Chapter 6

Castruccio in Italy—Susa—Creed of Benedetto.

Messer Tadeo received his old friend with respect and friendship; and, courteously welcoming Castruccio, he led them into a large hall, where the sight of a repast already set out seemed to diffuse joy over the countenances of both travellers. The hall was richly hung with scarlet cloth, and the tables and seats covered with tapestry; at the upper end of the room was a chimney and a fire, near which taking his seat, Messer Tadeo invited the new comers to join several other friends of his, who arranged themselves round the table.

When the long ceremony of dinner was finished, and the servants were busy in removing the tables, Messer Tadeo proposed to the newly arrived guests to conduct them to a bed-chamber, where they might repose after the fatigues of the journey. They both gladly accepted this offer; and in a deep and refreshing sleep Castruccio forgot his curiosity concerning who or what his companion might be, and the latter recovered from the trembling fear of danger, which had haunted him since his escape of the preceding day.

When Castruccio arose at about six o’clock in the evening, he joined Messer Tadeo, who was sitting with the other traveller in the great hall. The rest of the company had departed; and these two were in earnest conversation, which they changed when Castruccio entered.

After some time, holding up his finger, and drawing down still longer the long wrinkles of his cheeks, the fellow-traveller of Castruccio, in a mysterious manner, pronounced the word which had been given to the soldiers of Alberto Scoto, that they might distinguish one another during the darkness of night, or the confusion of battle; Castruccio, hearing this, easily divined that he had a fellow soldier, and a friend of his chief, in his strange travelling companion; so smiling, he uttered the countersign, and the other, turning on him, as if the ghost of one whom he had known many years before had risen before him, hastily enquired, ‘You served then in his troop?’

‘Yes,’ replied Castruccio, ‘I had the honour of serving under the noble knight, Messer Alberto Scoto; and, in having rendered you a service, I am still more happy to find that I saved one who has fought under the same banners with myself.’

‘Is your name a secret?’

‘I am of a noble Lucchese family, now exiled and wandering; my name is Castruccio Castracani dei Antelminelli.’

The elder traveller suddenly arose, and, embracing Castruccio warmly, bestowed on him a brotherly kiss, and then turning to Tadeo, said: ‘This morning I introduced to you a stranger whose merit with me was that of having saved my life at the imminent risk of his own; now I introduce to you a gallant soldier, whose name has been spread through France, as that of the bravest warrior and the ablest commander that fought in the Low Countries: the Sieur Castruccio is a name which even the children in France lisp with gratitude, and the Flemings tremble to hear.’

Many compliments passed; and then the traveller said: ‘This pleasant discovery has made friends of three who were before strangers; nor will I conceal from you, Messer Castruccio, that my name is Benedetto Pepi, a Cremonese, now returning to my own country, after having gained laurels and knight-hood under the banners of Messer Scoto. You, my dear companion, say that you are an exile; but great changes are now taking place in Italy, and, knowing who you are, we may well admit you to the confidential conversation that I and Messer Tadeo were holding when you entered, concerning all that has passed since the arrival of the emperor Henry in Italy.’

Saying this, Benedetto made a slight sign to his friend, which Castruccio easily guessed to be an admonition to be discreet in his disclosures. Tadeo replied to this sign by a nod, and said:

  By PanEris using Melati.

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