The Golden Ass

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Chapter 3

How Thrasileon was disguised in a Beares skin, and how he was handled.

When the skin was a drying we made merry with the flesh, and then we devised with our selves, that one of us being more valiant than the rest both in body and courage (so that he would consent thereto) should put on the skin, and feigning that he were a Beare, should be led to Demochares house in the night, by which means we thought to be received and let in. Many were desirous to play the Beare, but especially one Thrasileon of a couragious minde would take this enterprise in hand. Then wee put in into the Beares skin, which him finely in every point, wee buckled it fast under his belly, and covered the seam with the haire, that it might not be seen. After this we made little holes through the bears head, and through his nosthrils and eyes, for Thrasileon to see out and take wind at, in such sort that he seemed a very lively and natural beast: when this was don we went into a cave which we hired for the purpose, and he crept in after like a bear with a good courage. Thus we began our subtility, and then wee imagined thus, wee feigned letters as though they came from one Nicanor which dwelt in the Country of Thracia, which was of great acquaintance with this Demochares, wherein we wrote, that hee had sent him being his friend, the first fruits of his coursing and hunting. When night was come, which was a meet time for our purpose, we brought Thrasileon and our forged letters and presented them to Demochares. When Demochares beheld this mighty Beare, and saw the liberality of Nicanor his friend, hee commanded his servants to deliver unto us x. crowns, having great store in his coffers. Then (as the novelty of a thing doth accustom to stir mens minds to behold the same) many persons came on every side to see this bear: but Thrasileon, lest they should by curious viewing and prying perceive the truth, ran upon them to put them in feare that they durst not come nigh. The people said, Verily Demochares is right happy, in that after the death of so many beasts, hee hath gotten maugre fortunes head, so goodly a bear. Then Demochares commanded him with all care to be put in the park with all the other beasts: but immediately I spake unto him and said, Sir I pray you take heed how you put a beast tired with the heat of the sun and with long travell, among others which as I hear say have divers maladies and diseases, let him rather lie in some open place in your house nie some water, where he may take air and ease himself, for doe you not know that such kind of beasts do greatly delight to couch under the shadow of trees and hillocks neer pleasant wells and waters? Hereby Demochares admonished, and remembring how many he had before that perished, was contented that we should put the bear where we would. Moreover we said unto him, that we ourselves were determined to lie all night neer the Bear, to look unto him, and to give him meat and drink at his due houre.

Then he answered, Verily masters you need not put yourselves to such paines, for I have men that serve for nothing but that purpose. So wee tooke leave of him and departed: and when we were come without the gates of the town, we perceived before us a great sepulchre standing out of the highway in a privy and secret place, and thither we went and opened the mouth thereof, whereas we found the sides covered with the corruption of man, and the ashes and dust of his long buried body, wherein we got ourselves to bring our purpose to passe, and having respect to the dark time of night, according to our custome, when we thought that every one was asleepe, we went with our weapons and besieged the house of Demochares round about. Then Thrasileon was ready at hand, and leaped out of the caverne, and went to kill all such as he found asleepe: but when he came to the Porter, he opened the gates and let us in, and then he shewed us a large Counter, wherein we saw the night before a great aboundance of treasure: which when by violence we had broke open, I bid every one of my fellows take as much gold and silver as they could carry away: and beare it to the sepulchre, and still as they carried away I stood at the gate, watching diligently when they would returne. The Beare running about the house, to make such of the family afeared as fortuned to wake and come out. For who is he that is so puissant and couragious, that at the ougly sight of so great a monster will not quayle and keep his chamber especially in the night? But when wee had brought this matter to so good a point, there chanced a pittifull case, for as I looked for my companions that should come from the sepulchre, behold there was a Boy of the house that fortuned to looke out of a window, and espied the Bear running about, and he went and told all the servants of the house. Whereupon incontinently they came forth with Torches, Lanthornes, and other lights, that they might see all the yard over: they came with clubs, speares, naked swords, Greyhounds, and Mastifes to slay the poore beast. Then I during this broyle thought to run away, but because I would see Thrasileon fight with the Dogs, I lay behinde the gate to behold him. And although I might perceive that he was well nigh dead, yet remembred he his owne faithfulnes and ours, and valiantly resisted the gaping and ravenous mouths of the hell hounds, so tooke hee in gree the pagiant which willingly he tooke in hand himself, and with much adoe tumbled at length out of the house: but when hee was at liberty abroad yet could he not save himself, for all the dogs of the Streete joyned themselves to the greyhounds and mastifes of the house, and came upon him.

Alas what a pittifull sight it was to see our poore Thrasileon thus environed and compassed with so many dogs that tare and rent him miserably. Then I impatient of so great a misery, ranne in among the prease of people, and ayding him with my words as much as I might, exhorted them all in this manner: O great and extreame mischance, what a pretious and excellent beast have we lost. But my words did nothing prevaile, for there came out a tall man with a speare in his hand, that thrust him cleane through, and afterwards many that stood by drew out their swords, and so they killed him. But verily our good Captaine Thrasileon, the honour of our comfort, received his death so patiently, that he would not bewray the league betweene us, either by crying, howling, or any other meanes, but being torn with dogs and wounded with weapons, did yeeld forth a dolefull cry, more like unto a beast than a man. And taking his present fortune in good part, with courage and glory enough did finish his life, with such a terror unto the assembly, that no person was hardy until it was day, as to touch him, though hee were starke dead: but at last there came a Butcher more valiant than the rest, who opening the panch of the beast, slit out an hardy and ventrous theefe.

In this manner we lost our Captain Thrasileon, but he left not his fame and honour.

When this was done wee packed up our treasure, which we committed to the sepulchre to keepe, and got out of the bounds of Platea, thus thinking with our selves, that there was more fidelity amongst the dead than amongst the living, by reason that our preyes were so surely kept in the sepulchre. So being wearied with the weight of our burthens, and well nigh tyred with long travell, having lost three of our soldiers, we are come home with these present cheats.

Thus when they had spoken in memory of their slaine companions, they tooke cups of gold, and sung hymns unto the god mars, and layd them downe to sleep. Then the old woman gave us fresh barley without measure, insomuch that my horse fed so abundantly that he might well thinke hee was at some banquet that day. But I that was accustomed to eat bran and flower, thought that but a sower kinde of meate. Wherfore espying a corner where lay loaves of bread for all the house I got me thither and filled my hungry guts therewith.

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