|Chapter Title||THE VALUE OF A LIFE|
|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||The Morals of Abou Ben Adhem|
Thc Morals of Abou lieu Auhciu.
By. p. V. Nasbv.
TUE VALUE OP A LIFE.
Anou brm Adiiem, tho magician, was sitting under his own vino aud fig-tree, in front of his tent, iu New Jersey, ono bright morning in May.
He was in au admirable frame of mind. Hu had killed two life-insurance solicitors the day before ; ho had subscribed for tho last book that had been put in tho hands of canvassers ; hu had his hired man, armed with a double-barrelled shot-gun, nt tho gate on tho main road lying for patent gate and lightning-rod men, so ho had a fair prospect for a quiet day. Ho was musing on lifo, and trying to solve that great problem, wherein ho was doing a most foolish thing ; for life is a riddle which will solve itself, if you wait long enough. Death is tho great solver.
Tile solution can bo hastened somewhat by late suppers und whisky, but it will come to all, sooner or later, without theso or any other aids. Wiso ns Abou was, it never occurred to him that if there be a future ho would know all about it in time ; and if thero should not bo one, the matter would not bother him much after ho had got through with the present. In dwelling on this subject, tito summit of Abou's physical structure was not horizontal. But all great men have their weaknesses. Tho editor hereof pre- sumes that a critical examination of himself would develop some trilling faults.
But Abeu's dream of an entirely quiet day was not to bo realised. He was just smoking his second pipe, when n young man, whoso intel- lectual face was overspread with deep concern, appeared to him.
" What wouldst thou with mc ?" said Abou, haughtily. " Speak, man, speak I"
" .Mighty Abou, I need thy hell). I am dying, Egypt, dying. I havo a cough which is tearing me to pieces ; I have also dyspepsia, liver com- plaint, bronchitis, asthma, consumption, Bright's disease of the kidney's, mid neuralgia, witli a few other diseases too tedious to mention, and they are all growing worse daily."
" Hast tried tho regular physicians 1"
" I have."
" Tho irregulars 1" " Verily."
"The putout medicines?"
" All of them."
" Tho retired physician whoso Bauds of life have nearly ma out ?"
" Thou go homo in peace. If you have tried ni) these mid still live, I know of nothing that can kill you."
" But, mighty Abou, I nm dying nevertheless." " Well, why not die then, without bothering me ? I am no balm in Gilead, nor am I a healing balsam. I have power, it is true?"
" Mighty Abou, I know you have, and that power exert for mo. I caro not to live for my- self, but for iny fellows. I nm the leading man in my nativo village, I edit tho weekly paper ; I nm mayor ; I run tho church, and am president of tho School Bonni. If I should die, New Athens would go as straigt to ruin as a pigeon could Hy.
It would not survive me."
Abou lind him now. Ho had an opportunity to moralise, and in good square moralling Abou was equalled by few and excelled by none, lt was his best hold, and ho never missed au oppor- tunity. So- ho lighted a fresh pipe andi went for tho young man.
" My young friend, you fancy that, should you die, New Athens would go to ruin. Lisbon.
" Long ago-, in tho dim yeurs before the flood, I was sailing on tho Persian Gulf iu t>.o stanch A 1 clipper ship, tho Mary Ann. Suddenly there arose a terrible storm. The wiwin-howled liko an Irish riot, tho lightnings flashed; with a vividness which was appalling, and tho thunders rolled as though tho demons of tho oin wero playing continuous games of ten-pins, lt was a fearsome night. The darkness was so intense that lights on tho headlands showed not,, and wo wero plunging; through it, helpless, in tko power of the tempest,dh a pitiless coast. The-(Captain ? Perkins wau-his name?had lost bis reckoning, and the Mary Ann, uncontrolled and uncon- trollable, w.u.speeding on to her doom.
" Captain Perkins stood at his post calm aud self-possussnl. ' So long ex wo hov scmrooin,' said he, in Ilia marked Afghanistan dialect, ' so long ez we hov sea-room and kill keep abet uv the pesky rouks we're all right. Tho Mary Ann can't be swamped nohow. But this in an ugly coast' Audi Captain Perkins took a fresh chew of tobacco, yjnl peered anxiously into the dark-
" .1 list thvn the passengers began to learn of th« danger they were in, and came rushing up tho aft binnacle quarter-deck, in wild confusion.
"' Captain,' shrieked ono, ' save tho- vessel ! save her ! I am thu editor of the Ispahan Alorniny likrald, which has tho largest circula- tion of any paper in Porsia. If I perish, the Ihrnld perishes with me. Save cm for thc sake of Ispahan !'
" ' Oo U>!' outspoke the bold captain. ' You bet I'll si»o tho vessel?for my own, sake. Bo cliesm, oa my head bo it. Rest easy."
" ' Salle tho ship I' shrieked another. ' I nm the goviimor of a province. If I perish, who shall rule it ? Anarchy and confusion ensue, and widte-spread woo follows. For- tile sake of the proiinee save tho ship I'
"'Save tho ship !' shrieked a tefntd. 'I am the president of the First National Bank of Ispahan ; if I perish, down goes the- bank.'
"'Save the ship I' yelled a fourth. 'I am thc president of tho Cashmere and Bulbul Railway Company. If I go down, wbc.Giia manage that grtpA coriwiration V
"-'Save the ship 1' cried ».fifth. 'I am the pintiideiit of thu Everlasting; Equal Benefit, iteuiuncrative, Lifo and Traeb Insurance Com- pany. Who can run thai); machine if I um
" And these excited Orantnb howled to the
\ captain as to the terrible gonsequences of their ? untimely taking-olf to kiln* degree that they actually impressed me. U felt that never vessel carried so much greatness^ and that if it should be lost, with its passengers, Persia would bc
" The vessel was lost, nevertheless. The Mary Ann was on & dangerous coast, and Cap- tain Perkins knew h,. but went to his state-room to sleep. Sho struck, and I was the only ono Baved, thanks to at$ 'jaugle art?aud a hen-coop. I swam ashore stu-*, but somewhat damp.
" I made my way to Ispahan, but I could not stay there. As these mon had all perished, I supposed, of course, that ruin, wide-spread, would ensue. 1 supposed the Herald would? to uso a vulgarism which I detest?peg ont, that the bank would (to use another) bust, that the Railroad and Insurance Company would stop, aud that rebellion would break out iu the pro- vinces ; so, before the news got about, I sold my property and came to New Jersey,'
I " My son, the moral is coming now, so wake
up. 1 had been here Bix months when I got letters from Ispahan. There wasn't ruin to any alarming extent in Porsia ; things seemed to go on about as usual. Anew governor was appointed i over the province, nnd the province fared better 1 than ever. There was les3 plundering than before,
for tho new governor was vigilant; he refused to let tho members of the provincial legislature vote themselves back-pay, and he squelched two Credit Mobiliera. As ho was rich when he was appointed, it was not necessary for him to steal much, and he had no relatives. The stockholders 1 of tho Herald elected a new editor, aud tho
paper was better than ever j the new man was tho first to introduce interviewing into Ispahan, nnd hu organised on expedition to find Living
stone. Tho Railroad Company elected a now president, who put on palace aud sleeping cars, and actually made the lino pay a dividend ; and ns for the bank, bless you, the drowned president was diminutive tubers compared with his suc- cessor. Ho brought the concern to a smash-up in half tho time it would have taken the old one, which enabled tho stockholders to retire with fortunes in middle life. Tho now life-insurance president was a vast improvement on his prede- cessor. He was a man of broad views. Ho devised the brilliant idea of arming his solicitors with Derringer pistols.
" So yon see, my friend, things went on tho better for the drowning of these important mon. Indeed, the people of Ispahan sworo that if thoy could be sure of so great an improvement every time, they would like more shipwrecks ; and thoy got into a habit of praying Allah for high winds every limo tho dignitaries of Ispahan went out on tho Gulf on an excursion.
" Young man, go home. If your lifo is of any use to yourself, save it; but if you are trying to save it out of regard for your fellows, spare your-
self the trouble. There wero mon in New Athens before your time, and thero will be after.
" Whon you are as old and as wiso as 1 am, you will know that one man is of very little account in this world, no matter who ho is. Do you doubt this i If so, die, and as you look down, or up, as tho case may be, from your spirit abiding pince, you will renliso tho humiliating fact that in a week no one will realise that you are gouo ; in three weeks tho few who do remem- ber tho event will probably be glad of it, and will be sorry you did not die sooner. Go to, young miui, go to I"
And Abou waved him off haughtily, and went
in to his dinner.