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Thus she spake, and the sweet siren voice in which she uttered her words made no little impression upon the youthful Hercules, who looked up to her as if doubtfully and inquiringly, and said, "Thy words are as fair as thy form, and thy promises as winning as is thy beauty. But tell me, I pray, before I hear any more, by what name I shall call thee."
"My friends," rejoined she, "call me Happiness, but my enemies, and those who hate me, have spitefully vilified me, and miscalled me Evil."
After this, the other woman quietly approached, and said, "I, too, am come to thee, Hercules, in order to enlist thee on my side, and to entreat thee to take me as thy protectress. Well do I know thy good and virtuous parents. Over thee have I fondly and tenderly watched since the day when first thou camest to these realms of light, and thou hast been my care during thy childhood. Thus have I learnt somewhat of thy disposition, and, from what I have discovered, I fain would hope that thou wilt nobly perform many a good and virtuous deed, if thou wilt only take the way which I will mark out. Yes, methinks, thou wilt even deck me with greater honours than now I have, and make me shine forth still more illustrious for glorious deeds. Ponder carefully my words; for I will not cheat thee with fair promises of sunny pleasures, which flatter and deceive, but will faithfully and truly tell thee how the gods have ordained. Know, then, that they give nothing good and honourable to men without unceasing toil and unwearied industry. If, therefore, thou wouldst have the gods propitious unto thee, so as to hear thy prayers, thou must be ever careful to pay unto them due respect and worship, and to do all things in such a way as to win their approval. If thou wouldst gather round thee a happy company of faithful friends, knit them to thee by the good offices thou doest unto them. If thou wouldst be honoured by thy city, win distinction and gain a noble name by conferring benefits upon it. If thou wouldst have the fair land of Greece ring with thy praises, do good service unto it. If thou wouldst have the thankful earth yield her fruits in rich abundance, spend not thy time in slothful ease, but till the soil most carefully. If, finally, thou wouldst gain wealth by war, and deliver thy friends, and enslave thy enemies, learn warlike tactics from masters of
the art; and labour unceasingly in all things to make the body subject unto the soul. Thus thou seest that care, labour, and diligence are, beyond question, necessary for those who would stand well with the gods and men."
Ere Virtue had finished speaking, Vice interrupted her words, and with an air of triumphant joy, exclaimed, "Thou seest, O Hercules, what a long, and tedious, and difficult way to joy it is which this woman pointeth out to thee; but I will lead thee unto happiness by a short and easy path."
But Virtue was determined to save Hercules from the danger that threatened him, and to use all her energies to win him from the seducing wiles of Vice. So she turned quickly round upon her rival, and said, "What good, most hapless one, hast thou? or what pleasure dost thou experience, since thou labourest not to ensure it? For thou art filled with all things before thou hast desired them, eating before thou art hungry, and drinking before thou art thirsty; and that thou mayest receive pleasure from eating, thou must needs have various cooks to dress the choicest meats; and thou canst take no delight in drinking, unless thou art supplied with the richest wines, cooled in summer by snow, for which thou seekest everywhere. That thy sleep may be pleasant unto thee, thou must have soft mattresses, and couches, and cushions, whereon to repose. For thou sleepest not because thou art wearied with the labours of the day, but because thou hast nothing to do. Thou sayest thou art immortal; and so, in truth, thou art, but an immortal discarded by the gods, and dishonoured by men. Words of self-praise, to which it is ever sweet to listen, are never heard by thee; nor canst thou feast thine eyes with the most cheering sight which one can see, for thou canst never look upon any good deed which thou hast done. None ever place any reliance in thy words; none will lend their assistance when thou art in need; and none of the good and wise will enlist themselves on thy side. Thy votaries, too, may pass their early days in pleasures, but they lay up sorrow, and distress, and anguish of mind, for their old age. Now I, on the contrary, am ever with gods and men. No good or honourable deed, whether human or divine, is performed without my aid. The gods love me, and the good and virtuous
among men hold me in honour, and obey my counsels. In me the toiling artificers find a true and faithful helpmate; masters a trusty guardian of their houses and goods; and servants a kind and gentle patroness. By my assistance the works of peace flourish and succeed; in war I am a most faithful ally; and on all occasions the truest partner of firm and lasting friendship. Besides, those who hear my words, and follow my precepts, enjoy their meat and drink, because they touch them not but when they stand in need of them. Sweeter is their sleep than that of the slothful, because their consciences are pure, and they seek not repose when their duties demand attention.
"The young men are delighted when their elders are praised; and the elders rejoice in the bright honours and deathless glories to which the young men attain. Taught by me, all love ever to keep in mind the memory of the noble deeds of the olden times, and giving themselves up to imitate them, and to follow the actions of the just, they become most dear unto the gods, loved by their friends, and honoured by their native lands. Amongst my laborious but happy band, envy and malice find no place; but all are closely knit together by one fair chain of brotherly love, sorrowing and rejoicing with each other. Thus it is that their life passes happily and joyously away. And when death comes (as come it will to all), they are not handed over to dark oblivion, unhonoured and unknown; but they pass sweetly to the islands of the blest; whilst the memory of them and their good deeds flourishes bright and green for ever. If, then, Hercules, son of good and virtuous parents, thou wilt only labour continually to ensure these things, thou shalt possess happiness which shall never fade away, and true, solid joy, which shall never deceive."
Awhile the youth sat in silent thought, as if duly weighing what he had just heard. And when he had thus reflected, he raised his eyes, and said, "My choice is made; may the gods approve and aid me in my good resolves. For I choose the steep and rugged path of virtue, with its future joys, in preference to the fair and easy one of vice, with its present pleasures, and its future destruction of all that good men hold as dear."-W. B. Flower.
In my youth, not far from this, lived a man named Hilary. He was a stranger, who, possessing no fortune, came to establish himself in our neighbourhood. He had an agreeable exterior, and his manners were pleasing, so that he got himself introduced into the best society, and became in time the soul of every circle.
Hilary, knowing how to profit by the good-will which was everywhere shown him, asked the hand of a rich young lady, the daughter of a merchant; and although her parents were for a long time opposed to it, they nevertheless at length gave their consent. He entered into partnership with his father-in-law, and soon became a rich man.
As he was everywhere so well received, and all he said and did was so generally approved, Hilary began to entertain a very high opinion of himself, and to think that all those praises were really his due. Thus vanity became his weak point.
Many people were aware of this fault, and took advantage of it; they praised all his words and actions, and led him according to their pleasure. Little by little there was gathered around him a swarm of flatterers, who buzzed about him like so many bees, surrounded his table, and led him into all kinds of extravagance. Such were the effects
In his native village there lived a sister of Hilary, who had contracted an unfortunate marriage. One day the idea of helping her suddenly occurred to him, and he sent a letter to the town in which she dwelt, but received no answer. A year after, he was informed by a traveller that the husband of Henrietta was dead. This increased his desire for her to be near him; but all his inquiries after her were in vain.
So Hilary continued to live in the midst of pleasure and gaiety. He did much good, not from charity, but from vanity. Whenever he hoped to be praised for an action, he did not hesitate to do it; but when it must be performed in secret, it was at once renounced, however good and noble it might be.
One day, a poor woman entreated to enter the town with
her two children; but was sent away, notwithstanding her earnest supplications. The cold was extreme, and night was approaching. It chanced that Hilary wss riding on horseback, and met the poor woman, who implored him to have compassion on her, telling him that the guards at the gate had repulsed her.
Hilary was touched with pity at the unfortunate situation of the poor woman; and nothing would have been easier for him than to have admitted her into the town; but, thought he, no one will praise me for it. So he threw a few shillings to the poor creature, and went on his way. Next morning, both she and her children were found dead on the high road. Being unable, from exhaustion, to reach the neighbouring village, night had surprised her, and she had sunk insensible on the snow, where she perished with the cold. Upon inquiry, the unfortunate woman proved to be Hilary's sister.
This mournful event made a deep impression upon his mind; for he could accuse none but himself. He chided himself for his vanity, which alone had been the cause of his conduct towards Henrietta. It was not till many months after, that his mind was a little quieted.
Vanity caused him still further annoyances. Many persons, feeling offended at the unmerited praises of which he was constantly the object, seized every opportunity of humbling him. The flatterers by whom he was surrounded led him into dissipation. He gave sumptuous dinners, including the most costly dishes, and best wines. He had turtles from America; tuns of old wine from Hungary, and the Cape of Good Hope; he gave two, and even three, ducats for a pine-apple; and his table was loaded with every rarity. Hilary did all this for his flatterers, who, to show their gratitude, stripped him of all he possessed. The rich Hilary was thus reduced to beggary.
His numerous court abandoned him, maliciously blaming the conduct which they before pretended to approve. Hilary fell into despair, and at last died a miserable death. Such were the sad effects of vanity.—Altered from the German.