Would I bear it? Dear God! To achieve the end in view I would have spent my remaining days in motley, making sport for grooms and kitchen wenches. Some such answer did I make him, and he smiled his satisfaction.
“You shall journey as you are,” he bade me. “I am guided by my sister, assured that the coat of a Fool is stouter protection than the best hauberk ever tempered. When you have done your errand come you back to me, and you shall have employment better suited to one who bears the name of Biancomonte.”
“You may depend upon me in this, my lord,” I promised gravely. “I shall not fail you.”
“It is well” said he; and those wondrous eyes of his rested again upon my face. “How soon can you set out?”
“At once, my lord. Does not the by-word say that a fool makes little preparation for a journey?”
He nodded, and moved to a coffer, a beautiful piece of Venetian work in ultramarine and gold. From this he took a heavy bag.
“There,” said he, “you will find the best of all travelling companions.” I thanked him, and set the bag on the crook of my left arm, and by its weight I knew how true he was to the notorious splendour of his race. “And this,” said he, “is a talisman that may serve to help you out of any evil plight, and open many a door that you may find locked.” And he handed me a signet ring on which was graven the steer that is the emblem of the House of Borgia.
He raised aloft the hand on which was glistening the sacred amethyst—two fingers crooked and two erect. Wondering what this should mean, I stared inquiry.
“Kneel,” he bade me. And realising what he would be about, I sank on to my knees whilst he murmured the Apostolic benediction over my bowed head. The rushes of the floor were the only witnesses of the smile that crept to my lips at this sudden assumption of his churchly office by that most worldly prince.
THE LIVERIES OF SANTAFIOR
Such preparations as I had to make were soon complete.
Although it was agreed that I was to travel in the motley, yet, in my lately-born shame of that apparel, I decided that I would conceal it as best might be, revealing it only should the need arise. Moreover, it was incumbent that I should afford myself more protection against the inclement January night than that of my foliated cape, my crested cap and silken hose. So, a black cloak, heavy and ample, a broad-brimmed hat, and a pair of riding boots of untanned leather were my further equipment. In the lining of one of those boots I concealed the Lord Cesare’s package; his money—some twenty ducats—I carried in a belt about my waist, and his ring I set boldly on my finger.
Few moments did it need me to make ready, yet fewer, it seems, would the Borgia impatience have had me employ; for scarce was I booted when someone knocked at my door. I opened, and there entered a very mountain of a man, whose corselet flashed back the yellow light of my tapers, as might have done a mirror, and whose harsh voice barked out to ask if I was ready.