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Ixion In Heaven

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PART I. An Errant King

THE thunder groaned, the wind howled, the rain fell in hissing torrents, impenetrable darkness covered the earth. A blue and forky flash darted a momentary light over the landscape. A Doric temple rose in the centre of a small and verdant plain, surrounded on all sides by green and hanging woods.

'Jove is my only friend,' exclaimed a wanderer, as he muffled himself up in his mantle; 'and were it not for the porch of his temple, this night, methinks, would complete the work of my loving wife and my dutiful subjects.'

The thunder died away, the wind sank into silence, the rain ceased, and the parting clouds exhibited the glittering crescent of the young moon. A sonorous and majestic voice sounded from the skies:—

'Who art thou that hast no other friend than Jove?' 'One whom all mankind unite in calling a wretch.' 'Art thou a philosopher?'

'If philosophy be endurance. But for the rest, I was sometime a king, and am now a scatterling.' 'How do they call thee? 'Ixion of Thessaly.'

'Ixion of Thessaly! I thought he was a happy man. I heard that he was just married.'

'Father of Gods and men! for I deem thee such, Thessaly is not Olympus. Conjugal felicity is only the portion of the immortals!'

'Hem! What! was Dia jealous, which is common; or false, which is commoner; or both, which is commonest?'

'It may be neither. We quarrelled about nothing. Where there is little sympathy, or too much, the splitting of a straw is plot enough for a domestic tragedy. I was careless, her friends stigmatised me as callous; she cold, her friends styled her magnanimous. Public opinion was all on her side, merely because I did not choose that the world should interfere between me and my wife. Dia took the world's advice upon every point, and the world decided that she always acted rightly. However, life is life, either in a palace or a cave. I am glad you ordered it to leave off thundering.'

'A cool dog this. And Dia left thee? 'No; I left her.' 'What, craven?'

'Not exactly. The truth is——-'tis a long story.

I was over head and ears in debt.'

'Ah! that accounts for everything. Nothing so harassing as a want of money! But what lucky fellows you mortals are with your post-obits! We Immortals are deprived of this resource. I was obliged to get up a rebellion against my father, because he kept me so short, and could not die.'

'You could have married for money. I did.' 'I had no opportunity, there was so little female society in those days. When I came out, there were no heiresses except the Parcae, confirmed old maids; and no very rich dowager, except my grandmother, old Terra.'

'Just the thing; the older the better. However, I married Dia, the daughter of Deioneus, with a prodigious portion; but after the ceremony the old gentleman would not fulfil his part of the contract without my giving up my stud. Can you conceive anything more unreasonable? I smothered my resentment at the time; for the truth is, my tradesmen all renewed my credit on the strength of the match, and so we went on very well for a year; but at last they began to smell a rat, and grew importunate....