DAMON AND PYTHIAS.

FROM THE DANISH OF CARL BERNHARD.


In the so-called good old times, when grown-up people could sometimes be childish--now-a-days even children themselves are above such infirmities--in these good old times one often heard a ballad, a favourite song, which was as common as the lively popular airs that are now repeated nightly at the casinos; but these old songs were by no means lively, for lively music was not then in vogue; the songs were almost all sentimental. There was one ditty about 'Friendship, Hope, and Love,' in which Love was depicted as 'light red,' and of which I can now remember but two lines. It was very generally sung:

'Friendship rarely doth abound.
Tell me where it can be found!'

Yes, where can it be found? All mankind seek for it; everyone wishes to have a friend. Most people believe, for a time, that they have found one; but when the friendship comes to be tested, it disappears, and they discover their mistake. Why does it disappear? Who knows why? But that it does most frequently disappear is quite certain.

Formerly, even in the grey olden times, long before anybody thought about friendship being violated, they must have had hard work enough to find the genuine article, else there would not surely have been such a fuss made about the three classical pairs of friends whose names we have all learned by heart--Damon and Pythias, Orestes and Pylades, Euryalus and Nisus--all of whom were never distinguished for anything, as far as I have been able to discover, except that they lived as friends, and ultimately died as friends.

It is surprising enough that, whilst everyone understands the words a friend in a good sense, there should be some little hesitation about the exact meaning of a good friend, and that the more eulogizing and confirmatory adjectives are added to it, the less respect it should inspire, until a real good old friend has become almost synonymous with a stupid old blockhead, or a cunning old rogue. If one were only to hear the following disjointed words of a conversation, 'Oh, yes, he is a good friend enough,' nine out of ten would indubitably fancy that the speakers were alluding to some matter in which one party had been taken in, and would think that what had happened manifested the credulity of that saying, in which all the ten firmly believe, 'Save me from my friends, and I will save myself from my enemies!' Undeniably, there is some truth in this sentence, and however little there may be, it is sad that one must admit there is any at all.

One of my--but I may be misconstrued myself if I say one of my good friends; I shall therefore, for the present, confine myself to calling him a worthy acquaintance of mine--had, from his earliest childhood, been an enthusiastic worshipper of friendship. Nothing more natural, for friendship is so inherent a feeling in the breast of every human being, of either sex, that it is a desire of the soul, which it strives to realize even before it thinks of love. His predilection for friendship was, it may be said, born with him, as people may be born with a propensity for stealing or drunkenness; and when he was not more than four years of age, and his grown-up relatives would have it that his little cousin should be his 'little wife'--for big people are always too ready to begin putting nonsense into the heads of children, he used to get angry, and declare that she should not be his wife, but his friend.

And when he had grown older, and had commenced his classical studies, he raved about being a Damon to some Pythias. He was an excellent lad, cheerful, good-natured, good-looking, and by no means deficient in talent; in short, he was in all respects a steady schoolboy, but perhaps he carried a little too far his ideas about friendship. He had not, however, then attached himself to any one individual among his companions; he was on good terms with them all, while he thirsted after one, only one true friend, as a celebrated author is known to have wished but one reader, but that one to be capable of understanding him thoroughly.

I withhold his name, for he is now in so conspicuous a station that many of my readers must know him, and it would, perhaps, annoy him to see his name in print, for he is one of those folks who have an old-fashioned dislike to what they call 'appearing in print;' that is to say, being named publicly. I shall designate him by one of his first names, which he used in his boyish years--viz. Mikkel; it is an ugly name, but he is not to blame for that, since his opinion about it was not asked. When he was christened, his parents had called him after a rich old uncle, who, the good people thought, might, on that account, at a future day, leave him a large legacy. It is a bad custom to make innocent children suffer for their parents' bad taste in choosing names, and to inflict on them ill-sounding family names, either because these had been chosen by a generation who had queer notions, or from selfishness and from speculation, as in the case in question. Mikkel was grown up, and had undergone much jeering on account of his frightful name, but his uncle did not leave him a stiver! It was a shameful trick--a positive fraud, the parents naturally thought. No one can blame Mikkel because he would no longer put up with the disagreeable appellation, especially as it had come to his ears that a young girl had given her suitor a basket solely on account of his name. She said, 'he had such a shockingly ugly name, that she never could bring herself to say, my sweet Morten. Dear no! the sound made her shudder, and one really must be able to say sweet to one's lover.' Morten and Mikkel are much on a par. He renounced, therefore, the name of the ungrateful uncle, and selected for the future one of the high-sounding names which had also been bestowed on him at his baptism, like that shoemaker's son who was christened Jens Napoleon Petersen. Nevertheless, I should prefer to call him Damon, that savouring more of the anonymous, and this I will do with the permission of my kind readers. When he and I went to school together, we got on very well, and were on good terms; but no sworn and patented friendship took place between us. It happened one day, as we were walking together outside of one of the gates of the town, on a Friday, and he was lost in his Damon-Pythias dreams, which went in at one of my ears and out at the other, we met a school companion, who was crying as he came out of a house. The good-hearted Damon stopped him, and asked what was the cause of his distress, and we were informed that our comrade had been visiting a good friend. Damon could not see that there was any cause for howling about this; he would have been glad enough to have been in his place. Yes, but our unlucky school companion had received a sound drubbing from his good friend, and from some of the latter's good friends, because he would not be always their horse, and drag them in the little carriage; he wished to take his turn to go inside of it, at least for once, but they abused him like a pickpocket, and beat him; this was always the way he was served, and it was a great shame, for he had liked his friend so much; but now he would have nothing more to do with him. And when he had told him that he was going to break with him, the fellow had thumped him well, and turned him out of doors, and it was almost dinner-time, and now he had no friend--and he would get no dinner!

The soft-hearted Damon offered him forthwith his friendship and a dinner; the boy went home with him to his parents' house, where he dined, and immediately afterwards staunch brotherhood was sworn, and the empty place in Damon's heart was filled up! Fate had granted his wish, and he had providentially found a friend!

Mikkel was a happy boy; he had now truly become Damon, and the other was Pythias. It was a strong friendship, whose not few thorns seemed to Damon like so many roses. He had to thrash his companion's former friend, and fight all that friend's chums, in order to revenge his Pythias, and prove their misconduct to him; and he got many a bruise, and many a torn jacket in these battles, which merged into a long, lasting war--a war he had to sustain alone, for Pythias stood aloof. He had to write all his friend's exercises, and prompt him every day in his lessons, which Pythias, trusting to Damon's friendship, had neglected to learn, and this cost the latter many a scold from the master, who had observed it. But if ever he happened to require the least help himself, he got none, for Pythias was incapable of giving it. Damon not only shared all the nice things he had with his friend, but he often gave him the largest portion, and, indeed, sometimes the whole; but he never got anything in return. Pythias took care to eat all his good things by himself; but Damon never dreamed of finding fault with this; he was pleased and proud of being able to make various useful presents to his friend, and loved him the better for it. Thus passed the whole of his school-days; and in consequence of this sworn friendship the two were called by all the boys Damon and Pythias.

They were at length to separate, and each to go his own way. 'I am sorry I am obliged to part with you, I shall miss you very much,' said Pythias, when the farewell moment came.

'I don't know how I shall exist without you,' said Damon. 'I am truly wretched!'

They agreed to write to each other often. Damon did write letter after letter, but never received an answer; that grieved him extremely. He was taken ill about six months afterwards, but I will not say that it was disappointed friendship that made him ill; he had caught an epidemic which was raging then, and had a long illness. Though Pythias knew this, he had never once inquired for his school friend. As soon as he could hold a pen, Damon wrote to him over and over again--no reply! Then he buried his friendship in his silent, faithful breast, until at last it died, long after it had been buried.

His student-days arrived, and found him full of the enthusiasm of youth. Damon longed for all that was beautiful and noble, but especially for friendship. Love had not yet touched him. I believe that he looked upon it as a sickly, unmanly feeling, which could not be indulged in without relinquishing the energy and the strength of mind that ought to characterize a man! Poor Damon! I verily believe such was his opinion.

Well, Damon found at length his Pythias; but not the old Pythias, for whom he had toiled and fought, and who had repaid him with such ingratitude. No; a bran new Pythias had he stumbled upon, one who, like himself, was 'a master in the kingdom of mind;' one who like himself, was devoted to the true and the beautiful; one who, he thought, could sympathize with him in everything, and to whom he attached himself with the strongest ties of friendship--a really good friend.

And this friendship lasted for some years--during the whole time they were at the university--and they were nicknamed Damon and Pythias, to the great satisfaction of one of the friends at least. Damon was certainly a kind and trustworthy friend. He wrote with untiring patience all the tedious college manuscripts; Pythias used them almost always, and, moreover, lent them to strangers, so that Damon never could get them when he wanted them himself. Damon bought all the books they both required, for Pythias needed his own money for other purposes; and when Pythias wanted them no longer he sold them. Damon remained at home from balls, that Pythias might borrow his dress-coat, as he did not think his own good enough; and Damon rejoiced that he had a good coat which fitted Pythias so well. Not a week passed that Pythias did not borrow money from Damon, of which he never made any memorandum. Pythias was fond of going to the theatre, and he always went to the boxes. One day, when Damon suggested that it would be better for him to go to the pit with him, for the money which one box ticket cost would pay two pit tickets, and they might go there and amuse themselves together, as he really could not afford the more expensive places, Pythias replied that he by no means wished his friend to spend his money in going to the theatre on his account, that he only wanted to borrow the money for his own ticket, as he was out of cash at the moment, but he could not think of going to such a place as the pit. And the good-natured Damon gave him the last shilling he had, and remained at home, rejoicing that his dear friend was amusing himself in the boxes.

At length they were both to graduate, and Pythias held his ground only because Damon had been an unwearied grinder for him, and had devoted himself, early and late, to cramming him in order to pull him through. His success delighted Damon much more than his own.

There was some talk of a foreign tour--and they were both candidates for the stipend accorded for that purpose--what a pleasure if they could travel together! But this year there was only one stipend to be given away; Damon was sure of getting it, having been the cleverest student. Pythias adjured him, of course in the name of friendship, to resign his claim, because, for many important reasons, it was necessary for him--Pythias--to get away for a time; in fact, he could hold out no longer, while Damon had many other resources. Damon pondered on the subject, but could not find out what these resources were; nevertheless, he withdrew his petition, and left the field open to Pythias, but he endeavoured in vain, also in friendship's name, to induce him to confide to him the important reasons which had influenced his dear Pythias to demand the sacrifice he had made for him. He was enlightened as to the truth, however, afterwards. When Pythias had obtained the stipend, and was off, it came out that he had been, for a long time, in the habit of gambling, and that he had lost a great deal at play. The debts he had left he transferred to his friend in an affected, high-flown, bombastic epistle to his 'dear, faithful Damon,' and in order that the latter, to whom he bade farewell for ever, might still more highly honour friendship, he had drawn without asking leave a few little bills of exchange in his name, wherein his writing was so cleverly imitated, that Damon himself had the utmost difficulty in distinguishing it from his own!

To one who had for so many years put entire confidence in the reciprocity of the ardent and sincere friendship he himself had felt, it was a severe blow to meet such scandalous treachery. Damon took measures to have the bills of exchange paid, and, with a bleeding heart, he buried Pythias the Second!

Damon now forswore friendship, and withdrew himself from society; it was easy to do this, for his circle had been principally composed of Pythias's acquaintances, and he did not much relish seeing them now--he did not like to hear them pulling Pythias to pieces, and recounting the many dirty tricks he had played them, to whom he had also pretended to have been a good friend. Damon commenced his professional career, and found comfort in his occupations; but his heart was lonely.

One evening he read in the work of a celebrated philosopher the following sentence:

'The dog is man's best friend--it alone is faithful.'

These words made a deep impression on him. Within eight days he had purchased a dog, a large handsome Newfoundlander, of a good breed. It was then only in its puppy years, and had to be brought up to obedience and cleanliness; this cost him the trouble of bestowing sundry good thrashings on the animal, but Damon knew that he who loves the child spares not the rod, and he loved his dog as if it had been his child, until it should be educated to become his friend. Hector would receive his caning, steal up to his master's feet, lick his hand, sigh deeply, and at the slightest glance of encouragement would spring up joyfully and wag his tail. When Damon looked up from his employment, he always encountered Hector's friendly gaze. When he took his hat and stick, the dog would start up from his place near the stove, if he were even in the soundest sleep, to follow him through thick and thin, by day or by night. Truly, the philosopher was right; the dog is man's faithful friend, and Hector was not troublesome, and he obeyed no other being in this world but his master--they were friends.

This friendship lasted for a couple of years, and it filled up in a certain degree the vacancy in Damon's heart, and cheered his lonely hours.

But gradually this friendship took the same turn as love often does--the one loves, and the other allows himself or herself to be loved. The parts they played changed gradually; Damon assumed the dog's part, and became humble, obedient, and faithful, whilst Hector took the master's part, and turned capricious, tyrannical, and ungrateful. The four-footed creature had become almost like a man, from being the constant companion of his two-legged friend. Damon put up with all this, and the dog imposed upon him in his canine fashion, exactly as the schoolboy and the student had imposed on him formerly in their human fashion.

Damon had had many disagreeables to encounter latterly. One day he came home very much fretted, with his head full of some tiresome business papers, which absolutely required his immediate attention. He patted his favourite, spoke to him as to a friend who could understand him, complained to Hector of the provoking chief of the department who had annoyed him, and Hector fixed on him a thoughtful look; it was as if the dog comprehended how hard it is to be annoyed. This did his heart good; he recovered his spirits, and began to work away vigorously at the papers he had brought home with him. But Hector got angry at finding himself neglected, and also he wanted to go out to walk. 'No, my friend, it is impossible--don't disturb me--down, down--there is no time for walking just now!' The dog became importunate, and was patted, and dismissed; he then became obstinate, and laid his clumsy paw upon the table, so that the inkstand was upset over the numerous half-finished papers. For that he got a slap; he became enraged, and tried to drag his master off of his chair; Damon kicked him away, expecting that he would then be quiet, but it made him worse, and he rushed upon him. Damon also got angry; he seized the ruler, and struck Hector with it, who, however, dragged the chair from under him with his teeth and paws. The one swore, the other growled; it was, certes, anything but friendship that was displayed in this scene, which collected all the inhabitants of the house on the outside of Damon's door, in terror at this unusual dog-fight.

I arrived at that moment, having come to speak to Damon on some business. It was an awful plight in which I found him: excited, bitten, and with his clothes torn; whilst the dog stood snarling over the broken chair, with a brutal, triumphant look, flashing eyes, and teeth set. It was evident that he knew he was the master there, and he looked with anything but a friendly expression at the subdued Damon.

'And this illusion has fled also!' he said to me, when we had taken up the overturned chair, and gathered together the scattered and ink-stained papers.

'And thou also, Brutus!' he exclaimed with a comical degree of gravity, and a melancholy glance at the sullen-looking dog.

'The bestia bruta!' said I. 'This comes of choosing four-footed friends.' And I seized, the opportunity of bestowing upon him a lecture about his animal mania, which had made him quite an oddity, and had withdrawn him from the society of rational beings. Shame, suffering, and anger brought him over to my way of thinking; he made a threatening gesture towards Hector, who instantly rose up and showed his teeth; he was evidently ready to renew the battle at any moment. It was really too absurd.

After a great deal of persuasion, I prevailed on Damon to go home with me, and conclude that uncomfortable evening among my family circle. Before we left his lodgings, I privately requested the landlord to have Hector removed to an inn, where he could be tied up till the next day, when I should come to say what was to be done with him.

The evening passed off tolerably well; it succeeded in dissipating his chagrin. I accompanied him home towards midnight, and before I left him I had obtained his permission to send Hector into the country, to a relation of mine, where he would be well treated and be useful as a chained dog, for Damon himself perceived that he could not be made a friend of, and that he was too ill-tempered and dangerous to be allowed to go about loose. And thus was Pythias the Third, the four-footed, deposed.

It was very strange that though he wanted sadly to have his Pythias's place refilled, he never made the slightest overture to me to occupy it. Nevertheless, we were very intimate. He often visited me, and found pleasure in the society of my family, and more especially in that of a young girl, who was a frequent guest at my house, and who was both pretty and good, though, perhaps, being a country girl, she wanted a little of that finer polish which can only be acquired in the capital.

I have no doubt it was her being so open, straightforward, unsophisticated, and natural, that charmed him with her; oddly enough, love was never mentioned by either of them; they always spoke of friendship alone, up to the very day of their betrothal. And, indeed, after they were betrothed there was no change in their manners to each other. I never saw him show her any of the usual little attentions, or bestow on her any of the little endearments so common during this period; he always spoke to her as if she had been a male friend; it seemed as if he could not perceive that she belonged to womankind.

This engagement delighted us all, especially my sensible wife, who augured a peaceful future for them, a life devoid of passion's storms, calm and even, and rendered comfortable by a competence sufficient for all their wants, though it could not be called a fortune, according to the common acceptation of the word.

The damsel's parents gladly gave their consent, and as Damon very justly considered a long engagement a wearisome affair, before six months had passed they were man and wife.

The young girl was certainly a sweet pretty bride, and I really cannot imagine how Damon could be satisfied with calling her 'my friend,' as he led her from the altar; and I was still more surprised next day to find that she had already begun to look after her household matters. There was nothing to be found fault with in this, to be sure, and neither of them seemed to think this out of the usual way. The young couple appeared to be quite happy, and it was to be supposed that Damon's heart had at last found its haven of rest. He had his young wife, all went as she wished, and his house was, therefore, a pleasant one; it was evident that it was under the care of a good and kind spirit.

I have observed that there is one thing which is a stumbling-block in almost all young ménages--that is, the continued intimacy, after marriage, of the husband's young men friends. Most young wives seem to think that they must keep a watchful eye upon these friends, and quietly strive to put an end to their baneful influence over the husband! for they suppose that these former companions will withdraw his thoughts from the sanctity of domestic life and lead him into naughty ways. These suspicions seem to be deeply rooted in the minds of newly-married women. I sincerely believe they are suggested by young wives, who ought to know better by experience, and might have perceived that their husbands' earlier associates would, in general, be glad to be received as members of the family circle. The wives imagine that their dominion is insecure so long as these suspicious persons are on board; they think that when such is the case the ship of matrimony may be at any moment upset, or stranded on unknown shores, that they must steer with a skilful hand, and that they cannot be safe until they have had the husbands' early friends cast overboard. I can assert this from experience, for I have myself been cast overboard more than once on account of such groundless suspicions.

But a house can hardly be without visitors, and what is more natural than that these should consist of the young wife's friends and connections? She believes she can depend upon them; she is accustomed to them; she likes to display to them her notable housekeeping; it is so very natural, and therefore one generally sees the husband's friends and relations by degrees supplanted by those of the wife.

Damon's wife, however, was not obliged to manœuvre at all to get rid of his especial friends, for, with the exception of myself, who had my own house, and was already a sedate and discreet person, he never invited a single old associate. It was not necessary for her to throw anyone overboard to make room for her friends and relations; these were self-elected intimates at Mikkel's house, and all went on well there.

There was one of her cousins in particular to whom Damon soon attached himself. He was a young man who had exactly the qualities which were wanting in Damon. He was, among other things, witty, lively, amusing; he was at all times ready for anything, and knew how to make the best of everything. Damon soon found that he could not do without him, and he became a daily guest at his house, which there was nothing in the way of business to prevent his being, as he lived in a state of il dolce far niente, waiting until some good appointment might offer itself, which might suit a person of his talents and pretensions.

Before the expiration of a year, I observed that by degrees a change had taken place in their relative positions. Damon had by this time nearly undermined his own happiness. His old Pythias folly had awoke again in him, almost without his being conscious of it. His interest in his young wife was actually cast into the shade by his friendship for her cousin, who had become Pythias the Fourth. She discovered at length that she was quite set aside, and was jealous of this neglect; at the same time she grew more and more intimate with her cousin, whose lively conversation pleased her. That he had fallen in love with his young cousin I will not assert, but he paid her at times such marked attention, that I often thought this was the only reasonable inference to be drawn from his conduct; at other times there was so much levity and carelessness in his manners, so much flightiness in his way of talking, that I felt myself compelled to discard the supposition. Certain it is, however, that he was always hovering around her; that her reputation might run the risk of being injured by his demeanour towards her, and that dangerous consequences really might arise from their being so much together in the intimacy of daily life, yet--who was to blame except Damon?

With his accustomed blindness, the husband could not see anything of this; he made quite sure that it was entirely for his sake that the young man played chess, talked politics, smoked tobacco, and went out to walk or to fish whenever Damon wished to go. In order that they might manage to be still more together, he had prevailed upon the cousin to come out and stay with him at a country-house he had hired at a few miles from town, where they had plenty of room. This invitation was given much against the wishes of his wife, who had tried to prevent it, but she had consented to it when she found that Damon had set his heart on it. He said, jestingly, that he could not do without some male society, and a trio would be pleasant in their pastoral life. In this trio he himself voluntarily assigned the second part to the cousin, while he took the third to himself.

Damon, however, was a little changed; he felt no longer inclined to be quite so subservient in his friendship as he had formerly been with his two-and his four-footed friends. By degrees, a desire had crept into his mind to take his revenge, and for once become himself the domineering party. He began to be somewhat importunate in his claims on the time and companionship of the cousin, who, on his side, showed decided symptoms of wishing to emancipate himself, especially from the tiresome and frequent fishing expeditions to the neighbouring lake; but fishing was perhaps Damon's greatest pleasure, especially when he had the company of a good friend. Damon was annoyed that the cousin had several times latterly excused himself from accompanying him, and, not caring to go alone, he had been obliged to relinquish his favourite amusement. One day--it was too bad--on a beautiful evening in the very height of summer, he refused to go fishing, when there could be no earthly reason for his doing so--none that Damon could discover, except that he preferred to parade up and down the alley of linden-trees at the other end of the garden with his wife--while he himself sat at the top of the stone stairs, and fretted until he was quite out of humour. He could see that they spoke eagerly to each other, and laughed, and amused themselves, while he was wearying himself; and neither of them seemed to be thinking of him or his ennui. What were they going to do now? So! They were actually setting off to walk in the very direction of the lake, where he would so gladly have gone to fish; but then, it was too far to go, forsooth!--now, they could go notwithstanding the distance. It was almost like defying him; that was probably the cousin's intention.

A disagreeable light seemed to dawn on his mind. And when this operation first begins to take place, a man is apt to fancy more than he has valid grounds for supposing. And this was the case with Damon.

In an exceedingly unpleasant state of mind, he returned to the usual sitting-room in search of some employment to make time pass less heavily. The comfortable room spoke volumes to his excited mind, with its quiet and peace. It was arranged by his wife's taste, everything bore witness in her favour. There stood her work-table, there lay her work, the half-finished embroidery which she was preparing for his birthday, and at which he therefore avoided looking. Upon a table close by hers lay the cousin's portfolios and drawing materials. There was no necessity for the tables being so near each other, and he pushed the table with the drawings a little way from the work-table. The young man certainly had talent--there were comical sketches and little landscapes, thrown off as illustrations of poems, not without genius; he thought he would just look into the portfolios, when, in opening one of them, a sheet of paper, with pencil drawings, slipped out of it. What were these? He must see. They were a whole row of caricatures, in doing which the cousin excelled. There was a man with his nightcap on, evidently asleep and snoring; a man with a pipe in his mouth, half-asleep over a fishing-rod; a man half-asleep over a chessboard; a man half-asleep over a Berlin newspaper; and lastly, a man half asleep over his tobacco-pipe, while his pretty young wife seemed dreaming over the work she had in her hand. Of what was she dreaming while he was dozing? This question forced itself upon him. The sleepy-headed man was no other than himself, caricatured in the most laughable manner; the young wife might have been taken from nature: it was a charming likeness. Damon sat as if he had fallen from the skies, with the sheet of paper in his hand; he could scarcely conceive the ingratitude which had suggested these sketches, or the barefaced impudence of leaving them in an open portfolio, in his own daily sitting-room, where anyone might see them--not only himself and his wife, but his guests and his servants also.

Fate brought me to him for a second time at a critical moment. I came accidentally to pay him a visit, and found him somewhat in the same state as on the evening Hector had been doing battle with him. I entered into his angry feelings, but nevertheless could hardly refrain from bursting into a fit of laughter at the exceedingly impertinent, but very droll drawings. We had a serious conversation on the position in which he was placed; with great difficulty I brought him, at length, to perceive that much of the blame rested with himself, and that his young wife had nothing to reproach herself with. I combated his assertion that she must have been cognizant of the existence of these caricatures, and must have sat for the likeness of herself; and I even went so far as to promise to prove to him her ignorance of the drawings, though I did not know how that was to be effected without occasioning a scene--and I had the greatest horror of scenes.

We had a long conversation, we two, for the wife and the cousin remained a good while absent--longer than I thought was exactly right, especially as it was getting late; but Damon did not seem to think about it; he was engaged in speculating on the theme I had suggested for his consideration--namely, that a husband who never makes the slightest effort to find amusement for his young wife, but, without the least compunction, leaves her to solitude or weariness, has himself to blame if another succeeds in interesting and amusing her. It is this unfortunate transition from the devoted assiduity of the days of courtship, to the sleepy security of married life, that so often undermines love, and renders the heart empty; and nature has decreed that a woman's heart can never remain long perfectly vacant.

At last the truants returned. It was evident that the lady, at least, felt it was not quite right to have stayed out till so long after the usual hour for tea; she bustled about to get the tea ready, and was very attentive in helping us to it. Damon maintained a grave silence, and I felt somewhat embarrassed; the cousin alone seemed quite at his ease, and not at all gêné; I could not make out whether this was nature or art. Perhaps it was politic to appear as if he had no idea that there could be any cause for animadversion on account of their unusually long walk. My confidence in her began to waver a little, whilst my anger at him increased.

After tea the conversation fell, by mere accident, on portrait painting. It was the lady who brought the subject forward, by speaking of a picture of a female which she had observed in passing, hanging like a sign, over the open door of a garden. Nothing could have been more à propos. I hastened to ask the young wife if she had ever had her likeness taken. No, she never had, and she never intended to have it taken, for she could not bear the idea that anyone should sit down and stare at her. The cousin declared this was a silly objection, and appealed to me if he were not right.

'Oh! that is because he wants to make a sketch of me himself,' she said, in rather a hurried manner; 'he has often begged me to permit it, but I won't do so.'

The cousin remarked that there was no question of permission, only of complaisance; if he chose to make a portrait of her, he could do it without asking her leave; he could take her likeness without her knowing anything about it; he could do it from memory. His cousin laughed at these assertions, and laughed so naturally, that I felt quite convinced I was right about her. Damon, on the contrary, looked more and more distressed as this conversation proceeded; it was quite apparent to me that he was miserable, and in a painful state of doubt, and I had promised him a proof of his wife's innocence. Without uttering a word, I laid hold of a corner of the paper on which were the treacherous drawings, drew it out of the portfolio, and handed it to her. I admit that this was very hard on the cousin, but why should I spare the young jackanapes, from whom no mercy for others was to be expected, as his caricatures showed plainly enough?

She evidently did not know what I meant by showing the drawings to her, or what she was to do with them. On the first glance at the paper, she seemed about to burst into a fit of laughter, and no one who had seen these capital caricatures of Damon could have blamed the child of nature for doing so. But on the second look, her eye had had time to run over the whole sheet, and she had beheld her own likeness; the contrast was too glaring, and there now did not linger the slightest trace of a smile on her countenance. She blushed crimson, threw the sketches far away from her, as if they had burned her hand, which for a short time she placed over her eyes, as one does when suddenly coming to the brink of a precipice. And her womanly tact had assuredly told her that such had been her position. It was a moment for a painter of scenes from domestic life to have taken a sketch. In the background were the open doors leading from the pretty sitting-room to the garden, whose trees seemed drawn on the clear evening skies in their full beauty. On the sofa sat a man, apparently very unhappy, with his cheek resting on his hand, and a look expressive of the deepest anxiety fixed upon a young woman, whose guiltless countenance rivalled the glow of the evening sky; whose whole bearing evinced mingled anger and humility, innocence and embarrassment, while her eyes were riveted on the paper she had cast from her, which had revealed to her one of the dark shades of life. At a little distance from her stood a grave-looking man, whose face expressed perfect confidence in, and esteem for, the young wife; he stood as if he wished to inspire her with courage to follow the dictates of her own heart. And nearest the door leading to the entrance-hall sat a young gentleman, whose assured, careless deportment formed a strong contrast to his perplexed and irresolute glances; no one could have doubted that he was the cause of the dismal mood which had seized upon all the rest of the party, and that he was aware of this himself.

But it was only for a few short moments that the young wife stood as described. Presently she looked up fearlessly, although tears were streaming down her cheeks; without vouchsafing a single glance to the young gentleman, she swept past him, threw her arms round her husband's neck, and sank, weeping, by his side on the sofa. And this charming, natural act found a response in his heart; he flung his arm round her waist, and pressed her to his breast. It was a dumb and yet an eloquent scene!

The friend and the cousin were now de trop. I made a sign to him, and he left the room with me, without the others appearing to notice our departure.

It was rather an embarrassing situation in which we two found ourselves placed as we walked along the high road together. But as I have always considered that 'honesty is the best policy,' I did not, on this occasion, depart from my general rule. I began by telling him frankly that the ingratitude which he had displayed towards my friend, who was also his friend, and his cousin's husband, by caricaturing him so ill-naturedly, and his hardihood in leaving the drawings in an open portfolio in a sitting-room common to all the family, as if he wished them to be seen by at least one member of it, had convinced me that his remaining in that house would be productive of unhappiness to his host, and would be disagreeable to all parties. It was Damon himself who by accident had found the caricatures. It was impossible, of course, that he could pass them over in silence, and their discovery might have caused an extremely unpleasant scene. I had sought to avoid this, as I knew that no explanation or apology could have been accepted; in fact, none satisfactorily could have been offered. I pointed out to the young man that it was not likely his intercourse with the family could be renewed; that it would be necessary for him to determine what he was to do with himself for the future, as he could no longer reckon on their kindness.

'Soft and fair goes far,' says the proverb, and its truth was shown here. My words were taken in good part; the cousin and I continued to walk back and forwards on the high road half the night. He accompanied me at length to town, and then there was nothing for it--if he were to have a roof over his head at all--but to give him a bed at my house. We laid our heads together to think of what could be done to procure a situation for him, which might give him some profitable employment for the present, and some prospect of advantage for the future; and at last we both agreed that he had better look after an appointment in one of the provincial towns, which had just become vacant, and in the disposal of which I had some influence. Security, however, to a certain small extent, would be required, but I would help him to obtain this. I was quite certain, I said, that if I asked Damon, he would be his security, for he had a most amiable and forgiving temper. I wished Damon to have this satisfaction, and the cousin this humiliation; that should be his only punishment. I am now inclined to believe, however, that he found the punishment tolerably light, and bore it with great equanimity, notwithstanding that he vapoured a great deal about obligation, mortification, contrition, &c. &c.

To cut a long story short, the plan we had hit upon that night was carried out. The cousin went to the country town and obtained the situation, Damon became his security, and was not sorry to have this little revenge upon him. And his young wife, who, through my indiscretion, found out afterwards what Damon had done, was quite overcome by her husband's generosity, and thought more of him than ever. A man is never sorry that his wife should entertain the belief that he is generous and noble-minded; that raises him much more in her estimation than if he gave her occasion for the vain satisfaction of admiring his wit. That, certainly, Damon's wife had no opportunity of doing, for he possessed neither wit nor genius, but he was a good, kind-hearted person. Their married life, which had been so nearly rendered unhappy, after the cloud above referred to had cleared off, glided on in a calm and even tenour, and nothing occurred to disturb their serenity.

But man is his own worst enemy, an old philosopher has said, and not without truth. Before twelve months had expired Damon's old whim had revived: he longed again for a friend, and began to lament that he had no one to whom he might speak on many subjects on which he could not converse with his wife.

'To speak the honest truth,' he said to me one day, 'I miss my wife's cousin exceedingly. He was a pleasant, sociable young man as could be, and I really do believe that we did him injustice--at least as far as my wife was concerned--and that she never would have troubled herself about him if he had remained in our house till doomsday. I really do miss him often.'

I opened my eyes in amazement at hearing this speech. But he was in earnest. Notwithstanding his domestic comforts, and all his previous unfortunate' experience, he longed for--his phantom, his patented friend, his Pythias the Fifth! The old fixed idea was again in the ascendant! His folly almost made me ill, but it also made me very angry, and this time I did not let him off easily. I remonstrated with him on the injustice with which he had during his whole life treated me, who had always been his true friend, a fact which no one could deny, though he had scarcely considered me as such, while he had run up friendship after friendship with a set of worthless creatures. His Pythias-fancy was a positive frenzy with him, approaching to insanity. But he had never had the least idea of what friendship really was. And as he was ignorant of it, I would tell him that friendship is the reward of affection, and it is not to be found in the street, like acquaintances, the mere result of chance. But what had he gained by his various friendships? Had they not been for a long time a wretched slavery, and in the last instance an equally wretched attempt at governing? The absurdity had merged at length into a perfect monomania, which deserved no mercy, for it had nearly made his poor wife thoroughly unhappy. If he could not give up the indulgence of this caprice, I advised him to engage a Pythias by the month for certain stipulated wages; some poor devil whom he could order to go with him to fish, or sit down to a chessboard whenever he pleased, for he required no other companion. Such an arrangement would be very convenient, because he could dismiss the hired Pythias when he pleased without further ado. As to myself, I said, I should continue to visit at his house only on his wife's account, for, as she was to be so neglected by him, she might require in her isolation the occasional society of a sincere friend. I should not come any longer for his sake, as he had shown me plainly enough how little he cared, or had ever cared, for me.

Damon was quite dumbfounded at the warmth with which I spoke, and at the unvarnished truths with which I overwhelmed him; his conscience must have told him that my accusations were not without foundation. He gave in, and concord was restored between us upon the condition that, for the future, he should renounce all search after his Pythias puppets. It was further resolved that the pacification should be 'firm and lasting,' as it is called in all treaties of peace.

I had been two or three months travelling abroad, when I received a letter from Damon, giving me to understand that an event was expected in his house which was looked forward to with much pleasure. I was delighted to hear it, hoping that it would add so much to the happiness of my friends in the future. At length, to my joy, came another letter, announcing the birth of a son, his exact image, and he was so expansive in his descriptions of the little stranger, whom he seemed to look upon as a prodigy, that he scarcely left himself room to mention his wife.

As soon as I returned home, I went to see him, and found him, like a fond papa, in the nursery' where he was pacing up and down, holding a monologue about the boy's education and future prospects. The young mother was sitting on the sofa with that languid, touching expression of heartfelt joy, which is so becoming to young mothers, and with a dreamy look, as if she, too, were beholding in her mind's eye the future for her child, and in thought were bestowing on him the cherub form more meet for an angel than a child of mortality. I congratulated them both with all my heart. Damon lifted his 'exact image' from the cradle, raised the infant high in the air, and exclaimed with pleasure and pride:

'See here! here is my new born friend--my rightful Pythias!'

I could not help smiling at this truly unexpected outburst. What obstinacy!

The young mother held out her arms, and cried: 'Oh, give him to me--give me my child, my own little man, my darling!'

And when the infant was placed in her arms she caressed him with that tenderness which only a mother can show.

'My Pythias!--My darling!' They had both spoken from their hearts, and found the word which made them happiest.

When the boy was to be christened, the mother proposed that he should be named Charles, and the father that he should also be called Pythias. Charles was after me; Pythias was after him, the other--the phantom. I could not refrain from whispering to Damon, if it would not be well to have the child also christened 'the Fifth.' He laughed, and pushed me so, that I had nearly gone head-foremost into the cradle, to 'the new-born Pythias.'

And Charles Pythias united in his own person that which makes the happiness of marriage--love and friendship. I do not believe that either of the parents bethought them how long these feelings had been shared among various individuals, so entirely were they now united and concentrated in this one little child.

But I pleaded earnestly that the boy should on no account be called Pythias, and insisted that it was quite enough for him to bear my name, as his father's friend. I was determined to free myself from hearing anything more of Pythias. Happily I carried my point, and I did hear no more of him. The new-born Pythias, however, took, in due time, his rightful place, though he had escaped bearing the ridiculous name.