The Golden Ass

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Chapter 4

How the Gentlewoman was carried home by her husband while the theeves were asleepe, and how much Apuleius was made of.

When the theeves were all asleepe by their great and immoderate drinking, the young man Lepolemus took the Maiden and set her upon my backe, and went homeward. When we were come home, all the people of the Citie, especially her Parents, friends, and family, came running forth joyfully, and the children and Maidens of the towne gathered together to see this virgin in great triumph sitting upon an Asse. Then I (willing to shew as much joy as I might, as present occasion served) I set and pricked up my long eares, ratled my nosethrils, and cryed stoutly, nay rather I made the towne to ring againe with my shrilling sound: when wee were come to her fathers house, shee was received in a chamber honourably: as for me, Lepolemus (accompanied with a great number of Citizens) did presently after drive me backe againe with other horses to the cave of the theeves, where wee found them all asleepe lying on the ground as wee left them; then they first brought out all the gold, and silver, and other treasure of the house, and laded us withall, which when they had done, they threw many of the theeves downe into the bottome of deepe ditches, and the residue they slew with their swords: after this wee returned home glad and merry of so great vengeance upon them, and the riches which wee carried was commited to the publike treasurie. This done, the Maid was married to Lepolemus, according to the law, whom by so much travell he had valiantly recovered: then my good Mistresse looked about for me, and asking for me commanded the very same day of her marriage, that my manger should be filled with barly, and that I should have hay and oats aboundantly, and she would call me her little Camell. But how greatly did I curse Fotis, in that shee transformed me into an Asse, and not into a dogge, because I saw the dogges had filled their paunches with the reliks and bones of so worthy a supper. The next day this new wedded woman (my Mistresse) did greatly commend me before her Parents and husband, for the kindnesse which I had shewed unto her, and never leaved off untill such time as they promised to reward me with great honours. Then they called together all their friends, and thus it was concluded: one said, that I should be closed in a stable and never worke, but continually to be fedde and fatted with fine and chosen barly and beanes and good littour, howbeit another prevailed, who wishing my liberty, perswaded them that it was better for me to runne in the fields amongst the lascivious horses and mares, whereby I might engender some mules for my Mistresse: then he that had in charge to keepe the horse, was called for, and I was delivered unto him with great care, insomuch that I was right pleasant and joyous, because I hoped that I should carry no more fardels nor burthens, moreover I thought that when I should thus be at liberty, in the spring time of the yeere when the meddows and fields were greene, I should find some roses in some place, whereby I was fully perswaded that if my Master and Mistresse did render to me so many thanks and honours being an Asse, they would much more reward me being turned into a man: but when he (to whom the charge of me was so straightly committed) had brought me a good way distant from the City, I perceived no delicate meates nor no liberty which I should have, but by and by his covetous wife and most cursed queane made me a mill Asse, and (beating me with a cudgill full of knots) would wring bread for her selfe and her husband out of my skinne. Yet was she not contented to weary me and make me a drudge with carriage and grinding of her owne corne, but I was hired of her neighbours to beare their sackes likewise, howbeit shee would not give me such meate as I should have, nor sufficient to sustaine my life withall, for the barly which I ground for mine owne dinner she would sell to the Inhabitants by. And after that I had laboured all day, she would set before me at night a little filthy branne, nothing cleane but full of stones. Being in this calamity, yet fortune worked me other torments, for on a day I was let loose into the fields to pasture, by the commandement of my master. O how I leaped for joy, how I neighed to see my selfe in such liberty, but especially since I beheld so many Mares, which I thought should be my wives and concubines; and I espied out and chose the fairest before I came nigh them; but this my joyfull hope turned into otter destruction, for incontinently all the stone Horses which were well fedde and made strong by ease of pasture, and thereby much more puissant then a poore Asse, were jealous over me, and (having no regard to the law and order of God Jupiter) ranne fiercely and terribly against me; one lifted up his forefeete and kicked me spitefully, another turned himselfe, and with his hinder heeles spurned me cruelly, the third threatning with a malicious neighing, dressed his eares and shewing his sharpe and white teeth bit me on every side. In like sort have I read in Histories how the King of Thrace would throw his miserable ghests to be torne in peeces and devoured of his wild Horses, so niggish was that Tyrant of his provender, that he nourished them with the bodies of men.

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