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The Means Of Enjoyment
by [?]

ONE of the most successful merchants of his day was Mr. Alexander. In trade he had amassed a large fortune, and now, in the sixtieth year of his age, he concluded that it was time to cease getting and begin the work of enjoying. Wealth had always been regarded by him as a means of happiness; but, so fully had his mind been occupied in business, that, until the present time, he had never felt himself at leisure to make a right use of the means in his hands.

So Mr. Alexander retired from business in favour of his son and son-in-law. And now was to come the reward of his long years of labour. Now were to come repose, enjoyment, and the calm delights of which he had so often dreamed. But, it so happened, that the current of thought and affection which had flowed on so long and steadily was little disposed to widen into a placid lake. The retired merchant must yet have some occupation. His had been a life of purposes, and plans for their accomplishment; and he could not change the nature of this life. His heart was still the seat of desire, and his thought obeyed, instinctively, the heart’s affection.

So Mr. Alexander used a portion of his wealth in various ways, in order to satisfy the ever active desire of his heart for something beyond what was in actual possession. But, it so happened, that the moment an end was gained, the moment the bright ideal became a fixed and present fact, its power to delight the mind was gone.

Mr. Alexander had some taste for the arts. Many fine pictures already hung upon his walls. Knowing this, a certain picture-broker threw himself in his way, and, by adroit management and skilful flattery, succeeded in turning the pent-up and struggling current of the old gentleman’s feelings and thoughts in this direction. The broker soon found that he had opened a new and profitable mine. Mr. Alexander had only to see a fine picture, to desire its possession; and to desire was to have. It was not long before his house was a gallery of pictures.

Was he any happier? Did these pictures afford him a pure and perennial source of enjoyment? No; for, in reality, Mr. Alexander’s taste for the arts was not a passion of his mind. He did not love the beautiful in the abstract. The delight he experienced when he looked upon a fine painting, was mainly the desire of possession; and satiety soon followed possession.

One morning, Mr. Alexander repaired alone to his library, where, on the day before, had been placed a new painting, recently imported by his friend the picture-dealer. It was exquisite as a work of art, and the biddings for it had been high. But he succeeded in securing it for the sum of two thousand dollars. Before he was certain of getting this picture, Mr. Alexander would linger before it, and study out its beauties with a delighted appreciation. Nothing in his collection was deemed comparable therewith. Strangely enough, after it was hung upon the walls of his library, he did not stand before it for as long a space as five minutes; and then his thoughts were not upon its beauties. During the evening that followed, the mind of Mr. Alexander was less in repose than usual. After having completed his purchase of the picture, he had overheard two persons, who were considered autocrats in taste, speaking of its defects, which were minutely indicated. They likewise gave it as their opinion that the painting was not worth a thousand dollars. This was throwing cold water on his enthusiasm. It seemed as if a veil had suddenly been drawn from before his eyes. Now, with a clearer vision, he could see faults where, before, every defect was thrown into shadow by an all-obscuring beauty.