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[47] Gossip of this kind was in the air, when Trimalchio came in mopping his brow, and washed his hands in scent. After a short pause, he said, “You will excuse me, gentlemen? My bowels have not been working for several days. All the doctors are puzzled. Still, I found pomegranate rind useful, and pinewood boiled in vinegar. I hope now my stomach will learn to observe its old decencies. Besides, I have such rumblings inside me you would think there was a bull there. So if any of you gentlemen wishes to retire there is no need to be shy about it. We were none of us born quite solid. I cannot imagine any torture like holding oneself in. The one thing Jupiter himself cannot forbid[p. 83] is that we should have relief. Why do you laugh, Fortunata; it is you who are always keeping me awake all night. Of course, as far as I am concerned, anyone may relieve himself in the dining-room. The doctors forbid retention. But if the matter is serious, everything is ready outside: water, towels, and all the other little comforts. Take my word for it, vapours go to the brain and make a disturbance throughout the body. I know many people have died this way, by refusing to admit the truth to themselves.” We thanked him for his generosity and kindness, and then tried to suppress our laughter by drinking hard and fast. We did not yet realize that we had only got halfway through the delicacies, and still had an uphill task before us, as they say. The tables were cleared to the sound of music, and three white pigs, adorned with muzzles and bells, were led into the dining-room. One was two years old, the keeper said, the second three, and the other as much as six. I thought some ropewalkers had come in, and that the pigs would perform some wonderful tricks, as they do for crowds in the streets. Trimalchio ended our suspense by saying, “Now, which of them would you like turned into a dinner this minute? Any country hand can turn out a fowl or a Pentheus1 hash, or trifles of that kind. My cooks are quite used to serving whole calves done in a cauldron.” Then he told them to fetch a cook at once, and without waiting for our opinion ordered the eldest pig to be killed, and said in a loud voice,“Which division of the household do you belong to?” The man said he came from the fortieth. “Were you purchased or born on the estate?” “Neither; I was left to you under Pansa's will.” “Well then,” said[p. 85] Trimalchio, “mind you serve this carefully, or I will have you degraded to the messengers' division.”

1 Pentheus, king of Thebes, was torn in pieces by the Bacchae.

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