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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic
Romance

Chapter VII

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The City was quiet on the other side of Tiber and where we halted: but, on our right hand, the Keltic camp, now blazing with torches, hummed like a swarm of wasps. My guards lighted their own torches from the lanthorn which hung before the image of Saint John at the street corner.

We went onward slowly, through Banchi Vecchi and by the Cenci Palace, in search of Gioffredo: whom we found near the fort of Pierleone,1 much disordered in his habits) his hosen being full of dried peas of which his decurion was relieving him. Their laughter prevented my words for a time. Wherefore, giving favour to my tongue, I consigned the

1. I suppose this to be the ruined Theatre of Marcellus which the Pierleone fortified in the eleventh century. It is now the Palazzo Savelli.


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Keltic lad to one of my proper guards; and, when anon Gioffredo had remounted, we ij rode on side by side.

He was very loquacious concerning his adventures in a Jew’s house, which used to stand by St. George’s of the Golden Sail and the arch of Janus, where certain Jewesses had been entertaining him. But, their father having returned unexpectedly from some nocturnal orgy, they had hidden Gioffredo in the pea-bin: from which uncomfortable abode he at length emerged, deeming the moment convenient for flight. But the said Jew, having found a strange sword, was on the watch; and furiously withstood him. Gioffredo had only a poignard and a mail-shirt, the latter in his hand instead of on his body: but, nevertheless, he had bidden old Abraham to bethink himself, seeing that the said poignard had been used for carving pork. But the Jew had enraged himself the more; and Gioffredo, having all his points untrussed and his hosen about his feet, was unable to run.


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Wherefore, taking the mail-shirt by the sleeves, he swinged at his opponent such a blow that he fell prone, over whom incontinently rolling, the Paparch’s son contrived to get into the street. He had lost his sword and his boots; and he had spoiled his garments: but his speech was so comical, and his occasional jerks (when the movement of his horse caused him to sit upon a forgotten pea) by degrees dismissed the severity with which I at first was inclined to treat him. And also I was no saint myself. So I said. And so we came in silence to the Fabrician Bridge.

Gioffredo affectionately inquired the cause of my silence, saying that thinking made one grow old.

To whom I responded, saying that I was unhappy, and that all these games appeared to be only vain and rather silly, seeing that there were many other worthier occupations for princes of our quality. But, remembering that Gioffredo was a guest, anon I changed my mood, lightly asking whether he would wend to Vatican.

He would not; but he demanded half of my bed for the night, commanding his decurion to


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bring a valise of new habits from Traspontina,1 for him to don on the morrow. And so we entered the palace.

Some malignant star caused a misfortune at our entrance. The soldier, who had my Keltic lad on his horse’s crupper, dismounted; and began to unbuckle the girth. Near by, ij pages had been fighting; and one was bewailing and letting drip a bleeding nose. The odour of the blood enraged the stallion, on whose bare back the Keltic lad was sitting sideways, waiting for orders. That one promptly flung his leg over; and, leaning forward, seized the bridle. Insued sudden dispersal of the crowd, wild galloping through the courtyards, sidelong sweepings and rushings, heavenward tossings, frantic plungings; but the rider sat erect, tense as young Bellerophon before Chimaira, gripped to his steed by thighs and knees. Indeed, it was a very grand spectacle.

1. The palace of the Cardinal of Saint Mary’s across the Bridge, by the Vatican. It was rented for the Borgia princes.


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While we all were gazing, the noise disturbed Ippolito: who came bounding down the stair, as the furious beast dashed through the low arch beneath the hall. That cardinal instantly cast his cardinalature to the iiij winds, leaping and tearing at the bitt with his gigantic strength, muffling the stallion’s head in his vermilion mantle, while the grooms ran up and hobbled the dire hooves.

Anon the Keltic lad dismounted; and stood before us, blushing, trembling, bright-eyed, brave, a slender supple figure, with articulations of most delicate distinction. His glance strayed toward the girl. She stood still where she had been placed at first. In admiring him, I forgot that I myself was miserable. Gioffredo’s eyes began to goggle.

Ippolito looked from the stranger to me. Having whispered what was necessary to the one, I announced to the other Ippolito’s condition of Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal-Δ. and Prince of Ferrara. The Keltic lad kneeled; and did obeisance to the sapphire.


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Ippolito resumed his cardinalature, stiffly asking the lad to name himself.

That one responded, saying that he was the Vicomte Réné XVIIII Raoul Alain Gabriel Marie de Sainctrose, Vidame de Sainctrose, Sieur de Chastelmondesir; and now, o Prospero, thou knowest how thy father, and thy godfather, and Renato’s,1 first became acquainted each with other.

We all were much astonished. Ippolito demanded more news. To whom the Vicomte de Sainctrose was pleased to say that his father had had two brothers, videlicet the Sieur Estienne who was father to the Damoiselle Estelle there present and cousin of the speaker, and the Sieur Guichart who was father to the Damoiseau Armand then absent but also cousin of the speaker. Further he said that his own father and mother long had lived in olympian

1. This would be that magnanimous Renato, son of the Marcantonio here mentioned, of whom Dom Gheraldo Pinarj so deliciously has written in his journal.


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mansions:1 that his uncle Estienne had gone by the same road at Michaelmas: that his uncle Guichart, being then his warden and the girl’s, and wishing to have his demesne and hers for his own son, kept them both hardly, fearing by cause that they loved one another. Wherefore, on the day of the dead,2 those ij had prayed to their parents with the gods, and anon escaped into the forest belonging to the said Vicomte de Sainctrose, intending to love and to die there. But a company of Egyptians had captured them; and had brought them, with other stolen children, by long roads to the City, selling them as slaves.

Ippolito interrupted, saying something about an evil trade.

The Vicomte indignantly gainsaid him: asseverating that he himself and his cousin had been but a night and a day in the City; and that, as he was not alone, it behoved him to use

1. A pretty way of saying they were gone to heaven.

2. All Souls’s Day, the second of November.


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subtilty for the sake of his said cousin. He denied that he had followed an evil trade, having a knife, which either would cause force to flee, or would open Paradise for the girl and for him then speaking.

Ippolito still demurred: but Réné persisted, saying:

“The Most Illustrious Prince Tarquinio Giorgio Drakontoletes Poplicola di Hagiostayros used princely words and kindlike, the first from strangers during many months: for which cause We wished to let him know that a Keltic noble could be as generous as a Roman patrician.”

And he added, in the Greek tongue, that he venerated me as his Deliverer.1

As thou well knowst, o Prospero, the road to my love lieth through Hellas; and, when I heard that last word of the Vicomte de Sainctrose, my bowels yearned because of him.2 I said:

1. ἐλευθερωτής.

2. Don Tarquinio was a great one for judging by the evidence of his senses. The brave and pitiful little


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“Tell us thine age, o Damoiseau.”

He responded to me, saying that the nones of April would mark the opening of his fifteenth year.

When I understood that he had been born under the Ram and Mars, the cause of his extraordinary courage and of the astounding manner in which he had governed his affairs, at once became clear to me. Desiring to be asso-

vicomte had told an amazing tale; and there was not a shred of corroborative detail. If this had happened in the nineteenth century, they of course would have interned the couple in more or less criminal seclusion, until they had obtained a pack of identificatory papers – which any fool can forge. But it luckily happened in the fifteenth century, when men (being men of sense) believed in God, Who had made them in His Own Image; and, consequently, they felt no false delicacy about assuming for themselves some of the divine attributes – for example, the power of recognizing truth when they saw and heard it. Prince Tarquinio heard the Vicomte de Sainctrose: he looked into his open eyes; and decided that the thing was true – saving himself (and everyone else) an infinity of trouble by his sensibility.


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ciated with such an one, I completed my deliberations with these words:

“We offer to take thee into Our service.”

He responded to me again, saying that he desired nothing better than to learn the duties of his estate in order that he might oust the usurper of his feoffs at an opportune time. But his eyes wandered to the girl.

I said that the comptroller should have order regarding him, and that the mistress of the women should have order regarding the damoiselle: for, being no more than a guest in the Estense palace, I was in a quandary at the moment. And so I turned away, with Ippolito and the Borgia boy. As we went, I was telling Ippolito more of what had happened at the Falcon Inn. Gioffredo continually ejaculated concerning the good fortune of certain people: but Ippolito’s brow became as black as night. Anon he interrupted me; and took command of the whole matter, saying that he would not know of any sin or of anything needing amendment in his palace. And he began to act.


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The page Giovempedocle (he was very finely made, o Prospero, but his right eye was brown while his left eye was blue) evanesced with an order for the mistress of the women to conduct the Damoiselle Estelle de Sainctrose to the cedar cabinet with a vicecomitial escort.

The page Giacinto (he was quite young, but his hair was as white as hoar-frost and very luxuriant indeed) evanesced with an order for an abbate (whose name I have forgotten) to attend in the chapel.

But we returned; and joined the Vicomte de Sainctrose to our company. Réné was palpitating with emotions not necessary to be described. I took his hand; and we followed Ippolito to the treasury, where a choice was made of certain matters. As we went along, a full state of gentlemen and chamberlains with the double-cross collected; and attended us to the cedar cabinet.

There, we withdrew the ij Keltic nobles to the window, where we could speak in secret; and Ippolito examined them as to their real


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sentiments each for other. Their wonderful frank eyes became grave as they responded, saying that they were one. He gave rings to them, each ring a flight of golden cupids bound with scrolls inscribed Je sui’ ici en li’u d’amy and Filz ou Fille. Taking their hands, he led them to the chapel. The presbyter blessed the rings. They were exchanged and planted. Benediction hallowed nuptials, legitimate, indissoluble.

Thus was one of the many grand deeds done by thy father, o my son Prospero, well done on that fortunate day.