Having put on our clothes, in the meantime, we commenced to stroll around and soon, the better to amuse ourselves, approached the circle of players; all of a sudden we caught sight of a bald-headed old fellow, rigged out in a russet colored tunic, playing ball with some long haired boys. It was not so much the boys who attracted our attention, although they might well have merited it, as it was the spectacle afforded by this beslippered paterfamilias playing with a green ball. If one but touched the ground, he never stooped for it to put it back in play; for a slave stood by with a bagful from which the players were supplied. We noted other innovations as well, for two eunuchs were stationed at opposite sides of the ring, one of whom held a silver chamber-pot, the other counted the balls; not those which bounced back and forth from hand to hand, in play, but those which fell to the ground. While we were marveling at this display of refinement, Menelaus rushed up, "He is the one with whom you will rest upon your elbow," he panted, "what you see now, is only a prelude to the dinner." Menelaus had scarcely ceased speaking when Trimalchio snapped his fingers; the eunuch, hearing the signal, held the chamber-pot for him while he still continued playing. After relieving his bladder, he called for water to wash his hands, barely moistened his fingers, and dried them upon a boy's head.
To go into details would take too long. We entered the bath, finally, and after sweating for a minute or two in the warm room, we passed through into the cold water. But short as was the time, Trimalchio had already been sprinkled with perfume and was being rubbed down, not with linen towels, however, but with cloths made from the finest wool. Meanwhile, three masseurs were guzzling Falernian under his eyes, and when they spilled a great deal of it in their brawling, Trimalchio declared they were pouring a libation to his Genius. He was then wrapped in a coarse scarlet wrap-rascal, and placed in a litter. Four runners, whose liveries were decorated with metal plates, preceded him, as also did a wheel-chair in which rode his favorite, a withered, blear eyed slave, even more repulsive looking than his master. A singing boy approached the head of his litter, as he was being carried along, and played upon small pipes the whole way, just as if he were communicating some secret to his master's ear. Marveling greatly, we followed, and met Agamemnon at the outer door, to the post of which was fastened a small tablet bearing this inscription:
NO SLAVE TO LEAVE THE PREMISES
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE MASTER.
PENALTY ONE HUNDRED LASHES.
In the vestibule stood the porter, clad in green and girded with a cherry-colored belt, shelling peas into a silver dish. Above the threshold was suspended a golden cage, from which a black and white magpie greeted the visitors.
I almost fell backwards and broke my legs while staring at all this, for to the left, as we entered, not far from the porter's alcove, an enormous dog upon a chain was painted upon the wall, and above him this inscription, in capitals:
BEWARE THE DOG.
My companions laughed, but I plucked up my courage and did not hesitate, but went on and examined the entire wall. There was a scene in a slave market, the tablets hanging from the slaves' necks, and Trimalchio himself, wearing his hair long, holding a caduceus in his hand, entering Rome, led by the hand of Minerva. Then again the painstaking artist had depicted him casting up accounts, and still again, being appointed steward; everything being explained by inscriptions. Where the walls gave way to the portico, Mercury was shown lifting him up by the chin, to a tribunal placed on high. Near by stood Fortune with her horn of plenty, and the three Fates, spinning golden flax. I also took note of a group of runners, in the portico, taking their exercise under the eye of an instructor, and in one corner was a large cabinet, in which was a very small shrine containing silver Lares, a marble Venus, and a golden casket by no means small, which held, so they told us, the first shavings of Trimalchio's beard. I asked the hall-porter what pictures were in the middle hall. "The Iliad and the Odyssey," he replied, "and the gladiatorial games given under Laenas." There was no time in which to examine them all.
We had now come to the dining-room, at the entrance to which sat a factor, receiving accounts, and, what gave me cause for astonishment, rods and axes were fixed to the door-posts, superimposed, as it were, upon the bronze beak of a ship, whereon was inscribed:
TO GAIUS POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO
FROM CINNAMUS HIS
A double lamp, suspended from the ceiling, hung beneath the inscription, and a tablet was fixed to each door-post; one, if my memory serves me, was inscribed,
ON DECEMBER THIRTIETH AND
GAIUS DINES OUT
the other bore a painting of the moon in her phases, and the seven planets, and the days which were lucky and those which were unlucky, distinguished by distinctive studs. We had had enough of these novelties and started to enter the dining-room when a slave, detailed to this duty, cried out, "Right foot first." Naturally, we were afraid that some of us might break some rule of conduct and cross the threshold the wrong way; nevertheless, we started out, stepping off together with the right foot, when all of a sudden, a slave who had been stripped, threw himself at our feet, and commenced begging us to save him from punishment, as it was no serious offense for which he was in jeopardy; the steward's clothing had been stolen from him in the baths, and the whole value could scarcely amount to ten sesterces. So we drew back our right feet and intervened with the steward, who was counting gold pieces in the hall, begging him to remit the slave's punishment. Putting a haughty face on the matter, "It's not the loss I mind so much," he said, "as it is the carelessness of this worthless rascal. He lost my dinner clothes, given me on my birthday they were, by a certain client, Tyrian purple too, but it had been washed once already. But what does it amount to? I make you a present of the scoundrel!"
We felt deeply obligated by his great condescension, and the same slave for whom we had interceded, rushed up to us as we entered the dining-room, and to our astonishment, kissed us thick and fast, voicing his thanks for our kindness. "You'll know in a minute whom you did a favor for," he confided, "the master's wine is the thanks of a grateful butler!" At length we reclined, and slave boys from Alexandria poured water cooled with snow upon our hands, while others following, attended to our feet and removed the hangnails with wonderful dexterity, nor were they silent even during this disagreeable operation, but they all kept singing at their work. I was desirous of finding out whether the whole household could sing, so I ordered a drink; a boy near at hand instantly repeated my order in a singsong voice fully as shrill, and whichever one you accosted did the same. You would not imagine that this was the dining-room of a private gentleman, but rather that it was an exhibition of pantomimes. A very inviting relish was brought on, for by now all the couches were occupied save only that of Trimalchio, for whom, after a new custom, the chief place was reserved.
On the tray stood a donkey made of Corinthian bronze, bearing panniers containing olives, white in one and black in the other. Two platters flanked the figure, on the margins of which were engraved Trimalchio's name and the weight of the silver in each. Dormice sprinkled with poppy-seed and honey were served on little bridges soldered fast to the platter, and hot sausages on a silver gridiron, underneath which were damson plums and pomegranate seeds.
We Were in the midst of these delicacies when, to the sound of music, Trimalchio himself was carried in and bolstered up in a nest of small cushions, which forced a snicker from the less wary. A shaven poll protruded from a scarlet mantle, and around his neck, already muffled with heavy clothing, he had tucked a napkin having a broad purple stripe and a fringe that hung down all around. On the little finger of his left hand he wore a massive gilt ring, and on the first joint of the next finger, a smaller one which seemed to me to be of pure gold, but as a matter of fact it had iron stars soldered on all around it. And then, for fear all of his finery would not be displayed, he bared his right arm, adorned with a golden arm-band and an ivory circlet clasped with a plate of shining metal.
Picking his teeth with a silver quill, "Friends," said he, "it was not convenient for me to come into the dining-room just yet, but for fear my absence should cause you any inconvenience, I gave over my own pleasure: permit me, however, to finish my game." A slave followed with a terebinth table and crystal dice, and I noted one piece of luxury that was superlative; for instead of black and white pieces, he used gold and silver coins. He kept up a continual flow of various coarse expressions. We were still dallying with the relishes when a tray was brought in, on which was a basket containing a wooden hen with her wings rounded and spread out as if she were brooding. Two slaves instantly approached, and to the accompaniment of music, commenced to feel around in the straw. They pulled out some pea-hen's eggs, which they distributed among the diners. Turning his head, Trimalchio saw what was going on. "Friends," he remarked. "I ordered pea-hen's eggs set under the hen, but I'm afraid they're addled, by Hercules I am let's try them anyhow, and see if they're still fit to suck." We picked up our spoons, each of which weighed not less than half a pound, and punctured the shells, which were made of flour and dough, and as a matter of fact, I very nearly threw mine away for it seemed to me that a chick had formed already, but upon hearing an old experienced guest vow, "There must be something good here," I broke open the shell with my hand and discovered a fine fat fig-pecker, imbedded in a yolk seasoned with pepper.
Having finished his game, Trimalchio was served with a helping of everything and was announcing in a loud voice his willingness to join anyone in a second cup of honied wine, when, to a flourish of music, the relishes were suddenly whisked away by a singing chorus, but a small dish happened to fall to the floor, in the scurry, and a slave picked it up. Seeing this, Trimalchio ordered that the boy be punished by a box on the ear, and made him throw it down again; a janitor followed with his broom and swept the silver dish away among the litter. Next followed two long-haired Ethiopians, carrying small leather bottles, such as are commonly seen in the hands of those who sprinkle sand in the arena, and poured wine upon our hands, for no one offered us water. When complimented upon these elegant extras, the host cried out, "Mars loves a fair fight: and so I ordered each one a separate table: that way these stinking slaves won't make us so hot with their crowding." Some glass bottles carefully sealed with gypsum were brought in at that instant; a label bearing this inscription was fastened to the neck of each one:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD.
While we were studying the labels, Trimalchio clapped his hands and cried, "Ah me! To think that wine lives longer than poor little man. Let's fill 'em up! There's life in wine and this is the real Opimian, you can take my word for that. I offered no such vintage yesterday, though my guests were far more respectable." We were tippling away and extolling all these elegant devices, when a slave brought in a silver skeleton, so contrived that the joints and movable vertebra could be turned in any direction. He threw it down upon the table a time or two, and its mobile articulation caused it to assume grotesque attitudes, whereupon Trimalchio chimed in:
"Poor man is nothing in the scheme of things
And Orcus grips us and to Hades flings
Our bones! This skeleton before us here
Is as important as we ever were!
Let's live then while we may and life is dear."
The applause was followed by a course which, by its oddity, drew every eye, but it did not come up to our expectations. There was a circular tray around which were displayed the signs of the zodiac, and upon each sign the caterer had placed the food best in keeping with it. Ram's vetches on Aries, a piece of beef on Taurus, kidneys and lamb's fry on Gemini, a crown on Cancer, the womb of an unfarrowed sow on Virgo, an African fig on Leo, on Libra a balance, one pan of which held a tart and the other a cake, a small seafish on Scorpio, a bull's eye on Sagittarius, a sea lobster on Capricornus, a goose on Aquarius and two mullets on Pisces. In the middle lay a piece of cut sod upon which rested a honeycomb with the grass arranged around it. An Egyptian slave passed bread around from a silver oven and in a most discordant voice twisted out a song in the manner of the mime in the musical farce called Laserpitium. Seeing that we were rather depressed at the prospect of busying ourselves with such vile fare, Trimalchio urged us to fall to: "Let us fall to, gentlemen, I beg of you, this is only the sauce!"
While he was speaking, four dancers ran in to the time of the music, and removed the upper part of the tray. Beneath, on what seemed to be another tray, we caught sight of stuffed capons and sows' bellies, and in the middle, a hare equipped with wings to resemble Pegasus. At the corners of the tray we also noted four figures of Marsyas and from their bladders spouted a highly spiced sauce upon fish which were swimming about as if in a tide-race. All of us echoed the applause which was started by the servants, and fell to upon these exquisite delicacies, with a laugh. "Carver," cried Trimalchio, no less delighted with the artifice practised upon us, and the carver appeared immediately. Timing his strokes to the beat of the music he cut up the meat in such a fashion as to lead you to think that a gladiator was fighting from a chariot to the accompaniment of a water-organ. Every now and then Trimalchio would repeat "Carver, Carver," in a low voice, until I finally came to the conclusion that some joke was meant in repeating a word so frequently, so I did not scruple to question him who reclined above me. As he had often experienced byplay of this sort he explained, "You see that fellow who is carving the meat, don't you? Well, his name is Carver. Whenever Trimalchio says Carver, carve her, by the same word, he both calls and commands!"
I could eat no more, so I turned to my whilom informant to learn as much as I could and sought to draw him out with far-fetched gossip. I inquired who that woman could be who was scurrying about hither and yon in such a fashion. "She's called Fortunata," he replied. "She's the wife of Trimalchio, and she measures her money by the peck. And only a little while ago, what was she! May your genius pardon me, but you would not have been willing to take a crust of bread from her hand. Now, without rhyme or reason, she's in the seventh heaven and is Trimalchio's factotum, so much so that he would believe her if she told him it was dark when it was broad daylight! As for him, he don't know how rich he is, but this harlot keeps an eye on everything and where you least expect to find her, you're sure to run into her. She's temperate, sober, full of good advice, and has many good qualities, but she has a scolding tongue, a very magpie on a sofa, those she likes, she likes, but those she dislikes, she dislikes! Trimalchio himself has estates as broad as the flight of a kite is long, and piles of money. There's more silver plate lying in his steward's office than other men have in their whole fortunes! And as for slaves, damn me if I believe a tenth of them knows the master by sight. The truth is, that these stand-a-gapes are so much in awe of him that any one of them would step into a fresh dunghill without ever knowing it, at a mere nod from him!"
"And don't you get the idea that he buys anything; everything is produced at home, wool, pitch, pepper, if you asked for hen's milk you would get it. Because he wanted his wool to rival other things in quality, he bought rams at Tarentum and sent 'em into his flocks with a slap on the arse. He had bees brought from Attica, so he could produce Attic honey at home, and, as a side issue, so he could improve the native bees by crossing with the Greek. He even wrote to India for mushroom seed one day, and he hasn't a single mule that wasn't sired by a wild ass. Do you see all those cushions? Not a single one but what is stuffed with either purple or scarlet wool! He hasn't anything to worry about! Look out how you criticise those other fellow-freedmen-friends of his, they're all well heeled. See the fellow reclining at the bottom of the end couch? He's worth his 800,000 any day, and he rose from nothing. Only a short while ago he had to carry faggots on his own back. I don't know how true it is, but they say that he snatched off an Incubo's hat and found a treasure! For my part, I don't envy any man anything that was given him by a god. He still carries the marks of his box on the ear, and he isn't wishing himself any bad luck! He posted this notice, only the other day:
CAIUS POMPONIUS DIOGENES HAS
PURCHASED A HOUSE
THIS GARNET FOR RENT AFTER
THE KALENDS OF JULY.
"What do you think of the fellow in the freedman's place? He has a good front, too, hasn't he? And he has a right to. He saw his fortune multiplied tenfold, but he lost heavily through speculation at the last. I don't think he can call his very hair his own, and it is no fault of his either, by Hercules, it isn't. There's no better fellow anywhere his rascally freedmen cheated him out of everything. You know very well how it is; everybody's business is nobody's business, and once let business affairs start to go wrong, your friends will stand from under! Look at the fix he's in, and think what a fine trade he had! He used to be an undertaker. He dined like a king, boars roasted whole in their shaggy Bides, bakers' pastries, birds, cooks and bakers! More wine was spilled under his table than another has in his wine cellar. His life was like a pipe dream, not like an ordinary mortal's. When his affairs commenced to go wrong, and he was afraid his creditors would guess that he was bankrupt, he advertised an auction and this was his placard:
JULIUS PROCULUS WILL SELL AT
AUCTION HIS SUPERFLUOUS
Trimalchio broke in upon this entertaining gossip, for the course had been removed and the guests, happy with wine, had started a general conversation: lying back upon his couch, "You ought to make this wine go down pleasantly," he said, "the fish must have something to swim in. But I say, you didn't think I'd be satisfied with any such dinner as you saw on the top of that tray? 'Is Ulysses no better known?' Well, well, we shouldn't forget our culture, even at dinner. May the bones of my patron rest in peace, he wanted me to become a man among men. No one can show me anything new, and that little tray has proved it. This heaven where the gods live, turns into as many different signs, and sometimes into the Ram: therefore, whoever is born under that sign will own many flocks and much wool, a hard head, a shameless brow, and a sharp horn. A great many school-teachers and rambunctious butters-in are born under that sign." We applauded the wonderful penetration of our astrologer and he ran on, "Then the whole heaven turns into a bull-calf and the kickers and herdsmen and those who see to it that their own bellies are full, come into the world. Teams of horses and oxen are born under the Twins, and well-hung wenchers and those who bedung both sides of the wall. I was born under the Crab and therefore stand on many legs and own much property on land and sea, for the crab is as much at home on one as he is in the other. For that reason, I put nothing on that sign for fear of weighing down my own destiny. Bulldozers and gluttons are born under the Lion, and women and fugitives and chain-gangs are born under the Virgin. Butchers and perfumers are born under the Balance, and all who think that it is their business to straighten things out. Poisoners and assassins are born under the Scorpion. Cross-eyed people who look at the vegetables and sneak away with the bacon, are born under the Archer. Horny-handed sons of toil are born under Capricorn. Bartenders and pumpkin-heads are born under the Water-Carrier. Caterers and rhetoricians are born under the Fishes: and so the world turns round, just like a mill, and something bad always comes to the top, and men are either being born or else they're dying. As to the sod and the honeycomb in the middle, for I never do anything without a reason, Mother Earth is in the centre, round as an egg, and all that is good is found in her, just like it is in a honeycomb."
"Bravo!" we yelled, and, with hands uplifted to the ceiling, we swore that such fellows as Hipparchus and Aratus were not to be compared with him. At length some slaves came in who spread upon the couches some coverlets upon which were embroidered nets and hunters stalking their game with boar-spears, and all the paraphernalia of the chase. We knew not what to look for next, until a hideous uproar commenced, just outside the dining-room door, and some Spartan hounds commenced to run around the table all of a sudden. A tray followed them, upon which was served a wild boar of immense size, wearing a liberty cap upon its head, and from its tusks hung two little baskets of woven palm fibre, one of which contained Syrian dates, the other, Theban. Around it hung little suckling pigs made from pastry, signifying that this was a brood-sow with her pigs at suck. It turned out that these were souvenirs intended to be taken home. When it came to carving the boar, our old friend Carver, who had carved the capons, did not appear, but in his place a great bearded giant, with bands around his legs, and wearing a short hunting cape in which a design was woven. Drawing his hunting- knife, he plunged it fiercely into the boar's side, and some thrushes flew out of the gash. fowlers, ready with their rods, caught them in a moment, as they fluttered around the room and Trimalchio ordered one to each guest, remarking, "Notice what fine acorns this forest-bred boar fed on," and as he spoke, some slaves removed the little baskets from the tusks and divided the Syrian and Theban dates equally among the diners.
Getting a moment to myself, in the meantime, I began to speculate as to why the boar had come with a liberty cap upon his head. After exhausting my invention with a thousand foolish guesses, I made bold to put the riddle which teased me to my old informant. "Why, sure," he replied, "even your slave could explain that; there's no riddle, everything's as plain as day! This boar made his first bow as the last course of yesterday's dinner and was dismissed by the guests, so today he comes back as a freedman!" I damned my stupidity and refrained from asking any more questions for fear I might leave the impression that I had never dined among decent people before. While we were speaking, a handsome boy, crowned with vine leaves and ivy, passed grapes around, in a little basket, and impersonated Bacchus-happy, Bacchus-drunk, and Bacchus-dreaming, reciting, in the meantime, his master's verses, in a shrill voice. Trimalchio turned to him and said, "Dionisus, be thou Liber," whereupon the boy immediately snatched the cap from the boar's head, and put it upon his own. At that Trimalchio added, "You can't deny that my father's middle name was Liber!" We applauded Trimalchio's conceit heartily, and kissed the boy as he went around. Trimalchio retired to the close-stool, after this course, and we, having freedom of action with the tyrant away, began to draw the other guests out. After calling for a bowl of wine, Dama spoke up, "A day's nothing at all: it's night before you can turn around, so you can't do better than to go right to the dining-room from your bed. It's been so cold that I can hardly get warm in a bath, but a hot drink's as good as an overcoat: I've had some long pegs, and between you and me, I'm a bit groggy; the booze has gone to my head."
Here Seleucus took up the tale. "I don't bathe every day," he confided, "a bath uses you up like a fuller: water's got teeth and your strength wastes away a little every day; but when I've downed a pot of mead, I tell the cold to suck my cock! I couldn't bathe today anyway, because I was at a funeral; dandy fellow, he was too, good old Chrysanthus slipped his wind! Why, only the other day he said good morning' to me, and I almost think I'm talking to him now! Gawd's truth, we're only blown-up bladders strutting around, we're less than flies, for they have some good in them, but we're only bubbles. And supposing he had not kept to such a low diet! Why, not a drop of water or a crumb of bread so much as passed his lips for five days; and yet he joined the majority! Too many doctors did away with him, or rather, his time had come, for a doctor's not good for anything except for a consolation to your mind! He was well carried out, anyhow, in the very bed he slept in during his lifetime. And he was covered with a splendid pall: the mourning was tastefully managed; he had freed some slaves; even though his wife was sparing with her tears: and what if he hadn't treated her so well! But when you come to women, women all belong to the kite species: no one ought to waste a good turn upon one of them; it's just like throwing it down a well! An old love's like a cancer!"
He was becoming very tiresome, and Phileros cried out, "Let's think about the living! He has what was coming to him, he lived respectably, and respectably he died. What's he got to kick about'? He made his pile from an as, and would pick a quadrans out of a dunghill with his teeth, any old time. And he grew richer and richer, of course: just like a honeycomb. I expect that he left all of a hundred thousand, by Hercules, I do! All in cold cash, too; but I've eaten dog's tongue and must speak the truth: he was foul-mouthed, had a ready tongue, he was a trouble maker and no man. Now his brother was a good fellow, a friend to his friend, free-handed, and he kept a liberal table. He picked a loser at the start, but his first vintage set him upon his legs, for he sold his wine at the figure he demanded, and, what made him hold his head higher still, he came into a legacy from which he stole more than had been left to him. Then that fool friend of yours, in a fit of anger at his brother, willed his property away to some son-of-a-bitch or other, who he was, I don't know, but when a man runs away from his own kin, he has a long way to go! And what's more, he had some slaves who were ear-specialists at the keyhole, and they did him a lot of harm, for a man won't prosper when he believes, on the spot, every tale that he hears; a man in business, especially. Still, he had a good time as long as he lived: for happy's the fellow who gets the gift, not the one it was meant for. He sure was Fortune's son! Lead turned to gold in his hands. It's easy enough when everything squares up and runs on schedule. How old would you think he was? Seventy and over, but he was as tough as horn, carried his age well, and was as black as a crow. I knew the fellow for years and years, and he was a lecher to the very last. I don't believe that even the dog in his house escaped his attentions, by Hercules, I don't; and what a boy-lover he was! Saw a virgin in every one he met! Not that I blame him though, for it's all he could take with him."
Phileros had his say and Ganymedes exclaimed, "You gabble away about things that don't concern heaven or earth: and none of you cares how the price of grain pinches. I couldn't even get a mouthful of bread today, by Hercules, I couldn't. How the drought does hang on! We've had famine for a year. If the damned AEdiles would only get what's coming to them. They graft with the bakers, scratch-my-arse-and-I'll-scratch-yours! That's the way it always is, the poor devils are out of luck, but the jaws of the capitalists are always keeping the Saturnalia. If only we had such lion-hearted sports as we had when I first came from Asia! That was the life! If the flour was not the very best, they would beat up those belly-robbing grafters till they looked like Jupiter had been at them. How well I remember Safinius; he lived near the old arch, when I was a boy. For a man, he was one hot proposition! Wherever he went, the ground smoked! But he was square, dependable, a friend to a friend, you could safely play mora with him, in the dark. But how he did peel them in the town hall: he spoke no parables, not he! He did everything straight from the shoulder and his voice roared like a trumpet in the forum. He never sweat nor spat. I don't know, but I think he had a strain of the Asiatic in him. And how civil and friendly-like he was, in returning everyone's greeting; called us all by name, just like he was one of us! And so provisions were cheap as dirt in those days. The loaf you got for an as, you couldn't eat, not even if someone helped you, but you see them no bigger than a bull's eye now, and the hell of it is that things are getting worse every day; this colony grows backwards like a calf's tall! Why do we have to put up with an AEdile here, who's not worth three Caunian figs and who thinks more of an as than of our lives? He has a good time at home, and his daily income's more than another man's fortune. I happen to know where he got a thousand gold pieces. If we had any nuts, he'd not be so damned well pleased with himself! Nowadays, men are lions at home and foxes abroad. What gets me is, that I've already eaten my old clothes, and if this high cost of living keeps on, I'll have to sell my cottages! What's going to happen to this town, if neither gods nor men take pity on it? May I never have any luck if I don't believe all this comes from the gods! For no one believes that heaven is heaven, no one keeps a fast, no one cares a hang about Jupiter: they all shut their eyes and count up their own profits. In the old days, the married women, in their stolas, climbed the hill in their bare feet, pure in heart, and with their hair unbound, and prayed to Jupiter for rain! And it would pour down in bucketfuls then or never, and they'd all come home, wet as drowned rats. But the gods all have the gout now, because we are not religious; and so our fields are burning up!"
"Don't be so down in the mouth," chimed in Echion, the ragman; "if it wasn't that it'd be something else, as the farmer said, when he lost his spotted pig. If a thing don't happen today, it may tomorrow. That's the way life jogs along. You couldn't name a better country, by Hercules, you couldn't, if only the men had any brains. She's in hot water right now, but she ain't the only one. We oughtn't to be so particular; heaven's as far away everywhere else. If you were somewhere else, you'd swear that pigs walked around here already roasted. Think of what's coming! We'll soon have a fine gladiator show to last for three days, no training-school pupils; most of them will be freedmen. Our Titus has a hot head and plenty of guts and it will go to a finish. I'm well acquainted with him, and he'll not stand for any frame-ups. It will be cold steel in the best style, no running away, the shambles will be in the middle of the amphitheatre where all the crowd can see. And what's more, he has the coin, for he came into thirty million when his father had the bad luck to die. He could blow in four hundred thousand and his fortune never feel it, but his name would live forever. He has some dwarfs already, and a woman to fight from a chariot. Then, there's Glyco's steward; he was caught screwing Glyco's wife. You'll see some battle between jealous husbands and favored lovers. Anyhow, that cheap screw of a Glyco condemned his steward to the beasts and only published his own shame. How could the slave go wrong when he only obeyed orders? It would have been better if that she-piss- pot, for that's all she's fit for, had been tossed by the bull, but a fellow has to beat the saddle when he can't beat the jackass. How could Glyco ever imagine that a sprig of Hermogenes' planting could turn out well? Why, Hermogenes could trim the claws of a flying hawk, and no snake ever hatched out a rope yet! And look at Glyco! He's smoked himself out in fine shape, and as long as he lives, he'll carry that stain! No one but the devil himself can wipe that out, but chickens always come home to roost. My nose tells me that Mammaea will set out a spread: two bits apiece for me and mine! And he'll nick Norbanus out of his political pull if he does; you all know that it's to his interest to hump himself to get the best of him. And honestly, what did that fellow ever do for us? He exhibited some two cent gladiators that were so near dead they'd have fallen flat if you blew your breath at them. I've seen better thugs sent against wild beasts! And the cavalry he killed looked about as much like the real thing as the horsemen on the lamps; you would have taken them for dunghill cocks! One plug had about as much action as a jackass with a pack-saddle; another was club-footed; and a third who had to take the place of one that was killed, was as good as dead, and hamstrung into the bargain. There was only one that had any pep, and he was a Thracian, but he only fought when we egged him on. The whole crowd was flogged afterwards. How the mob did yell 'Lay it on!' They were nothing but runaways. And at that he had the nerve to say, 'I've given you a show.' 'And I've applauded,' I answered; 'count it up and you'll find that I gave more than I got! One hand washes the other.'"
"Agamemnon, your looks seem to say, What's this boresome nut trying to hand us?' Well, I'm talking because you, who can talk book-foolishness, won't. You don't belong to our bunch, so you laugh in your sleeve at the way us poor people talk, but we know that you're only a fool with a lot of learning. Well, what of it? Some day I'll get you to come to my country place and take a look at my little estate. We'll have fresh eggs and spring chicken to chew on when we get there; it will be all right even if the weather has kept things back this year. We'll find enough to satisfy us, and my kid will soon grow up to be a pupil of yours; he can divide up to four, now, and you'll have a little servant at your side, if he lives. When he has a minute to himself, he never takes his eyes from his tablets; he's smart too, and has the right kind of stuff in him, even if he is crazy about birds. I've had to kill three of his linnets already. I told him that a weasel had gotten them, but he's found another hobby, now he paints all the time. He's left the marks of his heels on his Greek already, and is doing pretty well with his Latin, although his master's too easy with him; won't make him stick to one thing. He comes to me to get me to give him something to write when his master don't want to work. Then there's another tutor, too, no scholar, but very painstaking, though; he can teach you more than he knows himself. He comes to the house on holidays and is always satisfied with whatever you pay him. Some little time ago, I bought the kid some law books; I want him to have a smattering of the law for home use. There's bread in that! As for literature, he's got enough of that in him already; if he begins to kick, I've concluded that I'll make him learn some trade; the barber's, say, or the auctioneer's, or even the lawyer's. That's one thing no one but the devil can do him out of! 'Believe what your daddy says, Primigenius,' I din into his ears every day, 'whenever you learn a thing, it's yours. Look at Phileros the attorney; he'd not be keeping the wolf from the door now if he hadn't studied. It's not long since he had to carry his wares on his back and peddle them, but he can put up a front with Norbanus himself now! Learning's a fine thing, and a trade won't starve.'"
Twaddle of this sort was being bandied about when Trimalchio came in; mopping his forehead and washing his hands in perfume, he said, after a short pause, "Pardon me, gentlemen, but my stomach's been on strike for the past few days and the doctors disagreed about the cause. But pomegranate rind and pitch steeped in vinegar have helped me, and I hope that my belly will get on its good behavior, for sometimes there's such a rumbling in my guts that you'd think a bellowing bull was in there. So if anyone wants to do his business, there's no call to be bashful about it. None of us was born solid! I don't know of any worse torment than having to hold it in, it's the one thing Jupiter himself can't hold in. So you're laughing, are you, Fortunata? Why, you're always keeping me awake at night yourself. I never objected yet to anyone in my dining-room relieving himself when he wanted to, and the doctors forbid our holding it in. Everything's ready outside, if the call's more serious, water, close-stool, and anything else you'll need. Believe me, when this rising vapor gets to the brain, it puts the whole body on the burn. Many a one I've known to kick in just because he wouldn't own up to the truth." We thanked him for his kindness and consideration, and hid our laughter by drinking more and oftener. We had not realized that, as yet, we were only in the middle of the entertainment, with a hill still ahead, as the saying goes. The tables were cleared off to the beat of music, and three white hogs, muzzled, and wearing bells, were brought into the dining-room. The announcer informed us that one was a two-year-old, another three, and the third just turned six. I had an idea that some rope-dancers had come in and that the hogs would perform tricks, just as they do for the crowd on the streets, but Trimalchio dispelled this illusion by asking, "Which one will you have served up immediately, for dinner? Any country cook can manage a dunghill cock, a pentheus hash, or little things like that, but my cooks are well used to serving up calves boiled whole, in their cauldrons!" Then he ordered a cook to be called in at once, and without awaiting our pleasure, he directed that the oldest be butchered, and demanded in a loud voice, "What division do you belong too?" When the fellow made answer that he was from the fortieth, "Were you bought, or born upon my estates?" Trimalchio continued. "Neither," replied the cook, "I was left to you by Pansa's will." "See to it that this is properly done," Trimalchio warned, "or I'll have you transferred to the division of messengers!" and the cook, bearing his master's warning in mind, departed for the kitchen with the next course in tow.
Trimalchio's threatening face relaxed and he turned to us, "If the wine don't please you," he said, "I'll change it; you ought to do justice to it by drinking it. I don't have to buy it, thanks to the gods. Everything here that makes your mouths water, was produced on one of my country places which I've never yet seen, but they tell me it's down Terracina and Tarentum way. I've got a notion to add Sicily to my other little holdings, so in case I want to go to Africa, I'll be able to sail along my own coasts. But tell me the subject of your speech today, Agamemnon, for, though I don't plead cases myself, I studied literature for home use, and for fear you should think I don't care about learning, let me inform you that I have three libraries, one Greek and the others Latin. Give me the outline of your speech if you like me."
"A poor man and a rich man were enemies," Agamemmon began, when: "What's a poor man?" Trimalchio broke in. "Well put," Agamemnon conceded and went into details upon some problem or other, what it was I do not know. Trimalchio instantly rendered the following verdict, "If that's the case, there's nothing to dispute about; if it's not the case, it don't amount to anything anyhow." These flashes of wit, and others equally scintillating, we loudly applauded, and he went on: "Tell me, my dearest Agamemnon, do you remember the twelve labors of Hercules or the story of Ulysses, how the Cyclops threw his thumb out of joint with a pig-headed crowbar? When I was a boy, I used to read those stories in Homer. And then, there's the Sibyl: with my own eyes I saw her, at Cumae, hanging up in a jar; and whenever the boys would say to her 'Sibyl, Sibyl, what would you?' she would answer, 'I would die.'"
Before he had run out of wind, a tray upon which was an enormous hog was placed upon the table, almost filling it up. We began to wonder at the dispatch with which it had been prepared and swore that no cock could have been served up in so short a time; moreover, this hog seemed to us far bigger than the boar had been. Trimalchio scrutinized it closely and "What the hell," he suddenly bawled out, "this hog hain't been gutted, has it? No, it hain't, by Hercules, it hain't! Call that cook! Call that cook in here immediately!" When the crestfallen cook stood at the table and owned up that he had forgotten to bowel him, "So you forgot, did you?" Trimalchio shouted, "You'd think he'd only left out a bit of pepper and cummin, wouldn't you? Off with his clothes!" The cook was stripped without delay, and stood with hanging head, between two torturers. We all began to make excuses for him at this, saying, "Little things like that are bound to happen once in a while, let us prevail upon you to let him off; if he ever does such a thing again, not a one of us will have a word to say in his behalf." But for my part, I was mercilessly angry and could not help leaning over towards Agamemnon and whispering in his ear, "It is easily seen that this fellow is criminally careless, is it not? How could anyone forget to draw a hog? If he had served me a fish in that fashion I wouldn't overlook it, by Hercules, I wouldn't." But that was not Trimalchio's way: his face relaxed into good humor and he said, "Since your memory's so short, you can gut him right here before our eyes!" The cook put on his tunic, snatched up a carving knife, with a trembling hand, and slashed the hog's belly in several places. Sausages and meat- puddings, widening the apertures, by their own weight, immediately tumbled out.
The whole household burst into unanimous applause at this; "Hurrah for Gaius," they shouted. As for the cook, he was given a drink and a silver crown and a cup on a salver of Corinthian bronze. Seeing that Agamemnon was eyeing the platter closely, Trimalchio remarked, "I'm the only one that can show the real Corinthian!" I thought that, in his usual purse-proud manner, he was going to boast that his bronzes were all imported from Corinth, but he did even better by saying, "Wouldn't you like to know how it is that I'm the only one that can show the real Corinthian? Well, it's because the bronze worker I patronize is named Corinthus, and what's Corinthian unless it's what a Corinthus makes? And, so you won't think I'm a blockhead, I'm going to show you that I'm well acquainted with how Corinthian first came into the world. When Troy was taken, Hannibal, who was a very foxy fellow and a great rascal into the bargain, piled all the gold and silver and bronze statues in one pile and set 'em afire, melting these different metals into one: then the metal workers took their pick and made bowls and dessert dishes and statuettes as well. That's how Corinthian was born; neither one nor the other, but an amalgam of all. But I prefer glass, if you don't mind my saying so; it don't stink, and if it didn't break, I'd rather have it than gold, but it's cheap and common now."
"But there was an artisan, once upon a time, who made a glass vial that couldn't be broken. On that account he was admitted to Caesar with his gift; then he dashed it upon the floor, when Caesar handed it back to him. The Emperor was greatly startled, but the artisan picked the vial up off the pavement, and it was dented, just like a brass bowl would have been! He took a little hammer out of his tunic and beat out the dent without any trouble. When he had done that, he thought he would soon be in Jupiter's heaven, and more especially when Caesar said to him, 'Is there anyone else who knows how to make this malleable glass? Think now!' And when he denied that anyone else knew the secret, Caesar ordered his head chopped off, because if this should get out, we would think no more of gold than we would of dirt."
"And when it comes to silver, I'm a connoisseur; I have goblets as big as wine-jars, a hundred of 'em more or less, with engraving that shows how Cassandra killed her sons, and the dead boys are lying so naturally that you'd think 'em alive. I own a thousand bowls which Mummius left to my patron, where Daedalus is shown shutting Niobe up in the Trojan horse, and I also have cups engraved with the gladiatorial contests of Hermeros and Petraites: they're all heavy, too. I wouldn't sell my taste in these matters for any money!" A slave dropped a cup while he was running on in this fashion. Glaring at him, Trimalchio said, "Go hang yourself, since you're so careless." The boy's lip quivered and he immediately commenced to beg for mercy. "Why do you pray to me?" Trimalchio demanded, at this: "I don't intend to be harsh with you, I'm only warning you against being so awkward." Finally, however, we got him to give the boy a pardon and no sooner had this been done than the slave started running around the room crying, "Out with the water and in with the wine!" We all paid tribute to this joke, but Agamemnon in particular, for he well knew what strings to pull in order to secure another invitation to dinner. Tickled by our flattery, and mellowed by the wine, Trimalchio was just about drunk. "Why hasn't one of you asked my Fortunata to dance?" he demanded, "There's no one can do a better cancan, believe me," and he himself raised his arms above his head and favored us with an impersonation of Syrus the actor; the whole household chanting:
in chorus, and he would have danced out into the middle of the room before us all, had not Fortunata whispered in his ear, telling him, I suppose, that such low buffoonery was not in keeping with his dignity. But nothing could be so changeable as his humor, for one minute he stood in awe of Fortunata, but his natural propensities would break out the next.
But his passion for dancing was interrupted at this stage by a stenographer who read aloud, as if he were reading the public records, "On the seventh of the Kalends of July, on Trimalchio's estates near Cumae, were born thirty boys and forty girls: five hundred pecks of wheat were taken from the threshing floors and stored in the granaries: five hundred oxen were put to yoke: the slave Mithridates was crucified on the same date for cursing the genius of our master, Gaius: on said date ten million sesterces were returned to the vaults as no sound investment could be found: on said date, a fire broke out in the gardens at Pompeii, said fire originating in the house of Nasta, the bailiff." "What's that?" demanded Trimalchio. "When were the gardens at Pompeii bought for me?" "Why, last year," answered the stenographer, "for that reason the item has not appeared in the accounts." Trimalchio flew into a rage at this. "If I'm not told within six months of any real estate that's bought for me," he shouted, "I forbid it's being carried to my account at all!" Next, the edicts of his aediles were read aloud, and the wills of some of his foresters in which Trimalchio was disinherited by a codicil, then the names of his bailiffs, and that of a freedwoman who had been repudiated by a night watchman, after she had been caught in bed with a bath attendant, that of a porter banished to Baioe, a steward who was standing trial, and lastly the report of a decision rendered in the matter of a lawsuit, between some valets. When this was over with, some rope dancers came in and a very boresome fool stood holding a ladder, ordering his boy to dance from rung to rung, and finally at the top, all this to the music of popular airs; then the boy was compelled to jump through blazing hoops while grasping a huge wine jar with his teeth. Trimalchio was the only one who was much impressed by these tricks, remarking that it was a thankless calling and adding that in all the world there were just two things which could give him acute pleasure, rope-dancers and horn blowers; all other entertainments were nothing but nonsense. "I bought a company of comedians," he went on, "but I preferred for them to put on Atellane farces, and I ordered my flute-player to play Latin airs only."
While our noble Gaius was still talking away, the boy slipped and fell, alighting upon Trimalchio's arm. The whole household cried out, as did also the guests, not that they bore such a coarse fellow any good will, as they would gladly have seen his neck broken, but because such an unlucky ending to the dinner might make it necessary for them to go into mourning over a total stranger. As for Trimalchio, he groaned heavily and bent over his arm as though it had been injured: doctors flocked around him, and Fortunata was among the very first, her hair was streaming and she held a cup in her hand and screamed out her grief and unhappiness. As for the boy who had fallen, he was crawling at our feet, imploring pardon. I was uneasy for fear his prayers would lead up to some ridiculous theatrical climax, for I had not yet been able to forget that cook who had forgotten to bowel that hog, and so, for this reason, I began to scan the whole dining-room very closely, to see if an automaton would come out through the wall; and all the more so as a slave was beaten for having bound up his master's bruised arm in white wool instead of purple. Nor was my suspicion unjustified, for in place of punishment, Trimalchio ordered that the boy be freed, so that no one could say that so exalted a personage had been injured by a slave.
We applauded his action and engaged in a discussion upon the instability of human affairs, which many took sides. "A good reason," declared Trimalchio, "why such an occasion shouldn't slip by without an epigram." He called for his tablets at once, and after racking his brains for a little while, he got off the following:
The unexpected will turn up;
Our whole lives Fortune bungles up.
Falernian, boy, hand round the cup.
This epigram led up to a discussion of the poets, and for a long time, the greatest praise was bestowed upon Mopsus the Thracian, until Trimalchio broke in with: "Professor, I wish you'd tell me how you'd compare Cicero and Publilius. I'm of the opinion that the first was the more eloquent, but that the last moralizes more beautifully, for what can excel these lines?
Insatiable luxury crumbles the walls of war;
To satiate gluttony, peacocks in coops are brought
Arrayed in gold plumage like Babylon tapestry rich.
Numidian guinea-fowls, capons, all perish for thee:
And even the wandering stork, welcome guest that he is,
The emblem of sacred maternity, slender of leg
And gloctoring exile from winter, herald of spring,
Still, finds his last nest in the--cauldron of gluttony base.
India surrenders her pearls; and what mean they to thee?
That thy wife decked with sea-spoils adorning her breast and her head
On the couch of a stranger lies lifting adulterous legs?
The emerald green, the glass bauble, what mean they to thee?
Or the fire of the ruby? Except that pure chastity shine
From the depth of the jewels: in garments of woven wind clad
Our brides might as well take their stand, their game naked to stalk,
As seek it in gossamer tissue transparent as air."
"What should we say was the hardest calling, after literature?" he asked. "That of the doctor or that of the money-changer, I would say: the doctor, because he has to know what poor devils have got in their insides, and when the fever's due: but I hate them like the devil, for my part, because they're always ordering me on a diet of duck soup: and the money-changer's, because he's got to be able to see the silver through the copper plating. When we come to the dumb beasts, the oxen and sheep are the hardest worked, the oxen, thanks to whose labor we have bread to chew on, the sheep, because their wool tricks us out so fine. It's the greatest outrage under the sun for people to eat mutton and then wear a tunic. Then there's the bee: in my opinion, they're divine insects because they puke honey, though there are folks that claim that they bring it from Jupiter, and that's the reason they sting, too, for wherever you find a sweet, you'll find a bitter too." He was just putting the philosophers out of business when lottery tickets were passed around in a cup. A slave boy assigned to that duty read aloud the names of the souvenirs: "Silver s--ham," a ham was brought in with some silver vinegar cruets on top of it; "cervical"--something soft for the neck--a piece of the cervix--neck--of a sheep was brought in; "serisapia"--after wit--"and contumelia"--insult--we were given must wafers and an apple-melon--and a phallus--contus--; "porri"--leeks--"and persica," he picked up a whip and a knife; "passeres"--sparrows" and a fly--trap," the answer was raisins--uva passa--and Attic honey; "cenatoria"--a dinner toga--"and forensia"--business dress--he handed out a piece of meat--suggestive of dinner--and a note-book--suggestive of business--; "canale"--chased by a dog--"and pedale"--pertaining to the foot--, a hare and a slipper were brought out; "lamphrey"--murena--"and a letter," he held up a mouse--mus--and a frog--rana--tied together, and a bundle of beet--beta--the Greek letter beta--. We laughed long and loud, there were a thousand of these jokes, more or less, which have now escaped my memory.
But Ascyltos threw off all restraint and ridiculed everything; throwing up his hands, he laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks. At last, one of Trimalchio's fellow-freedmen, the one who had the place next to me, flew into a rage, "What's the joke, sheep's-head," he bawled, "Don't our host's swell entertainment suit you? You're richer than he is, I suppose, and used to dining better! As I hope the guardian spirit of this house will be on my side, I'd have stopped his bleating long ago if I'd been sitting next to him. He's a peach, he is, laughing at others; some vagabond or other from who-knows-where, some night-pad who's not worth his own piss: just let me piss a ring around him and he wouldn't know where to run to! I ain't easy riled, no, by Hercules, I ain't, but worms breed in tender flesh. Look at him laugh! What the hell's he got to laugh at? Is his family so damned fine-haired? So you're a Roman knight! Well, I'm a king's son! How's it come that you've been a slave, you'll ask because I put myself into service because I'd rather be a Roman citizen than a tax-paying provincial. And now I hope that my life will be such that no one can jeer at me. I'm a man among men! I take my stroll bareheaded and owe no man a copper cent. I never had a summons in my life and no one ever said to me, in the forum, pay me what you owe me. I've bought a few acres and saved up a few dollars and I feed twenty bellies and a dog. I ransomed my bedfellow so no one could wipe his hands on her bosom; a thousand dinars it cost me, too. I was chosen priest of Augustus without paying the fee, and I hope that I won't need to blush in my grave after I'm dead. But you're so busy that you can't look behind you; you can spot a louse on someone else, all right, but you can't see the tick on yourself. You're the only one that thinks we're so funny; look at your professor, he's older than you are, and we're good enough for him, but you're only a brat with the milk still in your nose and all you can prattle is 'ma' or 'mu,' you're only a clay pot, a piece of leather soaked in water, softer and slipperier, but none the better for that. You've got more coin than we have, have you? Then eat two breakfasts and two dinners a day. I'd rather have my reputation than riches, for my part, and before I make an end of this--who ever dunned me twice? In all the forty years I was in service, no one could tell whether I was free or a slave. I was only a long-haired boy when I came to this colony and the town house was not built then. I did my best to please my master and he was a digniferous and majestical gentleman whose nail-parings were worth more than your whole carcass. I had enemies in his house, too, who would have been glad to trip me up, but I swam the flood, thanks to his kindness. Those are the things that try your mettle, for it's as easy to be born a gentleman as to say, 'Come here.' Well, what are you gaping at now, like a billy-goat in a vetch-field?"
Giton, who had been standing at my feet, and who had for some time been holding in his laughter, burst into an uproarious guffaw, at this last figure of speech, and when Ascyltos' adversary heard it, he turned his abuse upon the boy. "What's so funny, you curly-headed onion," he bellowed, "are the Saturnalia here, I'd like to know? Is it December now?
"When did you pay your twentieth? What's this to you, you gallows-bird, you crow's meat? I'll call the anger of Jupiter down on you and that master of yours, who don't keep you in better order. If I didn't respect my fellow-freedmen, I'd give you what is coming to you right here on the spot, as I hope to get my belly full of bread, I would. We'll get along well enough, but those that can't control you are fools; like master like man's a true saying. I can hardly hold myself in and I'm not hot-headed by nature, but once let me get a start and I don't care two cents for my own mother. All right, I'll catch you in the street, you rat, you toadstool. May I never grow an inch up or down if I don't push your master into a dunghill, and I'll give you the same medicine, I will, by Hercules, I will, no matter if you call down Olympian Jupiter himself! I'll take care of your eight inch ringlets and your two cent master into the bargain. I'll have my teeth into you, either you'll cut out the laughing, or I don't know myself. Yes, even if you had a golden beard. I'll bring the wrath of Minerva down on you and on the fellow that first made a come-here out of you. No, I never learned geometry or criticism or other foolishness like that, but I know my capital letters and I can divide any figure by a hundred, be it in asses, pounds or sesterces. Let's have a show-down, you and I will make a little bet, here's my coin; you'll soon find out that your father's money was wasted on your education, even if you do know a little rhetoric. How's this--what part of us am I? I come far, I come wide, now guess me! I'll give you another. What part of us runs but never moves from its place? What part of us grows but always grows less? But you scurry around and are as flustered and fidgeted as a mouse in a piss-pot. Shut up and don't annoy your betters, who don't even know that you've been born. Don't think that I'm impressed by those boxwood armlets that you did your mistress out of. Occupo will back me! Let's go into the forum and borrow money, then you'll see whether this iron ring means credit! Bah! A draggled fox is a fine sight, ain't it'? I hope I never get rich and die decently so that the people will swear by my death, if I don't hound you everywhere with my toga turned inside out. And the fellow that taught you such manners did a good job too, a chattering ape, all right, no schoolmaster. We were better taught. 'Is everything in its place?' the master would ask; go straight home and don't stop and stare at everything and don't be impudent to your elders. Don't loiter along looking in at the shops. No second raters came out of that school. I'm what you see me and I thank the gods it's all due to my own cleverness."
Ascyltos was just starting in to answer this indictment when Trimalchio, who was delighted with his fellow-freedman's tirade, broke in, "Cut out the bickering and let's have things pleasant here. Let up on the young fellow, Hermeros, he's hot-blooded, so you ought to be more reasonable. The loser's always the winner in arguments of this kind. And as for you, even when you were a young punk you used to go 'Co-co co-co,' like a hen after a rooster, but you had no pep. Let's get to better business and start the fun all over again and watch the Homerists." A troupe filed in, immediately, and clashed spears against shields. Trimalchio sat himself up on his cushion and intoned in Latin, from a book, while the actors, in accordance with their conceited custom, recited their parts in the Greek language. There came a pause, presently, and "You don't any of you know the plot of the skit they're putting on, do you?" he asked, "Diomedes and Ganymede were two brothers, and Helen was their sister; Agamemnon ran away with her and palmed off a doe on Diana, in her place, so Homer tells how the Trojans and Parentines fought among themselves. Of course Agamemnon was victorious, and gave his daughter Iphigenia, to Achilles, for a wife: This caused Ajax to go mad, and he'll soon make the whole thing plain to you." The Homerists raised a shout, as soon as Trimalchio had done speaking, and, as the whole familia stepped back, a boiled calf with a helmet on its head was brought in on an enormous platter. Ajax followed and rushed upon it with drawn sword, as if he were insane, he made passes with the flat, and again with the edge, and then, collecting the slices, he skewered them, and, much to our astonishment, presented them to us on the point of his sword.
But we were not given long in which to admire the elegance of such service, for all of a sudden the ceiling commenced to creak and then the whole dining-room shook. I leaped to my feet in consternation, for fear some rope-walker would fall down, and the rest of the company raised their faces, wondering as much as I what new prodigy was to be announced from on high. Then lo and behold! the ceiling panels parted and an enormous hoop, which appeared to have been knocked off a huge cask, was lowered from the dome above; its perimeter was hung with golden chaplets and jars of alabaster filled with perfume. We were asked to accept these articles as souvenirs. When my glance returned to the table, I noticed that a dish containing cakes had been placed upon it, and in the middle an image of Priapus, made by the baker, and he held apples of all varieties and bunches of grapes against his breast, in the conventional manner. We applied ourselves wholeheartedly to this dessert and our joviality was suddenly revived by a fresh diversion, for, at the slightest pressure, all the cakes and fruits would squirt a saffron sauce upon us, and even spurted unpleasantly into our faces. Being convinced that these perfumed dainties had some religious significance, we arose in a body and shouted, "Hurrah for the Emperor, the father of his country!" However, as we perceived that even after this act of veneration, the others continued helping themselves, we filled our napkins with the apples. I was especially keen on this, for I thought I could never put enough good things into Giton's lap. Three slaves entered, in the meantime, dressed in white tunics well tucked up, and two of them placed Lares with amulets hanging from their necks, upon the table, while the third carried round a bowl of wine and cried, "May the gods be propitious!" One was called Cerdo--business--, Trimalchio informed us, the other Lucrio--luck--and the third Felicio--profit--and, when all the rest had kissed a true likeness of Trimalchio, we were ashamed to pass it by.
After they had all wished each other sound minds and good health, Trimalchio turned to Niceros. "You used to be better company at dinner," he remarked, "and I don't know why you should be dumb today, with never a word to say. If you wish to make me happy, tell about that experience you had, I beg of you." Delighted at the affability of his friend, "I hope I lose all my luck if I'm not tickled to death at the humor I see you in," Niceros replied. "All right, let's go the limit for a good time, though I'm afraid these scholars'll laugh at me, but I'll tell my tale and they can go as far as they like. What t'hell do I care who laughs? It's better to be laughed at than laughed down." These words spake the hero, and began the following tale: "We lived in a narrow street in the house Gavilla now owns, when I was a slave. There, by the will of the gods, I fell in love with the wife of Terentius, the innkeeper; you knew Melissa of Tarentum, that pretty round-checked little wench. It was no carnal passion, so hear me, Hercules, it wasn't; I was not in love with her physical charms. No, it was because she was such a good sport. I never asked her for a thing and had her deny me; if she had an as, I had half. I trusted her with everything I had and never was done out of anything. Her husband up and died on the place, one day, so I tried every way I could to get to her, for you know friends ought to show up when anyone's in a pinch.
"It so happened that our master had gone to Capua to attend to some odds and ends of business and I seized the opportunity, and persuaded a guest of the house to accompany me as far as the fifth mile-stone. He was a soldier, and as brave as the very devil. We set out about cock-crow, the moon was shining as bright as midday, and came to where the tombstones are. My man stepped aside amongst them, but I sat down, singing, and commenced to count them up. When I looked around for my companion, he had stripped himself and piled his clothes by the side of the road. My heart was in my mouth, and I sat there while he pissed a ring around them and was suddenly turned into a wolf! Now don't think I'm joking, I wouldn't lie for any amount of money, but as I was saying, he commenced to howl after he was turned into a wolf, and ran away into the forest. I didn't know where I was for a minute or two, then I went to his clothes, to pick them up, and damned if they hadn't turned to stone! Was ever anyone nearer dead from fright than me? Then I whipped out my sword and cut every shadow along the road to bits, till I came to the house of my mistress. I looked like a ghost when I went in, and I nearly slipped my wind. The sweat was pouring down my crotch, my eyes were staring, and I could hardly be brought around. My Melissa wondered why I was out so late. "Oh, if you'd only come sooner," she said, "you could have helped us: a wolf broke into the folds and attacked the sheep, bleeding them like a butcher. But he didn't get the laugh on me, even if he did get away, for one of the slaves ran his neck through with a spear!" I couldn't keep my eyes shut any longer when I heard that, and as soon as it grew light, I rushed back to our Gaius' house like an innkeeper beaten out of his bill, and when I came to the place where the clothes had been turned into stone, there was nothing but a pool of blood! And moreover, when I got home, my soldier was lying in bed, like an ox, and a doctor was dressing his neck! I knew then that he was a werewolf, and after that, I couldn't have eaten a crumb of bread with him, no, not if you had killed me. Others can think what they please about this, but as for me, I hope your geniuses will all get after me if I lie."
We were all dumb with astonishment, when "I take your story for granted," said Trimalchio, "and if you'll believe me, my hair stood on end, and all the more, because I know that Niceros never talks nonsense: he's always level-headed, not a bit gossipy. And now I'll tell you a hair-raiser myself, though I'm like a jackass on a slippery pavement compared to him. When I was a long-haired boy, for I lived a Chian life from my youth up, my master's minion died. He was a jewel, so hear me Hercules, he was, perfect in every facet. While his sorrow-stricken mother was bewailing his loss, and the rest of us were lamenting with her, the witches suddenly commenced to screech so loud that you would have thought a hare was being run down by the hounds! At that time, we had a Cappadocian slave, tall, very bold, and he had muscle too; he could hold a mad bull in the air! He wrapped a mantle around his left arm, boldly rushed out of doors with drawn sword, and ran a woman through the middle about here, no harm to what I touch. We heard a scream, but as a matter of fact, for I won't lie to you, we didn't catch sight of the witches themselves. Our simpleton came back presently, and threw himself upon the bed. His whole body was black and blue, as if he had been flogged with whips, and of course the reason of that was she had touched him with her evil hand! We shut the door and returned to our business, but when the mother put her arms around the body of her son, it turned out that it was only a straw bolster, no heart, no guts, nothing! Of course the witches had swooped down upon the lad and put the straw changeling in his place! Believe me or not, suit yourselves, but I say that there are women that know too much, and night-hags, too, and they turn everything upside down! And as for the long-haired booby, he never got back his own natural color and he died, raving mad, a few days later."
Though we wondered greatly, we believed none the less implicitly and, kissing the table, we besought the night-hags to attend to their own affairs while we were returning home from dinner. As far as I was concerned, the lamps already seemed to burn double and the whole dining-room was going round, when "See here, Plocamus," Trimalchio spoke up, "haven't you anything to tell us? You haven't entertained us at all, have you? And you used to be fine company, always ready to oblige with a recitation or a song. The gods bless us, how the green figs have fallen!" "True for you," the fellow answered, "since I've got the gout my sporting days are over; but in the good old times when I was a young spark, I nearly sang myself into a consumption. How I used to dance! And take my part in a farce, or hold up my end in the barber shops! Who could hold a candle to me except, of course, the one and only Apelles?" He then put his hand to his mouth and hissed out some foul gibberish or other, and said afterwards that it was Greek. Trimalchio himself then favored us with an impersonation of a man blowing a trumpet, and when he had finished, he looked around for his minion, whom he called Croesus, a blear-eyed slave whose teeth were very disagreeably discolored. He was playing with a little black bitch, disgustingly fat, wrapping her up in a leek-green scarf and teasing her with a half-loaf of bread which he had put on the couch; and when from sheer nausea, she refused it, he crammed it down her throat. This sight put Trimalchio in mind of his own dog and he ordered Scylax, "the guardian of his house and home," to be brought in. An enormous dog was immediately led in upon a chain and, obeying a kick from the porter, it lay down beside the table. Thereupon Trimalchio remarked, as he threw it a piece of white bread, "No one in all my house loves me better than Scylax." Enraged at Trimalchio's praising Scylax so warmly, the slave put the bitch down upon the floor and sicked her on to fight. Scylax, as might have been expected from such a dog, made the whole room ring with his hideous barking and nearly shook the life out of the little bitch which the slave called Pearl. Nor did the uproar end in a dog fight, a candelabrum was upset upon the table, breaking the glasses and spattering some of the guests with hot oil. As Trimalchio did not wish to seem concerned at the loss, he kissed the boy and ordered him to climb upon his own back. The slave did not hesitate but, mounting his rocking-horse, he beat Trimalchio's shoulders with his open palms, yelling with laughter, "Buck! Buck! How many fingers do I hold up!" When Trimalchio had, in a measure, regained his composure, which took but a little while, he ordered that a huge vessel be filled with mixed wine, and that drinks be served to all the slaves sitting around our feet, adding as an afterthought, "If anyone refuses to drink, pour it on his head: business is business, but now's the time for fun."
The dainties that followed this display of affability were of such a nature that, if any reliance is to be placed in my word, the very mention of them makes me sick at the stomach. Instead of thrushes, fattened chickens were served, one to each of us, and goose eggs with pastry caps on them, which same Trimalchio earnestly entreated us to eat, informing us that the chickens had all been boned. Just at that instant, however, a lictor knocked at the dining-room door, and a reveler, clad in white vestments, entered, followed by a large retinue. Startled at such pomp, I thought that the Praetor had arrived, so I put my bare feet upon the floor and started to get up, but Agamemnon laughed at my anxiety and said, "Keep your seat, you idiot, it's only Habinnas the sevir; he's a stone mason, and if report speaks true, he makes the finest tombstones imaginable." Reassured by this information, I lay back upon my couch and watched Habinnas' entrance with great curiosity. Already drunk and wearing several wreaths, his forehead smeared with perfume which ran down into his eyes, he advanced with his hands upon his wife's shoulders, and, seating himself in the Praetor's place, he called for wine and hot water. Delighted with his good humor, Trimalchio called for a larger goblet for himself, and asked him, at the same time, how he had been entertained. "We had everything except yourself, for my heart and soul were here, but it was fine, it was, by Hercules. Scissa was giving a Novendial feast for her slave, whom she freed on his death-bed, and it's my opinion she'll have a large sum to split with the tax gatherers, for the dead man was rated at 50,000, but everything went off well, even if we did have to pour half our wine on the bones of the late lamented."
"But," demanded Trimalchio, "what did you have for dinner'?" "I'll tell you if I can," answered he, "for my memory's so good that I often forget my own name. Let's see, for the first course, we had a hog, crowned with a wine cup and garnished with cheese cakes and chicken livers cooked well done, beets, of course, and whole-wheat bread, which I'd rather have than white, because it puts strength into you, and when I take a crap afterwards, I don't have to yell. Following this, came a course of tarts, served cold, with excellent Spanish wine poured over warm honey; I ate several of the tarts and got the honey all over myself. Then there were chick-peas and lupines, all the smooth-shelled nuts you wanted, and an apple apiece, but I got away with two, and here they are, tied up in my napkin; for I'll have a row on my hands if I don't bring some kind of a present home to my favorite slave. Oh yes, my wife has just reminded me, there was a haunch of bear-meat as a side dish, Scintilla ate some of it without knowing what it was, and she nearly puked up her guts when she found out. But as for me, I ate more than a pound of it, for it tasted exactly like wild boar and, says I, if a bear eats a man, shouldn't that be all the more reason for a man to eat a bear? The last course was soft cheese, new wine boiled thick, a snail apiece, a helping of tripe, liver pate, capped eggs, turnips and mustard. But that's enough. Pickled olives were handed around in a wooden bowl, and some of the party greedily snatched three handfuls, we had ham, too, but we sent it back."
"But why isn't Fortunata at the table, Gaius? Tell me." "What's that," Trimalchio replied; "don't you know her better than that? She wouldn't touch even a drop of water till after the silver was put away and the leftovers divided among the slaves." "I'm going to beat it if she don't take her place," Habinnas threatened, and started to get up; and then, at a signal, the slaves all called out together "Fortunata," four times or more.
She appeared, girded round with a sash of greenish yellow, below which a cherry-colored tunic could be seen, and she had on twisted anklets and sandals worked in gold. Then, wiping her hands upon a handkerchief which she wore around her neck, she seated herself upon the couch, beside Scintilla, Habinnas' wife, and clapping her hands and kissing her, "My dear," she gushed, "is it really you?" Fortunata then removed the bracelets from her pudgy arms and held them out to the admiring Scintilla, and by and by she took off her anklets and even her yellow hair-net, which was twenty-four carats fine, she would have us know! Trimalchio, who was on the watch, ordered every trinket to be brought to him. "You see these things, don't you?" he demanded; "they're what women fetter us with. That's the way us poor suckers are done! These ought to weigh six pounds and a half. I have an arm-band myself, that don't weigh a grain under ten pounds; I bought it out of Mercury's thousandths, too." Finally, for fear he would seem to be lying, he ordered the scales to be brought in and carried around to prove the weights. And Scintilla was no better. She took off a small golden vanity case which she wore around her neck, and which she called her Lucky Box, and took from it two eardrops, which, in her turn, she handed to Fortunata to be inspected. "Thanks to the generosity of my husband," she smirked, "no woman has better." "What's that?" Habinnas demanded. "You kept on my trail to buy that glass bean for you; if I had a daughter, I'll be damned if I wouldn't cut off her little ears. We'd have everything as cheap as dirt if there were no women, but we have to piss hot and drink cold, the way things are now." The women, angry though they were, were laughing together, in the meantime, and exchanging drunken kisses, the one running on about her diligence as a housekeeper, and the other about the infidelities and neglect of her husband. Habinnas got up stealthily, while they were clinging together in this fashion and, seizing Fortunata by the feet, he tipped her over backwards upon the couch. "Let go!" she screeched, as her tunic slipped above her knees; then, after pulling down her clothing, she threw herself into Scintilla's lap, and hid, with her handkerchief, a face which was none the more beautiful for its blushes.
After a short interval, Trimalchio gave orders for the dessert to be served, whereupon the slaves took away all the tables and brought in others, and sprinkled the floor with sawdust mixed with saffron and vermilion, and also with powdered mica, a thing I had never seen done before. When all this was done Trimalchio remarked, "I could rest content with this course, for you have your second tables, but, if you've something especially nice, why bring it on." Meanwhile an Alexandrian slave boy, who had been serving hot water, commenced to imitate a nightingale, and when Trimalchio presently called out, "Change your tune," we had another surprise, for a slave, sitting at Habinnas' feet, egged on, I have no doubt, by his own master, bawled suddenly in a singsong voice, "Meanwhile AEneas and all of his fleet held his course on the billowy deep"; never before had my ears been assailed by a sound so discordant, for in addition to his barbarous pronunciation, and the raising and lowering of his voice, he interpolated Atellane verses, and, for the first time in my life, Virgil grated on my nerves. When he had to quit, finally, from sheer want of breath, "Did he ever have any training," Habinnas exclaimed, "no, not he! I educated him by sending him among the grafters at the fair, so when it comes to taking off a barker or a mule driver, there's not his equal, and the rogue's clever, too, he's a shoemaker, or a cook, or a baker a regular jack of all trades. But he has two faults, and if he didn't have them, he'd be beyond all price: he snores and he's been circumcised. And that's the reason he never can keep his mouth shut and always has an eye open. I paid three hundred dinars for him."
"Yes," Scintilla broke in, "and you've not mentioned all of his accomplishments either; he's a pimp too, and I'm going to see that he's branded," she snapped. Trimalchio laughed. "There's where the Cappadocian comes out," he said; "never cheats himself out of anything and I admire him for it, so help me Hercules, I do. No one can show a dead man a good time. Don't be jealous, Scintilla; we're next to you women, too, believe me. As sure as you see me here safe and sound, I used to play at thrust and parry with Mamma, my mistress, and finally even my master got suspicious and sent me back to a stewardship; but keep quiet, tongue, and I'll give you a cake." Taking all this as praise, the wretched slave pulled a small earthen lamp from a fold in his garment, and impersonated a trumpeter for half an hour or more, while Habinnas hummed with him, holding his finger pressed to his lips. Finally, the slave stepped out into the middle of the floor and waved his pipes in imitation of a flute-player; then, with a whip and a smock, he enacted the part of a mule-driver. At last Habinnas called him over and kissed him and said, as he poured a drink for him, "You get better all the time, Massa. I'm going to give you a pair of shoes." Had not the dessert been brought in, we would never have gotten to the end of these stupidities. Thrushes made of pastry and stuffed with nuts and raisins, quinces with spines sticking out so that they looked like sea-urchins. All this would have been endurable enough had it not been for the last dish that was served; so revolting was this, that we would rather have died of starvation than to have even touched it. We thought that a fat goose, flanked with fish and all kinds of birds, had been served, until Trimalchio spoke up. "Everything you see here, my friends," said he, "was made from the same stuff." With my usual keen insight, I jumped to the conclusion that I knew what that stuff was and, turning to Agamemnon, I said, "I shall be greatly surprised, if all those things are not made out of excrement, or out of mud, at the very least: I saw a like artifice practiced at Rome during the Saturnalia."
I had not done speaking, when Trimalchio chimed in, "As I hope to grow fatter in fortune but not in figure, my cook has made all this out of a hog! It would be simply impossible to meet up with a more valuable fellow: he'd make you a fish out of a sow's coynte, if that's what you wanted, a pigeon out of her lard, a turtle-dove out of her ham, and a hen out of a knuckle of pork: that's why I named him Daedalus, in a happy moment. I brought him a present of knives, from Rome, because he's so smart; they're made of Noric steel, too." He ordered them brought in immediately, and looked them over, with admiration, even giving us the chance to try their edges upon our cheeks. Then all of a sudden two slaves came in, carrying on as if they had been fighting at the fountain, at least; each one had a water-jar hanging from a yoke around his neck. Trimalchio arbitrated their difference, but neither would abide by his decision, and each one smashed the other's jar with a club. Perturbed at the insolence of these drunken ruffians, we watched both of them narrowly, while they were fighting, and then, what should come pouring out of the broken jars but oysters and scallops, which a slave picked up and passed around in a dish. The resourceful cook would not permit himself to be outdone by such refinements, but served us with snails on a silver gridiron, and sang continually in a tremulous and very discordant voice. I am ashamed to have to relate what followed, for, contrary to all convention, some long-haired boys brought in unguents in a silver basin and anointed the feet of the reclining guests; but before doing this, however, they bound our thighs and ankles with garlands of flowers. They then perfumed the wine-mixing vessel with the same unguent and poured some of the melted liquid into the lamps. Fortunata had, by this time, taken a notion that she wanted to dance, and Scintilla was doing more hand-clapping than talking, when Trimalchio called out, "Philargyrus, and you too, Carrio, you can both come to the table; even if you are green faction fans, and tell your bedfellow, Menophila, to come too." What would you think happened then? We were nearly crowded off the couches by the mob of slaves that crowded into the dining-room and almost filled it full. As a matter of fact, I noticed that our friend the cook, who had made a goose out of a hog, was placed next to me, and he stunk from sauces and pickle. Not satisfied with a place at the table, he immediately staged an impersonation of Ephesus the tragedian, and then he suddenly offered to bet his master that the greens would take first place in the next circus games.
Trimalchio was hugely tickled at this challenge. "Slaves are men, my friends," he observed, "but that's not all, they sucked the same milk that we did, even if hard luck has kept them down; and they'll drink the water of freedom if I live: to make a long story short, I'm freeing all of them in my will. To Philargyrus, I'm leaving a farm, and his bedfellow, too. Carrio will get a tenement house and his twentieth, and a bed and bedclothes to boot. I'm making Fortunata my heir and I commend her to all my friends. I announce all this in public so that my household will love me as well now as they will when I'm dead." They all commenced to pay tribute to the generosity of their master, when he, putting aside his trifling, ordered a copy of his will brought in, which same he read aloud from beginning to end, to the groaning accompaniment of the whole household. Then, looking at Habinnas, "What say you, my dearest friend," he entreated; "you'll construct my monument in keeping with the plans I've given you, won't you? I earnestly beg that you carve a little bitch at the feet of my statue, some wreaths and some jars of perfume, and all of the fights of Petraites. Then I'll be able to live even after I'm dead, thanks to your kindness. See to it that it has a frontage of one hundred feet and a depth of two hundred. I want fruit trees of every kind planted around my ashes; and plenty of vines, too, for it's all wrong for a man to deck out his house when he's alive, and then have no pains taken with the one he must stay in for a longer time, and that's the reason I particularly desire that this notice be added:
--THIS MONUMENT DOES NOT--
--DESCEND TO AN HEIR--
"In any case, I'll see to it through a clause in my will, that I'm not insulted when I'm dead. And for fear the rabble comes running up into my monument, to crap, I'll appoint one of my freedmen custodian of my tomb. I want you to carve ships under full sail on my monument, and me, in my robes of office, sitting on my tribunal, five gold rings on my fingers, pouring out coin from a sack for the people, for I gave a dinner and two dinars for each guest, as you know. Show a banquet-hall, too, if you can, and the people in it having a good time. On my right, you can place a statue of Fortunata holding a dove and leading a little bitch on a leash, and my favorite boy, and large jars sealed with gypsum, so the wine won't run out; show one broken and a boy crying over it. Put a sun-dial in the middle, so that whoever looks to see what time it is must read my name whether he wants to or not. As for the inscription, think this over carefully, and see if you think it's appropriate:
HERE RESTS G POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO
FREEDMAN OF MAECENAS DECREED
AUGUSTAL, SEVIR IN HIS ABSENCE
HE COULD HAVE BEEN A MEMBER OF
EVERY DECURIA OF ROME BUT WOULD
NOT CONSCIENTIOUS BRAVE LOYAL
HE GREW RICH FROM LITTLE AND LEFT
THIRTY MILLION SESTERCES BEHIND
HE NEVER HEARD A PHILOSOPHER
When he had repeated these words, Trimalchio began to weep copiously, Fortunata was crying already, and so was Habinnas, and at last, the whole household filled the dining-room with their lamentations, just as if they were taking part in a funeral. Even I was beginning to sniffle, when Trimalchio said, "Let's live while we can, since we know we've all got to die. I'd rather see you all happy, anyhow, so let's take a plunge in the bath. You'll never regret it. I'll bet my life on that, it's as hot as a furnace!" "Fine business," seconded Habinnas, "there's nothing suits me better than making two days out of one," and he got up in his bare feet to follow Trimalchio, who was clapping his hands. I looked at Ascyltos. "What do you think about this?" I asked. "The very sight of a bath will be the death of me." "Let's fall in with his suggestion," he replied, "and while they are hunting for the bath we will escape in the crowd." Giton led us out through the porch, when we had reached this understanding, and we came to a door, where a dog on a chain startled us so with his barking that Ascyltos immediately fell into the fish-pond. As for myself, I was tipsy and had been badly frightened by a dog that was only a painting, and when I tried to haul the swimmer out, I was dragged into the pool myself. The porter finally came to our rescue, quieted the dog by his appearance, and pulled us, shivering, to dry land. Giton had ransomed himself by a very cunning scheme, for what we had saved for him, from dinner, he threw to the barking brute, which then calmed its fury and became engrossed with the food. But when, with chattering teeth, we besought the porter to let us out at the door, "If you think you can leave by the same door you came in at," he replied, "you're mistaken: no guest is ever allowed to go out through the same door he came in at; some are for entrance, others for exit."
What were we miserable wretches to do, shut up in this newfangled labyrinth. The idea of taking a hot bath had commenced to grow in favor, so we finally asked the porter to lead us to the place and, throwing off our clothing, which Giton spread out in the hall to dry, we went in. It was very small, like a cold water cistern; Trimalchio was standing upright in it, and one could not escape his disgusting bragging even here. He declared that there was nothing nicer than bathing without a mob around, and that a bakery had formerly occupied this very spot. Tired out at last, he sat down, but when the echoes of the place tempted him, he lifted his drunken mouth to the ceiling, and commenced murdering the songs of Menacrates, at least that is what we were told by those who understood his language. Some of the guests joined hands and ran around the edge of the pool, making the place ring with their boisterous peals of laughter; others tried to pick rings up from the floor, with their hands tied behind them, or else, going down upon their knees, tried to touch the ends of their toes by bending backwards. We went down into the pool while the rest were taking part in such amusements. It was being heated for Trimalchio. When the fumes of the wine had been dissipated, we were conducted into another dining-room where Fortunata had laid out her own treasures; I noticed, for instance, that there were little bronze fishermen upon the lamps, the tables were of solid silver, the cups were porcelain inlaid with gold; before our eyes wine was being strained through a straining cloth. "One of my slaves shaves his first beard today," Trimalchio remarked, at length, "a promising, honest, thrifty lad; may he have no bad luck, so let's get our skins full and stick around till morning."
He had not ceased speaking when a cock crowed! Alarmed at this omen, Trimalchio ordered wine thrown under the table and told them to sprinkle the lamps with it; and he even went so far as to change his ring from his left hand to his right. "That trumpeter did not sound off without a reason," he remarked; "there's either a fire in the neighborhood, or else someone's going to give up the ghost. I hope it's none of us! Whoever brings that Jonah in shall have a present." He had no sooner made this promise, than a cock was brought in from somewhere in the neighborhood and Trimalchio ordered the cook to prepare it for the pot. That same versatile genius who had but a short time before made birds and fish out of a hog, cut it up; it was then consigned to the kettle, and while Daedalus was taking a long hot drink, Fortunata ground pepper in a boxwood mill. When these delicacies had been consumed, Trimalchio looked the slaves over. "You haven't had anything to eat yet, have you?" he asked. "Get out and let another relay come on duty." Thereupon a second relay came in. "Farewell, Gaius," cried those going off duty, and "Hail, Gaius," cried those coming on. Our hilarity was somewhat dampened soon after, for a boy, who was by no means bad looking, came in among the fresh slaves. Trimalchio seized him and kissed him lingeringly, whereupon Fortunata, asserting her rights in the house, began to rail at Trimalchio, styling him an abomination who set no limits to his lechery, finally ending by calling him a dog. Trimalchio flew into a rage at her abuse and threw a wine cup at her head, whereupon she screeched, as if she had had an eye knocked out and covered her face with her trembling hands. Scintilla was frightened, too, and shielded the shuddering woman with her garment. An officious slave presently held a cold water pitcher to her cheek and Fortunata bent over it, sobbing and moaning. But as for Trimalchio, "What the hell's next?" he gritted out, "this Syrian dancing-whore don't remember anything! I took her off the auction block and made her a woman among her equals, didn't I? And here she puffs herself up like a frog and pukes in her own nest; she's a blockhead, all right, not a woman. But that's the way it is, if you're born in an attic you can't sleep in a palace I'll see that this booted Cassandra's tamed, so help me my Genius, I will! And I could have married ten million, even if I did only have two cents: you know I'm not lying! 'Let me give you a tip,' said Agatho, the perfumer to the lady next door, when he pulled me aside: 'don't let your line die out!' And here I've stuck the ax into my own leg because I was a damned fool and didn't want to seem fickle. I'll see to it that you're more careful how you claw me up, sure as you're born, I will! That you may realize how seriously I take what you've done to me-- Habinnas, I don't want you to put her statue on my tomb for fear I'll be nagged even after I'm dead! And furthermore, that she may know I can repay a bad turn, I won't have her kissing me when I'm laid out!"
When Trimalchio had launched this thunderbolt, Habinnas commenced to beg him to control his anger. "There's not one of us but goes wrong sometimes," argued he; "we're not gods, we're men." Scintilla also cried out through her tears, calling him "Gaius," and entreating him by his guardian angel to be mollified. Trimalchio could restrain the tears no longer. "Habinnas," he blubbered, "as you hope to enjoy your money, spit in my face if I've done anything wrong. I kissed him because he's very thrifty, not because he's a pretty boy. He can recite his division table and read a book at sight: he bought himself a Thracian uniform from his savings from his rations, and a stool and two dippers, with his own money, too. He's worth my attention, ain't he? But Fortunata won't see it! Ain't that the truth, you high-stepping hussy'? Let me beg you to make the best of what you've got, you shekite, and don't make me show my teeth, my little darling, or you'll find out what my temper's like! Believe me, when once I've made up my mind, I'm as fixed as a spike in a beam! But let's think of the living. I hope you'll all make yourselves at home, gentlemen: I was in your fix myself once; but rose to what I am now by my own merit. It's the brains that makes the man, all the rest's bunk. I buy well, I sell well, someone else will tell you a different story, but as for myself, I'm fairly busting with prosperity. What, grunting-sow, still bawling? I'll see to it that you've something to bawl for, but as I started to say, it was my thrift that brought me to my fortune. I was just as tall as that candlestick when I came over from Asia; every day I used to measure myself by it, and I would smear my lips with oil so my beard would sprout all the sooner. I was my master's 'mistress' for fourteen years, for there's nothing wrong in doing what your master orders, and I satisfied my mistress, too, during that time, you know what I mean, but I'll say no more, for I'm not one of your braggarts!"
"At last it came about by the will of the gods that I was master in the house, and I had the real master under my thumb then. What is there left to tell? I was made co-heir with Caesar and came into a Senator's fortune. But nobody's ever satisfied with what he's got, so I embarked in business. I won't keep you long in suspense; I built five ships and loaded them with wine--worth its weight in gold, it was then--and sent them to Rome. You'd think I'd ordered it so, for every last one of them foundered; it's a fact, no fairy tale about it, and Neptune swallowed thirty million sesterces in one day! You don't think I lost my pep, do you? By Hercules, no! That was only an appetizer for me, just as if nothing at all had happened. I built other and bigger ships, better found, too, so no one could say I wasn't game. A big ship's a big venture, you know. I loaded them up with wine again, bacon, beans, Capuan perfumes, and slaves: Fortunata did the right thing in this affair, too, for she sold every piece of jewelry and all her clothes into the bargain, and put a hundred gold pieces in my hand. They were the nest-egg of my fortune. A thing's soon done when the gods will it; I cleared ten million sesterces by that voyage, all velvet, and bought in all the estates that had belonged to my patron, right away. I built myself a house and bought cattle to resell, and whatever I touched grew just like a honeycomb. I chucked the game when I got to have an income greater than all the revenues of my own country, retired from business, and commenced to back freedmen. I never liked business anyhow, as far as that goes, and was just about ready to quit when an astrologer, a Greek fellow he was, and his name was Serapa, happened to light in our colony, and he slipped me some information and advised me to quit. He was hep to all the secrets of the gods: told me things about myself that I'd forgotten, and explained everything to me from needle and thread up; knew me inside out, he did, and only stopped short of telling me what I'd had for dinner the day before. You'd have thought he'd lived with me always!"
"Habinnas, you were there, I think, I'll leave it to you; didn't he say--'You took your wife out of a whore-house'? you're as lucky in your friends, too, no one ever repays your favor with another, you own broad estates, you nourish a viper under your wing, and--why shouldn't I tell it--I still have thirty years, four months, and two days to live! I'll also come into another bequest shortly. That's what my horoscope tells me. If I can extend my boundaries so as to join Apulia, I'll think I've amounted to something in this life! I built this house with Mercury on the job, anyhow; it was a hovel, as you know, it's a palace now! Four dining-rooms, twenty bed-rooms, two marble colonnades, a store-room upstairs, a bed-room where I sleep myself, a sitting-room for this viper, a very good room for the porter, a guest-chamber for visitors. As a matter of fact, Scaurus, when he was here, would stay nowhere else, although he has a family place on the seashore. I'll show you many other things, too, in a jiffy; believe me, if you have an as, you'll be rated at what you have. So your humble servant, who was a frog, is now a king. Stychus, bring out my funereal vestments while we wait, the ones I'll be carried out in, some perfume, too, and a draught of the wine in that jar, I mean the kind I intend to have my bones washed in."
It was not long before Stychus brought a white shroud and a purple-bordered toga into the dining-room, and Trimalchio requested us to feel them and see if they were pure wool. Then, with a smile, "Take care, Stychus, that the mice don't get at these things and gnaw them, or the moths either. I'll burn you alive if they do. I want to be carried out in all my glory so all the people will wish me well." Then, opening a jar of nard, he had us all anointed. "I hope I'll enjoy this as well when I'm dead," he remarked, "as I do while I'm alive." He then ordered wine to be poured into the punch-bowl. "Pretend," said he, "that you're invited to my funeral feast." The thing had grown positively nauseating, when Trimalchio, beastly drunk by now, bethought himself of a new and singular diversion and ordered some horn- blowers brought into the dining-room. Then, propped up by many cushions, he stretched himself out upon the couch. "Let on that I'm dead," said he, "and say something nice about me." The horn-blowers sounded off a loud funeral march together, and one in particular, a slave belonging to an undertaker, made such a fanfare that he roused the whole neighborhood, and the watch, which was patrolling the vicinity, thinking Trimalchio's house was afire, suddenly smashed in the door and rushed in with their water and axes, as is their right, raising a rumpus all their own. We availed ourselves of this happy circumstance and, leaving Agamemnon in the lurch, we took to our heels, as though we were running away from a real conflagration.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59