« PreviousContinue »
When the next brother made application : "I wonder,” said he, “ how this renowned Asheri should ever be found without obtaing court-favor, and permission to proceed in the search.” “At Ispahan, Şir, you may procure both. Here are letters for the young Sophy of Persia, scarce thirteen years old, and her mother the Sultana Valadi.” A respectful bow constituted this youth's adieu, and he put himself immediately on progress.
The third, who till now had been employed in laughing at and mimicking his companions, remained a moment with the Genius of the wood ; and “Well, Sir,” said he, “ which way shall I take towards finding this fabulous being, this faultless wonder, this nonexistent chimera, Asheri ?” “O, you are a wit: make your début at Delhi ; 't is the only mart for talents.” Aboul, willing to try his fortune, soon set out; and after fifteen years — for so long my tale lasts — he was observed by two mendicants of ragged and wretched appearance ; who, fainting with hunger, and exhausted by disease, addressed him as he sat upon a stone by the wayside leading to Kouristan, 400 miles from Delhi. “I have no money, my honest friends,” said he; “ but you shall share my dinner of brown bread and goat's milk. You have scarcely strength, I see, to reach the cottage: I will run home and fetch two wooden bowls full.” He did so, and they were refreshed, and recognized each other. It was now who should tell his hapless history; but Aboul was ablest and gave the following account:
“ You left me,” said he, “ with that rascally conjuror, Imagination by name, whose delight it is to dress up a phantom for poor afflicted mortals to follow, and he calls it Asheri. My destiny led me to seek in Delhi the bright reward of superior talents; but it was never my intention to claim applause till I had deserved it; so my lamp went not out at night till I had composed a book of tales for publication, — short ones, but well-varied, for novels were the mode at Delhi. In a week's time the book was in every hand that could hold one. The reviews criticised, but the ladies bought it, and the criticisms did me more good than harm. An ill-spent note called me to the toilette of a great lady; invitations then crowded round me, suppers without end, and dinners undesired. At first this was not unpleasant, and I began to
think Asheri not far distant. I wrote elaborate poems in praise of my protectress, entered into none of her intrigues; but against all the people she hated there were store of lampoons and choice of epigrams ready, composed by the fashionable author, your hapless brother Aboul. Favored by one society, therefore, persecuted by another; adored by one set of ignorant females, tormented by another set; stared at by a neutral class as if I had been a monster; everything I said repeated, and wrong repeated; everything I did related, and wrong related; I gained information that my patroness was on the eve of losing her friend the vizier's confidence, which a younger beauty (a woman she despised) was stealing away. My business was to satirize the vizier, who could not read; but soon understanding from others that it was done with acrimony of which Aboul only was capable, my Fatima was threatened; and to save herself, promised to give me up; but, in the clothes I exchanged instantly for those of a grateful slave, my escape was perfected, and you will not suspect me of seeking this invisible Asheri in the mean character of a village pedagogue, — for such you find me, after fifteen years' separation, — though, really, explaining to babies the rudiments of literature is at least a far less offensive employment than that of trying to instruct self-sufficient fools who take up their teachers out of vanity and discard them out of pride. I have been long enough a wit and an author. Now tell me your adventures.”
“Mine,” said the passionate admirer of beauty, "are soon told. I dashed at Cairo into the full tide of what the world calls pleasure, till dissipation was no more a name. Five of the fifteen years were spent in ruining myself and others. The ten remaining proved too few for my repentance, too many
my endurance. My frame exhausted, my very mind enfeebled, life is to me only a lengthening calamity. What was your course, Mesrou ?”
“My course was wretched,” replied Mesrou ; “but my aim was well taken, and the goal I aimed at grand. Resolving to subdue all meaner passions, and dedicate myself to ambitious pursuits, I entered Ispahan with hope swelling in my heart, and presented my credentials to Sultana Valadi. She was old and ugly, amorous and vindictive. No matter; she guided the helm of state for her young son, whose honor she conceived would still
be best secured by keeping his subjects continually at war. I was a coadjutor completely to her taste in public and private, having small care for the nation, and few scruples of delicacy. We spared no expenses for the support of the army, but our generals were sometimes beaten and disgraced us ; sometimes victorious, and then they came home to insult us. My sultana's temper, crooked as her person, grew wholly insupportable ; every misfortune was set down to my account as minister, and money became hard to find. Taxes offended the people, and the soldiers refused to enforce them. The lady was affrighted at the spirit she had raised ; and, when I observed her one evening as if mixing some powders in the Cherbette we were to drink after supper, I was affrighted too ; and, grasping her so roughly that resistance was vain, I held the prepared potion to her own lips. Fortunately for my innocence, the Valadi, in her ungovernable fury at such treatment, broke a blood-vessel, and I left her to expire unpitied on the sofa, while the bustle gave me time to drop my turban ; and, snatching the lay frock from off a dervise in the crowd, covered myself up, and escaped from being the prime minister at Ispahan. Let us now try to find our fourth brother, Ittai, and return, though ragged, to our father's house."
The first man they met showed the leading path, and pointed out the way. Arrived, they saw the fields so much improved it was scarce possible to recognize the place. The man.of talents, however, climbing a ladder which was reared against the wall for some reason, looked in, and perceived Ittai dancing at the celebration of his son's birthday. “O brother!” he exclaimed, “ here we are; we have never found Asheri.” “That is a truth, indeed,” replied a little figure from behind the screen, “for I have never moved for fifteen years from this very spot.” “ Is that the beautiful creature we were taught to expect ? ” cried out the man of pleasure. Ittai set wide his door, and a burst of brilliancy illuminated the dwelling. Virtue, Love, and Friendship — three forms under one radiant head — dazzled their sight; and, “ Keep your distance,” said the well-tuned voice ; “ Asheri abhors men who deny the existence of what all must wish, but none will ever find in pleasure, fame, or power. Asheri dwells in heaven, visiting in disguise even the favored mortals, who, like Ittai, send up their pious aspirations there, and live contented with their lot below.” The brothers waked as from a dream, resolving to forget all their projects of felicity in this life ; which they closed in company with Ittai ; and each half hoped he saw a gleam of Asheri, as this world gradually receded from their view, and soft futurity advanced to meet them.
Streatham Park, April 3, 1816. — Mrs. Piozzi gave me this (the foregoing) paper in the library. After telling several amusing anecdotes, she mentioned one of Sir R. Jebb. One day somebody had given him a bottle of castor oil, very pure ; it had but lately been brought into use. Before he left his home, he gave it in charge to his man, telling him to be careful of it. After the lapse of a considerable time, Sir Richard asked his servant for the oil. “O, it's all used !” replied he. “Used !” said Sir Richard ; “ how and when, Sir?” “I put it in the castor when wanted, and gave it to the company.” The way of telling this story by Mrs. Piozzi added to the humor, and renders all description useless. — Sir James Fellowes.
HER CHARACTER OF THRALE.
As this is Thraliana, I will now write Mr. Thrale's character in it. It is not because I am in good or ill-humor with him or he with me, for we are not capricious people, but have, I believe, the same opinion of each other at all places and times.
Mr. Thrale's person is manly, his countenance agreeable, his eyes steady and of the deepest blue; his look neither soft nor severe, neither sprightly nor gloomy, but thoughtful and intelligent; his address is neither caressive nor repulsive, but unaffectedly civil and decorous; and his manner more completely free from every kind of trick or particularity than I ever saw any person's. He is a man wholly, as I think, out of the power of mimickry. He loves money, and is diligent to obtain it ; but he loves liberality too, and is willing enough both to give generously and to spend fashionably. His passions either are not strong, or else he keeps them under such command that they seldom disturb his tranquillity or his friends; and it must, I think, be something more than common which can affect him strongly, either with hope, fear, anger, love, or joy. His regard for his father's memory is remarkably great, and he has been a most exemplary brother ; though, when the house of his favorite sister was on fire, and we were all alarmed with the account of it in the night, I well remember that he never rose, but bidding the servant who called us to go to her assistance, quietly turned about and slept to his usual hour. I must give another trait of his tranquillity on a different occasion. He had built great casks holding 1,000 hogsheads each, and was much pleased with their profit and appearance. One day, however, he came down to Streatham as usual to dinner, and after hearing and talking of a hundred trifles, “ But I forgot,” says he,“ to tell you how one of my great casks is burst, and all the beer run out.”
Mr. Thrale's sobriety, and the decency of his conversation,