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


ON the journey to Rome I carried with me that handsome arquebuse which the Duke gave me; and very much to my own pleasure, I used it several times by the way, performing incredible feats by means of it. The little house I had in Strada Giulia was not ready; so I dismounted at the house of Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk of the Camera, to whose keeping I had committed, on leaving Rome, many of my arms and other things I cared for. So I did not choose to alight at my shop, but sent for Felice, my partner, and got him to put my little dwelling forthwith into excellent order. The day following, I went to sleep there, after well providing myself with clothes and all things requisite, since I intended to go and thank the Pope next morning.

I had two young serving-lads, and beneath my lodgings lived a laundress who cooked extremely nicely for me. That evening I entertained several friends at supper, and having passed the time with great enjoyment, betook myself to bed. The night had hardly ended, indeed it was more than an hour before daybreak, when I heard a furious knocking at the house-door, stroke succeeding stroke without a moment’s pause. Accordingly I called my elder servant, Cencio (he was the man I took into the necromantic circle), and bade him to go and see who the madman was that knocked so brutally at that hour of the night. While Cencio was on this errand, I lighted another lamp, for I always keep one by me at night; then I made haste to pass an excellent coat of mail over my shirt, and above that some clothes which I caught up at random. Cencio returned, exclaiming: “Heavens, master! it is the Bargello and all his guard; and he says that if you do not open at once, he will knock the door down. They have torches, and a thousand things besides with them!” I answered: “Tell them that I am huddling my clothes on, and will come out to them in my shirt.” Supposing it was a trap laid to murder me, as had before been done by Signor Pier Luigi, I seized an excellent dagger with my right hand, and with the left I took the safe-conduct; then I ran to the back-window, which looked out on gardens, and there I saw more than thirty constables; wherefore I knew that I could not escape upon that side. I made the two lads go in front, and told them to open the door exactly when I gave the word to do so. Then taking up an attitude of defence, with the dagger in my right hand and the safe-conduct in my left, I cried to the lads: “Have no fear, but open!” The Bargello, Vittorio, and the officers sprang inside at once, thinking they could easily lay hands upon me; but when they saw me prepared in that way to receive them, they fell back, exclaiming: “We have a serious job on hand here!” Then I threw the safe-conduct to them, and said: “Read that! and since you cannot seize me, I do not mean that you shall touch me.” The Bargello upon this ordered some of his men to arrest me, saying he would look to the safe-conduct later. Thereat I presented my arms boldly, calling aloud: “Let God defend the right! Either I shall escape your hands alive, or be taken a dead corpse!” The room was crammed with men; they made as though they would resort to violence; I stood upon my guard against them; so that the Bargello saw he would not be able to have me except in the way I said. Accordingly he called his clerk, and while the safe-conduct as being read, he showed by signs two or three times that he meant to have me secured by his officers; but this had no effect of shaking my determination. At last they gave up the attempt, threw my safe-conduct on the ground, and went away without their prize.