Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/237

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225
A WORD FOR XANTIPPE.

open to him when he chose to share in their festivities; young fellows of fortune were delighted to have the company of the amusing old vagabond at their wicked little suppers. These fellows were rich enough and liberal enough to coin their gratitude and admiration into cash that would have gladdened the heart of Xantippe and filled the bellies of those two boys.

Let any respectable English matron try to conceive the case of Mrs. Socrates, when Mr. Socrates came home one evening after an absence of two days and a night. Be sure that he had done no work and brought home no money for a long time, be sure that she had not a decent gown to her back, be sure that if the children had dined scantily on bread and olives, the dinner had been procured with the greatest difficulty. Remember that she was never invited to the fine parties he frequented, and that every day of her life she must have heard her gossips cry shame on this disreputable husband of hers, and hint with awe and horror at the queer tales told about some of the women and young men with whom he was most intimate. Where has my lord been these two days? Roasting Gorgias, "selling" Protagoras, cutting up Euthyphron into mincemeat. And the night? Having the jolliest supper at Agathon's, with the most terrible wits and the superbest swells in Athens. And with music, and girls lasciviously dancing? No; they sent away the female flute-player, and had a quiet evening delivering orations in honour of Love; until Alcibiades came in nobly intoxicated, and they all drank hard as long as they could, Socrates drinking hard until broad daylight. Delivering orations in honour of Love, with his lawful wife at home in her lonely bed, hungry and wretched, and horribly anxious! One admits the charm of the symposium; never since has there been such talk from such company save at the Old Mermaid; our finest swells are but boors