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Diceus and Pleonectes

The righteous man considereth the house of the wicked, How the wicked are overthrown to their ruin. (Proverbs 21:12)

One evening a man was walking down the street towards the neighborhood where he lived.聽 He walked with a steady, but ponderous gait, as one does when he is encompassed with thought and is pressing forward only by the will of his two feet.聽 As he walked thus, deep in his own contemplations, another man called out to him from a shop on the left side of the dusty street.

鈥淗o there, Diceus!聽 It鈥檚 been a good while since we last met.鈥

Aroused from his thoughts, the man stopped and greeted his old friend, Pleonectes.

鈥淲hat have you been doing since we parted six years ago?鈥 Pleonectes asked.

鈥淚鈥檝e just been making a life for myself, as they say.聽 I have a wife and family now, and I鈥檝e been working in the fields.鈥

鈥淵ou, a farmer!鈥 Pleonectes exclaimed.聽 鈥淚鈥檇 have never guessed it.聽 And married too!聽 I figured you鈥檇 follow the path of your ancestors like that, having a family and then working yourself to death just to feed them.聽 Myself, I haven鈥檛 really settled down anywhere, just followed my instincts, you might say.聽 But I think I may have found some good prospects around here, so I might just stick around a while.聽 In fact, why don鈥檛 you join me?聽 It would sure beat hoeing and tilling all day long!鈥

鈥淧rospects, you say?聽 What sort of prospects?鈥 asked Diceus.聽 Pleonectes lowered his voice.

鈥淧rospects of wealth and prosperity! Who wouldn鈥檛 want that?鈥

鈥淏ut Pleonectes, my father always said that such things could only be had by hard work and toil.聽 You talk as if it were like a peach, to be pulled off a tree.鈥

鈥淥h, it鈥檚 all the same with you folks.聽 Sure hard work will bring wealth鈥攂ut only when you鈥檙e old and bent over, and too decrepit to enjoy it!聽 Trust me, there are ways to get it quickly, and without exerting yourself.聽 Say, how about you meet me tomorrow about this time in the square and I鈥檒l tell you a bit more about it.聽 Will you be there?鈥

Diceus tried to look upset, but could hardly conceal the excitement that was arising unbidden in his heart.聽 鈥淚 suppose so,鈥 he replied simply.

鈥淪ee you there!聽 Glad to meet an old friend again.鈥

Diceus resumed his walk, but now with a brisk pace that soon brought him to his own house, a humble abode constructed with sticks and clay, thatched with the chaff left over from winnowing.聽 As he approached, cries of Pater! arose from the house, as a little boy and girl ran out to meet him.

鈥淢acaria!聽 Acereus!聽 Have you made yourselves useful today?鈥

He moved on towards the side of the house, where a young woman was stooped down, cooking something over an open fire.

鈥淢y dear Praia, how have you been this day?鈥 he said as she rose to embrace him.

鈥淔ine, fine, although our store of grain is nearly depleted.聽 I trust Philargyrus has given you your wages today?鈥

鈥淲ell, he has, I suppose.聽 Yes, I鈥檝e got it here.聽 But I鈥檓 afraid it鈥檚 not as much as last week.聽 He said something about silver being hard to come by these days, though it seems he has more of it than anybody else.鈥

鈥淪o how much did he give you?鈥 asked Praia.聽 Diceus reached into his pocket and brought out the silver coins to count them.

鈥淭ria, tessara, pente…聽 Yes, that鈥檚 right, five denaria.鈥

Praia gasped.聽 鈥淵ou鈥檙e sure that鈥檚 all?聽 Did you perhaps misplace one?鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 all Philargyrus gave me, my love.聽 But don鈥檛 be disheartened; you know God will take care of us, even if we will have to miss a few meals.鈥

Diceus and his family sat in silence as they ate their humble meal of cornbread.聽 Praia had also gathered some wild gourds which grew in the woods nearby, and made with them a type of thick sauce which they dipped their cornbread in.聽 When they were finished, Diceus complimented his wife on the savory food, and the children did likewise.聽 Although she did not complain, Praia was visibly distressed, and Diceus tried to comfort her as they doused the fire and made ready for the night.

鈥淒on鈥檛 worry about it, Praia,鈥 he said.聽 鈥淕od knows our plight, and surely something will come up so that we can have plenty.鈥
Praia only sighed, saying nothing in reply.


In a fine mansion up on a hill dwelt a man named Philargyrus.聽 He was quite well off, and had hired many servants to work his fields and to wait on him personally.聽 This day he was in his drawing room, looking out through the wide windows at all his domains below.

鈥淭ell me what you see, Asebes!鈥 he commanded his servant who was waiting on him.

鈥淚 see a great expanse of land, stretching to the horizon, containing all manner of fields and orchards, worked by your servants and owned by you.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 right, Asebes!鈥 replied Philargyrus with glee.聽 鈥淎nd yet, I am a bit envious of my old cousin Basil.聽 He may be the king, but I don鈥檛 see why he deserves it any more than I do.聽 I鈥檓 more industrious than he is, anyhow.鈥

鈥淵es, my lord,鈥 the servant replied mechanically.

鈥淵ou know, I鈥檓 feeling a little pinched for denaria.聽 That turkey we had last night cost ten with all its trappings, and I still haven鈥檛 ordered those nice embroidered drapes that my wife asked for a month ago.鈥

鈥淭he ten denaria included the currant pie,鈥 corrected the servant.

鈥淣o wonder it cost so much鈥擨 figured there was something else, even though turkeys sure are expensive these days.聽 Say, did you ever buy me that pack of hounds so I could go hunt rabbits in the woods?鈥

鈥淵es my lord, twenty seven denaria.鈥

鈥淲hat! Twenty seven!聽 Surely you could have struck a better deal than that.聽 You evil servant!鈥

鈥淧eace, my lord,鈥 Asebes replied.

鈥淲ell, I guess it鈥檚 not your fault.聽 Still, Hypsele will be mighty upset if she doesn鈥檛 get those drapes.聽 I鈥檝e got to do something, or else she鈥檒l start saying that we鈥檙e poor again, like that time when I couldn鈥檛 afford her a new mother-of-pearl comb with engraved decorations on it.聽 Of course I didn鈥檛 tell her that it was because I had them make me that silver sword that鈥檚 hanging in the hall鈥攖he one with my coat-of-arms on it, you know…鈥

鈥淧erhaps you could lower the fieldworkers鈥 wages,鈥 Asebes interrupted.

鈥淪ay what?聽 Lower the wages of the lowly peasants?聽 That鈥檚 an idea.聽 They don鈥檛 need much anyway, and since there鈥檚 certainly nowhere else where they could work, I don鈥檛 think anyone would try to pull off an insurrection.聽 Yes, that鈥檚 what I鈥檒l do鈥攃an鈥檛 have my wife hounding me鈥攖ell them to lower the fieldworkers鈥 wages to five denaria a week.鈥

鈥淵es, my lord.鈥

As the sun began to drop behind the trees that lined the horizon, there sat a man in the town square, merrily whistling.聽 Every now and then he would break out in song:聽 鈥淒on鈥檛 worry about anything, shine your whole life through!鈥

All around him the various merchants were closing up shop, and before long he was left practically alone, as everyone else had departed to their respective homes.聽 About the time when the lamp-lighters were coming along to light the street lamps, another man approached who had evidently just come from a hard day鈥檚 work in the fields.

鈥淗o there, Diceus!聽 A bit late, aren鈥檛 you?聽 Never mind, we鈥檝e got all evening.鈥
Diceus came and sat down beside Pleonectes, but with less enthusiasm than he had shown the previous evening upon hearing that he was within reach of riches.

鈥淚鈥檓 sorry Pleonectes, but I haven鈥檛 much time鈥攎y wife is expecting me and I can only stay a few minutes.鈥

鈥淥h, don鈥檛 worry about her鈥攕he鈥檒l be alright without you, don鈥檛 you think?鈥

Diceus gave him a sharp glance, at which Pleonectes laughed.

鈥淒on鈥檛 mind me, Diceus, I鈥檓 just having a bit of fun!聽 But let鈥檚 get down to business.聽 You see, there鈥檚 a certain man here in this town named Philargyrus鈥斺

鈥淵es, I work for him.鈥

鈥淩eally now!聽 Well, hopefully you鈥檒l get promoted.鈥澛 Pleonectes gave a strange smile.

鈥淎ll right, I鈥檒l stop being mysterious.聽 Basically, there鈥檚 a plan afoot to dethrone our good old king Basil and put Philargyrus on the throne.聽 You see, Philargyrus happens to be Basil鈥檚 cousin, and also the direct heir to the throne, since none of Basil鈥檚 seven daughters can become our ruler, according to the ancient words of the Maior Charta.聽 Obviously, it won鈥檛 be easy, and it will take a lot of conspirators to bring down a king, but once Philargyrus is crowned, he鈥檒l reward his friends quite royally, I鈥檓 sure.鈥

鈥淧leonectes!聽 Are you serious?聽 Kill King Basil?聽 How could you think of such?鈥

鈥淥h Diceus, you good old jug-head!聽 Don鈥檛 you realize what this would mean for you?聽 You could have a big house built for you and your wife, and she could have whatever her little heart desires!聽 (I鈥檓 sure you know what lofty things women鈥檚 hearts desire sometimes.)聽 Plus, you could have servants, and whenever you wanted a certain thing for dinner, you could just snap your fingers and it would be done!聽 The king鈥檚 no friend of yours, is he?聽 He鈥檚 just an ordinary man like you and me鈥攐nly somehow he came to rule us all, and now he鈥檚 a big conceited brute, pushing people around every chance he gets.聽 Now Philargyrus, he鈥檚 an honest man, if ever I鈥檝e seen one.聽 He鈥檚 sure to treat us right.鈥

Diceus put his head in his hands and looked across the square thoughtfully.

鈥淚鈥檓 sorry, Pleonectes, but I just can鈥檛 be involved in such a thing.聽 You鈥檙e right, I don鈥檛 know King Basil, but I certainly don鈥檛 harbour any ill feelings against him.聽 My God commands me to obey the king, and moreover I am forbidden to run with others to do evil鈥攚hether I鈥檓 part of the evil or not.聽 I see now that what I saw in you six years ago has only become worse.聽 I remember how you were always trying to get your hands on things, and always wanting more.聽 Remember that time when you snitched a hammer from my father?鈥

Pleonectes started laughing.聽 鈥淎h yes, I remember that.聽 I did give that thing back eventually, didn鈥檛 I?聽 But I don鈥檛 see what you鈥檙e getting at; are you saying that I鈥檓 evil, or something?聽 Come on, Diceus, life is a game!聽 Just play it right and you鈥檒l have the best!鈥

鈥淵es, but games have rules.聽 Break them and you鈥檙e bound to lose.鈥

鈥淭here you go with your righteousness again!聽 Why do you keep blindly following this God, somebody you鈥檝e never seen and you鈥檙e never going to see?聽 Why can鈥檛 you realize that this is reality, this is what matters?聽 You know, a good friend of mine back in Philedonia taught me a lot about life鈥攈is name was Apistus鈥攁nd he showed me how ridiculous it is to believe in God.聽 Of course, I never really believed in God anyway, but he explained to me how absurd it is to keep talking to the air, and bowing down before nothing, and trusting in somebody who can鈥檛 even talk to you except through an old musty book that a bunch of men, men mind you, wrote ages ago.聽 Tell me, Diceus, how many possessions do you have, and how big is your house?鈥

鈥淭ruly, Pleonectes, I have little to call my own besides my dear wife and children.聽 My house is big enough for us all to lie down in, but we spend most of our time outside.鈥

鈥淎ha!聽 See where your righteousness has gotten you?聽 Just think about it.聽 Think of all the rich people you know.聽 Do they worship God, or do they hold to that strict code that you keep to the letter every day?聽 Of course not!聽 If you want to be anything in this life, you can鈥檛 tie yourself down like that!聽 Come on Diceus, join me in this grand plan we鈥檙e hatching.聽 You won鈥檛 have to do anything that鈥檚 against your conscience, like killing a king.聽 Just help us out, and in the end Philargyrus will reward you!聽 Do you realize how rich he is?鈥

鈥淭hey say he has diamonds innumerable.鈥

鈥淓xactly!聽 And think where just one of those would get you!鈥

Finally Diceus arose and took leave of Pleonectes.

鈥淧leonectes, you have not swayed me.聽 I cannot betray my God, my king, or my family.聽 If I thought it would do any good, I would try to dissuade you from your folly, but I know you are set on it.聽 May you come to realize the true power of God, and may He pardon you for your sin.鈥

Pleonectes sat there snickering as he watched Diceus walk away.

鈥淔olly!聽 Sin!聽 Power of God!聽 I knew Diceus was a bit odd, but I didn鈥檛 know he had gone that far.聽 Fare you well, Mr. Righteous!鈥

POST SCRIPTUM

In the days that followed, Pleonectes did all in his power to secretly rouse certain people against their king.聽 He soon found, however, that very few people in the town were willing to sympathize with Philargyrus, so instead he went to the capital city, Philedonia.聽 There he found some discontented folks who were willing to help (with promises of great reward, of course), and soon a plot was in place to assassinate King Basil.

Diceus was skeptical when Pleonectes told of his grand plans, but through the skill of Pleonectes and the perfidy of the King鈥檚 closest advisors, it was carried out successfully.聽 A few weeks later, Diceus and his family received word of the deed.

On a Sunday afternoon when Diceus, Praia, and their two children were reclining outside their house, a neighbor woman came by and told them the news.

鈥淕ood day to you all!鈥 she said.聽 鈥淗ave you heard the latest news from Philedonia?聽 They say King Basil has been killed by rebels!聽 I myself wouldn鈥檛 have believed it, except that I just saw Philargyrus鈥 wife Hypsele packing up all her fancy belongings to move to the capital to take up residence in the palace.鈥

鈥淵ou don鈥檛 say!鈥 replied Praia in wonder.聽 鈥淪o Philargyrus is the next in kin for succeeding Basil?鈥

鈥淲ell, that鈥檚 what they say鈥擨 certainly don鈥檛 know any of the royal genealogy or anything like that.聽 But the good news for us is that, now that Philargyrus is moving to Philedonia, he鈥檚 going to divide his lands among the tenant farmers out of the kindness of his heart.聽 Now can you imagine that?鈥

鈥淚鈥檒l believe it when I see it,鈥 replied Diceus.聽 And see it he did.聽 Although kindness was the farthest thing from Philargyrus鈥 mind at the time, he knew that if he were to put up his vast estates for sale that no one could afford to buy them, and that giving the land to those who had truly worked for it would be a peaceful and beneficial man艙uver鈥攏ot to mention incentive for his own聽 popularity, since that had waned in the past few years.聽 However, the kindness of his heart was not extended to those who had plotted for his accession to the throne.聽 In fact, he was as oblivious to the plot as the rest of the kingdom, since none of the conspirators had bothered to mention it to him, presumably out of fear that he would perhaps pity his kingly cousin.聽 And so it was, that after his coronation in Philedonia, he commanded that those responsible for his cousin鈥檚 death be brought to justice鈥攊n other words, caught and hanged.聽 And since this command came from the king, it was carried out completely.

A few months afterwards, a well-dressed young man came to the town where Diceus lived, and called at the home which, he was informed, belonged to that family.

It was a very nice house, still small, but a great improvement over the hut they had lived in before.聽 Now that Diceus could use and sell the produce grown in his own field, he no longer had to worry about wages, or having enough money to feed his family.

The stranger was welcomed in, and offered refreshment, which he kindly refused.

鈥淚 come from Philedonia, where I bring sad tidings concerning a certain friend of yours, Pleonectes by name.聽 He was among those accused of plotting to kill our late king Basil, and was finally arrested attempting to rob a certain rich lady鈥檚 house.聽 He was hanged with the rest, by royal mandate, and before his execution he only wished that someone be sent here to tell of his demise.鈥

鈥淒id he then repent of his deeds?鈥 asked Diceus.

鈥淚 should think not!鈥 replied the messenger.聽 鈥淎s he was led to the scaffold, he was heard praising the merits of King Philargyrus, and asking if indeed he might still be given some recompense for the trouble he went to in bringing Philargyrus the crown.鈥

鈥淚 knew it would be his ruin,鈥 Diceus remarked sadly.聽 鈥淗e was always such a covetous person, and would never rest until he had more money or possessions.聽 But my wife and I have found true happiness in serving the Everlasting God.聽 Even had we not gained this land from Philargyrus, still we would have had the hope of eternal life with God.聽 And, sir, though you are not well acquainted with us, I hope you shall join with our rejoicing, for my wife Praia has been with child, and last night gave birth to a baby girl, whom we have named Epangelia for the promise that God has given us.鈥

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