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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XV


My shouts for the palace of the Regent, and the fierceness of my mien, brought me instantly to Pietrogorio.

Had I not known that the Cardinal of Valencia had remained in the City, and that none had passed me on the road, I should have suspected magic of the particular kind called bilocation, by means of which the golden-thighed Pythagoras was seen and heard to lecture, at the same day and hour, in the two widely distant cities of Metapontion and Tayromenion: for the aspect of this adolescent was precisely similar to that of the other who had sent me. But my stars told me that they must be two and not one: for which cause I did not hesitate to present the written letters from the goatskin pouch.

Pietrogorio permitted himself to laugh while


he was reading: in which diversion I did not omit to join, although, fearing lest he might stray unduly into error, I kept my poignard handy. Anon I took the first opportunity of acquainting him with the quality of mine estate; and he instantly withdrew me from the court, where he had been about to exercise some horses, conducting me to a secret apartment allotted to him by the Regent, his father.

He said:

“If, as We believe, the truth is being told, it will be known unto this prince what other matters must be done before the whole message can come to Our knowledge.”

To whom I instantly responded, saying:

“Let a shovelful of soot be brought, and several bucketfuls of water for washing; and anon this noble will not be prevented from completing the said message for himself.”

The things having been brought into an empty part of the stables, near by the boxes where the horses were, but separate therefrom


by a wooden wall, I divested myself of the long cloth; and stood still, keeping my poignard in my hands, alert to unsheathe it.

Pietrogorio understood; and he also knew that I understood. So far we had gone step by step in turn; and now he was to advance to the last stage.

Taking the soot in handfuls, he rubbed the flesh of my back therewith. I felt it dropping, with odious softness, on my loins and on the calves of my legs: for I was standing very stiffly. Sometimes, looking over my shoulders, I saw that the shining whiteness of me was becoming as dully black as a Moor: but, having so degraded myself as to run across Campagna in a barbaric slave’s garb, I placed no demurrer against this last abomination. But I promised myself many very long ablutions, elaborate, exquisite, in the moment after my return to the City. Indeed, I was not in a condition to place remonstrances of any kind at that time: for, whether my message pleased him or irked him, I was at


Pietrogorio’s mercy for present accommodation and refreshment as well as for means of return. So I submitted in silence.

Having blacked half of me thoroughly, making me a piebald prince for the first and last time, he fetched a horse-block near me; and, standing thereon, he poured iiij bucketfuls of water over me.

It greatly refreshed me: but I grieved when I saw that the water, in flowing over my back, carried away the superfluous soot, trickling over every part of me save my breast and mine arms which I held upward. The first bucketful ran off in inky streams: the second and third were greyer and still greyer; and the fourth was almost clear. But the flesh of me remained of a terrible dirtiness; and I stood still, sodden, unclean, beginning to shiver, very strenuously expecting an end.

Pietrogorio dismounted from the horseblock; and inspected the visible cyphers on my back. Incontinent he uttered the greatest


shout which I ever have heard from the throat of one adolescent. It was so full of surprize, of delight, of urgency, that I turned upon him, eagerly inquiring.

But emotion transfixed him for the moment. The intense expression of his countenance taught me that he was collecting his energies for some tremendous effort, that he was in the throes of labour with some huge idea.

Anon, his plan was born; and the tension was relaxed. Not forgetful of good manners, even at such a moment, he thus addressed me:

“Order shall be given for the comfort and the entertainment due to Thy Most Illustrious Potency. But We Ourself beg to be excused from attendance, seeing that We have in hand the vital welfare of Our patron, on whose account We are willing to die: for it seemeth to Us that another messenger must go to Cinthyanum on the instant.”

To whom I promptly responded, saying:

“Give Us the means of riding, and We


Ourself will be that messenger: for We desire nothing better than to emulate Thy Nobility in serving the Cardinal of Valencia to the uttermost; and it is clear that We shall serve Ourself at the same time, seeing that Cinthyanum lieth on the high road to the City.”

Thus I spoke, letting the fire of mine eyes add force to the words; and Pietrogorio saw that the thing must be so. He himself is, as thou knowest, o Prospero, more a man of deeds than of words; and, thereafter, we spoke little but did much in a few moments of time.

While I girded on the runner’s garb again, he saddled an horse for me, shouting meanwhile for his people to bring the juice of a live goose pressed to death for me to drink, and to rub my stiffening legs with mugwort in oil. Which was done.

Anon I leaped into the saddle; and he led me through the gateway alone. There, he gave me the little gold ring with the carbuncle (which thy mother, o Prospero, weareth on her


neck-chain), signing for the use of mine ear. Having bent to him, he whispered:

“Present this ring to the postmaster of Cinthyanum, as a sign that all the horses in that city are bought up by the Cardinal of Valencia.”

Thus having spoken, he sent me flying away at a gallop, mightily striking the stallion on the rump with his fist.