"Chapter Two" by Petronius.
Necessity constrained me to approve his advice and restrain the expression of my resentment. So, loading Giton with our scanty baggage, we quitted the city and made our way to the country house of Lycurgus, a Roman knight. Ascyltos had been a minion in former days, so he gave us an excellent reception, and the company assembled there rendered our entertainment still more delightful. First and foremost was Tryphaena, a very handsome woman, who had come with Lichas, master of a ship and owner of estates near the seacoast.
Words cannot describe the pleasures we enjoyed in this most delightful spot, though Lycurgus's table was frugal enough. You must know we lost no time in pairing off as lovers. The lovely Tryphaena was my fancy, and readily acceded to my wishes. But scarcely was I in enjoyment of her favors, when Lichas, furious at his lady-love being filched from him, insisted I must indemnify him for the injury done him. She had long been his mistress; so he made the festive proposal that I should make good his loss in person. He pressed me passionately; but Tryphaena possessing my heart, my ears were deaf to his importunities. My refusal made him still more eager and he followed me about like a dog, and actually came into my chamber one night. Finding his entreaties scorned, he tried to force me; but I shouted so loudly I roused the household and by favor of Lycurgus's countenance was saved from the ruffian's attempts.
Eventually thinking Lycurgus's house inconvenient for his purpose, he endeavored to persuade me to be his guest. When I refused his invitation, he got Tryphaena to use her influence. The latter begged me to comply with Lichas's wishes, what made her so ready to do so being the prospect of leading a more independent life there. Accordingly I follow where my love leads the way. But Lycurgus, having renewed his former relations with Ascyltos, would not let him go. So we agreed that he should stop with Lycurgus, whilst we accompanied Lichas, resolving at the same time that, as opportunity offered, we should each and all lay hands on anything handy for the common stock.
My consent delighted Lichas beyond measure. He hurried on our departure all he could, and forthwith bidding our friends farewell, we arrived the same day at his house. Lichas had cleverly arranged it in such a way that he sat beside me during the journey, while Tryphaena was next to Giton. This he had contrived because he knew the woman's notorious fickleness, and the result justified his expectations. In fact she instantly fell in love with the lad, as I saw easily enough. Lichas moreover made a point of drawing my attention to the circumstance, and assured me there was no doubt about it. This made me receive his advances more complacently, at which he was overjoyed. He felt certain the injury my mistress was doing me would turn my love into contempt, and that consequently out of pique against Tryphaena, I should be the more disposed to welcome his proposals.
Such was the state of affairs under Lichas's roof. Tryphaena was desperately enamored of Giton; Giton's whole heart was aflame for Tryphaena; I hated the sight of both; while Lichas, studying to please me, contrived some fresh diversion every day. Doris, his pretty wife, eagerly seconded his efforts, and that so charmingly she soon drove Tryphaena from my heart. A wink informed Doris of the state of my feelings, and she returned the compliment with alluring glances; so that this mute language, anticipating the tongue, furtively expressed the mutual liking we had simultaneously conceived for one another.
I soon saw Lichas was jealous, and this made me cautious; while the quick eyes of love had already revealed to the wife the husband's designs on me. The first opportunity we had of conversing together, she announced her discovery to me. I frankly admitted the fact, and told her how austerely I had always treated his advances. But like a wise, discreet woman, she only said, "Well! well! we must act judiciously in the matter." I followed her advice, and found that, to yield to the one was to win the other.
Meanwhile, while Giton was recruiting his exhausted strength, Tryphaena was for returning to me; but on my repulsing her overtures, her love changed into furious hate. Nor was the ardent little wanton long in discovering my dealings both with husband and wife. The former's naughtiness with me she made light of, for she lost nothing by it; but she went savagely for Doris and her secret pleasures. She denounced her to Lichas, whose jealousy proving stronger than his love, he prepared for revenge. However Doris, warned by Tryphaena's maid to look out for storms, refrained from any clandestine meetings for the present.
As soon as I learned the truth, cursing at once Tryphaena's perfidy and Lichas's ingratitude, I made up my mind to be gone. Fortune moreover was in my favor; for the very day before a vessel, dedicated to Isis and laden with rich offerings for the feast of the goddess, had run ashore on the rocks of the neighboring coast.
I talked the matter over with Giton, and he readily enough agreed to my plan, for Tryphaena, after draining him of his strength, was now openly neglecting him. Accordingly we set off betimes next day for the coast, and easily got aboard the wreck as we were known to Lichas's servants, who were in charge. But finding they insisted on attending us everywhere out of politeness, so stopping any chance of looting, I left Giton with them and seizing an opportunity to get away by myself, crept into the poop, where stood the image of Isis. This I robbed of a rich mantle and a silver sistrum, besides appropriating other valuables from the Captain's cabin. This done, I slipped down a mooring-rope without anybody seeing me except Giton, who likewise eluded the men in charge before very long and sneaked after me.
On his coming up, I showed him my booty, and we resolved to make the best of our way to Ascyltos, but we could not reach Lycurgus's house till next day. Arrived there, I gave Ascyltos a brief account of the robbery, and of our untoward love adventures. His advice was to get Lycurgus on our side, telling him that fresh persecutions on the part of Lichas had determined our sudden and secret flight. When he heard this Lycurgus took an oath he would never fail us as a bulwark against our enemies.
Our flight was not observed until Tryphaena and Doris awoke and got up; for every morning we made a point of attending these ladies' toilette. Our unwonted absence therefore being noticed, Lichas dispatched messengers to look for us, particularly to the seashore. From them he heard of our having visited the ship, but not a word about the robbery. This was still undiscovered, because the poop lay seawards, and the Master had not as yet returned to his vessel.
Eventually, when no doubt remained as to our flight, which annoyed Lichas extremely, the latter turned furiously upon Doris, considering her to be responsible for it. I will not describe his language nor the violence he indulged in towards her; indeed I do not know the details. Enough to say that Tryphaena, the originator of all the disturbance, prevailed on Lichas to go and look for us at Lycurgus's house, as being our most likely place of refuge, choosing herself to accompany him thither, that she might find opportunity to load us with the abuse and scorn we had so well merited at her hands.
Setting out next day, they arrived at the mansion. We were not at home, Lycurgus having taken us to a feast of Hercules that was being celebrated at a neighboring village. Learning this, they followed us in all haste, and came up with us in the Portico of the Temple. Their appearance disconcerted us not a little. Lichas instantly began to complain bitterly of our running away to Lycurgus; but was met with such an angry brow and haughty air by the latter, that plucking up a spirit, I loudly cried shame on his lecherous attempts on my person both under Lycurgus's roof and his own. Tryphaena interfered, but got the worst of it, too, for I proclaimed her baseness to the crowds of people our altercation had attracted, and in token of the truth of my allegations, I showed them Giton pale and bloodless and myself brought to death's door by the strumpet's wantonness. The crowd burst into loud shouts of laughter, which so abashed our adversaries that they withdrew, crestfallen and vowing vengeance.
Perceiving we had quite won Lycurgus over, they determined to wait for him at his own house, in order to disabuse his mind of this prepossession in our favor. The solemnities finished too late for us to return to the mansion that night; so Lycurgus took us to a country lodge of his situated halfway thither. Here he left us next morning still asleep, while he went home himself to attend to the dispatch of business. He found Lichas and Tryphaena waiting for him there, who talked him over so cleverly, they actually persuaded him to deliver us up into their hands. Lycurgus, a man naturally cruel and treacherous, meditating how best to betray us, urged Lichas to go for help, while he went himself to the lodge to secure our capture.
Arrived there, he accosted us with as harsh a mien as ever Lichas might have been expected to show; then, wringing his hands, he upbraided us with our falsehood to Lichas, and ordered us to be kept fast prisoners in the chamber where we lay, excluding Ascyltos and refusing to hear a word from him in our defense. Taking the latter with him to his mansion, he left us behind in custody till his return.
On the journey Ascyltos tried in vain to modify Lycurgus's determination, but neither prayers, caresses nor tears would move him. Accordingly our comrade conceived the idea of setting us at liberty by other means. Indignant at Lycurgus's harshness, he positively refused to sleep with him, and so found himself in a better position to carry out the plan he had formed.
Waiting till the household were buried in their first sleep, he took our bits of baggage on his shoulders, and slipping through a breach in the wall he had previously marked, he reached the lodge at daybreak. Entering the house unopposed, he sought our room, which the guards had taken care to secure. There was little difficulty in opening the door, for the bolt being of wood, he loosened this by inserting an iron bar. Presently the lock dropped off, and awoke us in falling, for we were snoring away in spite of our unhappy situation. Yet so sound asleep were our guards, being tired out with watching, that the crash roused no one but ourselves.
Then Ascyltos, entering our prison, briefly told us what he had done for us, nor indeed were many words necessary. While we were busy dressing, it occurred to me to kill the watchmen and loot the house. I confided my notion to Ascyltos, who approved of the robbery, but said we could gain our ends better without bloodshed. Accordingly, knowing as he did all the ins and outs of the premises, he led us to the store chamber, the doors of which he undid. Appropriating the more valuable of the contents, we made off while it was still early morning, and avoiding the public roads, never stopped till we deemed ourselves safe from pursuit.
Hereupon Ascyltos, taking breath, declared emphatically what delight he had felt in pillaging Lycurgus's house. He was an arrant miser, he said, and had given him good reason to complain; while he had never paid him a farthing for his nights' work, he had at the same time kept him on very short commons and the thinnest of drink. So niggardly indeed was the fellow that notwithstanding his boundless wealth, he used to deny himself the barest necessaries of life.
Unhappy Tantalus, with plenty curst,
'Mid fruits for hunger faints, 'mid streams for
The Miser's emblem! who of all possess'd,
Yet fears to taste, in blessings most unbless'd.
Ascyltos was for returning to Naples that same day. "But surely," said I, "it is acting imprudently to go to the very place of all others where they are most likely to look for us. Let us keep away for a while and ramble about the country. We have the means to do it in comfort." My advice was approved, and we set out for a hamlet embellished with a number of agreeable country residences, where several of our familiars were enjoying the pleasures of the season. But scarcely had we covered half the distance when a storm of rain coming down in bucketfuls compelled us to fly for shelter to the nearest village. Entering the inn, we found a crowd of other travelers who had turned in there to escape the inclemency of the weather.
The throng prevented our attracting notice, which made it all the easier for us to pry about in search of anything we could appropriate. Ascyltos picked up from the floor, quite unobserved, a little bag containing a number of gold pieces. We were delighted at this lucky beginning; but fearing some one might claim the money, we stole away by the back door. There we found a servant saddling some horses, who at that moment left them to go back to the house for something he had forgotten. Profiting by his absence, I snatched a superb riding-cloak from a saddle, undoing the straps that fastened it. This done, we made off into the nearest wood under cover of some outhouses.
Sitting down in the depths of the wood, where we were in comparative safety, we held a council of war about concealing the gold, not wishing either to be accused of the theft or to be robbed of it ourselves. Finally we decided to sew it up in a hem of an old threadbare tunic, which I threw round my shoulders, and entrusting the cloak to Ascyltos, we prepared to start for the city by way of bypaths. But just as we were quitting the forest, we hear a voice pronounce these terrible words: "They shan't escape. They've gone into the wood; and if we spread out and search everywhere, they'll easily be caught."
These words filled us with such consternation that Ascyltos and Giton dashed away through the bushes in the direction of the city; while I stepped back so hurriedly that, without my knowing it, the precious tunic slipped from my shoulders. At length, tired out and unable to go a step further, I lay down under a tree, and then for the first time discovered my loss. Vexation gave me new strength, and starting up again to look for the treasure, I wandered up and down for a long time in vain, till worn out with toil and trouble I plunged into the darkest recesses of the forest, where I remained for four weary hours. Sick at last of the horrible solitude, I sought a way out, but as I advanced I caught sight of a peasant. Then indeed I wanted all my assurance, and it did not fail me. Going boldly up to him, I asked my way to the city, complaining I had been lost for ever so long in the wood. He led me very civilly into the high road, where he came upon two of his comrades, who reported they had searched all the paths through the forest, but had found nothing except a tunic which they showed him.
I had not the impudence to claim the garment, as may be supposed. My vexation redoubled, and I uttered many a groan over my lost gold.
Thus it was already late when I reached the city. Entering the inn, I found Ascyltos stretched half dead on a bed. Disturbed at not seeing the tunic intrusted to my care, Ascyltos eagerly demanded it. After a while my strength came back a little, and I then told him the whole misadventure; but he thought I was joking, and though an appealing flood of tears further confirmed my asseverations, he remained obviously incredulous, thinking I wanted to cheat him out of the money. But after all, what most troubled our minds was the hue and cry after us. I mentioned this to Ascyltos, but he made light of it, having managed to extricate himself successfully from the affair. Besides he was convinced we were safe enough, for we were not known, and nobody had set eyes on us. Still we thought it advisable to feign sickness, so as to have a pretext for keeping our room the longer. But our cash running short, we had to go abroad sooner than we had intended, and under the spur of necessity to sell some of our plunder.