BOOK THE SECOND
1. Chapter I
The man thus caressingly saluted, and whose bared arms, white apron, and
keys and napkin tucked carelessly within his girdle, indicated him to be the
host of the tavern, was already passed into the autumn of his years; but his
form was still so robust and athletic, that he might have shamed even the
sinewy shapes beside him, save that the muscles had seeded, as it were, into
flesh, that the cheeks were swelled and bloated, and the increasing stomach
threw into shade the vast and massive chest which rose above it.
'None of thy scurrilous blusterings with me,' growled the gigantic landlord,
in the gentle semi-roar of an insulted tiger; 'my wine is good enough for a
carcass which shall so soon soak the dust of the spoliarium.'
'Croakest thou thus, old raven!' returned the gladiator, laughing
scornfully; 'thou shalt live to hang thyself with despite when thou seest me
win the palm crown; and when I get the purse at the amphitheatre, as I
certainly shall, my first vow to Hercules shall be to forswear thee and thy
vile potations evermore.'
'Hear to him--hear to this modest Pyrgopolinices! He has certainly served
under Bombochides Cluninstaridysarchides,' cried the host. 'Sporus, Niger,
Tetraides, he declares he shall win the purse from you. Why, by the gods!
each of your muscles is strong enough to stifle all his body, or I know
nothing of the arena!'
'Ha!' said the gladiator, coloring with rising fury, 'our lanista would tell
a different story.'
'What story could he tell against me, vain Lydon?' said Tetraides, frowning.
'Or me, who have conquered in fifteen fights?' said the gigantic Niger,
stalking up to the gladiator.
'Or me?' grunted Sporus, with eyes of fire.
'Tush!' said Lydon, folding his arms, and regarding his rivals with a
reckless air of defiance. 'The time of trial will soon come; keep your
valor till then.'
'Ay, do,' said the surly host; 'and if I press down my thumb to save you,
may the Fates cut my thread!'