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[4] At first Cleon tried to draw back, confused by the unexpectedness of this offer; but the Athenians kept up the same cries of encouragement, and Nicias kept taunting him, until, his ambition incited and on fire, he undertook the command, and, besides, declared in so many words that within twenty days after sailing he would either slay the men on the island or bring them alive to Athens. The Athenians were moved to hearty laughter at this rather than to belief in it, for they were already in the way of treating his mad vanity as a joke, and a pleasant one too.

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