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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


I REACHED Florence in due course, and paid my respects to the Duke Alessandro, who greeted me with extraordinary kindness and pressed me to remain in his service. There was then at Florence a sculptor called Il Tribolino, and we were gossips, for I had stood godfather to his son. In course of conversation he told me that a certain Giacopo del Sansovino, his first master, had sent for him; and whereas he had never seen Venice, and because of the gains he expected, he was very glad to go there. On his asking me if I had ever been at Venice, I said no; this made him invite me to accompany him, and I agreed. So then I told Duke Alessandro that I wanted first to go to Venice, and that afterwards I would return to serve him. He exacted a formal promise to this effect, and bade me present myself before I left the city. Next day, having made my preparations, I went to take leave of the Duke, whom I found in the palace of the Pazzi, at that time inhabited by the wife and daughters of Signor Lorenzo Cibo. Having sent word to his Excellency that I wished to set off for Venice with his good leave, Signor Cosimino de’ Medici, now Duke of Florence, returned with the answer that I must go to Niccolò de Monte Aguto, who would give me fifty golden crowns, which his Excellency bestowed on me in sign of his good-will, and afterwards I must return to serve him.

I got the money from Niccolò, and then went to fetch Tribolo, whom I found ready to start; and he asked me whether I had bound my sword. I answered that a man on horseback about to take a journey ought not to bind his sword. He said that the custom was so in Florence, since a certain Ser Maurizio then held office, who was capable of putting S. John the Baptist to the rack for any trifling peccadillo. Accordingly one had to carry one’s sword bound till the gates were passed. I laughed at this, and so we set off, joining the courier to Venice, who was nicknamed Il Lamentone. In his company we travelled through Bologna, and arrived one evening at Ferrara. There we halted at the inn of the Piazza, which Lamentone went in search of some Florentine exiles, to take them letters and messages from their wives. The Duke had given orders that only the courier might talk to them, and no one else, under penalty of incurring the same banishment as they had. Meanwhile, since it was a little past the hour of twenty-two, Tribolo and I went to see the Duke of Ferrara come back from Belfiore, where he had been at a jousting match. There we met a number of exiles, who stared at us as though they wished to make us speak with them. Tribolo, who was the most timorous man that I have ever known, kept on saying: “Do not look at them or talk to them, if you care to go back to Florence.” So we stayed, and saw the Duke return; afterwards, when we regained our inn, we found Lamentone there. After nightfall there appeared Niccolò Benintendi, and his brother Piero, and another old man, whom I believe to have been Jacopo Nardi, together with some young fellows, who began immediately to ask the courier news, each man of his own family in Florence. Tribolo and I kept at a distance, in order to avoid speaking with them. After they had talked a while with Lamentone, Niccolò Benintendi said: “I know those two men there very well; what’s the reason they give themselves such beastly airs, and will not talk to us?” Tribolo kept begging me to hold my tongue, while Lamentone told them that we had not the same permission as he had. Benintendi retorted it was idiotic nonsense, adding “Pox take them,” and other pretty flowers of speech. Then I raised my head as gently as I could, and said: “Dear gentlemen, you are able to do us serious injury, while we cannot render you any assistance; and though you have flung words at us which we are far from deserving, we do not mean on that account to get into a rage with you.” Thereupon old Nardi said that I had spoken like a worthy young man as I was. But Niccolò Benintendi shouted: “I snap my fingers at them and the Duke.” I replied that he was in the wrong toward us, since we had nothing to do with him or his affairs. Old Nardi took our part, telling Benintendi plainly that he was in the wrong, which made him go on muttering insults. On this I bade him know that I could say and do things to him which he would not like, and therefore he had better mind his business, and let us alone. Once more he cried out that he snapped his fingers at the Duke and us, and that we were all of us a heap of donkeys. I replied by giving him the lie direct and drawing my sword. The old man wanting to be first upon the staircase, tumbled down some steps, and all the rest of them came huddling after him. I rushed onward, brandishing my sword along the walls with fury, and shouting: “I will kill you all!” but I took good care not to do them any harm, as I might too easily have done. In the midst of this tumult the innkeeper screamed out; Lamentone cried, “For God’s sake, hold!” some of them exclaimed, “Oh me, my head!” others, “Let me get out from here.” In short, it was an indescribable confusion; they looked like a herd of swine. Then the host came with a light, while I withdrew upstairs and put my sword back in its scabbard. Lamentone told Niccolò Benintendi that he had behaved very ill. The host said to him: “It is as much as one’s life is worth to draw swords here; and if the Duke were to know of your brawling, he would have you hanged. I will not do to you what you deserve; but take care you never show yourself again in my inn, or it will be the worse for you.” Our host then came up to me, and when I began to make him my excuses, he would not suffer me to say a word, but told me that he knew I was entirely in the right, and bade me be upon my guard against those men upon my journey.