The Widow and the Soldier

The New Fables—attributed to Phædrus
The great Inconstancy and Lustfulness of Women.
A certain Woman had for some years lost her beloved Husband, and had placed his body in a tomb; and as she could by no means be forced from it, and passed her life in mourning at the sepulchre, she obtained a distinguished character for strict chastity. In the meantime, some persons who had plundered the temple of Jupiter suffered the penalty of crucifixion. In order that no one might remove their remains, soldiers were appointed as guards of the dead bodies, close by the monument in which the woman had shut herself up. Some time after, one of the Guards, being thirsty, asked, in the middle of the night, for some water, of a servant-maid, who chanced just then to be assisting her mistress, who was going to rest; for she had been watching by a lamp, and had prolonged her vigils to a late hour. The door being a little open, the Soldier peeps in, and beholds a Woman, emaciated indeed, but of beauteous features. His smitten heart is immediately inflamed, and he gradually burns with unchaste desires. His crafty shrewdness invents a thousand pretences for seeing her more frequently. Wrought upon by daily intercourse, by degrees she became more complaisant to the stranger, and soon enthralled his heart by a closer tie. While the careful Guard is here passing his nights, a body is missed from one of the crosses. The Soldier in his alarm relates to the Woman what has happened; but the chaste Matron replies: “You have no grounds for fear;” and gives up the body of her Husband to be fastened to the cross, that he may not undergo punishment for his negligence.
Thus did profligacy usurp the place of honour.

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