price: it was moderate, and I bought her at once.
The merchant brought her to my house, and disappeared
in an instant. Well, my friends, guess my astonishment
when I found she was blind! Ha! ha! a clever
fellow that merchant! I ran at once to the magistrates,
but the rogue was already gone from Pompeii. So
I was forced to go home in a very ill humor, I assure
you; and the poor girl felt the effects of it too.
But it was not her fault that she was blind, for
she had been so from her birth. By degrees, we
got reconciled to our purchase. True, she had
not the strength of Staphyla, and was of very little
use in the house, but she could soon find her way
about the town, as well as if she had the eyes of Argus;
and when one morning she brought us home a handful
of sesterces, which she said she had got from selling
some flowers she had gathered in our poor little garden,
we thought the gods had sent her to us. So from
that time we let her go out as she likes, filling
her basket with flowers, which she wreathes into garlands
after the Thessalian fashion, which pleases the gallants;
and the great people seem to take a fancy to her, for
they always pay her more than they do any other flower-girl,
and she brings all of it home to us, which is more
than any other slave would do. So I work for
myself, but I shall soon afford from her earnings to
buy me a second Staphyla; doubtless, the Thessalian
kidnapper had stolen the blind girl from gentle parents.
Besides her skill in the garlands, she sings and
plays on the cithara, which also brings money, and
lately—but that is a secret.’
‘That is a secret! What!’ cried Lydon,
‘art thou turned sphinx?’
‘Sphinx, no!—why sphinx?’
‘Cease thy gabble, good mistress, and bring
us our meat—I am hungry,’ said Sporus,
‘And I, too,’ echoed the grim Niger, whetting
his knife on the palm of his hand.
The amazon stalked away to the kitchen, and soon returned
with a tray laden with large pieces of meat half-raw:
for so, as now, did the heroes of the prize-fight
imagine they best sustained their hardihood and ferocity:
they drew round the table with the eyes of famished
wolves—the meat vanished, the wine flowed.
So leave we those important personages of classic
life to follow the steps of Burbo.
In the earlier times of Rome the priesthood was
a profession, not of lucre but of honour. It
was embraced by the noblest citizens—it
was forbidden to the plebeians. Afterwards,
and long previous to the present date, it was equally
open to all ranks; at least, that part of the profession
which embraced the flamens, or priests—not
of religion generally but of peculiar gods.
Even the priest of Jupiter (the Flamen Dialis) preceded
by a lictor, and entitled by his office to the entrance
of the senate, at first the especial dignitary of the