the ships got off without loss of life I cannot say. What preserved the party, beyond heaven's clemency, can only have been the beaminess of her craft and the quantity of seas shipped as unintended ballast. Of four pulls at oars, only one found purchase.

Gale-driven chop hammered the hull like a siege engine, while swells twice the vessels' length made them race like runaways.

Plummeting into a trough, the bows nosed under, sending seas cascading into the bilges; ascending from a crest, the gale struck upon the exposed keel, elevating the vessels vertical as vine stakes.

At oars we were literally standing on the thwarts of our comrades aft.

Somehow the two fifties managed to pull a half mile to sea. The lads communicated like dogs, by cries rendered mute in the blast; yet one understood the object: to make the first northward landing, scale the face, and get behind the foe.

Now Alcibiades rowed, with such a will as to impel all to emulation; his orders, shouted man-to-man down the banks, were to run into shore any way possible, taking no care for the vessels but only to land ourselves. The crest that bore us in unspooled with such velocity as to fling all bodily from their benches. We plunged over the gunwales. I was knocked senseless by the fall, coming to myself among breakers, shield filling with the weight of the seas, which hauled me under with a violence unimaginable. My forearm, seated through the sleeve to the elbow, bound me as a shackle; only the rivets' failure, wrenched from their sockets by the press of turbulence, loosed me to breach the surface. A boy drowned before my eyes, dragged under in the same way. On the strand our remnant collected, shattered with exhaustion and

bereft, all, of shields and weapons. Both boats were splinters. Lads shook as if palsied, blue to the bone.

One turned to Alcibiades. Drenched and weaponless as he was, and quaking as convulsively as we others, yet he reveled in this. No other phrase may describe it. To the lads unnerved by the ships' loss he responded that had the vessels not sunk of their own, he would have ordered them holed and scuttled. “Banish all thought of retreat, brothers. No avenue remains but to advance, and no alternative save victory or death.” He ordered count, and when three were discovered missing, drowned, he commanded our remainder to give meaning to their sacrifice. What we lacked accounted nothing beside the audacity of our stroke. “Want of weapons is no liability in this dark. Our sudden apparition in the enemy's rear will be weapon enough. The foe will flee from the shock of our assault alone.”

Alcibiades drove us up the face. He was a horseman and knew in this wet that the enemy, being cavalry, would seek before all to get his mounts under cover. We were not lost, he repeated, however black the tempest, but must only follow the brink, employing heaven's bolts as our beacon, till we discovered such a site. Of course he was right. A crag appeared. There they were. We fell upon the enemy's grooms with stones and clubs and the shivered shafts of our oars. In moments our commander had us mounted and pounding along the precipice in dark as total as the tomb. At the crest the main of the foe fled, as Alcibiades had predicted. We chased a dozen into the fells, myself desperate to strip the shield from one. For the Spartan-trained, death was preferable to return from action, even victorious, empty-handed.

Here the first man fell beneath my blow. A plunge among rocks; I heard his skull crack on the stone in the dark. My brother dragged me off him, seeking to strip breastplate as well as shield. I was mad with the joy of my own survival and felt myself invincible, as so many young soldiers who in such states commit acts of barbarity. Lion hauled me back to the precipice. Our party had collected, masters of the site. We had won! Below, our troops cheered their deliverance. The face of the cliff had been roped, I saw; several from the strand had mounted and now stood before us.

I recognized the Macedonian captain. He was berating Alcibiades, vehemently and with malice.

He declared the youth reckless and insubordinate, a disgrace to his country and the order of the Alliance. Three are dead by his defiance, two ships lost for his usurpation of command! Where are your shields and weapons? Do you know the penalty for their deficit? The captain's eyes blazed. He would see Alcibiades hauled up on charges of mutiny, if not treason, and by Zeus jig upon his grave!

Three Macedonian warrant officers, the captain's compatriots, reinforced him at arms. Alcibiades' expression never altered, awaiting only the harangue's termination.

“One must not make such a speech,” he declared, “with his back to the precipice.”

I will resist overdramatizing the moment, but report only that the three henchmen, considering their position, seized their commander and executed his precipitation.

The rest of us, who had just experienced for the first time in our young lives such a baptism of terror-and over such a sustained interval as we had never imagined-now discovered ourselves confronted with an even more extreme exigency. What would become of us? Surely those below must report Alcibiades' action.

We were accessories. Would we not be tried as murderers? Would our names be blackened, our families shamed and dishonored?

Would we be returned to Athens in chains to await execution?

At once Alcibiades stepped to the three Macedonians, setting a hand on their shoulders to assure them he harbored no malign intent. Might they inform him, he inquired, of the name and clan of their fallen captain?

“You will prepare the following dispatch,” Alcibiades commanded. He proceeded to dictate the text of a commendation for valor. Each act of heroism which he had himself performed, he now credited to the captain. He recited this officer's valor in the face of overwhelming peril; how he had, disregarding his own safety, put out into the storm, scaled the sheer face of stone to envelop and rout the enemy, preserving by his actions the ships and men of his company below. At the summit of triumph, as his sword slew the foe's commander, cruel fortune overhauled him. He fell. “The fame of this action,” Alcibiades concluded, “shall endure, imperishable.”

This dispatch would be sent, Alcibiades declared further, to the captain's father and presented personally by himself to Paches and the generals of Macedonia upon our squadron's return. He turned then to us youths, including Lion and myself, looking on.

“Which of you, brothers, will set his hand beneath mine on this citation?”

Need I recount, none failed to assent.

As to our unofficial company of infantry, it succeeded, reunited with the brigade under Paches, in its mission over a month and more of fighting, during which Alcibiades at nineteen, though by no means officially in command, was in fact deferred to by all superiors and sanctioned such latitude of action and initiative as to render him effectively its captain. When this unit at last reached Potidaea, our original destination, and joined the line troops engaged in the siege, it was disbanded as nonchalantly as it had been formed, and Alcibiades, undecorated but unindicted, was repatriated to his regiment.

It was my brother's observation regarding this incident that, though he, and I as well, served in subsequent seasons beside a number of the young men present at the precipice in that hour and had ample opportunity of converse, formal and informal, on this or any subject, never did one offer mention of this instance or confirm by word or allusion the actuality of its occurrence.



At the siege of Potidaea two young men established themselves as indispensable: Alcibiades and my brother. By his bearing both in action and in counsel it had become patent that the former was preeminent of hero's fire, without rival among the host.

Within all the corps he was acknowledged the most brilliant and audacious, possessed of the most abundant genius of war. At Athens his fields of enterprise had been limited by youth to sport and seduction. Campaign overturned this, granting him a sphere commensurate to his gifts. Overnight he came into his own. It was deemed by no few that he, though not yet twenty, could have been elevated to supreme command and not only prosecuted the siege with greater vigor and sagacity but brought it to a successful conclusion with far less loss of life.

As to my brother, he had made his name among the hard heads and raw knots of the corps. Experience teaches that however numerous the brigade or army, the work of war is performed by small units, and each must

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