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[63] We were all dumb with astonishment, but Trimalchio said, “I pick no holes in your story; by the soul of truth, how my hair stood on end! For I know that Niceros never talks nonsense: he is very dependable, and not at all a chatterbox. Now I want to tell you a tale of horror myself: but I'm a donkey on the tiles compared with him. While I still had hair down my back, for I lived delicately1 from my youth up, my master's favourite died. Oh! he was a pearl, one in a thousand, and a mirror of perfection! So while his poor mother was bewailing him, and several of us were[p. 119] sharing her sorrow, suddenly the witches began to screech; you would have thought there was a dog pursuing a hare. We had a Cappadocian in the house at the time, a tall fellow, mighty brave and a man of muscle; he could lift an angry bull off the ground. He rushed boldly out of doors with a naked sword, having carefully wrapped up his left hand, and ran the woman through the middle, just about here—may the spot my finger is on be safe! We heard a groan, but to tell the honest truth we did not see the witches themselves. But our big fellow came back and threw himself on a bed: and his whole body was blue as if he had been flogged, of course because the witch's hand had touched him. We shut the door and returned to our observances, but when the mother put her arms round the body of her son, she felt it and saw that it was a little bundle of straw. It had no heart, no inside or anything: of course the witches had carried off the boy and put a straw changeling in his place. Ah! yes, I would beg you to believe there are wise women, and night-riders, who can turn the whole world upside down. Well, the tall slave never came back to his proper colour after this affair, and died raving mad in a few days.”

1 Literally “a Chian life,” i.e. luxurious and vicious. Thucydides calls the Chians shameless.

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