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   Chapter 3 SIX

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great By Henry Fielding Characters: 5775

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


FURTHER CONFERENCES BETWEEN THE COUNT AND MASTER WILD, WITH OTHER MATTERS OF THE GREAT KIND.

The count missed his money the next morning, and very well knew who had it; but, as he knew likewise how fruitless would be any complaint, he chose to pass it by without mentioning it. Indeed it may appear strange to some readers that these gentlemen, who knew each other to be thieves, should never once give the least hint of this knowledge in all their discourse together, but, on the contrary, should have the words honesty, honour, and friendship as often in their mouths as any other men. This, I say, may appear strange to some; but those who have lived long in cities, courts, gaols, or such places, will perhaps be able to solve the seeming absurdity.

When our two friends met the next morning the count (who, though he did not agree with the whole of his friend's doctrine, was, however, highly pleased with his argument) began to bewail the misfortune of his captivity, and the backwardness of friends to assist each other in their necessities; but what vexed him, he said, most, was the cruelty of the fair: for he intrusted Wild with the secret of his having had an intrigue with Miss Theodosia, the elder of the Miss Snaps, ever since his confinement, though he could not prevail with her to set him at liberty. Wild answered, with a smile, "It was no wonder a woman should wish to confine her lover where she might be sure of having him entirely to herself;" but added, he believed he could tell him a method of certainly procuring his escape. The count eagerly besought him to acquaint him with it. Wild told him bribery was the surest means, and advised him to apply to the maid. The count thanked him, but returned, "That he had not a farthing left besides one guinea, which he had then given her to change." To which Wild said, "He must make it up with promises, which he supposed he was courtier enough to know how to put off." The count greatly applauded the advice, and said he hoped he should be able in time to persuade him to condescend to be a great man, for which he was so perfectly well qualified.

This method being concluded on, the two friends sat down to cards, a circumstance which I should not have mentioned but for the sake of observing the prodigious force of habit; for though the count knew if he won ever so much of Mr. Wild he should not receive a shilling, yet could he not refrain from packing the cards; nor could Wild keep his hands out of his friend's pockets, though he knew there was nothing in them.

When the maid came home the count began to put it to her; offered her all he had, and promised mountains in futuro; but all in vain- the maid's honesty was impregnable. She said, "She would not break her trust for the whole world; no, not if she could gain a hundred pound by it." Upon which Wild stepping up and telling her "She need

not fear losing her place, for it would never be found out; that they could throw a pair of sheets into the street, by which it might appear he got out at a window; that he himself would swear he saw him descending; that the money would be so much gains in her pocket; that, besides his promises, which she might depend on being performed, she would receive from him twenty shillings and ninepence in ready money (for she had only laid out threepence in plain Spanish); and lastly, that, besides his honour, the count should leave a pair of gold buttons (which afterwards turned out to be brass) of great value, in her hands, as a further pawn."

The maid still remained inflexible, till Wild offered to lend his friend a guinea more, and to deposit it immediately in her hands. This reinforcement bore down the poor girl's resolution, and she faithfully promised to open the door to the count that evening.

Thus did our young hero not only lend his rhetoric, which few people care to do without a fee, but his money too (a sum which many a good man would have made fifty excuses before he would have parted with), to his friend, and procured him his liberty.

But it would be highly derogatory from the GREAT character of Wild, should the reader imagine he lent such a sum to a friend without the least view of serving himself. As, therefore, the reader may easily account for it in a manner more advantageous to our hero's reputation, by concluding that he had some interested view in the count's enlargement, we hope he will judge with charity, especially as the sequel makes it not only reasonable but necessary to suppose he had some such view.

A long intimacy and friendship subsisted between the count and Mr. Wild, who, being by the advice of the count dressed in good cloaths, was by him introduced into the best company. They constantly frequented the assemblies, auctions, gaming-tables, and play-houses; at which last they saw two acts every night, and then retired without paying-this being, it seems, an immemorial privilege which the beaus of the town prescribe for themselves. This, however, did not suit Wild's temper, who called it a cheat, and objected against it as requiring no dexterity, but what every blockhead might put in execution. He said it was a custom very much savouring of the sneaking-budge, [Footnote: Shoplifting] but neither so honourable nor so ingenious.

Wild now made a considerable figure, and passed for a gentleman of great fortune in the funds. Women of quality treated him with great familiarity, young ladies began to spread their charms for him, when an accident happened that put a stop to his continuance in a way of life too insipid and inactive to afford employment for those great talents which were designed to make a much more considerable figure in the world than attends the character of a beau or a pretty gentleman.

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