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extent, I found that, instead of a bird, I had become changed into an
Our readers must not expect the fairy fancy of the Midsummer Night's Dream in what follows.
Fotis, in her eagerness, had mistaken the box; and, though a compound of rose-leaves would have reversed the transformation, she had neglected to weave for her lover his evening chaplet, and he must take his place in the stable till they can be gathered at dawn of day. But at midnight Milo's house was sacked by a band of robbers, and long before morning Lucius, laden with the spoils of his late host, was far on the road to their cave in the mountains.
This cave is supposed to have suggested the corresponding scene in Gil Blas. The presiding genius — its dame Leonarda —was a crone bent double with age, and with the voice of a screech-owl, who attended upon the robbers, and received in return a rich reward of invective upon her habits and appearance. Soon another inmate arrived, a young lady whom the robbers captured in one of their raids. They handed her over to the beldame for consolation, but kind words, and harsh looks, were alike unavailing; so promising her an old wive's tale, she repeated the legend how ! celestial Cupid'
* Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
Make her his eternal bride.' The lady listened, and was soothed; and Lucius, forgetting his transformation, regretted that he had not his pen and tablets, to note down every word. Relief, however, more substantial was at hand. The robbers had taken the resolution to slay Lucius, and sew the lady up in his hide, when a young man offered himself as a volunteer to the horde, and they were induced, from his commanding stature, his boasted achievements, and the rich prize he threw into the common stock, to take him at once as their leader. The youth was the lady's lover, and by his manæuvres soon effected her deliverance. All the inhabitants of her native city turned out to welcome her when she made her triumphal entry on the back of Lucius, and he, to testify his sympathy in the public rejoicing, made the place ring with brayings, according to his own account, as loud as thunder. • It would be tedious to follow him through his succeeding misfortunes, so we will pass to the time he spent in the service of a band of mendicant priests. He has described this passage of his life at some length.
The priests presented a fantastic appearance. Their faces
were painted, and the insides of their eyelids darkened after the manner of Eastern women. They wore white tunics striped with purple, turbans, and yellow sandals. Their arms were bare, and in their hands were large swords or axes. In this guise, they danced along in procession with a wild step to the music of flutes, cymbals, and castanets, till they arrived at the mansion of some rich proprietor, who was willing to repay a grand exhibition of their rites. Those rites were gloomy and hideous. As the band entered, they made the premises ring with discordant howlings, and ran to and fro with frantic gestures. They whirled their heads till their long hair stood out on end, and tore their flesh with their teeth and knives. Then one of the party, taking the lead, and panting deeply, pretended to be the subject of a more complete possession ;-as though, says Lucius, the presence of the gods made men weak instead of strong. In a loud chaunt, he accused himself of some imaginary violation of their rules, requiring for its expiation punishment from his own hand. Seizing a whip, strung with the knucklebones of sheep, — the peculiar implement of their order, - he lashed himself severely, without betraying the least sense of pain. This exhibition continued till the earth was moistened with blood. At its close, the spectators vied in offering them money and presents of every kind, which the flagellants, well provided with wallets for the purpose, greedily scraped together and piled upon Lucius, who discharged the double function of a locomotive granary and temple.'
In this way they plundered the whole neighbourhood. Once indeed, they were discovered while performing some disgraceful orgies, and compelled, for fear of public ridicule, to decamp. But no sooner had they got beyond the reach of this report, than they were again received everywhere with reverence. Nor was this feeling confined to the lower classes. On their approach to a town of considerable importance, one of the principal inhabitants, “a religious man and one that feared the
gods greatly,' hearing the cymbals, came out to meet them, and hospitably entertained them during their stay. At another place, they were pampered for several days at the public expense. Here they were held in high repute for their skill in divination. They were consulted on all the important emergencies of life, — the choice of a wife, the purchase of a farm, the success of a journey, or an expedition against banditti. Their fees were large, and their labour small, for they answered all comers in one formula, which the craft of the priests interpreted to suit each particular case. At length, however, their knavery was exposed. Under pretence of celebrating their secret rites, they repaired to the temple of the Mother of the Gods, and stole thence a sacred goblet. The theft was speedily discovered; the whole band was summarily thrown into prison; and Lucius put up to auction.
He was bought by a baker, "a kind-hearted and highly • respectable man.' We are careful to give his character, that his establishment may not be supposed to imply monstrous inhumanity. It was one of the workhouses into which were crowded the slaves who formed the manufacturing population of the Roman world. We are not often admitted to see their interior. Profound indifference rather than any desire of concealment has caused our exclusion. Ancient writers did not care to describe what none cared to read. But this indifference had for some time been giving way. Seneca had laid down s new rule for the treatment of slaves, that a man should do to his inferiors as he would his superiors should do to him. Hadrian and Antoninus Pius took the first steps towards embodying in laws the maxims of the Stoic philosopher. The absolute jurisdiction of life and death over slaves was transferred from their masters to the prefect of the city. They were allowed to appeal to him in cases of cruelty, starvation, and gross personal affront. It is to this altered state of public feeling we probably owe the following account of Lucius's first view of the human inmates of their common abode.
• What a stunted set of human beings did I see before me! Their lacerated backs and shoulders, shaded rather than covered with ragged cloaks, were marked with black and blue wheals ; some had only a slight covering round the waist, and the flesh of the rest was visible through their tatters. Their foreheads were branded with letters; their heads half shaved, their ankles in fetters, their faces of ghastly paleness, their eyes eaten away and nearly blinded by the black smoke and hot air; and they were covered with a dirty. white mixture of ashes and flour, like the dust with which wrestlers sprinkle themselves before entering the ring.'
The baker had a wife, who took an extraordinary dislike to Lucius. Before day-break, while in bed, she called out for the new ass to be harnessed to the wheel; her first act, on getting up, was to order him to be beaten; and he was the last led back to the manger. In return, he has described her character in terms of the bitterest hatred.
• The heart of that most detestable woman was like a common cesspool, in which all the evil dispositions of our nature were collected together. There was actually no description of wickedness wanting. She was cruel, malevolent, abandoned, drunken, obstinate, close-fisted, avaricious in grasping, profuse in dissipation, an enemy to good faith, a foe to chastity. Then despising and trampling under foot the
deities, in place of the true worship, she set up a false and impious imagination of a god, whom she might style the Only God; and, deceiving her neighbours and betraying her miserable husband by the pretence of her empty observances, she abandoned herself to morning draughts of wine and unceasing adultery.'
The character may be summed up in one sentence,—the lady was a Christian. Such, at least, has been the supposition of the most learned critics. She is not indeed called by the name, but some of the features bear the closest resemblance to, and none are at variance with, the popular conception of the character. The word which expresses her creed, “an imagination of a God' is the same which, a quarter of a century afterwards, Tertullian mentions as specifically applied by heathens to the Christian faith. The empty observances, and the morning draughts of wine recall to our minds the letter Pliny wrote to Trajan,and the charge of impurity finds an illustration in the remark of Tertullian, that the heathen viewed the supper of the Lord with such disgust, that no man allowed his wife to go to it without a feeling of suspicion.
His next master was a gardener, who drove him every morning to the neighbouring market with a load of fresh vegetables, and on his return shared with him his evening meal of * rancid lettuces as coarse as brooms. While here, he had an opportunity of observing two significant instances of the insecurity of life and property at a distance from the centre of government.
There was a cottager whose small farm adjoined the domains of a youthful and rich proprietor, who employed his family influence, and his position at the head of his party, to lord it over the city. He made open war upon his poor neighbour, killed his sheep, drove away his oxen, and trampled down his growing corn. After robbing him of the fruits of his industry, he became eager to eject him from his field, and upon some pettifogging quibble, laid claim to the whole property. The cottager anxious to save enough of his patrimony for a grave, called together a large party of his fellow citizens to beat his bounds. They expostulated in the mildest terms with the great man, but were answered with threats. A voice then exclaimed that it was vain for him to play the tyrant because of his wealth, for the law gave protection to the poor against the insolence of the rich. The words fell like oil upon fire. The tyrant maddened bade his shepherds let slip their dogs, and hark them on to the attack. The faster the party fled, the more keenly the hounds pursued, and many were torn in pieces. In the end, however, some satisfaction is made to our sense of justice. The aggressor himself fell. We are not told what became of the cottager.
But the tyranny of the wealthy was not the only species of oppression to which the poor in the provinces were exposed. The military quartered in the district treated the inhabitants with despotic insolence, and hardy indeed was the civilian, who, with justice on his side, dared to contend against a soldier. It is the history of all governments, which depend for their maintenance on the army. As the gardener was riding home on Lucius, musing over the occurrence just related, he was awakened from his reverie by a gaunt legionary demanding the ass for the use of his commanding officer, and enforcing the demand with a blow. The gardener wiped away the blood which streamed from his head, and mildly begged him to spare so sluggish and unsafe an animal. But the soldier was inexorable, and was on the point of ending the controversy by dashing out the brains of the civilian, when the gardener, by a feint, tripped him up, and pommeling him soundly, left him for dead. He seized his sword, and rode off with it at full speed to hide himself till the affair blew over. The soldier slunk to barracks, ashamed and afraid; for by the Roman articles of war, the soldier who parted with his sword was to be treated as a deserter. His comrades took up his cause, and laid an information against the gardener, for refusing to give up a silver dish, the property of their commanding officer, which, they alleged, he had found. With their help, the magistrates discovered his hiding-place, and threw him into prison to answer the charge; and there being no one now to object, the soldier took possession of Lucius.
We are fast approaching the end of his wanderings. He passed into the hands of a rich Corinthian, who being anxious to signalise his accession to office by an exhibition of more than usual magnificence, had come to Thessaly to collect wild beasts and gladiators. To his surprise, he discovered in Lucius the power of living upon human food, and, in consequence, determined upon assigning him a part in the spectacle. What that part was, we must pass over in silence. On any supposition, whether these chapters contain an account of an actual occurrence, or are merely a caricature, — the fact, that a man of high character should write, and hearers listen to them, is evidence of depravity, we might have disbelieved, had it not been corroborated by pictures and pieces of sculpture still remaining. The exhibition opened with a ballet. Change the close atmosphere of a modern opera house for a spacious amphitheatre open to the sky - the glare of gas lamps for the bright light of a spring morning, — and we can have no difficulty in picturing to our
lamagnificenccessione a riche end of
power of ators. To had come to by an exhibito being ama