The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander
by Frank R. Stockton
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"She saw the force of my remarks, and we discussed the matter for half an hour, and when I left—being warned by the soldier on guard, who was in love with the queen's black-eyed maid, that it was time for me to depart—it was arranged that I should return the next night and confer with the fair Adelheid.

"There were several conferences, and the unfaithful sentinel grumbled a good deal. I cannot speak of all the plans and projects which we discussed, but at last one of them was carried out. One dark, rainy night Adelheid changed clothes with her maid, actually deceived the guard—not the fellow who had admitted me—with a story that she had been sent in great haste to get some medicine for her royal mistress, and joined me outside the prison.

"There we mounted horses I had in readiness, and rode away from Ivrea. We were bound for the castle of Canossa, a strong-hold of considerable importance, where my royal companion believed she could find refuge, at least for a time. I cannot tell you of all the adventures we had upon that difficult journey. We were pursued; we were almost captured; we met with obstacles of various kinds, which sometimes seemed insurmountable; but at last we saw the walls of Canossa rising before us, and we were safe.

"Adelheid was very grateful for what I had done, and as she had now learned to place full reliance upon me, she insisted that I should be the bearer of a letter from her to the Emperor Otto. I should not travel alone, but be accompanied by a sufficient retinue of soldiers and attendants, and should go as her ambassador.

"The journey was a long and a slow one, but I was rather glad of it, for it gave me an opportunity to ponder over the most ambitious scheme I have ever formed in the whole course of my life."

"Greater than to be autocrat of all the Russias?" exclaimed Mrs. Crowder.

"Yes," he replied. "That opportunity came to me suddenly, and I accepted it; I did not plan it out and work for it. Besides, it could be only a transitory thing. But what now occupied me was a grand idea, the good effects of which, if it should be carried out, might endure for centuries. It was simply this:

"I had become greatly attached to the young queen widow whose cause I had espoused. I had spent more than a month with her in the castle at Canossa, and there I learned to know her well and to love her. She was, indeed, a most admirable woman and charming in every way. She appeared to place the most implicit trust in me; told me of all her affairs, and asked my opinion about almost everything she proposed to do. In a word, I was in love with her and wanted to marry her."

"Thee certainly had lofty notions; but don't think I object," said Mrs. Crowder. "It is Chinese and Tartars I don't like."

"It might seem at first sight," he continued, "that I was aiming above me, but the more I reflected the more firmly I believed that it would be very good for the lady, as well as for me. In the first place, she had no reason to expect a matrimonial union worthy of her. Adalbert she had every reason to despise, and there was no one else belonging to the riotous aristocratic factions of Italy who could make her happy or give her a suitable position. In all her native land there was not a prince to whom she would not have to stoop in order to marry him.

"But to me she need not stoop. No man on earth possessed a more noble lineage. I was of the house of Shem, a royal priest after the order of Melchizedek, and King of Salem! No line of imperial ancestry could claim precedence of that."

Mrs. Crowder looked with almost reverent awe into the face of her husband. "And that is the blood," she said, "which flows in the veins of our child?"

"Yes," said he; "that is the blood."

After a slight pause Mr. Crowder continued: "I will now go on with my tale of ambition. A grand career would open before me. I would lay all my plans and hopes before the Emperor Otto, who would naturally be inclined to assist the unfortunate widow; but he would be still more willing to do so when I told him of the future which might await her if my plans should be carried out. As he was then engaged in working with a noble ambition for the benefit of his own dominions, he would doubtless be willing to do something for the good of lands beyond his boundaries. It ought not to be difficult to convince him that there could be no wiser, no nobler way of championing the cause of Adelheid than by enabling me to perform the work I had planned.

"All that would be necessary for him to do would be to furnish me with a moderate military force. With this I would march to Canossa; there I would espouse Adelheid; then I would proceed to Ivrea, would dethrone the wicked Berengar, would proclaim Adelheid queen in his place, with myself as king consort; then, with the assistance and backing of the imperial German, I would no doubt soon be able to maintain my royal pretensions. Once self-supporting, and relying upon our Italian subjects for our army and finances, I would boldly re-establish the great kingdom of Lombardy, to which Charlemagne had put an end nearly two hundred years before. Then would begin a grand system of reforms and national progress.

"Pavia should be my capital, but the beneficent influence of my rule should move southward. I would make an alliance with the Pope; I would crush and destroy the factions which were shaking the foundations of church and state; I would still further extend my power—I would become the imperial ruler of Italy, with Adelheid as my queen!

"Over and over again I worked out and arranged this grand scheme, and when I reached the court of the Emperor Otto it was all as plain in my mind as if it had been copied on parchment.

"I was very well received by the emperor, and he read with great interest and concern the letter I had brought him. He gave me several private audiences, and asked me many questions about the fair young widow who had met with so many persecutions and misfortunes. This interest greatly pleased me, but I did not immediately submit to him my plan for the relief of Adelheid and the great good of the Italian nation. I would wait a little; I must make him better acquainted with myself. But the imperial Otto did not wait. On the third day after my arrival I was called into his cabinet and informed that he intended to set out himself at the head of an army; that he should relieve the unfortunate lady from her persecutions and establish her in her rights, whatever they might prove to be. His enthusiastic manner in speaking of his intentions assured me that I need not trouble myself to say one word about my plans.

"Now,—would you believe it?—that intermeddling monarch took out of my hands the whole grand, ambitious scheme I had so carefully devised. He went to Canossa; he married Adelheid; he marched upon Berengar; he subjugated him and made him his vassal; he formed an alliance with Pope John XII; he was proclaimed King of the Lombards; he was crowned with his queen in St. Peter's; he eventually acquired the southern portion of Italy. All this was exactly what I had intended to do."

Mrs. Crowder laughed. "In one way thee was served quite right, for thee made all thy plans without ever asking the beautiful young ex-queen whether she would have thee or not."

In the tones of this fair lady's voice there were evident indications of mental relief. "And what did thee do then?" she asked. "I hope thee got some reward for all thy faithful exertions."

"I received nothing at the time," Mr. Crowder replied; "and as I did not care to accompany the emperor into Italy, for probably I would be recognized as the man who had assisted Adelheid to escape from the prison at Ivrea, and as I was not at all sure that the emperor would remember that I needed protection, I thought it well to protect myself, and so I journeyed back into France as well as I could.

"This was not very well; for in purchasing the necessary fine clothes which I deemed it proper to wear in the presence of the royal lady whose interests I had in charge, in buying horses, and in many incidental expenses, I had spent my money. I was too proud to ask Otto to reimburse me, for that would have been nothing but charity on his part; and of course I could not expect the fair Adelheid to think of my possible financial needs. So, away I went, a poor wanderer on foot, and the imperial Otto rode forward to love, honor, and success."

"A dreadful shame!" exclaimed Mrs. Crowder. "It seems as if thee always carried a horn about with thee so that thee might creep out of the little end of it."

"But my adventures with Adelheid did not end here," he said. "About fifty years after this she was queen regent in Italy, during the infancy of her grandchild Otto III. Being in Rome, and very poor, I determined to go to her, not to seek for charity, but to recall myself to her notice, and to boldly ask to be reimbursed for my expenses when assisting her to escape from Ivrea, and in afterward going as her ambassador to Otto I. In other words, I wanted to present my bill for enabling her to take her seat upon the throne of the 'Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.'

"As a proof that I was the man I assumed to be, I took with me a ring of no great value, but set with her royal seal, which she had given me when she sent me to Otto.

"Well, I will not spend much time on this part of the story. By means of the ring I was accorded an interview with the regent. She was then an old woman over seventy years of age. When I introduced myself to her and told her my errand, she became very angry. 'I remember very well,' she said, 'the person you speak of, and he is long since dead. He was an old man when I took him into my service. You may be his son or some one else who has heard how he was employed by me. At any rate, you are an impostor. How did you come into possession of this ring? The man to whom I gave it had no right to keep it. He should have returned it to me when he had performed his duties.'

"I tried to convince her that there was no reason to suppose that the man who had assisted her could not be living at this day. He need only be about one hundred years old, and that age was not uncommon. I affirmed most earnestly that the ring had never been out of my possession, and that I should not have come to her if I had not believed that she would remember my services, and be at least willing to make good the considerable sums I had expended in her behalf.

"Now she arose in royal wrath. 'How dare you speak to me in that way!' she said. 'You are a younger man at this moment than that old stranger you represent yourself to be.' Then she called her guards and had me sent to prison as a cheat and an impostor. I remained in prison for some time, but as no definite charge was made against me, I was not brought to trial, and after a time was released to make room for somebody else. I got away as soon as I could, and thus ended my most ambitious dream."


"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.

"The 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.


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