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MISTRUSTING the object of this gathering to which so secretly he had been bidden, Messer Graziani ambushed a half-score of his men about the street below, with orders to force their way into the house should he smash one of the windows as a signal.
Therefore it was with a mind comparatively at ease that he entered the long, low-ceilinged room where the conspirators awaited him. Situated in the mezzanine, this room ran the entire width of that palace of the Lord Ranieri, near the Bridge of Augustus, in Rimini, and overlooked the street at one end and the River Marecchia at the other.
It had an air of gloomy splendor; the walls were hung with gloomy tapestries, the carpet was of darkest purple, and amid the sparse furniture there was a deal of ebony, looking the more funereal for its ivory inlays. It was lighted by an alabaster-globed lamp on the ponderous overmantel, and by two silver candle-branches on the long table in mid-apartment. An enormous fire was roaring on the hearth, for it was a bitterly cold night of January, and the snow lay thick upon the city.
Graziani was cordially received by the Lord Ranieri—a portly, florid patrician of middle age—and conducted by him to the table about which the five remaining conspirators were seated. One of these rose instantly to add to Ranieri’s his own welcome of the condottiere. He was a tall and very stately gentleman, with a long, swarthy face that was rendered longer by a brown, pointed beard. He was dressed in black, but with a superlative elegance, and a medallion of brilliants blazed upon his breast. He was the Prince Sinibaldi; a nobleman of Venice sent as an envoy by the Most Serene Republic to felicitate Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois and Romagna, upon the recent conquest of Rimini.
Now this ambassador it was—and not Ranieri—who had bidden Graziani to that meeting. And it was this circumstance that had had awakened the suspicions of the Borgian soldier, ever mistrustful of all that came from Venice...

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