“Indeed I did!” cried Mopsus; then, while stroking the stripes on the donkey’s flanks, added kindly:
“Poor Jason, you too have nothing for which to thank the old woman. If you only knew how abominable this woman is—”
“I do know,” the steward interrupted, “but she is an old woman, and it does not beseem you to abuse her; she represents the house under its invalid ruler.”
“I’d willingly lay both these hands under his feet,” cried the youth, “but Semestre has driven me out of his service for nothing, away from here and Dorippe, and where can I find a place in the neighborhood?”
The almost whining tone of the complaint contrasted oddly with the appearance of the tall, broad-shouldered Mopsus, yet tears filled his eyes, as he now told the steward about the juggler, the dance, Semestre’s anger, his banishment from Lysander’s house, and the house-keeper’s commission to carry a sucking-pig to Aphrodite’s temple for her.
Jason listened with only partial attention, for the low grunting of a pig, that reached his ears from one of the baskets on the donkey, seemed to him far more interesting than the poor fellow’s story. He knew the ways of every domestic animal, and such sounds were only uttered by a little pig that felt comfortably fat, and lived under favorable circumstances.
A great thought awoke in his mind, and must have pleased him hugely, for his eyes began to sparkle, his mouth puckered in a smile, and he looked exactly like a satyr thrusting his thick lips toward the largest and ripest bunches of grapes in the vineyard.
When Mopsus paused, he angrily noticed what an enlivening influence his sorrowful story had had upon the old man, but soon laughed too; for, ere he could give expression to his dissatisfaction, Jason had opened the basket on the left of the donkey, taken out Semestre’s gayly-decked pig, put his own lanky animal in its place, and said, giggling with pleasure:
“After what Semestre has done to a poor fellow like you, she doesn’t deserve the favor of our goddess. Let me offer Aphrodite this most charming of pigs, and you offer my little beast in the house-keeper’s name; then her petition will certainly find no hearing.”
At these words Mopsus’s broad face brightened, and, after laughing loudly, he struck his fist in the palm of his left hand, turned on the heel of his right foot, and exclaimed:
“Yes, that will be just right.”
True, directly after, he looked as doubtful as if an invisible myrtle-staff had been swung over his back, and asked:
“But if she notices it?”
“I know how we’ll manage it,” replied the old man, and, putting Semestre’s pig in Mopsus’s arms, took the ribbons from its ears and curly tail.
Meantime, the little animal grunted as piteously as if it noticed that its finery was being stolen and its beauty impaired.
And when Jason, with Mopsus’s assistance, put the same ribbons on his own lank pig, it looked neither better nor prouder than before, for it was no lucky animal and did not appreciate beautiful gifts.