« ForrigeFortsett »
and prepared to enter the army, at an carly age, and being possessed of a superiour genius, he was soon promoted to be commander-in-chief of the Italian army.
3. As the war was then carrying on between the French and Italians, with the utmost inhumanity, they were going at once to perpetrate those two extremes, suggested by appetite and cruelty. This base resolution, however, was opposed by a young officer, who, thongh their retreat required the utmost expedition, became her protector, and conducted her with safety to his native city Her beauty at first caught his eye, her merit, soon after, his heart. They were married; he rose to the highest posts of honour; they lived long together, and were happy.
4. But the felicity of a soldier can never be called permanent. After an interval of several years, the troops which he commanded having met with a repulse, he was obliged to take shelter in the city where he had lived with his wife. Here they suffered a siege, and the city at length was taken. Few histories can produce more various instances of cruelty, than those which the French and Italians at that time exercised upon each other. It was resolved by the victors, upon this occasion, to put all the French prisoners to death, but particularly the French general, who was the husband of Matilda, as he was principally instrumental in protracting the seige.
5. These determinations were, in general, executed almost as soon as resolved upon. The captive general was led forth, and the executioner, with his sword drawn, stood ready; while the spectators, in gloomy silence, awaited the fatal blow, which was only suspended till the Italian general, who presided as judge, should give the signal. It was in this interval of anguish and expectation, that Matilda came to take her last farewell of her husband and deliverer, deploring her wretched situation, and the cruelty of fate that had saved her from perishing, by a premature death, in the river Volturna, when endeavouring to save the life of her infant son, to be the spectator of still greater calamities.
6. The Italian general, who was a young man, was struck with surprise at her beauty, and with pity at her distress, but with still stronger emotions, when he heard her relate her former misfortunes; for he had been told that his mother had endangered her own life to save bis. He was her son, the very infant for whom she had encountered so much danger. He acknowledged her at once as his mother, and fell at her feet, and that moment set the captive free. They ever after lived in a
state of friendship and affection, deploring the calamities of war, and the reverse of fortune which befall mankind.
The aged Prisoner. 1. No where else on earth, perhaps, has human misery, by human means, been rendered so lasting, so complete, or so remediless, as in the late despotic prison, the Bastile of France. This the following case may suffice to evince; the partiulars of which are translated from that elegant and energetic writer, M. Mercier.
2. The heinous offence which merited an imprisonment, surpassing torture, and rendered death a blessing, was no more than some unguarded expressions, implying disrespect towards the late Gallic monarch, Louis XV. Upon the accession of Louis XVI. to the throne, the ministers then in office, moved by humanity, began their administration with an act of clemency and justice. They inspected the registers of the Bastile, and set many prisoners at liberty. Among these, there was an old man who had groaned in confinement for forty-seven years, between four thick and cold stone walls.
3. Hardened by adversity, which strengt ens both the mind and constitution, when they are not overpowered by it, he had resisted the horrours of his long imprisonment, with an invinci. ble and manly spirit. His locks, white, thin, and scattered, had almost acquired the rigidity of iron ; whilst his body, environed for so long a time by a coffin of stone, had borrowed from it a firm and compact habit. The narrow door of his tomb, turning upon its grating hinges, opened not as usual, by halves, when an "unknown voice announced his liberty, and bade him depart.
4. Believing this to be a dream, he hesitated ; but at length rose up and walked forth with trembling steps, amazed at the space he traversed. The stairs of the prison, the halls, the court, seemed to him vast, immense, and almost without bounds.. He stopped from time to time, and gazed around like a bewildered traveller. His vision was with difficulty reconciled to the clear light of day. He contemplated the heavens as a new object. His eyes remained fixed, and he could not even weep:
5. Stupified with the newly acquired power of changing his position, his limbs, like his tongue, refused, in spite of his efforts, to perform their office. At length he got through the formidable gate. When he felt the motion of the carriage which was prepared to transport him to his former habitation, he screamed out, and uttered some inarticulate sounds; and as he could not bear this new movement, he was obliged to descend.
Supported by a benevolent arm, he sought out the street where he had formerly resided : he found it, but no trace of his house remained ; one of the public edifices occupied the spot where it had stood.
6. He now saw nothing which brought to his recollection either that particular quarter, the city itself, or the objects with which he was formerly acquainted. The houses of his nearest neighbours, which were fresh in his memory, had assumed a new appearance.
In vain were his looks directed to all the objects around him ; he could discover nothing of which he had the smallest remembrance. Terrified, he stopped and fetched
deep sigh. To him what did it import, that the city was peopled with living creatures ? None of them were alive to him; he was unknown to all the world, and he knew nobody; and whilst he wept, he regretted his dungeon.
7. At the name of the Bastile, (which he often pronounced and even claimed as an asylum,) and the sight of his clothes which marked his former age, the crowd gathered around him ; curiosity, blended with pity, excited their attention. The most aged asked him many questions, but had no recollection of the circumstances which he recapitulated. At length accident brought to his way an ancient domestic, now a superannuated porter, who, confined to his apartment for fifteen years, had barely sufficient strength to open the gate. Even he did not know the master, he had served: but informed him, that grief and misfortune had brought his wife to the grave thirty years before ; that his children were gone abroad to distant climes, and that of all his relations and friends, none now remained.
8. This recital was made with the indifference which people discover for events long passed and almost forgotten. The niserable man groaned, and groaned alone. The crowd around, offering only unknown features to his view, made him feel the excess of his calamities even more than he would have done in the dreadful solitude which he had left. Overcome with sorrow,
he presented himself before the minister, to whose humanity he owed that liberty which was now a burthen to him. Bowing down, he said, Restore me again to that prison from which you have taken me. I cannot survive the loss of my nearest relations, of my friends, and, in one word, of a whole generation. Is it possible, in the same moment, to be informed of this universal destruction, and not to wish for death? This general mortality, which, to others, comes slowly, and by degrees, has to me, been instantaneous, the operation of a moment. Whilst secluded from society, I lived with myself oply; but
here I can neither live with myself, nor with this new race, to whom my anguish and despair appear only as a dream.'
9. The minister. sympathized; he caused the old domestic to attend this unfortunate person, as he only, could talk to him of his family. This discourse was the single consolation which he received; for he shunned intercourse with the new race, born since he had been exiled from the world ; and he passed his time in the midst of Paris, in the same solitude as he had done, whilst confined in a dungeon, for almost half a century. But the chagrin and mortification of meeting no person who could say to him, “ We were formerly known to each other, soon put an end to his existence.
Androcles and the Lion. 1. ANDROCLES was the slave of a proconsul of Africa. He had unfortunately been guilty of a crime for which he was sentenced to die. He, however found an opportunity of escape, which he effected at midnight, and fled into the deserts of Numidia. Wandering through a vast and trackless forest, his ffesh torn by thorns and brambles, hungry, and exhausted with fatigue, he entered a cavern, which lie accidentally discovered, and threw himself on the ground in despair.
2. He had not remained long in this situation, before he was roused by a dreadful noise, which he thought was the roar of some beast of prey. He started up in terrour, and with an intention to fly; but on advancing to the entrance of the cave, he beheld a prodigious lion, which entirely prevented a possibility of escape.
3. The unfortunate Androcles now believed his destruction inevitable; but, to his great astonishment, the beast approached him with a gentle pace, without any indication of enmity, or rage, uttering a mournful noise, as if he wanted some assistance. Androcles, who was naturally of a courageous disposition, immediately recovered firmness sufficient to examine his tremendous visitant. The lion, with-a limping pace, approached him, and began immediately to lick the hand of Androcles, holding up a large and swelled paw. Acquiring still more fortitude from the gentle hehaviour of the beast, he took hold of his paw, and perceived a very large thorn had penetrated deeply into the ball of the foot.
4. Androcles finding the lion receive this familiarity with the greatest satisfaction, he proceeded to extract the thorn, and afterwards, by a gentle compression, discharged a considerable quantity of matter, which had been the case of much uneasi
ness and pain. As soon as the lion found himself thus relieved, he began to express his joy and gratitude by jumping about like a young cat, hy wagging liis enormous tail, and licking the bands and feet of his surgeon. Nor were these demonstrations of kindness all he expressed.
5. He sallied forth in quest of prey, and brought home the produce of his chase, sharing it with his friend. In this savage state of hospitality, and trighitul solitude, did Androcles live, during the space of several mouths. Ai length, wandering unguardedly in the woods, he met some soldiers, by whom he was wpprehended, and conveyed a prisoner to his master.
6. The proconsul of Africa, was at that time collecting the largest lions that could be found, in order to send them as a present to Rome, for the purpose of furnishing a show to the people. The proconsul ordered that his refractory slave should be sent at the same time, and that he should be exposed to fight with one of the lions in the amphitheatre. A lion, for this savage exhibition, was kept several days without food; and when the destined moment arrived, the unfortunate man was exposed unarmed in the middle of a spacious area, enclosed on every side, around which many thousands of spectators had assembled to be amused by the mournful spectacle. At length a huge lion darted from his place of confinement, and advanced furiously towards the man.
7. All eyes were turned upon the destined victim, whose destruction was instantly expected. But the pity of the multitude was converted into astonishment, on beholding the lion crouch submissively at his feet, fawn on him like a faithful dog, and caress him as a long lost and dearly beloved friend. Androcles immediately discovered in the lion his old Nuinidian companion, and renewed his acquaintance with him. Their mutual congratulations were surprising.
8. The governour of the town was present, who beholding one of the fiercest and most unrelenting of animals forget his disposition, and become harmless and inoffensive, ordered Androcles to explain the unintelligible mystery: Androcles theu related every circumstance of bis adventures in the forest. Ev-ery one present was delighted with the story, and unanimously joined to entreat the governour to pardon the unhappy man, which he immediately granted, and directed also that the lion should be given up to lnim.
9. This story is said to have been related by Aulus Gellius, and extracted by him out of Dion Cassins, wảo saw the mau Seading the lion about the streets of Rome, the people repeat