DIE sequenti meus quidem dominus hortulanus quid egerit nescio , me tamen miles ille , qui propter eximiam impotentiam pulcherrime vapularat , ab illo praesepio nullo equidem contradicente deductum abducit atque a suo contubernio ( hoc enim mihi videbatur ) sarcinis propriis onustum et prorsum exornatum armatumque militariter producit ad viam . Nam et galeam gerebam nitore praemicantem et scutum longius relucens sed etiam lanceam longissimo hastili conspicuam , quae scilicet non disciplinae tunc quidem causa sed propter terrendos miseros viatores in summo atque edito sarcinarum cumulo ad instar exercitus sedulo composuerat . Confecta campestri nec adeo difficili via ad quandam civitatulam pervenimus , nec in stabulo sed in domo cuiusdam decurionis devertimus , statimque me commendato cuidam servulo ipse ad praepositum suum , qui mille armatorum ducatum sustinebat , sollicite proficiscitur .
Post dies plusculos ibidem dissignatum scelestum ac nefarium facinus memini , sed ut vos etiam legatis , ad librum profero . Dominus aedium habebat iuvenem filium probe litteratum atque ob id consequenter pietate , modestia praecipuum , quem tibi quoque provenisse cuperes vel talem . Huius matre multo ante defuncta , rursum matrimonium sibi reparat verat , ductaque alia filium procreaverat alium , qui adaequeiam duodecimum annum aetatis super cesserat . Sed noverca forma magis quam moribus in domo mariti praepollens , seu naturaliter impudica seu fato ad exi tremum impulsa flagitium , oculos ad privignum adiecit : iam ergo , lector optime , scito te tragoediam , non fabulam legere , et a socco ad cothurnum ascendere Sed mulier illa quamdiu primis elementis Cupido parvulus nutriebatur , imbecillis adhuc eius viribus facile ruborem tenuem deprimens silentio resistebat : at ubi , completis igne vesano totis praecordiis , immodice bacchatus Amor exaestuabat , saevienti deo iam succubuit , et languore simulato vulnus animi mentitur in corporis valetudine . Iam cetera salutis vultusque detrimenta et aegris ei amantibus examussim convenire nemo qui nesciat : pallor deformis , marcentes oculi , lassa genua , quies turbida et suspiritus cruciatus tarditate vehementior : crederes et illam fluctuare tantum vaporibus febrium , nisi quod et flebat . Heu medicorum ignarae mentes ! Quid venae pulsus , quid caloris intemperantia , quia fatigatus anhelitus et utrimquesecus iactatae crebriter laterum mutuae vicissitudines ? Dii boni ! Quam facilis licet non artifici medico , cuivis tamen doctu Veneriae cupidinis comprehensio , cum videas aliquem .
Ergo igitur impatientia furoris altius agitatadiutinum rupit silentium et ad se vocari praecipitfilium : quod nomen in eo , si posset , ne ruborisadmoneretur , libente eraderet . Nec adulescensaegrae parentis moratus imperium , senili tristitiestriatam gerens frontem cubiculum petit , uxoripatris matrique fratris utcumque debitum sistensobsequium . Sed illa cruciabili silentio diutissimefatigata , et ut in quodam vado dubitationis haerens , omne verbum quod praesenti sermoni putabataptissimum rursum improbans mi tante etiam nuncpudore , unde potissimum caperet exordiumdecunctatur . At iuvenis nihil etiam tunc sequiussuspicatus , summisso vultu rogat ultro praesentescausas aegritudinis . Tunc illa nancta solii tudinisdamnosam occasionem , prorumpit in audaciam , etubertim allacrimans laciniaque contegens faciemvoce trepida sic eum breviter affatur : Causa omnis etorigo praesentis doloris et etiam medela ipsa et salusunica mihi tute ipse es : isti enim tui oculi per meosoculos ad intima delapsi praecordia meis medullisacerrimum commovent incendium . Ergo misereretua causa pereuntis nec te religio patris omninodeterreat , cui morituram prorsus servabis uxorem : illius enim recognoscens imaginem in tua ; faciemerito te diligo . Habes solitudinis plenam
What became of my gardener the following day I have no idea , but as for me , the soldier who had won such a lovely beating for his wondrously vile temper took me from the stable without anyone opposing him , and led me away . He piled me high with the luggage from what were his barracks I assume , and set me off up the road , festooned all over and kitted out in military fashion . I carried a brightly gleaming helmet , a shield which shone brighter still , and a spear with a great long shaft , all heaped on the top of his pile of baggage , like a miniature army on its travels , and not on account of regimental orders but to frighten poor travellers . At the end of a flat and easy journey , we arrived at a small town , where we lodged not at the inn but at the home of a councillor . Here the centurion gave me into the keeping of a slave , and set off straight away to report to his colonel , who had command of over a thousand men . A few days later a wicked and dreadful crime was committed in the town , which I’ll set down here so you can learn of it too .
The owner of my lodging had a young well-educated son , who was in consequence all obedience and good behaviour , the kind of son you would wish for your own . The boy’s mother had died years before . The father remarried , and had a twelve-year old boy by his second wife . The stepmother held sway , noted more for her beauty than character , and either through an innate disregard for her chastity or driven by fate to commit a wholly wicked crime she turned her eyes longingly on her stepson .
So , dear reader , now you know , this is no trivial tale but a tragedy , and you’ve risen from comic slippers to platform shoes .
As long as cupid remained an infant , nourished on simple fare , the stepmother hid her guilty blushes , and silently staved off the love-god’s weak assaults , but her heart slowly filling with raging flames , hot frenzied love at last blazed in her wildly , and she yielded to the savage god . Feigning illness , she tried to pretend her wounded heart was really bodily illness . Now , as we know , the usual effects on one’s appearance are exactly the same in the love-sick and those sick for other reasons : namely abnormal pallor , languid eyes , weak knees , restless sleep , and sighs which are more intense the more protracted the torment . You’d have thought in her case too a high temperature caused her fever , except that she was also full of tears . Alas the ignorance of medical minds , unable to diagnose from those throbbing veins , that variable complexion , the laboured breathing , the tossing from side to side ! Yet , dear gods , any intelligent person , even one who’s not a specialist , knows the symptoms of desire , on seeing someone burning without a physical cause .
So there you have it . Her insupportable insanity was shaking her to the core , and at long last she broke her silence and ordered her stepson to be summoned before her—she would have loved to expunge the " son " part , that shameful reminder , from any reference to him . The young man lost no time in complying with his sick parent’s command . His forehead was grooved with a sadness far beyond his years as he headed for the bedroom to attend dutifully to his father’s wife and brother’s mother . But the wife’s silence had plagued her so excruciatingly and so mercilessly that now her boat was stuck in the shallows of doubt , so to speak . She ended up rejecting every word she had at first thought perfect for the matter at hand . Her honor was going to come crashing down at any moment , but here she still was , at a dead loss for the right preamble . But even at this moment , the youth didn’t suspect any sort of shady business . His expression was demure as he began the conversation by asking , with a deferential expression on his face , about her present indisposition . She now seized the baneful opportunity offered by this private conference and let go of any vestige of self-control . Weeping abundantly and covering her face in her garment , she addressed him a few words in a timid voice .
" The entire cause , the sole source of my present agony , and at the same time the one lifesaving remedy , is yourself and no other . A glance from your eyes has slipped into my eyes , sunk down into my heart’s inmost recesses , and set off a conflagration that rages through my marrow . Have pity , then , on someone who is perishing because of you . Don’t let reverent regard for your father deter you , for you’ll do nothing short of saving his dying wife . You can understand my affection for you , as , for me , your face is like a picture of him . And right now you have the complete reassurance that comes from being alone with me—as well as enough time to do what needs doing . When nobody knows about something , it’s practically not happening . "
What became of my master the gardener the next day , I have no idea . As for me , the soldier who’d gotten such a magnificent ass-kicking for his distinguished arrogance took me out of the stable and led me away , as no one told him he couldn’t . He brought luggage that belonged to him out of his own quarters ( I assumed ) , loaded it on me , and started me down the road in full martial regalia and equipment . For I bore a helmet that glittered forth in its splendor , a shield that shot its blazing light far and wide , and even a lance with a showily long point . He had carefully arranged these things on an elevated spot atop the heaped bundles to look like features of a military baggage train—not , apparently , that he was at the time under orders requiring this ; he just wanted to terrify defenseless travelers . We completed a not terribly hard journey on level ground and came to a diminutive burg , where we stayed not at the inn but with a member of the local senate . The soldier entrusted me to a slave and set off in a worried hurry to his superior officer , " who headed up a contingent of a thousand armed men .
Not too many days later , as I recall , an unspeakably wicked crime was perpetrated in that very place , and I’ll reproduce the story here in my book and let you readers acquaint yourselves with it as well .
The householder had a young son with quite a superior education , so it naturally followed that he was extraordinary in his filial devotion and restrained behavior . You’d have wished you were his father—or , um , that you had a son like him . His mother had died long before , and his father had embarked on matrimony again . On the second wife he begat a second son , who by the time I write of had just completed his own twelfth year . Now , the stepmother was the potentate in her husband’s house , but it was due to her beauty rather than her dutifulness . At some point—whether she was inherently indisposed to chastity , or whether fate drove her to this detestable crime—she cast her eyes on her stepson .
So now , exemplary reader , take heed : this is high tragedy and not low comedy . Those clown shoes have exited the stage , and the lofty buskins loom above you .
While the god of love within this woman’s heart was still a toddler sucking on the breast and learning his ABCs , she easily resisted his still-feeble strength , silently repressing her insubstantial blushes . But later , when the crazed flame had completely filled her heart , Cupid’s passion boiled up out of control and he ran and turning from this side to that side and back again ! Good gods , what an easy diagnosis it should be , when you see someone heated up but the blaze is disembodied . You don’t have to be a learned physician , just schooled in lust by Venus .
She became more and more agitated by her unbearable ardour , until at last breaking her long silence she summoned to her side this ‘son’ whom she would gladly have called by another name to spare her sense of shame . The youth responded at once to his stepmother’s request , entering the patient’s bedroom , with as anxious a brow as some melancholy old man , but only out of courtesy to his father’s wife and brother’s mother . She , long tormented and harassed by her secret , was now however aground on a shoal of doubt . Every time she grasped at a phrase appropriate for the moment at hand , she rejected it again ; and even as her feelings of shame abated , she still hesitated as to how to begin her speech . But the youth it was who took the lead , suspecting nothing , with a respectful look asking the cause of her present illness . As they were alone she seized the moment to speak with dangerous boldness , and weeping floods of tears , hiding her face with the hem of her robe , she addressed him briefly in a quivering voice :
‘The whole root and origin of my present illness , as well as my only hope of cure and recovery , is you yourself . Those eyes of yours penetrated my eyes , and plunged to the depths of my heart , and set the fiercest flames burning in my marrow . Take pity on one who dies because of you , and don’t be concerned by your respect for your father , for his wife is at death’s door and you can save her for him . I am right to love you since I see his likeness in your face . And have no fear , we are alone , and there is time enough for what is needed . What none know of has scarcely happened . ’