A CHAPTER OF WHICH WE ARE EXTREMELY VAIN, AND WHICH INDEED WE LOOK ON AS OUR CHEF-D'OEUVRE; CONTAINING A WONDERFUL STORY CONCERNING THE DEVIL, AND AS NICE A SCENE OF HONOUR AS EVER HAPPENED. My reader, I believe, even if he be a gamester, would not thank me for an exact relation of every man's success; let it suffice then that they played till the whole money vanished from the table. Whether the devil himself carried it away, as some suspected, I will not determine; but very surprising it was that every person protested he had lost, nor could any one guess who, unless THE DEVIL, had won.
But though very probable it is that this arch fiend had some share in the booty, it is likely he had not all; Mr. Bagshot being imagined to be a considerable winner, notwithstanding his assertions to the contrary; for he was seen by several to convey money often into his pocket; and what is still a little stronger presumption is, that the grave gentleman whom we have mentioned to have served his country in two honourable capacities, not being willing to trust alone to the evidence of his eyes, had frequently dived into the said Bagshot's pocket, whence (as he tells us in the apology for his life afterwards published [Footnote: Not in a book by itself, in imitation of some other such persons, but in the ordinary's account, &c., where all the apologies for the lives of rogues and whores which have been published within these twenty years should have been inserted.]), though he might extract a few pieces, he was very sensible he had left many behind. The gentleman had long indulged his curiosity in this way before Mr. Bagshot, in the heat of gaming, had perceived him; but, as Bagshot was now leaving off play, he discovered this ingenious feat of dexterity; upon which, leaping up from his chair in violent passion, he cried out, "I thought I had been among gentlemen and men of honour, but, d--n me, I find we have a pickpocket in company." The scandalous sound of this word extremely alarmed the whole board, nor did they all shew less surprise than the CONV--N (whose not sitting of late is much lamented) would express at hearing there was an atheist in the room; but it more particularly affected the gentleman at whom it was levelled, though it was not addressed to him. He likewise started from his chair, and, with a fierce countenance and accent, said, "Do you mean me? D--n your eyes, you are a rascal and a scoundrel!" Those words would have been immediately succeeded by blows had not the company interposed, and with strong arm withheld the two antagonists from each other. It was, however, a long time before they could be prevailed on to sit down; which being at last happily brought about, Mr. Wild the elder, who was a well-disposed old man, advised them to shake hands and be friends; but the gentleman who had received the first affront absolutely refused it, and swore HE WOULD HAVE THE VILLAIN'S BLOOD. Mr. Snap highly applauded the resolution, and affirmed that the affront was by no means to be put up by any who bore the name of a gentleman, and that unless his friend resented it properly he would never execute another warrant in his company; that he had always looked upon him as a man of honour, and doubted not but he would prove himself so; and that, if it was his own case, nothing should persuade him to put up such an affront without proper satisfaction. The count likewise spoke on the same side, and the parties themselves muttered several short sentences purporting their intentions. At last Mr. Wild, our hero, rising slowly from his seat, and having fixed the attention of all present, began as follows: "I have heard with infinite pleasure everything which the two gentlemen who spoke last have said with relation to honour, nor can any man possibly entertain a higher and nobler sense of that word, nor a greater esteem of its inestimable value, than myself. If we have no name to express it by in our Cant Dictionary, it were well to be wished we had. It is indeed the essential quality of a gentleman, and which no man who ever was great in the field or on the road (as others express it) can possibly be without. But alas! gentlemen, what pity is it that a word of such sovereign use and virtue should have so uncertain and various an application that scarce two people mean the same thing by it? Do not some by honour mean good-nature and humanity, which weak minds call virtues? How then! Must we deny it to the great, the brave, the noble; to the sackers of towns, the plunderers of provinces, and the conquerors of kingdoms! Were not these men of honour? and yet they scorn those pitiful qualities I have mentioned. Again, some few (or I am mistaken) include the idea of honesty in their honour. And shall we then say that no man who withholds from another what law, or justice perhaps, calls his own, or who greatly and boldly deprives him of such property, is a man of honour? Heaven forbid I should say so in this, or, indeed, in any other good company! Is honour truth? No; it is not in the lie's going from us, but in its coming to us, our honour is injured. Doth it then consist in what the vulgar call cardinal virtues? It would be an affront to your understandings to suppose it, since we see every day so many men of honour without any. In what then doth the word honour consist? Why, in itself alone. A man of honour is he that is called a man of honour; and while he is so called he so remains, and no longer. Think not anything a man commits can forfeit his honour. Look abroad into the world; the PRIG, while he flourishes, is a man of honour; when in gaol, at the bar, or the tree, he is so no longer. And why is this distinction? Not from his actions; for those are often as well known in his flourishing estate as they are afterwards; but because men, I mean those of his own party or gang, call him a man of honour in the former, and cease to call him so in the latter condition. Let us see then; how hath Mr. Bagshot injured the gentleman's honour? Why, he hath called him a pick-pocket; and that, probably, by a severe construction and a long roundabout way of reasoning, may seem a little to derogate from his honour, if considered in a very nice sense. Admitting it, therefore, for argument's sake, to be some small imputation on his honour, let Mr. Bagshot give him satisfaction; let him doubly and triply repair this oblique injury by directly asserting that he believes he is a man of honour." The gentleman answered he was content to refer it to Mr. Wild, and whatever satisfaction he thought sufficient he would accept. "Let him give me my money again first," said Bagshot, "and then I will call him a man of honour with all my heart." The gentleman then protested he had not any, which Snap seconded, declaring he had his eyes on him all the while; but Bagshot remained still unsatisfied, till Wild, rapping out a hearty oath, swore he had not taken a single farthing, adding that whoever asserted the contrary gave him the lie, and he would resent it. And now, such was the ascendancy of this great man, that Bagshot immediately acquiesced, and performed the ceremonies required: and thus, by the exquisite address of our hero, this quarrel, which had so fatal an aspect, and which between two persons so extremely jealous of their honour would most certainly have produced very dreadful consequences, was happily concluded.
Mr. Wild was indeed a little interested in this affair, as he himself had set the gentleman to work, and had received the greatest part of the booty: and as to Mr. Snap's deposition in his favour, it was the usual height to which the ardour of that worthy person's friendship too frequently hurried him. It was his constant maxim that he was a pitiful fellow who would stick at a little rapping [Footnote: Rapping is a cant word for perjury.] for his friend.