This secrecy and Ramiro’s display of anger at seeing a hint of it betrayed by Lampugnani struck me, not unnaturally, as suspicious. What were these hidden communications that passed between Vitellozzo Vitelli and the Governor of Cesena? It was a matter of which I could not pretend to offer a solution, but, nevertheless, it was one, I thought, that promised to repay investigation.
Ramiro grew impatient, and my reflections suffered interruption by his rough command that I should hasten. One of the men-at-arms helped me to truss my points, and when that was done I stepped forward—Boccadoro the Fool once more.
For an hour or so that night I played the Fool for Messer Ramiro’s entertainment in a manner which did high justice to the fame that at Pesaro I had earned for the name of Boccadoro.
Beginning with quip and jest and paradox, aimed now at him, now at the officer who had remained to keep him company in his cups, now at the servants who ministered to him, now at the guards standing at attention, I passed on later to play the part of narrator, and I delighted his foul and prurient mind with the story of Andreuccio da Perugia and another of the more licentious tales of Messer Giovanni Boccacci. I crimson now with shame at the manner in which I set myself to pander to his mood that with my wit I might defend my life and limbs, and preserve them for the service of my Holy Flower of the Quince in the hour of her need.
One man alone of all those present did I spare my banter. This was the old seneschal, Miriani. He stood at his post by the buffet, and ever and anon he would come forward to replenish Messer Ramiro’s cup in obedience to the monsters imperious orders.
What fortitude was it, I wondered, that kept the old man outwardly so calm? His face was as the face of one who is dead, its features set and rigid, its colour ashen. But his step was tolerably firm, and his hand seemed to have lost the trembling that had assailed it under the first shock of the horror he had witnessed.
As I watched him furtively I thought that were I Ramiro I should beware of him. That frozen calm argued to me some terrible labour of the mind beneath that livid mask. But the Governor of Cesena appeared insensible, or else he was contemptuous of danger from that quarter. It may even have delighted his outrageous nature to behold a man whose son he had done to death with such brutality continue obedient and submissive to his will, for it may have flattered his vanity by the concession that bearing seemed to make to his grim power.
An hour went by, my second tale was done, and I was now entrancing Messer Ramiro with some impromptu verses upon the divorce of Giovanni Sforza, a theme set me by himself, when I was interrupted by the arrival of a soldier, who entered unannounced.