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[136] While she was having a small mouthful of meat as well,. . . and was replacing the brain, which must have been born on her own birthday, on the jack with her fork, the rotten stool which she was using to increase[p. 307] her height broke, and the old woman's weight sent her down on to the hearth. So the neck of the pot broke and put out the fire, which was just getting up. A glowing brand touched her elbow, and her whole face was covered with the ashes she scattered. I jumped up in confusion and put the old woman straight, not without a laugh. . . . She ran off to her neighbours to see to reviving the fire, to prevent anything keeping the ceremony back. . . . So I went to the door of the house,. . . when all at once three sacred geese, who I suppose generally demanded their daily food from the old woman at mid-day, made a rush at me, and stood round me while I trembled, cackling horribly like mad things. One tore my clothes, another untied the strings of my sandals and tugged them off; the third, the ringleader and chief of the brutes, lost no time in attacking my leg with his jagged bill. It was no laughing matter: I wrenched off a leg of the table and began to hammer the ferocious creature with this weapon in my hand. One simple blow did not content me. I avenged my honour by the death of the goose.

'Even so I suppose the birds of Stymphalus fled into the sky when the power of Hercules compelled them, and the Harpies whose reeking wings made the tantalizing food of Phineus run with poison. The air above trembled and shook with unwonted lamentation, and the palace of heaven was in an uproar.'. .

The remaining geese had now picked up the beans, which were spilt and scattered all over the floor, and having lost their leader had gone back, I think, to the temple. Then I came in, proud of my prize and my victory, threw the dead goose behind the bed, and bathed the wound on my leg, which was not[p. 309] deep, with vinegar. Then, being afraid of a scolding, I made a plan for getting away, put my things together, and started to leave the house. I had not yet got outside the room, when I saw Oenothea coming with a jar full of live coals. So I drew back and threw off my coat, and stood in the entrance as if I were waiting for her return. She made up a fire which she raised out of some broken reeds, and after heaping on a quantity of wood, began to apologize for her delay, saying that her friend would not let her go until the customary three glasses had been emptied. “What did you do while I was away?” she went on, “and where are the beans?” Thinking that I had done something which deserved a word of praise, I described the whole of my fight in detail, and to put an end to her depression I produced the goose as a set-off to her losses. When the old woman saw the bird, she raised such a great shriek that you would have thought that the geese had come back into the room again.

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load focus Introduction (Michael Heseltine, 1913)
load focus Latin (Michael Heseltine, 1913)
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