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Enter PALÆSTRA and AMPELISCA, in haste, from the Temple, with dishevelled locks.
Now is that time arrived when destitution of all resources and aid, succour and defence, overtakes us. Neither hope nor means is there to bring us aid, nor know we in what direction we should commence to proceed. In exceeding terror now are we both, in this our wretchedness. Such cruelty and such outrage have been committed towards us just now in-doors here by our master, who, in his villany, pushed down the old lady, the Priestess, headlong, and struck her in a very disgraceful manner, and with his violence tore us away from the inner side1 of the statue. But as our lot and fortunes are now showing themselves, 'twere best to die, nor in our miseries is there anything better than death. TRACHALIO
behind . What's this? Whose words are those? Why do I delay to console them? Aloud. Harkye, Palæstra, Ampelisca, harkye! PALAESTRA
Prithee, who is it that calls us? AMPELISCA
Who is it that calls me by name? TRACHALIO
If you turn round and look, you'll know. PALAESTRA
turning round . O hope of my safety! TRACHALIO
Be silent and of good courage; trust me2. PALAESTRA
If only it can be so, let not violence overwhelm us. TRACHALIO
What violence? PALAESTRA
That same which is driving me to commit violence on myself. TRACHALIO
Oh, do leave off; you are very silly. PALAESTRA
Then do you leave off at once your consoling me in my misery with words. AMPELISCA
Unless you afford us protection in reality3, Trachalio, it's all over with us. PALAESTRA
I'm resolved to die sooner than suffer this Procurer to get me in his power. But still I am of woman's heart; when, in my misery, death comes into my mind, fear takes possession of my limbs. TRACHALIO
By my troth, although this is a bitter affliction, do have a good heart. PALAESTRA
Why where, pray, is a good heart to be found for me? TRACHALIO
Don't you fear, I tell you; sit you down here by the altar. Points to it. AMPELISCA
What can this altar possibly avail us more than the statue here within the Temple of Venus, from which just now, embracing it, in our wretchedness, we were torn by force? TRACHALIO
Only you be seated here; then I'll protect you in this spot. This altar you possess as though your bulwarks4; these your fortifications; from this spot will I defend you. With the aid of Venus, I'll march against the wickedness of the Procurer. PALAESTRA
We follow your instructions they advance to the altar and kneel ; and genial Venus, we both of us, in tears, implore thee, embracing this thy altar, bending upon our knees, that thou wilt receive us into thy guardianship, and be our protector; that thou wilt punish those wretches who have set at nought thy Temple, and that thou wilt suffer us to occupy this thy altar with thy permission, we who last night were by the might of Neptune cast away; hold us not in scorn, and do not for that reason impute it to us as a fault, if there is anything that thou shouldst think is not so well attended to5 by us as it ought to have been. TRACHALIO
I think they ask what's just; it ought, Venus, by thee to be granted. Thou oughtst to pardon them; 'tis terror forces them to do this. They say that thou wast born from a shell6; take thou care that thou dost not despise the shells of these. But see, most opportunely the old gentleman is coming out, both my protector and your own. He goes to the altar.
1 The inner side: "Signo intumo" may either mean the statue in the most distant and sacred recess, or the inner side of the statue, to which spot they had retired for safety.
2 Trust me: At the same time he is afraid to go in. Palæstra sees this, and taunts him with being brave--in words only.
3 In reality: "Re," "in reality," in contradistinction to words.
4 Your bulwarks: "Mœnia." Madame Dacier supposes that these words refer to the walls of a court in front of the Temple, represented on the stage with an altar in the middle, the walls being breast high, which Trachalio compares to entrenchments.
5 Not so well attended to: "Bene lautum." There is a joke intended in the use of these words, which may signify either "quite tidy "or "properly arranged;" or, on the other hand, "well washed," neglect of which certainly could not be imputed to them, by reason of their recent shipwreck.
6 Born from a shell: He alludes to the birth of Venus, who was said to have sprung from the sea in a shell. He also seems to joke upon the destitute state of the young women, and to call them mere shells. An indelicate construction has been, by some, put upon the use of the word "conchas," while others think it refers to the use made by women of shells, for holding their paints, perfumes, and cosmetics, and that he means thereby to reproach Venus for having allowed them to lose all their property. This, however, seems to be a rather far-fetched notion.
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