Setting the scene: Matteo is a manservant in Palazzo Rosini, and Cesare Conti is a guest at the family banquet that night, but clearly, they have come across each other before…
Matteo remained behind to make sure that all the guests’ cloaks were hanging neatly and away from the fire, so that they didn’t smell of smoke by the end of the evening. He hadn’t noticed a figure standing quietly behind him until he heard a slight cough. Turning round, he almost bumped straight into Cesare Conti. He had been half expecting this but had hoped to avoid a direct conversation with him.
“Signor Conti,” he said, with a small bow. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, I think you have already helped me enough, don’t you?” The young man’s piercing green eyes looked directly at Matteo. Then, as if the sun had come out, Cesare broke into a beaming smile and put his arm around Matteo.
“I just wanted to thank you…for last week. What a coincidence that you should be passing, just as I was leaving that place.”
“I have to pass it occasionally when I am running errands for Eleonora. What goes on there is no concern of mine, ser.” Matteo was uncomfortable and hoped that was the end of the conversation. He made to move towards the stairs, but Cesare’s grip tightened.
“We are grown men…er…”
“We are grown men, Matteo. Women serve a purpose from time to time. Indeed, some are very beautiful, but some of us also have other needs, which must be satisfied. Sadly, the city looks on some of those needs as vices, the “Florentine vice”, I believe some call it.” He shook his head, sadly. “Whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation, I could have been arrested that day. You could have turned me in to the guard, and the life I have now would have been over. But you didn’t, and I wondered why.”
“It’s none of my business, ser. As I said, I pass that place often, and who I see going in or coming out is no concern of mine.”