A Kataleptic Phantasmatic
Madonna Lucrezia entered with her galaxy of maids, who did obeisance; and crossed the terrace toward the battlements. There they stood, admiring the view, moving a little among themselves like flowers in a breeze. But the tyrant came and sat on one of the cushions near the Paparch’s footstool, between me and Ippolito, facing us both.
She put a most delicate hand on the archieratic knee; and thus she spoke, saying:
“Dear and Most Holy Father, I hope that Thou hast been doing justice to this beautiful and blameless gentleman.”
But, while she was speaking, yet more noises came from the door of the turret; and Gioffredo entered with his wife and their baby and their several trains. The prince and
princess seated themselves on the other cushions on the step of the throne: but their familiars drifted away to the other maids-of-honour who were already by the battlements.
I was kneeling still with the portentous parchment under mine hand. All my body was quaking terribly: for I was not quite able to believe in my good fortune, and rather feared that I was being played with.
Ippolito, having drawn up a stool, sat by my side in front of the Paparch and His children.
I durst not move from my knees: but I cast a quick look among the maids for my proper maid. She instantly caught it, returning a smile, very lovely, soul-inspiring. Wherefore I comforted myself, knowing that my stars most certainly were benignant.
But Madonna Lucrezia and her brother began to make intercession on mine account; and Ippolito joined himself to them from time to time. The iij voices blended very har-
moniously, videlicet, the clear treble of the girl, the counter-tenor of the boy as insistent and mellow as a bell, the bass of the young cardinal, sonorous, profound.
I at first listened very gratefully to their melodious intonation: but anon, the things which they said of me afflicted me with nausea. I have done many great and noble deeds, with my body as well as with mine intellect; and I am not ashamed of esteeming the same according to their merits, or of hearing them praised in convenient terms. But enough is as good as a feast; and at this moment I had heard enough and more than enough. Wherefore, with mine eyes I strove most earnestly, imploring Ippolito and Gioffredo to be favourable to their tongues. All to no purpose. They continued to speak; and I perforce was compelled to kneel where I was, listening, blushing with augmenting fury.
At length our Lord the Paparch signed for silence; and He said:
“We have heard you, o lord cardinal and
o dearest daughter and o dearest son; and We thank you for your good offices. But intercessors are not necessary in this present matter. for Our dear lovely child here present hath an exceedingly definite notion of what is due from Us to him; and he hath set down the same most eloquently in writing.”
And, having thus spoken, He took the parchment from me; and handed it to the others.
Ippolito already had heard what I had written by commandment: but Madonna Lucrezia and Gioffredo put their heads together, eagerly perusing the writing.
But the fine features of Alexander remained as imperscrutable as those of the sphynx.
His daughter looked at Him, trying to read the intention of His mind: but, having failed, she said:
“The beautiful and blameless gentleman hath merited these rewards at least; and there is another reward known to me which he in any case shall have. But first deign a stroke
of the pen here, o dear and Most Holy Father.”
Thus she spoke: but we all suddenly began to hear very joyful shouts from the distance far below, surging nearer and nearer, ever augmenting. Crowds of familiars, baronial, cardinalitial, paparchal, came tumbling into The Presence, all phrenetically roaring.
But, while we stood and kneeled staring in amazement, the splendid Cardinal of Valencia also strode on to the terrace, panting, sweating, mud-stained, but elate with triumph. He wore an astonishing Neapolitan habit of green velvet, pinked and escalloped and purfled with orange-coloured satin, the same which I myself already had seen on another person in another city on that very day. His hosen were striped in green and orange-colour. His boots were of orange-coloured leather. His high conical green hat, long-peaked in front, was adorned by a tall orange-coloured feather: but his tawny hair bulged behind in a net of green cord. I never have seen a cardinal in such an
incommodious guise before or since. And he dragged with him by the hand that noble Pietrogorio, of whom I already have written, who wore the vermilion habit which Cesare had worn when he left us during the night, which habit now was very gravely disordered. Had it not been for their different voices, it would have been difficult to say which was the cardinal and which the noble: but, as it was, they only resembled twins in trouble, horribly dirty, tattered, dilapidated.
Gioffredo made himself heard in a sentence, saying that it would occupy the servitors of these gentlemen during iiij hours to correct the condition of their persons.
They fell on their knees; and the Cardinal of Valencia began to bellow a narration of his adventures.
But our Lord the Paparch with a gesture produced silence. And anon He beckoned me to hold up my stool and to give Him the pen. This I did, holding my face low: in order to avoid the pricking of the mul-
titudinous eyes which were impinging upon every bare part of my flesh. And, having taken the parchment, and having placed it on the stool, He began to write in this way, saying each word aloud as He wrote it; and thus He said:
“It pleaseth Us, and so by Our Own impulse We command: Alexander the Sixth, Supreme Pontiff.”1
And he gave the signed parchment into my tingling hands.
Having bent down to kiss the cross on His shoe, purely grateful, and having made obeisance to Madonna Lucrezia and to Gioffredo, and having embraced Ippolito, oblivious of manners I launched myself toward my maid by the battlements.
The moment was opportune. Everybody was approaching The Presence to hear the newest news: for mine affairs were no longer important. Could I have done aught else,
1. Placet; et ira, motu Proprio, Mandamus. Alexander VI P.M.
o Prospero? We were alone, at the back of the crowd. I offered to her the parchment, and my body and soul with it, kneeling on both my knees as one who kneeleth before some Divine One. But she raised me with a most gentle movement, giving herself all to me.
I cannot remember what happened in the insuing minutes: but, when I once more became conscious of my circumstances, the Cardinal of Valencia, unchecked, was bellowing like the Borgia bull. I will set down the few words which I heard him saying: not that I paid much observance to him, for who, having the desire of his heart in his heart and pressed against his heart, would listen to another roaring of other matters? Yet, by cause of that cardinal’s vociferations (and his teeth and his eyes gleamed the while like a tiger’s, delicate, very triumphant in vigour), I could not avoid seeing his gestures and hearing the noise which he was making. He said:
“Having secluded me as aforesaid, this
Nobility changeth clothes with me; and forthwith betaketh himself in my room to the neighbourhood of the Keltic monkey. But I made haste to ride back to Cinthyanum, where during iij hours I waited in the house of which some of ye pretend to know. Anon, this Nobility cometh, laughing as though his cheeks were another’s. For the Christian King, on preparing to ride from Velletri, quickly perceived that his hostage no longer was the Cardinal of Valencia; and, falling in a fume lest I myself should harass his rear, resolved to make a sudden dash for Naples, where he might fortify his camp. But he left behind him the Cardinal of Amboise and the Sieur de Commines, ordaining that they should strangle very worthy Nobility and fire his city. They did neither, admiring his courage and fidelity as much as I do – Pietrogorio, thou art Our locumtenens and signifer from to-day: – but, having put him near a fresh horse, they turned their backs and looked for him elsewhere, quietly evacu-
ating Velletri and following their master. Wherefore this Nobility, seeing that his escape was permitted, came to Cinthyanum, and thence with me hither with all speed.”
Thus he spoke. But Madonna Lucrezia, not being overmuch entertained by his narration, was letting her sweet eyes rove round among the company. And here she pointed a mischievous finger at me and my maid: for, at the moment, we by chance were lip to lip. The crowd divided, exhibiting us in that situation.
We instantly became conscious of a very terrific silence, and of innumerable glances stabbing us. Having recognised our predicament, we drew a little apart. Slight giggles arising from the crowd, and the glittering of innumerable teeth manifested by innumerable smiles, further disconcerted and dismayed us. We ran forward hand in hand, kneeling before our Lord the Paparch. I was hot with blushes: but I contrived to stammer a few words, saying:
“Immense happiness is our excuse for indecorum in the Apostolic Presence: for, o Sanctity, we love one another.”
Alexander, magnificent, invincible, benignly smiled upon us; and He deigned a response, saying:
“Love one another, o dear lovely children; and We will consecrate your love.”
And He held out His hand for a ring.
Seeing how I was in the Paparch’s favour, everybody instantly proffered all their rings. We might have been married with Ippolito’s cardinalitial sapphire. Madonna Lucrezia offered ij handfuls. Prince Gioffredo thrust upon me his great table ruby. I might have had a peck-measure full of rings. But I myself was drawing off mine own jasper with the Scorpion and Ares,1 being desirous of communicating the benignance of my stars with my maid, when the Cardinal of Valencia produced the enormous gilt-bronze ring, the cre-
1. This appears to have been his nativity ring, a jasper intagliate with and .
dentials which had procured for him the swift runner. And we all realized the suitability of that.
Gioffredo, having brought the little silver stoup of holy water from the inside of the door of the turret, placed himself as acolyth at the right hand of his Most Holy Father.
The sky above our heads had the beautiful blue of spring-time, clear as the light in my maid’s eyes. We were kneeling together in the freshness, high over the City and the world.
Out of profound silence, the strong voice of the Archiereys came to me, demanding whether I willed to have Hersilia as my wedded wife. To Whom I responded, saying:
“I so will have her.”
He demanded of her whether she willed to have me as her wedded husband. To Whom she responded, saying:
“And it so please Thee, o Sanctity.”
Everybody was smiling again. Our Lord the Paparch joined our hands. Having sprinkled the enormous ring and blessed it, He deigned it to me. I put it on the first, the second, and left it on the third left finger of my maid, saying the accustomed words which bound her indissolubly to me.
Our Lord the Paparch rose. All the company kneeled round us. Lifting His hand, He imparted Apostolic Benediction.
So He withdrew to His afternoon nap, like the life-giving sun, who sinketh, glorious, golden, to his rest in the sea.