"Chapter Four" by Petronius.
At this crisis amazement and consternation quite broke our spirit, certain death seeming to stare us
miserably in the face. "I beseech you, lady," I cried, "if you have any sinister design, put us out of our misery at once; we have done nothing so heinous as to deserve torturing to death." The maid, whose name was Psyche, now carefully spread a rug on the marble floor, and endeavored to rouse my member into activity, but it lay cold as a thousand deaths could make it. Ascyltos had muffled his head in his mantle, having doubtless learned from experience the peril of meddling with other people's secrets. Meantime Psyche produced two ribbons from her bosom, and proceeded to tie our hands with one and our feet with the other. Finding myself thus fettered, "This is not the way," I protested, "for your mistress to get what she wants." "Granted," replied the maid; "but I have other remedies to my hand, and surer ones."
So saying, she brought me a goblet full of satyrion, and with quips and cranks and a host of wonderful tales of its virtues, induced me to drain off nearly the whole of the liquor. Then, because he had slighted her overtures a little before, she poured what was left of the stuff over Ascyltos's back without his noticing. The latter, seeing the stream of her eloquence dried up, exclaimed, "Well! and am I not thought worthy to have a drink too?" Betrayed by my laughter, the girl clapped her hands and cried, "Why! I've given it you already, young man; you've had the whole draft all to yourself." "What!" put in Quartilla, "has Encolpius drunk up all our stock of satyrion?" and her sides shook with pretty merriment. Eventually not even Giton could contain his mirth, particularly when the little girl threw her arms round his neck, and gave the boy, who showed no signs of reluctance, a thousand kisses.
We should have cried out for help in our unhappy plight, but there was no one to hear us and besides Psyche pricked my cheeks with her hair pin every time I tried to call upon my fellow countrymen for succor, while at the same time the other girl threatened Ascyltos with a brush dipped in satyrion. Finally there entered a catamite, tricked out in a coat of chestnut frieze, and wearing a sash, who would alternately writhe his buttocks and bump against us, and beslaver us with the most evil-smelling kisses, until Quartilla, holding a whalebone wand in her hand and with skirts tucked up, ordered him to give the poor fellows quarter. Then we
all three swore the most solemn oaths the horrid secret should die with us.
Next a company of wrestlers appeared, who rubbed us over with the proper gymnastic oil, which was very refreshing. This gradually removed our fatigue and resuming the dinner clothes that we had taken off, we were then conducted into the adjoining room, where the couches were laid and all preparations made for an elegant feast in the most sumptuous style. We were requested to take our places, and the banquet opened with some wonderful hors d'oeuvres, while the Falernian flowed like water. A number of other courses followed, and we were all but falling asleep, when Quartilla cried, "Come, come! can you think of sleep, when you know this livelong night is owed to the service of Priapus?"
Ascyltos was so worn out with all he had gone through he could not keep his eyes open a moment longer, and the waiting-maid, whom he had scorned and slighted, now proceeded to daub his face all over with streaks of soot, and bepaint his lips and shoulders as he lay unconscious.
I too, tired with the persecutions I had endured, was just enjoying forty winks, as they say, while all the household, within doors and without, had copied my example. Some lay sprawling about the diners' feet, others propped against the walls, while others snored head to head right on the threshold. The oil in the lamps had burned low, and they shed a feeble, dying light, when two Syrian slaves came into the banquet-room to crib a flagon of wine.
Whilst they were greedily fighting for it and scuffling amongst the silver, it parted and broke in two. At the same moment the table with the silver plate collapsed, and a goblet falling from perhaps a greater height than the rest, struck the waiting-maid who was lying exhausted on a couch underneath and cut her head open. She screamed out at the blow, at once discovering the thieves and awakening some of the drunkards. The Syrians, thus caught in the act, threw themselves with one accord onto a couch, and started snoring as if they had been asleep ever so long.
By this time the chief butler had wakened up and put fresh oil into the expiring lamps, while the other slaves after rubbing their eyes a bit, had resumed their posts, and presently a cymbal-player came in and roused us all up with a clash of her instruments.
So the banquet was resumed, and Quartilla challenged us to start a fresh carouse, the tinkle of cymbals still further stimulating her reckless gaiety.
The next to appear is a catamite, the silliest of mankind and quite worthy of the house, who beat his hands together, gave a groan, and then spouted the following delightful effusion:
"Who hath a pathic lust,Then, his poetry exhausted, he spat a most stinking kiss in my face; before long he mounted on the couch where I lay and exposed me by force in spite of my resistance. He labored hard and long to bring up my member, but in vain. Streams of gummy paint and sweat poured from his heated brow, and such a lot of chalk filled the wrinkles of his cheeks, you might have thought his face was an old dilapidated wall with the plaster crumbling away in the rain.
I could no longer restrain my tears, but driven to the last extremity of disgust, "I ask you, lady," I cried, "is this the 'night-cap' (ambasicoetas) you promised me?" At this she clapped her hands daintily, exclaiming, "Oh you clever boy! what a pretty wit you have! Of course you didn't know 'night-cap' is another name for a catamite?" Then, that my comrade might not miss his share too, I asked her, "Now, on your conscience, is Ascyltos to be the only guest in the room to keep holiday!"
"So?" she cried, "why! let Ascyltos have his 'night-cap' too!" In obedience to her order, the catamite now changed his mount, and transferring his attentions to my friend, set to grinding him under his buttocks and smothering him with lecherous kisses.
All this while Giton had been standing by, laughing as if his sides would split. Now Quartilla, catching sight of him, asked with eager curiosity, whose lad he was. When I told her he was my little favorite, "Why hasn't he kissed me then?" she cried, and calling him to her glued her lips to his. Next minute she slipped her hand under his clothes, and pulling out his unpractised tool, she observed, "This will be a very pretty whet tomorrow to our naughty appetite. For today,-- ‘After such a dainty dish, I will taste no common fish!'"
Just as she was saying this, Psyche approached her mistress laughingly and whispered something in her ear. "Yes! yes!" exclaimed Quartilla, "a capital idea! why should not our little Pannychis lose her maidenhood! ‘tis an excellent opportunity, indeed." Immediately they brought in a pretty enough little girl, and who did not appear to be more than seven years old the same child who had accompanied Quartilla on her first visit to our room at the inn. So amid general applause and indeed at the special request of the company, they began the bridal preparations. I was horrified, and declared that, while on the one hand Giton, who was a very modest boy, was quite unequal to such naughtiness, on the
other Pannychis was far too young to endure the treatment a woman must expect. "Why!" said Quartilla, "is the girl any younger than I was when I first submitted to a man? May Juno, my patroness, desert me, if I can mind the time when I was a maid. As a child I was naughty with little boys of my own age, and presently as the years rolled by, with bigger lads, till I reached my present time of life. Hence I suppose the proverb that says: ‘Who carried the calf, may well carry the bull.'"
Fearing my favorite might get into greater troubles if I were not there, I got up to assist at the wedding ceremony.
By this time Psyche had thrown the bridal veil over the child's head; our pathic friend was marching in front with a torch; a long procession of drunken women followed, clapping their hands, having previously decked the marriage bed with a splendid coverlet. Then Quartilla, fired by the wanton pleasantry, likewise rose from table, and seizing Giton drew him into the chamber. The lad was not at all loath to go, and even the child manifested very little fear or reluctance at the name of matrimony.
In due course when they were in bed and the door shut, we sat down on the threshold of the nuptial chamber, and first of all Quartilla applied an inquisitive eye to a crack in the door contrived for some such naughty purpose, and watched their childish dalliance with lecherous intentness. She drew me gently to her side to enjoy the same spectacle, and our faces being close together as we looked, she would, at every interval in the performance, twist her lips sideways to meet mine, and kept continually pecking at me with a sort of furtive kisses.
Suddenly in the midst of these proceedings a prodigious thumping made itself heard at the entrance door, and whilst everybody was wondering what the unexpected interruption might mean, we saw a soldier come in, one of the nightwatch, with a drawn sword in his hand and surrounded by a crowd of young men. The fellow glared about him with bloodshot eyes and braggadocio airs; presently spying Quartilla, he cried, "What have we here, abandoned woman? How dare you make game of me with your falsehoods and cheat me out of the night you promised me? But you shan't go unpunished, I can tell you; you and your lover shall find out you have a man to deal with."
Obeying the soldier's orders, his comrades now bind Quartilla and myself together, mouth to mouth, bosom to bosom, and thigh to thigh, in the midst of shouts of laughter. Then the catamite, still by the soldier's order, began to beslaver me horribly all over with the odious kisses of his stinking lips-- a treatment I had no means either of escaping from or avoiding. Before long he debauched me, and worked his full will upon my body. Meantime, the satyrion I had drunk a while before, stirring every fiber to lasciviousness, I began to perform on Quartilla, while she, fired with a like wantonness, showed no repugnance to the game. The young soldiers burst into fits of laughter at the ludicrous performance; for, while myself mounted by a vile catamite, involuntarily and almost without knowing what I was at, I kept moving to him just as fast and furiously as Quartilla was wriggling under me.
At this moment Pannychis, unaccustomed at her age to love's ardors, raised a sudden cry of pain and consternation, which the soldiers heard. The poor child was in the act of being ravished, and the triumphant Giton had won a not bloodless victory. Roused by the sight, the man rushed at them, and clipped now Pannychis, now Giton, and now both of them together, in his sturdy arms. The girl burst into tears and besought him to take pity on her tender years; but her prayers were entirely unavailing, the soldier being only the more excited by her childish charms. All Pannychis could do was to throw a veil over her face and resign herself to endure whatever fate might bring her.
But at this crisis who should come to the unfortunate child's rescue, as if she had dropped from the sky, but the very same old woman who had beguiled me the day I was inquiring my road home? She burst into the house with loud cries, declaring that a band of robbers was prowling about the neighborhood while peaceful citizens were crying in vain for help, the guard being asleep or busy with their victuals, at any rate nowhere to be found. The soldier, much disturbed at what she said, fled precipitately from the house and his companions following his example, freed Pannychis from the impending danger which had threatened her and relieved us all of our terror.
So weary was I by this time of Quartilla's lecherousness that I began to revolve means of escape. I opened my mind to Ascyltos, who was only too pleased to hear of my purpose, longing to be rid of Psyche's importunities.
The whole thing would have been plain enough sailing had not Giton been locked up in the chamber; for we wished to take him with us and save him from the viciousness of these strumpets. We were anxiously debating the point when Pannychis fell out of bed, and her weight dragged Giton after her. He was unhurt, but the child, having given her head a slight knock, raised such an outcry that Quartilla in a fright rushed headlong into the room, and so gave us an opportunity to escape.
Taking advantage of this opening without an instant's delay, we fly with all speed to our inn and throwing ourselves into bed, spent the rest of the night in security.
Going abroad next day, we came upon two of Quartilla's fellows who had kidnapped us to her palace. No sooner did Ascyltos clap eyes on the rascals than he vigorously attacked one of them, and after beating and seriously wounding him, came to my help against the other. But this last bore himself so stoutly that he managed to wound us both, though only slightly, escaping himself without a scratch.