Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Women who are not to be trusted
OF WOMEN WHO ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.
Macrobius (30) states that a Roman youth, named Papirius, was once present with his father in the senate, at a time when a very important matter was debated, which, on pain of death, was to be kept secret. When the lad returned home, his mother asked him what it was that was guarded under so heavy a penalty. He replied that it was unlawful to reveal it. The mother, little satisfied with the boy's reply, entreated, promised, threatened, and even scourged him, in the hope of extorting a communication. But he remained inflexible; and, at last, willing to satisfy her, and yet retain his secret, said, "The council met upon this matter: whether it were more beneficial to the state, that one man should have many wives; or one woman many husbands." The mother no sooner heard this, than away she posted to divide the important secret with other Roman dames. And on the following day, assembling in a large body, they went without hesitation to the senators, earnestly requesting that one woman might be married to two men, rather than two women to one man. The senators, astonished at the shameless phrenzy of a sex naturally modest, deliberated upon the best remedy. The boy Papirius, finding this, related to them the circumstance which had occasioned the uproar; and they, bestowing great commendation on his ingenuity, passed a decree that he should be present at their consultations whenever he would. (31)
My beloved, the boy is any one whose life is pure; the father is a prelate: and the mother is the world.
Note 30.Page 171.
"This is one of the most lively stories of Macrobius," says "Warton. It is detailed Saturnal. Lib. ii. c. 6. "De origine ac usu prætextæ," p. 147.—"Mos antea senatoribus fuit in curiam prætextatis filiis introire. Cum in senatu res major quœpiam consultabatur; eaque in posterum diem prolata esset: placuit ut hanc rem, super qua tractavissent, ne quis enuntiaret priusquam decreta esset. Mater Papirii pueri, qui cum parente suo in curia fuerat, percunctatur filium, quidnam in senatu egissent patres: puer respondit tacendum esse, neque id dici licere. Mulier fit audiendi cupidior, secretum rei et silentium pueri animum ejus ad inquirendum everberat. Quærit igitur compressus violentiusque; turn puer urgente matre lepidi atque festivi mendacii consilium capit; actum in senatu dixit utrum videretur utilius magisque è republica esse, unusne ut duas uxores haberet, an ut una apud duos nupta esset. Hoc illa ubi audivit, animo compavescit; domo trepidans egreditur, ad cæteras matronas affert; postridieque ad senatum copiosa matrum-familias caterva confluunt. Lacrymantes atque obsecrantes orant una potius ut duobus nupta fieret, quam ut uni duæ. Senatores ingredientes curiam, quæ illa mulireum intemperies, et quid sibi postulatio istæc vellet, mirabantur; et ut non parvæ rei prodigium illam verecundi sexus impudicam insaniam pavescebant. Puer Papirius publícum metum demit; nam in medium curiæ progressus quid ipsi mater audire institisset, quid matri ipse simulasset; sicut fuerat, enarrat. Senatus fidem atque ingenium pueri exosculatur; consultumque facit uti posthac pueri cum patribus in curiam non introëant præter illum unum Papirium; eique puero postea cognomentum honoris gratia decreto inditum, Præextatus; ob tacendi loquendique in prætextæ ætate prudentiam."
Note 31.Page 173.
This story has been modernized; and occurs in a volume entitled "Beauties of Poetry," edited by a Mr. Melmoth; and probably in many others.