MR. WILD WITH UNPRECEDENTED GENEROSITY VISITS HIS FRIEND HEARTFREE, AND THE UNGRATEFUL RECEPTION HE MET WITH. It hath been said then that Mr. Wild, not being able on the strictest examination to find in a certain spot of human nature called his own heart the least grain of that pitiful low quality called honesty, had resolved, perhaps a little too generally, that there was no such thing. He therefore imputed the resolution with which Mr. Heartfree had so positively refused to concern himself in murder, either to a fear of bloodying his hands or the apprehension of a ghost, or lest he should make an additional example in that excellent book called God's Revenge against Murder; and doubted not but he would (at least in his present necessity) agree without scruple to a simple robbery, especially where any considerable booty should be proposed, and the safety of the attack plausibly made appear; which if he could prevail on him to undertake, he would immediately afterwards get him impeached, convicted, and hanged. He no sooner therefore had discharged his duties to Hymen, and heard that Heartfree had procured himself the liberties of the Fleet, than he resolved to visit him, and to propose a robbery with all the allurements of profit, ease, and safety.
This proposal was no sooner made than it was answered by Heartfree in the following manner:--
"I might have hoped the answer which I gave to your former advice would have prevented me from the danger of receiving a second affront of this kind. An affront I call it, and surely, if it be so to call a man a villain, it can be no less to shew him you suppose him one. Indeed, it may be wondered how any man can arrive at the boldness, I may say impudence, of first making such an overture to another; surely it is seldom done, unless to those who have previously betrayed some symptoms of their own baseness. If I have therefore shewn you any such, these insults are more pardonable; but I assure you, if such appear, they discharge all their malignance outwardly, and reflect not even a shadow within; for to me baseness seems inconsistent with this rule, OF DOING NO OTHER PERSON AN INJURY FROM ANY MOTIVE OR ON ANY CONSIDERATION WHATEVER. This, sir, is the rule by which I am determined to walk, nor can that man justify disbelieving me who will not own he walks not by it himself. But, whether it be allowed to me or no, or whether I feel the good effects of its being practised by others, I am resolved to maintain it; for surely no man can reap a benefit from my pursuing it equal to the comfort I myself enjoy: for what a ravishing thought, how replete with extasy, must the consideration be, that Almighty Goodness is by its own nature engaged to reward me! How indifferent must such a persuasion make a man to all the occurrences of this life! What trifles must he represent to himself both the enjoyments and the afflictions of this world! How easily must he acquiesce under missing the former, and how patiently will he submit to the latter, who is convinced that his failing of a transitory imperfect reward here is a most certain argument of his obtaining one permanent and complete hereafter! Dost thou think then, thou little, paltry, mean animal (with such language did he treat our truly great man), that I will forego such comfortable expectations for any pitiful reward which thou canst suggest or promise to me; for that sordid lucre for which all pains and labour are undertaken by the industrious, and all barbarities and iniquities committed by the vile; for a worthless acquisition, which such as thou art can possess, can give, or can take away?" The former part of this speech occasioned much yawning in our hero, but the latter roused his anger; and he was collecting his rage to answer, when Friendly and the constable, who had been summoned by Heartfree on Wild's first appearance, entered the room, and seized the great man just as his wrath was bursting from his lips.
The dialogue which now ensued is not worth relating: Wild was soon acquainted with the reason of this rough treatment, and presently conveyed before a magistrate.
Notwithstanding the doubts raised by Mr. Wild's lawyer on his examination, he insisting that the proceeding was improper, for that a writ de homine replegiando should issue, and on the return of that a capias in withernam, the justice inclined to commitment, so that Wild was driven to other methods for his defence. He therefore acquainted the justice that there was a young man likewise with him in the boat, and begged that he might be sent for, which request was accordingly granted, and the faithful Achates (Mr. Fireblood) was soon produced to bear testimony for his friend, which he did with so much becoming zeal, and went through his examination with such coherence (though he was forced to collect his evidence from the hints given him by Wild in the presence of the justice and the accusers), that, as here was direct evidence against mere presumption, our hero was most honourably acquitted, and poor Heartfree was charged by the justice, the audience, and all others who afterwards heard the story, with the blackest ingratitude, in attempting to take away the life of a man to whom he had such eminent obligations.
Lest so vast an effort of friendship as this of Fireblood's should too violently surprize the reader in this degenerate age, it may be proper to inform him that, beside the ties of engagement in the same employ, another nearer and stronger alliance subsisted between our hero and this youth, which latter was just departed from the arms of the lovely Laetitia when he received her husband's message; an instance which may also serve to justify those strict intercourses of love and acquaintance which so commonly subsist in modern history between the husband and gallant, displaying the vast force of friendship contracted by this more honourable than legal alliance, which is thought to be at present one of the strongest bonds of amity between great men, and the most reputable as well as easy way to their favour.
Four months had now passed since Heartfree's first confinement, and his affairs had begun to wear a more benign aspect; but they were a good deal injured by this attempt on Wild (so dangerous is any attack on a GREAT MAN), several of his neighbours, and particularly one or two of his own trade, industriously endeavouring, from their bitter animosity against such kind of iniquity, to spread and exaggerate his ingratitude as much as possible; not in the least scrupling, in the violent ardour of their indignation, to add some small circumstances of their own knowledge of the many obligations conferred on Heartfree by Wild. To all these scandals he quietly submitted, comforting himself in the consciousness of his own innocence, and confiding in time, the sure friend of justice, to acquit him.