Enter Quartilla, the Priapic Priestess
No sooner had we filled our bellies with the dinner which|
Giton had kindly prepared for us than there was a peremp-
tory hammering on the door . . . We blanched, and asked
who was there. 'Open up', a voice said, 'and you will soon
find out.' In the course of this exchange, the bolt gave way
of its own accord, and fell off; the door suddenly yawned
open and admitted our visitor. It was a woman, heavily veiled.
'Did you imagine', she asked, 'that you had fooled me? I am
the maid of Quartilla, the lady whose ritual you interrupted
in front of her chapel. She is coming in person to your
lodging, and begs leave to have words with you. Don't get
agitated; she is not here to condemn or to punish your sin;
on the contrary, she wonders what god has led such elegant
young men into her neighbourhood.'
We were still reduced to silence, saying neither yea nor|
nay, when the lady herself entered, escorted by a young girl.
She seated herself on my bed in a bout of weeping. Even
then we did not offer a word, but waited in bewilderment
for this tearful demonstration of grief to end. Once the
impressive shower of tears had subsided, she unveiled her
proud head, pressing her hands hard together until the
joints cracked. 'Why have you behaved so recklessly?' she
asked. 'Where did you learn to outdo the story-books in
your thieving? I swear to heaven I'm sorry for you; no one
goes unpunished for having gazed on things forbidden. This
locality of ours in particular is so crowded with the presence
of divinities that it's easier to find a god here than a man.
|'Please don't think that I have come here bent on re-|
venge. I'm more concerned for your tender years than for
the harm you've done me. I still think that it was thought-
lessness that made you commit that irreparable crime. That