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Walt Whitman, with nothing to lose–not even a reputation or a hat–was much more kingly walking bareheaded past the White House than Nicholas of Russia or Alfonso of Spain can ever possibly be.

Dionysius thought that he wanted a philosophic court, but all he wanted was to make folks think he had a philosophic court. Plato supplied him the genuine article, and very naturally Plato was soon invited to vacate.

After he had gone, Dionysius, fearful that Plato would give him a bad reputation in Athens–somewhat after the manner and habit of the “escaped nun”–sent a fast-rowing galley after him. Plato was arrested and sold into slavery on his own isle of AEgina.

This all sounds very tragic, but the real fact is it was a sort of comedy of errors–as a king’s doings are when viewed from a safe and convenient distance. De Wolf Hopper’s kings are the real thing. Dionysius claimed that Plato owed him money, and so he got out a body-attachment, and sold the philosopher to the highest bidder.

This was a perfectly legal proceeding, being simply peonage, a thing which exists in some parts of the United States today. I state the fact without prejudice, merely to show how hard custom dies.

Plato was too big a man conveniently either to secrete or kill. Certain people in Athens plagiarized Doctor Johnson who, on hearing that Goldsmith had debts of several thousand pounds, in admiration exclaimed, “Was ever poet so trusted before!” Other good friends ascertained the amount of the claim and paid it, just as Colonel H. H. Rogers graciously cleared up the liabilities of Mark Twain, after the author of “Huckleberry Finn” had landed his business craft on a sandbar.

And so Plato went free, arriving back in Athens, aged forty, a wiser and a better man than when he left.

* * * * *

Nothing absolves a reputation like silence and absence, or what the village editors call “the grim reaper.” To live is always more or less of an offense, especially if you have thoughts and express them. Athens exists, in degree, because she killed Socrates, just as Jerusalem is unforgetable for a similar reason. The South did not realize that Lincoln was her best friend until the assassin’s bullet had found his brain. Many good men in Chicago did not cease to revile their chiefest citizen, until the ears of Altgeld were stopped and his hands stiffened by death. The lips of the dead are eloquent.

Plato’s ten years of absence had given him prestige. He was honored because he had been the near and dear friend of Socrates, a great and good man who was killed through mistake.

Most murders and killings of men, judicial and otherwise, are matters of misunderstandings.

Plato had been driven out of Syracuse for the very reasons that Socrates had been killed at Athens. And now behold, when Dionysius saw how Athens was honoring Plato, he discovered that it was all a mistake of his bookkeeper, so he wrote to Plato to come back and all would be forgiven.

* * * * *

Those who set out to live the Ideal Life have a hard trail to travel. The road to Jericho is a rocky one–especially if we are a little in doubt as to whether it really is the road to Jericho or not. Perhaps if we ever find the man who lives the Ideal Life he will be quite unaware of it, so occupied will he be in his work–so forgetful of self.

Time had taught Plato diplomacy. He now saw that to teach people who did not want to be taught was an error in judgment for which one might forfeit his head.