« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to a renewal of famine or toil, and every change of season served but to aggravate his unsheltered distress. After some years of bondage, however, an opportunity of escaping offered; he embraced it with ardour ; so that travelling by night, and lodging in caverns by day, to shorten a long story, he at last arrived in Rome. The same day on which Alcander arrived, Septimius sat administering justice in the forum, whither our wanderer came, expecting to be instantly known, and publicly acknowledged, by his former friend. Here he stood the whole day amongst the crowd, watching the eyes of the judge, and expecting to be taken notice of; but he was so much altered by a long succes. sion of hardships, that he continued unnoticed amongst the rest; and, in the evening, when he was going up to the prætor's chair, he was brutally repulsed by the attending lictors. The attention of the poor is generally driven from one ungrateful object to another ; for pight coming on, he now found himself under a necessity of seeking a place to lie in, and yet knew not where to apply. All emaciated, and in rags, as he was, none of the citizens would harbour so much wretchedness; and sleeping in the streets might be attended with interruption or danger; in short, he was obliged to take up his lodging in one of the tombs without the city, the usual retreat of guilt, poverty, and despair. In this mansion of horror, laying his head upon an inverted urn, he forgot his miseries for a while in sleep, and found on his finty couch more ease than beds of down can supply to the guilty.
As he continued here, about midnight two robbers came to make this their retreat; but happening to disagree ahout the division of their plunder, one of them stabbed the other to the heart, and left him weltering in blood at the entrance. In these circumstances he was found next morning dead at the mouth of the vault. This naturally inducing a far. ther inquiry, an alarm was spread; the cave was
examined ; and Alcander being found,' was imme: diately apprehended, and accused of robbery and murder. The circumstances against him were strong, and the wretchedness of his appearance confirmed suspicion. Misfortune and he were now so long acquainted, that he at last became regard. less of life. He detested a world where he had found only ingratitude, falsehood, and cruelty ; he was determined to make no defence; and, thus Jouring with resolution, he was dragged, bound with cords, before the tribunal of Septimius. As the proofs were positive against him, and he offered no. thing in his own vindication, the judge was pro. ceeding to doom him to a most cruel and ignomini. ous death, when the attention of the multitude was soon diverted by another object. The robber, who had been really guilty, was apprehended selling his plunder, and, struck with a panic, had confessed his crime. He was brought bound to the same tribunal and acquitted every other person of any partnership in his guilt. Alcander's innocence therefore appeared; but the sullen rashness of his conduct re. mained a wonder to the surrounding multitude; but their astonishment was still farther increased when they saw their judge start from his tribunal to embrace the supposed criminal. Septimius recol. lected his friend and former benefactor, and hung upon his neck with tears of pity and joy. Need the sequel be related ?-Aleander was acquitted, shared the friendship and honours of the principal citizens of Rome, lived afterwards in happiness and ease, and left it to be engraved on his tomb, that no circumstances are so desperate which Providence may not relieve.
ON HAPPINESS OF TEMPER.
W HEN I reflect on the unambitious retirement
in which I passed the early part of my life in the country, I cannot avoid feeling some pain in thinking that those happy days are never to return. In that retreat all nature seemed capable of affording pleasure ; I then made no refinements on happiness, but could be pleased with the most awkward efforts of rustic mirth, thought eross purposes the highest stretch of human wit, and questions and commands the most rational way of spending the evening. Happy could so charming an illusion continue ! I find that age and knowledge only contribute to sour our dispositions. My present en. joyments may be more refined, but they are infinitely less pleasing. The pleasure the best actor gives, can no way compare to that I have received from a country wag who imitated a quaker's sermon. The music of the finest singer is dissonance to what I felt when our old dairy.maid sung me in. to tears with Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night, or the Cruelty of Barbara Allen.'
Writers of every age have endeavoured to show that pleasu e is in us, and not in the objects offered for our amusement If the soul be happily disposed, every thing becomes capable of affording en. tertainment, and distress will almost want a name. Every occurrence passes in review like the figures of a procession : some may be awkward, others ifl dressed ; but none but a fool is for this enraged with the master of the ceremonies.
I remember to have once seen a slave in a fortifi. cation in Flanders, who appeared no way touched with his situation. He was maimed, deformed, and chained ; obliged to toil from the appearance of day till night-fall, and condemned to this for life ; yet,
with all these circumstances of apparent wretchedness, he sung, would have danced but that he wanted a leg, and appeared the merriest, happiest man of all the garrison, What a practical philosopher was here ! a happy constitution supplied philosophy, and, though seemingly destitute of wisdom, he was really wise. No reading or study had contributed to disenchant the fairy-land around him. Every thing furnished him with an opportunity of mirth; and, though some thought him, from his insensibility, a fool, he was such an idiot as philoso. phers should wish to imitate ; for all philosophy is only forcing the trade of happiness, when nature seems to deny the means.
They who, like our slave, can place themselves on that side of the world in which every thing appears in a pleasing light, will find something in every occurrence to excite their good humour. The most calamitous events, either to themselves or others. can bring no new affliction; the whole world is to them a theatre, on which comedies only are acted. All the bustle of heroism, or the rants of ambition. serve only to heighten the absurdity of the scene, and make the humour more poignant. They feel, in short, as little anguish at their own distress, or the complaints of others, as the undertaker, though dressed in black, feels sorrow at a funeral.
Of all the men I ever read of, the famous cardinal de Retz possessed this happiness of temper in the highest degree. As he was a man of gallautry, and despised all that wore the pedantic appearance of philosophy, wherever pleasure was to be sold, he was generally foremost to raise the auction. Being a universal admirer of the fair sex, when he found one lady cruel he generally fell in love with another. from whom he expected a more favourable reception. If she too rejected his addresses, he neverthcught of retiring into deserts, or pining in hope. Jess distress : he persuaded himself, that instead of loving the lady, he only fancied that he had loved
her, and so all was well again. When Fortune wore her angriest look, and he at last fell into the power of his most deadly enemy, cardinal Mazarine (being confined a close prisoner in the castle of Valenciennes), he never attempted to support his distress by wisdom or philosophy, for he pretended to neither. He only laughed at himself and his persecutor, and seemed infinitely pleased at his new situation. In this mansion of distress, though secluded from his friends, though denied all the amusements, and even the conveniences of life, he still retained his good humour, laughed at all the little spite of his enemies, and carried the jest so far as to be revenged by writing the life of his gaoler.
All that the wisdom of the proud can teach is, to be stubborn or sullen under misfortunes. The car. dinal's example will instruct us to be merry in cir. cumstances of the highest amiction. It matters not whether our good humour be construed by others into insensibility, or even idiotism ; it is happiness to ourselves, and none but a fool would measure his satisfaction by what the world thinks of it: for my own part, I never pass by one of our prisons for debt, that I do not envy that felicity which is still going forward among those people, who forget the cares of the world by being shut out from its silly ambition.
The happiest silly fellow I ever knew, was of the number of those good-natured creatures that are said to do no harm to any but themselves. Whenever he fell into misery, he usually called it seeing life, If his head was broke by a chairman, or his pocket picked by a sharper, he comforted himself by imi. tating the Hibernian dialect of the one, or the more fashionable cant of the other. Nothing came amiss to him. His inattention to money-matters had in. censed his father to such a degree, that all the intercession of friends in his favour was fruitless, The old gentleman was on his death-bed. The whole