"Chapter Twelve" by Petronius.
Arrived at the Baths, I catch sight of Giton laden with towels and scrapers, leaning against a wall and wearing a look of melancholy embarrassment on his face. You could easily see he was an unwilling servant; and indeed, to show my eyes had not deceived me, he now turned upon me a countenance beaming with pleasure, saying, "Oh! have pity on me, brother! there are no weapons to fear here, so I can speak freely. Save me, save me, from the murderous ruffian; and then lay upon your judge, now your penitent, any punishment you please, no matter how severe. It will be comfort enough for me in my misery to have perished by your good pleasure."
I bad him hush his complaints, that no one might surprise our plans, and leaving Eumolpus to his own devices,-- he was engaged reciting a poem to his fellow bathers-- I dragged Giton down a dark and dirty passage, and so hurried him away to my lodging. Then after bolting the door, I threw my arms round his neck, pressing my lips convulsively to his tear-stained face. It was long before either of us could find his voice; for my darling's bosom was quivering like my own with quick-coming sobs. "I am ashamed of my criminal weakness," I cried, "but I love you still, though you did forsake me, and the wound that pierced my heart has left not a scar behind. What can you say to excuse your surrender to another? Did I deserve so base a wrong?"
Seeing he was still loved, he put on a less downcast look:
To chide, to love,-- how make these two agree?
The task beyond e'en Hercules would be.
Let Love appear, all angry passions cease.
"Yet," I could not help adding, "I never meant to refer the choice of whom you should love to any third person; but there! all is forgiven and forgotten, if only you show yourself sincerely penitent." My words were interspersed with groans and tears; when I had done, the dear boy dried my cheeks with his mantle, saying, "I beg you, Encolpius, let me appeal to your own recollection of the circumstances. Did I desert you, or did you throw me over? I am ready to confess, and it is my best excuse, when I saw you both sword in hand, I fled for safety to the stronger fighter." Kissing the bosom so full of wise prudence, I threw my arms round his neck, and to let him see he was restored to favor once more, and that my affection and confidence were as strong as ever, I pressed him closely to my heart.
It was quite dark and the woman had completed my orders for dinner when Eumolpus knocked at the door. I called out "How many of you are there?" and immediately proceeded to spy through a chink in the door to see whether Ascyltos had not come too. But seeing my guest was alone, I at once hastened to let him in. He threw himself on my pallet, and directly he observed Giton moving about in attendance he wagged his head and remarked, "I like your Ganymede; we shall have a good time today." I was anything but pleased with this indiscreet beginning, and began to fear I had opened my doors to another Ascyltos. Eumolpus grew more and more pressing, and on the lad's serving him with wine, "I like you better," he said, "than any of them at the Baths;" and draining his cup thirstily, added he had never been more vexed in his life.
"I tell you, at the Bath just now, I came very near getting a beating, merely because I tried to repeat a copy of verses to the bathers sitting around the basin. It was just like the Theater-- I was turned out of the place. Then I started to look for you in every corner of the building, shouting Encolpius! Encolpius! at the top of my voice. Not far off was a naked youth, who had lost his clothes, and roaring with just the same clamorous indignation after Giton. For me, I was treated like a madman by the very slave lads, who mocked and mimicked me most insolently; he on the contrary was soon surrounded by a thronging multitude, clapping their hands and showing the most awe-struck admiration. The fact is, he possessed virile parts of such enormous mass and weight, the man really seemed only an appendage of his own member. Oh! an indefatigable worker! I warrant, the sort to begin yesterday, and finish tomorrow! Accordingly he soon found a way out of his difficulties; a bystander, a Roman knight, they said, of notorious character, wrapped his own cloak round the poor wanderer, and took him home with him, in order, I imagine, to have the sole enjoyment of so rich a windfall. But I should never have recovered so much as my own clothes from the Bathkeeper, had I not produced some one to vouch for me. So much better does it profit a man to train his member than his mind!"
During Eumolpus's narrative I changed countenance repeatedly, now jubilant at my hated rival's misfortunes, now saddened by his success. I held my tongue, however, pretending to know nothing of the matter, and set to work arranging the dinner table. I had hardly finished this, when our humble repast was brought in; the fare was homely, but succulent and substantial, and Eumolpus, our famished scholar, fell to with a will, extolling the simplicity of the viands in the following lines:
All things that may our simple wants assuage
Kind heaven bestows to ease our hunger's rage;
Wild herbs and berries from the woodland spray
Suffice the craving appetite to stay.
What man would thirst beside a stream, or stand
To front the wintry blast with fire at hand?
The law is armed to guard the marriage bed,
The chaste bride blameless yields her maidenhead.
Whate'er is needful, bounteous Nature gives;
Pride only in unbridled riot lives!
After satisfying his appetite, our philosopher began to moralize, indulging in many criticisms of such as despise familiar things and attach value only to what is rich and rare. To their perverted taste anything that is allowable is held cheap, while they display a morbid predilection for forbidden luxuries.
Facile success, a rose without a thorn,
An instant victory, are things I scorn.
The Phasian bird from distant Colchis brought
And Afric fowl! are dainties ever sought,
For these are rarities; not so the goose
And bright-plumed duck, fit but for vulgar use.
The costly scar, choice fish from Syrtes' shore,
That cost poor fishers' lives, these all adore;
The mullet's out of date. The modern man
Deserts his wife to woo the courtesan;
The rose yields place to cinnamon. For naught
Is held of worth that is not dearly bought.
"Is this the way," I cried, "you keep your promise of making no more poetry today? On your conscience, spare us at least, who have never thrown a stone at you. Once let any one of the company drinking under the same roof with us scent out your poetship, he will rouse the whole neighborhood and overwhelm us all in the same ruin. Have some pity on your friends, and remember the picture gallery and the baths." But Giton, who was all gentleness, remonstrated with me for speaking so, and declared I was doing ill thus to jeer at my elders. He said I was forgetting my duty as a host, and after inviting a man to my table out of compassion, was nullifying the obligation by then insulting him. Other remarks follow, all equally imbued with moderation and good sense, and coming with added grace from so beautiful a mouth.
"Happy the mother of such a son!" exclaimed Eumolpus. "Go on, good youth, and prosper! Rare indeed is such a combination of wisdom and beauty. Never think all your words have been wasted; you have won a lover! I, I will extol your praises in my verse. I will be your preceptor and your guardian, your companion everywhere, even when unbidden. Nor has Encolpius anything to complain of, who loves another." The speaker had much to be thankful for to the soldier who had taken away my sword; otherwise the wrath I had conceived against Ascyltos would surely have been wreaked on Eumolpus's head. Giton saw what was toward, and slipped
out of the room, as if to fetch water; and his judicious departure abated the extreme heat of my indignation. My anger cooled a little, and I told Eumolpus, "Sir! I would rather have you talking poetry than entertaining such hopes as these. I am a passionate man, and you a lecherous; our characters, look you, can never accord together. Suppose me stark mad; humor my frenzy,-- in other words, leave the house without a moment's delay."
Confounded at this outburst, Eumolpus never stopped to ask my reasons, but instantly left the room, drew the door to after him, and locked me in, to my intense surprise. He carried off the key with him, and hurried away at a run in search of Giton.
Finding myself a prisoner, I resolved to hang myself and so end my miseries. I had already attached my girdle to the framework of a bed which stood against the wall, and was just fitting the noose round my neck, when the doors were flung open again, and Eumolpus coming in with Giton recalled me to the light of life from the fatal bourne I had so nearly passed. Giton especially, his agony turning to rage and fury, uttered a piercing shriek, and pushing me down headlong on the bed with both hands, "You deceive yourself, Encolpius," he cried, "if you think you can contrive to die before me. I was first; I have already been to Ascyltos's lodging to look for a sword. Had I not found you, I was going to hurl myself over a precipice. Now, to show you Death is never far from those who seek him, behold in your turn the sight you intended me to witness."
With these words he snatches a razor from Eumolpus's hired servant, and drawing it once and again across his throat, tumbles down at our feet. Uttering a cry of horror, I fall on the floor beside him, and seek to take my own life with the same weapon. But neither did Giton exhibit the smallest sign of a wound, nor did I myself feel any pain. The fact is, the razor had no edge, coming from a case of razors purposely blunted, with the object of training barbers' apprentices to a proper confidence in the exercise of their craft; and that was why the servant from whom he snatched the instrument had expressed no sort of consternation, nor had Eumolpus made an effort to hinder the mimic tragedy.
In the midst of this lovers' fooling, the landlord enters with another course of the dinner, and staring hard at us where we lay sprawling disgracefully on the floor, "Are you all drunk," he asked, "or runaways, or both? Now who put up that bed against the wall like that? and what do all these underhanded proceedings mean? By great Hercules, you intended, you scamps, to levant in the night, and get out of paying the rent for your room. Not so fast, I say. I'll let you know it's no poor widow woman's the owner of the block, but
Marcus Mannicius." "You threaten, do you," shouts Eumolpus, and fetches the man a good sharp slap in the face. The latter hurled at his head an earthenware jar, emptied by a succession of thirsty guests, cut open his noisy adversary's forehead, and darted out of the room. Furious at the indignity, Eumolpus snatches up a wooden candlestick, pursues the fugitive, and revenges his injury with a shower of blows. The whole household comes crowding to the scene of action, together with a mob of drunken customers. Now was my opportunity for retaliation; so I turn the tables on Eumolpus by shutting the blackguard out, and find myself without a rival and free to do as I please with my room and my night.
Meanwhile the unfortunate Eumolpus, being locked out, is assaulted by the scullions and miscellaneous tenants of the block. One threatens his eyes with a spit loaded with hissing-hot guts; another snatches a flesh-hook from the kitchen hearth and assumes a fighting attitude. First and foremost, an old hag with sore eyes and a most filthy apron, and mounted on wooden clogs (an odd pair) hauls in a huge dog on a chain, and sets him at Eumolpus, who however made a gallant defense
against all assailants with his candlestick. All this we saw through a hole in the door, just made by the wrenching off of the handle of the wicket, and for my own part I wished him joy of his beating.
Giton on the contrary, with his usual tender-heartedness, was for opening the door and rescuing him from his perilous position. My resentment being still hot within me, I could not hold my hand, but favored the poet's sympathizer with a good smart box on the side of the head, at which he went and sat down crying on the bed. For myself, I put first one eye, then the other, to the opening, and was regaling myself with the sight of Eumolpus's sorry plight and mentally patting his assailants on the back, when Bargates, the agent of the block, who had been called away from his dinner, was borne into the heart of the skirmish by a couple of chairmen, for he was disabled by the gout. After a long harangue against drunkards and runaways, uttered in a savage tone and barbarous accent, he said, turning upon Eumolpus, "My prince of poets, you here? and these ruffianly slaves don't fly at once and stop their brawling!" Then putting his lips to Eumolpus's ear, "My bedfellow," he went on, in a more subdued tone, "is a scornful jade; so if you love me, blackguard her in verse, will you, to make her feel ashamed of herself."
Whilst Eumolpus was talking apart with Bargates, a crier attended by a public slave and a small crowd of curious persons besides, entered the inn, and brandishing a torch that gave more smoke than light, read out the follow public notice:
"Lost or strayed lately in the Baths, a boy,-- aged sixteen, curly-headed, a minion by trade, good-looking, Giton by name. Whoever will bring back the same or give information of his present whereabouts, will receive a thousand sesterces reward."
Not far from the herald stood Ascyltos in a particolored robe, exhibiting description, and voucher for the sum promised, on a silver platter. I told Giton to dash under the bed and twist his hands and feet into the cords by which the mattress was supported on the framework, so that stretched full length underneath, like Ulysses of old clinging under the ram's belly, he might escape any prying hands. Giton promptly obeyed, and in another instant had cleverly twisted his fingers in the attachments, and beaten the wily Ulysses at his own game. For my part, so as to leave no room for suspicion, I heaped the pallet with clothes and shaped an impression amongst them of a single sleeper, and that a man of my own size.
Meantime Ascyltos, visiting each room in succession with the apparitor, arrived at mine, where his hopes of success rose the higher on finding the door so carefully barred. But the public slave, inserting his ax in the crack of the door, broke the hold of the fastenings. Thereupon I threw myself at Ascyltos' feet and implored him by the memory of our former friendship and our companionship in misfortune at any rate to let me see Giton. Nay! more, to give color to my pretended supplication, "I am well aware, Ascyltos," I cried, "that you have come to murder me; why else have you brought these axes with you? Take your revenge then; see, I offer my neck, so shed my life's blood, which you are seeking under pretense of searching my room."
Ascyltos protested indignantly against the imputation, asseverating he was there only to look for his runaway favorite; he desired, he said, no man's, certainly no suppliant's death, and least of all that of a man whom, even after our fatal quarrel, he still thought of as his dearest friend.
Nor was the public slave idle meanwhile, but snatching a cane from the innkeeper, he thrusts it under the bed, and even investigates every cranny in the walls. Giton kept shirking away from the stick, and holding his breath in abject terror, squeezed closer and closer, till the bugs were tickling his very nose.
Scarcely had the men left the room when Eumolpus, for the shattered door could keep no one out, dashes in in great excitement, shouting, "The thousand sesterces are mine; I shall now run after the officer and denounce you, as you richly deserve, and inform him Giton is in your hands at the present moment." I embrace the poet's knees but he remains obdurate; I beseech him not to kill the dying; I tell him, "Your resolution would have some sense in it, if you could produce the missing boy, but he has disappeared in the crowd, and I cannot so much as guess where he is gone to. In heaven's name, Eumolpus, bring the lad back and restore him to his friends,-- to Ascyltos, if it must be so."
He was just beginning to credit my plausible story when Giton, all but smothered and choking for breath, give three loud sneezes one after the other, so that the bed positively shook. Eumolpus wheeled round at the commotion, exclaiming, "Giton, God bless you!" Then lifting the mattress away, he reveals Ulysses in such a plight even a half-starving Cyclops might well have spared him! Next turning to me, "What is the meaning of all this, you thief?" said he. "What! even when found out, you had not spirit enough to tell the truth. In fact, if some God that governs human affairs had not made the boy betray where he hung concealed, I should have been sent wandering from tavern to tavern on a wild goose chase."
Giton, a far better wheedler than myself, first stanched the wound in the poor man's forehead with some cobwebs dipped in oil; then exchanged his own little cloak for the other's torn robe, and seeing him somewhat mollified, kissed his bruises to make them well, crying, "We are in your keeping, in your hands, dearest father! If you love your Giton, try, oh! try to save him. I would the consuming fire might scorch me to ashes, the raging waters overwhelm me, and me alone! For ‘tis I am the subject, I the cause, of all these wicked doings! My death would reconcile two enemies."
Touched by our troubles, and above all stirred by Giton's blandishments, Eumolpus exclaimed, "Fools, fools; gifted as you are with qualities to ensure your happiness, you persist in leading a life of wretchedness, and every day by your own acts draw down fresh torments on your heads. My plan of life has always been, so to spend each day as if it were my last, that is in peace and quietness; if you would follow my example, dismiss all anxious thoughts from your minds. Ascyltos persecutes you here; then fly his neighborhood, and come with me on a voyage I am about to make to foreign parts. I sail as a passenger in a vessel that may very likely weigh this very night; I am well known on board, and we shall be sure of a hearty welcome."
His advice appeared to me sound and good, as it was likely to free me from further annoyance on the part of Ascyltos, and at the same time gave promise of a happier existence. Overwhelmed by Eumolpus's generosity, I felt profoundly sorry for the insults I had just been offering him and very penitent for my jealousy, which had given rise to so many calamities. With floods of tears I begged and prayed him to include me too in his forgiveness, pointing out that it was beyond the power of lovers to control their frenzies of jealousy. I pledged myself for the future to do or say nothing whatever that could give him offense, and urged him to banish all irritation from his mind, as a learned and educated man should, so that not a trace of injury should remain. "On rugged and uncultivated ground," I went on, "the snow lies long, but where the soil has been disciplined and improved by the plow, the light snowfall melts away before you can say it has fallen. It is the same with resentment in men's hearts; it abides long in uncultured minds, but melts quickly from the surface of such as have been trained and educated." "To prove the truth of what you say," returned Eumolpus, "I hereby end my anger with this kiss. So in luck's name, pack up your traps and follow me, or if you so prefer, lead the way yourselves."
The words were still on his lips when the door flew open with a crash, and a rough-bearded sailor appeared on the threshold, who shouted, "You're all behind, Eumolpus; don't you know the Blue Peter's flying?"
In an instant we were all afoot. Eumolpus wakes his servant, who had long ago dropped asleep, and orders him off with his baggage. Giton and I pack up all our belongings for the journey, and after a prayer to the stars, make our way on board.