That art was a passion to this stripling is plain. It was his meat and drink–with fighting for dessert. One of his near companions was Francisco, grandson of Fra Lippo Lippi, and another chum was Tasso, at this time a youth of nineteen–his own age. Tasso became a great artist. Vasari tells of him at length, and sketches his career while in the employ of Cosimo de Medici.
One day Benvenuto and Tasso were walking after their work was done, and discussing as usual the wonderful genius of Michelangelo. They agreed that some day they must go to him at Rome. They were near the gate of the city that led out on the direct road to the Eternal City. They passed out of the gate still talking earnestly.
“Why, we are on the way now,” said Tasso.
“And to turn back is an ill omen–we will go on!” answered Benvenuto.
So they kept on, each one saying, “And what will our folks say tonight?”
By night they had traveled twenty miles. They stopped at an inn, and in the morning Tasso was so lame he declared he could not proceed. Benvenuto insisted, and even threatened.
They trudged forward, and in a week the spire of Saint Peter’s (the wondrous dome was yet to be) lifted itself out of the fog, and they stood speechless and uncovered, each devoutly crossing himself.
Benvenuto had a trade, and as skilled men are always needed he got work at once. Tasso filled in the time carving wood. They did not see Michelangelo–that worthy was too busy to receive callers, or indulge the society of adventurous youths. Cellini does not say much about this, but skips two years in a page, takes part in a riot and flees back to Florence. He enters into earnest details of how ‘leven rogues in buckram suits reviled him as he passed a certain shop. One of them upset a handcart of brick upon him. He dealt the miscreant a blow on the ear. The police here appeared and as usual arrested the innocent Happy Hooligan of the affair. Being taken before the Magistrates he was accused of striking a free citizen. Cellini insisted he had only boxed the man’s ears, but many witnesses in chorus averred that he had struck the citizen in the face with his clenched fist. “I only boxed his ears,” exclaimed Cellini above the din. The Magistrates all burst out laughing, and adjourned for dinner, warning Cellini to remain where he was until they came back –hoping he would run away.
He sat there thinking over his sad lot, when a sudden impulse seizing him he darted out of the palace, and ran swiftly for the house of his enemies. He drew his knife, and rushing in among them where they were at dinner, upset the table and yelled, “Send for a confessor, for none of you will ever need a doctor when I get through with you!”
Several women fainted, the men sprang through windows, and the chief rogue got a slash that went straight for his heart. He fell down, and Cellini thinking the man was dead started for the street. At the door he was greeted by all those who had jumped through the windows, reinforced by others. They were armed with shovels, tongs, skillets, clubs, sticks and knives. He laid about him right and left, but the missiles descended in such showers that he lost his knife and cap, first sending to the earth a full dozen of the rogues.
Running to the house of a priest Cellini begged to confess the murder, and told of how he had acted only in self-defense. Being shrived, for a consideration, he awaited the coming of the constabulary. But they did not come, for the man who thought he had been stabbed got only a slash through his jacket, and no one was seriously hurt, except one of the men who jumped through a window and sprained his ankle. But so unjust were the Magistrates that Cellini had to flee from the city or he would have been sentenced to the army and sent God knows where, to fight the Moors.