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[56] “And now,” said he, “what do we think is the hardest profession after writing? I think a doctor's or a money-changer's. The doctor's, because he knows what poor men have in their insides, and when a fever will come—though I detest them specially, because they so often order me to live on duck. The moneychanger's, because he sees the copper under the silver. Just so among the dumb animals, oxen and sheep are the hardest workers: the oxen, because thanks to the oxen we have bread to eat; the sheep, because their wool clothes us in splendour. It is a gross outrage when people eat lamb and wear shirts. Yes, and I hold the bees to be the most divine insects. They vomit honey, although people do say they bring it from Jupiter: and they have stings, because wherever you have a sweet thing there you will find something bitter too.”

[p. 101] He was just throwing the philosophers out of work, when tickets were carried round in a cup, and a boy who was entrusted with this duty read aloud the names of the presents for the guests.1 “Tainted metal”; a ham was brought in with a vinegar bottle on top of it. “Something soft for the neck”; a scrap of neck-end was put on. “Repenting at leisure and obstinate badness”; we were given biscuits made with must, and a thick stick with an apple. “Leeks and peaches”; he took a scourge and a dagger. “Sparrows and fly-paper”; he picked up some dried grapes and a honey-pot. “Evening-dress and outdoor clothes”; he handled a piece of meat and some note-books. “Canal and foot-measure”; a hare and a slipper were introduced. “The muræna and a letter”; he took a mouse and a frog tied together, and a bundle of beetroot. We laughed loud and long: there were any number of these jokes, which have now escaped my memory.

1 Apophoreta are presents for guests to carry away. It was customary to hand tickets to them on which riddles concealing the names of the presents were written. Trimalchio's jokes depend upon allusions to likenesses between the words in the riddle and the name of the present, and are therefore impossible to render in English.

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