The Best Mystery and Detective Stories
LUCIUS APULEIUS (Second Century)
The Adventure of the Three Robbers
The great satire of Lucius Apuleius, the work through which his name lives after
the lapse of nearly eighteen centuries, is "The Golden Ass," a romance from
which the following passage has been selected and translated for these Mystery
Stories. Lucius, the personage who tells the story, is regarded in some quarters as
a portrayal of the author himself. The purpose of "The Golden Ass" was to
satirize false priests and other contemporary frauds. But interspersed are many
episodes of adventure and strange situations, one of which is here given.
As Telephron reached the point of his story, his fellow revelers, befuddled with their
wine, renewed the boisterous uproar. And while the old topers were clamoring for the
customary libation to laughter, Byrrhæna explained to me that the morrow was a day
religiously observed by her city from its cradle up; a day on which they alone among
mortals propitiated that most sacred god, Laughter, with hilarious and joyful rites. "The
fact that you are here," she added, "will make it all the merrier. And I do wish that you
would contribute something amusing out of your own cleverness, in honor of the god, to
help us duly worship such an important divinity."
"Surely," said I, "what you ask shall be done. And, by Jove! I hope I shall hit upon
something good enough to make this mighty god of yours reveal his presence."
Hereupon, my slave reminding me what hour of night it was, I speedily got upon my feet,
although none too steadily after my potations, and, having duly taken leave of Byrrhæna,
guided my zigzag steps upon the homeward way. But at the very first corner we turned, a
sudden gust of wind blew out the solitary torch on which we depended, and left us,
plunged in the unforeseen blackness of night, to stumble wearily and painfully to our
abode, bruising our feet on every stone in the road.
But when at last, holding each other up, we drew near our goal, there ahead of us were
three others, of big and brawny build, expending the full energy of their strength upon
our doorposts. And far from being in the least dismayed by our arrival, they seemed only
fired to a greater zeal and made assault more fiercely. Quite naturally, it seemed clear to
us both, and especially to me, that they were robbers, and of the most dangerous sort. So I
forthwith drew the blade which I carry hidden under my cloak for such emergencies, and
threw myself, undismayed, into the midst of these highwaymen. One after another, as
they successively tried to withstand me, I ran them through, until finally all three lay
stretched at my feet, riddled with many a gaping wound, through which they yielded up
their breath. By this time Fotis, the maid, had been aroused by the din of battle, and still
panting and perspiring freely I slipped in through the opening door, and, as weary as
though I had fought with the three-formed Geryon instead of those pugnacious thieves, I
yielded myself at one and the same moment to bed and to slumber.