I shrank in horror from her promised miracles, and
began to look at the old woman more carefully. . . .“Now,” cried
Oenothea, “obey my orders!” and she wiped her hands carefully, leaned
over the bed, and kissed me once, twice . . . .
Oenothea put up an old table in the middle of the altar, and covered it with live
coals, and repaired a wine-cup that had cracked from age with warm pitch. Then she
drove in once more on the smoky wall a nail which had come away with the wooden
winecup when she took it down. Then she put on a square cloak, and laid an enormous
cooking-poton the hearth, and at the same time took off the meat-hooks with a fork a
bag which had in it some beans put by for use, and some very mouldy pieces of a
brain smashed into[p. 305]
a thousand fragments. After unfastening the bag
she poured out some of the beans on the table, and told me to shell them carefully.
I obeyed orders, and my careful fingers parted the kernels from their dirty covering
of shell. But she reproved me for laziness, snatched them up in a hurry, tore off
the shells with her teeth in a moment, and spat them on to the ground like the empty
husks of flies. . .
I marvelled at the resources of poverty, and the art displayed in each particular.
'No Indian ivory set in gold shone here, the earth did not gleam with marble now
trodden upon and mocked for the gifts she gave, but the grove of Ceres on her
holiday was set round with hurdles of willow twigs and fresh cups of clay shaped by
a quick turn of the lowly wheel. There was a vessel for soft honey, and wicker-work
plates of pliant bark, and a jar dyed with the blood of Bacchus. And the wall round
was covered with light chaff and spattered mud; on it hung rows of rude nails and
slim stalks of green rushes. Besides this, the little cottage roofed with smoky
beams preserved their goods, the soft service-berries hung entwined in fragrant
wreaths, and dried savory and bunches of raisins; such a hostess was here as was
once on Athenian soil, worthy of the worship of Hecale,1
of whom the Muse testified for all ages to adore her, in the years when the poet of