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You lament having torn up the letter: don't vex yourself, it is all safe. You can get it from my house whenever you please. For the warning you give me I am much obliged, and I beg you will always act thus. For you seem to fear that, unless I keep on good terms with him, I may laugh "a real Sardinian laugh." 1 But look out for yourself. Hands off: our master is coming sooner than we thought. I fear we Catonian blockheads may find ourselves on the block. 2 My dear Gallus, don't imagine that anything could be better than that part of your letter which begins: "Everything else is slipping away." This in your ear in confidence: keep it to yourself: don't tell even your freed-man Apelles. Besides us two no one talks in that tone. Whether it is well or ill to do so, that is my look-out: but whatever it is, it is our speciality. Work on then, and don't stir a nail's breadth, as they say, from the pen; for it is the creator of eloquence: 3 and for my part I now devote a considerable part of the night to it also.

1 A "laugh on the wrong side of my mouth," from a herb found in Sardinia which was said to contort the features with a grin of pain.

2 Keeping the MS. word catomum, said to refer to the hoisting of boys on a man's shoulders to be flogged, as in the well-known picture from Pompeii (κατ᾽ ὤμων). Others read catonium, explaining it to mean the "world below" (κάτω), "Hades." The "master" is, of course, Caesar; and the metaphor of a school is kept by manus de tabula, (perhaps) "No more scribbling-here comes the schoolmaster," i.e., we had better stop writing "Catos" now Caesar is back home.

3 In the de Orat. 33, he says, "the pen, the best producer and master of eloquence." See Quint. Inst. Orat. 10.3.1-4.

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