How Socrates and Aristomenus slept together in one Chamber, and how they were handled by Witches.
In speaking these words, and devising with my selfe of our departing the next morrow, lest Meroe the witch should play by us as she had done by divers other persons, it fortuned that Socrates did fall asleepe, and slept very soundly, by reason of his travell and plenty of meat and wine wherewithall hee had filled him selfe. Wherefore I closed and barred fast the doores of the chamber, and put my bed behinde the doore, and so layed mee downe to rest. But I could in no wise sleepe, for the great feare which was in my heart, untill it was about midnight, and then I began to slumber. But alas, behold suddenly the chamber doores brake open, and locks, bolts, and posts fell downe, that you would verily have thought that some Theeves had been presently come to have spoyled and robbed us. And my bed whereon I lay being a truckle bed, fashioned in forme of a Cradle, and one of the feet broken and rotten, by violence was turned upside downe, and I likewise was overwhelmed and covered lying in the same. Then perceived I in my selfe, that certaine affects of the minde by nature doth chance contrary. For as teares oftentimes trickle downe the cheekes of him that seeth or heareth some joyfull newes, so I being in this fearfull perplexity, could not forbeare laughing, to see how of Aristomenus I was made like unto a snail [in] his shell. And while I lay on the ground covered in this sort, I peeped under the bed to see what would happen. And behold there entred in two old women, the one bearing a burning torch, and the other a sponge and a naked sword; and so in this habit they stood about Socrates being fast asleep. Then shee which bare the sword sayd unto the other, Behold sister Panthia, this is my deare and sweet heart, which both day and night hath abused my wanton youthfulnesse. This is he, who little regarding my love, doth not only defame me with reproachfull words, but also intendeth to run away. And I shall be forsaken by like craft as Vlysses did use, and shall continually bewaile my solitarinesse as Calipso. Which said, shee pointed towards mee that lay under the bed, and shewed me to Panthia. This is hee, quoth she, which is his Counsellor, and perswadeth him to forsake me, and now being at the point of death he lieth prostrate on the ground covered with his bed, and hath seene all our doings, and hopeth to escape scot-free from my hands, but I will cause that hee will repente himselfe too late, nay rather forthwith, of his former intemperate language, and his present curiosity. Which words when I heard I fell into a cold sweat, and my heart trembled with feare, insomuch that the bed over me did likewise rattle and shake. Then spake Panthia unto Meroe and said, Sister let us by and by teare him in pieces or tye him by the members, and so cut them off. Then Meroe (being so named because she was a Taverner, and loved wel good wines) answered, Nay rather let him live, and bury the corpse of this poore wretch in some hole of the earth; and therewithall shee turned the head of Socrates on the other side and thrust her sword up to the hilts into the left part of his necke, and received the bloud that gushed out, into a pot, that no drop thereof fell beside: which things I saw with mine own eyes, and as I thinke to the intent that she might alter nothing that pertained to sacrifice, which she accustomed to make, she thrust her hand down into the intrals of his body, and searching about, at length brought forth the heart of my miserable companion Socrates, who having his throat cut in such sort, yeelded out a dolefull cry, and gave up the ghost. Then Panthia stopped up the wide wound of his throat with the Sponge and said, O sponge sprung and made of the sea, beware that thou not passe by running river. This being said, one of them moved and turned up my bed, and then they strid over mee, and clapped their buttocks upon my face, and all bepissed mee until I was wringing wet. When this was over they went their wayes, and the doores closed fast, the posts stood in their old places, and the lockes and bolts were shut againe. But I that lay upon the ground like one without soule, naked and cold, and wringing wet with pisse, like to one that were more than half dead, yet reviving my selfe, and appointed as I thought for the Gallowes, began to say Alasse what shall become of me to morrow, when my companion shall be found murthered here in the chamber? To whom shall I seeme to tell any similitude of truth, when as I shall tell the trueth in deed? They will say, If thou wert unable to resist the violence of the women, yet shouldest thou have cried for help; Wouldst thou suffer the man to be slaine before thy face and say nothing? Or why did they not slay thee likewise? Why did they spare thee that stood by and saw them commit that horrible fact? Wherefore although thou hast escaped their hands, yet thou shalt not escape ours. While I pondered these things with my selfe the night passed on, and so I resolved to take my horse before day, and goe forward on my journey.
Howbeit the wayes were unknown to me, and thereupon I tooke up my packet, unlocked and unbarred the doors, but those good and faithfull doores which in the night did open of their owne accord, could then scantly be opened with their keyes. And when I was out I cried, O sirrah Hostler where art thou? Open the stable doore for I will ride away by and by. The Hostler lying behinde the stable doore upon a pallet, and half asleepe, What (quoth hee) doe you not know that the wayes be very dangerous? What meane you to rise at this time of night? If you perhaps guilty of some heynous crime, be weary of your life, yet thinke you not that we are such Sots that we will die for you. Then said I, It is well nigh day, and moreover, what can theeves take from him that hath nothing? Doest thou not know (Foole as thou art) if thou be naked, if ten Gyants should assaile thee, they could not spoyle or rob thee? Whereunto the drowsie Hostler half asleepe, and turning on the other side, answered, What know I whether you have murthered your Companion whom you brought in yesternight, or no, and now seeke the means to escape away? O Lord, at that time I remember the earth seemed ready to open, and me thought I saw at hell gate the Dog Cerberus ready to devour mee, and then I verily beleeved, that Meroe did not spare my throat, mooved with pitty, but rather cruelly pardoned mee to bring mee to the Gallowes. Wherefore I returned to my chamber, and there devised with my selfe in what sort I should finish my life. But when I saw that fortune should minister unto mee no other instrument than that which my bed profered me, I said, O bed, O bed, most dear to me at this present, which hast abode and suffered with me so many miseries, judge and arbiter of such things as were done here this night, whome onely I may call to witnesse for my innocency, render (I say) unto me some wholesome weapon to end my life, that am most willing to dye. And therewithal I pulled out a piece of the rope wherewith the bed was corded, and tyed one end thereof about a rafter by the window, and with the other end I made a sliding knot, and stood upon my bed, and so put my neck into it, and leaped from the bed, thinking to strangle my selfe and so dye, behold the rope beeing old and rotten burst in the middle, and I fell down tumbling upon Socrates that lay under: And even at that same very time the Hostler came in crying with a loud voyce, and sayd, Where are you that made such hast at midnight, and now lies wallowing abed? Whereupon (I know not whether it was by my fall, or by the great cry of the Hostler) Socrates as waking out of sleepe, did rise up first and sayd, It is not without cause that strangers do speake evill of all such Hostlers, for this Catife in his comming in, and with his crying out, I thinke under a colour to steale away something, hath waked me out of a sound sleepe. Then I rose up joyfull with a merry countenance, saying, Behold good Hostler, my friend, my companion and my brother, whom thou didst falsly affirme to be slaine by mee this might. And therewithall I embraced my friend Socrates and kissed him: but hee smelling the stinke of the pisse wherewith those Hagges had embrued me, thrust me away and sayd, Clense thy selfe from this filthy odour, and then he began gently to enquire, how that noysome sent hapned unto mee. But I finely feigning and colouring the matter for the time, did breake off his talk, and tooke him by the hand and sayd, Why tarry we? Why lose wee the pleasure of this faire morning? Let us goe, and so I tooke up my packet, and payed the charges of the house and departed: and we had not gone a mile out of the Towne but it was broad day, and then I diligently looked upon Socrates throat, to see if I could espy the place where Meroe thrust in her sword: but when I could not perceive any such thing, I thought with my selfe, What a mad man am I, that being overcome with wine yester night, have dreamed such terrible things? Behold I see Socrates is sound, safe and in health. Where is his wound? Where is the Sponge? Where is his great and new cut? And then I spake to him and said, Verily it is not without occasion, that Physitians of experience do affirme, That such as fill their gorges abundantly with meat and drinke, shall dreame of dire and horrible sights: for I my selfe, not tempering my appetite yester night from the pots of wine, did seeme to see this night strange and cruel visions, that even yet I think my self sprinkled and wet with human blood: whereunto Socrates laughing made answer and said, Nay, thou art not wet with the blood of men, but art embrued with stinking pisse; and verily I dreamed that my throat was cut, and that I felt the paine of the wound, and that my heart was pulled out of my belly, and the remembrance thereof makes me now to feare, for my knees do so tremble that I can scarce goe any further, and therefore I would faine eat somewhat to strengthen and revive my spirits. Then said I, behold here thy breakefast, and therewithall I opened my script that hanged upon my shoulder, and gave him bread and cheese, and we sate downe under a greate Plane tree, and I eat part with him; and while I beheld him eating greedily, I perceived that he waxed meigre and pale, and that his lively colour faded away, insomuch that beeing in great fear, and remembring those terrible furies of whom I lately dreamed, the first morsell of bread that I put in my mouth (that was but very small) did so stick in my jawes, that I could neither swallow it downe, nor yet yeeld it up, and moreover the small time of our being together increased my feare, and what is hee that seeing his companion die in the high-way before his face, would not greatly lament and bee sorry? But when that Socrates had eaten sufficiently hee waxed very thirsty, for indeed he had well nigh devoured a whole Cheese: and behold evill fortune! There was behind the Plane tree a pleasant running water as cleere as Crystal, and I sayd unto him, Come hither Socrates to this water and drinke thy fill. And then he rose and came to the River, and kneeled downe on the side of the banke to drinke, but he had scarce touched the water with lips, when as behold the wound in his throat opened wide, and the Sponge suddenly fell out into the water, and after issued out a little remnant of bloud, and his body being then without life, had fallen into the river, had not I caught him by the leg and so pulled him up. And after that I had lamented a good space the death of my wretched companion, I buried him in the Sands there by the river.
Which done, in great feare I rode through many Outwayes and desart places, and as culpable of the death of Socrates, I forsooke my countrey, my wife, and my children, and came to Etolia where I married another Wife.
This tale told Aristomenus, and his fellow which before obstinatly would give no credit unto him, began to say, Verily there was never so foolish a tale, nor a more absurd lie told than this. And then he spake unto me saying, Ho sir, what you are I know not, but your habit and countenance declareth that you should be some honest Gentleman, (speaking to Apuleius) doe you beleeve this tale? Yea verily (quoth I), why not? For whatsoever the fates have appointed to men, that I beleeve shall happen. For may things chance unto me and unto you, and to divers others, which beeing declared unto the ignorant be accounted as lies. But verily I give credit unto his tale, and render entire thankes unto him, in that by the pleasant relation thereof we have quickly passed and shortned our journey, and I thinke that my horse was also delighted with the same, and hath brought me to the gate of this city without any paine at all. Thus ended both our talk and our journey, for they two turned on the left hand to the next villages, and I rode into the city.