The Golden Ass

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 1

How the souldier drave Apuleius away, and how he came to a Captaines house, and what happened there.

The next day how my master the Gardener sped, I knew not, but the gentle souldier, who was well beaten for his cowardise, lead me to his lodging without the contradiction of any man: Where hee laded me well, and garnished my body (as seemed to me) like an Asse of armes. For on the one side I bare an helmet that shined exceedingly: On the other side a Target that glistered more a thousand folde. And on the top of my burthen he put a long speare, which things he placed thus gallantly, not because he was so expert in warre (for the Gardener proved the contrary) but to the end he might feare those which passed by, when they saw such a similitude of warre. When we had gone a good part of our journey, over the plaine and easie fields, we fortuned to come to a little towne, where we lodged at a certaine Captaines house. And there the souldier tooke me to one of the servants, while he himselfe went towards his captaine; who had the charge of a thousand men. And when we had remained there a few dayes, I understood of a wicked and mischievous fact committed there, which I have put in writing to the end you may know the same. The master of the house had a sonne instructed in good literature, and endued with vertuous manners, such a one as you would desire to have the like. Long time before his mother dyed, and when his father married a new wife, and had another child of the age of xii. yeares. The stepdame was more excellent in beauty then honesty: for she loved this young man her sonne in law, either because she was unchast by nature, or because she was enforced by fate of stepmother, to commit so great a mischiefe. Gentle reader, thou shalt not read of a fable, but rather a tragedy: This woman when her love began first to kindle in her heart, could easily resist her desire and inordinate appetite by reason of shame and feare, lest her intent should be knowne: But after it compassed and burned every part of her brest, she was compelled to yeeld unto the raging flame of Cupid, and under colour of the disease and infirmity of her body, to conceale the wound of her restlesse mind. Every man knoweth well the signes and tokens of love, and the malady convenient to the same: Her countenance was pale, her eyes sorrowfull, her knees weake, and there was no comfort in her, but continuall weeping and sobbing, insomuch that you would have thought that she had some spice of an ague, saving that she wept unmeasurably: the Phisitians knew not her disease, when they felt the beating of her veines, the intemperance of her heart, the sobbing sighes, and her often tossing of every side: No, no, the cunning Phisitian knew it not, but a scholler of Venus Court might easily conjecture the whole. After that she had beene long time tormented in her affliction, and was no more able to conceale her ardent desire, shee caused her sonne to be called for, (which word son she would faine put away if it were not for shame:) Then he nothing disobedient to the commandement of his mother, with a sad and modest countenance, came into the chamber of his stepdame, the mother of his brother, but she speaking never a word was in great doubt what she might doe, and could not tell what to say first, by reason of shame. The young man suspecting no ill, with humble courtesie demanded the cause of her present disease. Then she having found an occasion to utter her intent, with weeping eyes and covered face, began boldly to speake unto him in this manner: Thou, thou, art the originall cause of all my dolour: Thou art my comfort and onely health, for those thy comely eyes are so enfastned within my brest, that unlesse they succour me, I shall certainly die: Have pitty therefore upon me, be not the occasion of my destruction, neither let my conscience reclaime to offend thy father, when as thou shalt save the life of thy mother. Moreover since thou dost resemble thy fathers shape in every point, it giveth me cause the more to fancy thee: Now is ministred unto thee time and place: Now hast thou occasion to worke thy will, seeing that we are alone. And it is a common saying:

Never knowne, never done.

This young man troubled in mind at so suddaine an ill, although hee abhorred to commit so beastly a crime, yet hee would not cast her off with a present deniall, but warily pacified her mind with delay of promise. Wherefore he promised to doe all according to her desire: And in the meane season, he willed his mother to be of good cheere, and comfort her selfe till as he might find some convenient time to come unto her, when his father was ridden forth: Wherewithall hee got him away from the pestilent sight of his stepdame. And knowing that this matter touching the ruine of all the whole house needed the counsell of wise and grave persons, he went incontinently to a sage old man and declared the whole circumstance of the matter. The old man after long deliberation, thought there was no better way to avoyd the storme of cruell fortune to come, then to run away. In the meane season this wicked woman impatient of her love, and the long delay of her sonne, egged her husband to ride abroad into farre countreyes. And then she asked the young-man the accomplishment of his promise, but he to rid himselfe entirely from her hands, would find alwayes excuses, till in the end she understood by the messengers that came in and out, that he nothing regarded her. Then she by how much she loved him before, by so much and more she hated him now. And by and by she called one of her servants, ready to all mischiefes: To whom she declared all her secrets. And there it was concluded betweene them two, that the surest way was to kill the young man: Whereupon this varlet went incontinently to buy poyson, which he mingled with wine, to the intent he would give it to the young man to drinke, and thereby presently to kill him. But while they were in deliberation how they might offer it unto him, behold here happened a strange adventure. For the young sonne of the woman that came from schoole at noone (being very thirsty) tooke the pot wherein the poyson was mingled, and ignorant of the venim, dranke a good draught thereof, which was prepared to kill his brother: whereby he presently fell downe to the ground dead. His schoolemaster seeing his suddaine change, called his mother, and all the servants of the house with a lowd voyce. Incontinently every man declared his opinion, touching the death of the child: but the cruell woman the onely example of stepmothers malice, was nothing moved by the bitter death of her sonne, or by her owne conscience of paracide, or by the misfortune of her house, or by the dolour of her husband, but rather devised the destruction of all her family. For by and by shee sent a messenger after her husband to tell him the great misfortune which happened after his departure. And when lie came home, the wicked woman declared that his sonne had empoysoned his brother, because he would not consent to his will, and told him divers other leasings, adding in the end that hee threatned to kill her likewise, because she discovered the fact: Then the unhappy father was stroken with double dolour of the death of his two children, for on the one side he saw his younger sonne slaine before his eyes, on the other side, he seemed to see the elder condemned to dye for his offence: Againe, where he beheld his wife lament in such sort, it gave him further occasion to hate his sonne more deadly; but the funerals of his younger sonne were scarce finished, when the old man the father with weeping eyes even at the returne from the grave, went to the Justice and accused his sonne of the slaughter of his brother, and how he threatned to slay his wife, whereby the rather at his weeping and lamentation, he moved all the Magistrates and people to pitty, insomuch that without any delay, or further inquisition they cryed all that hee should be stoned to death, but the Justices fearing a farther inconvenience to arise by the particular vengeance, and to the end there might fortune no sedition amongst the people, prayed the decurions and other Officers of the City, that they might proceed by examination of witnesses, and with order of justice according to the ancient custome before the judging of any hasty sentence or judgment, without the hearing of the contrary part, like as the barbarous and cruell tyrants accustome to use: otherwise they should give an ill example to their successours. This opinion pleased every man, wherefore the Senatours and counsellors were called, who being placed in order according to their dignity, caused the accuser and defender to be brought forth, and by the example of the Athenian law, and judgement materiall, their Advocates were commanded to plead their causes briefly without preambles or motions of the people to pitty, which were too long a processe. And if you demand how I understood all this matter, you shall understand that I heard many declare the same, but to recite what words the accuser used in his invective, what answer the defender made, the orations and pleadings of each party, verily I am not able to doe: for I was fast bound at the manger. But as I learned and knew by others, I will God willing declare unto you. So it was ordered, that after the pleadings of both sides was ended, they thought best to try and boult out the verity by witnesses, all presumptions and likelihood set apart, and to call in the servant, who onely was reported to know all the matter: by and by the servant came in, who nothing abashed, at the feare of so great a judgment, or at the presence of the Judges, or at his owne guilty conscience, which hee so finely fained, but with a bold countenance presented himselfe before the justices and confirmed the accusation against the young man, saying: O yee judges, on a day when this young man loathed and hated his stepmother, hee called mee, desiring mee to poyson his brother, whereby hee might revenge himselfe, and if I would doe it and keepe the matter secret, hee promised to give me a good reward for my paines: but when the young man perceived that I would not accord to his will, he threatned to slay mee, whereupon hee went himselfe and bought poyson, and after tempered it with wine, and then gave it me to give the child, which when I refused he offered it to his brother with his own hands. When the varlet with a trembling countenance had ended these words which seemed a likelihood of truth, the judgement was ended: neither was there found any judge or counsellor, so mercifull to the young man accused, as would not judge him culpable, but that he should be put and sowne in a skin, with a dogge, a Cocke, a Snake, and an Ape, according to the law against parricides: wherefore they wanted nothing but (as the ancient custome was) to put white stones and black into a pot, and to take them out againe, to see whether the young-man accused should be acquitted by judgment or condemned, which was a thing irrevocable.

In the mean season he was delivered to the hands of the executioner. But there arose a sage and ancient Physitian, a man of a good conscience and credit throughout all the City, that stopped the mouth of the pot wherein the stones were cast, saying: I am right glad ye reverend judges, that I am a man of name and estimation amongst you, whereby I am accompted such a one as will not suffer any person to be put to death by false and untrue accusations, considering there hath bin no homicide or murther committed by this yong man in this case, neither you (being sworn to judge uprightly) to be misinformed and abused by invented lyes and tales. For I cannot but declare and open my conscience, least I should be found to beare small honour and faith to the Gods, wherefore I pray you give eare, and I will shew you the whole truth of the matter. You shall understand that this servant which hath merited to be hanged, came one of these dayes to speake with me, promising to give me a hundred crownes, if I would give him present poyson, which would cause a man to dye suddenly, saying, that he would have it for one that was sicke of an incurable disease, to the end he might be delivered from all torment, but I smelling his crafty and subtill fetch, and fearing least he would worke some mischiefe withall, gave him a drinke; but to the intent I might cleare my selfe from all danger that might happen, I would not presently take the money which he offered. But least any of the crownes should lacke weight or be found counterfeit, I willed him to scale the purse wherein they were put, with his manuell signe, whereby the next day we might goe together to the Goldsmith to try them, which he did; wherefore understanding that he was brought present before you this day, I hastily commanded one of my servants to fetch the purse which he had sealed, and here I bring it unto you to see whether he will deny his owne signe or no: and you may easily conject that his words are untrue, which he alleadged against the young man, touching the buying of the poyson, considering hee bought the poyson himselfe. When the Physitian had spoken these words you might perceive how the trayterous knave changed his colour, how hee sweat for feare, how he trembled in every part of his body: and how he set one leg upon another, scratching Ibis head and grinding his teeth, whereby there was no person but would judge him culpable. In the end, when he was somewhat returned to his former subtility, he began to deny all that was said, and stoutly affirmed, that the Physitian did lye. But the Physitian perceiving that he was rayled at and his words denyed, did never cease to confirme his sayings, and to disprove the varlet, till such time as the Officers by the commandment of the Judges, bound his hands and brought out the seale, wherewith he had sealed the purse which augmented suspition which was conceived of him first. Howbeit, neither the feare of the wheele or any other torment according to the use of the Grecians, which were ready prepared, no, nor yet the fire could enforce him to confesse the matter, so obstinate and grounded was he in his mischievous mind. But the Physitian perceiving that the menaces of these torments did nothing prevaile, gan say: I cannot suffer or abide that this young man who is innocent, should against all law and conscience, be punished and condemned to die, and the other which is culpable, should escape so easily, and after mocke and flowte at your judgement: for I will give you an evident proofe and argument of this present crime. You shall understand, that when this caytiffe demanded of me a present and strong poyson, considering that it was not my part to give occasion of any others death, but rather to cure and save sicke persons by meane of medicines: and on the other side, fearing least if I should deny his request, I might minister a further cause of his mischiefe, either that he would buy poyson of some other, or else returne and worke his wicked intent, with a sword or some dangerous weapon, I gave him no poyson, but a doling drinke of Mandragora, which is of such force, that it will cause any man to sleepe as though he were dead. Neither is it any marvaile if this most desperate man, who is certainly assured to be put to death, ordained by an ancient custome, can suffer and abide these facill and easie torments, but if it be so that the child hath received the drinke as I tempered it with mine owne hands, he is yet alive and doth but sleepe, and after his sleepe he shall returne to life againe, but if he be dead indeed, then may you further enquire of the causes of his death. The opinion of this ancient Physitian was found good, and every man had a desire to goe to the Sepulchre where the child was layd; there was none of the Justices, none of any reputation of the towne, nor any of the common people, but went to see this strange sight. Amongst them all the father of the child remooved with his owne hands the stone of the Sepulchre, and found his Sonne rising up after his dead and soporiferous sleepe, whom when he beheld, he imbraced him in his armes, and presented him before the people, with great joy and consolation, and as he was wrapped and bound in his grave, so he brought him before the Judges, whereupon the wickednesse of the Servant, and, the treason of the stepdame was plainely discovered, and the verity of the matter revealed, whereby the woman was perpetually exiled, the Servant hanged on a Gallowes, and the Physitian had the Crownes, which was prepared to buy the poyson. Behold how the fortune of the old man was changed, who thinking to be deprived of all his race and posterity, was in one moment made the Father of two Children. But as for me, I was ruled and handled by fortune, according to her pleasure.

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.