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“Very well," cried the stranger, " that will do for me." says the exciseman, “ but my daughter is as brown as a berry." “So much the better," cried the stranger; “such skins wear well.” “But she is bandy-legg’d,” says the exciseman. “No matter," cries the other; "her petticoats will hide that defect." “ But then she is very poor, and wants an eye.” “Your description delights me," cries the stranger : "I have been looking out for one of her make; for I keep an exhibition of wild beasts, and intend to show her off for a Chimpanzee."
There are few subjects which have been more written upon and less understood, than that of friendship: to follow the dictates of some, this virtue, instead of being the assuager of pain, becomes the source of every inconvenience. Such speculatists, by expecting too much from friendship, dissolve the connection, and by drawing the bands too closely, at length break them.
Almost all our romance and novel writers are of this kind: they persuade us to friendships which we find it impossible to sustain to the last; so that this sweetener of life under proper regulations, is by their means rendered inaccessible or uneasy. It is certain, the best method to cultivate this virtue is by letting it in some measure make itself; a similitude of minds or studies, and even sometimes a diversity of pursuits, will produce all the pleasures that arise from it. The current of tenderness widens as it proceeds; and two men imperceptibly find their hearts warm
* (Now first collected, from the Universal Magazine for 1774.]
with good-nature for each other, when they were at first in pursuit only of mirth or relaxation.
Friendship is like a debt of honor; the moment it is talked of it loses its real name, and assumes the more ungrateful form of obligation. From hence we find, that those who regularly undertake to cultivate friendship, find ingratitude generally repays their endeavors. That circle of beings which dependence gathers round us, is almost ever unfriendly; they secretly wish the term of their connection more nearly equal; and where they even have the most virtue, are prepared to reserve all their affections for their patron only in the hour of his decline. Increasing the obligations which are laid upon such minds, only increases their burthen; they feel themselves unable to repay the immensity of their debt, and their bankrupt hearts are taught a latent resentment at the hand that is stretched out with offers of service and relief.
Plautinus was a man who thought every good was to be bought by riches; and as he was possessed of great wealth, and had a mind naturally formed for virtue, he resolved to gather a circle of the best men around him. Among the number of his dependents was Musidorus, with a mind just as fond of virtue, yet not less proud than his patron. His circumstances, however, were such as forced him to stoop to the good offices of his superior, and he saw himself daily, among a number of others, loaded with benefits and protestations of friendship. These, in the usual course of the world, he thought it prudent to accept ; but while he gave his esteem, he could not give his heart. A want of affection breaks out in the most trifling instances, and Plautinus had skill enough to observe the minutest actions of the man he wished to make his friend. In these he ever found his aim dissappointed; for Musidorus claimed an exchange of hearts, which Plautinus, solicited by a variety of claims, could never think of bestowing.
It may be easily supposed, that the reserve of our poor proud man was soon construed into ingratitude; and such, indeed, in the common acceptation of the word, it was. Whenever Musido. rus appeared, he was remarked as the ungrateful man; he had accepted favors, it was said, and still had the insolence to pretend to independence. The event, however, justified his conduct. Plautinus, by misplaced liberality, at length became poor, and it was then that Musidorus first thought of making a friend of him. He flew to the man of fallen fortune with an offer of all he had; wrought under his direction with assiduity; and by uniting their talents, both were at length placed in that state of life from which one of them had formerly fallen.
To this story, taken from modern life, I shall add one more, taken from a Greek writer of antiquity. Two Jewish soldiers, in the time of Vespasian, had made many campaigns together, and a participation of dangers at length bred an union of hearts. They were remarked throughout the whole army, as the two friendly brothers; they felt and fought for each other. Their friendship might have continued without interruption till death, had not the good fortune of the one alarmed the pride of the other, which was in his promotion to be a Centurion, under the famous John, who headed a particular party of Jewish malcontents.
From this moment their former love was converted into the most inveterate enmity. They attached themselves to opposite factions, and sought each other's lives in the conflict of adverse party. In this manner they continued for more than two years, vowing mutual revenge, and animated with an unconquerable spirit of aversion. At length, however, that party of the Jews to which the mean soldier belonged, joining with the Romans, it became victorious, and drove John with all his adherents into the Temple. History has given us more than one picture of the dreadful conflagration of that superb edifice. The Roman soldiers were gathered round it; the whole Temple was in flames, and
thousands were seen amidst them within its sacred circuit. It was in this situation of things, that the now successful soldier saw his former friend upon the battlements of the highest tower, looking round with horror, and just ready to be consumed with filames. All his former tenderness now returned; he saw the man of his bosom just going to perish; and unable to withstand the impulse, he ran, spreading his arms, and crying out to his friend to leap down from the top and find safety with him. The Centurion from above heard and obeyed, and casting himself from the top of the tower into his fellow-soldier's arms, both fell a sacrifice on the spot; one being crushed to death by the weight of his companion, and the other dashed to pieces by the greatness of his fall.