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said that no man was wiser than Socrates. To find out if this was true he questioned everybody everywhere, seeking to learn what other men knew. Leading them on by question after question he usually found that they knew very little.
But his keen questions which exposed the ignorance of so many did not make him friends. In truth he made many enemies. All this went on until some of them made the charge that he did not believe in the gods of Athens, and that he misled young men.
“ The penalty due for these crimes,” they said, “is death.”
Socrates had now so many enemies that the accusation was dangerous. When brought before the council the philosopher pleaded his own cause, but in his defense he made his case worse. He said things that provoked his judges.
“ There is one true God,” he declared,“ who governs the world, and sends me the inward voice which tells me the way in which I should walk. This divine voice I try to obey to the utmost of my power. Because I am thought to have some ability in teaching youth, Omy judges ! is that a reason why I should suffer death? You may decree that my body must die, but hurt me you cannot.” Thus he ended his defense.
Socrates did not seem to care what verdict his
judges brought. He had no fear of death and would not trouble himself to say a word to preserve his life. The voice within him would not permit him to do so. He was sentenced to drink the poison of hemlock, and was imprisoned for thirty days, during which time he conversed in his old, calm manner with his friends.
Some of his disciples planned for his escape, but he refused to fly. If his fellow-citizens wished to take his life, he would not oppose their wills. One of his friends began to weep at the thought of his dying innocent. “What !” he said, “would think it better for me to die guilty ?”
On the last day he drank the hemlock as calmly as though it were his usual beverage, and talked on quietly until death sealed his lips. Thus died the first and one of the greatest of moral philosophers, and a man without a parallel in all the history of mankind.
“ Of all we have ever known,” said his famous pupil Plato, “Socrates was in death the noblest, in life the wisest and best.”
From “ Historical Tales."
THE STORY OF LAFAYETTE
I. HIS BOYHOOD
The château of Chavaniac was in the province of Auvergne, in the south part of France. It was a lofty castle, with towers and narrow windows from which cannon once frowned down upon besieging foes. There was a deep moat around it, with a bridge which was drawn up in time of war, so that no man, on horseback or on foot, could pass in at the gate without permission of the guard.
Low hills, crowned with vineyards, stood near the castle, and beyond the hills stretched mountains whose peaks seemed to pierce the sky. In all France there was not a more charming spot than Chavaniac; and among all the nobles of the court there was no braver man than its master, the Marquis de Lafayette.
One day the drawbridge was let down over the moat, and the gallant marquis rode away to the war in Germany. After taking part in several engagements, he was shot through the heart in a skirmish at Minden. His comrades buried him on the field. The drums were muffled, the band played a funeral dirge, and three rounds of musketry announced that the hero's body had been lowered into the grave.
In the midst of the mourning for the dead marquis, on September 6, 1757, his only son was born.
The little orphan, according to the custom in France, received a long name at his christening, but his loving mother said that his everyday naine should be Gilbert de Lafayette.
When Gilbert was old enough, his mother walked with him instead of leaving him to the care of servants. Sometimes they climbed a high hill to see the sun set over the towers of the château. Then she told him how the De Lafayettes, long before Columbus discovered America, had helped to banish the English kings from France, and how his own father had died for the glory of his country.
Sometimes as they walked through the halls of the castle, she showed Gilbert the coats of mail which his ancestors had worn; and she told him about the swords and banners and other trophies which the De Lafayettes had won in battle.
“I would not have you less brave than they, my son,” she would say.
The boy longed for the time to come when he might show his mother how very brave he was. He grew tall and strong, and carried himself like a prince. He wanted to be worthy of his great ancestors.
The year he was eight there was much excitement about a wolf which prowled in the forest, killing the sheep in the pastures and frightening the peasants nearly out of their wits. Gilbert made this wolf the
object of all his walks. He would persuade his mother to sit in some shady spot while he should go a little way into the forest.
“I will return in an instant, dear mother,” he always said; and, lest he might alarm her, he walked quite slowly until a turn in the road hid him froin view. Then he marched quickly into the dark wood.
He did this for many days, seeing only frisking squirrels and harmless rabbits. But one morning, as he sped along a narrow path, his
and his ears alert to catch every sound, he heard a cracking in the underbrush.
The wolf was coming! He was sure of it. His mind was made up in an instant. He would spring forward quicker than lightning and blind it with his coat, while with his arms he would choke it to death.
“ It will struggle hard,” he thought. “Its feet will scratch me, but I shall not mind; and when all is over I shall drag it to the feet of my mother. Then she will know, and the peasants will know, that I can rid the country of these pests.”
He stood listening. His breath came fast. Again he heard the breaking of the bushes. “I ought first to surprise the beast by coming upon it quickly,” he whispered. He tore off his coat and held it firmly as he hurried
Soon he saw the shaggy hide, and the great eyes