A Teaching by Cleon
Victor Endersby

Cleon and his pupil Chrysopharos were walking near the waterfront in Delos, when they beheld a man laying the leather upon his wife, who resisted after the manner of the women of that district. In some bewilderment Chrysopharos gazed upon the impassive face of his preceptor, who made no move to interfere.

“This,” he though at last, “must be a testing, it being for me to recognize the nature of my own duty without prompting.”

Whereupon he aimed at the head of the man an earnest but clumsy swing. In a trice he found himself face downward, a cushion in the dust for the weight of the twain, the woman belaboring him over the head, while the man twisted a foot with relish.

Chrysopharos painfully turned his head to gaze with one eye upon the face of the teacher.

“And what,” he inquired, “is the nature of this manifestation of Nemesis, O Master?”

Cleon sat down upon the curb.

“It,” said he, “is the karma of many a chivalrous youth who has essayed to adjudicate between husband and wife since the beginning of this peculiar Age some twenty-five hundred years ago.”

“But why,” groaned Chrysopharos, “has the woman no gratitude?”

“In this Age,” replied Cleon, “men and women regard one another as possessions, the which is the source of such-like disharmonies. It is to be noted that while reserving to oneself the right to deal with a possession according to desire, the laying hands thereupon by a stranger is ever resented.”

“And how long, O Preceptor,” said Chrysopharos, knitting his hands behind his head as an insufficient protection against the blows, “must this teaching endure?”

“When the lesson is learned, the necessity ceases.”

At this moment the couple, hearing this discourse without understanding, but sensing therein somewhat a reflection upon their character, stood up and regarded Cleon balefully. Meanwhile, a menacing crowd, seeing a pair of its own kind being in some manner oppressed by two of the hated Aristoi, began to surround them, and a cobble glanced from the wall.

Cleon, taking the dazed pupil by the hand, departed speedily by an alley which he had retained in the corner of his eye - he being of those harmless as doves, who of necessity are wise as serpents. Reaching a safe place in the upper part of the town, Cleon busied himself with wiping blood from the nose of Chrysopharos and binding up an eye with a wet cloth. Chrysopharos, though ashamed of the secret thought, was unable to avoid wondering whether some of this solicitude, bestowed in a more energetic manner earlier, might not have forstalled considerable pain.

Said he at last, “This, Master, is not an encouragement on the path of helping mankind.”

“It is neither an encouragement not a discouragement; it is a lesson. There are those who may be helped and those who may not be helped.”

“How was one to discern in this case?”

“Those who know have their own means of discernment. For one such as thou, a certain keenness in perception of outward signs is of use. There are some who sensations are pitched at such low level that without an occasional bath of shrieking brutality given or received, they feel themselves but half-alive. Being at peace, they must ever seek strife.

“Those who have not the light of Pallas Athena, such as children and animals, cripples; also any who meet a buffeting with dignity, without resentment, with a sense of the justice of Nemesis - such may be aided with profit. In this case, the strident screaming of the woman carried a certain message. Also, the lines of habitual peevishness in her face might have been traced, likewise the scratches upon the face of the man, both new and old. The genesis of a buffeting is oft discernible in the marks of a past history ... Applicable to a tribe, also,” he added thoughtfully.

Chrysopharos felt that the mounting of a new step toward the terrace of enlightenment had been worth a certain number of lacerations. He also cogitated whether it were possible that the teachers of the Wisdom, unlike those of the world, had no need of the cane to impress a lesson upon dull minds, because the world was so full of arms eager to do that task for them.

Last Update : January 2009
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