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


MY ill-luck willed that I was not wide-awake enough to play the like comedy with Madame d’Etampes. That evening, when she heard the whole course of events from the King’s own lips, it bred such poisonous fury in her breast that she exclaimed with anger: “If Benvenuto had shown me those fine things of his, he would have given me some reason to be mindful of him at the proper moment.” The King sought to excuse me, but he made no impression on her temper. Being informed of what had passed, I waited fifteen days, during which they made a tour through Normandy, visiting Rouen and Dieppe; then, when they returned to S. Germain-en-Laye, I took the handsome little vase which I had made at the request of Madame d’Etampes, hoping, if I gave it her, to recover the favour I had lost. With this in my hand, then, I announced my presence to her nurse, and showed the gift which I had brought her mistress; the woman received me with demonstrations of good-will, and said that she would speak a word to Madame, who was still engaged upon her toilette; I should be admitted on the instant, when she had discharged her embassy. The nurse made her report in full to Madame, who retorted scornfully: “Tell him to wait.” On hearing this, I clothed myself with patience, which of all things I find the most difficult. Nevertheless, I kept myself under control until the hour for dinner was past. Then, seeing that time dragged on, and being maddened by hunger, I could no longer hold out, but flung off, sending her most devoutly to the devil.

I next betook myself to the Cardinal of Lorraine, and made him a present of the vase, only petitioning his Eminence to maintain me in the King’s good graces. He said there was no need for this; and if there were need he would gladly speak for me. Then he called his treasurer, and whispered a few words in his ear. The treasurer waited till I took my leave of the Cardinal; after which he said to me: “Benvenuto, come with me, and I will give you a glass of good wine to drink.” I answered, not understanding what he meant: “For Heaven’s sake, Mr. Treasurer, let me have but one glass of wine and a mouthful of bread; for I am really fainting for want of food. I have fasted since early this morning up to the present moment, at the door of Madame d’Etampes; I went to give her that fine piece of silver-gilt plate, and took pains that she would be informed of my intention; but she, with the mere petty will to vex me, bade me wait; now I am famished, and feel my forces failing; and, as God willed it, I have bestowed my gift and labour upon one who is far more worthy of them. I only crave of you something to drink; for being rather too bilious by nature, fast upsets me so that I run the risk now of falling from exhaustion to the earth.” While I was pumping out these words with difficulty, they brought some admirable wine and other delicacies for a hearty meal. I refreshed myself, and having recovered my vital spirits, found that my exasperation had departed from me.

The good treasurer handed me a hundred crowns in gold. I sturdily refused to accept them. He reported this to the Cardinal, who swore at him, and told him to make me take the money by force, and not to show himself again till he had done so. The treasurer returned, much irritated, saying he had never been so scolded before by the Cardinal; but when he pressed the crowns upon me, I still offered some resistance. Then, quite angry, he said he would use force to make me take them. So I accepted the money. When I wanted to thank the Cardinal in person, he sent word by one of his secretaries that he would gladly do me a service whenever the occasion offered. I returned the same evening to Paris. The King heard the whole history, and Madame d’Etampes was well laughed at in their company. This increased her animosity against me, and led to an attack upon my life, of which I shall speak in the proper time and place.