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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic
Romance

Chapter VIII

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We conducted the bridegroom and his bride to an apartment on the second stair; and the door was shut. Ippolito returned to his lessons: but I took Gioffredo to my proper lodging.

Having seen those children happy, I felt mine own unhappiness surging again in my breast. By the grace of the gods, the Borgia boy chattered like a pie all the time, enraptured with his own garrulity, needing no attention. Thus I was able to let my proper thoughts range freely. We rested in arm-chairs, while the pages doffed our garments, wrapping us in white woollen frocks.

It was not to be denied that I had done a noble deed in rescuing those children from a den of infamy. I looked at the sheets, filled with fragrant herbs, which hung by their


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corners from the ceiling of the bathing-chamber, as though I expected a message of approval from the Divine Ones who live in that direction. We were sitting on large sponges placed on rush-seated stools upon the floor-sheet; and pages laid other sponges under our feet.

I remember noting that Gioffredo’s big toes were his longest toes: but my second toes are my longest toes, according to the canon of Lysippos.1 Otherwise his form was without blemish; and if, as Ippolito alleged, I in mine adolescence resembled the marble copy of the lithe thalerose image of David by Messer Verrocchio, certainly the Borgia boy at that time

1. This would be the Athlete with the Strigil, the Apoxyomenos, the supreme model of human form, which is is unaccountably and yet so assidiuously neglected by all “strong men” and physiculturists of the present day. It is strange that this statue should be named by Don Tarquinio: for it was not discovered till a.d. 1849, though it certainly was discovered in Trastevere, the district of Rome in which Don Tarquinio was in a.d.1495.


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resembled the sleek plump image of David by Messer Donatello, which images copied in tinted marble the white-faced cardinal then possessed. So I judged; and I resolved to mention this particular to Ippolito: not that I actually believed myself to resemble the beautiful Rufo Drudodimare, admirable, pathetic, or Gioffredo to resemble the splendid Baldonero Fioravanti, admirable, treacherous, in more particulars than a few and those very superficial: but those ij adolescents had been mistaken for the very images themselves above-named; and so we ij also possessed a certain similitude to the same, but only to the casual spectator. However, the thing was strange; and I pondered it in my mind.

Anon I began to wonder what colour of body his stars had deigned to Réné. That his form was as exquisite and as vigorous as his mind, I already knew from the evidence of my sense of sight: but I often have noted that a fine form and fine features sometimes are marred by some imperfect tincture of the


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skin in parts; and I eagerly looked forward to the morrow, when I might take an opportunity of assuring myself as to the person of one whose individuality seemed to be so sympathetic.

After these rather absurd meditations, I went on to consider the likely effects of my deed of the night.

The pages had placed beneath our stools great silver bowls containing the steaming stew of hollyhock, mallow, pellitory, sweet fennel, wall-wort, johnswort, centaury, rib-grass, camomile, heyhove, heyriff, herbbenet, daisy, wild water-parsley, water-speedwell, scabious, henbane, withy-leaves, green oats, all boiled to a pulp in distilled water. Note the composition of this bath, o Prospero. It was invented by one of his mages for the cardinal; and as conducing to physical health, it hath no equal. I heard the senior page reciting the names of the herbs, as I had heard him on the vij previous nights, while the others wrapped us and our stools closely in thick woollen cloths


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of enormous size. While thus we sat sweating in the odoriferous steam, Gioffredo incessantly gabbled: but I cogitated many things in my mind.

It appeared to me that I had delivered a Keltic noble from slavery, had enabled him to provide himself with legitimate heirs of his body in contempt of his wicked uncle, and that I was going to enable him sooner or later to achieve his natural rights and dignities. In plain words, I had laid him under a debt of gratitude. Secondly, I had conceived an immense affection for him, which he in turn seemed to reciprocate. In plain words, I had acquired another friend who might be valuable.

At this point of the argument, the cloths were removed; and our flesh was seen to be as scarlet as the flesh of tunny-fish. The pages sponged us with tepid rose-water; and several bucketfuls of cold, poured over our heads when we stood up, caused pallor anon to conquer ruddiness. So we stood on dry sheets by the


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glow of the fire, spitting into gold basins while cleaning our teeth with linen, moistened in a liquid made of mastic, rosemary, sage, bramble-leaves all macerate in Greek wine, and dipped in a powder of barley-bread burned with salt. This was the recipe which our mage of Deira gave to me; and I gave it to Ippolito.

The pages dried our bodies, chafing our limbs with their hands; but I was persuading myself that such a friend as the Vicomte de Sainctrose might be very useful to me anon, supposing that Ippolito should fail to induce our Lord the Paparch to treat me fairly: for, I deliberated, if the Great Ban were to continue in force against me here, I should be compelled to seek an opportunity for expending mine energies elsewhere. And I stretched myself, looking down upon my tremendous natural capabilities with anger at the thought that they were totally useless. I most earnestly desired to sting someone.

Gioffredo went on chattering. I believe that he had not found me a good listener: for he was addressing himself to the pages who were


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rubbing his ribs. We went into the bedchamber for the drying and combing of our hair. Long before this was finished, Gioffredo slept where he sat in his chair. The service was a poor one for the son of our Lord the Paparch, accustomed to luxuries as he was: but he himself had chosen his lot, and his breeding prohibited complaint.

But I, on my part, bitterly complained of evil knitting in the hosen which I had doffed, reducing my comptroller to terror, very comical, lest he should be degraded from his situation; for mine anger at the malignance of my stars made me angry with all and singular. What was the use, I reflected, of a Keltic friend, not xv years old, dispossessed of his demesnes, and actually dependent on me for a livelihood? And I thought bitterly of Réné blissfully mounted and riding to fortune, and of myself writhing under the oppression of the Great Ban.

Our hair having been tucked into our nightcaps, nothing now remained but that we should betake ourselves to bed. But, while the pages


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were spreading the footcloths, and covering the rush-lights with shades, and opening the windows, Gioffredo suddenly awakened and would have been merry. I myself was in no mood for sleep: nor could I join in his mirth. But I suggested that we ij should go to find Ippolito.

A couple of my best nightgowns1 were brought; and the Borgia boy chose the one of vair of nut-brown squirrels, with slippers of the same: but I indued the other of ermine reversed with ermines, with slippers of minever. I remember this, by cause that both these nightgowns were of great value, and after this night I never saw either of them again.2

1. He means “dressing-gowns,” I surmise: for gentlemen of the fifteenth century slept as God made them.

2. It’s extremely likely. They appear to have been cast off in a great hurry a little later, in a place accessible to many miscellaneous persons. Patricians, who fling away fur nightgowns among people not responsible for their preservation, ought not to be surprized when they lose them. Valuable fur nightgowns are saleable; and – strange but absolutely true, to say–


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Thus we proceeded; and we found the cardinal writing, in the secret chamber, still engaged with his tasks.

Rome was full of Jews who had fled from Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition to the generous protection of Pope Alexander the Sixth.