"Chapter Thirteen" by Petronius.
We chose out a retired spot on the stern-deck, and as it was not even yet daylight, Eumolpus dozed off; but neither Giton nor myself could get a single wink of sleep. I reflected with anxiety on the fact that I had made a companion of Eumolpus, a still more redoubtable rival than Ascyltos, and the thought gave me no peace. But reason presently getting the better of my chagrin, "It is certainly unfortunate," I said to myself, "that our friend finds the boy so much to his liking; but then are not all Nature's finest productions common to all mankind? The sun shines on the just and on the unjust. The moon, with her countless train of attendant stars, lights the very beasts of the wilderness to their prey. What can be more beautiful than water? Yet it flows freely for all and sundry. Is Love alone to be furtively snatched and not won in the open field? Nay! for my own part, I would rather not have any good thing that all the world may not covet. One rival, and that an old man, will hardly do me much harm; even
should he wish to presume, he will but lose his labor, for want of breath."
Reassured by the unlikelihood of his success, I calmed my anxieties, and wrapping my head in my cloak, tried to persuade myself I was asleep. But all of a sudden, as if Fortune were resolved to destroy my composure, a lamentable voice sounded on the poop-deck, crying, "What! has he fooled me then?" It was a man's voice, and one not unfamiliar to my ears, and my heart began to beat wildly. Nor was this all; for now a woman, equally indignant, blazed out in an even fiercer tone, "If only some god would put Giton in my power, what a welcome I would give the vagabond!" Stunned by the unexpectedness of the words, we both turned pale as death. I was particularly terrified, and felt as if I were being tortured by a horrible nightmare. When I found my voice at last, I asked Eumolpus, who was just dropping off to sleep, plucking at the skirt of his tunic with trembling hands, "By all you deem holy, father, whose ship is this? and who are aboard her? tell me that."
He was furious at being disturbed. "So this was the reason," he grumbled, "you chose out the quietest nook on the deck for us to occupy, that you might not allow us one moment's rest? What the better are you, when I've told you Lichas a Tarentine commands the ship, and that Tryphaena is his passenger to Tarentum?" I shuddered horror-struck at this thunderclap, and baring my throat, "Oh! Destiny," I ejaculated, "now truly is your triumph complete!" Giton for his part fell in a dead faint on my bosom. Presently, when a copious sweat had relieved the tension of our spirits, I grasped Eumolpus round the knees, and cried, "Have pity on two dying wretches, and in the name of what we both hold dear, end our life; death draws nigh, and unless you refuse to deal it, will haply be a boon."
Overwhelmed by my odious suspicion, Eumolpus swore by gods and goddesses he knew nothing whatever of what had happened, and had never entertained a thought of treachery; but that in absolute innocence of heart and simple good faith he had led his comrades aboard the ship he had long ago chosen for his own conveyance overseas. "Come now, what plot is there afoot?" he demanded; "what Hannibal have we on board with us? Lichas of Tarentum, a most respectable man, and not merely owner of this vessel, which he commands himself, but of sundry landed estates besides and a house of commerce, is carrying a cargo to sell in the way of business. So this is the Cyclops, the pirate king, we owe our passage-money to; then besides him, there is Tryphaena, the fairest of fair women, who is sailing from port to port on pleasure bent."
"Why! these," retorted Giton, "are the very persons we wish to avoid," and gave the amazed
Eumolpus a short account of the reasons for their hostility and the
extremity of the risk we ran. So confounded was he at the news, he knew not what advice to
offer, but besought each of us to say what he thought. "Imagine us entrapped," he went on, "in
the Cyclops' cave; some means or other of escape must be discovered, unless we prefer a leap
overboard and a sudden end to all our troubles."
"Better," interposed Giton, "persuade the pilot to steer the ship into some harbor, of course making it worth his while, and tell him your brother is so subject to seasickness he is at death's door. You can easily color this excuse with woebegone looks and streaming tears, so that the officer may grant you the favor out of sheer compassion." But Eumolpus at once declared this scheme to be impracticable; "for big ships," he pointed out, "require to be laboriously warped into landlocked harbors; besides, how utterly improbable it will sound that the boy should have come to such a desperate pass so quickly as all this. Another point. Most likely Lichas will want to visit a sick passenger as a mark of civility. How singularly pleasant for us, look you, to have the captain, whom we particularly wish to avoid, coming to see us of his own motion! But again, granted the vessel could be turned from her main course, and that Lichas should never think of inspecting the sick boy, how are we to get off the ship without every soul on board seeing us? With faces muffled, or faces bare? If muffled, who but will spring forward to help the poor patients ashore? If bare, what does this amount to but simply giving ourselves away?"
"Nay! why not," I interposed, "make a bold stroke, slip down a rope into the ship's boat and
cutting the painter leave the rest to Fortune? Not that I expect Eumolpus to join in the venture;
why should we involve an innocent man in troubles that in no way concern him? Enough for me
if good luck attend us two on our descent into the boat." "Not at all a bad idea," said Eumolpus,
"if only it were feasible; but who could help noticing your attempt,-- first and foremost the pilot,
who is on watch all night, observing every motion of the stars? Possibly you might elude his
vigilance during an instant's sleepiness, if escape were practicable by any other part of the vessel;
but as things are, you are bound to escape by the stern, past the very helm, for that is where the
rope is made fast that secures the boat. Besides, I wonder this never occurred to you, Encolpius,
that one of the crew is on watch in the boat night and day, a sentinel you cannot get rid of, except
by killing the man or pitching him neck and crop overboard. As to the feasibility of this, well!
consult your own courage. About my accompanying you myself, I shirk no danger that gives the
faintest hope of success. But to throw away one's life as a thing of no importance is, I am sure,
what you do not approve of.
"Now consider how you like this plan; I will clap you in a couple of hides, cording you up among my clothes as part of my luggage, of course leaving sufficient openings for you to breathe and eat through. Then I will raise an outcry to the effect that my slaves have both jumped overboard, because they were afraid of a more terrible punishment. So when we get into port, I will convey you ashore as baggage without exciting any suspicion whatever."
"Oh! you would pack us up in bales, as if we were solid inside, eh?-- and not liable to evacuations at all? as if we never sneezed or snored? The same sort of trick turned out such a success once before, didn't it? Granted we could endure the bondage for a day, what if a calm or a contrary gale prolonged the time further? what would become of us then? Why! even clothes, if kept too long tightly packed, cut at the folds, and papers grow illegible, when tied up in bundles. Young and unused to hardship, how shall we endure swathing bands and ligaments, like graven images? We must find some better way of escape than this. Listen to what I have hit on. Eumolpus, as a man of letters, of course carries ink about him; let us black ourselves with it from head to foot. Then as Ethiopian slaves we shall be at your service, light-hearted and free from fear of consequences, besting our enemies by this change of complexion."
"Why certainly," cried Giton, "circumcise us too, that we may pass for Jews, and bore our ears to imitate Arabs, and chalk our faces that Gaul may claim us as her sons! As if a change of color could modify the whole appearance; why! a host of alterations must be united to make the illusion convincing. Grant our dyed faces would keep their black; suppose no touch of water to make the color run, no blot of ink to stick to our clothes, an accident that will often happen even when no mucilage is added; pray, can we give ourselves the hideous swollen lips of the African? can we transform our hair to wool with curling-tongs? can we scar our brows with rows of ugly wrinkles? render ourselves bow-legged and flat-footed? give our beards that outlandish look? A dye may disfigure the person, it cannot change it. Now hear a desperate man's remedy; let us wind our clothes around our heads, and plunge into the deep."
"Gods and men forbid," cried Eumolpus, "you should end your days in so base a fashion. Better,
far better, do as I advise. My servant, as the razor incident showed you, is a barber; let him
instantly shave you both,-- not heads only but eyebrows as well. I will second his efforts,
marking your foreheads with writing, so cleverly executed you will have all the look of a pair of
branded slaves. My lettering will at one and the same time divert the suspicions of your
pursuers, and under the guise of a degrading punishment, conceal your real features."
This plan was approved, and our metamorphosis effected without delay. We stole to the side of the ship, and submitted our heads and eyebrows too to the barber's tender mercies. Eumolpus then proceeded to cover both our foreheads with enormous capital letters, and with a liberal hand sprawl the well-known sign of runaways all over our faces. It so happened that one of the passengers, who was leaning over the side unburdening his seasick stomach, privately noted the barber busied with this unseasonable moonlight work, and with a curse at the sinister omen of an act so nearly resembling the last despairing vow of shipwrecked mariners, hurried back to his berth. Feigning indifference to the sufferer's imprecation, we fell into the same melancholy train of thought as before, and settling down in silence, spent the remaining hours of darkness in an uneasy doze.
Next day, directly Eumolpus learned Tryphaena was risen, he entered Lichas's cabin; here, after
some conversation about the prosperous voyage promised by the fine weather, Lichas remarked,
turning towards Tryphaena, "Priapus appeared to me in a dream last night, and said, 'Encolpius,
the man you are in search of, I hereby tell you, has by me been brought on board your ship.'"
Tryphaena started violently; "You might think we had slept together," she exclaimed; "for I too
saw a vision, that image of Neptune I noticed in the Temple Court at Baiae, telling me, 'You
will find Giton on Lichas's ship.'"
"This will show you plainly," interrupted Eumolpus, "that Epicurus was a man inspired, who most elegantly expresses his opinion of these figments of the imagination:
"Dreams that delude our minds with shadows vain
Are not heaven-sent. But each man's proper brain
Forges these nothings; and the mind at play
Doth nightly reënact the deeds of day,
While the tired body sleeps. The conqueror
Who cities shakes, loosing the dogs of War,
Sees brandished spears, and routs, and deaths of Kings.
And blood, and all the horrors battle brings.
What sees the lawyer?-- ranged a dreadful show,
The bench, the bar, the judges all a-row!
The miser dreams of gold, lost treasure finds.
In woodland ways his horn the huntsman winds.
The sailor's vision scenes of wreck describes.
The harlot wheedles; the adultress bribes.
The sleeping hound the flying hare pursues;
And each unhappy wretch old griefs renews."
Lichas, however, after duly expiating Tryphaena's dream, said, "Who is to hinder us searching
the ship anyway, that we may not appear to scorn the revelation the gods
The passenger who had so unfortunately surprised our furtive maneuvers during the night, Hesus he was called, now suddenly broke in with the question, "Who were the fellows then that were shaved by moonlight last night, an abominable thing to do, upon my word! For they tell me it's wicked for any man alive, when aboard ship, to cut either nails or hair, except when the wind is at odds with the waves."
Lichas flew into a passion of anger and consternation at the words, blustering, "Has anyone dared
to cut his hair on my ship, and at dead of night too? Produce the culprits instantly, that I may
know whose head must fall to purify my vessel from the taint."
"It was I," Eumolpus confessed, "ordered it. If I have brought down ill luck, I shall not escape my share, for am I not to travel in the same ship? But the fact is the offenders had such monstrously long and shaggy hair I ordered the wretches' unkempt locks to be shorn, that I might not seem to be turning our good ship into a jail, as also that the letters branded on their brows might be legible to all men's eyes, being no longer overshadowed and hidden by the hair. Amongst other knavish tricks, they have been spending my money on a light-o'-love they kept between them, from whose side I dragged them away only last night reeking with wine and filthy perfumes. Indeed at this very minute they stink of the relics of their debauch-- and it is all at my expense!"
Accordingly, by way of expiation to the tutelary spirit of the ship, it was decreed we should each of us receive forty stripes. Without further delay the savage sailors fall upon us, anxious to appease the deity with our wretched blood. For myself, I digested three lashes with Spartan fortitude; but Giton, at the very first blow, set up such a yell his well remembered voice penetrated straight to Tryphaena's ears.
Nor was the mistress the only one startled by his cries; all her maids as well, attracted by the familiar tones, gather round the triangles. Already had his wondrous beauty begun to disarm the sailors and deprecate their rage with its mute appeal, when Tryphaena's women all chime in with the cry, "Giton! it's Giton! stay, oh! stay your savage hands. Help, help, mistress! it's Giton!" Tryphaena turns only too ready an ear to their words, and flies headlong to his side. Lichas, who knew me perfectly, just as well as if he had heard my voice too, now runs up, and looking neither at hands nor face, but instantly lowering his eyes to my middle, politely laid his hands on those parts, and greeted me by my name. Why wonder any longer at Ulysses' nurse, after twenty years, identifying the scar that proved his birth, when this most observing master mariner, spite of every lineament of face and form being disguised, yet pounced shrewdly on the sole and only attribute that betrayed the fugitive. Tryphaena burst into tears, supposing our disfigurement real and that we had been branded on the brow as slaves and inquired in soft tones of pity, what dungeon we had fallen into on our wanderings, or whose hands had been barbarous enough to inflict so terrible a punishment. Doubtless they had merited some mark of ignominy, the runaways, whom her favors had only turned into enemies-- but not such a one as this!
Frenzied with indignation, Lichas sprang forward, crying, "Oh! the simplicity of the woman! to
actually believe these scars were made and the letters really imprinted, with the branding-iron! I
only wish the marks they have disfigured their faces with were permanent! This would be some
satisfaction to us at any rate. As a matter of fact, the whole thing's a farce, and the lettering a
delusion and a snare!"
Tryphaena was by way of showing some compassion, inasmuch as all was not lost for her pleasures; but Lichas, remembering his wife's seduction and the insults he had received in the portico of the Temple of Hercules, and showing a countenance fiercely contorted with passion, cries, "This will show you, I imagine, Tryphaena, the immortal gods do govern human lives. Have they not brought the culprits all unwitting on board our ship, yea! and warned us of the fact by dreams coinciding in every particular with the truth? Look you now, how can we pardon offenders whom God himself puts into our hands for chastisement? For my part, I'm not a cruel man; but I dare not spare them, lest I suffer for it myself."
Impressed by these superstitious arguments, Tryphaena changed her mind, and declared she would make no further objection to our punishment, but would gladly second so just a piece of retribution. She had received, she added, as cruel wrong as Lichas himself; for had not her good name been publicly traduced before a vulgar mob?
'Twas terror first gave origin to gods,
When the forked lightning, flashing from the sky
Would o'erwhelm towns and lofty Athos fire.
Next, rising Sun, and waxing, waning Moon,
Offerings received. So idols filled the world,
And not a month but had its proper god.
Far spread the taint; blind superstition led
The rustic swain to pay his first-fruits' toll
To Ceres, and with grapes Bacchus to crown,
And Pales venerate, the shepherds' god;
So Neptune ruled the waves, Pallas the schools.
Each man of mark, each founder of a State,
New gods invents, his rival to outstrip.
Lichas, seeing Tryphaena eager as himself for revenge, ordered our punishment to be renewed and
increased. On hearing this Eumolpus endeavored to mitigate his anger by the following speech:
"The unhappy beings whose destruction your vengeance claims, imploring your compassion,
Lichas, they have chosen me, as one not unknown to you, to the office of mediator, to reconcile
them once more to those they formerly
held so dear. You cannot really suppose the young men fell into this trap by mere chance; for
surely the very first thing an intending passenger asks, is the name of the person he is to intrust
his safety to. Relent then; be satisfied with the penalties already exacted and suffer free men to
proceed to their destination without further injury. The harshest and most unforgiving of masters
stay their cruelty, when slaves return home penitent; and do we not all of us spare enemies who
surrender? What more do you want or desire? Prostrate before you lie these youths, men of birth
and breeding though they be, and what is more than this, friends once bound to you in the ties of
closest intimacy. Had they embezzled your money, had they betrayed your trust, by great
Hercules! even then your resentment might be satisfied with the pains and penalties you behold.
Lo! the marks of servitude upon their brows, and their faces-- free men's faces-- wearing
voluntarily the degrading badge of punishment!"
But Lichas cut short the plea of mercy. "Nay! you confuse the issue," he interrupted; "you should keep each point separate and distinct. First of all, if they came here of their own free will, why did they shave their heads? The man who adopts a disguise is after no good, but is trying to deceive. Secondly, if they were seeking forgiveness and reconciliation through your good offices, why did you take every possible pains to keep your clients concealed? It is plain enough the culprits did fall into the trap accidentally, and that you are merely trying on an artful subterfuge to slip out of reach of our resentment.
"Then for your special pleading, your noisy claim about their being men of birth and breeding, have a care you don't injure your case by over-confidence. Whatever is the injured party to do, when the guilty run blindly to their own punishment? But, you urge, they were our friends; the more thoroughly, I say, have they earned their chastisement. The man who wrongs mere strangers, is called a robber; he who betrays his friends, is little better than a murderer."
Eumolpus, to rebut this damaging reasoning, replies, "There is nothing, I gather, tells more heavily against the unfortunate young men than the fact of their having cut off their hair by night; this is taken to prove they did not come on board voluntarily, but by mischance. I only trust my explanation may seem as simple and straightforward as the act itself was simply and innocently done. They purposed, before ever they embarked, to have eased their heads of an annoying and needless burden, but the wind springing up sooner than was expected forced them to put off their visit to the barber; nor did they for an instant imagine it mattered where they carried out the intention they had formed, knowing nothing of the omen involved or the rules aboard ship."
"What made them take the guise of suppliants and shave their heads," was Lichas's only answer, "unless possibly because bald heads are more likely to win compassion? But there, what use trying to get at the truth through an interpreter? What have you to say for yourself, you thief? What salamander has burnt off your eyebrows? what god have you
vowed your locks to?
Answer me, villain." As for me, I stood dumfounded, silenced by my terror of punishment,
unable in my confusion to find a word, so plain was the case against me. Besides, I was so
disfigured, what with my cropped head and my eyebrows as bare as my forehead, I could do
nothing and say nothing becomingly. But when presently my tearful face was wiped with a wet
sponge, and the ink being thus moistened and smeared all over my countenance, my features
were all confounded together in one sooty cloud, his anger turned into disgust. Eumolpus stoutly
declared he would not stand by and see freeborn men degraded against all right and justice, and
protested against our savage foeman's threats not only in word but in act. His protests were
seconded by his hired servant and by one or two passengers very much exhausted by seasickness,
and whose interference was more of an inducement to further violence than an accession of
strength. I asked for no mercy for myself, but shaking my fists in Tryphaena's face, I cried out in
a bold, loud voice, I would use all my strength upon her,
if she laid a finger on Giton, cursed woman that she was, the only person on the ship that really
This insolence made Lichas still more angry, for he was furious at seeing me thus abandon my own cause to protest on Giton's behalf. Nor was Tryphaena less enraged at the affront, and the whole ship's company was split into two opposing factions. On the one side the barber servant is busied distributing his razors amongst us, after first arming himself with one of them, on the other Tryphaena's slaves are tucking up their sleeves the better to use their fists. Even the maids did their part, encouraging the combatants with their cries, the pilot alone protesting and declaring he would leave the helm, if they did not make an end of this frantic uproar all about a couple of lecherous blackguards.
Even this threat failed to mitigate the fury of the disputants, our adversaries fighting for revenge, and ourselves for dear life. Numbers fall on either side, though no one is actually killed; still more retire wounded and bleeding, like soldiers after a pitched battle, without anyone showing the smallest loss of determination.
At this crisis the gallant Giton suddenly clapped his razor menacingly to his virile parts, threatening to amputate the cause of so many calamities; but Tryphaena forbade the perpetration of the horrid deed, readily granting him quarter. I myself repeatedly laid a similar weapon to my throat, though without any more intention of really killing myself than Giton had of carrying out his threat. At the same time he was able to enact the comedy with the more reckless realism, knowing as he did that the razor in his hand was the identical one he had once already cut his throat with.
Both sides kept the field with equal resolution, till the pilot, seeing it was likely to be no everyday fight, arranged after no little difficulty that Tryphaena should act as peacemaker and effect a truce. So after mutual pledges had been exchanged in the time-honored fashion, holding forth an olive branch she had hastily snatched from the image of the tutelary deity of the vessel, she advanced boldly to the parley.
"What direful rage," she cries, "turns peace to war?
What crime is ours? No faithless Paris here
Rides in our ship, nor Menelaus' bride,
Nor with a brother's gore Medea dyed.
'Tis slighted love inspires the feud, and craves
For blood and murderous deeds amidst these waves;
Why die before our time? your wrath forbear,
Nor make the harmless sea your passions share!"
This effusion, pronounced by Tryphaena in a broken voice, did something to stop the fray, the
combatants at length turning their thoughts to a peaceful solution and ceasing from active
hostilities. Eumolpus, the leader on our side, at once seized the opportunity for
reconciliation thus offered, and after first indulging in a fierce invective against Lichas and all his
doings, put his seal to a treaty of peace, which ran as follows:
"From the bottom of your heart, you, Tryphaena, do promise and undertake to fore-go all complaint of the wrong done you by Giton; and never, by reason of any act of his committed aforetime, to upbraid, or punish, or in any wise molest him. Furthermore, that you will do nothing to the boy against his free will and pleasure, neither embracing, nor kissing, the said Giton, nor fornicating with him, except under forfeiture of one hundred denars for such offense.
"Item: from the bottom of your heart, you, Lichas, do promise that you will in no wise annoy Encolpius with word or look of contumely, nor inquire where he may sleep at night; or if you so do, that you will incontinently count down two hundred denars for each offense."
A truce being agreed to upon these terms, we laid down our arms, and in order that no vestige of rancor might be left, once the oath was taken, it was resolved we should kiss away all memory of past injuries. All being unanimous for peace, our swelling passions soon subside, and a banquet served with emulous alacrity crowns our reconciliation with the pledge of good-fellowship. The whole ship resounds with singing, and a sudden calm having arrested her progress, one might be seen harpooning the fish that leapt above the waves, while another would he hauling in the struggling prey enticed by his cunningly baited hooks. Sea-birds too came and settled on the main yard; these a practised sportsman touched with his jointed fowling-rods, and conveyed them glued to the limed tackle into our very hands. The down flew dancing in the air, while the larger feathers fell into the sea and tossed lightly to and fro on the foam-capped waves.
Lichas seemed already on the point of making it up with me, and Tryphaena was throwing the last drops of her wine amorously over Giton, when Eumolpus, who was as drunk as anybody, took it into his head to start jeering at people who were bald-headed and branded. Eventually coming to the end of his exceedingly pointless witticisms, he once more dropped into poetry, and treated us to the following little "Lament for Vanished Locks":
Beauty is fallen! thy hair's soft vernal grace
To wintry baldness gives untimely place.
Thy injured temples mourn their ravished shade;
Waste, like a stubble field, thy brow is laid.
Fallacious gods! your treacherous gifts how vain!
You only give us joy, to give us pain.
Unhappy youth! but late thy curling gold
E'en Phoebus self might envy to behold;
But now for smoothness, nor the liquid air,
Nor watered pumpkin can with thee compare.
The laughter-loving maids you fly, and fear;
And death with hasty steps will soon be here.
His fatal night already clouds thy morn,
Beauty is fallen! and thy gay locks are shorn.
He was still longing, I verily believe, to give us more of this stuff or perhaps something worse,
when Tryphaena's maid led Giton away below and dressed the lad up in one of her mistress's
heads of hair. She next produced eyebrows out of a make-up box, and cleverly following the
lines of the lost features, soon restored him to all his pristine comeliness. Tryphaena saw Giton
once more under his true colors, and bursting into tears, gave the boy the first genuine and
heartfelt kiss she had bestowed on him since his misfortunes. Rejoiced as I was to see the lad
restored to his former beauty, I could not help continually hiding my own face, feeling how
extraordinarily I must be disfigured, since Lichas did not deign to give me so much as a word.
However I was rescued before long from these sad thoughts by the kind offices of the same maid
servant, who now called me aside and decked me out with an equally elegant substitute for my
lost ringlets. Indeed my face looked prettier than ever, as it happened to be a flaxen
But Eumolpus, champion of the distressed and author of the existing harmony, fearing that our cheerfulness should flag for lack of amusing anecdotes, commenced a series of gibes at women's frailty,-- how lightly they fell in love, how quickly they forgot even their own sons for a lover's sake, asserting there was never yet a woman so chaste she might not be wrought to the wildest excesses by a lawless passion. Without alluding to the old plays and world-renowned examples of women's folly, he need only instance a case that had occurred, he said, within his own memory, which if we pleased he would now relate. This offer concentrated the attention of all on the speaker, who began as follows:
"There was once upon a time at Ephesus a lady of so high repute for chastity that women would
actually come to that city from neighboring lands to see and admire. This fair lady, having lost
her husband, was not content with the ordinary signs of mourning, such as walking with hair
disheveled behind the funeral car and beating her naked bosom in presence of the assembled
crowd; she was fain further to accompany her lost one to his final resting-place, watch over his
corpse in the vault where it was laid according to the Greek mode of burial, and weep day and
night beside it. So deep was her affliction, neither family nor friends could dissuade her from
these austerities and the purpose she had formed of perishing of hunger. Even the Magistrates
had to retire worsted after a last but fruitless effort. All mourned as virtually dead already a
woman of such singular determination, who had already passed five days without food.
"A trusty handmaid sat by her mistress's side, mingling her tears with those of the unhappy woman, and trimming the lamp which stood in the tomb as often as it burned low. Nothing else was talked of throughout the city but her sublime devotion, and men of every station quoted her as a shining example of virtue and conjugal affection.
"Meantime, as it fell out, the Governor of the Province ordered certain robbers to be crucified in close proximity to the vault where the matron sat bewailing the recent loss of her mate. Next night the soldier who was set to guard the crosses to prevent anyone coming and removing the robbers' bodies to give them burial, saw a light shining among the tombs and heard the widow's groans. Yielding to curiosity, a failing common to all mankind, he was eager to discover who it was, and what was afoot. Accordingly he descended into the tomb, where beholding a lovely woman, he was at first confounded, thinking he saw a ghost or some supernatural vision. But presently the spectacle of the husband's dead body lying there, and the woman's tear-stained and nail-torn face, everything went to show him the reality, how it was a disconsolate widow unable to resign herself to the death of her helpmate. He proceeded therefore to carry his humble meal into the tomb, and to urge the fair mourner to cease her indulgence in grief so excessive, and to leave off torturing her bosom with unavailing sobs. Death, he declared, was the common end and last home of all men, enlarging on this and the other commonplaces generally employed to console a wounded spirit. But the lady, only shocked by this offer of sympathy from a stranger's lips, began to tear her breast with redoubled vehemence, and dragging out handfuls of her hair, she laid them on her husband's corpse.
"The soldier, however, refusing to be rebuffed, renewed his adjuration to the unhappy lady to eat. Eventually the maid, seduced doubtless by the scent of the wine, found herself unable to resist any longer, and extended her hand for the refreshment offered; then with energies restored by food and drink, she set herself to the task of breaking down her mistress's resolution. 'What good will it do you,' she urged, 'to die of famine, to bury yourself alive in the tomb, to yield your life to destiny before the Fates demand it?
"'Think you to pleasure thus the dead and gone?
"'Nay! rather return to life, and shaking off this womanly weakness, enjoy the good things of this world as long as you may. The very corpse that lies here before your eyes should be a warning to make the most of existence.'
"No one is really loath to consent, when pressed to eat or live. The widow therefore, worn as she was with several days' fasting, suffered her resolution to be broken, and took her fill of nourishment with no less avidity than her maid had done, who had been the first to give way.
"Now you all know what temptations assail poor human nature after a hearty meal. The soldier
resorted to the same cajolements which had already been successful in inducing the lady to eat, in
order to overcome her virtue. The modest widow found the young soldier neither ill-looking nor
wanting in address, while the maid was strong indeed in his favor and kept
"Why thus unmindful of your past delight,
Against a pleasing passion will you fight?"
"But why make a long story? The lady showed herself equally complaisant in this respect also, and the victorious soldier gained both his ends. So they lay together not only that first night of their nuptials, but a second likewise, and a third, the door of the vault being of course kept shut, so that anyone, friend or stranger, that might come to the tomb, should suppose this most chaste of wives had expired by now on her husband's corpse. Meantime the soldier, entranced with the woman's beauty and the mystery of the thing, purchased day by day the best his means allowed him, and as soon as ever night was come, conveyed the provisions to the tomb.
"Thus it came about that the relatives of one of the malefactors, observing this relaxation of vigilance, removed his body from the cross during the night and gave it proper burial. But what of the unfortunate soldier, whose self-indulgence had thus been taken advantage of, when next morning he saw one of the crosses under his charge without its body! Dreading instant punishment, he acquaints his mistress with what had occurred, assuring her he would not await the judge's sentence, but with his own sword exact the penalty of his negligence. He must die therefore; would she give him sepulture, and join the friend to the husband in that fatal spot?
"But the lady was no less tender-hearted than virtuous. ‘The Gods forbid,' she cried, ‘I should at one and the same time look on the corpses of two men, both most dear to me. I had rather hang a dead man on the cross than kill a living.' So said, so done; she orders her husband's body to be taken from its coffin and fixed upon the vacant cross. The soldier availed himself of the ready-witted lady's expedient, and next day all men marveled how in the world a dead man had found his own way to the cross."