Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XIX


She came in with her own galaxy of maids-of-honour, all in black habits, waving her hands and swaying her head distractedly, querulously blaming everybody.

She was a fat girl, very long in the back, red-haired, white-fleshed; and her eyes resembled those of a bereaved cow. A large nurse stepped closely behind her, carrying a baby swaddled on a board, terribly squealing. This, together with the recriminations now proceeding at the throne, and the occasional howls of the Princess of Squillace, and the shrieking laughter of the crowd, produced a tumult resembling that of Navona at Epiphany.1

Another stool having been set on the

1. The Epiphany Fair in the Square of Navona, where everybody screeches and blows tin horns.


dais, the new comers arranged themselves in order.

Gioffredo’s wife wept loudly until everyone was silent. Then she began to speak, saying:

“Ah-hoo, o Lord Cardinal, We are come for consolation, ah- hoo, ah-hoo, ah-he-he-he-he. For thou shalt know that Cesare hath gone to Naples; and Our Fredo hath followed him, ah-hoo, ah-hoo, ah-he-he-he-he. We desire to know why. Ah-hoo. We desire to know why. Ah-he-he-he-he-hoo. Now we all will be compelled to sell our jewels. Now we all will be compelled to be ransomed, ah-hoo, ah-hoo. Why hath not Lucrezia prevented Cesare from going? Why hath not this Purpled Person prevented Our Fredo from following? Both those impetuous adolescents were in this very palace during the past night: for Fredo himself said so. And now he hath deserted Us, his most loving wife; and hath ridden after Cesare with a mere handful of an escort, and on swift horses, ah-hoo. Three hours ago, We missed him. Four hours


and who knoweth how much more, have We been a widow, and Our baby but a month old, a-hoo, a-hoo. Lord Cardinal, We desire Our husband. Ah-he-he-he-he-hoo. HOO.”

She tottered toward the large nurse; and set herself to moo over her baby, mumbling it with her lips from time to time. I wished for the death of the brat and its mother: for I feared that I should not be able to restrain Gioffredo much longer. That prince was wriggling like a clean dolphin.

Ippolito’s visage showed the extreme discomfort of his mind.

The Tyrant Lucrezia spat out a sentence, saying:

“We are unable to treat such people with patience. Women do not become widows every time when their husbands run after the soldiers. Hath not Our Own husband gone to assist his cousin, Duke Lodovico Sforza-Visconti of Milan, and the Kelts,1 some months ago, before these wars began? And is there

[1.] The Sforza were siding with Gaul.


any Roman temerarious enough, or suburban enough, to denominate Alexander’s daughter Widow on that count?”

The Princess Sancia bewailed herself, saying that she wanted her Fredo.

But now indeed Gioffredo began to jump about, disturbing the people whose bodies had concealed us; and I was totally unable to hold him. For, having broken away from me, he bounded towards his wife, very agitated, roaring like Stentor. And, at the same moment, Ippolito, catching a glimpse of me, emitted tremendous shouts of welcome, calling me by name.

But mine eyes were directed toward my maid. Now that this long (and, as I think, rather silly) period of concealment at length was concluded, I had no thoughts in my breast save of her who, unknowingly, had nerved me to my great exploit. Wherefore, there being no longer any cause for secrecy, I attempted to rush to her.

But it became clear that I could do no more


than limp, slowly, painfully, very ungracefully; and, when vij paces had extricated me from the crowd, placing me alone in the empty space in the middle of the audience-chamber, where I instantly felt myself to be the target for the arrows of more than dccc eyes, then I suddenly remembered that my yellow-silver hair was knotted in an abominable night-cap, that the flesh of my body and limbs was a great deal more than half-naked, that I stank most indelicately, that I was besmirched and begrimed from head to foot with sweat and mire and every kind of uncleanness.

Such a terrific piece of knowledge caused me to utter yells, and to bolt (like a rabbit into his burrow) through the tapestried door at the side of the audience-chamber. Tumults of laughter pursued me; and lent wings to my flight.