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Enter PERIPLECOMENUS from his house.
speaking to his servants within . Faith, if you don't in future smash his ankle-bones for any stranger that you see on my tiles, I will cut you so with lashes as to make thongs of your sides. My neighbours, i' faith, are overlookers of what is going on in my own house; so often are they peeping down through the skylight1. And now, therefore, I give you all notice, whatever person of this Captain's household you shall see upon our tiles, except Palaestrio only, push him headlong here into the street. Suppose he says that he is following some hen, or pigeon, or monkey; woe be to you, if you don't badly maul the fellow even to death. And so, that they may commit no infringement against the laws of dice2, do you take good care that they keep holiday at home without any ankle-bones at all. PALAESTRIO
aside . Something amiss,--what, I know not, has been done him by our family so far as I can hear, inasmuch as the old man has ordered the ankles of my fellow-servants to be broken. But he has excepted me; nothing care I what he does to the rest of them. I'll accost the old man. (Advances.) PERIPLECOMENUS
The person that is coming this way, is he coming towards me? He comes as if he was coming to me. PALAESTRIO
How do you do, Periplecomenus? PERIPLECOMENUS
There are not many men, if I were to wish, whom I would rather now see and meet with than yourself. PALAESTRIO
What's the matter? What disturbance have you with our family? PERIPLECOMENUS
We are done for. PALAESTRIO
What's the matter? PERIPLECOMENUS
The thing's discovered. PALAESTRIO
What thing's discovered? PERIPLECOMENUS
Some one just now of your household was looking in from the tiles through our skylight at Philocomasium and my guest as they were toying together. PALAESTRIO
What person saw it? PERIPLECOMENUS
Your fellow-servant. PALAESTRIO
Which person was it? PERIPLECOMENUS
I don't know; he took himself off so suddenly--in an instant. PALAESTRIO
I suspect I'm ruined. PERIPLECOMENUS
When he went away, I cried: "Hallo! you sir!" said I, "what are you doing upon the tiles?" As he went away he replied to me in these terms, that he was following a stray'd monkey. PALAESTRIO
Woe to wretched me! that I must be ruined for a worthless beast. But is Philocomasium there with you even still? PERIPLECOMENUS
When I came out, she was there. PALAESTRIO
If she is, then bid her return to our house as soon as ever she can, that the servants may see that she is at home; unless, indeed, she wishes that we, who are slaves, her fellow- slaves3, should all be given up together to tortures by the cross on account of her courting. PERIPLECOMENUS
I bade her do so; unless you would aught else. PALAESTRIO
I would. Tell her this: that, by my troth, she must not hesitate at all to bring in play her skill and cleverness. PERIPLECOMENUS
In what way? PALAESTRIO
That by her words she may persuade him who saw her here at your house, that he did not see her. Should he accuse her, on the other hand let her convince him with her oath. Even though she were seen a hundred times over, still let her deny it. Aside. For, if she is at all inclined to ill, a woman never goes begging4 to the gardener for material, she has a garden at home and a stock of her own for all mischievous contrivances; at home she has impudence5, a lying tongue, perfidiousness, malice, and boldness, self-conceit, assurance, and deceitfulness,--at home she has wiles,--at home captivating contrivances,--stratagems at home. PERIPLECOMENUS
I'll tell her this, if she shall be in-doors here pointing to his house . But what is it, Palaestrio, that you are considering with yourself in your mind? PALAESTRIO
Be silent a moment, while I am calling a council in my mind, and while I am considering what I am to do, what plan I must contrive, on the other hand, as a match for my crafty fellow-servant, who has seen her billing here in your house; so that what was seen may not have been seen. PERIPLECOMENUS
Do contrive one; in the meantime, I'll retire hence to a distance from you, to this spot. He retires to a distance. Look at him, please to the AUDIENCE , revolving his cares with brow severe, how he stands. He strikes his breast with his fingers I fancy he's about to call his heart outside. See, he shifts his posture; again he places his left hand upon his left thigh. His right hand is reckoning down his plans upon his fingers; in despair he strikes his thigh. His right hand is moving rapidly6; with difficulty does it suggest what he is to do. He snapshis fingers now; he's striving hard; full oft he changes his position. But see how he shakes his head; it pleases him not what he has hit upon. Whatever it is, nothing crude will he bring forth, something well-digested will he produce. But see, he is building; he has placed his hand as a pillar7 beneath his chin. Have done with it in truth, this mode of building pleases me not; for I have heard say that the head of a foreign Poet8 is wont to be supported thus, over whom two guards are ever at all hours keeping watch. Bravo! how becomingly he stands,--i' faith, how like a very slave9, and how faithful to his part. Never, this day,will he rest, before he has completed that which he is in search of. He has it, I suspect. Come--to the business you're about: keep wide awake, think not of sleep; unless, indeed, you wish to be keeping your watch here all checquered o'er with stripes. 'Tis T, that am talking to you; schemer, don't you know that I am speaking to you? Palaestrio! awake, say; arouse yourself, I say; 'tis daylight now, I say. PALAESTRIO
I hear you. PERIPLECOMENUS
Don't you see that the enemy is upon you, and that siege is being laid to your back? Take counsel, then; obtain aid and assistance in this matter; the hastily, not the leisurely, is befitting here. Get the start of them in some way, and in some direction this moment lead around your troops. Close round the enemy in siege; prepare the convoy for our side. Cut off the enemy's provision, secure yourself a passage, by which supplies and provision may be enabled in safety to reach yourself and your forces. Look to this business; the emergency is sudden. Invent--contrive--this instant give us some clever plan; so that that which has been seen here within, may not have been seen; that which has been done, may not have been done. There, my man, you undertake a great enterprise; lofty the defences which you erect. If you yourself alone but say you undertake this, I have a certainty that we are able to rout our foes. PALAESTRIO
I do say so, and I do undertake it. PERIPLECOMENUS
And I do pronounce that you shall obtain that which you desire. PALAESTRIO
May Jupiter kindly bless you then! PERIPLECOMENUS
But, friend, do you impart to me the plan which you have devised. PALAESTRIO
Be silent, then, while I am inducting you in the direction of my devices; that you may know as well as my own self my plans. PERIPLECOMENUS
The same you shall receive safe from the same spot where you have deposited them. PALAESTRIO
My master is surrounded with the hide of an elephant, not his own, and has no more wisdom than a stone. PERIPLECOMENUS
I myself know the same thing. PALAESTRIO
Now, thus I would begin upon my plan; this contrivance I shall act upon. I shall say that her other own twin-sister has come here from Athens, with a certain person, her lover, to Philocomasium, as like to her as milk is to milk. I shall say that they are lodged and entertained here in your house. PERIPLECOMENUS
Bravo! bravo! cleverly thought of. I approve or your device. PALAESTRIO
So that, if my fellow-servant should accuse her before the Captain, and say that he has seen her here at your house, toying with another man, I shall assert, on the other hand, that my fellow-servant has seen the other one, the sister, at your house, fondling and toying with her own lover. PERIPLECOMENUS
Aye, most excellent. I'll say the same, if the Captain shall inquire of me. PALAESTRIO
But do you say that they are extremely alike; and this must be imparted in time to Philocomasium, in order that she may know; that she mayn't be tripping if the Captain should question her. PERIPLECOMENUS
A very clever contrivance. But if the Captain should wish to see them both in company together, what shall we do then? PALAESTRIO
That's easy enough. Three hundred excuses may be picked up--she is not at home; she has gone out walking; she is asleep; she is dressing; she is bathing; she is at breakfast10; she is taking dessert11; she is engaged; she is enjoying her rest12; in fact, she can't come. There are as many of these put-offs as you like, if I can only persuade him at the very outset to believe that to be true which shall be contrived. PERIPLECOMENUS
I like what you say. PALAESTRIO
Go in-doors then; and if the damsel's there, bid her return home directly, and instruct and tutor her thoroughly in this plan, that she may understand our scheme, as we have begun it, about the twin-sister. PERIPLECOMENUS
I'll have her right cleverly tutor'd for you. Is there anything else? PALAESTRIO
Only, be off in-doors. PERIPLECOMENUS
I'm off. (Exit.) PALAESTRIO alone. PALAESTRIO
And I'll go home, too; and I'll conceal the fact that I am giving her my aid in seeking out the man, which fellow-servant of mine it was, that to-day was following the monkey. For it cannot be but in his conversation he must have made some one of the household acquainted about the lady of his master, how that he himself has seen her next door here toying with some stranger spark. I know the habit myself; "I can't hold my tongue on that which I know alone." If I find out the person who saw it, I'll plant against him all> my mantelets13 and covered works. The material is prepared; 'tis a sure matter that I must take this person by force, and by thus besieging him. If so I don't find the man, just like a hound I'll go smelling about, even until I shall have traced out the fox by his track. But our door makes a noise: I'll lower my voice; for here is the keeper of Philocomasium, my fellow-servant, coming out of doors. (Stands aside.)
1 Through the skylight: The "atrium," or middle hall, of the houses of the Romans was a large apartment, roofed over, with the exception of an opening in the centre, which was called "impluvium," or "compluvium," towards which the roof sloped, so as to throw the rain-water down through pipes into a cistern below. Vitruvius says that the "impluvium" was from a fourth to a third of the size of the "atrium," or hall below. It was probably glazed, and thus would form a sort of sloping skylight. In the present instance, it would seem to have overlooked the upper chamber, into which Philocomasium passed through the wall of the next house, to meet Pleusicles.
2 The laws of dice: Commentators are much divided as to what is the meaning here of "lex alearia," or, as some editions have it "lex talaria." Some suppose that it simply means "the rules of the game with the 'tali,' or 'dice;'" while others think that Plautus alludes to some recent enactment at Rome against games of chance. Such laws were repeatedly promulgated, but immediately became a mere dead letter. "Talus" means either a person's "anklebone," or the "knuckle-bone" of an animal, which latter was marked with numbers on four sides, and used by the Greeks and Romans in sets of four for the purpose of dice. The old man puns on the two meanings, and says, "I'll take care that your 'tali' (or ankle-bones) are broken, so that" (if we adopt the first meaning) "you shall not cheat at dice in future," or (if we take the second interpretation) "you shall not have an opportunity of infringing the public laws." "Simia," which is translated "monkey," is. strictly speaking, "a she-ape;" probably a present from the Captain to Philocomasium.
3 Her fellow-slaves: He seems to use the word "contubernales," "comrades," or "fellow-slaves," as applying to the relation between Philocomasium and the other slaves in the house; since, falling into the hands of the Captain, she had become reduced to the condition of a slave. The cross was the instrument of a punishment among the Romans, which was especially inflicted upon slaves. It was usually in shape like the letter T or X, but there were various other forms of it. The condemned carried his own cross, and, being first stripped, was either nailed or bound to it, and in the latter ase was generally left to die of hunger. It must be remembered that in the time of the Roman Republic the laws did not protect the person or life of the slaves, who were sometimes very barbarously treated.
4 Never goes begging: He uses a rather out-of-the-way simile here; he means to say, "a woman never needs to go to a gardener's, who has a garden of her own, with a most plentiful stock of artfulness," &c. Some Commentators fancy that he means literally to say that women have always at hand plenty of poisonous plants for the purposes of mischief, and that they need not the assistance of the gardener or nurseryman when they wish to carry out their designs. Such an interpretation seems, however, to be very far-fetched.
6 Is moving rapidly: "Mico" strictly means, "to have a tremulous motion imparted." "Micare digitis" properly meant "to play at a game called 'mora,'" in which two persons suddenly raised or compressed the fingers, and at the same moment each guessed the number of the other. The expression also means, "to determine anything by suddenly raising the fingers," as who is to do or to have anything.
7 As a pillar: He means that Palaestrio looks up in thought, while his clenched hand is placed, as though it were a pillar beneath his chin.
8 Of a foreign Poet: "Barbaro." The speaker being supposed to be a Greek, and a native of Ionia, he would speak of a Roman as being "barbarus." It is generally supposed that Plautus here refers to the Roman poet Naevius, who had a habit of using this posture, and was, as is thought, at that moment in prison for having offended, in one of his Comedies, the family of the Metelli. He was afterwards liberated on having apologised in his plays called Hariolus (the Wizard) and Leo (the Lion). Periplecomenus thinks that this posture bodes no good, and is ominous of an evil result.
9 Like a very slave: He says that the actor is well representing the character of the slave. The actors themselves, as already remarked, were generally slaves in the earlier times of the Republic.
10 Is at breakfast: Among the Romans some began the day with the "ientaculum," which, however, was in general confined to sick persons, the very luxurious, or the labouring classes. From Martial we learn that it was taken about four in the morning, and it can, therefore, hardly have corresponded with our breakfast. Bread, with cheese or dried fruit, was used at this meal. The "prandium," which is here translated "breakfast," is supposed to have been a hasty meal, and to have been taken from twelve to one o'clock in the day. Sometimes it was of simple character, while occasionally fish, fruit, and wine formed part of the repast, in which latter case it would almost correspond with the luncheon of modern times.
11 She is taking dessert: It was the custom of the Romans, after the second course of the "cena" or "dinner" was taken away, to have wine on the table, and to prolong the evening with conversation; perhaps this period is here referred to as furnishing one of the excuses to be made.
12 Is enjoying her rest: "Operae non est" usually signifies "she is not at leisure," i.e., "she is busy;" but here it is thought to mean the reverse, "she is not at work," "she is taking her ease," and consequently cannot be disturbed.
13 My mantelets: "Vinea" was a contrivance used in warfare, made of timber covered with raw hides to prevent its being burnt, under which the assailants were sheltered in their attempts to scale the walls of a fortification. It probably answered very nearly to what is called a "mantelet," in the language of fortification. "Pluteus" was a similar engine, in the form of a turret, and moving on wheels.
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