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Part 3 Chapter 5

More and More Greatness, Unparalleled in History or Romance.

In order to accomplish this great and noble scheme, which the vast genius of Wild had contrived, the first necessary step was to regain the confidence of Heartfree. But, however necessary this was, it seemed to be attended with such insurmountable difficulties, that even our hero for some time despaired of success. He was greatly superior to all mankind in the steadiness of his countenance, but this undertaking seemed to require more of that noble quality than had ever been the portion of a mortal. However, at last he resolved to attempt it, and from his success I think we may fairly assert that what was said by the Latin poet of labour, that it conquers all things, is much more true when applied to impudence.

When he had formed his plan he went to Newgate, and burst resolutely into the presence of Heartfree, whom he eagerly embraced and kissed; and then, first arraigning his own rashness, and afterwards lamenting his unfortunate want of success, he acquainted him with the particulars of what had happened; concealing only that single incident of his attack on the other’s wife, and his motive to the undertaking, which, he assured Heartfree, was a desire to preserve his effects from a statute of bankruptcy.

The frank openness of this declaration, with the composure of countenance with which it was delivered; his seeming only ruffled by the concern for his friend’s misfortune; the probability of truth attending it, joined to the boldness and disinterested appearance of this visit, together with his many professions of immediate service at a time when he could not have the least visible motive from self-love; and above all, his offering him money, the last and surest token of friendship, rushed with such united force on the well-disposed heart, as it is vulgarly called, of this simple man, that they instantly staggered and soon subverted all the determination he had before made in prejudice of Wild, who, perceiving the balance to be turning in his favour, presently threw in a hundred imprecations on his own folly and ill-advised forwardness to serve his friend, which had thus unhappily produced his ruin; he added as many curses on the count, whom he vowed to pursue with revenge all over Europe; lastly, he cast in some grains of comfort, assuring Heartfree that his wife was fallen into the gentlest hands, that she would be carried no farther than Dunkirk, whence she might very easily be redeemed.

Heartfree, to whom the lightest presumption of his wife’s fidelity would have been more delicious than the absolute restoration of all his jewels, and who, indeed, had with the utmost difficulty been brought to entertain the slightest suspicion of her inconstancy, immediately abandoned all distrust of both her and his friend, whose sincerity (luckily for Wild’s purpose) seemed to him to depend on the same evidence. He then embraced our hero, who had in his countenance all the symptoms of the deepest concern, and begged him to be comforted; saying that the intentions, rather than the actions of men, conferred obligations; that as to the event of human affairs, it was governed either by chance or some superior agent; that friendship was concerned only in the direction of our designs; and suppose these failed of success, or produced an event never so contrary to their aim, the merit of a good intention was not in the least lessened, but was rather entitled to compassion.

Heartfree however was soon curious enough to inquire how Wild had escaped the captivity which his wife then suffered. Here likewise he recounted the whole truth, omitting only the motive to the French captain’s cruelty, for which he assigned a very different reason, namely, his attempt to secure Heartfree’s jewels. Wild indeed always kept as much truth as was possible in everything; and this he said was turning the cannon of the enemy upon themselves.

Wild, having thus with admirable and truly laudable conduct achieved the first step, began to discourse on the badness of the world, and particularly to blame the severity of creditors, who seldom or never attended to any unfortunate circumstances, but without mercy inflicted confinement on the debtor, whose body the law, with very unjustifiable rigour, delivered into their power. He added, that for his part, he looked on this restraint to be as heavy a punishment as any appointed by law for the greatest offenders. That the loss of liberty was, in his opinion, equal to, if not worse, than the loss of life; that he had always determined, if by any accident ............

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