BOOK THE SECOND
3. Chapter III
GLAUCUS MAKES A PURCHASE THAT AFTERWARDS COSTS HIM DEAR.
'HOLLA, my brave fellows!' said Lepidus, stooping his head as he entered the
low doorway of the house of Burbo. 'We have come to see which of you most
honors your lanista.' The gladiators rose from the table in respect to three
gallants known to be among the gayest and richest youths of Pompeii, and
whose voices were therefore the dispensers of amphitheatrical reputation.
'What fine animals!' said Clodius to Glaucus: 'worthy to be gladiators!'
'It is a pity they are not warriors,' returned Glaucus.
A singular thing it was to see the dainty and fastidious Lepidus, whom in a
banquet a ray of daylight seemed to blind--whom in the bath a breeze of air
seemed to blast--in whom Nature seemed twisted and perverted from every
natural impulse, and curdled into one dubious thing of effeminacy and art--a
singular thing was it to see this Lepidus, now all eagerness, and energy,
and life, patting the vast shoulders of the gladiators with a blanched and
girlish hand, feeling with a mincing gripe their great brawn and iron
muscles, all lost in calculating admiration at that manhood which he had
spent his life in carefully banishing from himself.
So have we seen at this day the beardless flutterers of the saloons of
London thronging round the heroes of the Fives-court--so have we seen them
admire, and gaze, and calculate a bet--so have we seen them meet together,
in ludicrous yet in melancholy assemblage, the two extremes of civilized
society--the patrons of pleasure and its slaves--vilest of all slaves--at
once ferocious and mercenary; male prostitutes, who sell their strength as
women their beauty; beasts in act, but baser than beasts in motive, for the
last, at least, do not mangle themselves for money!
'Ha! Niger, how will you fight?' said Lepidus: 'and with whom?'
'Sporus challenges me,' said the grim giant; 'we shall fight to the death, I
'Ah! to be sure,' grunted Sporus, with a twinkle of his small eye.