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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XI


We iij, o Prospero, fetched our breath faster; and our eyes dilated, but, speaking no word, we listened.

Cesare continued, saying:

“Now these terms are not what the Keltic monkey wanted: but they are the best which he can get. Being a fool, never constant to a single idea, he hath determined to hasten southward, and to conquer Naples on his own initiative: having persuaded himself that, if he could return some day with the crowns of Naples and the rest in his hand, the Father of princes and kings would not refuse to put them on his head. So the treaty hath been signed. And, touching the matter of Sultán Jam, Our fellow-hostage, thou shalt suppose that, since the Grand Turk hath ceased to pay, he is but a burthen on our Lord the


Paparch. Also thou shalt suppose that it mattereth not a jot in whose ward he is, so long as that warden be Christian. Wherefore the magnificent Alexander most sagaciously will shift him on to the shoulders of the Christian King, whence he can be reclaimed at any time by a threat of the Dirae.1 So much for Sultán Jam.”

The speaker thrust out the protruded middle finger of his ringed right hand; and continued, saying:

“But We also are an hostage; and, after the mass of dawn, We ride in the train of the Christian King.”

My bowels began to beat like armourers’ hammers. My lips retired, and left my teeth bare. I drew breath through the last, softly whistling: but as yet I knew not the true cause of mine emotions. The words which I had heard were terrible. Very great affairs were afoot: yet it did not seem that they

1. Excommunication, Interdict, Deposition, and so forth.


concerned me. I was only an unnoted prince, profoundly but inexplicably agitated, with my back against an ivory door.

Gioffredo left the cardinals on the cushions, with a snort of incredulity, or despair, or disgust; and came and threw his arm around my neck, nestling against me.

But the Cardinal of Valencia continued, saying:

“Long speeches are better than short ones.1 They give understanding, without which no action of great import can be accomplished. Dost thou admit the validity of my credentials, o Cardinal of Ferrara?”

Ippolito again offered his ear to be touched by the gigantic ring; and, standing, he asseverated:

“We are the son and servant of our Lord the Paparch, and of The Most Respectable Worship of thee speaking to Us in His name. In the words of Plato, immortal, beaming on

1. τὰ μακρὰ τῶν σμικρῶν λόγων ἐπίπροσθέν ἐστι (Eyripides) [ta makra tôn smikrôn logôn epiprosthen esti, Orestes 640f.].


all things, All Our money is at thy service.”1

But now Cesare seemed to fall into a muse, yawning, playing with our impatience as the tawny tiger at our castle of Deira used to play with goats and deer.

Gioffredo left me; and went nearer, lying on the black carpet, supporting his chin on his hands, widely stretching his legs.

Ippolito sat intent, erect, on the black cushions.

I stood transfixed, staring at that queer fateful Cardinal of Valencia, who could afford to play when iiij hours would see him an hostage and a prisoner in an enemy’s camp. Very strange it is to say, but I will tell thee, o Prospero, that, though there were iiij able-bodied lusty adolescents at that moment in that secret chamber, nevertheless the minds of iij of them were in complete abeyance; and only the mind of the fourth predominated.

1. σοὶ δὲ ὑπάρχει μὲν τὰ ἐμὰ χρήματα (Platôn) [soi de huparchei men ta ema chrêmata, Crito, 45b].


Wherefore we iij had naught to do but to listen to the mind of the Cardinal of Valencia, who at length resumed his discourse, saying:

“This ring is one of a score, which have been journeying round Christendom, on the hands of paparchal ablegates, to the Elect-Emperor Maximilian Always August, to the Catholic King1 and Queen Don Hernando and Doña Isabella, to the Sacred King2 Henry of the Anglicans, to the Majesties and Tranquillities and Valvasours and Supernities and Celsitudes and Magnificencies and Sublimities and Highnesses and Mightinesses and Splendours and Potencies of the Empire and Portugal and Poland and Hungary and Naples and Milan and Ferrara and Sabaudia and Genoa and Venice and Fiorenza and Mantua and Parma and Padua and Piacenza.”

I am unable to tell thee, o Prospero, why

1. The official style of the Kings of Spain.

2. This would appear to be the official style of the Kings of England. It would be interesting to know when it became disused.


I refrained from roaring. But I perceived that this most feline cardinal would tell his tale in his own way and in none other. It pleased him to dally with us, watching the surging of our emotions. But anon, being satisfied, he struck with the swift talons of his stratagem, saying:

“Our Lord the Paparch is by no means at the end of His resources; and let no man think the contrary.1 Once let Him deliver Himself from the Christian King, once let Him rid Peter’s Patrimony of that pestiferous monkey, and the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, the Italian kingdoms and duchies and republics, Christendom, will league with Alexander against Gaul. In which galley We Ourself are to hold the rudder. To get the Christian King away from the City, the Sultán Jam was conducted to his camp an hour ago. When We leave this palace, We also will join the Keltic army, exposing Our life to the chances of fate.”2

1. μηδέ τῳ δόξῃ πάλιν (Aischylos) [mêde tôi doxêi palin, Seven Against Thebes 1040].

2. ψυχὴν προβάλλων ἐν κύβοισι δαίμονος (Eyripides) [psychên proballôn en kyboisi daimonos (sic), Rhesus 183].


Gioffredo burst in with an oath and an offer.

Cesare silenced him; and continued, saying:

“No, Gioffredo: We will go alone. But now, o Cardinal of Ferrara, lend Us both thine ears. After the dawn-mass, We ride from the City, southward by the Appian Way toward the kingdom of Naples. So Our spies have brought news. Three hours later, We reach Velletri, beyond the frontier: where the Christian King intendeth himself to dine and sleep.”

Ippolito rose, mightily towering, torvidly storming, saying:

“Hear Us now. The Most Respectable Worship of thee is the most valuable of all the Paparch’s lieges. The loss of thee will be like the chopping off of Alexander’s right hand. Wherefore, if it be really and truly necessary for thee to leave the City as thou sayst, let thy going be but a feint. We have here ccc armed barbarians to serve thee, and


the trained forces of Ferrara at call. We Ourself are as strong as any man; and, with a mace, a mace of tempered steel, and Our Arabian stallion between these thighs, We, even We, will be at Velletri for Thy Worship’s rescue.”

Gioffredo jumped up; and chattered, saying:

“Let Us go in thy stead, o Valencia. Are We not Alexander’s son? Do We not command a troop? Is not Our wife a princess of Aragon of Naples? If there be question of ransom, are We not worth as much as thou?”

But I still maintained phrenetic silence, keen, alert, strenuously desiring to do something, not knowing what to do.

Cesare waved his hand in a furry manner, saying:

“We will not have valorously violent rescues. None in the City may be known as conniving at Our escape: that would insure the Christian King’s return. This is an affair


for the head, not for massive limbs. A cunning sage is here more precious than a palatine, o heraklean Ippolito. And as for thee, Gioffredo, know that there is no time in which to change Our plans. The action already is begun. The obligation is made; and cannot be evaded. But it maybe annulled. If it is to be annulled, that must be done in such a way that the Christian King will not be able to prove complicity on the part of any Roman. Our Lord the Paparch must not be found out participating in conspiracy. We, His servants, must combine the columbine manner of doves with the serpentine actions of snakes. Wherefore, what is to be done must be done by others, beyond Roman territory, and (to all seeming) quite spontaneously.”

It was clear that we were expected only to listen, not to advise. We were not a council: but merely pupils, in the presence of a master, who was unfolding schemes already cut and dried. We composed our bodies; and our minds attended. Cesare continued, saying:


“That blear-eyed ape of Gaul must be pinned in the kingdom of Naples as vermin is pinned in a trap. His teeth and talons must be drawn there. His army never again must return to Gaul. It must be annihilated in Italy. Wherefore, to lead the said Christian King into this trap, We Ourself will be the bait. We will go with him beyond the Roman frontier. At Velletri, We will halt with him, during the heat of the day. And, from Velletri, We will escape; and return to the City, promptly assuming direction of the league against Gaul.”