« ZurückWeiter »
your choice :
suming, by this slow method, until there was not a grain left, on condition that you were to be miserable forever after? Or, supposing that you might be happy forever after, on condition you would be miserable until the whole mass of sand were thus annihilated, at the rate of one sand in a thousand years ;
'which of these two cases would you make It must be confessed in this case, so many thousands of years are to the imagination as a kind of eternity, though in reality, they do not bear so great a proportion to that duration which is to follow them, as an unit does to the greaiest number which you can put together in figures, or as one of those sands to the supposed heap. Reason therefore tells us, without any manner of hesitation, which would be the better part in this choice. However, as I have before intimated, our reason might, in such a case, be so overset by imagination, as to dispose some persons io sink under the consideration of the great length of the first part of this duration, and of the great distance of that second duratiou which is to succeed it ;-the mind, I say, might give itself up to that happiness which is at hand, considering that it is so very near, and that it would last so very long. But when the choice we have actually before us is this Whether we will choose to be happy for the space of only three score and ten, nay, perhaps of only twenty or ten years, I might say for only a day or an hour, and miserable to all eternity; or, ou the contrary, miserable for this short term of years, and happy for a whole eternity--what words are sufficient to express that folly and want of consideration which, in such case, makes a wrong
choice ! I here put the case even at the worst, by supposing what seldom happens, that a course of virtue makes us miserable in this life : But if we suppose, as it generally happens, that virtue would make us more happy, even in this life, than a contrary course of vice, how can we sufficiently admire the stupidity oi madness of those persons who are cam pable of making so absurd a choice ?
Every wise man, therefore, will consider this life only ag it may conduce to the happiness of the other, and cheerfully sacrifice the pleasures of a few years, to those of an eternity.
XIII.- Uncle Toby's Benevolence. MY uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries-not from want of courage. I have told you, in a former chapter, that he was a mao of courage ; and I will add here, that, where just occasions presented, or called it forth, I know no man under whose arm I would have sooner taken shelter. Nor did this arise from any insensibility or obtuseness of his intellectual parts, for he felt as feelingly as a man could do But he was of a peaceful, placid nature; no jarring element in him ; all were mixed up so kindly within him, my uncle, Toby had scarce a heart to retaliate upon a fly.
Gosays he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinner time, and which, after infinite attempts, hę had caught at last as it flew by him-l'll not hurt thee says my uncle Toby, rising from his chair, and going across the room with the fly in his handl'll not hurt a hair of thy head : Go; -says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his: hand as he spoke, to let it escape-go, poor devil; get thee zone : Why should I hurt thee - This world is surely wide. enough to hold both thee and me.
This lesson of universal good will, taught by my uncle Toby, may serve instead of a whole volume upon the sub... ject.
XIV.-Story of the Siege of Calais: EDWARD III. after the battle of Cressy, laid siege tở Calais. He had fortified his camp in so impregnable a manner, that all the efforts of France proved ineffectuał to raise the siege, or throw succours into the city. The citizens, under Count Vienne, their gallant governor, made an adinirable defence - France had now put the sickle into her second harvest, since Edward, with his victorious army, sat: down before the town. The eyes of all Europe were intent' on the issue. At length famine did more for Edward thanarms. After suffering unheard of calamities, they resolved to attempt the enemy's camp. They boldly sallied forth; the English joined battle ; and, after a long and desperate engagement, Count Vienne was taken prisoner, and the citizens who survived the slaughter, retired within their gates. The command devolving upon Eustace St.
Pierre, a man of vrean birth, but of exalted virtue: He offered to capitulate with Edward, provided he permitted him to depart with life and liberty. Edward, to avoid the imputation of cruelty, consented to spare the bulk of the plebians, provided they delivered up to him six of their principal citizens, with halters about their necks, as victims of due atonement for that spirit of rebellion, with which they had
inflamed the vulgar. When his messenger, Sir Walter Mauny, delivered the terms, consternation and pale dismay were impressed on every countenance. To a long and dead silence, deep sighs, and groans succeeded, till' Eustace S!. Pierre, getting up to a little eminence, thus addressed the assembly :-"My friends, we are brought to great straits this day. We must either yield to the terms of our cruel and ensnaring conqueror, or give up our tender infants, our wives and daughters to the bloody and brutal lusts of the violating soldiers. Is there any expedient left, whereby we may avoid the guilt, and infamy of delivering up those who have suffered every misery with you, co the one hand ;-08 the desolation and horror of a sacked city on the other? There is, my friends; there is one expedient left ; à gracious, an excellent, a godlike expedient! Is there any here to whom virtue is dearer than life? Let him offer himself an oblation for the safety of his people! He shall not fail of a blessed approbation from that Power, who offered up his oply Son, for the salvation of mankind." He spoke--but an universal silence ensued. Each man looked around fot the example of that virtue and magnanimity, which all wished to approve in themselves, though they wanted the resolution. At length St. Pierre resumed, " I doubt not there are many here as ready, nay, more zealous of this martyrdom, than I can be ; though the station to which I am raised, by the captivity of Lord Vienne, imparts a right to be the first in giving my life for your sakes. } give it freely ; - give it cheerfully. Who comes next?” “Your son," exclaimed a youth, not yet come to maturity.--"Ah, my child," cried St. Pierre, I am then twice sacrificed. But no - I have rather begotten thee a second time. Thy years are few, but full, my son. The victim of virtue has reached the utmost purpose and goal of mortality. Who next, my friends! This is the hour of heroes. “ Your kinsman," cried John de Aire. “ Your kinsman," cried James Wissant. “Your kinsman,” cried Peter Wissant.--"AR!”. exclaimed Sir Walter Mauny, bursting into tears, " Why was not li citizen of Calais !” The sixth victim was still wanting, but was quickly supplied by lot, from numbers who were now emulous of so ennobling an example. The keys of the city were then delivered to Sir Walter. He took the six prisoners into his custody ; then ordered the gates to be opened, and gave charge to his attendants to conduct the remaining citizens, with their families, through the camp of
the English. Before they departed, however, they desired perinission to take their last adieu of their deliverers.-What a parting! What a scene ! They crowded, with their wives and children, about St. Pierre and his fellow prisoners. They embraced--they clung around--they fell prostrate before them. They groaped--they wept aloud and the joint clamor of their mourning passed the gates of the city, and was, heard throughout the English camp. The English by this time, were apprised of what passed within Ca' lais. They heard the voice of lamentation, and their souls were touched with compassion. Each of the soldiers prepared a portion of his own victuals, to welcome and entertain the half famished inhabitunts; and they loaded them with as much as their present weakness was able to bear, in order to supply then with sustenance by the way. At length St. Pierre and his fellow victims appeared under the conduct of Sir Walter and a guard. All the tents of the English were instantly emptied. The soldiers poured from all parts, and arranged themselves on each side, to behold, to con template, to admire this little band of patriots, as they passa ed. They bowed down to them on all sides. They murmured their applause of that virtue, which they could not but revere, even in enemies'; and they regarded those ropes which they had voluntarily assumed about their necks, as ensigns of greater dignity than that of the British garter. As soon as they had reached the presence, “Mauny,” says the monarch, * are these the principal inhabitants of: Ca. lais ?"-" They are," says Mauny: “They are not only the principal men of Calais--they are the principal men of France, my Lord, if virtue has any share in the act of snnobling. « Were they delivered peaceably ?!" says Edward. .“ Was there no resistance, no commotion among the people?” “ Not in the least, my Lord; the people would all have perished, rather than have delivered the least of these to yonr majesty. They are self delivered, self devoted ; and come to offer up their inestimable heads, as an ample equivalent for the ransom of thousands.” Edward was secretly piqued at this reply. of Sir Walter : But he kner the prive ilege of a British subject, and suppressed his resentment, • Experience," says he, “has ever shown, that lenity only serves to invito people to new crimes. Severity, at times, is indispensably necessary to compel subjects to submission, by punishment and example." » he cried to an offcer, « lead these men to execution."
At this instant a sound of triumph was heard throughout the camp. The queen had just arrived with a powerful reinforcement of gallant troops. Sir Walter Mauny flew to receive her majesty, and briefly informed her of the particulars respecting the six victims.
As soon as she had been welcomed by Edward and his court, she desired a private audience. -"My Lord,” said she, “the question I am to enter upon, is not touching the lives of a few mechanicsmit respects the honour of the English nation; it respects the glory of my Edward, my husband, my king.--You think you have sentenced six of your enemies to death. No, my Lord, they have sentenced themselves;
and their execution would be the execution of their own orders, not the orders of Edward. The stage on which they would suffer, would be to them a stage of honour, but a stage of shame to Edward ; a reproach on his conquests an indelible disgrace to his name.- Let us rather disapporat these haughty burghers, who wish to invest themselves with glory at our expense. We cannot wholly deprive them of the merit of a sacrifice so nobly intended, but we may cut them short of their desires; in the place of that death by which their glory would be consummate, let us Bury them under gifts ; let us put them to confusion with applauses. We shall thereby defeat them of that populas opinion, which never fails to attend those who suffer in the cause of virtue."-"I am convinced ; you have prevailed. --Be it so," replied Edward : 66 Prevent the execution ; have them instantly before us.”—They came ; when the queen, with an aspect and accents diffusing sweetness, thus bespoke them “Natives of France, and inhabitants of Calais, you have put us to a vast expense of blood and treasure in the recovery of our just, and natural inheritance, you
have acted up to the best of an erroneous judgment; and we admire and honour in you that valour and virtue, by which we are so long kept out of our rightful possessions. You noble burghere | You excellent citizens ! Though you were tenfold the enemies of our persons and our throue, we can feel nothing on our part save respect and affection for you. You have been sufficiently tested. loose
your chains; we snatch you from the scuffold; and we thank you for that lesson of humiliation which
you teach us, when rou show us that excellence is not of blood, of title, or station ;-that-virtue gives a dignity superior to thas of kings; and that those whoin the Almighty informs, with