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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XVII


In order to prevent myself from falling again into slumber, I carefully noted the white walls and the cornice of shields, spade-shaped, richly blazoned, and the Byzantine tapestries which depended therefrom. Nor did the grandeur of Ippolito on his vermilion throne, listening to the chaplains who intoned the Office of None, escape my notice. In the same manner I assiduously attended when the day’s business was begun. At first it was uninteresting.

While the auditors whispered advice in the cardinal’s ears, and while the secretaries recorded events in huge tomes or wrote at his dictation, I put myself to count the gilded coffers of the oaken roof. This casting upward of mine eyes made me more drowsy than ever: but I knew that, if once I permitted myself to


sleep, my sleep would be a stupor from which even an earthquake would not awaken me. Wherefore I constrained myself to note all that was going on: lest I should lose a chance of declaring mine achievement. For it must be clear to thee, o Prospero, that, when I ran as the Cardinal of Valencia’s angel, I ran as the Cardinal of Ferrara’s familiar, to which last it behoved me to render an account as soon as possible, as well for relieving him from his obligation to the credentials sent by our Lord the Paparch as for mine own deliverance, first, from the filth of my body, secondly, from the rigour which was paralyzing my limbs, thirdly, from the Great Ban which so direly was afflicting me. For I did not doubt but that the last would be the reward of my running.

To pass the time, I entertained myself with thoughts of my maid, as soon as I had convinced Gioffredo of my determination to remain silent. He, being more than a little fatigued, took a nap, after cursing me for a sulky prince. I


promised myself an abundance of felicity in the contemplation of Hersilia, when she should have heard of my viiij leagues’ journey through the lonely night: for it is very pleasant to be pitied and admired by one’s lover when one has striven strenuously and successfully. I tried to be deaf to the hubbub in front of me, while I indulged my mind as aforesaid: but it was merely another insidious way to sleep. Wherefore, having rejected it, I dismissed my proper affairs, and alertly attended to the others. They were as follows.

The master of pages exhibited, to the cardinal, the monthly sheaf of the boys’ specimens of handwriting. Ippolito having inspected the same, dictated to a secretary to be written neatly on a bad one: “Gianlucido, write thus or better here and now.”

The master of pages retired, to see it done: but Ippolito signed some billets authorizing sundry expenditures for household stuff. The notary executed them; and the datary sealed them.


The steward brought a plebeian page, who had been caught in the act of spitting idly into the rainwater tank of the cardinal’s bathing-chamber. The rascal was condemned to be stripped in the courtyard, and to be spat upon by x of his companions during half-an-hour. Order was issued for covering the said tank with stout canvas.

The mistress of the women shrilly complained that one Fulgencia, a laundry-maid, was refusing to be married by the barber’s son, to whom she had been betrothed one year. Interrogated whether she could shew cause for so culpable a defection, the said Fulgencia responded, saying: No. And sucked her thumb. The mistress of the women was impowered to whip her, in the presence of iij maids, every Friday at the ninth hour of the day, until the marriage should have been consummate. The said Fulgencia, having bellowed for instant nuptials, was conveyed to the chapel with the said barber’s son, iiij witnesses, and one chaplain, to be married forthwith.


The oil-merchant appealed against the steward, who was intending to cause him to bear the loss of a consignment of his merchandize which had been stolen, on the Ostian Way, by brigands in the pay of the bandit Cardinal Giuliano Dellarovere desirous of building a new cathedral.1 The said appeal was admitted.

The vegetable-merchant very brazenly came forward, producing a similar appeal. But the steward confronted him with proofs of his fraud. His appeal was rejected, and his privilege was cancelled; and the steward had commandment to purchase vegetables in future from the deceiver’s rival.

The slave-merchant offered for sale ij young Indian acrobats, saying that Cardinal Rafaele Riarj wished to have them. They performed divers tricks of agility, which Ippolito ap-

1. He did build it two years later (a.d. 1497). This example of the fifteenth century method of raising cathedral-building-funds may be compared with that of the twentieth.


plauded; and he gave order that, on the physician certifying them to be healthy and their bodies without blemish, the treasurer should pay the price. They were extremely slim of figure; and their flesh was as yellow as dew-kissed pumpkins gleaming in the sunlight.

The chief equerry had order to water the horses daily in Tiber, beyond the Portuensian Gate, seeing that the Keltic army was gone away.

Order was issued for the burial of ij mercenaries, who had been found murdered outside the barbacan at dawn, having gone out at night without their mail-shirts. Order was issued for ij masses to be intoned for their souls’ repose.

Order was issued for iij masses to be intoned for the repose of the soul of one without a name, who had died improvisedly and suddenly.

The absurd Messer Nerone Diotisalvi was required on pain of the minor torments to apply himself more assiduously to his studies in the magic arts. For it will be clear to


thee, o Prospero, that, had it not been for that mage’s ignorance of his proper craft, homicide would not have been necessary.

Permission was granted to the firelighter to become served by ij extra boys, if the weather should continue to be cold.

The new goldsmith offered a crucifix for purchase. Ippolito, having inspected the piece, gave order that the wretch should be buffeted by all and singular, from the audience-chamber to the gate of the barbacan, by cause that he contumeliously had used carelessness in making the Image of the Divine Heros.

A strange poet, in a dark-green wig resembling sea-weeds, declaimed a sonnet in praise of a bee’s nipples; and he was derided.

A very young painter, shy, rather rosy-faced, exhibited a panel whereon he had depicted the Divine Herakles and the gruesome Hydra. To whom the treasurer had order to pay xx gold sequins.

Ippolito complained that the tallow-scraper had neglected to scrape tallow from iiij stairs,


whereby the attire of a certain chamberlain (whose name I have forgotten) had been rendered indecorous, and the cardinalitial shins themselves liable to divers incommodious abrasions. The said misdemeanant was produced; and charged with his crime. He blubbered. Order was issued that he should tolerate vij stripes in honour of the Apostles. He yelled.

The master of the pages exhibited the amended specimen of handwriting. Ippolito, having denominated it still very evil, dictated to a secretary to be written very neatly thereupon: “Gianlucido, write thus or better before to-morrow, or bid farewell to thine hide.”

The captain of the mercenaries accused a Turkish arbalister of having murdered a baptized Dacian slinger treacherously, in a brawl, at the sixth hour of the night: also, of having torn out the said Dacian’s heart, eating the same, hot, in contempt of our most holy faith. Order was issued that the said Turk, having been conveniently tormented, should


tolerate natural death by strangulation within the hour: that his carcase should hang in the place of exposition till avemmaria, and then be thrown into Tiber at a mile below the Portuensian Gate.

Two tormentors introduced the miscreant tallow-scraper before the dais, loudly bawling. He was a sturdy Trasteverino of about the age of xiij years, dark-coloured and big-eyed, and tough and sinewy as a young wolf. Having placed him, they tied his wrists behind him with the end of a coil of rope, deftly tossing the other end over a beam in the roof, and pulling it taut; and so they waited.

Ippolito was smelling to an orange infected with rose-attar: for indeed the fœtor of the mob in the audience-chamber was most putid. He threw the fruit to a favourite page; and I augured from the expression on his physiognomy that he was about to manifest abnormal sagacity. He pretended that he understood not the business which was afoot; and demanded the reason for these preparations.


The tallow-scraper ceased his clamour, concentrating his gaze on the cardinal.

The first tormentor responded, saying:

“The Most Illustrious Purpled Person will choose to hear the rogue’s confession of his crime.”

Ippolito said:

“We have heard.”

The first tormentor volubly expostulated, saying:

“But not under The Question, o Most Illustrious: for none can believe a creature who is neither clerk nor noble, unless he (first) shall have been hauled upward by the drawn-back wrists and (secondly) shall have been dropped suddenly to within a span from the floor. It is the torture of hanging from dislocated shoulders which alone insureth a true confession.”

Thus having spoken, he instantly pulled the rope; and the boy ascended high over the heads of all.

But that rascal, being very sinewy and very


quick-witted, did not wait for the dislocation of his shoulders. For, drawing up his legs and clenching his teeth as he left the floor, he instantly pressed his bound hands downward on his buttocks, with admirable force, twisting round and round like an athlete.

Applause began to be heard. The boy’s throat curved stiffly backward; and his breasts and shoulders resembled tan-coloured knots as he hung up there. He bended his legs further and further back; and, by degrees, he contrived to grasp his own ankles, relaxing the strain on his sinews, and hanging face- downward in a delicate semicircle like a strung bow hanging by its string.

But Ippolito went on speaking to the tormentor, saying very quickly:

“What thou hast said is purely silly. Our chamberlain’s split hosen, and the tallow on Our stairs, proclaim the crime. The boy’s office is to look that Our floors lack tallow. No confession is needed, with The Question or without. Let him come down. Give him his whipping.


And let him go to the treasurer for a rose-giulio1 as the reward of dexterity. And then let him go to the master of the athletes, who hath order to take him in charge. And let the comptroller provide another tallow-scraper, who will do well not to waste Our tallow.”

When the boy came down, the first tormentor disappointedly untied his wrists; and, seizing them, hoisted him in the usual manner: while the other, having turned his garment over his head, scored xij criss-cross weals on his plunging hams with a cane.

Anon being released, the freshly sprouted athlete stifled his yells; and he instantly stood on his head with his arms and legs spread as widely apart as possible.

Everybody burst out laughing.

There was commotion at the door of the audience-chamber.

Gioffredo woke up and would have been precipitate: for chamberlains were announcing:

1. About a shilling, with four times its purchasing value.


“The Exalted Tranquillity of the Tyrant Lucrezia Borgia-Sforza of Pesaro.”

Beating as quickly as possible then was the heart in my bosom, instantly sensing the coming of its mate in my maid’s.