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The Borgias by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 3 out of 5

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load of wood on the bank, I remained in my boat, resting in the cool
night air, and watching lest other men should come and take away what
I had just unloaded, when, about two o'clock in the morning, I saw
coming out of the lane on the left of San Girolamo's Church two men
on foot, who came forward into the middle of the street, and looked
so carefully all around that they seemed to have come to find out if
anybody was going along the street. When they felt sure that it was
deserted, they went back along the same lane, whence issued presently
two other men, who used similar precautions to make sure that there
was nothing fresh; they, when they found all as they wished, gave a
sign to their companions to come and join them; next appeared one man
on a dapple-grey horse, which was carrying on the crupper the body of
a dead man, his head and arms hanging over on one side and his feet
on the other. The two fellows I had first seen exploring were
holding him up by the arms and legs. The other three at once went up
to the river, while the first two kept a watch on the street, and
advancing to the part of the bank where the sewers of the town are
discharged into the Tiber, the horseman turned his horse, backing on
the river; then the two who were at either side taking the corpse,
one by the hands, the other by the feet, swung it three times, and
the third time threw it out into the river with all their strength;
then at the noise made when the body splashed into the water, the
horseman asked, 'Is it done?' and the others answered, 'Yes, sir,'
and he at once turned right about face; but seeing the dead man's
cloak floating, he asked what was that black thing swimming about.
'Sir,' said one of the men, 'it is his cloak'; and then another man
picked up some stones, and running to the place where it was still
floating, threw them so as to make it sink under; as soon as it had
quite disappeared, they went off, and after walking a little way
along the main road, they went into the lane that leads to San
Giacomo. That was all I saw, gentlemen, and so it is all I can
answer to the questions you have asked me."

At these words, which robbed of all hope any who might yet entertain
it, one of the pope's servants asked the Slav why, when he was
witness of such a deed, he had not gone to denounce it to the
governor. But the Slav replied that, since he had exercised his
present trade on the riverside, he had seen dead men thrown into the
Tiber in the same way a hundred times, and had never heard that
anybody had been troubled about them; so he supposed it would be the
same with this corpse as the others, and had never imagined it was
his duty to speak of it, not thinking it would be any more important
than it had been before.

Acting on this intelligence, the servants of His Holiness summoned at
once all the boatmen and fishermen who were accustomed to go up and
down the river, and as a large reward was promised to anyone who
should find the duke's body, there were soon mare than a hundred
ready for the job; so that before the evening of the same day, which
was Friday, two men were drawn out of the water, of whom one was
instantly recognised as the hapless duke. At the very first glance
at the body there could be no doubt as to the cause of death. It was
pierced with nine wounds, the chief one in the throat, whose artery
was cut. The clothing had not been touched: his doublet and cloak
were there, his gloves in his waistband, gold in his purse; the duke
then must have been assassinated not for gain but for revenge.

The ship which carried the corpse went up the Tiber to the Castello
Sant' Angelo, where it was set down. At once the magnificent dress
was fetched from the duke's palace which he had worn on the day of
the procession, and he was clothed in it once more: beside him were
placed the insignia of the generalship of the Church. Thus he lay in
state all day, but his father in his despair had not the courage to
came and look at him. At last, when night had fallen, his most
trusty and honoured servants carried the body to the church of the
Madonna del Papala, with all the pomp and ceremony that Church and
State combined could devise for the funeral of the son of the pope.

Meantime the bloodstained hands of Caesar Borgia were placing a royal
crown upon the head of Frederic of Aragon.

This blow had pierced Alexander's heart very deeply. As at first he
did not know on whom his suspicions should fall, he gave the
strictest orders for the pursuit of the murderers; but little by
little the infamous truth was forced upon him. He saw that the blow
which struck at his house came from that very house itself and then
his despair was changed to madness: he ran through the rooms of the
Vatican like a maniac, and entering the consistory with torn garments
and ashes on his head, he sobbingly avowed all the errors of his past
life, owning that the disaster that struck his offspring through his
offspring was a just chastisement from God; then he retired to a
secret dark chamber of the palace, and there shut himself up,
declaring his resolve to die of starvation. And indeed for more than
sixty hours he took no nourishment by day nor rest by night, making
no answer to those who knocked at his door to bring him food except
with the wailings of a woman or a roar as of a wounded lion; even the
beautiful Giulia Farnese, his new mistress, could not move him at
all, and was obliged to go and seek Lucrezia, that daughter doubly
loved to conquer his deadly resolve. Lucrezia came out from the
retreat were she was weeping for the Duke of Gandia, that she might
console her father. At her voice the door did really open, and it
was only then that the Duke of Segovia, who had been kneeling almost
a whole day at the threshold, begging His Holiness to take heart,
could enter with servants bearing wine and food.

The pope remained alone with Lucrezia for three days and nights; then
he reappeared in public, outwardly calm, if not resigned; for
Guicciardini assures us that his daughter had made him understand how
dangerous it would be to himself to show too openly before the
assassin, who was coming home, the immoderate love he felt for his
victim.

CHAPTER VIII

Caesar remained at Naples, partly to give time to the paternal grief
to cool down, and partly to get on with another business he had
lately been charged with, nothing else than a proposition of marriage
between Lucrezia and Don Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Bicelli and
Prince of Salerno, natural son of Alfonso II and brother of Dona
Sancha. It was true that Lucrezia was already married to the lord of
Pesaro, but she was the daughter of an father who had received from
heaven the right of uniting and disuniting. There was no need to
trouble about so trifling a matter: when the two were ready to marry,
the divorce would be effected. Alexander was too good a tactician to
leave his daughter married to a son-in-law who was becoming useless
to him.

Towards the end of August it was announced that the ambassador was
coming back to Rome, having accomplished his mission to the new king
to his great satisfaction. And thither he returned an the 5th of
September,--that is, nearly three months after the Duke of Gandia's
death,--and on the next day, the 6th, from the church of Santa Maria
Novella, where, according to custom, the cardinals and the Spanish
and Venetian ambassadors were awaiting him on horseback at the door,
he proceeded to the Vatican, where His Holiness was sitting; there he
entered the consistory, was admitted by the pope, and in accordance
with the usual ceremonial received his benediction and kiss; then,
accompanied once more in the same fashion by the ambassadors and
cardinals, he was escorted to his own apartments. Thence he
proceeded to the pope's, as soon as he was left alone; for at the
consistory they had had no speech with one another, and the father
and son had a hundred things to talk about, but of these the Duke of
Gandia was not one, as might have been expected. His name was not
once spoken, and neither on that day nor afterwards was there ever
again any mention of the unhappy young man: it was as though he had
never existed.

It was the fact that Caesar brought good news, King Frederic gave his
consent to the proposed union; so the marriage of Sforza and Lucrezia
was dissolved on a pretext of nullity. Then Frederic authorised the
exhumation of D'jem's body, which, it will be remembered, was worth
300,000 ducats.

After this, all came about as Caesar had desired; he became the man
who was all-powerful after the pope; but when he was second in
command it was soon evident to the Roman people that their city was
making a new stride in the direction of ruin. There was nothing but
balls, fetes, masquerades; there were magnificent hunting parties,
when Caesar--who had begun to cast off his cardinal's robe,--weary
perhaps of the colour, appeared in a French dress, followed, like a
king by cardinals, envoys and bodyguard. The whole pontifical
town, given up like a courtesan to orgies and debauchery, had never
been more the home of sedition, luxury, and carnage, according to the
Cardinal of Viterba, not even in the days of Nero and Heliogabalus.
Never had she fallen upon days more evil; never had more traitors
done her dishonour or sbirri stained her streets with blood. The
number of thieves was so great, and their audacity such, that no one
could with safety pass the gates of the town; soon it was not even
safe within them. No house, no castle, availed for defence. Right
and justice no longer existed. Money, farce, pleasure, ruled
supreme.

Still, the gold was melting as in a furnace at these Fetes; and, by
Heaven's just punishment, Alexander and Caesar were beginning to
covet the fortunes of those very men who had risen through their
simony to their present elevation. The first attempt at a new method
of coining money was tried upon the Cardinal Cosenza. The occasion
was as follows. A certain dispensation had been granted some time
before to a nun who had taken the vows: she was the only surviving
heir to the throne of Portugal, and by means of the dispensation she
had been wedded to the natural son of the last king. This marriage
was more prejudicial than can easily be imagined to the interests of
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain; so they sent ambassadors to
Alexander to lodge a complaint against a proceeding of this nature,
especially as it happened at the very moment when an alliance was to
be formed between the house of Aragon and the Holy See. Alexander
understood the complaint, and resolved that all should be set right.
So he denied all knowledge of the papal brief though he had as a fact
received 60,000 ducats for signing it--and accused the Archbishop of
Cosenza, secretary for apostolic briefs, of having granted a false
dispensation. By reason of this accusation, the archbishop was taken
to the castle of Sant' Angelo, and a suit was begun.

But as it was no easy task to prove an accusation of this nature,
especially if the archbishop should persist in maintaining that the
dispensation was really granted by the pope, it was resolved to
employ a trick with him which could not fail to succeed. One evening
the Archbishop of Cosenza saw Cardinal Valentino come into his
prison; with that frank air of affability which he knew well how to
assume when it could serve his purpose, he explained to the prisoner
the embarrassing situation in which the pope was placed, from which
the archbishop alone, whom His Holiness looked upon as his best
friend, could save him.

The archbishop replied that he was entirely at the service of His
Holiness.

Caesar, on his entrance, found the captive seated, leaning his elbows
on a table, and he took a seat opposite him and explained the pope's
position: it was an embarrassing one. At the very time of
contracting so important an alliance with the house of Aragon as that
of Lucrezia and Alfonso, His Holiness could not avow to Ferdinand and
Isabella that, for the sake of a few miserable ducats, he had signed
a dispensation which would unite in the husband and wife together all
the legitimate claims to a throne to which Ferdinand and Isabella had
no right at all but that of conquest. This avowal would necessarily
put an end to all negotiations, and the pontifical house would fall
by the overthrow of that very pedestal which was to have heightened
its grandeur. Accordingly the archbishop would understand what the
pope expected of his devotion and friendship: it was a simple and
straight avowal that he had supposed he might take it upon himself to
accord the dispensation. Then, as the sentence to be passed on such
an error would be the business of Alexander, the accused could easily
imagine beforehand how truly paternal such a sentence would be.
Besides, the reward was in the same hands, and if the sentence was
that of a father, the recompense would be that of a king. In fact,
this recompense would be no less than the honour of assisting as
envoy, with the title of cardinal, at the marriage of Lucrezia and
Alfonso--a favour which would be very appropriate, since it would be
thanks to his devotion that the marriage could take place.

The Archbishop of Cosenza knew the men he was dealing with; he knew
that to save their own ends they would hesitate at nothing; he knew
they had a poison like sugar to the taste and to the smell,
impossible to discover in food--a poison that would kill slowly or
quickly as the poisoner willed and would leave no trace behind; he
knew the secret of the poisoned key that lay always on the pope's
mantelpiece, so that when His Holiness wished to destroy some one of
his intimates, he bade him open a certain cupboard: on the handle of
the key there was a little spike, and as the lock of the cupboard
turned stiffly the hand would naturally press, the lock would yield,
and nothing would have come of it but a trifling scratch: the scratch
was mortal. He knew, too, that Caesar wore a ring made like two
lions' heads, and that he would turn the stone on the inside when he
was shaking hands with a friend. Then the lions' teeth became the
teeth of a viper, and the friend died cursing Borgia. So he yielded,
partly through fear, partly blinded by the thought of the reward; and
Caesar returned to the Vatican armed with a precious paper, in which
the Archbishop of Cosenza admitted that he was the only person
responsible for the dispensation granted to the royal nun.

Two days later, by means of the proofs kindly furnished by the
archbishop, the pope; in the presence of the governor of Rome, the
auditor of the apostolic chamber, the advocate, and the fiscal
attorney, pronounced sentence, condemning the archbishop to the loss
of all his benefices and ecclesiastical offices, degradation from his
orders, and confiscation of his goods; his person was to be handed
over to the civil arm. Two days later the civil magistrate entered
the prison to fulfil his office as received from the pope, and
appeared before the archbishop, accompanied by a clerk, two servants,
and four guards. The clerk unrolled the paper he carried and read
out the sentence; the two servants untied a packet, and, stripping
the prisoner of his ecclesiastical garments, they reclothed him in a
dress of coarse white cloth which only reached down to his knees,
breeches of the same, and a pair of clumsy shoes. Lastly, the
guards took him, and led him into one of the deepest dungeons of the
castle of Sant' Angelo, where for furniture he found nothing but a
wooden crucifix, a table, a chair, and a bed; for occupation, a Bible
and a breviary, with a lamp to read by; for nourishment, two pounds
of bread and a little cask of water, which were to be renewed every
three days, together with a bottle of oil for burning in his lamp.

At the end of a year the poor archbishop died of despair, not before
he had gnawed his own arms in his agony.

The very same day that he was taken into the dungeon, Caesar Borgia,
who had managed the affair so ably, was presented by the pope with
all the belongings of the condemned prisoner.

But the hunting parties, balls, and masquerades were not the only
pleasures enjoyed by the pope and his family: from time to time
strange spectacles were exhibited. We will only describe two--one of
them a case of punishment, the other no more nor less than a matter
of the stud farm. But as both of these give details with which we
would not have our readers credit our imagination, we will first say
that they are literally translated from Burchard's Latin journal.

"About the same time--that is, about the beginning of 1499--a certain
courtesan named La Corsetta was in prison, and had a lover who came
to visit her in woman's clothes, a Spanish Moor, called from his
disguise 'the Spanish lady from Barbary!' As a punishment, both of
them were led through the town, the woman without petticoat or skirt,
but wearing only the Moor's dress unbuttoned in front; the man wore
his woman's garb; his hands were tied behind his back, and the skirt
fastened up to his middle, with a view to complete exposure before
the eyes of all. When in this attire they had made the circuit of
the town, the Corsetta was sent back to the prison with the Moor.
But on the 7th of April following, the Moor was again taken out and
escorted in the company of two thieves towards the Campo dei Fiori.
The three condemned men were preceded by a constable, who rode
backwards on an ass, and held in his hand a long pole, on the end of
which were hung, still bleeding, the amputated limbs of a poor Jew
who had suffered torture and death for some trifling crime. When the
procession reached the place of execution, the thieves were hanged,
and the unfortunate Moor was tied to a stake piled round with wood,
where he was to have been burnt to death, had not rain fallen in such
torrents that the fire would not burn, in spite of all the efforts of
the executioner."

This unlooked for accident, taken as a miracle by the people, robbed
Lucrezia of the most exciting part of the execution; but her father
was holding in reserve another kind of spectacle to console her with
later. We inform the reader once more that a few lines we are about
to set before him are a translation from the journal of the worthy
German Burchard, who saw nothing in the bloodiest or most wanton
performances but facts for his journal, which he duly registered with
the impassibility of a scribe, appending no remark or moral
reflection.

"On the 11th of November a certain peasant was entering Rome with two
stallions laden with wood, when the servants of His Holiness, just as
he passed the Piazza of St. Peter's, cut their girths, so that their
loads fell on the ground with the pack-saddles, and led off the
horses to a court between the palace and the gate; then the stable
doors were opened, and four stallions, quite free and unbridled,
rushed out and in an instant all six animals began kicking, biting
and fighting each other until several were killed. Roderigo and
Madame Lucrezia, who sat at the window just over the palace gate,
took the greatest delight in the struggle and called their courtiers
to witness the gallant battle that was being fought below them."

Now Caesar's trick in the matter of the Archbishop of Cosenza had had
the desired result, and Isabella and Ferdinand could no longer impute
to Alexander the signature of the brief they had complained of: so
nothing was now in the way of the marriage of Lucrezia and Alfonso;
this certainty gave the pope great joy, for he attached all the more
importance to this marriage because he was already cogitating a
second, between Caesar and Dona Carlota, Frederic's daughter.

Caesar had shown in all his actions since his brother's death his
want of vocation for the ecclesiastical life; so no one was
astonished when, a consistory having been summoned one morning by
Alexander, Caesar entered, and addressing the pope, began by saying
that from his earliest years he had been drawn towards secular
pursuits both by natural inclination and ability, and it had only
been in obedience to the absolute commands of His Holiness that he
entered the Church, accepted the cardinal's scarlet, other dignities,
and finally the sacred order of the diaconate; but feeling that in
his situation it was improper to follow his passions, and at his age
impossible to resist them, he humbly entreated His Holiness
graciously to yield to the desire he had failed to overcome, and to
permit him to lay aside the dress and dignities of the Church, and
enter once more into the world, thereto contract a lawful marriage;
also he entreated the lord cardinals to intercede for him with His
Holiness, to whom he would freely resign all his churches, abbeys,
and benefices, as well as every other ecclesiastical dignity and
preferment that had been accorded him. The cardinals, deferring to
Caesar's wishes, gave a unanimous vote, and the pope, as we may
suppose, like a good father, not wishing to force his son's
inclinations, accepted his resignation, and yielded to the petition;
thus Caesar put off the scarlet robe, which was suited to him, says
his historian Tommaso Tommasi, in one particular only--that it was
the colour of blood.

In truth, the resignation was a pressing necessity, and there was no
time to lose. Charles VIII one day after he had came home late and
tired from the hunting-field, had bathed his head in cold water; and
going straight to table, had been struck dawn by an apoplectic
seizure directly after his supper; and was dead, leaving the throne
to the good Louis XII, a man of two conspicuous weaknesses, one as
deplorable as the other: the first was the wish to make conquests;
the second was the desire to have children. Alexander, who was on
the watch far all political changes, had seen in a moment what he
could get from Louis XII's accession to the throne, and was prepared
to profit by the fact that the new king of France needed his help for
the accomplishment of his twofold desire. Louis needed, first, his
temporal aid in an expedition against the duchy of Milan, on which,
as we explained before, he had inherited claims from Valentina
Visconti, his grandmother; and, secondly, his spiritual aid to
dissolve his marriage with Jeanne, the daughter of Louis XI; a
childless and hideously deformed woman, whom he had only married by
reason of the great fear he entertained for her father. Now
Alexander was willing to do all this for Louis XII and to give in
addition a cardinal's hat to his friend George d'Amboise, provided
only that the King of France would use his influence in persuading
the young Dona Carlota, who was at his court, to marry his son
Caesar.

So, as this business was already far advanced on the day when Caesar
doffed his scarlet and donned a secular garb, thus fulfilling the
ambition so long cherished, when the lord of Villeneuve, sent by
Louis and commissioned to bring Caesar to France, presented himself
before the ex-cardinal on his arrival at Rome, the latter, with his
usual extravagance of luxury and the kindness he knew well how to
bestow on those he needed, entertained his guest for a month, and did
all the honours of Rome. After that, they departed, preceded by one
of the pope's couriers, who gave orders that every town they passed
through was to receive them with marks of honour and respect. The
same order had been sent throughout the whole of France, where the
illustrious visitors received so numerous a guard, and were welcomed
by a populace so eager to behold them, that after they passed through
Paris, Caesar's gentlemen-in-waiting wrote to Rome that they had not
seen any trees in France, or houses, or walls, but only men, women
and sunshine.

The king, on the pretext of going out hunting, went to meet his guest
two leagues outside the town. As he knew Caesar was very fond of the
name of Valentine, which he had used as cardinal, and still continued
to employ with the title of Count, although he had resigned the
archbishopric which gave him the name, he there and then bestowed an
him the investiture of Valence, in Dauphine, with the title of Duke
and a pension of 20,000 francs; then, when he had made this
magnificent gift and talked with him for nearly a couple of hours, he
took his leave, to enable him to prepare the splendid entry he was
proposing to make.

It was Wednesday, the 18th of December 1498, when Caesar Borgia
entered the town of Chinon, with pomp worthy of the son of a pope who
is about to marry the daughter of a king. The procession began with
four-and-twenty mules, caparisoned in red, adorned with escutcheons
bearing the duke's arms, laden with carved trunks and chests inlaid
with ivory and silver; after them came four-and-twenty mare, also
caparisoned, this time in the livery of the King of France, yellow
and red; next after these came ten other mules, covered in yellow
satin with red crossbars; and lastly another ten, covered with
striped cloth of gold, the stripes alternately raised and flat gold.

Behind the seventy mules which led the procession there pranced
sixteen handsome battle-horses, led by equerries who marched
alongside; these were followed by eighteen hunters ridden by eighteen
pages, who were about fourteen or fifteen years of age; sixteen of
them were dressed in crimson velvet, and two in raised gold cloth; so
elegantly dressed were these two children, who were also the best
looking of the little band, that the sight of them gave rise to
strange suspicions as to the reason for this preference, if one may
believe what Brantome says. Finally, behind these eighteen horses
came six beautiful mules, all harnessed with red velvet, and led by
six valets, also in velvet to match.

The third group consisted of, first, two mules quite covered with
cloth of gold, each carrying two chests in which it was said that the
duke's treasure was stored, the precious stones he was bringing to
his fiancee, and the relics and papal bulls that his father had
charged him to convey for him to Louis XII. These were followed by
twenty gentlemen dressed in cloth of gold and silver, among whom rode
Paul Giordano Orsino and several barons and knights among the chiefs
of the state ecclesiastic.

Next came two drums, one rebeck, and four soldiers blowing trumpets
and silver clarions; then, in the midst of a party of four-and-twenty
lacqueys, dressed half in crimson velvet and half in yellow silk,
rode Messire George d'Amboise and Monseigneur the Duke of
Valentinois. Caesar was mounted on a handsome tall courser, very
richly harnessed, in a robe half red satin and half cloth of gold,
embroidered all over with pearls and precious stones; in his cap were
two rows of rubies, the size of beans, which reflected so brilliant a
light that one might have fancied they were the famous carbuncles of
the Arabian Nights; he also wore on his neck a collar worth at least
200,000 livres; indeed, there was no part of him, even down to his
boots, that was not laced with gold and edged with pearls. His horse
was covered with a cuirass in a pattern of golden foliage of
wonderful workmanship, among which there appeared to grow, like
flowers, nosegays of pearls and clusters of rubies.

Lastly, bringing up the rear of the magnificent cortege, behind the
duke came twenty-four mules with red caparisons bearing his arms,
carrying his silver plate, tents, and baggage.

What gave to all the cavalcade an air of most wonderful luxury and
extravagance was that the horses and mules were shod with golden
shoes, and these were so badly nailed on that more than three-
quarters of their number, were lost on the road. For this extravagance
Caesar was greatly blamed, for it was thought an audacious thing to
put on his horses' feet a metal of which king's crowns are made.

But all this pomp had no effect on the lady for whose sake it had
been displayed; for when Dona Carlota was told that Caesar Bargia had
come to France in the hope of becoming her husband, she replied
simply that she would never take a priest for her husband, and,
moreover, the son of a priest; a man who was not only an assassin,
but a fratricide; not only a man of infamous birth, but still more
infamous in his morals and his actions.

But, in default of the haughty lady of Aragon, Caesar soon found
another princess of noble blood who consented to be his wife: this
was Mademoiselle d'Albret, daughter of the King of Navarre. The
marriage, arranged on condition that the pope should pay 200,000
ducats dowry to the bride, and should make her brother cardinal, was
celebrated on the 10th of May; and on the Whitsunday following the
Duke of Valentois received the order of St. Michael, an order founded
by Louis XI, and esteemed at this period as the highest in the gift
of the kings of France. The news of this marriage, which made an
alliance with Louis XII certain, was received with great joy by the
pope, who at once gave orders for bonfires and illuminations all over
the town.

Louis XII was not only grateful to the pope for dissolving his
marriage with Jeanne of France and authorizing his union with Anne of
Brittany, but he considered it indispensable to his designs in Italy
to have the pope as his ally. So he promised the Duke of Valentinois
to put three hundred lances at his disposal, as soon as he had made
an entry into Milan, to be used to further his own private interests,
and against whomsoever he pleased except only the allies of France.
The conquest of Milan should be undertaken so soon as Louis felt
assured of the support of the Venetians, or at least of their
neutrality, and he had sent them ambassadors authorised to promise in
his name the restoration of Cremona and Ghiera d'Adda when he had
completed the conquest of Lombardy.

CHAPTER IX

Everything from without was favouring Alexander's encroaching policy,
when he was compelled to turn his eyes from France towards the centre
of Italy: in Florence dwelt a man, neither duke, nor king, nor
soldier, a man whose power was in his genius, whose armour was his
purity, who owned no offensive weapon but his tongue, and who yet
began to grow more dangerous for him than all the kings, dukes,
princes, in the whole world could ever be; this man was the poor
Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, the same who had refused
absolution to Lorenzo dei Medici because he would not restore the
liberty of Florence.

Girolamo Savonarola had prophesied the invasion of a force from
beyond the Alps, and Charles VIII had conquered Naples; Girolamo
Savonarola had prophesied to Charles VIII that because he had failed
to fulfil the mission of liberator entrusted to him by God, he was
threatened with a great misfortune as a punishment, and Charles was
dead; lastly, Savonarola had prophesied his own fall like the man who
paced around the holy city for eight days, crying, "Woe to
Jerusalem!" and on the ninth day, "Woe be on my own head!" None the
less, the Florentine reformer, who could not recoil from any danger,
was determined to attack the colossal abomination that was seated on
St. Peter's holy throne; each debauch, each fresh crime that lifted
up its brazen face to the light of day or tried to hide its shameful
head beneath the veil of night, he had never failed to paint out to
the people, denouncing it as the off spring of the pope's luxurious
living and lust of power. Thus had he stigmatised Alexander's new
amour with the beautiful Giulia Farnese, who in the preceding April a
added another son to the pope's family; thus had he cursed the Duke
of Gandia's murderer, the lustful, jealous fratricide; lastly, he had
pointed out to the Florentines, who were excluded from the league
then forming, what sort of future was in store far them when the
Borgias should have made themselves masters of the small
principalities and should come to attack the duchies and republics.
It was clear that in Savonarola, the pope had an enemy at once
temporal and spiritual, whose importunate and threatening voice must
be silenced at any cost.

But mighty as the pope's power was, to accomplish a design like this
was no easy matter. Savonarola, preaching the stern principles of
liberty, had united to his cause, even in the midst of rich,
pleasure-loving Florence, a party of some size, known as the
'Piagnoni', or the Penitents: this band was composed of citizens who
were anxious for reform in Church and State, who accused the Medici
of enslaving the fatherland and the Borgias of upsetting the faith,
who demanded two things, that the republic should return to her
democratic principles, and religion to a primitive simplicity.
Towards the first of these projects considerable progress had been
made, since they had successively obtained, first, an amnesty for all
crimes and delinquencies committed under other governments; secondly,
the abolition of the 'balia', which was an aristocratic magistracy;
thirdly, the establishment of a sovereign council, composed of 1800
citizens; and lastly, the substitution of popular elections for
drawing by lot and for oligarchical nominations: these changes had
been effected in spite of two other factions, the 'Arrabiati', or
Madmen, who, consisting of the richest and noblest youths of the
Florentine patrician families, desired to have an oligarchical
government; and the 'Bigi', or Greys, so called because they always
held their meetings in the shade, who desired the return of the
Medici.

The first measure Alexander used against the growing power of
Savonarola was to declare him heretic, and as such banished from the
pulpit; but Savonarola had eluded this prohibition by making his
pupil and friend, Domenico Bonvicini di Pescia, preach in his stead.
The result was that the master's teachings were issued from other
lips, and that was all; the seed, though scattered by another hand,
fell none the less on fertile soil, where it would soon burst into
flower. Moreover, Savonarola now set an example that was followed to
good purpose by Luther, when, twenty-two years later, he burned
Leo X's bull of excommunication at Wittenberg; he was weary of silence,
so he declared, on the authority of Pope Pelagius, that an unjust
excommunication had no efficacy, and that the person excommunicated
unjustly did not even need to get absolution. So on Christmas Day,
1497, he declared that by the inspiration of God he renounced his
obedience to a corrupt master; and he began to preach once more in
the cathedral, with a success that was all the greater for the
interruption, and an influence far more formidable than before,
because it was strengthened by that sympathy of the masses which an
unjust persecution always inspires.

Then Alexander made overtures to Leonardo dei Medici, vicar of the
archbishopric of Florence, to obtain the punishment of the rebel
Leonardo, in obedience to the orders he received, from Rome, issued a
mandate forbidding the faithful to attend at Savonarola's sermons.
After this mandate, any who should hear the discourses of the
excommunicated monk would be refused communion and confession;
and as when they died they would be contaminated with heresy, in
consequence of their spiritual intercourse with a heretic, their dead
bodies would be dragged on a hurdle and deprived of the rights of
sepulture. Savonarola appealed from the mandate of his superior both
to the people and to the Signoria, and the two together gave orders
to the episcopal vicar to leave Florence within two hours: this
happened at the beginning of the year 1498.

The expulsion of Leonard's dei Medici was a new triumph for
Savonarola, so, wishing to turn to good moral account his growing
influence, he resolved to convert the last day of the carnival,
hitherto given up to worldly pleasures, into a day of religious
sacrifice. So actually on Shrove Tuesday a considerable number of
boys were collected in front of the cathedral, and there divided into
bands, which traversed the whole town, making a house-to-house
visitation, claiming all profane books, licentious paintings, lutes,
harps, cards and dice, cosmetics and perfumes--in a word, all the
hundreds of products of a corrupt society and civilisation, by the
aid of which Satan at times makes victorious war on God. The
inhabitants of Florence obeyed, and came forth to the Piazza of the
Duoma, bringing these works of perdition, which were soon piled up in
a huge stack, which the youthful reformers set on fire, singing
religious psalms and hymns the while. On this pile were burned many
copies of Boccaccio and of Margante Maggiore, and pictures by Fro
Bartalommeo, who from that day forward renounced the art of this
world to consecrate his brush utterly and entirely to the
reproduction of religious scenes.

A reform such as this was terrifying to Alexander; so he resolved on
fighting Savonarola with his own weapons--that is, by the force of
eloquence. He chose as the Dominican's opponent a preacher of
recognised talent, called Fra Francesco di Paglia; and he sent him to
Florence, where he began to preach in Santa Croce, accusing
Savonarola of heresy and impiety. At the same time the pope, in a
new brief, announced to the Signaria that unless they forbade the
arch-heretic to preach, all the goods of Florentine merchants who
lived on the papal territory would be confiscated, and the republic
laid under an interdict and declared the spiritual and temporal enemy
of the Church. The Signoria, abandoned by France, and aware that the
material power of Rome was increasing in a frightful manner, was
forced this time to yield, and to issue to Savonarola an order to
leave off preaching. He obeyed, and bade farewell to his
congregation in a sermon full of strength and eloquence.

But the withdrawal of Savonarola, so far from calming the ferment,
had increased it: there was talk about his prophecies being
fulfilled; and some zealots, more ardent than their master added
miracle to inspiration, and loudly proclaimed that Savonarola had
offered to go down into the vaults of the cathedral with his
antagonist, and there bring a dead man to life again, to prove that
his doctrine was true, promising to declare himself vanquished if the
miracle were performed by his adversary. These rumours reached the
ears of Fra Francesco, and as he was a man of warm blood, who counted
his own life as nothing if it might be spent to help his cause, he
declared in all humility that he felt he was too great a sinner for
God to work a miracle in his behalf; but he proposed another
challenge: he would try with Savonarola the ordeal of fire. He knew,
he said, that he must perish, but at least he should perish avenging
the cause of religion, since he was certain to involve in his
destruction the tempter who plunged so many souls beside his own into
eternal damnation.

The proposition made by Fra Francesco was taken to Savanarola; but
as he had never proposed the earlier challenge, he hesitated to
accept the second; hereupon his disciple, Fra Domenico Bonvicini,
more confident than his master in his own power, declared himself
ready to accept the trial by fire in his stead; so certain was he
that God would perform a miracle by the intercession of Savonarola,
His prophet.

Instantly the report spread through Florence that the mortal
challenge was accepted; Savonarola's partisans, all men of the
strongest convictions, felt no doubt as to the success of their
cause. His enemies were enchanted at the thought of the heretic
giving himself to the flames; and the indifferent saw in the ordeal a
spectacle of real and terrible interest.

But the devotion of Fra Bonvicini of Pescia was not what Fra
Francesco was reckoning with. He was willing, no doubt, to die a
terrible death, but on condition that Savanarola died with him. What
mattered to him the death of an obscure disciple like Fra Bonvicini?
It was the master he would strike, the great teacher who must be
involved in his own ruin. So he refused to enter the fire except
with Savonarola himself, and, playing this terrible game in his own
person, would not allow his adversary to play it by proxy.

Then a thing happened which certainly no one could have anticipated.
In the place of Fra Francesco, who would not tilt with any but the
master, two Franciscan monks appeared to tilt with the disciple.
These were Fra Nicholas de Pilly and Fra Andrea Rondinelli.
Immediately the partisans of Savonarala, seeing this arrival of
reinforcements for their antagonist, came forward in a crowd to try
the ordeal. The Franciscans were unwilling to be behindhand, and
everybody took sides with equal ardour for one or other party. All
Florence was like a den of madmen; everyone wanted the ordeal,
everyone wanted to go into the fire; not only did men challenge one
another, but women and even children were clamouring to be allowed to
try. At last the Signoria, reserving this privilege for the first
applicants, ordered that the strange duel should take place only
between Fra Domenico Bonvicini and Fra Andrea Rondinelli; ten of the
citizens were to arrange all details; the day was fixed for the 7th
of April, 1498, and the place the Piazza del Palazzo.

The judges of the field made their arrangements conscientiously. By
their orders scaffolding was erected at the appointed place, five
feet in height, ten in width, and eighty feet long. This scaffolding
was covered with faggots and heath, supported by cross-bars of the
very driest wood that could be found. Two narrow paths were made,
two feet wide at most, their entrance giving on the Loggia dei Lanzi,
their exit exactly opposite. The loggia was itself divided into two
by a partition, so that each champion had a kind of room to make his
preparations in, just as in the theatre every actor has his dressing-
room; but in this instance the tragedy that was about to be played
was not a fictitious one.

The Franciscans arrived on the piazza and entered the compartment
reserved for them without making any religious demonstration; while
Savonarola, on the contrary, advanced to his own place in the
procession, wearing the sacerdotal robes in which he had just
celebrated the Holy Eucharist, and holding in his hand the sacred
host for all the world to see, as it was enclosed in a crystal
tabernacle. Fra Domenico di Pescia, the hero of the occasion,
followed, bearing a crucifix, and all the Dominican monks, their red
crosses in their hands, marched behind singing a psalm; while behind
them again followed the most considerable of the citizens of their
party, bearing torches, for, sure as they were of the triumph of
their cause, they wished to fire the faggots themselves. The piazza
was so crowded that the people overflowed into all the streets
around. In every door and window there was nothing to be seen but
heads ranged one above the other; the terraces were covered with
people, and curious spectators were observed an the roof of the Duomo
and on the tap of the Campanile.

But, brought face to face with the ordeal, the Franciscans raised
such difficulties that it was very plain the heart of their champion
was failing him. The first fear they expressed was that Fra
Bonvicini was an enchanter, and so carried about him some talisman or
charm which would save him from the fire. So they insisted that he
should be stripped of all has clothes and put on others to be
inspected by witnesses. Fra Bonvicini made no objection, though the
suspicion was humiliating; he changed shirt, dress, and cowl. Then,
when the Franciscans observed that Savanarola was placing the
tabernacle in his hands, they protested that it was profanation to
expose the sacred host to the risk of burning, that this was not in
the bond, and if Bonvicini would not give up this supernatural aid,
they far their part would give up the trial altogether. Savonarola
replied that it was not astonishing that the champion of religion who
put his faith in God should bear in his hands that very God to whom
he entrusted his salvation. But this reply did not satisfy the
Franciscans, who were unwilling to let go their contention.
Savonarola remained inflexible, supporting his own right, and thus
nearly four hours passed in the discussion of points which neither
party would give up, and affairs remained in 'statu quo'. Meanwhile
the people, jammed together in the streets, on the terraces, on the
roofs, since break of day, were suffering from hunger and thirst and
beginning to get impatient: their impatience soon developed into loud
murmurs, which reached even the champions' ears, so that the
partisans of Savonarala, who felt such faith in him that they were
confident of a miracle, entreated him to yield to all the conditions
suggested. To this Savonarola replied that if it were himself making
the trial he would be less inexorable; but since another man was
incurring the danger; he could not take too many precautions. Two
more hours passed, while his partisans tried in vain to combat his
refusals. At last, as night was coming on and the people grew ever
more and more impatient and their murmurs began to assume a
threatening tone, Bonvicini declared that he was ready to walk
through the fire, holding nothing in his hand but a crucifix. No one
could refuse him this; so Fra Rondinelli was compelled to accept his
proposition. The announcement was made to the populace that the
champions had come to terms and the trial was about to take place.
At this news the people calmed down, in the hope of being compensated
at last for their long wait; but at that very moment a storm which
had long been threatening brake over Florence with such fury that the
faggots which had just been lighted were extinguished by the rain,
leaving no possibility of their rekindling. From the moment when the
people suspected that they had been fooled, their enthusiasm was
changed into derision. They were ignorant from which side the
difficulties had arisen that had hindered the trial, so they laid the
responsibility on both champions without distinction. The Signoria,
foreseeing the disorder that was now imminent, ordered the assembly
to retire; but the assembly thought otherwise, and stayed on the
piazza, waiting for the departure of the two champions, in spite of
the fearful rain that still fell in torrents. Rondinelli was taken
back amid shouts and hootings, and pursued with showers of stones.
Savonarola, thanks to his sacred garments and the host which he still
carried, passed calmly enough through the midst of the mob--a miracle
quite as remarkable as if he had passed through the fire unscathed.

But it was only the sacred majesty of the host that had protected
this man, who was indeed from this moment regarded as a false
prophet: the crowd allowed Savonarola to return to his convent, but
they regretted the necessity, so excited were they by the Arrabbiati
party, who had always denounced him as a liar and a hypocrite. So
when the next morning, Palm Sunday, he stood up in the pulpit to
explain his conduct, he could not obtain a moment's silence for
insults, hooting, and loud laughter. Then the outcry, at first
derisive, became menacing: Savonarola, whose voice was too weak to
subdue the tumult, descended from his pulpit, retired into the
sacristy, and thence to his convent, where he shut himself up in his
cell. At that moment a cry was heard, and was repeated by everybody
present:

"To San Marco, to San Marco!" The rioters, few at first, were
recruited by all the populace as they swept along the streets, and at
last reached the convent, dashing like an angry sea against the wall.

The doors, closed on Savonarala's entrance, soon crashed before the
vehement onset of the powerful multitude, which struck down on the
instant every obstacle it met: the whole convent was quickly flooded
with people, and Savonarola, with his two confederates, Domenico
Bonvicini and Silvestro Maruffi, was arrested in his cell, and
conducted to prison amid the insults of the crowd, who, always in
extremes, whether of enthusiasm or hatred, would have liked to tear
them to pieces, and would not be quieted till they had exacted a
promise that the prisoners should be forcibly compelled to make the
trial of fire which they had refused to make of their own free will.

Alexander VI, as we may suppose, had not been without influence in
bringing about this sudden and astonishing reaction, although he was
not present in person; and had scarcely learned the news of
Savonarola's fall and arrest when he claimed him as subject to
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. But in spite of the grant of
indulgences wherewith this demand was accompanied, the Signoria
insisted that Savonarola's trial should take place at Florence,
adding a request so as not to appear to withdraw the accused
completely from the pontifical authority--that the pope would send
two ecclesiastical judges to sit in the Florentine tribunal.
Alexander, seeing that he would get nothing better from the
magnificent republic, sent as deputies Gioacchino Turriano of Venice,
General of the Dominicans, and Francesco Ramolini, doctor in law:
they practically brought the sentence with them, declaring Savonarola
and his accomplices heretics, schismatics, persecutors of the Church
and seducers of the people.

The firmness shown by the Florentines in claiming their rights of
jurisdiction were nothing but an empty show to save appearances; the
tribunal, as a fact, was composed of eight members, all known to be
fervent haters of Savonarola, whose trial began with the torture.
The result was that, feeble in body constitutionally nervous and
irritable, he had not been able to endure the rack, and, overcome by
agony just at the moment when the executioner had lifted him up by
the wrists and then dropped him a distance of two feet to the ground,
he had confessed, in order to get some respite, that his prophecies
were nothing more than conjectures. It is true that, so soon as he
went back to prison, he protested against the confession, saying that
it was the weakness of his bodily organs and his want of firmness
that had wrested the lie from him, but that the truth really was that
the Lord had several times appeared to him in his ecstasies and
revealed the things that he had spoken. This protestation led to a
new application of the torture, during which Savonarola succumbed
once more to the dreadful pain, and once more retracted. But
scarcely was he unbound, and was still lying on the bed of torture,
when he declared that his confessions were the fault of his
torturers, and the vengeance would recoil upon their heads; and he
protested yet once more against all he had confessed and might
confess again. A third time the torture produced the same avowals,
and the relief that followed it the same retractions. The judges
therefore, when they condemned him and his two disciples to the
flames, decided that his confession should not be read aloud at the
stake, according to custom, feeling certain that an this occasion
also he would give it the lie, and that publicly, which, as anyone
must see who knew the versatile spirit of the public, would be a most
dangerous proceeding.

On the 23rd of May, the fire which had been promised to the people
before was a second time prepared on the Piazza del Palazzo, and this
time the crowd assembled quite certain that they would not be
disappointed of a spectacle so long anticipated. And towards eleven
o'clock in the morning, Girolamo Savonarola, Domenico Bonvicini, and
Silvestro Maruffi were led to the place of execution, degraded of
their orders by the ecclesiastical judges, and bound all three to the
same stake in the centre of an immense pile of wood. Then the bishop
Pagnanoli told the condemned men that he cut them off from the
Church. "Ay, from the Church militant," said Savonarola, who from
that very hour, thanks to his martyrdom, was entering into the Church
triumphant. No other words were spoken by the condemned men, for at
this moment one of the Arrabbiati, a personal enemy of Savonarola,
breaking through the hedge of guards around the scaffold, snatched
the torch from the executioner's hand and himself set fire to the
four corners of the pile. Savonarola and his disciples, from the
moment when they saw the smoke arise, began to sing a psalm, and the
flames enwrapped them on all sides with a glowing veil, while their
religious song was yet heard mounting upward to the gates of heaven.

Pope Alexander VI was thus set free from perhaps the most formidable
enemy who had ever risen against him, and the pontifical vengeance
pursued the victims even after their death: the Signoria, yielding to
his wishes, gave orders that the ashes of the prophet and his
disciples should be thrown into the Arno. But certain half-burned
fragments were picked up by the very soldiers whose business it was
to keep the people back from approaching the fire, and the holy
relics are even now shown, blackened by the flames, to the faithful,
who if they no longer regard Savonarola as a prophet, revere him none
the less as a martyr.

CHAPTER X

The French army was now preparing to cross the Alps a second time,
under the command of Trivulce. Louis XII had come as far as Lyons in
the company of Caesar Borgia and Giuliano della Rovere, on whom he
had forced a reconciliation, and towards the beginning of the month
of May had sent his vanguard before him, soon to be followed by the
main body of the army. The forces he was employing in this second
campaign of conquest were 1600 lances, 5000 Swiss, 9000 Gascons, and
3500 infantry, raised from all parts of France. On the 13th of
August this whole body, amounting to nearly 19,000 men, who were to
combine their forces with the Venetians, arrived beneath the walls of
Arezzo, and immediately laid siege to the town.

Ludovico Sforza's position was a terrible one: he was now suffering
from his imprudence in calling the French into Italy; all the allies
he had thought he might count upon were abandoning him at the same
moment, either because they were busy about their own affairs, or
because they were afraid of the powerful enemy that the Duke of Milan
had made for himself. Maximilian, who had promised him a
contribution of 400 lances, to make up for not renewing the
hostilities with Louis XII that had been interrupted, had just made a
league with the circle of Swabia to war against the Swiss, whom he
had declared rebels against the Empire. The Florentines, who had
engaged to furnish him with 300 men-at-arms and 2000 infantry, if he
would help them to retake Pisa, had just retracted their promise
because of Louis XII's threats, and had undertaken to remain neutral.
Frederic, who was holding back his troops for the defence of his own
States, because he supposed, not without reason, that, Milan once
conquered, he would again have to defend Naples, sent him no help, no
men, no money, in spite of his promises. Ludovico Sforza was
therefore reduced to his own proper forces.

But as he was a man powerful in arms and clever in artifice, he did
not allow himself to succumb at the first blow, and in all haste
fortified Annona, Novarro, and Alessandria, sent off Cajazzo with
troops to that part of the Milanese territory which borders on the
states of Venice, and collected on the Po as many troops as he could.
But these precautions availed him nothing against the impetuous
onslaught of the French, who in a few days had taken Annona, Arezzo,
Novarro, Voghiera, Castelnuovo, Ponte Corona, Tartone, and
Alessandria, while Trivulce was on the march to Milan.

Seeing the rapidity of this conquest and their numerous victories,
Ludovico Sforza, despairing of holding out in his capital, resolved
to retire to Germany, with his children, his brother, Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza, and his treasure, which had been reduced in the
course of eight years from 1,500,000 to 200,000 ducats. But before he
went he left Bernardino da Carte in charge of the castle of Milan.
In vain did his friends warn him to distrust this man, in vain did
his brother Ascanio offer to hold the fortress himself, and offer to
hold it to the very last; Ludovico refused to make any change in his
arrangements, and started on the 2nd of September, leaving in the
citadel three thousand foot and enough provisions, ammunition, and
money to sustain a siege of several months.

Two days after Ludovico's departure, the French entered Milan. Ten
days later Bernardino da Come gave up the castle before a single gun
had been fired. Twenty-one days had sufficed for the French to get
possession of the various towns, the capital, and all the territories
of their enemy.

Louis XII received the news of this success while he was at Lyons,
and he at once started for Milan, where he was received with
demonstrations of joy that were really sincere. Citizens of every
rank had come out three miles' distance from the gates to receive
him, and forty boys, dressed in cloth of gold and silk, marched
before him singing hymns of victory composed by poets of the period,
in which the king was styled their liberator and the envoy of
freedom. The great joy of the Milanese people was due to the fact
that friends of Louis had been spreading reports beforehand that the
King of France was rich enough to abolish all taxes. And so soon as
the second day from his arrival at Milan the conqueror made some
slight reduction, granted important favours to certain Milanese
gentlemen, and bestowed the town of Vigavano on Trivulce as a reward
for his swift and glorious campaign. But Caesar Borgia, who had
followed Louis XII with a view to playing his part in the great
hunting-ground of Italy, scarcely waited for him to attain his end
when he claimed the fulfilment of his promise, which the king with
his accustomed loyalty hastened to perform. He instantly put at the
disposal of Caesar three hundred lances under the command of Yves
d'Alegre, and four thousand Swiss under the command of the bailiff of
Dijon, as a help in his work of reducing the Vicars of the Church.

We must now explain to our readers who these new personages were whom
we introduce upon the scene by the above name.

During the eternal wars of Guelphs and Ghibelines and the long exile
of the popes at Avignon, most of the towns and fortresses of the
Romagna had been usurped by petty tyrants, who for the most part have
received from the Empire the investiture of their new possessions;
but ever since German influence had retired beyond the Alps, and the
popes had again made Rome the centre of the Christian world, all the
small princes, robbed of their original protector, had rallied round
the papal see, and received at the hands of the pope a new
investiture, and now they paid annual dues, for which they received
the particular title of duke, count, or lord, and the general name of
Vicar of the Church.

It had been no difficult matter for Alexander, scrupulously examining
the actions and behaviour of these gentlemen during the seven years
that had elapsed since he was exalted to St. Peter's throne, to find
in the conduct of each one of them something that could be called an
infraction of the treaty made between vassals and suzerain;
accordingly he brought forward his complaints at a tribunal
established for the purpose, and obtained sentence from the judges to
the effect that the vicars of the Church, having failed to fulfil the
conditions of their investiture, were despoiled of their domains,
which would again become the property of the Holy See. As the pope
was now dealing with men against whom it was easier to pass a
sentence than to get it carried out, he had nominated as captain-
general the new Duke of Valentinois, who was commissioned to recover
the territories for his own benefit. The lords in question were the
Malatesti of Rimini, the Sforza of Pesaro, the Manfredi of Faenza,
the Riarii of Imola and Farli, the Variani of Camerina, the
Montefeltri of Urbino, and the Caetani of Sermoneta.

But the Duke of Valentinois, eager to keep as warm as possible his
great friendship with his ally and relative Louis XII, was, as we
know, staying with him at Milan so long as he remained there, where,
after a month's occupation, the king retraced his steps to his own
capital, the Duke of Valentinois ordered his men-at-arms and his
Swiss to await him between Parma and Modena, and departed posthaste
for Rome, to explain his plans to his father viva voce and to receive
his final instructions. When he arrived, he found that the fortune
of his sister Lucrezia had been greatly augmented in his absence, not
from the side of her husband Alfonso, whose future was very uncertain
now in consequence of Louis's successes, which had caused some
coolness between Alfonso and the pope, but from her father's side,
upon whom at this time she exercised an influence mare astonishing
than ever. The pope had declared Lucrezia Borgia of Aragon life-
governor of Spoleto and its duchy, with all emoluments, rights, and
revenues accruing thereunto. This had so greatly increased her power
and improved her position, that in these days she never showed
herself in public without a company of two hundred horses ridden by
the most illustrious ladies and noblest knights of Rome. Moreover,
as the twofold affection of her father was a secret to nobody, the
first prelates in the Church, the frequenters of the Vatican, the
friends of His Holiness, were all her most humble servants; cardinals
gave her their hands when she stepped from her litter or her horse,
archbishops disputed the honour of celebrating mass in her private
apartments.

But Lucrezia had been obliged to quit Rome in order to take
possession of her new estates; and as her father could not spend much
time away from his beloved daughter, he resolved to take into his
hands the town of Nepi, which on a former occasion, as the reader
will doubtless remember, he had bestowed on Ascanio Sforza in
exchange for his suffrage. Ascanio had naturally lost this town when
he attached himself to the fortunes of the Duke of Milan, his
brother; and when the pope was about to take it again, he invited his
daughter Lucrezia to join him there and be present at the rejoicings
held in honour of his resuming its possession.

Lucrezia's readiness in giving way to her father's wishes brought her
a new gift from him: this was the town and territory of Sermoneta,
which belonged to the Caetani. Of course the gift was as yet a
secret, because the two owners of the seigneury, had first to be
disposed of, one being Monsignore Giacomo Caetano, apostolic
protonotary, the other Prospero Caetano, a young cavalier of great
promise; but as both lived at Rome, and entertained no suspicion, but
indeed supposed themselves to be in high favour with His Holiness,
the one by virtue of his position, the other of his courage, the
matter seemed to present no great difficulty. So directly after the
return of Alexander to Rome, Giacomo Caetano was arrested, on what
pretext we know not, was taken to the castle of Sant' Angelo, and
there died shortly after, of poison. Prospero Caetano was strangled
in his own house. After these two deaths, which both occurred so
suddenly as to give no time for either to make a will, the pope
declared that Sermoneta and all of her property appertaining to the
Caetani devolved upon the apostolic chamber; and they were sold to
Lucrezia for the sum of 80,000 crowns, which her father refunded to
her the day after. Though Caesar hurried to Rome, he found when he
arrived that his father had been beforehand with him, and had made a
beginning of his conquests.

Another fortune also had been making prodigious strides during
Caesar's stay in France, viz. the fortune of Gian Borgia, the pope's
nephew, who had been one of the most devoted friends of the Duke of
Gandia up to the time of his death. It was said in Rome, and not in
a whisper, that the young cardinal owed the favours heaped upon him
by His Holiness less to the memory of the brother than to the
protection of the sister. Both these reasons made Gian Borgia a
special object of suspicion to Caesar, and it was with an inward vow
that he should not enjoy his new dignities very long that the Duke of
Valentinois heard that his cousin Gian had just been nominated
cardinal 'a latere' of all the Christian world, and had quitted Rome
to make a circuit through all the pontifical states with a suite of
archbishops, bishops, prelates, and gentlemen, such as would have
done honour to the pope himself.

Caesar had only come to Rome to get news; so he only stayed three
days, and then, with all the troops His Holiness could supply,
rejoined his forces on the borders of the Euza, and marched at once
to Imola. This town, abandoned by its chiefs, who had retired to
Forli, was forced to capitulate. Imola taken, Caesar marched
straight upon Forli. There he met with a serious check; a check,
moreover, which came from a woman. Caterina Sforza, widow of
Girolamo and mother of Ottaviano Riario, had retired to this town,
and stirred up the courage of the garrison by putting herself, her
goods and her person, under their protection. Caesar saw that it was
no longer a question of a sudden capture, but of a regular siege; so
he began to make all his arrangements with a view to it, and placing
a battery of cannon in front of the place where the walls seemed to
him weakest, he ordered an uninterrupted fire, to be continued until
the breach was practicable.

When he returned to the camp after giving this order, he found there
Gian Borgia, who had gone to Rome from Ferrara and was unwilling to
be so near Caesar without paying him a visit: he was received with
effusion and apparently the greatest joy, and stayed three days; on
the fourth day all the officers and members of the court were invited
to a grand farewell supper, and Caesar bade farewell to his cousin,
charging him with despatches for the pope, and lavishing upon him all
the tokens of affection he had shown on his arrival.

Cardinal Gian Bargia posted off as soon as he left the supper-table,
but on arriving at Urbino he was seized with such a sudden and
strange indisposition that he was forced to stop; but after a few
minutes, feeling rather better, he went on. Scarcely, however, had he
entered Rocca Cantrada when he again felt so extremely ill that he
resolved to go no farther, and stayed a couple of days in the town.
Then, as he thought he was a little better again, and as he had heard
the news of the taking of Forli and also that Caterina Sforza had
been taken prisoner while she was making an attempt to retire into
the castle, he resolved to go back to Caesar and congratulate him on
his victory; but at Fassambrane he was forced to stop a third time,
although he had given up his carriage for a litter. This was his
last halt: the same day he sought his bed, never to rise from it
again; three days later he was dead.

His body was taken to Rome and buried without any ceremony in the
church of Santa Maria del Populo, where lay awaiting him the corpse
of his friend the Duke of Gandia; and there was now no more talk of
the young cardinal, high as his rank had been, than if he had never
existed. Thus in gloom and silence passed away all those who were
swept to destruction by the ambition of that terrible trio,
Alexander, Lucrezia, and Caesar.

Almost at the same time Rome was terrified by another murder. Don
Giovanni Cerviglione, a gentleman by birth and a brave soldier,
captain of the pope's men-at-arms, was attacked one evening by the
sbirri, as he was on his way home from supping with Dan Elisio
Pignatelli. One of the men asked his name, and as he pronounced it,
seeing that there was no mistake, plunged a dagger into his breast,
while a second man with a back stroke of his sword cut off his head,
which lay actually at his feet before his body had time to fall.

The governor of Rome lodged a complaint against this assassination
with the pope; but quickly perceiving, by the way his intimation was
received, that he would have done better to say nothing, he stopped
the inquiries he had started, so that neither of the murderers was
ever arrested. But the rumour was circulated that Caesar, in the
short stay he had made at Rome, had had a rendezvous with
Cerviglione's wife, who was a Borgia by birth, and that her husband
when he heard of this infringement of conjugal duty had been angry
enough to threaten her and her lover, too: the threat had reached
Caesar's ears, who, making a long arm of Michelotto, had, himself at
Forli, struck down Cerviglione in the streets of Rome.

Another unexpected death followed so quickly on that of Don Giovanni
Cerviglione that it could not but be attributed to the same
originator, if not to the same cause. Monsignore Agnelli of Mantua,
archbishop of Cosenza, clerk of the chamber and vice-legate of
Viterbo, having fallen into disgrace with His Holiness, how it is not
known, was poisoned at his own table, at which he had passed a good
part of the night in cheerful conversation with three or four guests,
the poison gliding meanwhile through his veins; then going to bed in
perfect health, he was found dead in the morning. His possessions
were at once divided into three portions: the land and houses were
given to the Duke of Valentinois; the bishopric went to Francesco
Borgia, son of Calixtus III; and the office of clerk of the chamber
was sold for 5000 ducats to Ventura Bonnassai, a merchant of Siena,
who produced this sum for Alexander, and settled down the very same
day in the Vatican.

This last death served the purpose of determining a point of law
hitherto uncertain: as Monsignore Agnelli's natural heirs had made
some difficulty about being disinherited, Alexander issued a brief;
whereby he took from every cardinal and every priest the right of
making a will, and declared that all their property should henceforth
devolve upon him.

But Caesar was stopped short in the midst of his victories. Thanks
to the 200,000 ducats that yet remained in his treasury, Ludovico
Sforza had levied 500 men-at-arms from Burgundy and 8000 Swiss
infantry, with whom he had entered Lombardy. So Trivulce, to face
this enemy, had been compelled to call back Yves d'Alegre and the
troops that Louis XII had lent to Caesar; consequently Caesar,
leaving behind a body of pontifical soldiery as garrison at Forli and
Imola, betook himself with the rest of his force to Rome.

It was Alexander's wish that his entry should be a triumph; so when
he learned that the quartermasters of the army were only a few
leagues from the town, he sent out runners to invite the royal
ambassadars, the cardinals, the prelates, the Roman barons, and
municipal dignitaries to make procession with all their suite to meet
the Duke of Valentinois; and as it always happens that the pride of
those who command is surpassed by the baseness of those who obey, the
orders were not only fulfilled to the letter, but beyond it.

The entry of Caesar took place on the 26th of February, 1500.
Although this was the great Jubilee year, the festivals of the
carnival began none the less for that, and were conducted in a manner
even more extravagant and licentious than usual; and the conqueror
after the first day prepared a new display of ostentation, which he
concealed under the veil of a masquerade. As he was pleased to
identify himself with the glory, genius, and fortune of the great man
whose name he bore, he resolved on a representation of the triumph of
Julius Caesar, to be given on the Piazzi di Navona, the ordinary
place for holding the carnival fetes. The next day, therefore, he
and his retinue started from that square, and traversed all the
streets of Rome, wearing classical costumes and riding in antique
cars, on one of which Caesar stood, clad in the robe of an emperor of
old, his brow crowned with a golden laurel wreath, surrounded by
lictors, soldiers, and ensign-bearers, who carried banners whereon
was inscribed the motto, 'Aut Caesar aut nihil'.

Finally, an the fourth Sunday, in Lent, the pope conferred upon
Caesar the dignity he had so long coveted, and appointed him general
and gonfaloniere of the Holy Church.

In the meanwhile Sforza had crossed the Alps and passed the Lake of
Como, amid acclamations of joy from his former subjects, who had
quickly lost the enthusiasm that the French army and Louis's promises
had inspired. These demonstrations were so noisy at Milan, that
Trivulce, judging that there was no safety for a French garrison in
remaining there, made his way to Navarra. Experience proved that he
was not deceived; for scarcely had the Milanese observed his
preparations for departure when a suppressed excitement began to
spread through the town, and soon the streets were filled with armed
men. This murmuring crowd had to be passed through, sword in hand
and lance in rest; and scarcely had the French got outside the gates
when the mob rushed out after the army into the country, pursuing
them with shouts and hooting as far as the banks of the Tesino.
Trivulce left 400 lances at Novarra as well as the 3000 Swiss that
Yves d'Alegre had brought from the Romagna, and directed his course
with the rest of the army towards Mortara, where he stopped at last
to await the help he had demanded from the King of France. Behind
him Cardinal Ascanio and Ludovico entered Milan amid the acclamations
of the whole town.

Neither of them lost any time, and wishing to profit by this
enthusiasm, Ascanio undertook to besiege the castle of Milan while
Ludovico should cross the Tesino and attack Novarra.

There besiegers and besieged were sons of the same nation; for Yves
d'Alegre had scarcely as many as 300 French with him, and Ludovico
500 Italians. In fact, for the last sixteen years the Swiss had been
practically the only infantry in Europe, and all the Powers came,
purse in hand, to draw from the mighty reservoir of their mountains.
The consequence was that these rude children of William Tell, put up
to auction by the nations, and carried away from the humble, hardy
life of a mountain people into cities of wealth and pleasure, had
lost, not their ancient courage, but that rigidity of principle for
which they had been distinguished before their intercourse with other
nations. From being models of honour and good faith they had become
a kind of marketable ware, always ready for sale to the highest
bidder. The French were the first to experience this venality, which
later-on proved so fatal to Ludovico Sforza.

Now the Swiss in the garrison at Novarra had been in communication
with their compatriots in the vanguard of the ducal army, and when
they found that they, who as a fact were unaware that Ludavico's
treasure was nearly exhausted, were better fed as well as better paid
than themselves, they offered to give up the town and go over to the
Milanese, if they could be certain of the same pay. Ludovico, as we
may well suppose, closed with this bargain. The whole of Novarra was
given up to him except the citadel, which was defended by Frenchmen:
thus the enemy's army was recruited by 3000 men. Then Ludovico made
the mistake of stopping to besiege the castle instead of marching on
to Mortara with the new reinforcement. The result of this was that
Louis XII, to whom runners had been sent by Trivulce, understanding
his perilous position, hastened the departure of the French
gendarmerie who were already collected to cross into Italy, sent off
the bailiff of Dijon to levy new Swiss forces, and ordered Cardinal
Amboise, his prime minister, to cross the Alps and take up a position
at Asti, to hurry on the work of collecting the troops. There the
cardinal found a nest-egg of 3000 men. La Trimouille added 1500
lances and 6000 French infantry; finally, the bailiff of Dijon
arrived with 10,000 Swiss; so that, counting the troops which
Trivulce had at Mortara, Louis XII found himself master on the other
side of the Alps of the first army any French king had ever led out
to battle. Soon, by good marching, and before Ludovico knew the
strength or even the existence of this army, it took up a position
between Novarra and Milan, cutting off all communication between the
duke and his capital. He was therefore compelled, in spite of his
inferior numbers, to prepare for a pitched battle.

But it so happened that just when the preparations for a decisive
engagement were being made on both sides, the Swiss Diet, learning
that the sons of Helvetia were on the point of cutting one another's
throats, sent orders to all the Swiss serving in either army to break
their engagements and return to the fatherland. But during the two
months that had passed between the surrender of Novarra and the
arrival of the French army before the town, there had been a very
great change in the face of things, because Ludovico Sforza's
treasure was now exhausted. New confabulations had gone on between
the outposts, and this time, thanks to the money sent by Louis XII,
it was the Swiss in the service of France who were found to be the
better fed and better paid. The worthy Helvetians, since they no
longer fought for their own liberty, knew the value of their blood
too well to allow a single drop of it to be spilled for less than its
weight in gold: the result was that, as they had betrayed Yves
d'Alegre, they resolved to betray Ludovico Sforza too; and while the
recruits brought in by the bailiff of Dijon were standing firmly by
the French flag, careless of the order of the Diet, Ludovico's
auxiliaries declared that in fighting against their Swiss brethren they
would be acting in disobedience to the Diet, and would risk capital
punishment in the end--a danger that nothing would induce them to
incur unless they immediately received the arrears of their pay. The
duke, who had spent the last ducat he had with him, and was entirely
cut off from his capital, knew that he could not get money till he
had fought his way through to it, and therefore invited the Swiss to
make one last effort, promising them not only the pay that was in
arrears but a double hire. But unluckily the fulfilment of this
promise was dependent on the doubtful issue of a battle, and the
Swiss replied that they had far too much respect for their country to
disobey its decree, and that they loved their brothers far too well
to consent to shed their blood without reward; and therefore Sforza
would do well not to count upon them, since indeed the very next day
they proposed to return to their homes. The duke then saw that all
was lost, but he made a last appeal to their honour, adjuring them at
least to ensure his personal safety by making it a condition of
capitulation. But they replied that even if a condition of such a
kind, would not make capitulation impossible, it would certainly
deprive them of advantages which they had aright to expect, and on
which they counted as indemnification for the arrears of their pay.
They pretended, however, at last that they were touched by the
prayers of the man whose orders they had obeyed so long, and offered
to conceal him dressed in their clothes among their ranks. This
proposition was barely plausible; far Sforza was short and, by this
time an old man, and he could not possibly escape recognition in the
midst of an army where the oldest was not past thirty and the
shortest not less than five foot six. Still, this was his last
chance, and he did not reject it at once, but tried to modify it so
that it might help him in his straits. His plan was to disguise
himself as a Franciscan monk, so that mounted an a shabby horse he
might pass for their chaplain; the others, Galeazzo di San Severing,
who commanded under him, and his two brothers, were all tall men, so,
adopting the dress of common soldiers, they hoped they might escape
detection in the Swiss ranks.

Scarcely were these plans settled when the duke heard that the
capitulation was signed between Trivulce and the Swiss, who had made
no stipulation in favour of him and his generals. They were to go
over the next day with arms and baggage right into the French army;
so the last hope of the wretched Ludovico and his generals must needs
be in their disguise. And so it was. San Severino and his brothers
took their place in the ranks of the infantry, and Sforza took his
among the baggage, clad in a monk's frock, with the hood pulled over
his eyes.

The army marched off; but the Swiss, who had first trafficked in
their blood, now trafficked in their honour. The French were warned
of the disguise of Sforza and his generals, and thus they were all
four recognised, and Sforza was arrested by Trimouille himself. It
is said that the price paid for this treason was the town of
Bellinzona; for it then belonged to the French, and when the Swiss
returned to their mountains and took possession of it, Louis XII took
no steps to get it back again.

When Ascanio Sforza, who, as we know, had stayed at Milan, learned
the news of this cowardly desertion, he supposed that his cause was
lost and that it would be the best plan for him to fly, before he
found himself a prisoner in the hand's of his brother's old subjects:
such a change of face on the people's part would be very natural, and
they might propose perhaps to purchase their own pardon at the price
of his liberty; so he fled by night with the chief nobles of the
Ghibelline party, taking the road to Piacenza, on his way to the
kingdom of Naples. But when he arrived at Rivolta, he remembered
that there was living in that town an old friend of his childhood, by
name Conrad Lando, whom he had helped to much wealth in his days of
power; and as Ascanio and his companions were extremely tired, he
resolved to beg his hospitality for a single night. Conrad received
them with every sign of joy, putting all his house and servants at
their disposal. But scarcely had they retired to bed when he sent a
runner to Piacenza, to inform Carlo Orsini, at that time commanding
the Venetian garrison, that he was prepared to deliver up Cardinal
Ascanio and the chief men of the Milanese army. Carlo Orsini did not
care to resign to another so important an expedition, and mounting
hurriedly with twenty-five men, he first surrounded Conrads house,
and then entered sword in hand the chamber wherein Ascanio and his
companions lay, and being surprised in the middle of their sleep,
they yielded without resistance. The prisoners were taken to Venice,
but Louis XII claimed them, and they were given up. Thus the King of
France found himself master of Ludovico Sforza and of Ascania, of a
legitimate nephew of the great Francesco Sforza named Hermes, of two
bastards named Alessandro and Cortino, and of Francesco, son of the
unhappy Gian Galeazza who had been poisoned by his uncle.

Louis XII, wishing to make an end of the whole family at a blow,
forced Francesco to enter a cloister, shut up Cardinal Ascanio in the
tower of Baurges, threw into prison Alessandro, Cartino, and Hermes,
and finally, after transferring the wretched Ludovico from the
fortress of Pierre-Eucise to Lys-Saint-George he relegated him for
good and all to the castle of Loches, where he lived for ten years in
solitude and utter destitution, and there died, cursing the day when
the idea first came into his head of enticing the French into Italy.

The news of the catastrophe of Ludovica and his family caused the
greatest joy at Rome, for, while the French were consolidating their
power in Milanese territory, the Holy See was gaining ground in the
Romagna, where no further opposition was offered to Caesar's
conquest. So the runners who brought the news were rewarded with
valuable presents, and it was published throughout the whole town of
Rome to the sound of the trumpet and drum. The war-cry of Louis,
France, France, and that of the Orsini, Orso, Orso, rang through all
the streets, which in the evening were illuminated, as though
Constantinople or Jerusalem had been taken. And the pope gave the
people fetes and fireworks, without troubling his head the least in
the world either about its being Holy Week, or because the Jubilee
had attracted more than 200,000 people to Rome; the temporal
interests of his family seeming to him far more important than the
spiritual interests of his subjects.

CHAPTER XI

One thing alone was wanting to assure the success of the vast
projects that the pope and his son were founding upon the friendship
of Louis and an alliance with him--that is,--money. But Alexander
was not the man to be troubled about a paltry worry of that kind;
true, the sale of benefices was by now exhausted, the ordinary and
extraordinary taxes had already been collected for the whole year,
and the prospect of inheritance from cardinals and priests was a poor
thing now that the richest of them had been poisoned; but Alexander
had other means at his disposal, which were none the less efficacious
because they were less often used.

The first he employed was to spread a report that the Turks were
threatening an invasion of Christendom, and that he knew for a
positive fact that before the end of the summer Bajazet would land
two considerable armies, one in Romagna, the other in Calabria; he
therefore published two bulls, one to levy tithes of all
ecclesiastical revenues in Europe of whatever nature they might be,
the other to force the Jews into paying an equivalent sum: both bulls
contained the severest sentences of excommunication against those who
refused to submit, or attempted opposition.

The second plan was the selling of indulgences, a thing which had
never been done before: these indulgences affected the people who had
been prevented by reasons of health or business from coming to Rome
for the Jubilee; the journey by this expedient was rendered
unnecessary, and sins were pardoned for a third of what it would have
cost, and just as completely as if the faithful had fulfilled every
condition of the pilgrimage. For gathering in this tax a veritable
army of collectors was instituted, a certain Ludovico delta Torre at
their head. The sum that Alexander brought into the pontifical
treasury is incalculable, and same idea of it may be gathered from
the fact that 799,000 livres in gold was paid in from the territory
of Venice alone.

But as the Turks did as a fact make some sort of demonstration from
the Hungarian side, and the Venetians began to fear that they might
be coming in their direction, they asked for help from the pope, who
gave orders that at twelve o'clock in the day in all his States an
Ave Maria should be said, to pray God to avert the danger which was
threatening the most serene republic. This was the only help the
Venetians got from His Holiness in exchange for the 799,000 livres in
gold that he had got from them.

But it seemed as though God wished to show His strange vicar on earth
that He was angered by the mockery of sacred things, and on the Eve
of St. Peter's Day, just as the pope was passing the Capanile on his
way to the tribune of benedictions, a enormous piece of iron broke
off and fell at his feet; and then, as though one warning had not
been enough, on the next day, St. Peter's, when the pope happened to
be in one of the rooms of his ordinary dwelling with Cardinal Capuano
and Monsignare Poto, his private chamberlain, he saw through the open
windows that a very black cloud was coming up. Foreseeing a
thunderstorm, he ordered the cardinal and the chamberlain to shut the
windows. He had not been mistaken; for even as they were obeying his
command, there came up such a furious gust of wind that the highest
chimney of the Vatican was overturned, just as a tree is rooted up,
and was dashed upon the roof, breaking it in; smashing the upper
flooring, it fell into the very room where they were. Terrified by
the noise of this catastrophe, which made the whole palace tremble,
the cardinal and Monsignore Poto turned round, and seeing the room
full of dust and debris, sprang out upon the parapet and shouted to
the guards at the gate, "The pope is dead, the pope is dead!" At
this cry, the guards ran up and discovered three persons lying in the
rubbish on the floor, one dead and the other two dying. The dead man
was a gentleman of Siena ailed Lorenzo Chigi, and the dying were two
resident officials of the Vatican. They had been walking across the
floor above, and had been flung down with the debris. But Alexander
was not to be found; and as he gave no answer, though they kept on
calling to him, the belief that he had perished was confirmed, and
very soon spread about the town. But he had only fainted, and at the
end of a certain time he began to come to himself, and moaned,
whereupon he was discovered, dazed with the blow, and injured, though
not seriously, in several parts of his body. He had been saved by
little short of a miracle: a beam had broken in half and had left
each of its two ends in the side walls; and one of these had formed a
sort of roof over the pontifical throne; the pope, who was sitting
there at the time, was protected by this overarching beam, and had
received only a few contusions.

The two contradictory reports of the sudden death and the miraculous
preservation of the pope spread rapidly through Rome; and the Duke of
Valentinois, terrified at the thought of what a change might be
wrought in his own fortunes by any slight accident to the Holy
Father, hurried to the Vatican, unable to assure himself by anything
less than the evidence of his own eyes. Alexander desired to render
public thanks to Heaven for the protection that had been granted him;
and on the very same day was carried to the church of Santa Maria del
Popalo, escorted by a numerous procession of prelates and men-at
arms, his pontifical seat borne by two valets, two equerries, and two
grooms. In this church were buried the Duke of Gandia and Gian
Borgia, and perhaps Alexander was drawn thither by some relics of
devotion, or may be by the recollection of his love for his former
mistress, Rosa Vanazza, whose image, in the guise of the Madonna, was
exposed for the veneration of the faithful in a chapel on the left of
the high altar. Stopping before this altar, the pope offered to the
church the gift of a magnificent chalice in which were three hundred
gold crowns, which the Cardinal of Siena poured out into a silver
paten before the eyes of all, much to the gratification of the
pontifical vanity.

But before he left Rome to complete the conquest of the Romagna, the
Duke of Valentinois had been reflecting that the marriage, once so
ardently desired, between Lucrezia and Alfonso had been quite useless
to himself and his father. There was more than this to be
considered: Louis XII's rest in Lombardy was only a halt, and Milan
was evidently but the stage before Naples. It was very possible that
Louis was annoyed about the marriage which converted his enemy's
nephew into the son-in-law of his ally. Whereas, if Alfonso were
dead, Lucrezia would be the position to marry some powerful lord of
Ferrara or Brescia, who would be able to help his brother-in-law
in the conquest of Romagna. Alfonso was now not only useless but
dangerous, which to anyone with the character of the Borgias perhaps
seemed worse, the death of Alfonso was resolved upon. But Lucrezia's
husband, who had understand for a long time past what danger he
incurred by living near his terrible father-in-law, had retired to
Naples. Since, however, neither Alexander nor Caesar had changed in
their perpetual dissimulation towards him, he was beginning to lose
his fear, when he received an invitation from the pope and his son to
take part in a bull-fight which was to be held in the Spanish fashion
in honour of the duke before his departure: In the present precarious
position of Naples it would not have been good policy far Alfonso to
afford Alexander any sort of pretext for a rupture, so he could not
refuse without a motive, and betook himself to Rome. It was thought
of no use to consult Lucrezia in this affair, for she had two or
three times displayed an absurd attachment for her husband, and they
left her undisturbed in her government of Spoleto.

Alfonso was received by the pope and the duke with every
demonstration of sincere friendship, and rooms in the Vatican were
assigned to him that he had inhabited before with Lucrezia, in that
part of the building which is known as the Torre Nuova.

Great lists were prepared on the Piazza of St. Peter's; the streets
about it were barricaded, and the windows of the surrounding houses
served as boxes for the spectators. The pope and his court took
their places on the balconies of the Vatican.

The fete was started by professional toreadors: after they had
exhibited their strength and skill, Alfonso and Caesar in their turn
descended to the arena, and to offer a proof of their mutual
kindness, settled that the bull which pursued Caesar should be killed
by Alfonso, and the bull that pursued Alfonso by Caesar.

Then Caesar remained alone an horseback within the lists, Alfonso
going out by an improvised door which was kept ajar, in order that he
might go back on the instant if he judged that his presence was
necessary. At the same time, from the opposite side of the lists the
bull was introduced, and was at the same moment pierced all over with
darts and arrows, some of them containing explosives, which took
fire, and irritated the bull to such a point that he rolled about
with pain, and then got up in a fury, and perceiving a man on
horseback, rushed instantly upon him. It was now, in this narrow
arena, pursued by his swift enemy, that Caesar displayed all that
skill which made him one of the finest horsemen of the period.
Still, clever as he was, he could not have remained safe long in that
restricted area from an adversary against whom he had no other
resource than flight, had not Alfonso appeared suddenly, just when
the bull was beginning to gain upon him, waving a red cloak in his
left hand, and holding in his right a long delicate Aragon sword. It
was high time: the bull was only a few paces distant from Caesar, and
the risk he was running appeared so imminent that a woman's scream
was heard from one of the windows. But at the sight of a man on foot
the bull stopped short, and judging that he would do better business
with the new enemy than the old one, he turned upon him instead. For
a moment he stood motionless, roaring, kicking up the dust with his
hind feet, and lashing his sides with his tail. Then he rushed upon
Alfonso, his eyes all bloodshot, his horns tearing up the ground.
Alfonso awaited him with a tranquil air; then, when he was only three
paces away, he made a bound to one side and presented instead of his
body his sword, which disappeared at once to the hilt; the bull,
checked in the middle of his onslaught, stopped one instant
motionless and trembling, then fell upon his knees, uttered one dull
roar, and lying down on the very spot where his course had been
checked, breathed his last without moving a single step forward.

Applause resounded an all sides, so rapid and clever had been the
blow. Caesar had remained on horseback, seeking to discover the fair
spectator who had given so lively a proof of her interest in him,
without troubling himself about what was going on: his search had not
been unrewarded, far he had recognized one of the maids of honour to
Elizabeth, Duchess of Urbino, who was betrothed to Gian Battista
Carraciualo, captain-general of the republic of Venice.

It was now Alfonso's turn to run from the bull, Caesar's to fight
him: the young men changed parts, and when four mules had reluctantly
dragged the dead bull from the arena, and the valets and other
servants of His Holiness had scattered sand over the places that were
stained with blood, Alfonso mounted a magnificent Andalusian steed of
Arab origin, light as the wind of Sahara that had wedded with his
mother, while Caesar, dismounting, retired in his turn, to reappear
at the moment when Alfonso should be meeting the same danger from
which he had just now rescued him.

Then a second bull was introduced upon the scene, excited in the same
manner with steeled darts and flaming arrows. Like his predecessor,
when he perceived a man on horseback he rushed upon him, and then
began a marvellous race, in which it was impossible to see, so
quickly did they fly over the ground, whether the horse was pursuing
the bull or the bull the horse. But after five or six rounds, the
bull began to gain upon the son of Araby, for all his speed, and it
was plain to see who fled and who pursued; in another moment there
was only the length of two lances between them, and then suddenly
Caesar appeared, armed with one of those long two handed swords which
the French are accustomed to use, and just when the bull, almost
close upon Don Alfonso, came in front of Caesar he brandished the
sword, which flashed like lightning, and cut off his head, while his
body, impelled by the speed of the run, fell to the ground ten paces
farther on. This blow was so unexpected, and had been performed with
such dexterity, that it was received not with mere clapping but with
wild enthusiasm and frantic outcry. Caesar, apparently remembering
nothing else in his hour of triumph but the scream that had been
caused by his former danger, picked up the bull's head, and, giving
it to one of his equerries, ordered him to lay it as an act of homage
at the feet of the fair Venetian who had bestowed upon him so lively
a sign of interest. This fete, besides affording a triumph to each
of the young men, had another end as well; it was meant to prove to
the populace that perfect goodwill existed between the two, since
each had saved the life of the other. The result was that, if any
accident should happen to Caesar, nobody would dream of accusing
Alfanso; and also if any accident should happen to Alfonso, nobody
would dream, of accusing Caesar.

There was a supper at the Vatican. Alfonso made an elegant toilet,
and about ten o'clock at night prepared to go from the quarters he
inhabited into those where the pope lived; but the door which
separated the two courts of the building was shut, and knock as he
would, no one came to open it. Alfonso then thought that it was a
simple matter for him to go round by the Piazza of St. Peter's; so he
went out unaccompanied through one of the garden gates of the Vatican
and made his way across the gloomy streets which led to the stairway
which gave on the piazza. But scarcely had he set his foot on the
first step when he was attacked by a band of armed men. Alfonso
would have drawn his sword; but before it was out of the scabbard he
had received two blows from a halberd, one on his head, the other on
his shoulder; he was stabbed in the side, and wounded both in the leg
and in the temple. Struck down by these five blows, he lost his
footing and fell to the ground unconscious; his assassins, supposing
he was dead, at once remounted the stairway, and found on the piazza
forty horsemen waiting for them: by them they were calmly escorted
from the city by the Porta Portesa. Alfonso was found at the point
of death, but not actually dead, by some passers-by, some of whom
recognised him, and instantly conveyed the news of his assassination
to the Vatican, while the others, lifting the wounded man in their
arms, carried him to his quarters in the Torre Nuova. The pope and
Caesar, who learned this news just as they were sitting down to
table, showed great distress, and leaving their companions, at once
went to see Alfonso, to be quite certain whether his wounds were
fatal or not; and an the next morning, to divert any suspicion that
might be turned towards themselves, they arrested Alfonso's maternal
uncle, Francesco Gazella, who had come to Rome in his nephew's
company. Gazella was found guilty on the evidence of false
witnesses, and was consequently beheaded.

But they had only accomplished half of what they wanted. By some
means, fair or foul, suspicion had been sufficiently diverted from
the true assassins; but Alfonso was not dead, and, thanks to the
strength of his constitution and the skill of his doctors, who had
taken the lamentations of the pope and Caesar quite seriously, and
thought to please them by curing Alexander's son-in-law, the wounded
man was making progress towards convalescence: news arrived at the
same time that Lucrezia had heard of her husband's accident, and was
starting to come and nurse him herself. There was no time to lose,
and Caesar summoned Michelotto.

"The same night," says Burcardus, "Don Alfonso, who would not die of
his wounds, was found strangled in his bed."

The funeral took place the next day with a ceremony not unbecoming in
itself, though unsuited to his high rank. Dan Francesca Bargia,
Archbishop of Cosenza, acted as chief mourner at St. Peter's, where
the body was buried in the chapel of Santa Maria delle Febbre.

Lucrezia arrived the same evening: she knew her father and brother
too well to be put on the wrong scent; and although, immediately
after Alfonso's death, the Duke of Valentinois had arrested the
doctors, the surgeons, and a poor deformed wretch who had been acting
as valet, she knew perfectly well from what quarter the blow had
proceeded. In fear, therefore, that the manifestation of a grief she
felt this time too well might alienate the confidence of her father
and brother, she retired to Nepi with her whole household, her whole
court, and more than six hundred cavaliers, there to spend the period
of her mourning.

This important family business was now settled, and Lucrezia was
again a widow, and in consequence ready to be utilized in the pope's
new political machinations. Caesar only stayed at Rome to receive
the ambassadors from France and Venice; but as their arrival was
somewhat delayed, and considerable inroads had been made upon the
pope's treasury by the recent festivities, the creation of twelve new
cardinals was arranged: this scheme was to have two effects, viz.,
to bring 600,000 ducats into the pontifical chest, each hat having
been priced at 50,000 ducats, and to assure the pope of a constant
majority in the sacred council.

The ambassadors at last arrived: the first was M. de Villeneuve, the
same who had come before to see the Duke of Valentinois in the name
of France. Just as he entered Rome, he met on the road a masked man,
who, without removing his domino, expressed the joy he felt at his
arrival. This man was Caesar himself, who did not wish to be
recognised, and who took his departure after a short conference
without uncovering his face. M. de Villeneuve then entered the city
after him, and at the Porta del Populo found the ambassadors of the
various Powers, and among them those of Spain and Naples, whose
sovereigns were not yet, it is true, in declared hostility to France,
though there was already some coolness. The last-named, fearing to
compromise themselves, merely said to their colleague of France, by
way of complimentary address, "Sir, you are welcome"; whereupon the
master of the ceremonies, surprised at the brevity of the greeting,
asked if they had nothing else to say. When they replied that they
had not, M. de Villeneuve turned his back upon them, remarking that
those who had nothing to say required no answer; he then took his
place between the Archbishop of Reggia, governor of Rome, and the
Archbishop of Ragusa, and made his way to the palace of the Holy
Apostles, which had been got ready for his reception.

Same days later, Maria Giorgi, ambassador extraordinary of Venice,
made his arrival. He was commissioned not only to arrange the
business on hand with the pope, but also to convey to Alexander and
Caesar the title of Venetian nobles, and to inform them that their
names were inscribed in the Golden Book--a favour that both of them
had long coveted, less for the empty honour's sake than for the new
influence that this title might confer. Then the pope went on to
bestow the twelve cardinals' hats that had been sold. The new
princes of the Church were Don Diego de Mendoza, archbishop of
Seville; Jacques, archbishop of Oristagny, the Pope's vicar-general;
Thomas, archbishop of Strigania; Piero, archbishop of Reggio,
governor of Rome; Francesco Bargia, archbishop of Cosenza, treasurer-
general; Gian, archbishop of Salerno, vice-chamberlain; Luigi Bargia,
archbishop of Valencia, secretary to His Holiness, and brother of the
Gian Borgia whom Caesar had poisoned; Antonio, bishop of Coma; Gian
Battista Ferraro, bishop of Modem; Amedee d'Albret, son of the King
of Navarre, brother-in-law of the Duke of Valentinois; and Marco
Cornaro, a Venetian noble, in whose person His Holiness rendered back
to the most serene republic the favour he had just received.

Then, as there was nothing further to detain the Duke of Valentinois
at Rome, he only waited to effect a loan from a rich banker named
Agostino Chigi, brother of the Lorenzo Chigi who had perished on the
day when the pope had been nearly killed by the fall of a chimney,
and departed far the Romagna, accompanied by Vitellozzo Vitelli, Gian
Paolo Baglione, and Jacopo di Santa Croce, at that time his friends,
but later on his victims.

His first enterprise was against Pesaro: this was the polite
attention of a brother-in-law, and Gian Sforza very well knew what
would be its consequences; for instead of attempting to defend his
possessions by taking up arms, or to venture on negotiations,
unwilling moreover to expose the fair lands he had ruled so long to
the vengeance of an irritated foe, he begged his subjects, to
preserve their former affection towards himself, in the hope of
better days to come; and he fled into Dalmatia. Malatesta, lord of
Rimini, followed his example; thus the Duke of Valentinois entered
both these towns without striking a single blow. Caesar left a
sufficient garrison behind him, and marched on to Faenza.

But there the face of things was changed: Faenza at that time was
under the rule of Astor Manfredi, a brave and handsome young man of
eighteen, who, relying on the love of his subjects towards his
family, had resolved on defending himself to the uttermost, although
he had been forsaken by the Bentivagli, his near relatives, and by
his allies, the Venetian and Florentines, who had not dared to send
him any aid because of the affection felt towards Caesar by the King
of France. Accordingly, when he perceived that the Duke of
Valentinois was marching against him, he assembled in hot haste all
those of his vassals who were capable of bearing arms, together with
the few foreign soldiers who were willing to come into his pay, and
collecting victual and ammunition, he took up his position with them
inside the town.

By these defensive preparations Caesar was not greatly disconcerted;
he commanded a magnificent army, composed of the finest troops of
France and Italy; led by such men as Paolo and Giulio Orsini,
Vitellozzo Vitelli and Paolo Baglione, not to speak of himself--that
is to say, by the first captains of the period. So, after he had
reconnoitred, he at once began the siege, pitching his camp between
the two rivers, Amana and Marziano, placing his artillery on the side
which faces on Forli, at which point the besieged party had erected a
powerful bastion.

At the end of a few days busy with entrenchments, the breach became
practicable, and the Duke of Valentinois ordered an assault, and gave
the example to his soldiers by being the first to march against the
enemy. But in spite of his courage and that of his captains beside
him, Astor Manfredi made so good a defence that the besiegers were
repulsed with great loss of men, while one of their bravest leaders,
Honario Savella; was left behind in the trenches.

But Faenza, in spite of the courage and devotion of her defenders,
could not have held out long against so formidable an army, had not
winter come to her aid. Surprised by the rigour of the season, with
no houses for protection and no trees for fuel, as the peasants had
destroyed both beforehand, the Duke of Valentinois was forced to
raise the siege and take up his winter quarters in the neighbouring
towns, in order to be quite ready for a return next spring; for
Caesar could not forgive the insult of being held in check by a
little town which had enjoyed a long time of peace, was governed by a
mere boy, and deprived of all outside aid, and had sworn to take his
revenge. He therefore broke up his army into three sections, sent
one-third to Imola, the second to Forli, and himself took the third
to Cesena, a third-rate town, which was thus suddenly transformed
into a city of pleasure and luxury.

Indeed, for Caesar's active spirit there must needs be no cessation
of warfare or festivities. So, when war was interrupted, fetes
began, as magnificent and as exciting as he knew how to make them:
the days were passed in games and displays of horsemanship, the
nights in dancing and gallantry; for the loveliest women of the
Romagna--and that is to say of the whole world--had come hither to
make a seraglio for the victor which might have been envied by the
Sultan of Egypt or the Emperor of Constantinople.

While the Duke of Valentinois was making one of his excursions in the
neighbourhood of the town with his retinue of flattering nobles and
titled courtesans, who were always about him, he noticed a cortege an
the Rimini road so numerous that it must surely indicate the approach
of someone of importance. Caesar, soon perceiving that the principal
person was a woman, approached, and recognised the very same lady-in-
waiting to the Duchess of Urbino who, on the day of the bull-fight,
had screamed when Caesar was all but touched by the infuriated beast.
At this time she was betrothed, as we mentioned, to Gian
Carracciuola, general of the Venetians. Elizabeth of Gonzaga, her
protectress and godmother, was now sending her with a suitable
retinue to Venice, where the marriage was to take place.

Caesar had already been struck by the beauty of this young girl, when
at Rome; but when he saw her again she appeared more lovely than on
the first occasion, so he resolved on the instant that he would keep
this fair flower of love for himself: having often before reproached
himself for his indifference in passing her by. Therefore he saluted
her as an old acquaintance, inquired whether she were staying any
time at Cesena, and ascertained that she was only passing through,
travelling by long stages, as she was awaited with much impatience,
and that she would spend the coming night at Forli. This was all
that Caesar cared to knew; he summoned Michelotto, and in a low voice
said a few words to him, which were heard by no one else.

The cortege only made a halt at the neighbouring town, as the fair
bride had said, and started at once for Forli, although the day was
already far advanced; but scarcely had a league been revered when a
troop of horsemen from Cesena overtook and surrounded them. Although
the soldiers in the escort were far from being in sufficient force,
they were eager to defend their general's bride; but soon some fell
dead, and others, terrified, took to flight; and when the lady came
dawn from her litter to try to escape, the chief seized her in his
arms and set her in front of him on his horse; then, ordering his men
to return to Cesena without him, he put his horse to the gallop in a
cross direction, and as the shades of evening were now beginning to
fall, he soon disappeared into the darkness.

Carracciuolo learned the news through one of the fugitives, who
declared that he had recognised among the ravishers the Duke of
Valentinois' soldiers. At first he thought his ears had deceived
him, so hard was it to believe this terrible intelligence; but it was
repeated, and he stood for one instant motionless, and, as it were,
thunderstruck; then suddenly, with a cry of vengeance, he threw off
his stupor and dashed away to the ducal palace, where sat the Doge
Barberigo and the Council of Ten; unannounced, he rushed into their
midst, the very moment after they had heard of Caesar's outrage.

"Most serene lords," he cried, "I am come to bid you farewell, for I
am resolved to sacrifice my life to my private vengeance, though
indeed I had hoped to devote it to the service of the republic.
I have been wounded in the soul's noblest part--in my honour. The
dearest thing I possessed, my wife, has been stolen from me, and the
thief is the most treacherous, the most impious, the most infamous of
men, it is Valentinois! My lords, I beg you will not be offended if
I speak thus of a man whose boast it is to be a member of your noble
ranks and to enjoy your protection: it is not so; he lies, and his
loose and criminal life has made him unworthy of such honours, even
as he is unworthy of the life whereof my sword shall deprive him. In
truth, his very birth was a sacrilege; he is a fratricide, an usurper
of the goods of other men, an oppressor of the innocent, and a
highway assassin; he is a man who will violate every law, even, the
law of hospitality respected by the veriest barbarian, a man who will
do violence to a virgin who is passing through his own country, where
she had every right to expect from him not only the consideration due
to her sex and condition, but also that which is due to the most
serene republic, whose condottiere I am, and which is insulted in my
person and in the dishonouring of my bride; this man, I say, merits
indeed to die by another hand than mine. Yet, since he who ought to
punish him is not for him a prince and judge, but only a father quite
as guilty as the son, I myself will seek him out, and I will
sacrifice my own life, not only in avenging my own injury and the
blood of so many innocent beings, but also in promoting the welfare
of the most serene republic, on which it is his ambition to trample
when he has accomplished the ruin of the other princes of Italy."

The doge and the senators, who, as we said, were already apprised of
the event that had brought Carracciuolo before them, listened with
great interest and profound indignation; for they, as he told them,
were themselves insulted in the person of their general: they all
swore, on their honour, that if he would put the matter in their
hands, and not yield to his rage, which could only work his own
undoing, either his bride should be rendered up to him without a
smirch upon her bridal veil, or else a punishment should be dealt out
proportioned to the affront. And without delay, as a proof of the
energy wherewith the noble tribunal would take action in the affair,
Luigi Manenti, secretary to the Ten, was sent to Imola, where the
duke was reported to be, that he might explain to him the great
displeasure with which the most serene republic viewed the outrage
perpetrated upon their candottiere. At the same time the Council of
Ten and the doge sought out the French ambassador, entreating him to
join with them and repair in person with Manenti to the Duke of
Valentinois, and summon him, in the name of King Louis XII,
immediately to send back to Venice the lady he had carried off.

The two messengers arrived at Imola, where they found Caesar, who
listened to their complaint with every mark of utter astonishment,
denying that he had been in any way connected with the crime, nay,
authorising Manenti and the French ambassador to pursue the culprits
and promising that he would himself have the most active search
carried on. The duke appeared to act in such complete good faith
that the envoys were for the moment hoodwinked, and themselves
undertook a search of the most careful nature. They accordingly
repaired to the exact spot and began to procure information. On the
highroad there had been found dead and wounded. A man had been seen
going by at a gallop, carrying a woman in distress on his saddle; he
had soon left the beaten track and plunged across country. A peasant
coming home from working in the fields had seen him appear and vanish
again like a shadow, taking the direction of a lonely house. An old
woman declared that she had seen him go into this house. But the
next night the house was gone, as though by enchantment, and the
ploughshare had passed over where it stood; so that none could say,
what had become of her whom they sought, for those who had dwelt in
the house, and even the house itself, were there no longer.

Manenti and the French ambassador returned to Venice, and related
what the duke had said, what they had done, and how all search had
been in vain. No one doubted that Caesar was the culprit, but no one
could prove it. So the most serene republic, which could not,
considering their war with the Turks, be embroiled with the pope,
forbade Caracciuala to take any sort of private vengeance, and so the
talk grew gradually less, and at last the occurrence was no more
mentioned.

But the pleasures of the winter had not diverted Caesar's mind from
his plans about Faenza. Scarcely did the spring season allow him to
go into the country than he marched anew upon the town, camped
opposite the castle, and making a new breach, ordered a general
assault, himself going up first of all; but in spite of the courage
he personally displayed, and the able seconding of his soldiers, they
were repulsed by Astor, who, at the head of his men, defended the
breach, while even the women, at the top of the rampart, rolled down
stones and trunks of trees upon the besiegers. After an hour's
struggle man to man, Caesar was forced to retire, leaving two
thousand men in the trenches about the town, and among the two
thousand one of his bravest condottieri, Valentino Farnese.

Then, seeing that neither excommunications nor assaults could help
him, Caesar converted the siege into a blockade: all the roads
leading to Faenza were cut off, all communications stopped; and
further, as various signs of revolt had been remarked at Cesena, a
governor was installed there whose powerful will was well known to
Caesar, Ramiro d'Orco, with powers of life and death over the
inhabitants; he then waited quietly before Faenza, till hunger should
drive out the citizens from those walls they defended with such
vehement enthusiasm. At the end of a month, during which the people
of Faenza had suffered all the horrors of famine, delegates came out
to parley with Caesar with a view to capitulation. Caesar, who still
had plenty to do in the Romagna, was less hard to satisfy than might
have been expected, and the town yielded an condition that he should
not touch either the persons or the belongings of the inhabitants,
that Astor Manfredi, the youthful ruler, should have the privilege of
retiring whenever he pleased, and should enjoy the revenue of his
patrimony wherever he might be.

The conditions were faithfully kept so far as the inhabitants were
concerned; but Caesar, when he had seen Astor, whom he did not know
before, was seized by a strange passion for this beautiful youth, who
was like a woman: he kept him by his side in his own army, showing
him honours befitting a young prince, and evincing before the eyes of
all the strongest affection for him: one day Astor disappeared, just
as Caracciuolo's bride had disappeared, and no one knew what had
become of him; Caesar himself appeared very uneasy, saying that he
had no doubt made his escape somewhere, and in order to give credence
to this story, he sent out couriers to seek him in all directions.

A year after this double disappearance, there was picked up in the
Tiber, a little below the Castle Sant' Angelo, the body of a
beautiful young woman, her hands bound together behind her back, and
also the corpse of a handsome youth with the bowstring he had been
strangled with tied round his neck. The girl was Caracciuolo's
bride, the young man was Astor.

During the last year both had been the slaves of Caesar's pleasures;
now, tired of them, he had had them thrown into the Tiber.

The capture of Faenza had brought Caesar the title of Duke of
Romagna, which was first bestowed on him by the pope in full

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