THE TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER
How Apuleius carried away the Gentlewoman, and how they were taken againe by the theeves, and what a kind of death was invented for them.
By and by the theeves came home laden with treasure, and many of them which were of strongest courage (leaving behind such as were lame and wounded, to heale and aire themselves) said they would returne backe againe to fetch the rest of their pillage, which they had hidden in a certaine cave, and so they snatched up their dinner greedily, and brought us forth into the way and beate us before them with staves. About night (after that we had passed over many hilles and dales) we came to a great cave, where they laded us with mighty burthens, and would not suffer us to refresh our selves any season but brought us againe in our way, and hied so fast homeward, that what with their haste and their cruell stripes, I fell downe upon a stone by the way side, then they beate me pittifully in lifting me up, and hurt my right thigh and my left hoofe, and one of them said, What shall we do with this lame Ill favoured Asse, that is not worth the meate he eats? And other said, Since the time that we had him first he never did any good, and I thinke he came unto our house with evill lucke, for we have had great wounds since, and losse of our valiant captaines, and other said, As soone as he hath brought home his burthen, I will surely throw him out upon the mountaine to be a pray for wild beasts: While these gentlemen reasoned together of my death, we fortuned to come home, for the feare that I was in, caused my feet to turne into wings: after that we were discharged of our burthens, they went to their fellowes that were wounded, and told them of our great tardity and slownesse by the way, neither was I brought into small anguish, when I perceived my death prepared before my face: Why standest thou still Lucius? Why dost thou not looke for thy death? Knowst thou not that the theeves have ordained to slay thee? seest thou not these sharpe and pointed flints which shall bruise and teare thee in peeces, if by adventure thou happen upon them? Thy gentle Magitian hath not onely given thee the shape and travell of an Asse, but also a skinne so soft and tender as it were a swallow: why dost thou not take courage and runne away to save thy selfe? Art thou afraid of the old woman more then halfe dead, whom with a stripe of thy heele thou maist easily dispatch? But whither shall I fly? What lodging shall I seek? See my Assy cogitation. Who is he that passeth by the way and will not take me up? While I devised these things, I brake the halter wherewith I was tyed and ran away with all my force, howbeit I could not escape the kitish eyes of the old woman, for shee ran after me, and with more audacity then becommeth her kind age, caught me by the halter and thought to pull me home: but I not forgetting the cruell purpose