December 13, 2010

He was of that sort of men whom experience only, and not their own natures, must inform that there are such things as deceit and hypocrisy in the world, and who, consequently, are not at five-and-twenty so difficult to be imposed upon as the oldest and most subtle. He was possessed of several great weaknesses of mind, being good-natured, friendly, and generous to a great excess. He had, indeed, too little regard to common justice, for he had forgiven some debts to his acquaintance only because they could not pay him, and had entrusted a bankrupt, on his setting up a second time, from having been convinced that he had dealt in his bankruptcy with a fair and honest heart, and that he had broke through misfortune only, and from neglect or imposture. He was withal so silly a fellow that he never took the least advantage of the ignorance of his customers, and contented himself with the very moderate gains on his goods; which he was the better enabled to do, notwithstanding his generosity, because his life was extremely temperate, his expenses being solely confined to the cheerful entertainment of his friends at home, and now and then a moderate glass of wine, in which he indulged himself in the company of his wife, who, with an agreeable person, was a mean-spirited, poor, domestic, low-bred animal, who confined herself mostly to the care of her family, placed her happiness on her husband and her children, followed no expensive fashions or diversions, and indeed rarely went abroad, unless to return the visits of a few plain neighbors, and twice a-year afforded herself, in company with her husband, the diversion of a play, where she never sat in a higher place than the pit.

To this silly woman did this silly fellow introduce the Great Wild, informing her at the same time of their school acquaintance and the many obligations he had received from him. This simple woman no sooner heard her husband had been obliged to her guest  than her eyes sparkled on him with a benevolence which is an emanation from the heart, and of which great and noble minds, whose hearts never swell but with an injury, can have no very adequate idea; it is therefore no wonder that our hero should misconstrue, as he did, the poor, innocent, and simple affection of Mrs. Heartfree towards her husband’s friend, for that great and generous passion, which fires the eyes of a modern heroine, when the colonel is so kind as to indulge his city creditor with partaking of his table today, and of his bed tomorrow. Wild, therefore, instantly returned the compliment as he understood it (…)


Mrs. Heatfree was no sooner informed of what had happened to her husband than she raved like one distracted but after she had vented the first agonies of her passion in tears and lamentations she applied herself to all possible means to procure her husband’s liberty. She hastened to beg her neighbors to secure bail for him. But, as the news had arrived at their houses before her, she found none of them at home, except an honest Quaker, whose servants durst not tell a lie. However, she succeeded no better with him, for unluckily he had made an affirmation the day before that he would never bail for any man. After many fruitless efforts of this kind she repaired to her husband, wo comfort him at least with her presence. She found him sealing the last of several letters, which he was dispatching to his friends and creditors. The moment he saw her a sudden joy sparked in his eyes, which, however, had a very short duration; for despair soon closed them again; nor could he help bursting into some passionate expression of concern for her and his little family, which she, on her part, did her utmost to lessen, by endeavouring to mitigate the loss, and to raise in him the hopes from the count, who might, she said, be possibly gone into the country. She comforted him likewise with the expectation of favor from his acquaintance, especially from those whom she had in a particular manner obliged and served. Lastly, she conjured in him, by all the value and esteem he professed for her, not to endanger his health, on which alone depended her happiness, by too great an indulgence of grief; assuring him that no state of life could appear unhappy to her with him, unless his own sorrow of discontent made it so.

In this manner did this weak poor-spirited woman attempt to relieve her husband’s pains, which it would have rather become her to aggravate, by not only painting out his misery in the liveliest colors imaginable, but by upbraiding him with that folly and confidence which had occasioned it, and by lamenting her own hard fate in being obliged to share his suffering.

Heartfree returned his goodness (as it is called) of his wife with the warmest gratitude, and they passed an hour in a scene of tenderness too low and contemptible to be recounted to our great readers. We shall therefore omit all such relations, as they tend only to make human nature low and ridiculous.


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