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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic
Romance

Chapter II

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That was the third day.

The eighth was my fortunate day. I will set down the history of the said day, a.d. vij Kal. Mar., being the day of Mars in the year MCCCCLXXXXV.

Divine Phoibos was finishing his course, and his radiant horses were about to plunge into the ocean-stream, when the Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal-Δ. of Santa Lucia in Silice alias in Orfea, Prince Ippolito d’Este of Ferrara, with me, Prince Tarquinio Georgio Drakontoletes Poplicola di Hagiostayros,1 came

1. The gentleman’s actual surname, of course, was Santacroce: but, being rabidly infected with the mania of his epoch for Greek, he must needs give it the Greek form of ῾Αγιοσταυρός. Regarding his frequent allusions to Saint George of Seriphos as his progenitor, the curious may remember that it was


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from a certain meadow beyond the Milvian Bridge1 where we had been playing at great-ball2. A pair of patrician pages had played on his side, which was red; and another pair played on my side, which was blue: but the red were victorious. I cannot remember the names of the said pages: nor is it of importance that I should remember them. Many persons have thrown the great-ball since Deykalion threw stones; and the names of the throwers have gone down into oblivion. These throwers were among those.

Having come to the bank of Tiber, we

Perseys of Seriphos who slew a dragon (pterodactyl?), that Perseys’ mother Danae founded Ardea in Latium, that Publius Valerius Poplicola came to Rome from Ardea, that the house of Santacroce descends from him, and that the armorials of Santacroce are the armorials of Saint George, argent a cross potent gules. From which considerations a somewhat startling theory may be formed.

1. Now called Ponte Molle.

2. Pallone, a deliriously scientifically ferocious game common in Italy.


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ascended the cardinalitial barge. Indian oarsmen propelled it; and the colour of their flesh resembled the colour of a field of ripe wheat when as some delicate zephyr sways the stems in the sunlight not more than half revealing poppies: but their eyes were like pools of ink, fathomless, upon glittering mother o’ pearl, very beautiful, and quite unintellectual. Servitors crowded amidships. Turkish arbalisters and halberdiers from Ferrara manned the bulwarks. Pages, in liveries resembling vermilion skins from toe to throat and wrist, bearing armorials on their tabards, displayed at the prow the double-cross, golden, and the high Estense gonfalon, in order to teach discretion. For, cardinals like Ippolito, and princes like Tarquinio, risked life whenever they would play at great-ball, in those old days when the Keltic barbarians of Gaul were occupying half the City on the one side of Tiber, while the Paparch Alexander was being beleaguered in the Castle of Santangelo on the other.


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For this cause Ippolito displayed his state, so that any man of evil mind, presumptuous, who should be tempted of the devil to molest us, might know that he would incur the ban of Holy Mother Church for molesting a cardinal not less than the ban of Ferrara for molesting an Este.

The air above the river was growing chilly. We who were heated with the game needed to continue in action, that we might evade perils of ague or of fever or of the Pest, most pernicious. Wherefore I wrestled as vigorously as possible with Ippolito inside the vermilion curtains of the canopied poop. But his great strength reduced my suppleness to no price; and he threw me once and twice and six times, till he was weary of easy victories: but I was weary of the carpet.

Abaft Ripetta,1 came one in a little boat with rumours: with whom we instantly collogued. It was said that some sort of a peace had been

1. The port where the agricultural produce from Umbria was landed.


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patched up. It was said that the Keltic King was about to relinquish the City.

Ippolito’s mind became inflamed with desire of inquiry. Wherefore, having crossed the river, we descended from the barge; and made haste toward Vatican, in order that we might get the news from that side.

As we hurried through the streets, mine heart was sad and disconsolate in my breast, by cause of my secret longing and by cause of mine ill-used body; and I was oblivious of all other things.

Ippolito perceived my grief, and set himself to console me, as we walked along: but he knew not all the causes of my distress. He spoke only of the Great Ban, which indeed weighed heavily, and moreover it was the root and source of all mine ill. For, had it not been for that grave impediment, I should have been a free prince; and, with my freedom, I could have won the desire of my soul, and also could have used my body to advantage. Thus he spoke: but I passed, from grieving over


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mine unknown maid and my bruised flesh, into most profound trouble by cause of my disability. And that trouble was so sore that very soon it changed into furious despair. I would do: but I could not do, by cause that I might not do. To myself I seemed useless. I was merely a bandit. Yet I got no joy of my banditry as other bandits did, by cause that I was too foolish or too wise to comport myself as a bandit.

Blood was blinding mine eyes at these thoughts; and my lips quivered fiercely. Thus to Vatican I came, in a passion of rage.