TWO years have passed, and the fate which Jason had
declared to be beyond all limits of probability or
possibility has actually overtaken him. One of his
agents, named Oniah, who has assumed the name of
for the rage for Greek fashions still continues
unabated, has outbidden him, and now reigns in his
occupying the palace on Mount Sion which he had been at
such pains to adorn.
If we look into his library we shall see not only the
books and statuettes—the silver tankards are
down into money that was wanted for some sudden
exigency—but our old acquaintance Cleon. The
supple Greek was
not one of those who take their friends for better, for
worse. Jason was wandering about among the hills of
Ammon with scarcely a garment to his back or a shekel
that he could call his own, and what use could he find
for the company of an accomplished gentleman, who had
 as keen an eye as any one for a fine bit of sculpture
or painting, and could not be rivalled, out of the
profession, in his taste for wine? The accomplished
gentleman knew where he was appreciated, where he was
use, and, naturally, where he was well off. Accordingly
he had found means, as such people always do find
means, of ingratiating himself with the new occupant of
the palace, and was installed as his consulting
connoisseur and chief adviser in matters of taste.
"A poor creature, certainly," he had replied to some
depreciatory criticism which MenelaŘs had passed on his
predecessor, "but it must be allowed that he had a
taste in art."
"Or was sensible enough to be guided by those who had,"
Cleon acknowledged the compliment with a bow, and went
on, "I never found him make any difficulty about the
price. And, of course, if a man goes to work in that
spirit, and has good advice, too, he is bound to make a
MenelaŘs received the observation with a grimace, and a
significant shrug of the shoulders. " 'No difficulty
about the price,' you say. Of course not. Why should
he? When a man doesn't pay, he is apt to be easy about
amount. Do you know that the bills for half the things
that you see in this room have been sent in to me?
Sometimes he had to pay the money down. The 'Gladiator'
 Pergamum could not have been got without ready cash;
but wherever he could, he went on credit, and now the
dealers are down upon me."
And he held up a sheaf of bills.
"Here," he went on, "is a pretty account from Theodotus
of Alexandria, the bookseller, you know:
|" 'A Manuscript of Anacreon (said to be autograph)
| The Milesian Tales
| Drinking Songs from Cratinus
And so it goes on, with a quantity of books which I am
sure the old impostor never read. Two talents and
minŠ it comes to altogether. Then here is 'A Group of
the Graces, 1 talent;' 'Silenus, 20 minŠ;' 'Satyr and
Nymphs, half a talent.' 'Set of Flagons, worked with
the Labours of Hercules, 2 talents.' These the villain
melted down before he went. Fancy the rascality of
that! Why, the silver by weight could not have been
fourth part of what it cost with the workmanship."
"Well," said Cleon, "the fellows can wait. They can
afford it; I know enough about these things to be sure
they get a very handsome profit. I used to travel, you
know, for Cleisthenes of Syracuse, and so got to know
something about the secrets of the trade. No, you need
not be afraid of making them wait."
 "Well, they have waited three years already," returned
MenelaŘs; "and very likely will have to be out of their
money for as many more. But here is a gentleman who
won't wait. Here is Sostratus" (Sostratus, it should be
mentioned, was Governor of the Castle, which was
garrisoned by Syrian troops, and so the representative
Antiochus) —"here is Sostratus asking for the
half-year's tribute, and giving me a pretty strong hint
I don't send it, he shall come and take it for himself.
And where is the money to come from?"
"Well," said Cleon, with a little laugh, "I suppose
there is one way to get milk, and that is to go to the
or the goat, or the sheep. You see, we have a certain
choice between big and little. And so, if you want
you must go to the people, I suppose."
"The people! they are squeezed absolutely dry, at least
one would think so. I could tell you stories about the
squeezing that would make you split your sides with
laughing. There was old Levi, a Bethlehem farmer; they
boiled him, or half-boiled him, because he would not
pay his taxes—said that he couldn't, the old
put him in a caldron, you see, and kept heating it up,
because he would not tell where he had hidden his
"Well, did they get it out of him?"
"No, the obstinate old dog, he would not say a word;
but before he was quite finished his wife
 brought the coins from her head-dress and bought him
off. They say that he was the queerest figure when he
out of the water, with the skin hanging about him in
folds. Well, at all events, it was a good washing for
He had never been so clean in his life before."
"And did he recover?" asked Menander.
"Upon my word, I can't remember. But I do know that we
got the money."
"Well, I remember what your predecessor used to say. It
was in this very room about two years ago that I asked
him whether he felt quite safe. 'Oh, yes!' he answered,
'I have got the last farthing that is to be got, and
there is an end of it!' "
"Well," replied the high priest, "there are other ways
of getting money besides taxes. I will allow that Jason
worked the taxes as well as a man could. No one can eat
or drink, lie down or get up, walk or ride, travel or
stay at home, be born or marry, or be buried, without
having to pay for it. No! I do not see room for
and I am sure that it is not for want of looking. But,
as I said, there are other ways. Now—can you keep
"A secret! I should say so—not the grave itself
"Hush! my friend, good words! good words!"
 cried the high priest, who felt, or affected to feel
the common Greek superstition against words that seemed
carry an evil omen with them. "Well, if you can, come
So saying, MenelaŘs took his friend into an adjoining
room, and opening a cupboard, secured, as the Greek
observed, by an iron door and by a look of elaborate
construction, showed him a number of massive gold
"And where do these come from?" asked Cleon almost
dazzled by the splendid array.
"Where should they come from, but from the Temple? Some
of these have got a history of their own. You see that
two-handled cup? King Artaxerxes gave it to Nehemiah:
solid gold. And you see those splendid sapphires in the
handles? The very biggest stones of the sort I have ever
seen, and worth three talents each. Then there is that
salver, Alexander of Macedon gave it to the Temple; and
that casket there was a present from the first
"But, my dear sir," said the Greek, astonished at the
audacity of the whole affair, "is not this going a
too far? Suppose the people were to find it out? Would
there not be a rather formidable uproar?"
"Well, of course; we cannot get anything without risk.
But I have taken precautions. First, I have put a
facsimile of every one of these in the Temple;
 gilded lead, which does perfectly well for all
"But the weight! Surely any one can tell the difference
by the weight."
"Of course, my dear Cleon, I know that lead is little
more than half as heavy as gold. But there are ways of
making it up. You can put a great deal more metal in,
without its being observed, and almost make up the
difference. And, you see, the things are never allowed
to be handled; can only be looked at. I have given very
strict orders about that, you may be sure. Of course
the treasurer is in the secret; but as he must sink or
swim with me, he may be trusted. Besides, I am not
going to run the risk of keeping them here. I can trust
my good Cleon, as I can my own brother—in fact,
when I come to think of it, a good deal more—yet
I am not sure
that I should have told you so much, but that the best
of these are going to be packed off to-night. The fact
is, they are sold already."
The Greek could only shrug his shoulders and say
nothing. As my readers will have perceived, he was not
of high principles—in fact, to put the matter
plainly, he was an unscrupulous adventurer. But the
villainy of MenelaŘs fairly disgusted him. His taste,
quite apart from any question of principle or honesty,
revolted at the notion that a man, placed as was the
high priest of the Jewish people, should deal with
 treasures as a vulgar burglar might deal with them.
This was a refinement of feeling into which the vulgar
cupidity of MenelaŘs did not enter. He went on:
"How wild that scoundrel Jason would be, if he knew of
this, to think that he had lost such an opportunity,
these treasures in his hand, so to speak, and leave
them to his worst enemy!"
"Have you heard anything lately about him?" asked the
Greek, not unwilling to change the subject.
"Oh, yes," replied MenelaŘs, "he is wandering about
somewhere in the country of the Ammonites, and at his
end, I am told, how to live."
"Poor fellow!" said Cleon, sotto voce, "he was always
very kind to me, and I can't help being sorry for him."
He then went on aloud, "He will find it a great change
from his way of living here."
"Yes, yes!" said MenelaŘs; "but still, some of his old
ways and habits will come in usefully. He was always
great about training, you remember. Every one should be
ready to fight a boxing-match or run a race. Cold,
hunger, fatigue; these, he used to say, are the things
to bring out a man's muscles. And now he has got them
perfection. He might really carry off some prize, only,
unluckily, he is getting a little too old for that sort
of thing. And then, you recollect, how he would go on
 beauty of the human form. Clothes, especially the
gorgeous clothes of our people, obscured so tastelessly
magnificent proportions. Well, he has not much to
complain of, I imagine, on that score. By the last
that I had of him he had as little in the way of
clothing as a man could well have. Anyhow, he may
himself with thinking that his magnificent proportions
are not obscured. Well, I don't pity him. A man who has
managed to get into a good place and then cannot stick
to it is nothing better than a fool, and richly
everything that he may get."
At this point in the conversation a servant announced
the arrival of a message from Sostratus, Governor of
"All the gods and goddesses confound the man!" cried
the high priest, in a rage. He was fond of garnishing
conversation with a little Greek profanity. "Another
dunning message, I suppose. Well, he must wait. No man
get any water by squeezing out of a dry sponge; and
that is about what I am!"
The communication from Sostratus proved, however, to be
on quite another subject, though it was, if possible,
even more unwelcome. It ran thus:—
"Sostratus, Vicegerent of the Divine King,
Antiochus, to MenelaŘs,
the High Priest, greeting.
"Know that I have this day received the summons of the
Divine King, Antiochus, to attend him at his court at
Antioch, within the space of thirty days, there to
inform his Highness more fully of affairs
 concerning his province of JudŠa. Know also that your
presence is required at the same place and time,
the writing herewith enclosed, being sealed with the
King's seal, will be proof sufficient. Farewell."
MenelaŘs's face visibly lengthened as he read this
epistle. "By the dog!" (this was a Socratic oath which
sometimes affected, as giving to his conversation a
certain philosophic tinge)—"By the dog! this is
being dunned! I like not a journey to Antioch. A very
pretty place, but expensive, dreadfully expensive,
especially when one has the honour of being entertained
by the King."
Cleon felt a certain pleasure in the high priest's
discomfiture. The new patron was more overbearing, less
considerate, and generally more difficult to get on
with than the old. Jason, coxcomb as he was, had always
been kind, and Cleon felt as kindly for him as it was
in his nature to feel for any one. And then the
propriety with which this disturbing news followed the
man's taunts and boasts was irresistible.
"It is hard," he said, as if to himself, "when a man
has got into a good place——"
MenelaŘs darted an angry look at his friend, but the
Greek's face, which he knew how to keep under admirable
control, expressed nothing but respectful sympathy.
There was an unpleasant suggestion of mockery in what
had heard; but the Greek was
 a useful person; he had been trusted, too, and knew
things which it would not do to have published.
Altogether, the high priest concluded, it would not do
to quarrel with him—anyhow, for the present; some
perhaps, he might be got rid of.
"I suppose, sir, you cannot make an
excuse—important affairs of State, the King's
service to be attended to, or
something of that kind?"
Cleon made the suggestion, knowing perfectly well that
it was quite out of the question. But he enjoyed the
novel position of tormenting his patron, and was taking
it out, so to speak, for not a few rudenesses and
"Excuse!" cried MenelaŘs. "It would be as much as my
head is worth to do anything of the kind. No! I must
But this is not a journey which one cares to take
empty-handed. Let me see what I can take—two or
three of the
most portable cups, as much coin as I can scrape
together, and the jewels—jewels are always
useful: it is so
easy to hide them. Well, I shall leave you in charge;
unless, indeed, you are very much set on going
Cleon was not at all set upon going; on the contrary,
nothing short of the strongest inducements would have
persuaded him to the journey. Going to Antioch was like
putting one's head into the lion's mouth. There was no
particular reason, indeed, why his head should be
bitten off; but lions are
 capricious, and sometimes use their teeth for the mere
fun of the thing.
"I am much obliged for the chance," he said, "but my
health has been suffering lately, and I do not feel
equal to the journey."
"Well, then," replied MenelaŘs, stop here, and keep
things as straight as you can. And if you can sell some
these pretty things for ready money, do so—the
usual commission for yourself, of course. But it must
The next day the high priest and the Governor, neither
of them in very good spirits, were on their way to