Chapter 13

Euthanasia holds a Court.

As the day approached on which Euthanasia was to hold her court, her castle became thronged with the nobility, wealth, and beauty of Tuscany and Lombardy. She had wished indeed to make this a public union of the two parties which distracted Italy; but she was so noted a Guelph that few Ghibelines appeared, although some were attracted by the name of Castruccio, to come under his escort, and in his company. First arrived her uncle, the lord Radolfo di Casaregi; he was an old man, but he loved to encircle his bare temples with an iron helmet, and to try his well used sword against the unfleshed blades of the sons of his companions in arms in days gone by. Then came the marquess Marcello Malespino of Valdimagra, his wife, and three lovely daughters; they were accompanied by three brothers of the Bondelmonti family of Florence: these claimed affinity to the house of Adimari, and when by the laws of her country Euthanasia was obliged to choose a guardian for her maiden state, she had selected the eldest, count Bondelmonte de’ Bondelmonti to be her Mondualdo; this relationship had given rise to a sincere friendship, which, although the difference of age was inconsiderable, and the same reverence and obedience could never be felt or exercised, yet in some sort was to Euthanasia in the stead of her dead parents. There arrived soon after the chief members of the Pazzi, Donati, Visdomini, Gianfigliazi, and other Guelph families of Florence; there was Alberti count of Capraia, and all the numerous troop that claimed relationship to him; and many others, both Bianchi and Neri, both Guelph and Ghibeline, whose names it would be needless to detail.

Then arrived a multitude of Uomini di Corte; story-tellers, improvisatori, musicians, singers, actors, rope- dancers, jugglers and buffoons. The most distinguished among the first class was William Borsiere1; a man of courteous yet frank manners, nice wit and keen penetration: he was about forty years of age; but he had lost none of the jovial temper of youth, and his generous and even noble disposition made him more respected than men of his class usually were. There was Bergamino, a man more caustic than Borsiere, but whose insinuating address obtained pardon for his biting words; no one knew better than Bergamino to cure the wounds his tongue had made. There was Andreuccio, whose satirical mood and rough manners frequently drew upon him the anger of the nobles on whose favour he depended; and he was so often dismissed, disgraced and unrewarded, from the courts, where his companions were loaded with presents, that, from his mean and sometimes ragged appearance, and his snarling habits, he went by the name of the Cane Mendicante. He wished to rival Borsiere and Bergamino who were staunch friends, and endeavoured to make up for his lack of the more delicate kind of wit by caustic sayings and contemptuous remarks. There was Ildone, a foolish, smiling fellow, but who sang sorrowful airs with so sweet and touching a voice, that, if you shut your eyes, you might have imagined that St Cecilia herself had descended to entrance the world with heavenly melody.

Guarino, the Improvisatore, closed the list of the distinguished Uomini di Corte. He was sought in every court in Lombardy for his entertaining qualities: his tales displayed the fire of genius, and the delicate observations of a lover of nature. But he was eaten up by vanity and envy; he hated all those who were admired, from the princely beauty who attracted all regards, down to the lowest buffoon at court. If he were sought by the great, so much the more was he avoided by his equals and inferiors; to the first he tricked himself out with a flattering tongue, a mean and servile address, and gross adulation; for the second he expressed hatred and contempt; and he tyrannized over the last with a hand of iron. But all three classes might equally dread his malignant calumnies, and hatred of all that was good. He spared no art, no wit, no falsehood, to detract from merit, however exalted or lowly; and so full was he of wiles, that he was seldom detected in his serpent craft. He had been a Ghibeline, and at one time was imprisoned by the Dominican inquisitors as a heretic; but now he surpassed all the Italians in superstition and credulity; his friends said that he was truly pious, his enemies that he was the most deceitful of hypocrites: but the trait that sealed his character, was his intolerance and violent persecution of his former heretical associates. Those who were most indulgent said, that he had been first actuated by fear, and was now a sincere convert; he himself pretended to attribute his conversion to a miracle, and of such consequence was he in his own eyes, that he almost affirmed that a saint from heaven had informed him, that the redemption of mankind had been undertaken by the Almighty Saviour for his benefit alone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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