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The Crown of Pine by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

A DRUG

[193] CLEON'S suggestion, so artfully adapted to the motives which were dominant in the disappointed athlete's breast, worked as leaven works in a measure of meal. The two met, according to arrangement, on the fourth day, the appointed place being the fountain of Peirené. Before, however, this meeting took place, there had been a consultation between the conspirators, and Cleon's plan was discussed.

"Is this all an imagination of yours, Cleon?" asked Ariston. "Is there any drug that makes a man especially fleet of foot and long of wind? and is there any other drug with which you can counteract the effects of the first?"

Cleon smiled. "You are really very encouraging, Ariston. If you believe half this rigmarole, there must be many more people in Corinth than I thought who believe it all. As for the first drug we need not inquire. There may be such, or there may not. As for the second, I have no doubt whatever. I know of several [194] drugs, though these things are not in my especial line, which if a man take he will never run quickly again, or indeed slowly, for the matter of that."

The two other confederates started. Cleon had been thinking of the plan for some time, and his mind had become habituated to it. To his companions it came as a surprise and a blow.

"What," said Ariston, in a faltering voice, "you mean to poison the man."

"Good words! good words! my friend," cried Cleon in mocking tones. "Who talked of poison? We administer a drug, compounded according to a well-known prescription. No, I am wrong. It is not we who administer it; it is Dromeus. Suppose that something happens. Untoward accidents do happen when we have to do with these powerful agents. It is quite possible that nothing may be found out. Of ten deaths by poisoning—no, let me say after the administration of drugs—seven or eight cause no suspicion. And when there are suspicions it is very difficult to prove anything. But let us imagine the worst; I do hope that no harm will come to our very amiable and promising friend Eubulus, but if it should, if he should be laid aside, and people are so unkindly curious as to ask who did it, what would the answer be? Here is a [195] young man in the same house, who has any number of opportunities of administering the drug, and the strongest reason for wishing the young fellow out of the way—a rival likely to be an unsuccessful rival. Who would think of looking any further? And what should we do? I should suggest that we should say something to this effect—'This is a very deplorable affair; we cannot think of making a profit out of it; we cancel all the wagers which we laid against our poor friend. We lament his loss as much as any one, and this is our way of showing it—a very poor way, but all that we can do." It is true that we should lose some twenty minas apiece, but then, think what an advertisement! And, after all, we shall be out of the hole pretty cheaply."

This was convincing, and Cleon went to the meeting fully prepared with what had to be said. Dromeus went, as may be supposed, straight to the point.

"Well," he said, "have you anything further to tell me about the drug?"

"Yes," replied Cleon, "it is a well-known article in the trade. They say that it is made out of some herb which the stags eat to give themselves speed, 'deers' garlic' they call it. [196] That may or may not be true. The medicine-sellers have a way of inventing these particulars. But I believe that it is really a very effective thing, probably because it works on the heart and lungs. However, we need not trouble ourselves about this; the really important thing is the counteracting drug. And here we have a choice of three or four."

I should not like to hurt the poor fellow," said Dromeus, who, when he was not mastered by his special faults, was not ill-natured. "He has no business here, but I should be very sorry to do him a real injury."

"Of course not," replied Cleon. "I should hate doing any such thing quite as much as you. We understand each other then. I find the medicine, and you will take an opportunity of administering it. I would impress upon you not to lose any time, and to be very careful about observing the directions that may come with the medicine. Of course you will contrive that no one should know."

"You are sure," cried Dromeus, who began to feel somewhat uneasy, "you are sure that it would not do any real harm?"

"Of course not," answered Cleon. "What do you take me for? Do I look like a poisoner?"

He certainly looked like a villain, whether he [197] had the peculiar poisoner characteristic or no, and Dromeus could not help thinking so. However, he was too deeply committed to draw back. "And after all," he argued with himself—arguments which one half of the conscience uses to the other half seldom fail to persuade—"a man cannot help his looks." After a pause of reflection he went on: "Then I rely upon you. And when shall you have it ready?"

I shall have it to-day," answered Cleon. "Be here again at sunset, and I will hand it to you then. If by any chance I should fail to get it, then come this time to-morrow."

By the time appointed for the meeting Dromeus had contrived to swallow his scruples. He received the drug with instructions how to use it. It was in a liquid form, and was in a very small compass, and so could be easily dropped into a cup of water. It will suffice to say that the opportunity was found and duly used.


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