Obrázky stránek

“ And so you have a lie for your money, at all events, Charles," I said, as we both resumed our seats on the grass. “ It is a great pity, indeed, as the old woman said, that we should not be more alive to our own interests, and not allow ourselves to be duped by the artful and designing.”

“Nay," said Charles, imploringly, “don't be too hard upon me, philosopher. You cannot suppose for a moment that I thought the hag could tell me what really was to happen to me in life. I hope you will give me more credit for sense than to think thus lightly of my good sense.”

“I really do not think," I replied, “that you would have put any faith in her tale, even if she had by a fortunate thought placed you on the woolsack. What I complain of is, that you should think so lightly of a lie, as to give a premium for its utterance. Believe me, this is no light matter, Charles."

Charles was evidently half ashamed of himself, but he still persisted that it was a good piece of fun, and an incident that would afford him no small merriment through life. “ It adds," he remarked archly, “to the stock of stories I have to relate of my much-loved philosopher. But,” he continued, with an evident desire to smooth my wrinkled brow, “a lucky thought has just struck me, and which may, perhaps, afford you food for contemplation when you are in want of a subject to reflect upon. You know it is related in the legend of Lucius Tarquinius, one of the early kings of Rome,

that there came a strange woman to him, and offered him nine books of the sibyl for a certain price. The king refused these books, and the woman went and burnt three of them, and came back and offered the six at the same price which she had asked for the nine. Tarquinius still refused to take the books, and she went away, and burnt three more, and then came back and asked still the same price for the remaining three. The king was now astonished, and he asked the augurs what he should do.

They said that he had done wrong in refusing the gift of the gods, and bade him by all means to buy the books that were left. The king, therefore, bought them, and the woman who sold them was seen no more from that day forwards. As for the books, they were put into a chest of stone, and were kept under ground in the capitol, and they were considered of so much value that two men were appointed to keep them, who were called The two men of the Sacred books.' Now, all this you doubtless knew before ; but I would throw out for your consideration whether the old sibyl who importuned Lucius Tarquinius and would not go away entirely from him till she had got his money, was of the same race as the old sibyl who would not leave us till I had displayed my folly by giving her a piece of silver.”

“Really, Charles," I replied, laughing heartily at his apparent earnestness in this matter, “I do not think this thought of yours worth prosecuting."

“But I do, then,” rejoined Charles, quickly,

“ and if you won't consider the matter, I will. For your instruction I will notice all the points of resemblance in the characters of these two old sibyls. First of all, they were both strange women ; they came from a place no one knew where, and they went also to a place equally unknown. Secondly, both were importunate : neither of them would leave their victims till their hands were crossed with silver. It is true my old sibyl did not offer me a book of prophecies, but then she offered me a verbal prediction, which, if written down, would amount to the same thing, so that this also may be voted as a third point of resemblance.

But here, added Charles, after a pause, “I fear I must stop, philosopher, and I must confess I am puzzled : it is still for you to decide whether they belonged to the same race or not.”

“I have no wish, Charles,” I replied, “ to join you in erecting castles in the air. I could soon demolish your fabric if I chose, but I perceive I have now no time. We will drop the subject of the sibyls if you please, and attend to the trout at the end of my line.”

“Ay, that we will, my philosopher,” rejoined Charles, as he sprang upon his feet with the landing-net in his hand; "ay, that we will: bring him near the shore, and I will land him safely on the green grass. Won't he look beautiful in the sun this fine day! There, softly, philosopher; I have him in my net, and there it now lies on dry land. Izaak Walton could not have landed a fish better : prince of anglers as he was. What a beautiful creature it is, philosopher; it's worth throwing a line in for, and worth waiting for some five or six hours. But what a silly creature it was to be caught by the bait on

your hook !"


I have seen a sillier creature, Charles,” I replied, “ within the last half hour."

“ Have you?” inquired Charles : “where did you see it, philosopher?”

“On the very spot on which we are now standing,” I answered, “and its name was Charles Murphy. He was tricked by an old woman with his eyes open, but this poor fish little thought there was a hook within my bait, or I might have waited long enough before I had caught it. It is singular, but it is no less singular than true, that creatures of instinct oftentimes prove themselves wiser than the godlike creature man, whom God has endued with reason."

“ Don't be too hard upon me, philosopher,” replied Charles ; “ but if you are, I have not time to attend to you: I must contemplate this beautiful fish. To catch such a fish as this is sufficient to make one love the art of angling. Had old Izaak Walton been with us, I am sure he would have praised your skill in bringing it to the margin of the river. In fact, when I look at you fishing, I often think of you as a second edition of old Izaak. If I may judge from his writings I should say, that he had just such a long face as yours; and certain I am that he had just such a contemplative mind.

“ He could fish, and study too;

And so, philosopher, can you. There's a spontaneous couplet for you, philosopher."

“And yet do you know, Charles, that I am thinking of giving up angling ?" I inquired.

Giving up angling ?" reiterated Charles. “Yes,” I replied, “giving up angling, Charles : the only amusement of my youth in which I have indulged to any extent."

“Giving up angling ?” again repeated Charles. “ You, who have expressed yourself so much in love with the art, think of giving up angling ?”

“I own, Charles,” I rejoined, " that I have expressed myself favourable to the art of angling, and that I do in reality love it; but I fear it is not altogether an innocent amusement, and therefore I contemplate giving it up.”

“Not altogether an innocent amusement,” rejoined Charles; “ what can you mean, philosopher?"

“I mean, Charles," I replied, “ that it is not altogether free from the charge of cruelty. Do you see this worm that I have just put on my hook ?” “I do,” said Charles, “ but what of that ?”

Why, Charles," I rejoined, “ if you can prove to me that this worm has no feeling, then I will still continue to angle; but if you cannot, then I own that I am open to the charge of cruelty.”

“But have you never thought of this before ?" asked Charles; “and if so, why have

you never before touched upon the subject? Why did you conceal your thoughts till you saw this beautiful fish before you? It is so beautiful, philosopher, that I should think it ought to stifle all your compunctions."

“On the contrary, Charles," I resumed, “it

[ocr errors]
« PředchozíPokračovat »