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[44] So said Phileros, but Ganymede broke in: “You go talking about things which are neither in heaven nor earth, and none of you care all the time how the price of food pinches. I swear I cannot get hold[p. 73] of a mouthful of bread to-day. And how the drought goes on. There has been a famine for a whole year now. Damn the magistrates, who play 'Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours,' in league with the bakers. So the little people come off badly; for the jaws of the upper classes are always keeping carnival. I do wish we had the bucks I found here when I first came out of Asia. That was life. If the flour was any but the finest, they beat those vampires into a jelly, until they put the fear of God into them. I remember Safinius: he used to live then by the old arch when I was a boy. He was more of a mustard-pot than a man: used to scorch the ground wherever he trod. Still he was straight; you could trust him, a true friend: you would not be afraid to play at morra1 with him in the dark. How he used to dress them down in the senatehouse, every one of them, never using roundabout phrases, making a straightforward attack. And when he was pleading in the courts, his voice used to swell like a trumpet. Never any sweating or spitting: I imagine he had a touch of the Asiatic style. And how kindly he returned one's greeting, calling every one by name quite like one of ourselves. So at that time food was dirt-cheap. You could buy a larger loaf for twopence than you and your better half together could get through. One sees a bun bigger now. Lord, things are worse every day. This town goes downhill like the calfs tail. But why do we put up with a magistrate not worth three pepper-corns, who cares more about putting twopence in his purse than keeping us alive? He sits grinning at home, and pockets more money a day than[p. 75] other people have for a fortune. I happen to know where he came by a thousand in gold. If we had any spunk in us he would not be so pleased with himself. Nowadays people are lions in their own houses, and foxes out of doors. I have already eaten my rags, and if these prices keep up, I shall have to sell my cottages. Whatever is to happen if neither the gods nor man will take pity on this town? As I hope to have joy of my children, I believe all these things come from Heaven. For no one now believes that the gods are gods. There is no fasting done, no one cares a button for religion: they all shut their eyes and count their own goods. In old days the mothers in their best robes used to climb the hill with bare feet and loose hair, pure in spirit, and pray Jupiter to send rain. Then it used promptly to rain by the bucket: it was now or never: and they all came home, wet as drowned rats. As it is, the gods are gouty in the feet because we are sceptics. So our fields lie baking—”

1 In the game Morra one party held up a number of fingers and the other had to guess what the number was. A man who could play it in the dark would be a miracle.

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