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In the mean time the suspended tapestry made a heavy downfall upon the dish, bringing along with it more black dust than the north wind ever raises on the plains of Campania. Having been fearful of something worse, as soon as we perceive there was no danger, we rise up. Rufus, hanging his head, began to weep, as if his son had come to an untimely death: what would have been the end, had not the discreet Nomentanus thus raised his friend! "Alas! 0 fortune, what god is more cruel to us than thou? How dost thou always take pleasure in sporting with human affairs!" Varius could scarcely smother a laugh with his napkin. Balatro, sneering at every thing, observed: "This is the condition of human life, and therefore a suitable glory will never answer your labor. Must you be rent and tortured with all manner of anxiety, that I may be entertained sumptuously; lest burned bread, lest ill-seasoned soup should be set before us; that all your slaves should wait, properly attired and neat? Add, besides, these accidents; if the hangings should tumble down, as just now, if the groom slipping with his foot should break a dish. But adversity is wont to disclose, prosperity to conceal, the abilities of a host as well as of a general." To this Nasidienus: "May the gods give you all the blessings, whatever you can pray for, you are so good a man and so civil a guest;" and calls for his sandals.1 Then on every couch you might see divided whispers buzzing in each secret ear. I would not choose to have seen any theatrical entertainments sooner than these things. But come, recount what you laughed at next. While Vibidius is inquiring of the slaves, whether the flagon was also broken,2 because cups were not brought when he called for them; and while a laugh is continued on feigned pretences, Balatro seconding it; you, Nasidienus, return with an altered countenance, as if to repair your ill-fortune by art. Then followed the slaves, bearing on a large charger the several limbs of a crane besprinkled with much salt, not without flour, and the liver of a white goose fed with fattening figs, and the wings of hares torn off, as a much daintier dish than if one eats them with the loins. Then we saw blackbirds also set before us with scorched breasts, and ringdoves without the rumps: delicious morsels! did not the master give us the history of their causes and natures: whom we in revenge fled from, so as to taste nothing at all; as if Canidia, more venomous than African serpents, had poisoned them with her breath.
1 That he might rise from table. The guests laid their slippers at the end of the bed when they went to supper.
2 Vibidius asks whether the groom had broken the bottle at the same time that he broke the dish, for quoque certainly refers to “patinam lapsus frangat agaso” . He seems to insinuate that Nasidienus had given orders to his slaves not to be in too much haste to supply the guests with wine, but to let them call for it more than once.
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