The Golden Ass

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 5

How Barbarus being jealous over his wife, commanded that shee should be kept close in his house, and what happened.

You shall understand that on a day this Barbarus preparing himselfe to ride abroad, and willing to keepe the chastity of his wife (whom he so well loved) alone to himselfe, called his man Myrmex (whose faith he had tryed and proved in many things) and secretly committed to him the custody of his wife, willing him that he should threaten, that if any man did but touch her with his finger as he passed by, he would not onely put him in prison, and bind him hand and foote, but also cause him to be put to death, or else to be famished for lacke of sustenance, which words he confirmed by an oath of all the Gods in heaven, and so departed away: When Barbarus was gone, Myrmex being greatly astonied of his masters threatnings, would not suffer his mistresse to goe abroad, but as she sate all day a Spinning, he was so carefull that he sate by her; when night came he went with her to the baines, holding her by the garment, so faithfull he was to fulfill the commandement of his master: Howbeit the beauty of this matron could not be hidden from the burning eyes of Philesiterus, who considering her great chastity and how she was diligently kept by Myrmex, thought it impossible to have his purpose, yet (indeavouring by all kind of meanes to enterprise the matter, and remembring the fragility of man, that might be intised and corrupted with money, since as by gold the adamant gates may be opened) on a day, when he found Myrmex alone, he discovered his love, desiring him to shew his favour, (otherwise he should certainly dye) with assurance that he need not to feare when as he might privily be let in and out in the night, without knowledge of any person. When he thought, with these and other gentle words to allure and prick forward the obstinate mind of Myrmex he shewed him glittering gold in his hand, saying that he would give his mistresse twenty crowns and him ten, but Myrmex hearing these words, was greatly troubled, abhorring in his mind to commit such a mischiefe: wherfore he stopped his eares, and turning his head departed away: howbeit the glittering view of these crownes could never be out of his mind, but being at home he seemed to see the money before his eyes, which was so worthy a prey, wherefore poore Myrmex being in divers opinions could not tell what to doe, for on the one side lie considered the promise which he made to his master, and the punishment that should ensue if he did contrary. On the other side he thought of the gaine, and the passing pleasure of the crownes of gold; in the end the desire of the money did more prevaile then the feare of death, for the beauty of the flowrishing crownes did so sticke in his mind, that where the menaces of his master compelled him to tarry at home, the pestilent avarice of gold egged him out a doores, wherefore putting all shame aside, without further delay, he declared all the whole matter to his Mistresse, who according to the nature of a woman, when she heard him speake of so great a summe she bound chastity in a string, and gave authority to Myrmex to rule her in that case. Myrmex seeing the intent of his Mistresse, was very glad, and for great desire of the gold, he ran hastily to Philesiterus, declaring that his Mistresse was consented to his mind, wherefore he demanded the gold which he promised. Then incontinently Philesiterus delivered him tenne Crownes, and when night came, Myrmex brought him disguised into his mistresses Chamber. About Midnight when he and she were naked together, making sacrifice unto the Goddesse Venus, behold her husband (contrary to their expectation) came and knocked at the doore, calling with a loud voice to his Servant Myrmex: whose long tarrying increased the suspition of his Master, in such sort that he threatned to beat Myrmex cruelly: but he being troubled with feare, and driven to his latter shifts, excused the matter saying: that he could not find the key: by reason it was so darke. In the meane season Philesiterus hearing the noise at the doore, slipt on his coat and privily ran out of the Chamber. When Myrmex had opened the doore to his Master that threatned terribly, and had let him in, he went into the Chamber to his wife: In the mean while Myrmex let out Philesiterus, and barred the doores fast, and went againe to bed. The next morning when Barbarus awaked, he perceived two unknown slippers lying under his bed, which Philesiterus had forgotten when he went away. Then he conceived a great suspition and jealousie in mind, howbeit he would not discover it to his wife, neither to any other person, but putting secretly the slippers into his bosome, commanded his other Servants to bind Myrmex incontinently, and to bring him bound to the Justice after him, thinking verily that by the meane of the slippers he might boult out the matter. It fortuned that while Barbarus went towards the Justice in a fury and rage, and Myrmex fast bound, followed him weeping, not because he was accused before his master, but by reason he knew his owne conscience guilty: behold by adventure Philesiterus (going about earnest businesse) fortuned to meet with them by the way, who fearing the matter which he committed the night before, and doubting lest it should be knowne, did suddainly invent a meane to excuse Myrmex, for he ran upon him and beate him about the head with his fists, saying: Ah mischievous varlet that thou art, and perjured knave. It were a good deed if the Goddesse and thy master here, would put thee to death, for thou art worthy to be imprisoned and to weare out these yrons, that stalest my slippers away when thou werest at my baines yester night. Barbarus hearing this returned incontinently home, and called his servant Myrmex, commanding him to deliver the slippers againe to the right owner.

The old woman had scant finished her tale when the Bakers wife gan say: Verily she is blessed and most blessed, that hath the fruition of so worthy a lover, but as for me poore miser, I am fallen into the hands of a coward, who is not onely afraid of my husband but also of every clap of the mill, and dares not doe nothing, before the blind face of yonder scabbed Asse. Then the old woman answered, I promise you certainly if you will, you shall have this young man at your pleasure, and therewithall when night came, she departed out of her chamber. In the meane season, the Bakers wife made ready a supper with abundance of wine and exquisite fare: so that there lacked nothing, but the comming of the young man, for her husband supped at one of her neighbours houses. When time came that my harnesse should be taken off and that I should rest my selfe, I was not so joyfull of my liberty, as when the vaile was taken from mine eyes, I should see all the abhomination of this mischievous queane. When night was come and the Sunne gone downe, behold the old bawd and the young man, who seemed to be but a child, by reason he had no beard, came to the doore. Then the Bakers wife kissed him a thousand times and received him courteously, placed him downe at the table: but he had scarce eaten the first morsell, when the good man (contrary to his wives expectation) returned home, for she thought he would not have come so soone: but Lord how she cursed him, praying God that he might breake his necke at the first entry in. In the meane season, she caught her lover and thrust him into the bin where she bolted her flower, and dissembling the matter, finely came to her husband demanding why he came home so soone. I could not abide (quoth he) to see so great a mischiefe and wicked fact, which my neighbours wife committed, but I must run away: O harlot as she is, how hath she dishonoured her husband, I sweare by the goddesse Ceres, that if I had [not] seene it with mine eyes, I would never I have beleeved it. His wife desirous to know the matter, desired him to tell what she had done: then hee accorded to the request of his wife, and ignorant of the estate of his own house, declared the mischance of another. You shall understand (quoth he) that the wife of the Fuller my companion, who seemed to me a wise and chast woman, regarding her own honesty and profit of her house, was found this night with her knave. For while we went to wash our hands, hee and she were together: who being troubled with our presence ran into a corner, and she thrust him into a mow made with twigs, appoynted to lay on clothes to make them white with the smoake of fume and brymstone. Then she sate down with us at the table to colour the matter: in the meant season the young man covered in the mow, could not forbeare sneesing, by reason of the smoake of the brymstone. The good man thinking it had beene his wife that sneesed, cryed, Christ helpe. But when he sneesed more, he suspected the matter, and willing to know who it was, rose from the table, and went to the mow, where hee found a young man welnigh dead with smoke. When hee understood the whole matter, he was so inflamed with anger that he called for a sword to kill him, and undoubtedly he had killed him, had I not restrained his violent hands from his purpose, assuring him, that his enemy would dye with the force of his brimstone, without the harme which he should doe. Howbeit my words would not appease his fury, but as necessity required he tooke the young man well nigh choked, and carried him out at the doores. In the meane season, I counsailed his wife to absent her selfe at some of her Neighbours houses, till the choller of her husband was pacified, lest he should be moved against her, as he was against the young man. And so being weary of their supper, I forthwith returned home. When the Baker had told his tale, his impudent wife began to curse and abhorre the wife of the Fuller, and generally all other wives, which abandon their bodies with any other then with their owne Husbands, breaking the faith and bond of marriage, whereby she said, they were worthy to be burned alive. But knowing her owne guilty conscience and proper whoredome, lest her lover should be hurt lying in the bin, she willed her husband to goe to bed, but he having eaten nothing, said that he would sup before he went to rest: whereby shee was compelled to maugre her eies, to set such things on the Table as she had prepared for her lover.

But I, considering the great mischiefe of this wicked queane, devised with my selfe how I might reveale the matter to my Master, and by kicking away the cover of the binne (where like a Snaile the young-man was couched) to make her whoredome apparent and knowne. At length I was ayded by the providence of God, for there was an old man to whom the custody of us was committed, that drave me poore Asse, and the other Horses the same time to the water to drinke; then had I good occasion ministred, to revenge the injury of my master, for as I passed by, I perceived the fingers of the young-man upon the side of the binne, and lifting up my heeles, I spurned off the flesh with the force of my hoofes, whereby he was compelled to cry out, and to throw downe the binne on the ground, and so the whoredome of the Bakers wife was knowne and revealed. The Baker seeing this was not a little moved at the dishonesty of his wife, but hee tooke the young-man trembling for feare by the hand, and with cold and courteous words spake in this sort: Feare not my Sonne, nor thinke that I am so barbarous or cruell a person, that I would stiffle thee up with the smoke of Sulphur as our neighbour accustometh, nor I will not punish thee according to the rigour of the law of Julia, which commandeth the Adulterers should be put to death: No no, I will not execute my cruelty against so faire and comely a young man as you be, but we will devide our pleasure betweene us, by lying all three in one bed, to the end there may be no debate nor dissention betweene us, but that either of us may be contented, for I have alwayes lived with my wife in such tranquillity, that according to the saying of the wisemen, whatsoever I say, she holdeth for law, and indeed equity will not suffer, but that the husband should beare more authority then the wife: with these and like words he led the young-man to his Chamber, and closed his wife in another Chamber. On the next morrow, he called two of the most sturdiest Servants of his house, who held up the young man, while he scourged his buttockes welfavouredly with rods like a child. When he had well beaten him, he said: Art not thou ashamed, thou that art so tender and delicate a child, to desire the violation of honest marriages, and to defame thy selfe with wicked living, whereby thou hast gotten the name of an Adulterer? After he had spoken these and like words, he whipped him againe, and chased him out of his house. The young-man who was the comeliest of all the adulterers, ran away, and did nothing else that night save onely bewaile his striped and painted buttockes. Soone after the Baker sent one to his wife, who divorced her away in his name, but she beside her owne naturall mischiefe, (offended at this great contumely, though she had worthily deserved the same) had recourse to wicked arts and trumpery, never ceasing untill she had found out an Enchantresse, who (as it was thought) could doe what she would with her Sorcery and conjuration. The Bakers wife began to intreate her, promising that she would largely recompence her, if shee could bring one of these things to passe, eyther to make that her husband may be reconciled to her againe, or else if hee would not agree thereto, to send an ill spirit into him, to dispossesse the spirit of her husband. Then the witch with her abhominable science, began to conjure and to make her Ceremonies, to turne the heart of the Baker to his wife, but all was in vaine, wherefore considering on the one side that she could not bring her purpose to passe, and on the other side the losse of her gaine, she ran hastily to the Baker, threatning to send an evill spirit to kill him, by meane of her conjurations. But peradventure some scrupulous reader may demand me a question, how I, being an Asse, and tyed alwayes in the mill house, could know the secrets of these women: Verily I answer, notwithstanding my shape of an Asse, I had the sence and knowledge of a man, and curiously endeavoured to know out such injuries as were done to my master. About noone there came a woman into the Milhouse, very sorrowfull, raggedly attired, with bare feete, meigre, ill-favoured, and her hayre scattering upon her face: This woman tooke the Baker by the hand, and faining that she had some secret matter to tell him, went into a chamber, where they remained a good space, till all the corne was ground, when as the servants were compelled to call their master to give them more corne, but when they had called very often, and no person gave answer, they began to mistrust, insomuch that they brake open the doore: when they were come in, they could not find the woman, but onely their master hanging dead upon a rafter of the chamber, whereupon they cryed and lamented greatly, and according to the custome, when they had washed themselves, they tooke the body and buried it. The next day morrow, the daughter of the Baker, which was married but a little before to one of the next Village, came crying and beating her breast, not because she heard of the death of her father by any man, but because his lamentable spirit, with a halter about his necke appeared to her in the night, declaring the whole circumstance of his death, and how by inchantment he was descended into hell, which caused her to thinke that her father was dead. After that she had lamented a good space, and was somewhat comforted by the servants of the house, and when nine dayes were expired, as inheretrix to her father, she sold away all the substance of the house, whereby the goods chanced into divers mens hands.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.