supply it with conversation. In a day's time it is thrown by and neglected, and some less costly toy preferred to it. How like the situation of this child is that of every man! What difficulties in the pursuit of his desires! what inanity in the possession of most, and satiety in those which seem more real and substantial! The delights of most men are as childish and as superficial as that of my little girl; a feather or a fiddle are their pursuits and their pleasures through life, even to their ripest years, if such men may be said to attain any ripeness at all. But let us survey those whose understandings are of a more elevated and refined temper; how empty do they soon find the world of enjoyments worth their desire or attaining! How soon do they retreat to solitude and contemplation, to gardening and planting, and such rural amusements, where their trees and they enjoy the air and the sun in common, and both vegetate with very little difference between them. But suppose (which neither truth nor wisdom will allow) we could admit something more valuable and substantial in these blessings, would not the uncertainty of their possession be alone sufficient to lower their price? How mean a tenure is that at the will of fortune, which chance, fraud, and rapine are every day so likely to deprive us of, and often the more likely by how much the greater worth our possessions are of! Is it not to place our affections on a bubble in the water, or on a picture in the clouds? What madman would build a fine house or frame a beautiful garden on land in which he held so uncertain an interest? But again, was all this less undeniable, did Fortune, the lady of our manor, lease to us for our lives, of how little consideration must even this term appear! For, admitting that these pleasures were not liable to be torn from us, how certainly must we be torn from them! Perhaps to-morrow--nay, or even sooner; for as the excellent poet says--
Where is to-morrow?--In the other world.
To thousands this is true, and the reverse
Is sure to none.
But if I have no further hope in this world, can I have none beyond it? Surely those laborious writers, who have taken such infinite pains to destroy or weaken all the proofs of futurity, have not so far succeeded as to exclude us from hope. That active principle in man which with such boldness pushes us on through every labour and difficulty, to attain the most distant and most improbable event in this world, will not surely deny us a little flattering prospect of those beautiful mansions which, if they could be thought chimerical, must be allowed the loveliest which can entertain the eye of man; and to which the road, if we understand it rightly, appears to have so few thorns and briars in it, and to require so little labour and fatigue from those who shall pass through it, that its ways are truly said to be ways of pleasantness, and all its paths to be those of peace. If the proofs of Christianity be as strong as I imagine them, surely enough may be deduced from that ground only, to comfort and support the most miserable man in his afflictions. And this I think my reason tells me, that, if the professors and propagators of infidelity are in the right, the losses which death brings to the virtuous are not worth their lamenting; but if these are, as certainly they seem, in the wrong, the blessings it procures them are not sufficiently to be coveted and rejoiced at.
"On my own account, then, I have no cause for sorrow, but on my children's!--Why, the same Being to whose goodness and power I intrust my own happiness is likewise as able and as willing to procure theirs. Nor matters it what state of life is allotted for them, whether it be their fate to procure bread with their labour, or to eat it at the sweat of others. Perhaps, if we consider the case with proper attention, or resolve it with due sincerity, the former is much the sweeter. The hind may be more happy than the lord, for his desires are fewer, and those such as are attended with more hope and less fear. I will do my utmost to lay the foundations of my children's happiness, I will carefully avoid educating them in a station superior to their fortune, and for the event trust to that being in whom whoever rightly confides, must be superior to all worldly sorrows."
In this low manner did this poor wretch proceed to argue, till he had worked himself up into an enthusiasm which by degrees soon became invulnerable to every human attack; so that when Mr. Snap acquainted him with the return of the writ, and that he must carry him to Newgate, he received the message as Socrates did the news of the ship's arrival, and that he was to prepare for death.