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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter X


But our meditations were interrupted by an instant scratching on the outside of the ivory door; and a wave of secret chamberlains flowed in with torches, announcing:

“The Most Respectable Worship1 of the Lord Cardinal of Valencia.”

Ippolito arose, grave, self-dominant. I and Gioffredo also arose, wrapping our furs more closely round us, surprized, very greatly wondering.

I will tell thee, o Prospero, how Cardinal Cesare appeared to me on that night: so that

1. Cesare (whom the nineteenth century was apt to call “Borgia”) rankes as a pontifical nephew: hence his proper epithets were “Osservantissimo” and “Colendissimo.” The other cardinals were “Illustrissimo.” The style &#8220Most Eminent” and “Eminency” were not invented in 1495.


thou mayst have ever before thine eyes a vivid image of the prodigious personality who, as Messer Niccolo Machiavelli saith, might have done Anything. He was of the age of xx years, tall and splendid of form. Tawny hair and beardlet shaded his swarthy features. The hair was rolled in a golden bag of network convenient for travelling. His eyes were like glowing iron in the furnace of his face. Under the cardinalitial great-cloak, he wore a secular habit of vermilion velvet. The huge sapphire1 glittered on the first finger of his right hand. A thick gold chain surrounded his neck, disappearing in the lace of the smock which peeped out of the breast of his doublet. Beneath the lower hem of the last, the escalloped edge of a mail-shirt appeared. All this I noted, while he was washing his fingers at the door.

His pages caught the great-cloak flung to them: left the double-cross leaning against one

1. The sapphire is the proper stone for a cardinal’s ring, as the amethyst is for a bishop’s or an archbishop’s.


of the ivory images; and retired; and the door was shut. He advanced towards the Cardinal of Ferrara: but he was winking at Gioffredo with haggard brilliant eyes. As for me, he noted me no more than the said ivory images: whereat I fumed with rage, only restraining myself from using my sting by cause that I desired to see more of this splendid creature.

Ippolito accorded to him the kiss of peace: to whom he spoke, saying:

“In virtue of his obedience to our Lord the Paparch, We are to demand secret conference with the Cardinal of Ferrara.”

It was evident from the form of this speech that very great matters were afoot. I instantly shot such a glance at Ippolito as taught him my vehement desire to be mixed up with the affair. Such was the force of my will that the thing was understood as readily as though I had spoken.

Ippolito went to the door; and issued commandments to the chamberlains in the antechamber.


Cardinal Cesare was pinching the plump legs of Gioffredo in a merry manner, running round the room.

Anon a guard of viiij gigantic Numidians, ebony-coloured, girt with jaguar-skins, white and tawny, armed with terrible clubs, produced themselves; and were ranged outside, in a wedge whose base was the ivory portal. But xviij other Numidians in the outer antechamber kept the way against all comers. And so the door again was shut.

Ippolito beckoned me to him; and placed me with my back against it, making it my charge. I kept silence: but my looks told him of my gratitude.

Gioffredo escaped from his tormentor; and taking the comb from his pouch, tidied his ruffled hair, and resumed his nightcap.

Ippolito and the Cardinal of Valencia disposed themselves on the black cushions. The former drew up the low ivory tables of wine and sweetmeats, beginning to chew fresh sage-leaves from a vase: but the latter degusted


spoonfuls of a confection of prickly pear. Anon Gioffredo joined himself to them. But I munched coriander-seeds steeped in marjoram-vinegar and crusted with sugar, which by chance I had in my comfit-box. They bring a special commodity to the memory, o Prospero.

Cesare abruptly asked Ippolito how much he knew of affairs.

Ippolito responded, saying that he very assiduously had been playing at great-ball since his return to the City, and had not paid much attention to affairs. He knew, of course, that Alexander, magnificent, invincible, had interned Himself in the castle; and that the Keltic king was occupying part of the City on the other side of Tiber. Also he knew, from rumour, that the said king’s nose resembled a raw ham, that a pink birth-flare surrounded his left eye, that his twelve-toed shanks had no more form than women’s spindles, that he had brought into the City a new disease which he who was speaking called Morbus Gallicus, but Prince Tarquinio here present called it Morbus


Kelticus, and the Cardinal of Valencia might decide between us. Finally, resuming his gravity, Ippolito named the rumour which said that the said Keltic king, finding our Lord the Paparch to be quite impregnable, was forced to conclude some sort of peace.

Cesare silently produced the pectoral cross which was attached to his neck-chain. It was set with great table-rubies. Unfastening its clasp, he disengaged a ring, huge, massive, which hung by its side. I never had seen so enormous a ring then. It was made of gilded bronze, viiij barleycorns in diameter. Its oblong bezel was set with, a cabochon rock-crystal, highly projecting. One shoulder was carved with the Borgia armorials, videlicet Sol a Bull passant Mars on a closet Venus flory proper within a bordure Mars semée of flammels Sol1. The Triple Crown and the Keys were carved on the other shoulder. The

1. The tinctures are given by Don Tarquinio as in the arms of princes. Sol = or, Mars = gules, Venus = vert.


legend papa aler vj was carved on the hoop. This ring, as thou knowst, o Prospero, is the most precious thing in my proper treasury at the time of writing: for which cause I am able to describe it, although at the time of which I write I was not able to see more than its tremendous magnitude and its reddish colour.

While he was disentangling this ponderous jewel, Cesare was cursing in the urbane and simple manner of a real Roman of Rome, saying:

“That a Worship of my Respectability should be compelled to carry so vulgar an ingot, a sordid lump only intended for couriers to wave at post-houses in passing by, a blasted gyve which even a blind postmaster could not fail to see!”

With which words he presented the said ring to the Cardinal of Ferrara.

Ippolito kneeled, applying his ear to it with surprise and reverence,1 ejaculating:

1. This would appear to be the Roman method of answering an official citation – as old as Horace, anyhow.



Cesare assented:

“Credentials on the part of our Most Holy Father.”

Ippolito maliciously inquired:


Cesare jumped up; and put himself to stride about the room. At first he shouted: but anon his voice sank into the tone of self-communion; and finally, resuming his seat, he returned to an ordinary mode of speech. He said:

“Father? Yes, father. Pater patrum. Thine as well as Ours. Oh We catch the sneer of thy meaning, o Cardinal of Ferrara. But We mean Father after the spirit. Whether after the flesh also, who knoweth? Not We, for one. He is generous to Us: but He is not fatherlike to Us. Nor do We Ourself believe – no, We do not believe. There be secret mysteries, incongruities. Yet We dare not ask her. But she was the other’s before she was His. And the time of Our birth coincideth.


Did We ever tell thee, o Cardinal of Ferrara, of the woman who screamed at Us out of the crowd at Naples when We took Gioffredo to his marriage? See the Dellarovere, she cried, wagging a stark finger at Us. But enough. Thou takest cognizance of this Our credentials?”

Remember, o Prospero, that thy father heard those pregnant words, while his eyes saw that splendid creature laying bare his mind. So thou shalt know truly who was the actual father of Cesare whom men called Borgia.

He put the great ring on his right middle finger.

Ippolito again offered his ear to be touched by the ring; and responded, saying:

“We recognize; and We are ready to obey.”

Cesare began to deliver his message, saying:

“Then listen: for time is short. Thou knowest nothing of affairs. Well, We will treat thee honestly. Always We save Ourself


pains so. First, thou shalt know that the Christian King, on pretence of a crusade against the Grand Turk, obtained leave from our Lord the Paparch to march his troops through Italy. On the way, he conceived a claim to the crowns of Aragon, Naples, Both Sicilies, and Hierusalem. At Fiorenza, he intrigued with the maniac Fra Girolamo,1 whose proper place should be Santo Spirito.2 When anon the said Christian King reached the City, finding himself with an army at his back, he dared to require our said Lord the Paparch to confirm his claim, knowing that (without such recognition) he can wear no crown. But Alexander, magnificent, invincible, having no particular grievance against King Don Alonzo of Naples and the rest, who already is in possession, refused to depose that sovereign in favour of the Christian King. Wherefore that Keltic monkey, in revenge, conspired with the traitor Cardinal-bishop Giuliano Dellarovere, and with

1. This would be Savonarola.

2. The Roman “Bedlam.”


his friends the traitor barons Colonna, Orsini, Savelli, Sanseverini, Cajetani; and he even hath won the Cardinal-vice-chancellor Sforza-Visconti with Cardinal-presbyter Sanseverini and Cardinal-Δ. Lunati. Then he appealed to the arbitrement of war. What cared the invincible Alexander? Having laid hands on those iij treacherous purpled persons, He nipped them in the dungeons of the castle. Taking the Sultán Jam1 along with Him, He Himself also retired into the castle, snapping a thumb and finger at the Christian King.”

Ippolito interrupted, demanding the reason for the sequestration of the said Sultán Jam.

To whom Cesare responded, saying:

“The Sultán Jam is of inestimable value to our Lord the Paparch, by cause that he is the brother and rival of the Grand Turk. The said potentate, by name the Sultán Bajazet, preferreth not to be dethroned by the Sultán

1. This Oriental personage appears to have been somewhat of a Man-in-the-Iron-Mask in the Borgian Era.


Jam. Wherefore he agreed to pay xlm ducats yearly to the Supreme Pontiff, so long as that He shall keep the said brother and rival from Byzantion. Lately no ducats have been paid; and the Grand Turk now demandeth the person of the Sultán Jam. But the Sanctity of the Paparch knoweth ij things. First, that the Sultán Bajazet hath a mind to kill and slay his brother; and the magnificent Alexander will not become a proximate occasion of fratricide. Secondly, that so long as that Christian hands retain the Sultán Jam, so long will the Muslim Infidel refrain from advancing nefariously on Hungary and Vienna, lest Christendom, postponing private quarrels, should combine to set up the Sultán Jam in his despite, having obtained warranties of good behaviour. Wherefore, although the said Sultán Jam actually is our pensioner, our Lord the Paparch generously permitteth him to keep his own court here with Him in the security of the Castle of Santangelo.”

Ippolito ejaculated:


“Good, good!1 Either the Paparch’s Blessedness or Thy Worship’s Respectability, We know not which, is as expert and as artificial with the wits of the head as We are with the sinews of Our body.”

Cesare continued, saying:

“These things having been understood, thou art to know that the Christian King made a show of siege, sitting down before the Castle of Santangelo with a gaggle of the common queans of the City and the stinking strumpets of the stews. But, after this diversion, he seeth that the paparchal fortress is too hard a nut to crack. As the Sieur de Commines confessed to Us, he hath become aware that the deposition of our Lord the Paparch is beyond his power. As Messer Demosthenes saith, The mouse hath found out that he is eating pitch.2 And so the said Christian King will be wholly glad to go away, if he can save

1. “εὖ&#947ε, εὖγε” [euge, euge] in the original holograph.

2. ἄρτι μῦς γεύεται πίττης (Demosthenes) [arti mus geuetai pittês].


his face. Our Lord the Paparch, on the other hand, doth not enjoy sitting in the castle like a cat in a cherry-bay-tree, even though that dog of a Kelt can do no more than yelp at him. But the Christian King is totally ignorant of this. He knoweth no more than that he hath failed to capture Santangelo, and that the invincible Alexander most mercifully doth deign to give him these terms. First, the Christian King may raise the siege, departing in peace from the inviolable City and from Peter’s Patrimony: whither, our Lord the Paparch saith not – Gaul, Crusade, Naples, His Sanctity specifieth not whither: but the Christian King must go. His attempted intimidation of the Roman Paparch was very blamable: but he will be permitted to retire unmolested. Secondly, our Lord the Paparch maketh no engagement concerning the crowns of Naples and the rest: but the Christian King must go. Thirdly, our Lord the Paparch deigneth to give hostages for vj months to the said Christian King, sop to uncurbable


conceit. Whom will He give, dost thou ask, as hostages in such a grave case? First, He hath given Sultán Jam; and the second’s Ourself.”