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At one time there was in Athens a beautiful woman named Theodote/, who was ready to keep company with anyone who pleased her. One of the bystanders mentioned her name, declaring that words failed him to describe the lady's beauty, and adding that artists visited her to paint her portrait, and she showed them as much as decency allowed. “We had better go and see her,” cried Socrates; “of course what beggars description can't very well be learned by hearsay.” [2]

“Come with me at once,” returned his informant. So off they went to Theodote/'s house, where they found her posing before a painter, and looked on.

When the painter had finished, Socrates said: “My friends, ought we to be more grateful to Theodote/ for showing us her beauty, or she to us for looking at it? Does the obligation rest with her, if she profits more by showing it, but with us, if we profit more by looking?” [3]

When someone answered that this was a fair way of putting it, “Well now,” he went on, “she already has our praise to her credit, and when we spread the news, she will profit yet more; whereas we already long to touch what we have seen, and we shall go away excited and shall miss her when we are gone. The natural consequence is that we become her adorers, she the adored.”

“Then, if that is so,” exclaimed Theodote/, “of course I ought to be grateful to you for looking.” [4]

At this point Socrates noticed that she was sumptuously dressed, and that her mother at her side was wearing fine clothes and jewellery; and she had many pretty maids, who also were well cared for, and her house was lavishly furnished.

“Tell me, Theodote/,” he said, “have you a farm?”

“Not I,” she answered.

“Or a house, perhaps, that brings in money?”

“No, nor a house.”

“Some craftsmen, possibly?”

“No, none.”

“Then where do you get your supplies from?”

“I live on the generosity of any friend I pick up.” [5]

“A fine property, upon my word, Theodote/, and much better than abundance of sheep and goats and oxen. But,” he went on, “do you trust to luck, waiting for friends to settle on you like flies, or have you some contrivance of your own?” [6]

“How could I invent a contrivance for that?”

“Much more conveniently, I assure you, than the spiders. For you know how they hunt for a living: they weave a thin web, I believe, and feed on anything that gets into it.” [7]

“And do you advise me, then, to weave a trap of some sort?”

“Of course not. Don't suppose you are going to hunt friends, the noblest game in the world, by such crude methods. Don't you notice that many tricks are employed even for hunting such a poor thing as the hare?1 [8] Since hares feed by night, hounds specially adapted for night work are provided to hunt them; and since they run away at daybreak, another pack of hounds is obtained for tracking them by the scent along the run from the feeding ground to the form; and since they are so nimble that once they are off they actually escape in the open, yet a third pack of speedy hounds is formed to catch them by hot pursuit; and as some escape even so, nets are set up in the tracks where they escape, that they may be driven into them and stopped dead.” [9]

“Then can I adapt this plan to the pursuit of friends?”

“Of course you can, if for the hound you substitute an agent who will track and find rich men with an eye for beauty, and will then contrive to chase them into your nets.” [10]

“Nets! What nets have I got?”

“One, surely, that clips close enough — your body! And inside it you have a soul that teaches you what glance will please, what words delight, and tells you that your business is to give a warm welcome to an eager suitor, but to slam the door upon a coxcomb; yes, and when a friend has fallen sick, to show your anxiety by visiting him; and when he has had a stroke of good fortune, to congratulate him eagerly; and if he is eager in his suit, to put yourself at his service heart and soul. As for loving, you know how to do that, I am sure, both tenderly and truly; and that your friends give you satisfaction, you convince them, I know, not by words but by deeds.”

“Upon my word,” said Theodote/, “I don't contrive one of these things.” [11]

“Nevertheless,” he continued, “it is very important that your behaviour to a man should be both natural and correct. For assuredly you can neither catch a friend nor keep him by violence;2 it is kindness and sweetness that catch the creature and hold him fast.”

“True,” she said. [12]

“First, then, you must ask such favours of your suitors as they will grant without a moment's hesitation; and next you must repay their favours in the same coin; for in this way they will prove most sincerely your friends, most constant in their affection and most generous. [13] And they will appreciate your favours most highly if you wait till they ask for them. The sweetest meats, you see, if served before they are wanted, seem sour, and to those who have had enough they are positively nauseating; but even poor fare is very welcome when offered to a hungry man.” [14]

“And how can I make them hunger for my fare?”

“Why, in the first place, you must not offer it to them when they have had enough, nor prompt them until they have thrown off the surfeit and are beginning to want more; then, when they feel the want, you must prompt them by behaving as a model of propriety, by a show of reluctance to yield, and by holding back until they are as keen as can be; for then the same gifts are much more to the recipient than when they are offered before they are desired.” [15]

“Then, Socrates,” exclaimed Theodote/, “why don't you become my partner in the pursuit of friends?”

“By all means — if you persuade me.”

“And how am I to persuade you?”

“That you will find out and contrive for yourself, if you want my help.”

“Come and see me often, then.” [16]

“Ah!” said Socrates, making fun of his own leisurely habits, “it's not so easy for me to find time. For I have much business to occupy me, private and public; and I have the dear girls, who won't leave me day or night; they are studying potions with me and spells.” [17]

“Indeed! do you understand these things too, Socrates?”

“Why, what is the reason that master Apollodorus and Antisthenes never leave me, do you suppose? And why do Cebes and Simmias come to me from Thebes? I assure you these things don't happen without the help of many potions and spells and magic wheels.” [18]

“Do lend me your wheel, that I may turn it first to draw you.”

“But of course I don't want to be drawn to you: I want you to come to me.”

“Oh, I'll come: only mind you welcome me.”

“Oh, you shall be welcome — unless there's a dearer girl with me!”

1 Cyropaedia I. vi. 40.

2 Cyropaedia VIII. vii. 13.

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