Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

“ Why," said the prince,“ did thy father desire the increase of his wealth, when it was already greater than he durst discover or enjoy? I am unwilling to doubt thy veracity, yet inconsistencies cannot both be true.”

“ Inconsistencies," answered Imlac,“ cannot both be right, but, imputed to man, they may both be true. Yet diversity is not inconsistency. My father might expect a time of greater security. However, some desire is necessary to keep life in motion, and he, whose real wants are supplied, must admit those of fancy."

“ This,” said the prince, “I can in some measure conceive. I repent that I interrupted thee."

“ With this hope," proceeded Imlac," he sent me to school ; but when I had once found the delight of knowledge, and felt the pleasure of intelligence and the pride of invention, I began silently to despise riches, and determined to disappoint the purposes of my father, whose grossness of conception raised my pity. I was twenty years old before his tenderness' would expose me to the fatigue of travel, in which time I had been instructed, by successive masters, in all the literature of my native country. As every hour taught me something new, I lived in a continual course of gratifications ; but as I advanced towards manhood, I lost much of the reverence with which I had been used to look on my instructors; because, when the lessons were ended, I did not find them wiser or better than common men.

“ At length my father resolved to initiate me in commerce, and, opening one of his subterranean treasuries, counted out ten thousand pieces of gold. This, young man,' said he, “is the stock with which you must negociate. I began with less than a fifth part, and you see how diligence and parsimony have increased it. This is your own to waste or to improve. If you squander it by negligence or caprice, you must wait for my death before you will be rich; if, in four years, you double your stock, we will thenceforward let subordination cease, and live together as friends and partners : for he shall always be equal with 'me, who is equally skilled in the art of growing rich.

“ We laid our money upon camels, concealed in bales of cheap goods, and travelled to the shore of the Red Sea. When I cast my eye on the expanse of waters, my heart bounded like that of a prisoner escaped. I felt an unextinguishable curiosity kindle in my mind, and resolved to snatch this opportunity of seeing the manners of other nations, and of learning sciences unknown in Abissinia.

“ I remembered that my father had obliged me to the improvement of my stock, not by a promise which I ought not to violate, but by a penalty which I was at liberty to incur ; and therefore determined to grati. fy my predominant desire, and, by drinking at the fountain of knowledge, to quench the thirst of curiosity,

“ As I was supposed to trade without connection with my father, it was easy for me to become acquainted with the master of a ship, and procure a passage to

some other country. I had no motives of choice to regulate my voyage ; it was sufficient for me that, wherever I wandered, I should see a country which I had not seen before. I therefore entered a ship bound for Surat, having left a letter for my father declaring my intention.”

CHAP. IX.

The History of Imlac, continued.

“ When I first entered upon the world of waters, and lost sight of land, I looked round about me in pleasing terror, and thinking my soul enlarged by the boundless prospect, imagined that I could gaze around for ever without satiety; but, in a short time, I grew weary of looking on barren uniformity, where I could only see again what I had already seen. I then descended into the ship, and doubted for a while whether all my future pleasures would not end like this in disgust and disappointment. Yet, surely, (said I) the ocean and the land are different; the only variety of water is rest and motion, but the earth has mountains and vallies, deserts, and cities ; it is inhabited by men of different customs and contrary opinions ; and I may hope to find variety in life, though I should miss it in nature.

« With this thought I quieted my mind, and amused myself during the voyage, sometimes by learning from the sailors the art of navigation, which I have never practised, and sometimes by forming schemes for my conduct in differeut situations, in not one of which I have been ever placed.

“ I was almost weary of my naval amusements when we safely landed at Surat. I secured my money, and purchasing some commodities for show, joined myself to a caravan that was passing into the inland country. My companions, for some reason or other, conjecturing that I was rich, and, by my inquiries and admiration, finding that I was ignorant, considered me as a novice whom they had a right to cheat, and who was to learn at the usual expence the art of fraud. They exposed me to the theft of servants, and the exaction of officers, and saw me plundered upon false pretences, without any advantage to themselves, but that of rejoicing in the superiority of their own knowledge."

“Stop a moment, said the prince ; is there such depravity in man, as that he should injure another without benefit to himself? I can easily conceive that all are pleased with superiority ; but your ignorance was merely accidental, which, being neither your crime' nor your folly, could afford them no reason to applaud themselves : and the knowledge which they had, and which you wanted, they might as effectually have shewn by warning, as betraying you.”.

" Pride,” said Imlac, is seldom delicate; it will please itself with very mean advantages; and envy feels not its own happiness, but when it may be com

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

pared with the misery of others. They were my enemies because they grieved to think me rich, and my oppressors because they delighted to find me weak.”

Proceed,” said the prince : “ I doubt not of the facts which you relate, but imagine that you impute them to mistaken motives."

“ In this company," said Imlac, “ I arrived at Agra, the capital of Indostan, the city in which the great Mogul commonly resides. I applied myself to the language of the country, and in a few months was able to converse with the learned men ; some of whom I found morose and reserved, and others easy and communicative; some were unwilling to teach another what they had with difficulty learned themselves ; and some shewed that the end of their studies was to gain the dignity of instructing.

“ To the tutor of the young princes I recommended myself so much, that I was presented to the emperor as 'a man of uncommon knowledge. The emperor asked me many questions concerning my country and my travels; and though I cannot now recollect any thing that he uttered above the power of a common man, he dismissed me, astonished at his wisdom, and enamoured of his goodness.

“My credit was now so high, that the merchants, with whom I had travelled, applied to me for recommendations to the ladies of the court. I was surprised at their confidence of solicitation, and gently reproached them with their practices on the road. They heard me with cold indifference, and shewed no tokens of shame or sorrow.

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »