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


MEANWHILE I did not suspend my labours on the Neptune, which was now quite blocked out upon an excellent system, undiscovered and unknown before I used it. Consequently, although I knew I should not get the marble for the reasons above narrated, I hoped to have it soon completed, and to display it on the piazza simply for my satisfaction.

It was a warm and pleasant season; and this, together with the attentions of those two rascals, disposed me to set out one Wednesday, which happened to be a double holiday, for my country-house at Trespiano. Having spent some time over an excellent lunch, it was past twenty o’clock when I reached Vicchio. There, at the towngate, I met Ser Filippo, who appeared to know already whither I was bound. He loaded me with attentions, and took me to Sbietta’s house, where I found that fellow’s strumpet of a wife, who also overwhelmed me with caresses. I gave the woman a straw hat of the very finest texture, the like of which she told me she had never seen. Still, up to this time, Sbietta had not put in his appearance.

Toward the end of the afternoon we all sat down to supper in excellent spirits. Later on, they gave me a well appointed bedroom, where I went to rest in a bed of the most perfect cleanliness. Both of my servants, according to their rank, were equally well treated. On the morrow, when I rose, the same attentions were paid me. I went to see my farm, which pleased me much; and then I had some quantities of grain and other produce handed over. But when I returned to Vicchio, the priest Ser Filippo said to me: “Benvenuto do not be uneasy; although you have not found here quite everything you had the right to look for, yet put your mind to rest; it will be amply made up in the future, for you have to deal with honest folk. You ought, by the way, to know that we have sent that labourer away, because he was a scoundrel.” The labourer in question bore the name of Mariano Rosegli; and this man now kept frequently repeating in my ear: “Look well after yourself; in the end you will discover which of us here is the greatest villain.” The country-fellow, when he spoke those words, smiled with an evil kind of sneer, and jerked his head as though to say: “Only go up there, and you will find out for yourself.”

I was to some extent unfavourably influenced by these hints, yet far from forming a conception of what actually happened to me. So, when I returned from the farm, which is two miles distant from Vicchio, toward the Alpi, I met the priest, who was waiting for me with his customary politeness. We then sat down together to breakfast; it was not so much a dinner as an excellent collation. Afterwards I took a walk through Vicchio—the market had just opened—and noticed how all the inhabitants fixed their eyes upon me, as on something strange. This struck me particularly in the case of a worthy old man, who has been living for many years at Vicchio, and whose wife bakes bread for sale. He owns some good property at the distance of about a mile; however, he prefers this mode of life, and occupies a house which belongs to me in the town of Vicchio. This had been consigned to me together with the farm above mentioned, which bears the name of Della Fonte. The worthy old man spoke as follows: “I am living in your house, and when it falls due I shall pay you your rent; but if you want it earlier, I will act according to your wishes. You may reckon on never having any disputes with me.” While we were thus talking I noticed that he looked me hard in the face, which compelled me to address him thus: “Prithee, tell me, friend Giovanni, why you have more than once stared at me in that way?” He replied: “I am quite willing to tell you, if, being the man of worth I take you for, you will promise not to say that I have told you.” I gave the promise and he proceeded: “You must know then that that worthless priest, Ser Filippo, not many days since, went about boasting of his brother Sbietta’s cleverness, and telling how he had sold his farm to an old man for his lifetime, and that the purchaser could hardly live the year out. You have got mixed up with a set of rogues; therefore take heed to living as long as you are able, and keep your eyes open, for you have need of it. I do not choose to say more.”