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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XVI


I had no more than a superficial knowledge of what was doing now. But I was returning to the City; and that sufficed for my satisfaction. Little vulgar boys gibed at my disgraceful aspect as I rode through the streets. At another time I would have cut out their tongues: but, then, I did not even stop to frown at them. Little simpering girls, going to mass with the nuns of their convent, pretended to shudder at the dirty, detestable, but not unshapely legs so shamelessly exposed: but I did not even kiss my fingers. Every moment now brought me nearer to my proper maid. I thought of nothing else as I flew along the road: but I grieved a little by cause that I had no spurs, and the whip (which I had snatched up at parting) was but a slight one. Moreover, I had left my poignard in the stable.


But, when I drummed with mine heels on my beast’s barrel, the sodden leather of my footgear emitted certain squelching noises, amusing to the rider, terrific to the ridden: for he augmented his speed in a very agreeable manner, not needing any other incitement.

So I came to Cinthyanum; and, having done my business with the postmaster, I pursued my course without drawing rein.

When I reached the summit of the hill by the ruins,1 I saw (in the ravine before me) an approaching troop. Mine eyes were so blinded by my sweat and the dust of my furious riding, that (though I perceived the glint of the sun on loricate mail- coats and on cross-bows) I could not see clearly whether these were worn and borne by friends or foes.

But I knew that it was easier to ride

1. I don’t quite know what these ruins are, unless they are the remnants of the Villa of Vitellius on Monte Gentile: but, if this be the case, Don Tarquinio was off the main road. There are plenty of ravines between Genzano and Aricia, now spanned by the viaducts of Pius the Ninth.


through a squadron from an high place, than for an ascending squadron to obstruct precipitate attack. Wherefore I goaded mine horse to extra speed with terrific shoutings as well as with the thuds of mine heels; and it seemed that I was going very quickly.

But the beast, having run away four times for his own pleasure and being now constrained to run for mine, was becoming exhausted; and I myself was becoming sore and rather feeble from the stress of my night’s adventure: moreover, I was famishing with hunger. For which causes we came down the steep hill with less impetus than I had designed; and nothing would have been done at the bottom in the way of smashing a passage through the advancing troop.

The said troop, indeed, did not wait for the onslaught: but, to my immense surprise, ranged itself by the sides of the road laughing very loudly indeed.

But I, indignant at gratuitous contumely, erected myself on my saddle, straight and


filthy (for I had come down the hill lying along the horse’s back the better to avoid wounds during the proposed swift passage); and I indignantly looked about for one of mine own estate whom I might call to account. And, while I was looking, my beast rocked and fell dead: but I made shift to leap clear of him, in order to meet mine own torture and death in a princely manner.

But I had fallen into no worse hands than those of the chubby Gioffredo. That one instantly began to chatter: to whose inquiries I would not respond, until he had dismounted one of his own kataphractors1 in order to give me a new horse; and then I insisted that we should hasten toward the City.

So we galloped together like Kastor and Polydeykes: but the dismounted kataphractor rode a-pillion with one of his comrades. And, as we went, I gave a little news of my deeds to

1. Mail-clad cavalry with cross-bows. Pietrogorio’s tombstone at Velletri names him as the lieutenant of Caesar Borgia’s kataphractors.


Gioffredo until my breath failed me. The remnant I kept for the business of riding as quickly as possible; for I was very anxious to make an end.

When I lapsed into silence, Gioffredo began to be garrulous. What he said was not important. He had spent an hour of the night with his wife at Traspontina. But it pleased me to hear that impatience and a kind heart had constrained him to leave long before the time, and had sent him so great a distance along the road to mine assistance. And I eagerly desired to reach the Lateran Gate: for there (so he said) the litter was waiting, wherein I longed to seclude myself, by cause of the sordid condition of my body, which shame forbade me to exhibit in the City, and by cause that fatigue was affecting me very gravely indeed.

Anon we reached the place; and, having been lifted on to the soft cushions, the curtains were drawn about me. Instantly I fell asleep: for which cause, o Prospero, I am unable to


write the history of my progress from the Lateran Gate to the Estense Palace. But there I awoke, as the mules halted with a jerk in the first court.

I peeped between the curtains; and I saw the double-cross and the torches of the cardinal’s estate disappearing up the steps of the audience-chamber: from which portent I augured that it would be useless to try to approach Ippolito until such time when he should have finished the morn’s business of dispensing justice to his family.

But, that I might come at him as soon as possible, I advised Gioffredo to dismiss the decurions, and himself to accompany me as I was, mixing unnoted with the motley of clients, parasites, flatterers, men-at-arms, chamberlains, pages, chaplains, athletes, poets, painters, merchants, officials, secretaries, servitors, women, who were thronging into the audience-chamber.

So we did. But, though we were able to enter, we could not penetrate to the front of


the crowd, having come in behind all the others. I myself was too drowsy and too stiff to care whether I spoke then or at another time. My only idea was to refrain from interrupting the natural order of events, and to wait for an opportunity: for I saw that my stars had become malignant. Wherefore I restrained Gioffredo from certain violent demonstrations which he was preparing; and together we found a corner quieter than the others.

Here, by the marble wall, we sat on the settle of marble, out of the stink and confusion of the mob at the front.