MoboReader > Literature > The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander

   Chapter 7 No.7

The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 13471

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Now, my dear," said Mr. Crowder, regarding his wife with a tender kindness which I had frequently noticed in him, "just for a change, I know you would like to hear of a career of prosperity, wouldn't you?"

"Indeed, I would!" said Mrs. Crowder. "You will have noticed," said her husband, "that there has been a great deal of variety in my vocations; in fact, I have not mentioned a quarter of the different trades and callings in which I have been engaged. It was sometimes desirable and often absolutely necessary for me to change my method of making a living, but during one epoch of my life I steadily devoted myself to a single profession. For nearly four hundred years I was engaged almost continuously in the practice of medicine. I found it easier for me, as a doctor, to change my place of residence and to appear in a new country with as much property as I could carry about with me, than if I had done so in any other way. A prosperous and elderly man coming as a stranger from a far country would, under ordinary circumstances, be regarded with suspicion unless he were able to give some account of his previous career. But a doctor from a far country was always welcome; if he could cure people of their ailments they did not ask anything about the former circumstances of his life. It was perfectly natural for a learned man to travel."

"Did thee regularly study and go to college?" asked Mrs. Crowder, "or was thee a quack?" "Oh, I studied," said her husband, smiling, "and under the best masters. I had always a fancy for that sort of thing, and in the days of the patriarchs, when there were no regular doctors, I was often called upon, as I told you."

"Oh, yes," said his wife; "thee rubbed Joshua with gravel and pepper."

"And cured him," said he, "You ought not to have omitted that. But it was not until about the fifth century before Christ that I thought of really studying medicine. I was in the island of Cos, where I had gone for a very queer reason. The great painter Apelles lived there, and I went for the purpose of studying art under him. I was tired of most of the things I had been doing, and I thought it would be a good idea to become a painter. Apelles gave me no encouragement when I applied to him; he told me I was entirely too old to become a pupil. 'By the time you would really know how to paint,' said he, 'supposing you have any talent for it, you ought to be beginning to arrange your affairs to get ready to die.' Of course this admonition had no effect upon me, and I kept on with my drawing lessons. If I could not become a painter of eminence, I thought that at least I might be able, if I understood drawing, to become a better schoolmaster--if I should take up that profession again.

"One day Apelles said to me, after glancing at the drawing on which I was engaged: 'If you were ten years younger you might do something in the field of art, for you would make an excellent model for the picture I am about to begin. But at your present age you would not be able to sustain the fatigue of remaining in a constrained position for any length of time.' 'What is the subject?' I asked. 'A centurion in battle,' said he.

"The next day I appeared before Apelles with my hair cropped short and my face without a vestige of a beard. 'Do I look young enough now to be your model?' said I. The painter looked at me in surprise. 'Yes,' said he, 'you look young enough; but of course you are the same age as you were yesterday. However, if you would like to try the model business, I will make some sketches of you.'

"For more than a month, nearly every day, I stood as a model to Apelles for his great picture of a centurion whose sword had been stricken from his hand, and who, in desperation, was preparing to defend himself against his enemy with the arms which nature had given him."

"Is that picture extant?" I asked.

Mr. Crowder smiled. "None of Apelles's paintings are in existence now," he answered. "While I was acting as model to Apelles--and I may remark that I never grew tired of standing in the position he desired--I listened with great satisfaction to the conversations between him and the friends who called upon him while he was at work. The chief of these was Hippocrates, the celebrated physician, between whom and Apelles a strong friendship existed.

"Hippocrates was a man of great common sense. He did not believe that diseases were caused by spirits and demons and all that sort of thing, and in many ways he made himself very interesting to me. So, in course of time, after having visited him a good deal, I made up my mind to quit the study of art and go into that of medicine.

"I got on very well, and after a time I practiced with him in many cases, and he must have had a good deal of confidence in me, for when the King of Persia sent for him to come to his court, offering him all sorts of munificent rewards, Hippocrates declined, but he suggested to me that I should go.

"'You look like a doctor,' said he. 'The king would have confidence in you simply on account of your presence; and, besides, you do know a great deal about medicine.' But I did not go to Persia, and shortly after that I left the island of Cos and gave up the practice of medicine. Later, in the second century before Christ, I made the acquaintance of a methodist doctor--"

"A what?" Mrs. Crowder and I exclaimed at the same moment.

He laughed. "I thought that would surprise you, but it is true."

"Of course it is true," said his wife, coloring a little. "Does thee think I would doubt anything thee told me? If thee had said that Abraham had a Quaker cook, I would have believed it."

"And if I had told you that," said Mr. Crowder, "it would have been so. But to explain about this methodist doctor. In those days the physicians were divided into three schools: empirics, dogmatists, and methodists. This man I speak of--Asclepiades--was the leading methodist physician, depending, as the name suggests, upon regular methods of treatment instead of experiments and theories adapted to the particular case in hand.

"He also was a man of great good sense, and was very witty besides. He made a good deal of fun of other physicians, and used to call the system of Hippocrates 'meditation on death.' I studied with him for some time, but it was not until the first century of the present era that I really began the practice of my profession. Then I made the acquaintance of the great Galen. He was a man who was not only a physician, but an accomplished surgeon, and this could be said of very few people in that age of the world. I studied anatomy and surgery under him, and afterward practiced with him as I had done with Hippocrates.


e study of anatomy was rather difficult in those days, because the Roman laws forbade the dissection of citizens, and the anatomists had to depend for their knowledge of the human frame upon their examinations of the bodies of enemies killed in battle, or those of slaves, in whom no one took an interest; but most of all upon the bodies of apes. Great numbers of these beasts were brought from Africa solely for the use of the Roman surgeons, and in that connection I remember an incident which was rather curious.

"I had not finished my studies under Galen when that great master one day informed me that a trader had brought him an ape, which had been confined in a small building near his house. He asked me to go out and kill it and have it brought into his dissecting-room, where he was to deliver a lecture to some students.

"I started for the building referred to. On the way I was met by the trader. He was a vile-looking man, with black, matted hair and little eyes, who did not look much higher in intelligence than the brutes he dealt in. He grinned diabolically as he led me to the little house and opened the door. I looked in. There was no ape there, but in one corner sat a dark-brown African girl. I looked at the man in surprise. 'The ape I was to bring got away from me,' he said, 'but that thing will do a great deal better, and I will not charge any more for it than for the ape. Kill it, and we will put it into a bag and carry it to the doctor. He will be glad to see what we have brought him instead of an ape.'

"I angrily ordered the man to leave the place, and taking the girl by the arm,--although I had a good deal of trouble in catching her,--I led her to Galen and told him the story."

"And what became of the poor thing?" asked Mrs. Crowder.

"Galen bought her from the man at the price of an ape, and tried to have her educated as a servant, but she was a wild creature and could not be taught much. In some way or other the people in charge of the amphitheater got possession of her, and I heard that she was to figure in the games at an approaching great occasion. I was shocked and grieved to hear this, for I had taken an interest in the girl, and I knew what it meant for her to take part in the games in the arena. I tried to buy her, but it was of no use: she was wanted for a particular purpose. On the day she was to appear in the arena I was there."

"I don't see how thee could do it," said Mrs. Crowder, her face quite pale.

"People's sensibilities were different in those days," said her husband. "I don't suppose I could do such a thing now. After a time she was brought out and left entirely alone in the middle of the great space. She was nearly frightened to death by the people and the fear of some unknown terror. Trembling from head to foot, she looked from side to side, and at last sank crouching on the ground. Everybody was quiet, for it was not known what was to happen next. Then a grating sound was heard, with the clank of an iron door, and a large brown bear appeared in the arena. The crouching African fixed her eyes upon him, but did not move.

"The idea of a combat between this tender girl and a savage bear could not be entertained. What was about to occur seemed simply a piece of brutal carnage, with nothing to make it interesting. A great many people expressed their dissatisfaction. The hard-hearted populace, even if they did not care about fair play in their games, did desire some element of chance which would give flavor to the cruelty. But here was nothing of the sort. It would have been as well to feed the beast with a sheep.

"The bear, however, seemed to look upon the performance as one which would prove very satisfactory. He was hungry, not having had anything to eat for several days, and here was an appetizing young person waiting for him to devour her.

"He had fixed his eyes upon her the moment he appeared, and had paid no attention whatever to the crowds by which he was surrounded. He gave a slight growl, the hair on his neck stood up, and he made a quick movement toward the girl. But she did not wait for him. Springing to her feet, she fled, the bear after her.

"Now followed one of the most exciting chases ever known in the history of the Roman amphitheater. That frightened girl, as swift as a deer, ran around and around the vast space, followed closely by her savage pursuer. But although he was active and powerful and unusually swift for a bear, he could not catch her.

"Around and around she went, and around went the red-eyed beast behind her; but he could not gain upon her, and she gave no sign that her strength was giving out.

"Now the audience began to perceive that a contest was really going on: it was a contest of speed and endurance, and the longer the girl ran the more inclined the people were to take her part. At last there was a great shout that she should be allowed to escape. A little door was opened in the side of the amphitheater; she shot through it, and it was closed almost in the face of the panting and furious bear."

"What became of the poor girl?" exclaimed Mrs. Crowder.

"A sculptor bought her," said Mr. Crowder. "He wanted to use her as a model for a statue of the swift Diana; but this never came to anything. The girl could not be made to stand still for a moment. She was in a chronic condition of being frightened to death. After that I heard of her no more; it was easy for people to disappear in Rome. But this incident in the arena was remembered and talked about for many years afterward. The fact that a girl was possessed of such extraordinary swiftness that she would have been able to escape from a wild beast, by means of her speed alone, had she been in an open plain, was considered one of the most interesting natural wonders which had been brought to the notice of the Roman people by the sports in the arena."

"Fortunately," said Mrs. Crowder, "thee did not--"

"No," said her husband, "I did not. I required more than speed in a case like that. And now I think," said he, rising, "we must call this session concluded."

The next day I was obliged to bid farewell to the Crowders, and my business arrangements made it improbable that I should see them again for a long time--I could not say how long. As I bade Mr. Crowder farewell and stood holding his hand in mine, he smiled, and said: "That's right. Look hard at me; study every line in my face, and then when you see me again you will be better able--"

"Not a bit," said Mrs. Crowder. "He is just as able to judge now as he will be if he stays away for twenty years."

I believed her, as I warmly shook her hand, and I believe that I shall always continue to believe her.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top