Page images

external appearances are deceitful; and that human life, in its most gorgeous condition, is still accompanied by the revolting emblems of mortality. The merchant gladly availed himself of the permission to depart; and returned with greater satisfaction to the toils of traffic. (56)


My beloved, the Prince is intended to represent any good Christian, whose wife is the soul that sins, and being punished, remembers its iniquity and amends. The adulterer is the devil; to cut off his head, is to destroy our vices. The slain kinsmen of the Prince, are love to God and to our neighbour, which the sin of our first parent annihilated. The merchant is any good prelate or confessor, to whom the truth should always be exposed.



When Titus-was Emperor of Rome, he made a decree that the natal day of his first-born son should be held sacred ; and that, whosoever violated it by any kind of labor, should be put to death. This edict being promulgated, he called Virgil (57) to him, and said, “ Good friend, I have established a certain law; but as offences may frequently be committed without being discovered by the ministers of justice, we desire you to frame some curious piece of art, which may reveal to us every transgressor of the law.” Virgil acquiesced, and immediately commenced his operations. He constructed a magic statue, and caused it to be erected in the midst of the city. By virtue of the secret powers with which it was invested, it communicated to the Emperor whatever was done amiss. And thus, by the accusation of the statue, an infinite number of persons were convicted and punished. Now there was a certain carpenter, called Focus, who pursued his occupation every day alike. Once, as he lay in bed, his thoughts turned upon the accusations of the statue, and the multitudes which it had caused to perish. In the morning, he clothed himself, and proceeded to the statue, which he addressed in the following manner: “O statue! statue! because of thy informations, many of our citizens have been apprehended and slain. I vow to my God, that if thou accusest me, I will break thy head.” Having so said, he returned home. About the first hour, the Emperor, as he was wont, despatched sundry messengers to the statue, to enquire if the edict had been strictly complied with. After they had arrived, and delivered the Emperor's pleasure, the statue exclaimed-“ Friends, look up; what see ye written upon my forehead ?” They looked, and beheld three sentences which ran thus: “ Times are altered. Men grow worse. He who speaks truth has his head broken."

Go,” said the statue, “ declare to his majesty what you have seen and read.” The messengers obeyed, and detailed the circumstances as they had happened.

The emperor, therefore, commanded his guard to arm, and march to the place on which the statue was erected; and he further ordered, that if any one presumed to molest it, they should bind him hand and foot, and drag him into his presence. The soldiers approached the statue and said, “ Our Emperor wills you to declare the name of the scoundrel who threatens you." The status made answer,

" It is Focus the carpenter. Every day he violates the law, and moreover, menaces me with a broken head, if I expose him.” Immediately Focus was apprehended, and conducted to the Emperor, who said, “ Friend, what do I hear of thee? Why hast thou broken my law ?"“ My lord," answered Focus, “ I cannot keep it; for I am obliged to obtain every day eight pennies, which, without incessant labor, I have not the means of acquiring."-" And


why eight pennies ?" said the Emperor.

Every day through the year," returned the carpenter, “ I am bound to repay two pennies which I borrowed in my youth; two I lend; two I lose; and two I spend.”—“ For what reason do you this ?" asked the Emperor. My lord,” he replied, " listen to me. I am bound, each day, to repay two pennies to my father; for, when I was a boy, my father expended upon me daily, the like sum. he is poor, and needs my assistance, and therefore, I return what I borrowed formerly. Two other pennies I lend to my son, who is pursuing his studies; in order, that if by any chance, I should fall into poverty, he may restore the loan, just as I have done to his grandfather. Again, I lose two pennies every day on my wife; for she is contradictious, wilful, and passionate, Now, because of this disposition, I account whatsoever is given to her, entirely lost. Lastly, two other pennies I expend upon myself in meat and drink. I cannot do with less ; nor can I obtain them without unremitting labor. You now know the truth; and, I pray you, judge dispassion

« PreviousContinue »