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his table with magnificence. The eloquence of Imlac caught his attention, and the lofty courtesy of the princess excited his respect. When they offered to depart he entreated their stay, and was the next day still more unwilling to dismiss them than before. They were easily persuaded to stop, and civility grew up in time to freedom and confidence.
The prince now saw all the domesticks cheerful, and all the face of nature smiling round the place, and could not forbear to hope that he should find here what he was seeking; but when he was congratulating the master upon his possessions, he answered with a sigh, “ My condition has indeed the appearance of happiness, but appearances are delusive. My prosperity puts my life in danger; the Bassa of Egypt is my enemy, incensed only by my wealth and popularity. I have been hitherto pro. tected against him by the princes of the country; but, as the favour of the great is uncertain, I know not how soon my defenders may be persuaded to Thare the plunder with the Baffa. I have sent my treasures into a distant country, and, upon the first alarm, am prepared to follow them. Then will my enemies riot in my mansion, and enjoy the gardens which I have planted.”
They all joined in lamenting his danger, and deprecating his exile: and the princess was so much disturbed with the tumult of grief and indignation, that the retired to her apartment. They continued with their kind inviter a few days longer, and then went forward to find the hermit.
THEY caine on the third day, by the direction
of the peasants, to the hermit's cell: it was a cavern in the side of a mountain, over-shadowed with palm-trees; at such a distance from the cataract, that nothing more was heard than a gentle uniform murmur, such as composed the mind to pensive meditation, especially when it was assisted by the wind whistling among the branches. The first rude efi'ay of nature had been so much improved by human labour, that the cave contained several aparte ments appropriated to different utes, and often afforded lodging to travellers, whom darkness or tempests happened to overtake.
The hermit fit on a bench at the door, to enjoy the coolness of the evening. On one side lay a book with pets and papers, on the other mechanical instruments of various kinds. As they approached hiin unregarde.', the princess observed that he had not the countenance of a man that had found, or could teach the way to happiness.
They faluted him with great respect, which he repaid like a man not inaccustomed to the forms of
My children, faid he, if you have lost your way, you shall be willingly supplied with such conveniencies for the night as this cavern will afford. I have all i' at nature requires, and you will not expect delic.cies in a hermit's cell.”
They thanked him, and, entering, were pleased with the neatness and regularity of the place. The hermit set flesh and wine before them, though he fed only upon fruits and water. His discourse was cheerful without levity, and pious without enthufialm. He soon gained the esteem of his guests, and the princess repented of her hafty censure.
At last Imlac began thus: “I do not now wonder that your reputation is so far extended; we have heard at Cairo of your wisdom, and came hither to implore your direction for this young man and maiden in the choice of life.”
“ To him that lives well, answered the hermit, every form of life is good; nor can I give any other rule for choice, than to remove from all apparent evil.”
“He will remove most certainly from evil, said the prince, who shall devote hiinself to that solitude which you have recommended by your example.”
“ I have indeed lived fifteen years in solitude, said the hermit, but have no desire that my example should gain any imitators. In my youth I professed arms, and was raised by degrees to the highest military rank. I have traversed wide countries at the head of my troops, and seen many battles and sieges. At last, being disgusted by the preferments of a younger officer, and feeling that my vigour was beginning to decay, I resolved to close my life in peace, having found the world full of snares, discord, and misery. I had once escaped from the pursuit of the enemy by the shelter of this cavern, and therefore chose it for my final residence. I em
ployed artificers to form it into chainbers, and stored it with all that I was likely to want.
" For some time after my retreat, I rejoiced like a tempest-beaten sailor at his entrance into the harbeur, being delighted with the sudden change of the noise and hurry of war to stillness and repose. When the pleature of novelty went away, I employed my hours in examining the plants which grow in the valley, and the minerals which I collected from the rocks. But that enquiry is now grown tasteless and irksome. I have been for some time unsettled and distracted: my mind is disturbed with a thoufand perplexities of doubt, and vanities of ima. gination, which hourly prevail upon me, because I have no opportunities of relaxation or diversion. I am sometimes ashamed to think that I could not secure myself from vice, but by retiring from the exercise of virtue, and begin to suspect that I was rather impelled by resentment, than led by devotion, into folitude. My fancy riots in scenes of folly, and I lament that I have lost so much, and have gained so little. In folitude, if I escape the example of bad men, I want likewise the counsel and conversation of the good. I have been long comparing the evils with the advantages of society, and resolve to return into the world to-morrow. The life of a solitary man will be certainly miserable, but not certainly devout.”
They heard his resolution with surprise, but after a short pause, offered to conduct him to Cairo. He dug up a considerable treasure which he had hid among the rocks, and accompanied them to the city, on which, as he approached it, he gazed with rapture.
THE HAPPINESS OF A LIFE LED ACCORDING TO
RASSELAȘ went often to an assembly of learned
men, who met at fated times to unbend their minds, and compare their opinions. Their manners were somewhat coarse, but their conversation was inkructive, and their disputations acute, though sometimes too violent, and often continued till neither controvertist remembered upon what question they began. Some faults were almost general among them: every one was desirous to dictate to the rest, and every one was pleased to hear the genius or knowledge of another depreciated.
In this afsembly Rasselas was relating his interview with the hermir, and the wonder with which he heard him censure a course of life which he had so deliberately chosen, and so laudably followed. The sentiments of the hearers were various. Some were of opinion, that the folly of his choice had been justly punished by condemnation to perpetual perseverance. One of the youngest among them, with great vehemence, pronounced hiin an hypocrite. Some talked of the right of society to the labour of individuals, and considered retirement as a desertion of duty. Others readily allowed, that there was a time when the claims of the publick were satisfied, and when a man might properly fequester himself, to review his life, and purify his heart.
One, who appeared more affected with the narrative than the rest, thought it likely, that the hermic 2