You remember the anguish of the venerable Freind when he learned that John was in the prison of the inquisition at Barcelona. Imagine his rage when he learned of the debauchery and dissipation of the unfortunate lad, his way of paying debts, and his danger of getting hanged! Yet Freind restrained himself. This excellent man's self-command is really astonishing. His reason regulates his heart, as a good master rules his servants. He does every thing reasonably, and judges wisely with as much celerity as hasty people act rashly.
"This is no time to lecture John," said he. "We must snatch him from the precipice."
You must know that the day previously, our friend had come into a handsome sum, left him by George Hubert, his uncle. He went himself in search of our great surgeon, Cheselden. We found him at home, and then proceeded together to the wounded creditor. The wound was inspected. It was not dangerous. Freind gave the sufferer a hundred guineas as a first step, and fifty others by way of reparation, and then asked forgiveness for his son. Indeed, he expressed his regret so touchingly, that the poor man embraced him, and, weeping, wished to return the money.
This sight moved and surprised young Mr. Cheselden, whose reputation is becoming very great, and whose heart is as kind as his hand is skillful.
I was carried beyond myself; never had I admired and loved our friend so much.
On returning home, I asked him if he did not intend to send for his son, and to admonish him.
"No," said he. "Let him feel his faults before I speak of them. Let us sup together to-night. We will see what in honesty I ought to do. Examples correct better than reprimands."
While waiting for supper, I called on John. I found him in the state which all men experience after their first crime,—that is, pale, with sunken eyes and hoarse voice,—absent, and answering at random when spoken to.
I told him what his father had just done.
He looked at me steadily, then turned away to dash a tear from his eye. I argued well from this, and began to hope that John would yet prove a worthy man. I felt ready to clasp him in my arms, when Madame Clive-Hart came in, accompanied by a wild fellow, called Birton.
"Well," said the lady, laughing, "have you really killed a man to-day? Some tiresome fellow. 'Tis well to rid the world of such people. When you are next in the killing mood, pray think of my husband. He plagues me to death."
I surveyed this woman from head to foot. She was handsome, but there was something sinister in her countenance. John dared not reply, and, confused by my presence, looked downward.
"What's the matter?" said Birton. "You look as if you had done something wrong. I come to give you absolution. Here is a little book I have just bought at Lintot's. It proves as clearly as two and two make four, that there is neither God, nor vice, nor virtue,—a very consoling fact! So, let us drink together."
On hearing this singular discourse, I withdrew quickly, and represented to Mr. Freind how much his son required his advice.
"I see it as clearly as you do," said this kind father; "but let us begin by paying his debts."
They were all discharged the next day. John came and threw himself at his father's feet. Will you believe it? The father made no reproaches. He left him to conscience; only observing, "Remember, my son, there is no happiness apart from virtue."
Mr. Freind then saw that the bachelor married Boca Vermeja, who really loved him, notwithstanding her tears for John. Women know how to confuse such feelings wonderfully. One would almost say that their hearts are a bundle of contradictions, perhaps because they were originally formed from one of our ribs.
Our generous Freind gave her also a dowry, and took care to secure places for his converts. It is not enough to take care of people's souls, if we neglect to provide for their present wants.
After performing these good actions, with his astonishing sang froid, he concluded he had nothing more to do to restore his son to virtue, than to marry him to a young person of beauty, virtue, talents, and some wealth. This, indeed, was the only way to wean him from the detestable Clive-Hart, and others, whom he frequented.
I had heard speak of a Miss Primerose, a young heiress, brought up by her relative, Lady Hervey. The Earl of Peterborough introduced me to Lady Hervey. I saw Miss Primerose, and considered her a proper person to fulfill the wishes of my friend. John, in the midst of his dissipation, had great reverence and even affection for his father. He was chiefly affected that his father had never blamed him for his follies. Debts paid without informing him; wise counsels seasonably given, and without reprimand; proofs of friendship given from time to time, yet free from the familiarity which might depreciate them. All this went to John's heart, for he was both intelligent and sensitive.
Lord Peterborough introduced the father and son to Lady Hervey. I perceived that the extreme beauty of John soon made a favorable impression on Miss Primerose; for I saw her look stealthily at him and blush. John seemed only polite; and Primerose admitted to Lady Hervey that she wished his politeness might become love.
The young man soon discovered the worth of this charming girl, though he was the complete slave of Clive-Hart. He was like the Indian invited to gather celestial fruit, but restrained by the claws of a dragon.
But here the recollection of what I witnessed overwhelms me. Tears moisten my paper. When I recover, I will resume my tale.