The Golden Ass

By Lucius Apuleius All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter 2

How Apuleius was prevented of his purpose, and how the Theeves came to their den.

Not long after, the theeves laded us againe, but especially me, and brought us forth of the stable, and when wee had gone a good part of our journey what with the long way, my great burthen, the beating of staves, and my worne hooves, I was so weary that I could scantly go. Then I saw a little before mee a river running with fair water, and I said to myself, Behold, now I have found a good occasion: for I will fall down when I come yonder, and surely I will not rise againe, neither with scourging nor with beating, for I had rather be slaine there presently, than goe any further.

And the cause why I had determined so to doe was this, I thought that the theeves when they did see me so feeble and weake that I could not travell, to the intent they would not stay in their journey, they would take the burthen from my backe and put it on my fellowes, and so for my further punishment to leave me as a prey to the wolves and ravening beasts. But evill fortune prevented so good a consideration; for the other Asse being of the same purpose that I was of, by feigned and coloured wearinesse fell downe first, with all his burthen on the ground as though hee were dead, and he would not rise neither with beating nor with pricking, nor stand upon his legs, though they pulled him by the tail, by his legs, and by his eares: which when the theeves beheld, as without all hope they said one unto another, What should we stand here so long about a dead or rather a stony asse? let us bee gone: and so they tooke his burthen, and divided some to mee, and some to my horse. And then they drew out their swords and cut off his legs, and threw his body from the point of a hill down into a great valley. Then I considering with my selfe of the evill fortune of my poore companion, and purposed now to forget all subtility and deceit, and to play the good Asse to get my masters favour, for I perceived by their talke that we were come home well nigh at our journeys end. And after that wee had passed over a little hill, we came to our appointed place, and when we were unladen of our burthens, and all things carried in, I tumbled and wallowed in the dust, to refresh my selfe in stead of water. The thing and the time compelleth me to make description of the places, and especially of the den where the theeves did inhabit, I will prove my wit in what I can doe, and the consider you whether I was an Asse in judgement and sence, or no. For first there was an exceeding great hill compassed about with big trees very high, with many turning bottoms full of sharp stones, whereby it was inaccessible. There was many winding and hollow vallies, environed with thickets and thornes, and naturally fortressed round about. From the top of the hill ranne a running water as cleare as silver, that watered all the valleyes below, that it seemed like unto a sea inclosed, or a standing floud. Before the denne where was no hill stood an high tower, and at the foot thereof were sheep-coats fenced and walled with clay. Before the gate of the house were pathes made in stead of wals, in such sort that you could easily judge it to be a very den for theeves, and there was nothing else except a little coat covered with thatch, wherein the theeves did nightly accustome to watch by order, as I after perceived. And when they were all crept into the house, and we were all tied fast with halters at the dore, they began to chide with an old woman there, crooked with age, who had the government and rule of all the house, and said, How is it old witch, old trot, and strumpet, that thou sittest idley all day at home, and having no regard to our perillous labours, hast provided nothing for our suppers, but sittest eating and swilling thyself from morning till night? Then the old woman trembled, and scantly able to speak gan say, Behold my puissant and faithfull masters, you shall have meat and pottage enough by and by: here is first store of bread, wine plenty, filled in cleane rinsed pots, likewise here is hot water prepared to bathe you.

Which when she had said, they put off all their garments and refreshed themselves by the fire. And after they were washed and noynted with oyle, they sate downe at the table garnished with all kind of dainty meats. They were no sooner sate downe, but in came another company of yong men more in number than was before, who seemed likewise to bee Theeves, for they brought in their preyes of gold and silver, Plate, jewels, and rich robes, and when they had likewise washed, they sate among the rest, and served one another by order. Then they drank and eat exceedingly, laughing, crying and making much noyse, that I thought that I was among the tyrannous and wilde Lapithes, Thebans, and Centaures. At length one of them more valiant than the rest, spake in this sort, We verily have manfully conquered the house of Milo of Hippata, and beside all the riches and treasure which by force we have brought away, we are all come home safe, and are increased the more by this horse and this Asse. But you that have roved about in the country of Boetia, have lost your valiante captaine Lamathus, whose life I more regarded than all the treasure which you have brought: and therfore the memory of him shall bee renowned for ever amongst the most noble kings and valiant captains: but you accustome when you goe abroad, like men with ganders hearts to creepe through every corner and hole for every trifle. Then one of them that came last answered, Why are you only ignorant, that the greater the number is, the sooner they may rob and spoyle the house? And although the family be dispersed in divers lodgings, yet every man had rather to defend his own life, than to save the riches of his master: but when there be but a few theeves, then will they not only rather regard themselves, but also their substance, how little or great soever it be. And to the intent you may beleeve me I will shew you an example: wee were come nothing nigh to Thebes, where is the fountain of our art and science, but we learned where a rich Chuffe called Chriseros did dwell, who for fear of offices in the publique wel dissembled his estate, and lived sole and solitary in a small coat, howbeit replenished with aboundance of treasure, and went daily in ragged and torn apparel. Wherefore wee devised with our selves to go to his house and spoyl him of all his riches. And when night came we drew towards the dore, which was so strongly closed, that we could neither move it, nor lift it out of the hooks, and we thought it best not to break it open lest by the noyse we should raise up to our harm the neighbours by. Then our strong and valiant captaine Lamathus trusting in his own strength and force, thrust in his had through a hole in the dore, and thought to pull back the bolt: but the covetous caitif Chriseros being awake, and making no noise came softly to the dore and caught his hand and with a great naile nailed it fast to the post: which when he had done, he ran up to the high chamber and called every one of his neighbours by name, desiring them to succour him with all possible speed, for his own house was on fire. Then every one for fear of his owne danger came running out to aid him, wherewith we fearing our present peril, knew not what was best to be don, whether wee should leave our companion there, or yeeld ourselves to die with him: but we by his consent devised a better way, for we cut off his arm by the elbow and so let it hang there: then wee bound his wound with clouts, lest we should be traced by the drops of blood: which don we took Lamathus and led him away, for fear we would be taken: but being so nigh pursued that we were in present danger, and that Lamathus could not keepe our company by reason of faintnesse; and on the other side perceiving that it was not for his profit to linger behinde, he spake unto us as a man of singular courage and vertue, desiring us by much entreaty and prayer and by the puissance of the god Mars, and the faith of our confederacy, to deliver his body from torment and miserable captivity: and further he said, How is it possible that so courageous a Captaine can live without his hand, wherewith he could somtime rob and slay so many people? I would thinke myself sufficiently happy if I could be slaine by one of you. But when he saw that we all refused to commit any such fact, he drew out his sword with his other hand, and after that he had often kissed it, he drove it clean through his body. Then we honoured the corps of so puissant a man, and wrapped it in linnen cloathes and threw it into the sea. So lieth our master Lamathus, buried and did in the grave of water, and ended his life as I have declared. But Alcinus, though he were a man of great enterprise, yet could he not beware by Lamathus, nor voide himselfe from evill fortune, for on a day when he had entred into an old womans house to rob her, he went up into a high chamber, where hee should first have strangled her: but he had more regard to throw down the bags of mony and gold out at a window, to us that stood under; and when he was so greedy that he would leave nothing behinde, he went into the old womans bed where she lay asleep, and would have taken off the coverlet to have thrown downe likewise, but shee awaked, and kneeling on her knees, desired him in this manner: O sir I pray you cast not away such torn and ragged clouts into my neighbours houses, for they are rich enough, and need no such things. Then Alcinus thinking her words to be true, was brought in beleefe, that such things as he had throwne out already, and such things as hee should throw out after, was not fallen downe to his fellowes, but to other mens houses, wherefore hee went to the window to see, and as hee thought to behold the places round about, thrusting his body out of the window, the old woman marked him wel, and came behind him softly, and though shee had but small strength, yet with sudden force she tooke him by the heeles and thrust him out headlong, and so he fell upon a marvellous great stone and burst his ribs, wherby he vomited and spewed great flakes of blood, and presently died. Then wee threw him to the river likewise, as we had done Lamathus before.

When we had thus lost two of our companions, we liked not Thebes, but marched towards the next city called Platea, where we found a man of great fame called Demochares, that purposed to set forth a great game, where should be a triall of all kind of weapons: hee was come of a good house, marvellous rich, liberall, and wel deserved that which he had and had prepared many showes and pleasures for the Common people, insomuch that there is no man can either by wit or eloquence shew in words his worthy preparations: for first he had provided all sorts of armes, hee greatly delighted in hunting and chasing, he ordained great towers and Tables to move hither and thither: hee made many places to chase and encounter in: he had ready a great number of men and wilde beasts, and many condemned persons were brought from the Judgement place, to try and fight with those beasts. But amongst so great preparations of noble price, he bestowed the most part of his patrimony in buying of Beares, which he nourished to his great cost, and esteemed more than all the other beasts, which either by chasing hee caught himself, or which he dearely bought, or which were given him from divers of his friends.

Howbeit for all his sumptuous cost, hee could not be free from the malitious eyes of envy, for some of them were well nigh dead with too long tying up, some meagre with the broyling heat of the sunne, some languished with lying, but all having sundry diseases, were so afflicted that they died one after another, and there was well nigh none left, in such sort that you might see them lying in the streets pittiously dead. And the common people having no other meat to feed on, little regarding any curiosity, would come forth and fill their bellies with the flesh of the beares. Then by and by Babulus and I devised a pretty sport, wee drew one of the greatest of the Beares to our lodging, as though wee would prepare to eat thereof, where wee flayed of his skinne, and kept his ungles whole, but we medled not with the head, but cut it off by the necke, and so let it hang to the skinne. Then we rased off the flesh from the necke, and cast dust thereon, and set it in the sun to dry.

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