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


AFTER leaving Viterbo with the comrades I have mentioned, we pursued our journey on horseback, sometimes in front and sometimes behind the Cardinal’s household. This brought us upon Maundy Thursday at twenty-two o’clock within one stage of Siena. At this place there happened to be some return-horses; and the people of the post were waiting for an opportunity to hire them at a small fee to any traveller who would take them back to the post-station in Siena. When I was aware of this, I dismounted from my horse Tornon, saddled one of the beasts with my pad and stirrups, and gave a giulio to the groom in waiting.

I left my horse under the care of my young men to bring after me, and rode on in front, wishing to arrive half-an-hour earlier in Siena, where I had some friends to visit and some business to transact. Although I went at a smart pace, I did not override the post-horse. When I reached Siena, I engaged good rooms at the inn for five persons, and told the groom of the house to take the horse back to the post, which was outside the Camollia gate; I forgot, however, to remove my stirrups and my pad.

That evening of Holy Thursday we passed together with much gaiety; and next morning, which was Good Friday, I remembered my stirrups and my pad. On my sending for them, the postmaster replied that he did not mean to give them up, because I had overridden his horse. We exchanged messages several times, and he kept saying that he meant to keep them, adding expressions of intolerable insult. The host where I was lodging told me: “You will get off well if he does nothing worse than to detain your gear; for you must know that he is the most brutal fellow that ever disgraced our city, and has two sons, soldiers of great courage, who are even more brutal than he is. I advise you then to purchase what you want, and to pursue your journey without moving farther in this matter.”

I bought a new pair of stirrups, although I still hoped to regain my good pad by persuasion; and since I was very well mounted, and well armed with shirt and sleeves of mail, and carried an excellent arquebuse upon my saddle-bow, I was not afraid of the brutality and violence which that mad beast was said to be possessed of. I had also accustomed my young men to carry shirts of mail, and had great confidence in the Roman, who, while we were in Rome together, had never left it off, so far as I could see; Ascanio too, although he was but a stripling, was in the habit of wearing one. Besides, as it was Good Friday, I imagined that the madnesses of madmen might be giving themselves a holiday. When we came to the Camollia gate, I at once recognised the postmaster by the indications given me; for he was blind of the left eye. Riding up to him then, and leaving my young men and companions at a little distance, I courteously addressed him: “Master of the post, if I assure you that I did not override your horse, why are you unwilling to give me back my pad and stirrups?” The reply he made was precisely as mad and brutal as had been foretold me. This roused me to exclaim: “How then! are you not a Christian? or do you want upon Good Friday to force us both into a scandal?” He answered that Good Friday or the Devil’s Friday was all the same to him, and that if I did not take myself away, he would fell me to the ground with a spontoon which he had taken up—me and the arquebuse I had my hand on. Upon hearing these truculent words, an old gentleman of Siena joined us; he was dressed like a citizen, and was returning from the religious functions proper to that day. It seems that he had gathered the sense of my arguments before he came up to where we stood; and this impelled him to rebuke the postmaster with warmth, taking my side, and reprimanding the man’s two sons for not doing their duty to passing strangers; so that their manners were an offence to God and a disgrace to the city of Siena. The two young fellows wagged their heads without saying a word, and withdrew inside the house. Their father, stung to fury by the scolding of that respectable gentleman, poured out a volley of abusive blasphemies, and levelled his spontoon, swearing he would murder me. When I saw him determined to do some act of bestial violence, I pointed the muzzle of my arquebuse, with the object only of keeping him at a distance. Doubly enraged by this, he flung himself upon me. Though I had prepared the arquebuse for my defence, I had not yet levelled it exactly at him; indeed it was pointed too high. It went off of itself; and the ball, striking the arch of the door and glancing backwards, wounded him in the throat, so that he fell dead to earth. Upon this the two young men came running out; one caught up a partisan from the rack which stood there, the other seized the spontoon of his father. Springing upon my followers, the one who had the spontoon smote Pagolo the Roman first above the left nipple. The other attacked a Milanese who was in our company, and had the ways and manners of a perfect fool. This man screamed out that he had nothing in the world to do with me, and parried the point of the partisan with a little stick he held; but this availed him naught: in spite of his words and fencing, he received a flesh wound in the mouth. Messer Cherubino wore the habit of a priest; for though he was a clockmaker by trade, he held benefices of some value from the Pope. Ascanio, who was well armed, stood his ground without trying to escape, as the Milanese had done; so these two came off unhurt. I had set spurs to my horse, and while he was galloping, had charged and got my arquebuse in readiness again; but now I turned back, burning with fury, and meaning to play my part this time in earnest. I thought that my young men had been killed, and was resolved to die with them. The horse had not gone many paces when I met them riding toward me, and asked if they were hurt. Ascanio answered that Pagolo was wounded to the death. Then I said: “O Pagolo, my son, did the spontoon then pierce through your armour?” “No,” he replied, “for I put my shirt of mail in the valise this morning.” “So then, I suppose, one wears chain-mail in Rome to swagger before ladies, but where there is danger, and one wants it, one keeps it locked up in a portmanteau? You deserve what you have got, and you are now the cause of sending me back to die here too.” While I was uttering these words, I kept riding briskly onward; but both the young men implored me for the love of God to save myself and them, and not to rush on certain death. Just then I met Messer Cherubino and the wounded Milanese. The former cried out that no one was badly wounded; the blow given to Pagolo had only grazed the skin, but the old postmaster was stretched out dead; his sons with other folk were getting ready for attack, and we must almost certainly be cut to pieces: “Accordingly, Benvenuto, since fortune has saved us from this first tempest, do not tempt her again, for things may not go so favourably a second time.” To this I replied: “If you are satisfied to have it thus, so also am I;” and turning to Pagolo and Ascanio, I said: “Strike spurs to your horses, and let us gallop to Staggia without stopping; there we shall be in safety.” The wounded Milanese groaned out: “A pox upon our peccadilloes! the sole cause of my misfortune was that I sinned by taking a little broth this morning, having nothing else to break my fast with.” In spite of the great peril we were in, we could not help laughing a little at the donkey and his silly speeches. Then we set spurs to our horses, and left Messer Cherubino and the Milanese to follow at their leisure.