The Mountebank and the Countryman

A certain wealthy patrician, intending to treat the Roman people with some theatrical entertainment, publicly offered a reward to anyone who would produce a novel spectacle. Incited by emulation, artists arrived from all parts to contest the prize, among which a well-known witty mountebank gave out that he had a new kind of entertainment that had never yet been produced on any stage. This report being spread abroad brought the whole city together.

The theatre could hardly contain the number of spectators. When the artist appeared alone upon the stage, without any apparatus or any assistants, curiosity and suspense kept the spectators in profound silence. On a sudden he thrust down his head into his bosom, and mimicked the squeaking of a young pig, so naturally, that the audience insisted upon it that he had one under his cloak and ordered him to be searched. When none was found they loaded him with the most extravagant applause.

A countryman among the audience observed what passed. "Oh!" said he, "I can do better than this," and immediately gave out that he would perform the next day.

Accordingly, on the morrow, a yet greater crowd was collected. Prepossessed, however, in favor of the mountebank, they came rather to laugh at the countryman than to pass a fair judgment on him. They both came out upon the stage.

The mountebank grunts away first and calls forth the greatest clapping and applause. Then the countryman, pretending that he concealed a little pig under his garments (and he had, in fact, really got one), pinched its ear until he made it squeak.

The people cried out that the mountebank had imitated the pig much more naturally and hooted to the countryman to quit the stage. But he, to convict them to their face, produced a real pig from his bosom. "And now, gentlemen, you may see," said he, "what a pretty sort of judges you are!"

It is easier to convince a man against his senses than against his will.