« السابقةمتابعة »
MANY centuries ago, there dwelt in the city of Memphis an Egyptian nobleman, in high favour with the King and all the people. His name was Hophara. He was possessed of great riches and of great influence; moreover, he was exceedingly learned and pious. He knew all the records of the past, and the secrets of the holy books; and it was the common practice of the people of Memphis, when they wished to express their love and good will towards their friends, to say, "May you be as happy as Hophara!" Notwithstanding all this, however, there were times when he was far from being happy, and, while all the world was envying him, he was envying all the world. Sometimes he would retire from the royal presence, fearing that there was a change in the King's mind towards him, and that some more successful courtier than himself was about to supplant him in the councils and confidence of his sovereign. If the King looked more than usually grave, then Hophara was afraid of his anger; but if there were unusual symptoms of gaiety and cheerfulness, then would he speculate on the evanescence of smiles, and
dread some latent treachery lurking in ambush under these gay and pleasant looks. Besides all these imaginations and apprehensions, which were perpetually disturbing his peace of mind, he had many other troubles of various kinds, and it was one of his greatest vexations that he was supposed to be much more happy than all the rest of the world, when he knew that the fact was far otherwise; so that while he saw himself an object of envy, he felt that in truth he was rather an object of pity.
It happened one day that Hophara wandered in moody meditation far beyond the walls of the city, scarcely knowing whither he went, and what he was seeking. He at length found himself in a solitary place by the river's side, far away from the tumult of the city or the sound of human voices; for he felt sorely troubled by the lively manifestations of joy and satisfaction which he continually heard around him. The sun was high in the heavens, and the heat of it began to be oppressive, when happily he saw at a distance a cave that had been hollowed out from a rock. Thither he directed his steps with eager haste, and, when arrived there, he sat down on a stone bench not far within the mouth of the cave, and which seemed to have been placed there for the accommodation of weary travellers. He was so delighted with the refreshing coolness and pleasant rest of the place, that for a while he forgot his troubles; but afterwards, when he had somewhat recovered from his fatigue, he felt his curiosity excited to examine more closely the place in which he had sought refuge from the heat of the sun. He had not proceeded many steps towards the interior of the cave, befere he saw the figure of an aged man as still as a marble statue, seated with a book
in his hand, and apparently reading with profound attention by the dim light of a small lamp suspended from the roof of the cavern. Hophara was struck at the strange sight, and was held in pleasing astonishment at the remarkable beauty of the old man's face, which seemed to him a perfect model of pure contentment and benevolence, looking as though his own cup of happiness was more than full, and was overflowing beneficently for others. It was not fear, but awe and admiration, that held the Egyptian silent, as he gazed upon this interesting sight; and so long did he stand looking upon the aged man in silence, that at length when he would have spoken he felt a kind of charm that held him speechless. As if, however, knowing his thoughts, the old man raised his mild and beautiful eyes from the book in which he was reading, and, fixing them upon Hophara with a pleasing and friendly expression, said, "Man of Memphis, what seekest thou?"
There was so much music in the tone of the voice that Hophara felt at once enchanted and disenchanted; for he was delighted with the kindness expressed, while the feeling of awe which had chained up his tongue was presently dispersed, and he freely replied to the interrogation, "I seek happiness!"
Then the old man replied, "Canst thou not find it in Memphis? Hast thou not riches? Hast thou not station and power? Hast thou not learning, and piety, and many friends? Is there aught which men desire and which thou possessest not? If there be, speak, and it shall be given to thee?"
Hophara felt reproved, and replied, "It is true as thou hast said; the blessings of life are mine abundantly, but, alas! I can enjoy them but imperfectly. Though