Слике страница
PDF
ePub

Alcander's exultation in his own happiness, or being unable to enjoy any satisfaction without mak. ing his friend Septimius a partner, prevailed upon him to introduce Hypatia to his fellow student; which he did, with all the gaiety of a man who found himself equally happy in friendship and love. But this was an interview fatal to the future peace of both; for Septimius no sooner saw her but he was smitten with an involuntary passion; and, though he used every effort to suppress desires at once so imprudent and unjust, the emotions of his mind in a short time became so strong, that they brought on a fever, wbich the physicians judged incurable.

During this illness Alcander watched him with all the anxiety of fondness, and brought his mistress to join in those amiable offices of friendship. The sagacity of the physicians, by these means, soon discovered that the cause of their patient's disorder was love; and Alcander, being apprised of their discovery, at length extorted a confession from the reluctant dying lover.

It would but delay the narrative to describe the conflict between love and friendship in the breast of Alcander on this occasion; it is enough to say, that the Athenians were at that time arrived at such refinement in inorals, that every virtue was carried to excess: in short, forgetful of his own felicity, he gave up his intended bride, in all her charms, to the young Roman. They were married privately by his connivance, and this onlooked-for change of fortune wrought as unexpected a change in the constitution of the now happy Septimius. In a few days he was perfectly recovered, and set out with his fair partner for Rome. Here, by an exertion of those talents which he was so eminently possessed of, Septimius, in a few years, arrived at the highest dignities of the state, and was constituted the city judge or prætor.

In the mean time Alcander not only felt the pain of being separated from his friend and his mistress, but a prosecution was commenced against him by the relations of Hypatia, for having basely given up bis bride, as was suggested, for money. His innocence of the crime laid to his charge, and even bis eloqnence in his own defence, were not able to withstand the powerful influence of a party. He was cast, and condemned to pay an enormous fine. However, being unable to raise so large a sum at the time appointed, his possessions were confiscated, he himself was stripped of the habit of freedom, exposed as a slave in the market-place, and sold to the highest bidder.

A merchant of Thrace becoming his purchaser, Alcander, with some other companions of distress, was carried into that region of desolation and sterility. His stated employment was to follow the herds of an imperious master, and his success in hunting was all that was allowed him to supply his precarious subsistence. Every morning awaked him 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 ; 80 that travelling hy night, and longing in caverns by lay, 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, watcb. ing the eyes of the judge, and expecting to be taken notice of; but he was so much altered by a long succession 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 night 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 harbonr 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 tonibs 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 flinty couch more ease than beds of down can supply to the guilty.

As he continued here, about midnight two rob, hers came to make this their retreat, but happening to disagree about the division of their plun. der, ope 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 farther inquiry, an alarm was spread; the cave was examined; and Alcander was apprehended, and accused of robbery and niurder. The circumstances against him were strong, and the wretchedness of his appearance contirmed suspicion. Alissortune and he were now so long acquainted, that he at last became regardless of life. He detested a world where he had found only ingratitude, falsehood, and cruelty ; be

was determined to make no defence; and, thus louring 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 proceeding to doom him to a most cruel and ignominious death, when the attention of the multitude was soon diverted by another object. The robber, who bad been really guilty, was apprehended sel. ling bis plander, and, struck with panic, had con. fessed his crime. He was brought bound to the same tribunal, and acquitted every other person of any partnership in his guilt. Alcander's innocepce therefore appeared: but the sullen rashness of his conduct remained a wonder to the surrounding multitude; but their astonishment was still far. ther increased when they saw their judge start from his tribunal to embrace the supposed criminal. Septimius recollected his friend and former benefactor, and hung upon his neck with tears of pity and joy. Need the sequel be related ?--Alcander 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.

WHEN I reflect on the anambitious retirement

in which I passed the earlier part of my life in the conntry, I cannot avoid feeling some paiu in thinking that those bappy days are never to return. In that retreat all nature seemed capable of afford. ing pleasure. I then made no refinements on happiness, but could be pleased with the most awk. ward efforts of rustic mirth, thonght cross 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 contri. bute to sour our dispositions. My present enjoy. ments 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 into tears with Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night, or the Cruelty of Barbara Allen.

Writers of every age have endeavoured to show that pleasure is in us, and not in the objects offered for our amusement. If the soul be happily dis. posed, 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 ill 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 fortification in Flanders, who appeared no way touched with his situation. He was mained, 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 sup

« ПретходнаНастави »