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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XIII


Having collected the vesture of the runner, I placed myself in the way of the Cardinal of Valencia, whom I addressed, saying:

“Tiber beareth that dead barbarian to the sea; and I, o Lord Cardinal, will be Thy Most Respectable Worship’s angel.”1

With which words I flung down my nightgown of ermine.

Cesare instantly stopped, inquiring whether I could run. To whom my mouth gave no response: for my form and membrature testified the thing. His glances impinged upon me, bringing the hot blood from mine heart; and looking down, I saw my breast reddening as though stricken with the flat of the hand.

Ippolito suddenly interrupted, saying:

“Can he run indeed? But he can run, an

1. “ἄγγελος” (messenger) in the original holograph.


he will, with the superhuman swiftness and endurance of Wing-footed Hermes, or of Asahel who ran like a wild roe in the Sacred Scriptures.”

Thus was Cesare satisfied. He said:

“Be then Our angel, o white prince; and run for Us and for thyself.”

In this manner I became the first of the iiij adolescents there present.

At my commandment, pages brought certain matters from the wardrobe, depositing them at my feet: and, retiring, left us alone to make preparations for the running.

I belted the runner’s cloth on my loins, letting the larger portion hang down behind, so that my back was bare. Ippolito very carefully folded ij squares of tanned buckskin round my feet; and firmly bandaged them with thongs of the same. Thus garbed, I turned my face to the ivory door, exposing the flesh of my back as the Cardinal of Valencia willed.

Thereon he began to write cyphers with the brush. The viscous liquid, which he used,


seemed somewhat to sting and bite me: but I clenched my teeth and fists, and remained immovable; and anon the little pangs evanesced. He covered my back with writing from shoulder to shoulder and below to my middle, vij lines in all. While he was writing, he explained the thing, saying:

“These characters, which now are wet and glossy, will become invisible when they are dried, being of the same colour as the substance on which We write. Such is the nature of this magic, that neither sweat nor water will affect it. Ye have seen the letters, which We wrote in ink upon the paper, to be naught but a mere blind. The prince will carry those letters in the goatskin pouch; and anyone may read them. But he beareth the real message on his proper body; and no Roman ever hath seen that message: for ye see that each letter evanisheth as We write it. Nor hath this angel himself seen it: for no adolescent can see his own back. But Pietrogorio alone will see it: for he will rub this fine white flesh with soot


which, adhering to the cyphers, will render them visible when the back which beareth them shall have been cleansed with washing.”

Thus he spoke: but I was thinking of my reward, though a reward was not named: for I knew that great rewards would be due for such a service; and furthermore the cardinal had said that I was about to run for myself as well as for him. Moreover I knew from his way of handling me, very gentle, very urbane, what all the world knoweth now, videlicet, that, from the moment when he first saw how my stars had made me, the splendid Cardinal of Valencia loved and honoured me.

And, when the matter was completed, I demanded a poignard for mine equipment, lest the said Pietrogorio, or any other person instigated by the devil, being strange to me, should try to fulfil the mandate of the letters which I carried in the goatskin pouch: for it was not meet that a prince of my quality, nameless, nearly naked, and without credentials as I was, should submit to pillory and stripes.


And so, having folded the upper part of the cloth together lengthways, I passed it under my right arm and across my breast and over my left shoulder, fixing the end in the belt, so that the wind of my swift movement should not cause it to impede me. And, having composed mine hair as tightly as possible in my nightcap, I at length was ready to run.

Sumpter-mules, which bore the cardinal’s valises, were waiting in the first court. Gioffredo donned one of my riding-habits of white doeskin, while a litter was being prepared for me. Covered with a cloak, I was placed therein. Two decurions attended us, chosen for secrecy and fidelity. We crossed Tiber by the Island, riding very quietly by Saints Nereys and Achilleys to the Gate of Saint Sebastian.

During the journey in the silent litter, I was able to recollect myself. It was more than ever plain to me that I was the chief prince in this adventure. Wherefore I did not hesitate at taking the government into mine own


hands, even to the issuing of commandments to the cardinals and to the Prince of Squillace.

On mine emergence, bare-limbed, lighthearted, I assured Cesare that his errand was as good as done; and dismissed him with Ippolito to the Keltic camp. They swore: but they smiled at me; and they went.

But I bade Gioffredo to return to the Estense Palace, there to rest in my bed, in order that he might be able to render the assistance which I would need in the morning after my running. For I was intending myself to return, a-horseback if possible, by the upper road,1 that I might not encounter the Kelts swarming along the lower. Wherefore I bade him to bring his troop and my litter to the Lateran Gate at the first

1. The New Appian Way which diverged from the Old Appian Way, avoiding the fortified tomb of Cecilia Metalla, generally a nest of brigands in the pay of bandit barons.


hour of the day,1 there to attend about a league outside the gate until my coming.

He agreed; and, embracing me, gave me good luck in my going. Nothing delayed me longer, and I took to the road.

1. 6 a.m.