Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Benvenuto Cellini > Autobiography
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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571).  Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XVII
 
 
JUST as I left the house, I observed some servants whispering among themselves, who also went off at a round pace in another direction from the one I took. Walking with all haste, I passed the bridge of the Exchange, 1 and went up along a wall beside the river which led to my lodging in the castle. I had just come to the Augustines—now this was a very perilous passage, and though it was only five hundred paces distant from my dwelling, yet the lodging in the castle being quite as far removed inside, no one could have heard my voice if I had shouted—when I saw four men with four swords in their hands advancing to attack me. 2 My resolution was taken in an instant. I covered the basket with my cape, drew my sword, and seeing that they were pushing hotly forward, cried aloud: “With soldiers there is only the cape and sword to gain; and these, before I give them up, I hope you’ll get not much to your advantage.” Then crossing my sword boldly with them, I more than once spread out my arms, in order that, if the ruffians were put on by the servants who had seen me take my money, they might be led to judge I was not carrying it. The encounter was soon over; for they retired step by step, saying among themselves in their own language: “This is a brave Italian, and certainly not the man we are after; or if he be the man, he cannot be carrying anything.” I spoke Italian, and kept harrying them with thrust and slash so hotly that I narrowly missed killing one or the other. My skill in using the sword made them think I was a soldier rather than a fellow of some other calling. They drew together and began to fall back, muttering all the while beneath their breath in their own tongue. I meanwhile continued always calling out, but not too loudly, that those who wanted my cape and blade would have to get them with some trouble. Then I quickened pace, while they still followed slowly at my heels; this augmented my fear, for I thought I might be falling into an ambuscade, which would have cut me off in front as well as rear. Accordingly, when I was at the distance of a hundred paces from my home, I ran with all my might, and shouted at the top of my voice: “To arms, to arms! out with you, out with you! I am being murdered.” In a moment four of my young men came running, with four pikes in their hands. They wanted to pursue the ruffians, who could still be seen; but I stopped them, calling back so as to let the villains hear: “Those cowards yonder, four against one man alone, had not pluck enough to capture a thousand golden crowns in metal, which have almost broken this arm of mine. Let us haste inside and put the money away; then I will take my big two-handed sword, and go with you whithersoever you like.” We went inside to secure the gold; and my lads, while expressing deep concern for the peril I had run, gently chided me, and said: “You risk yourself too much alone; the time will come when you will make us all bemoan your loss.” A thousand words and exclamations were exchanged between us; my adversaries took to flight; and we all sat down and supped together with mirth and gladness, laughing over those great blows which fortune strikes, for good as well as evil, and which, what time they do not hit the mark, are just the same as though they had not happened. 3 It is very true that one says to oneself: “You will have had a lesson for next time.” But that is not the case; for fortune always comes upon us in new ways, quite unforeseen by our imagination.  1
 
Note 1. The Pont du Change, replaced by the Pont Neuf. [back]
Note 2. The excitement of his recollection makes Cellini more than usually incoherent about this episode. The translator has to collect the whole sense of the passage. [back]
Note 3. Cellini’s philosophy is summed up in the proverb: “A miss is as good as a mile.” [back]
 

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