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


THE DUKE was now aware that all my previous speeches had been, as it were, forced out of me. So he rejoined: “If you have confidence in me, you need not stand in fear of anything whatever.” I recommenced: “Alas! my lord, what can prevent this coming to the ears of the Duchess?” The Duke lifted his hand in sign of troth-pledge, and exclaimed: “Be assured that what you say will be buried in a diamond casket!” To this engagement upon honour I replied by telling the truth according to my judgment, namely, that the pearls were not worth above two thousand crowns. The Duchess, thinking we had stopped talking, for we now were speaking in as low a voice as possible, came forward, and began as follows: “My lord, do me, the favour to purchase this necklace, because I have set my heart on them, and your Benvenuto here has said he never saw a finer row of pearls.” The Duke replied: “I do not choose to buy them.” “Why, my lord, will not your Excellency gratify me by buying them?” “Because I do not care to throw my money out of the window.” The Duchess recommenced: “What do you mean by throwing your money away, when Benvenuto, in whom you place such well-merited confidence, has told me that they would be cheap at over three thousand crowns?” Then the Duke said; “My lady! my Benvenuto here has told me that, if I purchase this necklace, I shall be throwing my money away, inasmuch as the pearls are neither round nor well-matched, and some of them are quite faded. To prove that this is so, look here! look there! consider this one and then that. The necklace is not the sort of thing for me.” At these words the Duchess cast a glance of bitter spite at me, and retired with a threatening nod of her head in my direction. I felt tempted to pack off at once and bid farewell to Italy. Yet my Perseus being all but finished, I did not like to leave without exposing it to public view. But I ask every one to consider in what a grievous plight I found myself!

The Duke had given orders to his porters in my presence, that if I appeared at the palace, they should always admit me through his apartments to the place where he might happen to be. The Duchess commanded the same men, whenever I showed my face at that palace, to drive me from its gates. Accordingly, no sooner did I present myself, than these fellows left their doors and bade me begone; at the same time they took good care lest the Duke should perceive what they were after; for if he caught sight of me before those wretches, he either called me, or beckoned to me to advance.

At this juncture the Duchess sent for Bernardone, the broker, of whom she had so often complained to me, abusing his good-for-nothingness and utter worthlessness. She now confided in him as she had previously done in me. He replied: “My princess, leave the matter in my hands.” Then the rascal presented himself before the Duke with that necklace in his hands. No sooner did the Duke set eyes on him than he bade him begone. But the rogue lifted his big ugly voice, which sounded like the braying of an ass through his huge nose, and spoke to this effect: “Ah! my dear lord, for Heaven’s sake buy this necklace for the poor Duchess, who is dying to have it, and cannot indeed live without it.” The fellow poured forth so much of this stupid nonsensical stuff that the Duke’s patience was exhausted, and he cried: “Oh, get away with you, or blow your chaps out till I smack them!” The knave knew very well what he was after; for if by blowing out his cheeks or singing La Bella Frances-china, he could bring the Duke to make that purchase, then he gained the good grace of the Duchess, and to boot his own commission, which rose to some hundreds of crowns. Consequently he did blow out his chaps. The Duke smacked them with several hearty boxes, and, in order to get rid of him, struck rather harder than his wont was. The sound blows upon his cheeks not only reddened them above their natural purple, but also brought tears into his eyes. All the same, while smarting, he began to cry: “Lo! my lord, a faithful servant of his prince, who tries to act rightly, and is willing to put up with any sort of bad treatment, provided only that poor lady have her heart’s desire!” The Duke tired of the ribald fellow, either to recompense the cuffs which he had dealt him, or for the Duchess’ sake, whom he was ever most inclined to gratify, cried out: “Get away with you, with God’s curse on you! Go, make the bargain; I am willing to do what my lady Duchess wishes.”

From this incident we may learn to know how evil Fortune exerts her rage against a poor right-minded man, and how the strumpet Luck can help a miserable rascal. I lost the good graces of the Duchess once and for ever, and thereby went close to having the Duke’s protection taken from me. He acquired that thumping fee for his commission, and to boot their favour. Thus it will not serve us in this world to be merely men of honesty and talent.