BOOK THE SECOND
1. Chapter I
'But, hark ye, Stratonice,' said Lydon; 'how didst thou come by so gentle
and delicate a slave? She were more meet for the handmaid of some rich
matron of Rome than for thee.'
'That is true,' returned Stratonice; 'and some day or other I shall make my
fortune by selling her. How came I by Nydia, thou askest.'
'Why, thou seest, my slave Staphyla--thou rememberest Staphyla, Niger?'
'Ay, a large-handed wench, with a face like a comic mask. How should I
forget her, by Pluto, whose handmaid she doubtless is at this moment!'
'Tush, brute!--Well, Staphyla died one day, and a great loss she was to me,
and I went into the market to buy me another slave. But, by the gods! they
were all grown so dear since I had bought poor Staphyla, and money was so
scarce, that I was about to leave the place in despair, when a merchant
plucked me by the robe. "Mistress," said he, "dost thou want a slave cheap
I have a child to sell--a bargain. She is but little, and almost an infant,
it is true; but she is quick and quiet, docile and clever, sings well, and
is of good blood, I assure you." "Of what country?" said I. "Thessalian."
Now I knew the Thessalians were acute and gentle; so I said I would see the
girl. I found her just as you see her now, scarcely smaller and scarcely
younger in appearance. She looked patient and resigned enough, with her
hands crossed on her bosom, and her eyes downcast. I asked the merchant his
price: it was moderate, and I bought her at once. The merchant brought her
to my house, and disappeared in an instant. Well, my friends, guess my
astonishment when I found she was blind! Ha! ha! a clever fellow that
merchant! I ran at once to the magistrates, but the rogue was already gone
from Pompeii. So I was forced to go home in a very ill humor, I assure you;
and the poor girl felt the effects of it too. But it was not her fault that
she was blind, for she had been so from her birth. By degrees, we got
reconciled to our purchase. True, she had not the strength of Staphyla, and
was of very little use in the house, but she could soon find her way about
the town, as well as if she had the eyes of Argus; and when one morning she
brought us home a handful of sesterces, which she said she had got from
selling some flowers she had gathered in our poor little garden, we thought
the gods had sent her to us. So from that time we let her go out as she
likes, filling her basket with flowers, which she wreathes into garlands
after the Thessalian fashion, which pleases the gallants; and the great
people seem to take a fancy to her, for they always pay her more than they
do any other flower-girl, and she brings all of it home to us, which is more
than any other slave would do. So I work for myself, but I shall soon
afford from her earnings to buy me a second Staphyla; doubtless, the
Thessalian kidnapper had stolen the blind girl from gentle parents. Besides
her skill in the garlands, she sings and plays on the cithara, which also
brings money, and lately--but that is a secret.'