"Chapter Ten" by Petronius.
After this display of good nature, there followed a course of delicacies,
only to think of which, if you'll believe me, makes me feel ill. For
instead of thrushes, a fatted hen was set before each guest and chaperoned
goose-eggs which Trimalchio urged us most pressingly to partake of,
assuring us the hens were boned.
At this moment a lictor knocked at the folding doors of the dining-hall, and dressed out in a white robe, a fresh boon-companion now entered, with a large train in attendance. As for me, I was so much impressed by all this state and ceremony, I thought it was the Pretor. So I made as if to rise and set my naked feet to the floor. Agamemnon laughed at my trepidation. "Sit still, you silly fellow," said he, "it's Habinnas the Sevir, he's a marble-mason, and it seems makes capital good monuments." Reassured by what he said, I lay back again in my place, and watched Habinnas' entry with the greatest admiration. He was already tipsy, and leant for support on his wife's shoulder; wearing several heavy wreaths round his brow, which was so reeking with perfume it kept trickling into his eyes, he took the Pretor's place, and at once called for wine and hot water.
Delighted at his joviality, Trimalchio himself called for a large goblet, and asked him how he had been entertained. "We had everything in the world," he replied, "except the pleasure of your company; for indeed my inclinations were here. But upon my word, it was very fine. Scissa was giving a very elegant novendial in memory of her poor old slave, whom she had enfranchised after his death. And I suppose she will have a good round sum to pay to the tax-collectors, for they do tell me the dead man's fortune came to fifty thousand. I assure you it was all very pleasant, though we did have to pour half our liquor over his old bones."
"But what did you have for dinner?" Trimalchio asked.
"I'll tell you, if I can," was the answer, "but there, I have such a first-class memory, I often forget my own name. However, for first course we had a pig topped with a black-pudding and garnished with fritters and giblets, capitally dressed, and beetroot of course, and whole-meal brown bread, which I prefer myself to white; it makes muscle, and when I do my does, I don't have to yell. The next course was cold tarts, and to drink, excellent Spanish wine poured over warm honey. So I ate a fine helping of tart, and smeared myself well with the honey. As accessories, were chick-peas and lupines, nuts at discretion, and an apple apiece. But I took two, and look you! I've got them here tied up in a napkin; for if I don't take some present back for my little slave lad at home, there'll be a row. Right! my wife reminds me, we had also, on the sideboard a joint of bear's meat. Scintilla took some inadvertently, and very nearly threw up her guts. I on the contrary ate nearly a pound of it; indeed it tasted quite like boar's flesh. And what I say is, if bear eats man, why should not man, with a far better reason, eat bear? To end up with, we had cream cheese flavored with wine jelly, snails, one apiece, chitterlings, scalloped liver and chaperoned eggs, turnips, mustard and (by your leave, Palamedes!) a dish of mixed siftings; pickled olives also were handed round in a bowl, from which some of the party were mean enough to help themselves to three handfuls each; the ham we declined altogether.
"But pray, Gaius, why is not Fortunata at table?"
"Don't you know her better than that?" answered Trimalchio. "Not until she has counted the plate, and divided the leavings among the slaves, will she let so much as a drop of water pass her lips."
"Well!" returned Habinnas, "if she does not join us, I'm off for one," and made as though to get up, when at a signal from their master the whole houseful of slaves called out, four times over and more, "Fortunata! Fortunata!" At this she entered at last, her frock kilted up with a yellow girdle, so as to show a cherry-colored tunic underneath, and corded anklets and gold-embroidered slippers. Then wiping her hands on a handkerchief she wore at her neck, she placed herself on the same couch beside Habinnas' wife, Scintilla, kissing her while the other claps her hands, and exclaiming, "Have I really the pleasure of seeing you?"
Before long it came to Fortunata's taking off the bracelets from her great fat arms to show them to her admiring companion. Finally she even undid her anklets and her hairnet, which she assured Scintilla was of the very finest gold. Trimalchio observing this, ordered all the things to be brought to him. "You see this woman's fetters," he cried; "that's the way we poor devils are robbed! Six pound and a half, if it's an ounce; and yet I've got one myself of ten pound weight, all made out of Mercury's thousandths." Eventually to prove he was not telling a lie, he ordered a pair of scales to be brought, and had the articles carried round and the weight tested by each in turn. And Scintilla was just as bad, for she drew from her bosom a little gold casket she called her Lucky Box. From it she produced a pair of ear-pendants and handed them one after the other to Fortunata to admire, saying, "Thanks to my husband's goodness, no wife has finer."
"Why truly!" remarked Habinnas, "you gave me no peace till I bought you the glass bean. I tell you straight, if I had a daughter, I should cut off her ears. If there were no women in the world, we should have everything in the world dirt cheap; as it is, we've just got to piss hot and drink cold."
Meanwhile the two women, though a trifle piqued, laughed good-humoredly together and interchanged some tipsy kisses, the one praising the thrifty management of the lady of the house, the other enlarging on the minions her husband kept and his unthrifty ways. While they were thus engaged in close confabulation, Habinnas got up stealthily and catching hold of Fortunata's legs, upset her on the couch. "Ah! ah!" she screeched, as her tunic slipped up above her knees. Then falling on Scintilla's bosom, she hid in her handkerchief a face all afire with blushes.
After a short interval Trimalchio next ordered the dessert to be served; hereupon the servants removed all the tables and brought in fresh ones, and strewed the floor with saffron and vermilion colored sawdust and,-- a refinement I had not seen before,-- with specular stone reduced to powder. The moment the tables were changed, Trimalchio remarked, "I could really be quite content with what we have; for you see your ‘second tables' before you. However, if there is anything spicy for dessert, let's have it in."
Meantime an Alexandrian lad, who served round the
hot water, began imitating a nightingale, his master from time to time calling out, "Change!" Another form of entertainment followed. A slave who was sitting at Habinnas' feet, at his master's bidding, as I imagine, suddenly sang out in a loud voice:
"Meantime Æneas cuts his watery way. . . ."
Nothing harsher ever shocked my ears, for to say nothing of the false inflections, now high now low, of his voice and his barbarous pronunciation, he kept sticking in tags from Atellane farces, so that for the first time in my life I found Virgil intolerable. Yet no sooner did he pause for an instant than Habinnas loudly applauded the performance, adding, "The man has had no regular training; I merely sent him to see some mountebanks, and that's how he learned. The result is, he has not his match, whether it's muleteers or mountebanks he wants to mimic. He's just desperate clever; he's cobbler, cook, confectioner, a compendium of all the talents. Still he has two faults, but for which he would be a perfect paragon: he is circumcised and he snores. For his squinting, I don't mind that; Venus has the same little defect. That's why his tongue is never still, because one eye is pretty much always on the alert. I gave three hundred denars for him."
Here Scintilla interrupted the speaker; "You take good care," she said, "not to mention all the scamp's qualifications. I'm sure he must be an arrant go-between;
but I'll see to it that he has his brand before long."
Trimalchio only laughed and said, "I see he's a true Cappadocian; always looks out for number one. And, my word! I don't blame him; for indeed, once dead, this is a thing nobody can secure us. And you, Scintilla, don't be so jealous! Believe me, we understand you women. As I hope to be safe and sound, I used myself to poke her ladyship, so that even my master got suspicious; and that's why he sent me off to be factor in the country. But hush! tongue, and I'll give thee a cake."
Taking everything that was said for high praise, the foul slave now drew an earthenware lamp from his bosom, and for more than half an hour mimicked a trumpeter, while Habinnas accompanied him, squeezing his lip down with his fingers. Finally he actually stepped out into the middle of the room, and first imitated a fluteplayer by means of broken reeds; then with riding-cloak and whip, acted the muleteer, till Habinnas called him to his side and kissed him, gave him a drink and cried, "Bravo! Massa, bravo! I'll give you a pair of boots."
We should never have seen the end of these tiresome inflictions but for the Extra-Course now coming in,-- thrushes of pastry, stuffed with raisins and walnuts, followed by quinces stuck over with thorns, to represent sea-urchins. This would have been intolerable enough, had it not been for a still more outlandish dish, such a horrible concoction, we would rather have died than touch it. Directly it was on the table,-- to all appearance a fatted goose, with fish and fowl of all kinds round it. "Friends," cried Trimalchio, "every single thing you see on that dish is made out of one substance." With my wonted perspicacity, I instantly guessed its nature, and said, giving Agamemnon a look, "For my own part, I shall be greatly surprised, if it is not all made of filth, or at any rate mud. When I was in Rome at the Saturnalia, I saw some sham eatables
of the same sort." I had not done speaking when Trimalchio explained, "As I hope to grow a bigger man,-- in fortune I mean, not fat,-- I declare my cook made it every bit out of a pig. Never was a more invaluable fellow! Give the word, he'll make you a fish of the paunch, a wood-pigeon of the lard, a turtle-dove of the forehand, and a hen of the hind leg! And that's why I very cleverly gave him such a fine and fitting name as Dædalus. And because he's such a good servant, I brought him a present from Rome, a set of knives of Noric steel." These he immediately ordered to be brought, and examined and admired them, even allowing us to try their edge on our cheeks.
All of a sudden in rushed two slaves, as if fresh from a quarrel at the fountain; at any rate they still had their water-pots hanging from the shoulder-yokes. Then when Trimalchio gave judgment upon their difference, they would neither of them accept his decision, but each smashed the other's pot with a stick. We were horror-struck at the drunken scoundrels' insolence, and looking hard at the combatants, we noticed oysters and scallops tumbling out of the broken pitchers, which another slave gathered up and handed round on a platter. This refinement was matched by the ingenious cook, who now brought in snails on a little silver gridiron, singing the while in a quavering, horribly rasping voice.
I am really ashamed to relate what followed, it was so unheard-of a piece of luxury. Long-haired slave boys brought in an unguent in a silver basin, and anointed our feet with it as we lay at table, after first wreathing our legs and ankles with garlands. Afterwards a small quantity of the same perfume was poured into the wine-jars and the lamps.
By this time a strong wish to dance had seized upon Fortunata, while Scintilla's hands were going quicker in applause even than her tongue in chatter, when Trimalchio said, "I give you my permission, Philargyrus, and you, Cario, notorious champion though you are of the green, to take your places at table; also bid Menophila, your bedfellow, to do the same." To make a long story short, we were all but thrust off our couches, such a throng of domestics now invaded the dinner- table. I actually noticed occupying a place above my own the cook who had made a goose out of a pig, reeking as he was with fish-pickle and sauces. Indeed he was not satisfied with merely being present, but immediately began an imitation of Ephesus the Tragedian, after which he offered his master a bet that at the next races the green would score first prize.
Delighted at the challenge, Trimalchio cried, "Yes! my friends, slaves are human beings too, and have sucked mother's milk as well as we, though untoward circumstance has borne them down. Nevertheless, without prejudicing me, they shall some day soon drink the water of the free. In a word, I enfranchise them all in my will. I bequeath into the bargain a farm and his bedfellow to Philargyrus, a street block to Cario, besides a twentieth and a bed and bedding. I name Fortunata my heir, and commend her to all my friends' kindness. And all this I make public, to the end my whole household may love me now as well as if I were dead already."
All began to express their gratitude to so kind a master, when Trimalchio, quite dropping his trifling vein, ordered a copy of his will to be fetched, and read it through from beginning to end amid the groans of all members of the household. Then turning to Habinnas, he asked him, "What say you, dear friend? are you building my monument according to my directions? I ask you particularly that at the feet of my effigy you have my little bitch put, and garlands and perfume caskets and all Petraites' fights, that by your good help I may live on even after death. The frontage is to be a hundred feet long, and it must reach back two hundred. For I wish to have all kinds of fruit trees growing around my ashes and plenty of vines. Surely it's a great mistake to make houses so fine for the living, yet to give never a thought to these where we have to dwell far, far longer. And that's why I especially insist on the notice:
THIS MONUMENT DOES NOT DESCEND
When he had finished reading this document, Trimalchio fell to weeping copiously. Fortunata wept too; so did Habinnas; so did the servants; in fact, the whole household filled the room with lamentations, for all the world like guests at a funeral. Indeed I was beginning to weep myself, when Trimalchio resumed. "Well!" said he, "as we know we've got to die, why not make
the most of life? As I should like to see you all happy, let's jump into the bath. I guarantee you'll be none the worse; it's as hot as an oven."
"Right! right!" cried Habinnas, "to make two days out of one; nothing I should like better," and springing up barefoot as he was, he followed Trimalchio, who led the way, clapping his hands.
For myself I said, turning to Ascyltos, "What think you, Ascyltos? as for me, to look at a bath now would kill me."
"Let's consent," he replied; "and then, as they are making for the bathroom, escape in the confusion."
This being agreed upon, Giton led the way through the colonnade, and we reached the house-door, where the watchdog greeted us with such furious barking that Ascyltos tumbled into the tank in sheer terror. I too, tipsy as I was, and having been once already scared at a painted dog, got dragged in myself in helping him out of the water. However the hall-keeper rescued us, who interfered and quieted the dog, and pulled us out shivering onto terra firma. Giton had already discovered an ingenious way of disarming the animal; anything we had given him from our dinner, he threw to the barking brute, whose temper was appeased and his attention diverted by the food. But when, cold and wet, we asked the hall-keeper to let us out, "You're much mistaken," said he, "if you think you can go out the same way you came in. No guest is ever dismissed by the same door; they enter one, go out by another."
So what were we poor unfortunates to do now, prisoners in this new kind of labyrinth, and reduced to choose the bath as the only alternative? We took the bull by the horns therefore, and asked the hall-keeper to show us the way there; then throwing off our clothes, which Giton proceeded to dry in the porch, we entered the bath, which we found to be a narrow chamber, more like a cooling cistern than anything else, with Trimalchio standing upright in it. Not even under these circumstances could he refrain from his loathsome trick of boasting, declaring there was nothing more agreeable than to be free of a crowd in bathing, and that his bath-house occupied the exact site of a former bakery. Presently, feeling tired, he sat down, and tempted by his resonance of the bathroom, turned up his tipsy face and open mouth to the vault, and began murdering some of Menecrates' songs, as we were told by those who could make out the words.
The remainder of the company were running hand in hand round the edge of the bath, laughing and shouting at the top of their voices. Others with their hands tied behind their backs, were trying to pick up rings from the pavement in their mouths, or kneeling down, to bend back and kiss the points of their toes. Whilst the others were engaged in these amusements, we got down into the bath, that was being heated for Trimalchio.
After dissipating the fumes of wine by these means, we were next conducted to another dinner-hall, where Fortunata had laid out a dainty banquet of her own. I noticed especially lamps suspended over the table with miniature figures of fishermen in bronze, tables of soled silver, cups of gilt pottery ware round the board, and wine pouring from a wine skin before our eyes.
Presently Trimalchio said, "You see, friends, a slave of mine has cut his first beard today, a very careful, thrifty young man, if I may say so without offense. So let's be jovial, and keep it up till daylight doth appear." Just as he uttered these words, a cock crew. Trimalchio, much disquieted at the circumstance, ordered wine to be poured under the table, and some even to be sprinkled over the lamp; moreover he shifted a ring from his left hand to his right, saying, "‘Tis not for nothing chanticleer has sounded his note of warning; a fire is bound to happen, or some one's going to die in the vicinity. Save us from ill! Anyone bringing me yonder prophet of evil, shall have a present for his pains."
No sooner said than done; a cock was instantly produced from somewhere near, which Trimalchio ordered to be killed and put in the pot to boil. He was cut up accordingly by the same clever cordon bleu who a while before had manufactured game and fish out of a pig, and
thrown into a stew-pan. Then whilst Dædalus kept the pot boiling, Fortunata ground pepper in a box-wood mill.
These dainties being dispatched, Trimalchio turned to the servants, saying, "What! haven't you had your dinners yet? be off now, and let the relay take your places." Hereupon a second set of attendants came in, the outgoing slaves crying, "Farewell, Gaius!" and the incoming, "Hail, Gaius!" At this point our mirth was disturbed for the first time; for a rather good-looking slave boy having entered along with the new lot of domestics, Trimalchio laid hold of him and started kissing him over and over again. At this Fortunata, to assert "her lawful and equitable rights" (as she put it), began abusing her husband, calling him an abomination and a disgrace, that he could not restrain his filthy passions, ending up with the epithet "dog!" Trimalchio for his part was so enraged at her railing that he hurled a wine-cup in his wife's face. Fortunata screamed out, as if she had lost an eye, and clapped her trembling hands to her countenance. Scintilla was equally alarmed, and sheltered her shuddering friend in her bosom. At the same time an officious attendant applied a pitcher of cold water to her cheek, over which the poor lady drooped and fell a-sighing and a-sobbing.
But Trimalchio went on. "What! what!" he stormed, "has the trollop no memory? didn't I take her from the stand in the slave-market, and make her a free woman among her equals? But there, she puffs herself out, like the frog in the fable; she's too proud to spit in her own bosom, the blockhead. If you are born in a hovel, you shouldn't dream of a palace. As I hope to prosper, I'll see to it this Cassandra of the camp is brought to reason. Why! when I was only worth twopence, I might have married ten millions of money. You know I might. Agatho, perfumer to the lady next door, drew me aside, and ‘I'll give you a hint,' said he; ‘don't let your race die out.' But I, with my silly good nature, and not wanting to seem fickle-minded, I've driven my ax into my own leg. All right! I'll make you long yet to dig me up again with your fingernails! And to show this minute the harm you've done yourself, I forbid you, Habinnas, to put her statue on my tomb at all, that I may not have any scolding when I'm gone. I'll teach her I can do her a mischief; I won't have her so much as kiss my dead body!"
After this thunderclap, Habinnas began to entreat him to forget and forgive. "Nobody," he urged, "but goes wrong sometimes; we're men after all, not gods." Scintilla spoke to the same purpose with tears in her eyes, and besought him in the name of his good Genius and addressing him as Gaius, to be pacified. Trimalchio could restrain his tears no longer, but cried, "As you hope, Habinnas, to enjoy your little fortune,-- if I've
done anything wrong, spit in my face. I kissed the good, careful lad, not because he's a pretty boy, but because he's so thrifty and clever. I tell you he can recite ten pieces, reads his book at sight, has bought himself a Thracian costume out of his daily rations, besides an armchair and a pair of cups. Does he not deserve to be the apple of my eye? But Fortunata won't have it. That's your pleasure, is it, you tipsy wench? I warn you, make the most of what you've got, you cormorant; and don't make me nasty, sweetheart, else you'll get a taste of my temper. You know me; once I've made up my mind, I'm just as hard as nails!
"However, not to forget the living, pray, my good friends, enjoy yourselves. I was once what you are now, but my own merits have made me what you see. It's gumption makes a man, all the rest's trash. ‘Buy cheap, and sell dear,' that's me; one man will tell you one thing, another another, but I'm just bursting with success. What! crying still, grunty pig? Mark me, I'll give you something worth crying for. But as I was saying, it was my thriftiness raised me to my present position. When first I came from Asia, I was no higher than this candle-stick. I tell you, I used to measure myself by it every day; and the sooner to get a beard under my nose, I would smear my lips with the lamp oil. But I was my master's joy for fourteen years; there's nothing disgraceful in doing your master's bidding. And I satisfied my mistress into the bargain. You know what I mean; I say no more, for I'm none of your boasters.
"Eventually, it so pleased the gods, I found myself king of the castle, and behold! I could twist my master round my finger. To make a long story short, he made me his co-heir with the Emperor, and I came into a senatorial fortune. Still no one is ever satisfied. I longed to be a merchant prince. So, not to be tedious, I built five ships, loaded up with wine,-- it was worth its weight in gold just then,-- and sent them off to Rome. You might have supposed I'd ordered it so! if you'll believe me, every one of the ships foundered, and that's a fact. In one day Neptune swallowed me up thirty millions. Do you imagine I gave in? Not I, by my faith! the loss only whetted my appetite, as if it were a mere nothing. I built more ships, bigger and better found and luckier, till every one allowed I was a well-plucked one. Nothing venture, nothing win, you know; and a big ship's a big venture. I loaded up again with wine, bacon, beans, perfumery and slaves. Fortunata was a real good wife to me that time; she sold all her jewelry and all her clothes, and laid a hundred gold pieces in my hand; and it proved the leaven of my little property. A thing's soon done, when the gods will it. One voyage I cleared a round ten millions. Instantly I bought back all the farms that had been my late master's; I build a house; I buy up cattle to sell again. Whatever I touched,
grew like a honeycomb. When I discovered I had as large an income as the whole revenue of my native land amounted to, off hands; I withdrew from commerce, and started lending money among freedmen. Moreover, just when I'd quite made up my mind to have no more to do with trade, an astrologer advised me to the same course, a little Greek fellow, that happened to come to our own town. Serapa he was called, up to all the secrets of the gods. He told me things I had clean forgotten, explaining it all as pat as needle and thread; he knew my inside, he could all but tell me what I'd had for dinner the day before. You would have thought he had lived with me all my life.
"Now tell me, Habinnas,-- you were there at the time, I think-- didn't he say: ‘You have used your wealth to set a mistress over you. You are not very lucky in your friends. No one is ever properly grateful to you. You have enormous estates. You are nourishing a viper beneath your wing,' and-- why should I not tell you?-- that I have now left me to live thirty years, four months and two days. Also I am soon to come in for another fortune. This is what my Fate has in store for me. And if I have the luck to extend my lands to Apulia, I shall have done pretty well in my day. Meantime by Mercury's good help, I have built this house. You remember it as a cottage; it's as big as a temple now. It has four dining-rooms, twenty bedrooms, two marble
porticos, a series of storerooms up stairs, the chamber where I sleep myself, this viper's sitting-room, an excellent porter's lodge; while the guest chambers afford ample accommodations. In fact, when Scaurus comes this way, there's nowhere he better likes to stop at, and he has an ancestral mansion of his own by the seaside. Yes! and there are plenty more fine things I'll show you directly. Take my word for it,-- Have a penny, good for a penny; have something, and you're thought something. So your humble servant, who was a toad once upon a time, is a king now.
"Meantime, Stichus, just bring out the graveclothes I propose to be buried in; also the unguent, and a taste of the wine I wish to have my bones washed with."
Without a moment's delay, Stichus produced a white shroud and a magistrate's gown into the dining-hall, and asked us to feel if they were made of good wool. Then his master added with a laugh, "Mind, Stichus, mice and moth don't get at them; else I'll have you burned alive. I wish to be buried in all my bravery, that the whole people may call down the blessings on my head." Immediately afterwards he opened a pot of spikenard, and after rubbing us all with the ointment, "I only hope," said he, "it will give me as much pleasure when I'm dead as it does now when I'm alive." Further he ordered the wine vessels to be filled up, telling us to "imagine you are invited guests at my funeral feast."
The thing was getting positively sickening, when Trimalchio, now in a state of disgusting intoxication, commanded a new diversion, a company of horn-blowers, to be introduced; and then stretching himself out along the edge of a couch on a pile of pillows, "Make believe I am dead," he ordered. "Play something fine." Then the horn-blowers struck up a loud funeral dirge. In particular one of these undertaker's men, the most conscientious of the lot, blew so tremendous a fanfare he roused the whole neighborhood. Hereupon the watchman in charge of the surrounding district, thinking Trimalchio's house was on fire, suddenly burst open the door, and rushing in with water and axes, started the much admired confusion usual under such circumstances. For our part, we seized the excellent opportunity thus offered, snapped our fingers in Agamemnon's face, and rushed away helter-skelter just as if we were escaping from a real conflagration.