Part 6 out of 7
followed by a general scuttle of the multitude to leave a clear way
down the middle of the great square.
A gorgeous cavalcade some twoscore strong came into sight, advancing
at an amble, a ducal hunting party returning to the palace. A hush
fell upon the burgher crowd as it pressed back respectfully to gaze;
and to the din of human voices succeeded now the clatter of hoofs
upon the kidney-stones of the square, the jangle of hawkbells, the
baying of hounds, and the occasional note of the horn that had
first brought warning of the Duke's approach.
It was a splendid iridescent company, flaunting in its apparel
every colour of the prism. There were great lords in silks and
velvets of every hue, their legs encased in the finest skins of
Spain; there were great ladies, in tall, pointed hennins or bicorne
headdresses and floating veils, with embroidered gowns that swept
down below the bellies of their richly harnessed palfreys. And
along the flanks of this cavalcade ran grooms and huntsmen in
green and leather, their jagged liripipes flung about their necks,
leading the leashed hounds.
The burghers craned their necks, and Levantine merchant argued with
Lombard trader upon an estimate of the wealth paraded thus before
them. And then at last came the young Duke himself, in black, as
if to detach himself from the surrounding splendour. He was of
middle stature, of a strong and supple build, with a lean, swarthy
face and lively eyes. Beside him, on a white horse, rode a
dazzling youth dressed from head to foot in flame-coloured silk,
a peaked bonnet of black velvet set upon his lovely golden head,
a hooded falcon perched upon his left wrist, a tiny lute slung
behind him by a black ribbon. He laughed as he rode, looking the
very incarnation of youth and gaiety.
The cavalcade passed slowly towards the Prinssenhof, the ducal
residence. It had all but crossed the square when suddenly a voice
- a woman's voice, high and tense - rang out.
"Justice, my Lord Duke of Burgundy! Justice, Lord Duke, for a
It startled the courtly riders, and for a moment chilled their
gaiety. The scarlet youth at the Duke's side swung round in his
saddle to obtain a view of her who called so piteously, and he
beheld Sapphira Danvelt.
She was all in black, and black was the veil that hung from her
steeple head-dress, throwing into greater relief her pallid
loveliness which the youth's glance was quick to appraise. He saw,
too, from her air and from the grooms attending her, that she was
a woman of some quality, and the tragic appeal of her smote home
in his gay, poetic soul. He put forth a hand and clutched the
Duke's arm, and, as if yielding to this, the Duke reined up.
"What is it that you seek?" Charles asked her not unkindly, his
lively dark eyes playing over her.
"Justice!" was all she answered him very piteously, and yet with
a certain fierceness of insistence.
"None asks it of me in vain, I hope," he answered gravely. "But I
do not dispense it from the saddle in the public street. Follow us."
And he rode on.
She followed to the Prinssenhof with her grooms and her woman
Catherine. There she was made to wait in a great hall, thronged
with grooms and men-at-arms and huntsmen, who were draining the
measure sent them by the Duke. She stood apart, wrapped in her
tragic sorrow, and none molested her. At last a chamberlain came
to summon her to the Duke's presence.
In a spacious, sparsely furnished room she found the Duke awaiting
her, wearing now a gown of black and gold that was trimmed with
rich fur. He sat in a tall chair of oak and leather, and leaning
on the back of it lounged gracefully the lovely scarlet youth who
had ridden at his side.
Standing before him, with drooping eyes and folded hands, she told
her shameful story. Darker and darker grew his brow as she proceeded
with it. But it was the gloom of doubt rather than of anger.
"Rhynsault?" he cried when she had done. "Rhynsault did this?"
There was incredulity in his voice and nothing else.
The youth behind him laughed softly, and shifted his attitude.
"You are surprised. Yet what else was to be looked for in that
Teuton swine? Me he never could deceive, for all his - "
"Be silent, Arnault," said the Duke sharply. And to the woman: "It
is a grave, grave charge," he said, "against a man I trusted and
have esteemed, else I should not have placed him where he is. What
proof have you?"
She proffered him a strip of parchment - the signed order for the
gaol delivery of Philip Danvelt.
"The gaoler of Middelburg will tell Your Grace that he was hanged
already when I presented this. My woman Catherine, whom I have
with me, can testify to part. And there are some other servants
who can bear witness to my husband's innocence. Captain von
Rhynsault had ceased to doubt it."
He studied the parchment, and fell very grave and thoughtful.
"Where are you lodged?" he asked.
She told him.
"Wait there until I send for you again," he bade her. "Leave this
order with me, and depend upon it, justice shall be done."
That evening, a messenger rode out to Middelburg to summon von
Rhynsault to Bruges, and the arrogant German came promptly and
confidently, knowing nothing of the reason, but conceiving naturally
that fresh honours were to be conferred upon him by a master who
loved stout-hearted servants. And that Rhynsault was stout-hearted
he showed most of all when the Duke taxed him without warning with
the villainy he had wrought.
If he was surprised, he was not startled. What was the life of a
Flemish burgher more or less? What the honour of a Flemish wife?
These were not considerations to daunt a soldier, a valiant man of
war. And because such was his dull mood - for he was dull, this
Rhynsault, as dull as he was brutish - he considered his sin too
venial to be denied. And the Duke, who could be crafty, perceiving
that mood of his, and simulating almost an approval of it, drew the
German captain into self-betrayal.
"And so this Philip Danvelt may have been innocent?"
"He must have been, for we have since taken the guilty man of the
same name," said the German easily. "It was unfortunate, but - "
"Unfortunate!" The Duke's manner changed from silk to steel. He
heaved himself out of his chair, and his dark eyes flamed.
"Unfortunate! Is that all, you dog?"
"I conceived him guilty when I ordered him to be hanged," spluttered
the captain, greatly taken aback.
"Then, why this? Answer me - why this?"
And under his nose the Duke thrust the order of gaol delivery
Rhynsault had signed.
The captain blenched, and fear entered his glance. The thing was
becoming serious, it seemed.
"Is this the sort of justice you were sent to Middelburg to
administer in my name? Is this how you dishonour me? If you
conceived him guilty, why did you sign this and upon what terms?
Bah, I know the terms. And having made such foul terms, why did
you not keep your part of the bargain, evil as it was?"
Rhynsault had nothing to say. He was afraid, and he was angry too.
Here was a most unreasonable bother all about nothing, it seemed
"I - I sought to compromise between justice and - and - "
"And your own vile ends," the Duke concluded for him. "By Heaven,
you German dog, I think I'll have you shortened by a head!"
"My lord!" It was a cry of protest.
"There is the woman you have so foully wronged, and so foully
swindled," said the Duke, watching him. "What reparation will you
make to her? What reparation can you make? I can toss your filthy
head into her lap. But will that repair the wrong?"
The captain suddenly saw light, and quite a pleasant light it was,
for he had found Sapphira most delectable.
"Why," he said slowly, and with all a fool's audacity, "having made
her a widow, I can make her a wife again. I never thought to wive,
myself. But if Your Grace thinks such reparation adequate, I will
afford it her."
The Duke checked in the very act of replying. Again the expression
of his countenance changed. He strode away, his head bowed in
thought; then slowly he returned.
"Be it so," he said. "It is not much, but it is all that you can do,
and after a fashion it will mend the honour you have torn. See that
you wed her within the week. Should she not consent, it will be the
worse for you."
She would not have consented - she would have preferred death,
indeed - but for the insistence that the Duke used in private with
her. And so, half convinced that it would in some sort repair her
honour, the poor woman suffered herself to be led, more dead than
living, to the altar in the Duke's private chapel, and there,
scarcely knowing what she did, she became the wife of Captain
Claudius von Rhynsault, the man she had most cause to loathe and
hate in all the world.
Rhynsault had ordered a great banquet to celebrate his nuptials,
for on the whole he was well satisfied with the issue of this
affair. But as he left the altar, his half-swooning bride upon
his arm, the Duke in person tapped his shoulder.
"All is not yet done," he said. "You are to come with me."
The bridal pair were conducted to the great hall of the Prinssenhof,
where there was a great gathering of the Court - to do honour to
his nuptials, thought the German captain. At the broad table sat
two clerkly fellows with quills and parchments, and by this table
the Duke took his stand, Arnault beside him - in peacock-blue
to-day - and called for silence.
"Captain von Rhynsault," he said gravely and quietly, "what you have
done is well done; but it does not suffice. In the circumstances
of this marriage, and after the revelation we have had of your ways
of thought and of honour, it is necessary to make provision against
the future. It shall not be yours, save at grave cost, to repudiate
the wife you have now taken."
"There is no such intent - " began Rhynsault, who misliked this homily.
The Duke waved him into silence.
"You are interrupting me," he said sharply. "You are a wealthy man,
Rhynsault, thanks to the favours I have heaped upon you ever since
the day when I picked you from your German kennel to set you where
you stand. Here you will find a deed prepared. It is in the form
of a will, whereby you bequeath everything of which you are to-day
possessed - and it is all set down - to your wife on your death, or
on the day on which you put her from you. Your signature is
required to that."
The captain hesitated a moment. This deed would fetter all his
future. The Duke was unreasonable. But under the steady, compelling
eyes of Charles he moved forward to the table, and accepted the quill
the clerk was proffering. There was no alternative, he realized.
He was trapped. Well, well! He must make the best of it. He
stooped from his great height, and signed in his great sprawling,
clumsy, soldier's hand.
The clerk dusted the document with pounce, and handed it to the Duke.
Charles cast an eye upon the signature, then taking the quill
himself, signed under it, then bore the document to the half-swooning
"Keep this secure," he bade her. "It is your marriage-gift from me."
Rhynsault's eyes gleamed. If his wife were to keep the deed, the
thing was none so desperate after all. But the next moment he had
other things to think of.
"Give me your sword," the Duke requested.
Wondering, the German unsheathed the weapon, and proffered the hilt
to his master. Charles took it, and a stern smile played about his
beardless mouth. He grasped it, hilt in one hand and point in the
other. Suddenly he bent his right knee, and, bearing sharply
downward with the flat of the weapon upon his thigh, snapped in into
"So much for that dishonourable blade," he said, and cast the pieces
from him. Then he flung out an arm to point to Rhynsault. "Take
him out," he commanded; "let him have a priest, and half an hour in
which to make his soul, then set his head on a spear above the Cloth
Hall, that men may know the justice of Charles of Burgundy."
With the roar of a 'goaded bull the German attempted to fling
forward. But men-at-arms, in steel and leather, who had come up
quietly behind him, seized him now. Impotent in their coiling arms,
he was borne away to his doom, that thereby he might complete the
reparation of his hideous offence, and deliver Sapphira from the
bondage of a wedlock which Charles of Burgundy had never intended
her to endure.
X. THE NIGHT OF STRANGLERS
GOVANNA OF NAPLES AND ANDREAS OF HUNGARY
Charles, Duke of Durazzo, was one of your super chess-players,
handling kings and queens, knights and prelates of flesh and blood
in the game that he played with Destiny upon the dark board of
Neapolitan politics. And he had no illusions on the score of the
forfeit that would be claimed by his grim opponent in the event of
his own defeat. He knew that his head was the stake he set upon
the board, and he knew, too, that defeat must inevitably follow
upon a single false move. Yet he played boldly and craftily, as
you shall judge.
He made his first move in March of 1343, some three months after
the death of Robert of Anjou, King of Jerusalem and Sicily, as ran
the title of the ruler of Naples. He found his opportunity amid
the appalling anarchy into which the kingdom was then plunged as a
result of a wrong and an ill judged attempt to right it.
Good King Robert the Wise had wrested the crown of Naples from his
elder brother, the King of Hungary, and had ruled as a usurper.
Perhaps to quiet his conscience, perhaps to ensure against future
strife between his own and his brother's descendants, he had
attempted to right the wrong by a marriage between his brother's
grandson Andreas and his own granddaughter Giovanna, a marriage
which had taken place ten years before, when Andreas was but seven
years of age and Giovanna five.
The aim had been thus to weld into one the two branches of the House
of Anjou. Instead, the rivalry was to be rendered more acute than
ever, and King Robert's fear of some such result contributed to it
not a little. On his deathbed he summoned the Princes of the Blood
- the members of the Houses of Durazzo and Taranto - and the chief
nobles of the kingdom, demanding of them an oath of allegiance to
Giovanna, and himself appointing a Council of Regency to govern the
kingdom during her minority.
The consequence was that, against all that had been intended when
the marriage was contracted, Giovanna was now proclaimed queen in
her own right, and the government taken over in her name by the
appointed Council. Instantly the Court of Naples was divided into
two camps, the party of the Queen, including the Neapolitan nobility,
and the party of Andreas of Hungary, consisting of the Hungarian
nobles forming his train and a few malcontent Neapolitan barons, and
guided by the sinister figure of Andreas's preceptor, Friar Robert.
This arrogant friar, of whom Petrarch has left us a vivid portrait,
a red-faced, red-bearded man, with a fringe of red hair about his
tonsure, short and squat of figure, dirty in his dress and habits,
yet imbued with the pride of Lucifer despite his rags, thrust
himself violently into the Council of Regency, demanding a voice in
the name of his pupil Andreas. And the Council feared him, not
only on the score of his over-bearing personality, but also because
he was supported by the populace, which had accepted his general
filthiness as the outward sign of holiness. His irruption occasioned
so much trouble and confusion that in the end the Pope intervened,
in his quality as Lord Paramount - Naples being a fief of Holy
Church - and appointed a legate to rule the kingdom during
The Hungarians, with Andreas's brother, King Ludwig of Hungary, at
their head, now appealed to the Papal Court of Avignon for a Bull
commanding the joint coronation of Andreas and Giovanna, which
would be tantamount to placing the government in the hands of
Andreas. The Neapolitans, headed by the Princes of the Blood - who,
standing next in succession, had also their own interests to consider
clamoured that Giovanna alone should be crowned.
In this pass were the affairs of the kingdom when Charles of Durazzo,
who had stood watchful and aloof, carefully weighing the chances,
resolved at last to play that dangerous game of his. He began by
the secret abduction of Maria of Anjou, his own cousin and Giovanna's
sister, a child of fourteen. He kept her concealed for a month in
his palace, what time he obtained from the Pope, through the good
offices of his uncle the Cardinal of Perigord, a dispensation to
overcome the barrier of consanguinity. That dispensation obtained,
Charles married the girl publicly under the eyes of all Naples,
and by the marriage - to which the bride seemed nowise unwilling
- became, by virtue of his wife, next heir to the crown of Naples.
That was his opening move. His next was to write to his obliging
uncle the Cardinal of Perigord, whose influence at Avignon was very
considerable, urging him to prevail upon Pope Clement VI not to
sign the Bull in favour of Andreas and the joint coronation.
Now, the high-handed action of Charles in marrying Maria of Anjou
had very naturally disposed Giovanna against him; further, it had
disposed against him those Princes of the Blood who were next in
the succession, and upon whom he had stolen a march by this
strengthening of his own claims. It is inevitable to assume that
he had counted precisely upon this to afford him the pretext that
he sought - he, a Neapolitan prince - to ally himself with the
Under any other circumstances his advances must have been viewed
with suspicion by Andreas, and still more by the crafty Friar
Robert. But, under the circumstances which his guile had created,
he was received with open arms by the Hungarian party, and his
defection from the Court of Giovanna was counted a victory by the
supporters of Andreas. He protested his good-will towards Andreas,
and proclaimed his hatred of Giovanna's partisans, who poisoned her
mind against her husband. He hunted and drank with Andreas - whose
life seems to have been largely made up of hunting and drinking -
and pandered generally to the rather gross tastes of this foreigner,
whom in his heart he despised for a barbarian.
>From being a boon companion, Charles very soon became a counsellor
to the young Prince, and the poisonous advice that he gave seemed
shrewd and good, even to Friar Robert.
"Meet hostility with hostility, ride ruthlessly upon your own way,
showing yourself confident of the decision in your favour that the
Pope must ultimately give. For bear ever in your mind that you are
King of Naples, not by virtue of your marriage with Giovanna, but
in your own right, Giovanna being but the offspring of the usurping
The pale bovine eyes of Andreas would kindle into something like
intelligence, and a flush would warm his stolid countenance. He
was a fair-haired young giant, white-skinned and well-featured, but
dull, looking, with cold, hard eyes suggesting the barbarian that
he was considered by the cultured Neapolitans, and that he certainly
looked by contrast with them. Friar Robert supporting the Duke of
Durazzo's advice, Andreas did not hesitate to act upon it; of his
own authority he delivered prisoners from gaol, showered honours
upon his Hungarian followers and upon such Neapolitan barons as
Count Altamura, who was ill-viewed at Court, and generally set the
Queen at defiance. The inevitable result, upon which again the
subtle Charles had counted, was to exasperate a group of her most
prominent nobles into plotting the ruin of Andreas.
It was a good beginning, and unfortunately Giovanna's own behaviour
afforded Charles the means of further speeding up his game.
The young Queen was under the governance of Filippa the Catanese,
an evil woman, greedy of power. This Filippa, once a washerwoman,
had in her youth been chosen for her splendid health to be the
foster-mother of Giovanna's father. Beloved of her foster-child,
she had become perpetually installed at Court, married to a wealthy
Moor named Cabane, who was raised to the dignity of Grand Seneschal
of the kingdom, whereby the sometime washerwoman found herself
elevated to the rank of one of the first ladies of Naples. She must
have known how to adapt herself to her new circumstances, otherwise
she would hardly have been appointed, as she was upon the death of
her foster-son, governess to his infant daughters. Later, to ensure
her hold upon the young Queen, and being utterly unscrupulous in her
greed of power, she had herself contrived that her son, Robert of
Cabane, became Giovanna's lover.
One of Giovanna's first acts upon her grandfather's death had been
to create this Robert Count of Evoli, and this notwithstanding that
in the mean time he had been succeeded in her favour by the handsome
young Bertrand d'Artois. This was the group - the Catanese, her
son, and Bertrand - that, with the Princes of the Blood, governed
the Queen's party.
With what eyes Andreas may have looked upon all this we have no
means of determining. Possibly, engrossed as he was with his hawks
and his hounds, he may have been stupidly blind to his own dishonour,
at least as far as Bertrand was concerned. Another than Charles
might have chosen the crude course of opening his eyes to it. But
Charles was too far-seeing. Precipitancy was not one of his faults.
His next move must be dictated by the decision of Avignon regarding
This decision came in July of 1345, and it fell like a thunderbolt
upon the Court. The Pope had pronounced in favour of Andreas by
granting the Bull for the joint coronation of Andreas and Giovanna.
This was check to Charles. His uncle the Cardinal of Perigord had
done his utmost to oppose the measure, but he had been overborne in
the end by Ludwig of Hungary, who had settled the matter by the
powerful argument that he was himself the rightful heir to the crown
of Naples, and that he relinquished his claim in favour of his
younger brother. He had backed the argument by the payment to the
Pope of the enormous sum, for those days, of one hundred thousand
gold crowns, and the issue, obscure hitherto, had immediately become
clear to the Papal Court.
It was check to Charles, as I have said. But Charles braced himself,
and considered the counter-move that should give him the advantage.
He went to congratulate Andreas, and found him swollen with pride
and arrogance in his triumph.
"Be welcome, Charles," he hailed Durazzo. "I am not the man to
forget those who have stood my friends whilst my power was undecided."
"For your own sake," said the smooth Charles, as he stepped back
from that brotherly embrace, "I trust you'll not forget those who
have been your enemies, and who, being desperate now, may take
desperate means to avert your coronation."
The pale eyes of the Hungarian glittered.
"Of whom do you speak?"
Charles smoothed his black beard thoughtfully, his dark eyes narrowed
and pensive. There must be a victim, to strike fear into Giovanna's
friends and stir them to Charles's purposes.
"Why, first and foremost, I should place Giovanna's counsellor
Isernia, that man of law whose evil counsels have hurt your rights
as king. Next come - "
But here Charles craftily paused and looked away, a man at fault.
"Next?" cried Andreas. "Who next? Speak out!" The Duke shrugged.
"By the Passion, there is no lack of others. You have enemies to
spare among the Queen's friends."
Andreas paled under his faint tan. He flung back his crimson robe
as if he felt the heat, and stood forth, lithe as a wrestler, in
his close-fitting cote-hardie and hose of violet silk.
"No need, indeed, to name them," he said fiercely.
"None," Charles agreed. "But the most dangerous is Isernia. Whilst
he lives you walk amid swords. His death may spread a panic that
will paralyze the others."
He would say no more, knowing that he had said enough to send
Andreas, scowling and sinister, to sow terror in hearts that guilt
must render uneasy now, amongst which hearts be sure that he
counted Giovanna's own.
Andreas took counsel with Friar Robert. Touching Isernia, there
was evidence and to spare that he was dangerous, and so Isernia
fell on the morrow to an assassin's sword as he was in the very
act of leaving the Castel Nuovo, and it was Charles himself who
bore word of it to the Court, and so plunged it into consternation.
They walked in the cool of evening in the pleasant garden of the
Castel Nuovo, when Charles came upon them and touched the stalwart
shoulder of Bertrand d'Artois. Bertrand the favourite eyed him
askance, mistrusting and disliking him for his association with
"The Hungarian boar," said Charles, "is sharpening his tusks now
that his authority is assured by the Holy Father."
"Who cares?" sneered Bertrand.
"Should you care if I added that already he has blooded them?"
Bertrand changed countenance. The Duke explained himself.
"He has made a beginning upon Giacomo d' Isernia. Ten minutes ago
he was stabbed to death within a stone's throw of the castle." So
Charles unburdened himself of his news. "A beginning, no more."
"My God!" said Bertrand. "D' Isernia! Heaven rest him." And
devoutly he crossed himself.
"Heaven will rest some more of you if you suffer Andreas of Hungary
to be its instrument," said Charles, his lips grimly twisted.
"Do you threaten?"
"Nay, man; be not so hot and foolish. I warn. I know his mood.
I know what he intends."
"You ever had his confidence," said Bertrand, sneering.
"Until this hour I had. But there's an end to that. I am a Prince
of Naples, and I'll not bend the knee to a barbarian. He was well
enough to hunt with and drink with, so long as he was Duke of
Calabria with no prospect of being more. But that he should become
my King, and that our lady Giovanna should be no more than a queen
consort - " He made a gesture of ineffable disgust.
Bertrand's eyes kindled. He gripped the other's arm, and drew him
along under a trellis of vines that formed a green cloister about
"Why, here is great news for our Queen," he cried. "It will rejoice
her, my lord, to know you are loyal to her."
"That is no matter," he replied. "What matters is that you should
be warned - you, yourself in particular, and Evoli. No doubt there
will be others, too. But the Hungarian's confidences went no
Bertrand had come to a standstill. He stared at Charles, and slowly
the colour left his face.
"Me?" he said, a finger on his heart.
"Aye, you. You will be the next. But not until the crown is firmly
on his brow. Then he will settle his score with the nobles of
Naples who have withstood him. Listen," and Charles's voice sank
as if under the awful burden of his news; "a black banner of
vengeance is to precede him to his coronation. And your name stands
at the head of the list of the proscribed. Does it surprise you?
After all, he is a husband, and he has some knowledge of what lies
between the Queen and you - "
"Pish!" Charles shrugged. "What need for silence upon what all
Naples knows? When have you and the Queen ever used discretion?
In your place I should not need a warning. I should know what to
expect from a husband become king."
"The Queen must be told."
"Indeed, I think so, too. It will come best from you. Go tell her,
so that measures may be taken. But go secretly and warily. You
are safe until he wears the crown. And above all - whatever you may
decide - do nothing here in Naples."
And on that he turned to depart, whilst Bertrand sped to Giovanna.
On the threshold of the garden Charles paused and looked back. His
eyes sought and found the Queen, a tall, lissome girl of seventeen,
in a close-fitting, revealing gown of purple silk, the high, white
gorget outlining an oval face of a surpassing loveliness, crowned
by a wealth of copper-coloured hair. She was standing in a stricken
attitude, looking up into the face of her lover, who was delivering
himself of his news.
Charles departed satisfied.
Three days later a man of the Queen's household, one Melazzo, who
was in Duke Charles's pay, brought him word that the seed he had
cast had fallen upon fertile soil. A conspiracy to destroy the King
had been laid by Bertrand d'Artois, Robert of Cabane, Count of Evoli,
and the latter's brothers-in-law, Terlizzi and Morcone. Melazzo
himself, for his notorious affection for the Queen, had been included
in this band, and also a man named Pace, who was body servant to
Andreas, and who, like Melazzo, was in Charles's pay.
Charles of Durazzo smiled gently to himself. The game went
"The Court," he sad, "goes to Aversa for a month before the
coronation. That would be a favourable season to their plan. Advise
The date appointed for the coronation was September 20th. A month
before - on August 20th - the Court removed itself from the heat and
reek of Naples to the cooler air of Aversa, there to spend the time
of waiting. They were housed in the monastery of Saint Peter, which
had been converted as far as possible into a royal residence for
On the night of their arrival there the refectory of the monastery
was transfigured to accommodate the numerous noble and very jovial
company assembled there to sup. The long, stone-flagged room, lofty
and with windows set very high, normally so bare and austere, was
hung now with tapestries, and the floor strewn with rushes that were
mingled with lemon verbena and other aromatic herbs. Along the
lateral walls and across the end of the room that faced the double
doors were set the stone tables of the Spartan monks, on a shallow
dais that raised them above the level of the floor. These tables
were gay now with the gleam of crystal and the glitter of gold and
silver plate. Along one side of them, their backs to the walls,
sat the ladies and nobles of the Court. The vaulted ceiling was
rudely frescoed to represent the open heavens - the work of a
brother whose brush was more devout than cunning - and there was
the inevitable cenacolo above the Abbot's table at the upper end of
At this table sat the royal party, the broad-shouldered Andreas of
Hungary, slightly asprawl, his golden mane somewhat tumbled now,
for he was drinking deeply in accordance with his barbarian habit;
ever and anon he would fling down a bone or a piece of meat to the
liver-coloured hounds that crouched expectant on the rushes of the
They had hunted that day in the neighbourhood of Capua, and Andreas
had acquitted himself well, and was in high good-humour, giving now
little thought to the sinister things that Charles of Durazzo had
lately whispered, laughing and jesting with the traitor Morcone at
his side. Behind him in close attendance stood his servant Pace,
once a creature of Durazzo's. The Queen sat on his right, making
but poor pretence to eat; her lovely young face was of a ghostly
pallor, her dark eyes were wide and staring. Among the guests were
the black-browed Evoli and his brother-in-law, Terlizzi; Bertrand
of Artois and his father; Melazzo, that other creature of Charles's,
and Filippa the Catanese, handsome and arrogant, but oddly silent
But Charles of Durazzo was not of the company. It is not for the
player, himself, to become a piece upon the board.
He had caught a whisper that the thing he had so slyly prompted to
Bertrand d'Artois was to be done here at Aversa, and so Charles had
remained at Naples. He had discovered very opportunely that his
wife was ailing, and he developed such concern for her that he could
not bring himself to leave her side. He had excused himself to
Andreas with a thousand regrets, since what he most desired was to
enjoy with him the cool, clean air of Aversa and the pleasures of
the chase; and he had presented the young King at parting with the
best of all his falcons in earnest of affection and disappointment.
The night wore on, and at last, at a sign from the Queen, the ladies
rose and departed to their beds. The men settled down again. The
cellarers redoubled their activities, the flagons circulated more
briskly, and the noise they made must have disturbed the monks
entrenched in their cells against these earthly vanities. The
laughter of Andreas grew louder and more vacuous, and when at last
he heaved himself up at midnight and departed to bed, that he might
take some rest against the morrow's hunt, he staggered a little in
But there were other hunters there whose impatience could not keep
until the morrow, whose game was to be run to death that very night.
They waited - Bertrand d'Artois, Robert of Cabane, the Counts of
Terlizzi and Morcone, Melazzo and Andreas's body servant Pace - until
all those who lay at Aversa were deep in slumber. Then at two
o'clock in the morning they made their stealthy way to the loggia
on the third floor, a long colonnaded gallery above the Abbot's
garden. They paused a moment before the Queen's door which opened
upon this gallery, then crept on to that of the King's room at the
other end. It was Pace who rapped sharply on the panels thrice
before he was answered by a sleepy growl from the other side.
"It is I - Pace - my lord," he announced. "A courier has arrived
from Naples, from Friar Robert, with instant messages."
>From within there was a noisy yawn, a rustle, the sound of an
overturning stool, and, lastly, the rasp of a bolt being withdrawn.
The door opened, and in the faint light of the dawning day Andreas
appeared, drawing a furlined robe about his body, which was naked
of all but a shirt.
He saw no one but Pace. The others had drawn aside into the shadows.
Unsuspecting, he stepped forth.
"Where is this messenger?"
The door through which he had come slammed suddenly behind him, and
he turned to see Melazzo in the act of bolting it with a dagger to
prevent any one from following that way - for the room had another
door opening upon the inner corridor.
Instead, Melazzo might have employed his dagger to stab Andreas
behind, and so have made an instant end. But it happened to be
known that Andreas wore an amulet - a ring that his mother had
given him - which rendered him invulnerable to steel or poison.
And such was the credulity of his age, such the blind faith of those
men in the miraculous power of that charm, that none of them so much
as attempted to test it with a dagger. It was for the same reason
that no recourse was had to the still easier method of disposing of
him by poison. Accepting the amulet at its legendary value, the
conspirators had resolved that he must be strangled.
As he turned now they leapt upon him, and, taking him unawares, bore
him to the ground before he could realize what was happening. Here
they grappled with him, and he with them. He was endowed with the
strength of a young bull, and he made full use of it. He rose,
beating them off, to be borne down again, bellowing the while for
help. He smote out blindly, and stretched Morcone half senseless
with a blow of his great fist.
Seeing how difficult he proved to strangle, they must have cursed
that amulet of his. He struggled to his knees again, then to his
feet, and, at last, with bleeding face, leaving tufts of his fair
hair in their murderous hands, he broke through and went bounding
down the loggia, screaming as he ran, until he came to his wife's
door. Against that he hurled himself, calling her.
"Giovanna! Giovanna! For the love of God crucified! Open! Open!
I am being murdered!"
>From within came no answer - utter silence.
"Giovanna! Giovanna!" He beat frenziedly upon the door.
Still no answer, which yet was answer enough.
The stranglers, momentarily discomfited, scared, too, lest his cries
should rouse the convent, had stood hesitating after he broke from
them. But now Bertrand d'Artois, realizing that too much had been
done already to admit of the business being left unfinished, sprang
upon him suddenly again. Locked in each other's arms, those
wrestlers swayed and panted in the loggia for a moment, then with
a crash went down, Bertrand on top, Andreas striking his head against
the stone floor as he fell. The Queen's lover pinned him there,
kneeling upon his breast.
"The rope!" he panted to the others who came up.
One of them threw him a coil of purple silk interwrought with gold
thread, in which a running noose had been tied. Bertrand slipped it
over Andreas's head, drew it taut, and held it so, despite the man's
desperate, convulsive struggles. The others came to his assistance.
Amongst them they lifted the writhing victim to the parapet of the
loggia, and flung him over; whilst Bertrand, Cabane, and Pace bore
upon the rope, arresting his fall, and keeping him suspended there
until he should be dead. Melazzo and Morcone came to assist them,
and it was then that Cabane observed that Terlizzi held aloof, as if
filled with horror.
Peremptorily he called to him:
"Hither, and lend a hand! The rope is long enough to afford you a
grip. We want accomplices, not witnesses, Lord Count."
Terlizzi obeyed, and then the ensuing silence was broken suddenly
by screams from the floor below the screams of a woman who slept in
the room immediately underneath, who had awakened to behold in the
grey light of the breaking day the figure of a man kicking and
writhing at a rope's end before her window.
Yet a moment the startled stranglers kept their grip of the rope
until the struggles at the end of it had ceased; then they loosed
their hold and let the body go plunging down into the Abbot's garden.
Thereafter they scattered and fled, for people were stirring now in
the convent, aroused by the screams of the woman.
Thrice, so the story runs, came the monks to the Queen's door to
knock and demand her orders for the disposal of the body of her
husband without receiving any answer to their question. It remained
still unanswered when later in the day she departed from Aversa in
a closed litter, and returned to Naples escorted by a company of
lances, and for lack of instructions the monks left the body in the
Abbot's garden, where it had fallen, until Charles of Durazzo came
to remove it two days later.
Ostentatiously he bore to Naples the murdered Prince - whose death
he had so subtly inspired - and in the cathedral before the
Hungarians, whom he had assembled, and in the presence of a vast
concourse of the people, he solemnly swore over the body vengeance
upon the murderers.
Having made a cat's-paw of Giovanna - through the person of her
lover, Bertrand d'Artois, and his confederate assassins - and thus
cleared away one of those who stood between himself and the throne,
he now sought to make a cat's-paw of justice to clear away the other.
Meanwhile, days grew into weeks and weeks into months, and no attempt
was made by the Queen to hunt out the murderers of her husband, no
inquiry instituted. Bertrand d'Artois, it is true, had fled with
his father to their stronghold of Saint Agatha for safety. But the
others - Cabane, Terlizzi, and Morcone - continued unabashed about
Giovanna's person at the Castel Nuovo.
Charles wrote to Ludwig of Hungary, and to the Pope, demanding that
justice should be done, and pointing out the neglect of all attempt
to perform it in the kingdom itself, and inviting them to construe
for themselves that neglect. As a consequence, Clement VI issued,
on June 2d of the following year, a Bull, whereby Bertrand des Baux,
the Grand Justiciary of Naples, was commanded to hunt down and
punish the assassins, against whom - at the same time - the Pope
launched a second Bull, of excommunication. But the Holy Father
accompanied his commands to Des Baux by a private note, wherein he
straitly enjoined the Grand Justiciary for reasons of State to
permit nothing to transpire that might reflect upon the Queen.
Des Baux set about his task at once, and inspired, no doubt, by
Charles, proceeded to the arrest of Melazzo and the servant Pace.
It was not for Charles to accuse the Queen or even any of her nobles,
whereby he might have aroused against himself the opposition of
those who were her loyal partisans. Sufficient for him to point
out the two meanest of the conspirators, and depend upon the torture
to wring from them confessions that must gradually pull down the
rest, and in the end Giovanna herself.
Terlizzi, alive to his danger when he heard of the arrest of those
two, made a bold and desperate attempt to avert it. Riding forth
with a band of followers, he attacked the escort that was bearing
Pace to prison. The prisoner was seized, but not to be rescued.
All that Terlizzi wanted was his silence. By his orders the
wretched man's tongue was torn out, whereupon he was abandoned once
more to his guards and his fate.
Had Terlizzi been able to carry out his intentions of performing
the like operation upon Melazzo, Charles might have been placed in
a difficult position. So much, however, did not happen, and the
horrible deed upon Pace was in vain. Put to the question, Melazzo
denounced Terlizzi, and together with him Cabane, Morcone, and the
others. Further, his confession incriminated Filippa, the Catanese,
and her two daughters, the wives of Terlizzi and Morcone. Of the
Queen, however, he said nothing, because, one of the lesser
conspirators, little more than a servant like Pace, he can have had
no knowledge of the Queen's complicity.
The arrest of the others followed instantly, and, sentenced to death,
they were publicly burned in the Square of Sant' Eligio, after
suffering all the brutal, unspeakable horrors of fourteenth-century
torture, which continued to the very scaffold, with the alleged
intention of inducing them to denounce any further accomplices. But
though they writhed and fainted under the pincers of the executioners,
they confessed nothing. Indeed, they preserved a silence which left
the people amazed, for the people lacked the explanation. The Grand
Justiciary, Hugh des Baux, had seen to it that the Pope's injunctions
should be obeyed. Lest the condemned should say too much, he had
taken the precaution of having their tongues fastened down with
Thus Charles was momentarily baulked, and he was further baulked by
the fact that Giovanna had taken a second husband, in her cousin,
Louis of Taranto. Unless matters were to remain there and the game
end in a stalemate, bold measures were required, and those measures
Charles adopted. He wrote to the King of Hungary now openly
accusing Giovanna of the murder, and pointing out the circumstances
that in themselves afforded corroboration of his charge.
Those circumstances Ludwig embodied in a fulminating letter which
he wrote to Giovanna in answer to her defence against the charge of
inaction in the matter of her late husband's murderers: "Giovanna,
thy antecedent disorderly life, thy retention of the exclusive power
in the kingdom, thy neglect of vengeance upon the murderers of thy
husband, thy having taken another husband, and thy very excuses
abundantly prove thy complicity in thy husband's death."
So far this was all as Charles of Durazzo could have desired it.
But there was more. Ludwig was advancing now in arms to take
possession of the kingdom, of which, under all the circumstances,
he might consider himself the lawful heir, and the Princes of Italy
were affording him unhindered passage through their States. This
was not at all to Charles's liking. Indeed, unless he bestirred
himself, it might prove to be checkmate from an altogether unexpected
quarter, rendering vain all the masterly play with which he had
conducted the game so far.
It flustered him a little, and in his haste to counter it he
Giovanna, alarmed at the rapid advance of Ludwig, summoned her
barons to her aid, and in that summons she included Charles,
realizing that at all costs he must be brought over to her side.
He went, listened, and finally sold himself for a good price the
title of Duke of Calabria, which made him heir to the kingdom.
He raised a powerful troop of lances, and marched upon Aquila,
which had already hoisted the Hungarian banner.
There it was that he discovered, and soon, his move to have been a
bad one. News was brought to him that the Queen, taken with panic,
had fled to Provence, seeking sanctuary at Avignon.
Charles set about correcting his error without delay, and marched
out of Aquila to go and meet Ludwig that he might protest his
loyalty, and range himself under the invader's banner.
At Foligno, the King of Hungary was met by a papal legate, who in
the name of Pope Clement forbade him under pain of excommunication
to invade a fief of Holy Church.
"When I am master of Naples," answered Ludwig firmly, "I shall count
myself a feudatory of the Holy See. Until then I render account to
none but God and my conscience." And he pushed on, preceded by a
black banner of death, scattering in true Hungarian fashion murder,
rape, pillage, and arson through the smiling countryside, exacting
upon the whole land a terrible vengeance for the murder of his
Thus he came to Aversa, and there quartered himself and his
Hungarians upon that convent of Saint Peter where Andreas had been
strangled a year ago. And it was here that he was joined by Charles,
who came protesting loyalty, and whom the King received with open
arms and a glad welcome, as was to be expected from a man who had
been Andreas's one true friend in that land of enemies. Of Charles's
indiscreet escapade in the matter of Aquila nothing was said. As
Charles had fully expected, it was condoned upon the score both of
the past and the present.
That night there was high feasting in that same refectory where
Andreas had feasted on the night when the stranglers watched him,
waiting, and Charles was the guest of honour. In the morning Ludwig
was to pursue his march upon the city of Naples, and all were astir
On the point of setting out, Ludwig turned to Charles.
"Before I go," he said, "I have a mind to visit the spot where my
To Charles, no doubt, this seemed a morbid notion to be discouraged.
But Ludwig was insistent.
"Take me there," he bade the Duke,
"Indeed, I scarce know - I was not here, remember," Charles answered
him, rendered faintly uneasy, perhaps by a certain grimness in the
gaunt King's face, perhaps by the mutterings of his own conscience.
"I know that you were not; but surely you must know the place. It
will be known to all the world in these parts. Besides, was it not
yourself recovered the body? Conduct me thither, then.
Perforce, then, Charles must do his will. Arm-in-arm they mounted
the stairs to that sinister loggia, a half-dozen of Ludwig's
escorting officers following.
They stepped along the tessellated floor above the Abbot's garden,
flooded now with sunshine which drew the perfume from the roses
"Here the King slept," said Charles, "and yonder the Queen.
Somewhere here between the thing was done, and thence they hanged
Ludwig, tall and grim, stood considering, chin in hand. Suddenly
he wheeled upon the Duke who stood at his elbow. His face had
undergone a change, and his lip curled so that he displayed his
strong teeth as a dog displays them when he snarls.
"Traitor!" he rasped. "It is you - you who come smiling and fawning
upon me, and spurring me on to vengeance - who are to blame for what
"I?" Charles fell back, changing colour, his legs trembling under
"You!" the King answered him furiously. "His death would never
have come about but for your intrigues to keep him out of the royal
power, to hinder his coronation."
"It is false!" cried Charles. "False! I swear it before God!"
"Perjured dog! Do you deny that you sought the aid of your precious
uncle the Cardinal of Perigord to restrain the Pope from granting
the Bull required?"
"I do deny it. The facts deny it. The Bull was forthcoming."
"Then your denial but proves your guilt," the King answered him,
and from the leather pouch hanging from his belt, he pulled out a
parchment, and held it under the Duke's staring eyes. It was the
letter he had written to the Cardinal of Perigord, enjoining him to
prevent the Pope from signing the Bull sanctioning Andreas's
The King smiled terribly into that white, twitching face.
"Deny it now," he mocked him. "Deny, too, that, bribed by the
title of Duke of Calabria, you turned to the service of the Queen,
to abandon it again for ours when you perceived your danger. You
think to use us, traitor, as a stepping-stone to help you to mount
the throne - as you sought to use my brother even to the extent of
encompassing his murder."
"No, no! I had no hand in that. I was his friend - "
"Liar!" Ludwig struck him across the mouth.
On the instant the officers of Ludwig laid hands upon the Duke,
fearing that the indignity might spur him to retaliation.
"You are very opportune," said Ludwig; and added coldly, "Dispatch
Charles screamed a moment, even as Andreas had screamed on that same
spot, when he found himself staring into the fearful face of death.
Then the scream became a cough as a Hungarian sword went through him
from side to side.
They picked up his body from the tessellated floor of the loggia,
carried it to the parapet as Andreas's had been carried, and flung
it down into the Abbot's garden as Andreas's had been flung. It lay
in a rosebush, dyeing the Abbot's roses a deeper red.
Never was justice more poetic.
XI. THE NIGHT OF HATE
THE MURDER OF THE DUKE OF GANDIA
The Cardinal Vice-Chancellor took the packet proffered him by the
fair-haired, scarlet-liveried page, and turned it over, considering
it, the gentle, finely featured, almost ascetic face very thoughtful.
"It was brought, my lord, by a man in a mask, who will give no name.
He waits below," said the scarlet stripling.
"A man in a mask, eh? What mystery!"
The thoughtful brown eyes smiled, the fine hands broke the fragment
of wax. A gold ring fell out and rolled some little way along the
black and purple Eastern rug. The boy dived after it, and presented
it to his lordship.
The ring bore an escutcheon, and the Cardinal found graven upon this
escutcheon his own arms the Sforza lion and the flower of the quince.
Instantly those dark, thoughtful eyes of his grew keen as they
flashed upon the page.
"Did you see the device?" he asked, a hint of steel under the
silkiness of his voice.
"I saw nothing, my lord - a ring, no more. I did not even look."
The Cardinal continued to ponder him for a long moment very
"Go - bring this man," he said at last; and the boy departed, soon
to reappear; holding aside the tapestry that masked the door to give
passage to a man of middle height wrapped in a black cloak, his face
under a shower of golden hair, covered from chin to brow by a black
At a sign from the Cardinal the page departed. Then the man, coming
forward, let fall his cloak, revealing a rich dress of close-fitting
violet silk, sword and dagger hanging from his jewelled girdle; he
plucked away the mask, and disclosed the handsome, weak face of
Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and Cotignola, the discarded husband
of Madonna Lucrezia, Pope Alexander's daughter.
The Cardinal considered his nephew gravely, without surprise. He
had expected at first no more than a messenger from the owner of
that ring. But at sight of his figure and long, fair hair he had
recognized Giovanni before the latter had removed his mask.
"I have always accounted you something mad," said the Cardinal
softly. "But never mad enough for this. What brings you to Rome?"
"Necessity, my lord," replied the young tyrant. "The need to defend
my honour, which is about to be destroyed."
"And your life?" wondered his uncle. "Has that ceased to be of
"Without honour it is nothing."
"A noble sentiment taught in every school. But for practical
purposes - " The Cardinal shrugged.
Giovanni, however, paid no heed.
"Did you think, my lord, that I should tamely submit to be a
derided, outcast husband, that I should take no vengeance upon,
that villainous Pope for having made me a thing of scorn, a byword
throughout Italy?" Livid hate writhed in his fair young face. "Did
you think I should, indeed, remain in Pesaro, whither I fled before
their threats to my life, and present no reckoning?"
"What is the reckoning you have in mind?" inquired his uncle,
faintly ironical. "You'll not be intending to kill the Holy Father?"
"Kill him?" Giovanni laughed shortly, scornfully. "Do the dead
"In hell, sometimes," said the Cardinal.
"Perhaps. But I want to be sure. I want sufferings that I can
witness, sufferings that I can employ as balsam for my own wounded
honour. I shall strike, even as he has stricken me - at his soul,
not at his body. I shall wound him where he is most sensitive."
Ascanio Sforza, towering tall and slender in his scarlet robes,
shook his head slowly.
"All this is madness - madness! You were best away, best in Pesaro.
Indeed, you cannot safely show your face in Rome."
"That is why I go masked. That is why I come to you, my lord, for
shelter here until - "
"Here?" The Cardinal was instantly alert. "Then you think I am
as mad as yourself. Why, man, if so much as a whisper of your
presence in Rome got abroad, this is the first place where they
would look nor you. If you will have your way, if you are so set
on the avenging of past wrongs and the preventing of future ones,
it is not for me, your kinsman, to withstand you. But here in my
palace you cannot stay, for your own safety's sake. That page who
brought you, now; I would not swear he did not see the arms upon
your ring. I pray that he did not. But if he did, your presence
is known here already."
Giovanni was perturbed.
"But if not here, where, then, in Rome should I be safe?"
"Nowhere, I think," answered the ironical Ascanio. "Though perhaps
you might count yourself safe with Pico. Your common hate of the
Holy Father should be a stout bond between you."
Fate prompted the suggestion. Fate drove the Lord of Pesaro to act
upon it, and to seek out Antonio Maria Pico, Count of Mirandola, in
his palace by the river, where Pico, as Ascanio had foreseen, gave
him a cordial welcome.
There he abode almost in hiding until the end of May, seldom issuing
forth, and never without his mask - a matter this which excited no
comment, for masked faces were common in the streets of Rome in the
evening of the fifteenth century. In talk with Pico he set forth
his intent, elaborating what already he had told the Cardinal
"He is a father - this Father of Fathers," he said once. "A tender,
loving father whose life is in his children, who lives through them
and for them. Deprive him of them, and his life would become empty,
worthless, a living death. There is Giovanni, who is as the apple
of his eye, whom he has created Duke of Gandia, Duke of Benevento,
Prince of Sessa, Lord of Teano, and more besides. There is the
Cardinal of Valencia, there is Giuffredo, Prince of Squillace, and
there is my wife, Lucrezia, of whom he has robbed me. There is, you
see, an ample heel to our Achilles. The question is, where shall we
"And also, how," Pico reminded him.
Fate was to answer both those questions, and that soon.
They went on June 1st - the Lord of Pesaro, with his host and his
host's daughter, Antonia - to spend the day at Pico's vineyard in
Trastevere. At the moment of setting out to return to Rome in the
evening the Count was detained by his steward, newly returned from
a journey with matters to communicate to him.
He bade his guest, with his daughter and their attendants, to ride
on, saying that he himself would follow and overtake them. But the
steward detained him longer than he had expected, so that, although
the company proceeded leisurely towards the city, Pico had not come
up with them when they reached the river. In the narrow street
beyond the bridge the little escort found itself suddenly confronted
and thrust aside by a magnificent cavalcade of ladies and gallants,
hawk on wrist and followed by a pack of hounds.
Giovanni had eyes for one only in that gay company - a tall,
splendidly handsome man in green, a Plumed bonnet on his auburn head,
and a roguish, jovial eye, which, in its turn, saw nobody in that
moment but Madonna Antonia, reclining in her litter, the leather
curtains of which she had drawn back that she might converse with
Giovanni as they rode.
The Lord of Pesaro beheld the sudden kindling of his brother-in-law's
glance, for that handsome gallant was the Duke of Gandia, the Pope's
eldest son, the very apple of the Holy Father's eye. He saw the
Duke's almost unconscious check upon his reins; saw him turn in the
saddle to stare boldly at Madonna Antonia until, grown conscious of
his regard, she crimsoned under it. And when at last the litter had
moved on, he saw over his shoulder a mounted servant detach from the
Duke's side to follow them. This fellow dogged their heels all the
way to the Parione Quarter, obviously with intent to discover for his
master where the beautiful lady of the litter might be housed.
Giovanni said naught of this to Pico when he returned a little later.
He was quick to perceive the opportunity that offered, but far from
sure that Pico would suffer his daughter to be used as a decoy; far,
indeed, from sure that he dared himself so employ her. But on the
morrow, chancing to look from a window out of idle curiosity to see
what horse it was that was pacing in the street below, he beheld a
man in a rich cloak, in whom at once he recognized the Duke, and he
accounted that the dice of destiny had fallen.
Himself unseen by that horseman, Giovanni drew back quickly. On the
spur of the moment, he acted with a subtlety worthy of long
premeditation. Antonia and he were by an odd fatality alone together
in that chamber of the mezzanine. He turned to her.
"An odd fellow rides below here, tarrying as if expectant. I wonder
should you know who he is."
Obeying his suggestion, she rose - a tall, slim child of some
eighteen years, of a delicate, pale beauty, with dark, thoughtful
eyes and long, black tresses, interwoven with jewelled strands of
gold thread. She rustled to the window and looked down upon that
cavalier; and, as she looked, scanning him intently, the Duke raised
his head. Their eyes met, and she drew back with a little cry.
"What is it?" exclaimed Giovanni.
"It is that insolent fellow who stared at me last evening in the
street. I would you had not bidden me look."
Now, whilst she had been gazing from the window, Giovanni, moving
softly behind her, had espied a bowl of roses on the ebony table in
the room's middle. Swiftly and silently he had plucked a blossom,
which he now held behind his back. As she turned from him again,
he sent it flying through the window; and whilst in his heart he
laughed with bitter hate and scorn as he thought of Gandia snatching
up that rose and treasuring it in his bosom, aloud he laughed at her
fears, derided them as idle.
That night, in his room, Giovanni practised penmanship assiduously,
armed with a model with which Antonia had innocently equipped him.
He went to bed well pleased, reflecting that as a man lives so does
he die. Giovanni Borgia, Duke of Gandia, had been ever an amiable
profligate, a heedless voluptuary obeying no spur but that of his
own pleasure, which should drive him now to his destruction.
Giovanni Borgia, he considered further, was, as he had expressed it,
the very apple of his father's eye; and since, of his own accord,
the Duke had come to thrust his foolish head into the noose, the
Lord of Pesaro would make a sweet beginning to the avenging of his
wrongs by drawing it taut.
Next morning saw him at the Vatican, greatly daring, to deliver in
person his forgery to the Duke. Suspicious of his mask, they asked
him who he was and whence he came.
"Say one who desires to remain unknown with a letter for the Duke
of Gandia which his magnificence will welcome."
Reluctantly, a chamberlain departed with his message. Anon he was
conducted above to the magnificent apartments which Gandia occupied
during his sojourn there.
He found the Duke newly risen, and with him his brother, the
auburn-headed young Cardinal of Valencia, dressed in a close-fitting
suit of black, that displayed his lithe and gracefully athletic
proportions, and a cloak of scarlet silk to give a suggestion of
his ecclesiastical rank.
Giovanni bowed low, and, thickening his voice that it might not be
recognized, announced himself and his mission in one.
"From the lady of the rose," said he, proffering the letter.
Valencia stared a moment; then went off into a burst of laughter.
Gandia's face flamed and his eyes sparkled. He snatched the letter,
broke its seal, and consumed its contents. Then he flung away to a
table, took up a pen, and sat down to write; the tall Valencia
watching him with amused scorn a while, then crossing to his side
and setting a hand upon his shoulder.
"You will never learn," said the more subtle Cesare. "You must
forever be leaving traces where traces are not to be desired."
Gandia looked up into that keen, handsome young face.
"You are right," he said; and crumpled the letter in his hand.
Then he looked at the messenger and hesitated.
"I am in Madonna's confidence," said the man in the mask.
Gandia rose. "Then say - say that her letter has carried me to
Heaven; that I but await her commands to come in person to declare
myself. But bid her hasten, for within two weeks from now I go to
Naples, and thence I may return straight to Spain."
"The opportunity shall be found, Magnificent. Myself I shall bring
you word of it."
The Duke loaded him with thanks, and in his excessive gratitude
pressed upon him at parting a purse of fifty ducats, which Giovanni
flung into the Tiber some ten minutes later as he was crossing the
Bridge of Sant' Angelo on his homeward way.
The Lord of Pesaro proceeded without haste. Delay and silence he
knew would make Gandia the more sharp-set, and your sharp-set,
impatient fellow is seldom cautious. Meanwhile, Antonia had
mentioned to her father that princely stranger who had stared so
offendingly one evening, and who for an hour on the following
morning had haunted the street beneath her window. Pico mentioned
it to Giovanni, whereupon Giovanni told him frankly who it was.
"It was that libertine brother-in-law of mine, the Duke of Gandia,"
he said. "Had he persisted, I should have bidden you look to your
daughter. As it is, no doubt he has other things to think of. He
is preparing for his journey to Naples, to accompany his brother
Cesare, who goes as papal legate to crown Federigo of Aragon."
There he left the matter, and no more was heard of it until the night
of June 14th, the very eve of the departure of the Borgia princes
upon that mission.
Cloaked and masked, Giovanni took his way to the Vatican at dusk that
evening, and desired to have himself announced to the Duke. But he
was met with the answer that the Duke was absent; that he had gone to
take leave of his mother and to sup at her villa in Trastevere. His
return was not expected until late.
At first Giovanni feared that, in leaving the consummation of his
plot until the eleventh hour, he had left it too late. In his
anxiety he at once set out on foot, as he was, for the villa of
Madonna Giovanna de Catanei. He reached it towards ten o'clock
that night, to be informed that Gandia was there, at supper. The
servant went to bear word to the Duke that a man in a mask was
asking to see him, a message which instantly flung Gandia into
agitation. Excitedly he commanded that the man be brought to him
The Lord of Pesaro was conducted through the house and out into the
garden to an arbour of vine, where a rich table was spread in the
evening cool, lighted by alabaster lamps. About this table Giovanni
found a noble company of his own relations by marriage. There was
Gandia, who rose hurriedly at his approach, and came to meet him;
there was Cesare, Cardinal of Valencia, who was to go to Naples
to-morrow as papal legate, yet dressed tonight in cloth of gold,
with no trace of his churchly dignity about him; there was their
younger brother Giuffredo, Prince of Squillace, a handsome stripling,
flanked by his wife, the free-and-easy Donna Sancia of Aragon,
swarthy, coarse-featured, and fleshy, despite her youth; there was
Giovanni's sometime wife; the lovely, golden-headed Lucrezia, the
innocent cause of all this hate that festered in the Lord of Pesaro's
soul; there was their mother, the nobly handsome Giovanozza de
Catanei, from whom the Borgias derived their auburn heads; and there
was their cousin, Giovanni Borgia, Cardinal of Monreale, portly and
scarlet, at Madonna's side.
All turned to glance at this masked intruder who had the power so
oddly to excite their beloved Gandia.
"From the lady of the rose," Giovanni announced himself softly to
"Yes, yes," came the answer, feverishly impatient. "Well, what is
"To-night her father is from home. She will expect your magnificence
Gandia drew a deep breath.
"By the Host! You are no more than in time. I had almost despaired,
my friend, my best of friends. To-night!" He pronounced the word
ecstatically. "Wait you here. Yourself you shall conduct me.
Meanwhile, go sup."
And beating his hands, he summoned attendants.
Came the steward and a couple of Moorish slaves in green turbans, to
whose care the Duke commanded his masked visitor. But Giovanni
neither required nor desired their ministrations; he would not eat
nor drink, but contented himself with the patience of hatred to sit
for two long hours awaiting the pleasure of his foolish victim.
They left at last, a little before midnight the Duke, his brother
Cesare, his cousin Monreale, and a numerous attendance, his own
retinue and those of the two cardinals. Thus they rode back to
Rome, the Borgias very gay, the man in the mask plodding along
They came to the Rione de Ponte, where their ways were to separate,
and there, opposite the palace of the Cardinal Vice-Chancellor,
Gandia drew rein. He announced to the others that he went no farther
with them, summoned a single groom to attend him, and bade the
remainder return to the Vatican and await him there.
There was a last jest and a laugh from Cesare as the cavalcade went
on towards the papal palace. Then Gandia turned to the man in the
mask, bade him get up on the crupper of his horse, and so rode
slowly off in the direction of the Giudecca, the single attendant
he had retained trotting beside his stirrup.
Giovanni directed his brother-in-law, not to the main entrance of
the house, but to the garden gate, which opened upon a narrow alley.
Here they dismounted, flinging the reins to the groom, who was bidden
to wait. Giovanni produced a key, unlocked the door, and ushered the
Duke into the gloom of the garden. A stone staircase ran up to the
loggia on the mezzanine, and by this way was Gandia now conducted,
treading softly. His guide went ahead. He had provided himself with
yet another key, and so unlocked the door from the loggia which opened
upon the ante-room of Madonna Antonia. He held the door for the Duke,
who hesitated, seeing all in darkness.
"In," Giovanni bade him. "Tread softly. Madonna waits for you."
Recklessly, then, that unsuspecting fellow stepped into the trap.
Giovanni followed, closed the door, and locked it. The Duke,
standing with quickened pulses in that impenetrable blackness, found
himself suddenly embraced, not at all after the fond fashion he was
expecting. A wrestler's arms enlaced his body, a sinewy leg coiled
itself snake-wise about one of his own, pulling it from under him.
As he crashed down under the weight of his unseen opponent, a great
voice boomed out:
"Lord of Mirandola! To me! Help! Thieves!"
Suddenly a door opened. Light flooded the gloom, and the writhing
Duke beheld a white vision of the girl whose beauty had been the
lure that had drawn him into this peril which, as yet, he scarcely
understood. But looking up into the face of the man who grappled
with him, the man who held him there supine under his weight, he
began at last to understand, or, at least, to suspect, for the face
he saw, unmasked now, leering at him with hate unspeakable through
the cloud of golden hair that half met across it, was the face of
Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, whom his family had so cruelly
wronged. Giovanni Sforza's was the voice that now fiercely announced
"You and yours have made me a thing of scorn and laughter. Yourself
have laughed at me. Go laugh in hell!"
A blade flashed up in Giovanni's hand. Gandia threw up an arm to
fend his breast, and the blade buried itself in the muscles. He
screamed with pain and terror. The other laughed with hate and
triumph, and stabbed again, this time in the shoulder.
Antonia, from the threshold, watching in bewilderment and panic, sent
a piercing scream to ring through the house, and then the voice of
Giovanni, fierce yet exultant, called aloud:
"Pico! Pico! Lord of Mirandola! Look to your daughter!"
Came steps and voice, more light, flooding now the chamber, and
through the mists gathering before his eyes the first-born of the
house of Borgia beheld hurrying men, half dressed, with weapons in
their hands. But whether they came to kill or to save, they came
too late: Ten times Giovanni's blade had stabbed the Duke, yet,
hindered by the Duke's struggles and by the effort of holding him
there, he had been unable to find his heart, wherefore, as those
others entered now, he slashed his victim across the throat, and so
made an end.
He rose, covered with blood, so ghastly and terrific that Pico,
thinking him wounded, ran to him. But Giovanni reassured him with
a laugh, and pointed with his dripping dagger.
"The blood is his - foul Borgia blood!"
At the name Pico started, and there was a movement as of fear from
the three grooms who followed him. The Count looked down at that
splendid, blood-spattered figure lying there so still, its sightless
eyes staring up at the frescoed ceiling, so brave and so pitiful in
his gold-broidered suit of white satin, with the richly jewelled
girdle carrying gloves and purse and a jewelled dagger that had been
so useless in that extremity.
"Gandia" he cried; and looked at Giovanni with round eyes of fear
and amazement. "How came he here?"
With bloody hand Giovanni pointed to the open door of Antonia's
"That was the lure, my lord. Taking the air outside, I saw him
slinking hither, and took him for a thief, as, indeed, he was - a
thief of honour, like all his kind. I followed, and - there he
"My God!" cried Pico. And then hoarsely asked, "And Antonia?"
Giovanni dismissed the question abruptly.
"She saw, yet she knows nothing."
And then on another note:
"Up now, Pico!" he cried. "Arouse the city, and let all men know
how Gandia died the death of a thief. Let all men know this Borgia
brood for what it is."
"Are you mad?" cried Pico. "Will I put my neck under the knife?"
"You took him here in the night, and yours was the right to kill.
You exercised it."
Pico looked long and searchingly into the other's face. True, all
the appearances bore out the tale, as did, too, what had gone before
and had been the cause of Antonia's complaint to him. Yet, knowing
what lay between Sforza and Borgia, it may have seemed to Pico too
extraordinary a coincidence that Giovanni should have been so ready
at hand to defend the honour of the House of Mirandola. But he asked
no questions. He was content in his philosophy to accept the event
and be thankful for it on every count. But as for Giovanni's
suggestion that he should proclaim through Rome how he had exercised
his right to slay this Tarquin, the Lord of Mirandola had no mind to
"What is done is done," he said shortly, in a tone that conveyed much.
"Let it suffice us all. It but remains now to be rid of this."
"You will keep silent?" cried Giovanni, plainly vexed.
"I am not a fool," said Pico gently.
Giovanni understood. "And these your men?"
"Ate very faithful friends who will aid you now to efface all
And upon that he moved away, calling his daughter, whose absence
was intriguing him. Receiving no answer, he entered her room, to
find her in a swoon across her bed. She had fainted from sheer
horror at what she had seen.
Followed by the three servants bearing the body, Giovanni went down
across the garden very gently. Approaching the gate, he bade them
wait, saying that he went to see that the coast was clear. Then,
going forward alone, he opened the gate and called softly to the
"Hither to me!"
Promptly the man surged before him in the gloom, and as promptly
Giovanni sank his dagger in the fellow's breast. He deplored the
necessity for the deed, but it was unavoidable, and your
cinquecentist never shrank from anything that necessity imposed
upon him. To let the lackey live would be to have the bargelli in
the house by morning.
The man sank with a half-uttered cry, and lay still.
Giovanni dragged him aside under the shelter of the wall, where the
others would not see him, then called softly to them to follow.
When the grooms emerged from Pico's garden, the Lord of Pesaro was
astride of the fine white horse on which Gandia had ridden to his
"Put him across the crupper," he bade them.
And they so placed the body, the head dangling on one side, the
legs on the other. And Giovanni reflected grimly how he had
reversed the order in which Gandia and he had ridden that same
horse an hour ago.
At a walk they proceeded down the lane towards the river, a groom
on each side to see that the burden on the crupper did not jolt
off, another going ahead to scout. At the alley's mouth Giovanni
drew rein, and let the man emerge upon the river-bank and look to
right and left to make sure that there was no one about.
He saw no one. Yet one there was who saw them Giorgio, the timber
merchant, who lay aboard his boat moored to the Schiavoni, and who,
three days later, testified to what he saw. You know his testimony.
It has been repeated often - how he saw the man emerge from the
alley and look up and down, then retire, to emerge again, accompanied
now by the horseman with his burden, and the other two; how he saw
them take the body from the crupper of the horse, and, with a "one,
two, and three," fling it into the river; how he heard the horseman
ask them had they thrown it well into the middle, and their answer
of, "Yes my lord"; and finally, when asked why he had not come
earlier to report the matter, how he had answered that he had thought
nothing of it, having in his time seen more than a hundred bodies
flung into the Tiber at night.
Returned to the garden gate, Giovanni bade the men go in without him.
There was something yet that he must do. When they had gone, he
dismounted, and went to the body of the groom which he had left under
the wall. He must remove that too. He cut one of the
stirrup-leathers from the saddle, and attaching one end of it to the
dead man's arm, mounted again, and dragged him thus - ready to leave
the body and ride off at the first alarm - some little way, until he
came to the Piazza della Giudecca. Here, in the very heart of the
Jewish quarters, he left the body, and his movements hereafter are
a little obscure. Perhaps he set out to return to Pico della
Mirandola's house, but becoming, as was natural, uneasy on the way,
fearing lest all traces should, after all, not have been effaced,
lest the Duke should be traced to that house, and himself, if found
there, dealt with summarily upon suspicion, he turned about, and went
off to seek sanctuary with his uncle, the Vice-Chancellor.
The Duke's horse, which he had ridden, he turned loose in the streets,
where it was found some hours later, and first gave occasion to
rumours of foul play. The rumours growing, with the discovery of the
body of Gandia's groom, and search-parties of armed bargelli scouring
Rome, and the Giudecca in particular, in the course of the next two
days, forth at last came Giorgio, that boatman of the Schiavoni, with
the tale of what he had seen. When the stricken Pope heard it, he
ordered the bed of the river to be dragged foot by foot, with the
result that the ill-starred Duke of Gandia was brought up in one of
the nets, whereupon the heartless Sanazzaro coined his terrible
epigram concerning that successor of Saint Peter, that Fisherman of
The people, looking about for him who had the greatest motive for
that deed, were quick to fasten the guilt upon Giovanni Sforza, who
by that time was far from Rome, riding hard for the shelter of his
tyranny of Pesaro; and the Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, who was also
mentioned, and who feared to be implicated, apprehensive ever lest
his page should have seen the betraying arms upon the ring of his
masked visitor - fled also, nor could be induced to return save
under a safe-conduct from the Holy Father, expressing conviction of
Later public rumour accused others; indeed, they accused in turn
every man who could have been a possible perpetrator, attributing
to some of them the most fantastic and incredible motives. Once,
prompted no doubt by their knowledge of the libertine,
pleasure-loving nature of the dead Duke, rumour hit upon the
actual circumstances of the murder so closely, indeed, that the
Count of Mirandola's house was visited by the bargelli and subjected
to an examination, at which Pico violently rebelled, appealing
boldly to the Pope against insinuations that reflected upon the
honour of his daughter.
The mystery remained impenetrable, and the culprit was never brought
to justice. We know that in slaying Gandia, Giovanni Sforza vented
a hatred whose object was not Gandia, but Gandia's father. His aim
was to deal Pope Alexander the cruellest and most lingering of
wounds, and if he lacked the avenger's satisfaction of disclosing
himself, at least he did not lack assurance that his blow had stricken
home. He heard - as all Italy heard - from that wayfarer on the
bridge of Sant' Angelo, how the Pope, in a paroxysm of grief at sight
of his son's body fished from the Tiber, had bellowed in his agony
like a tortured bull, so that his cries within the castle were heard
upon the bridge. He learnt how the handsome, vigorous Pope staggered
into the consistory of the 19th of that same month with the mien and
gait of a palsied old man, and, in a voice broken with sobs,
proclaimed his bitter lament:
"Had we seven Papacies we would give them all to restore the Duke to
He might have been content. But he was not. That deep hate of his
against those who had made him a thing of scorn was not so easily to
be slaked. He waited, spying his opportunity for further hurt. It
came a year later, when Gandia's brother, the ambitious Cesare
Borgia, divested himself of his cardinalitial robes and rank,
exchanging them for temporal dignities and the title of Duke of
Valentinois. Then it was that he took up the deadly weapon of
calumny, putting it secretly about that Cesare was the murderer of
his brother, spurred to it by worldly ambition and by other motives
which involved the principal members of the family.
Men do not mount to Borgia heights without making enemies. The evil
tale was taken up in all its foul trappings, and, upon no better
authority than the public voice, it was enshrined in chronicles by
every scribbler of the day. And for four hundred years that lie has
held its place in history, the very cornerstone of all the execration
that has been heaped upon the name of Borgia. Never was vengeance
more terrible, far-reaching, and abiding. It is only in this
twentieth century of ours that dispassionate historians have nailed
upon the counter of truth the base coin of that accusation.
XII. THE NIGHT OF ESCAPE
CASANOVA'S ESCAPE FROM THE PIOMBI
Patrician influence from without had procured Casanova's removal in
August of that year, 1756, from the loathsome cell he had occupied
for thirteen months in the Piombi - so called from the leaded roof
immediately above those prisons which are simply the garrets of the
That cell had been no better than a kennel seldom reached by the
light of day, and so shallow that it was impossible for a man of
his fine height to stand upright in it. But his present prison was
comparatively spacious and it was airy and well-lighted by a barred
window, whence he could see the Lido.
Yet he was desperately chagrined at the change, for he had almost
completed his arrangements to break out of his former cell. The
only ray of hope in his present despair came from the fact that the
implement to which he trusted was still in his possession, safely
concealed in the upholstery of the armchair that had been moved with
him into his present quarters. That implement he had fashioned for
himself with infinite pains out of a door-bolt some twenty inches
long, which he had found discarded in a rubbish-heap in a corner of
the attic where he had been allowed to take his brief daily exercise.
Using as a whetstone a small slab of black marble, similarly
acquired, he had shaped that bolt into a sharp octagonal-pointed
chisel or spontoon.
It remained in his possession, but he saw no chance of using it now,
for the suspicions of Lorenzo, the gaoler, were aroused, and daily
a couple of archers came to sound the floors and walls. True they
did not sound the ceiling, which was low and within reach. But it
was obviously impossible to cut through the ceiling in such a manner
as to leave the progress of the work unseen.
Hence his despair of breaking out of a prison where he had spent
over a year without trial or prospect of a trial, and where he seemed
likely to spend the remainder of his days. He did not even know
precisely why he had been arrested. All that Giacomo Casanova knew
was that he was accounted a disturber of the public peace. He was
notoriously a libertine, a gamester, and heavily in debt: also - and
this was more serious - he was accused of practising magic, as indeed
he had done, as a means of exploiting to his own profit the credulity
of simpletons of all degrees. He would have explained to the
Inquisitors of State of the Most Serene Republic that the books of
magic found by their apparitors in his possession - "The Clavicula
of Solomon," the "Zecor-ben," and other kindred works - had been
collected by him as curious instances of human aberration. But the
Inquisitors of State would not have believed him, for the Inquisitors
were among those who took magic seriously. And, anyhow, they had
never asked him to explain, but had left him as if forgotten in that
abominable verminous cell under the leads, until his patrician
friend had obtained him the mercy of this transfer to better quarters.
This Casanova was a man of iron nerve and iron constitution. Tall
and well-made, he was boldly handsome, with fine dark eyes and dark
brown hair. In age he was barely one and twenty; but he looked
older, as well he might, for in his adventurer's way he had already
gathered more experience of life than most men gain in half a
The same influence that had obtained him his change of cell had also
gained him latterly the privilege - and he esteemed it beyond all
else - of procuring himself books. Desiring the works of Maffai,
he bade his gaoler purchase them out of the allowance made him by
the Inquisitors in accordance with the Venetian custom. This
allowance was graduated to the social status of each prisoner. But
the books being costly and any monthly surplus from his monthly
expenditure being usually the gaoler's perquisite, Lorenzo was
reluctant to indulge him. He mentioned that there was a prisoner
above who was well equipped with books, and who, no doubt, would be
glad to lend in exchange.
Yielding to the suggestion, Casanova handed Lorenzo a copy of
Peteau's "Rationarium," and received next morning, in exchange,
the first volume of Wolf. Within he found a sheet bearing in six
verses a paraphrase of Seneca's epigram, "Calamitosus est animus
futuri anxius." Immediately he perceived he had stumbled upon a
means of corresponding with one who might be disposed to assist
him to break prison.
In reply, being a scholarly rascal (he had been educated for the
priesthood), he wrote six verses himself. Having no pen, he cut
the long nail of his little finger to a point, and, splitting it,
supplied the want. For ink he used the juice of mulberries. In
addition to the verses, he wrote a list of the books in his
possession, which he placed at the disposal of his fellow-captive.
He concealed the written sheet in the spine of that vellum-bound
volume; and on the title-page, in warning of this, he wrote the
single Latin word "Latet." Next morning he handed the book to
Lorenzo, telling him that he had read it, and requesting the
That second volume came on the next day, and in the spine of it
a long letter, some sheets of paper, pens, and a pencil. The
writer announced himself as one Marino Balbi, a patrician and a
monk, who had been four years in that prison, where he had since
been given a companion in misfortune, Count Andrea Asquino.
Thus began a regular and very full correspondence between the
prisoners, and soon Casanova - who had not lived on his wits for
nothing - was able to form a shrewd estimate of Balbi's character.
The monk's letters revealed it as compounded of sensuality,
stupidity, ingratitude, and indiscretion.
"In the world," says Casanova, "I should have had no commerce with
a fellow of his nature. But in the Piombi I was obliged to make
capital out of everything that came under my hands."
The capital he desired to make in this instance was to ascertain
whether Balbi would be disposed to do for him what he could not do
for himself. He wrote inquiring, and proposing flight.
Balbi replied that he and his companion would do anything possible
to make their escape from that abominable prison, but his lack of
resource made him add that he was convinced that nothing was
"All that you have to do," wrote Casanova in answer, "is to break
through the ceiling of my cell and get me out of this, then trust
to me to get you out of the Piombi. If you are disposed to make
the attempt, I will supply you with the means, and show you the
It was a characteristically bold reply, revealing to us the utter
gamester that he was in all things.
He knew that Balbi's cell was situated immediately under the leads,
and he hoped that once in it he should be able readily to find a way
through the roof. That cell of Balbi's communicated with a narrow
corridor, no more than a shaft for light and air, which was
immediately above Casanova's prison. And no sooner had Balbi
written, consenting, than Casanova explained what was to do. Balbi
must break through the wall of his cell into the little corridor,
and there cut a round hole in the floor precisely as Casanova had
done in his former cell - until nothing but a shell of ceiling
remained - a shell that could be broken down by half a dozen blows
when the moment to escape should have arrived.
To begin with, he ordered Balbi to purchase himself two or three
dozen pictures of saints, with which to paper his walls, using as
many as might be necessary for a screen to hide the hole he would be
When Balbi wrote that his walls were hung with pictures of saints,
it became a question of conveying the spontoon to him. This was
difficult, and the monk's fatuous suggestions merely served further
to reveal his stupidity. Finally Casanova's wits found the way.
He bade Lorenzo buy him an in-folio edition of the Bible which had
just been published, and it was into the spine of this enormous tome
that he packed the precious spontoon, and thus conveyed it to Balbi,
who immediately got to work.
This was at the commencement of October. On the 8th of that month
Balbi wrote to Casanova that a whole night devoted to labour had
resulted merely in the displacing of a single brick, which so
discouraged the faint-hearted monk that he was for abandoning an
attempt whose only result must be to increase in the future the
rigour of their confinement.
Without hesitation, Casanova replied that he was assured of success
- although he was far from having any grounds for any such
assurance. He enjoined the monk to believe him, and to persevere,
confident that as he advanced he would find progress easier. This
proved, indeed, to be the case, for soon Balbi found the brickwork
yielding so rapidly to his efforts that one morning, a week later,
Casanova heard three light taps above his head - the preconcerted
signal by which they were to assure themselves that their notions
of the topography of the prison were correct.
All that day he heard Balbi at work immediately above him, and again
on the morrow, when Balbi wrote that as the floor was of the
thickness of only two boards, he counted upon completing the job on
the next day, without piercing the ceiling.
But it would seem as if Fortune were intent upon making a mock of
Casanova, luring him to heights of hope, merely to cast him down
again into the depths of despair. Just as upon the eve of breaking
out of his former cell mischance had thwarted him, so now, when
again he deemed himself upon the very threshold of liberty, came
mischance again to thwart him.
Early in the afternoon the sound of bolts being drawn outside froze
his very blood and checked his breathing. Yet he had the presence
of mind to give the double knock that was the agreed alarm signal,
whereupon Balbi instantly desisted from his labours overhead.
Came Lorenzo with two archers, leading an ugly, lean little man of
between forty and fifty years of age, shabbily dressed and wearing
a round black wig, whom the tribunal had ordered should share
Casanova's prison for the present. With apologies for leaving
such a scoundrel in Casanova's company, Lorenzo departed, and the
newcomer went down upon his knees, drew forth a chaplet, and began
to tell his beads.
Casanova surveyed this intruder at once with disgust and despair.
Presently his disgust was increased when the fellow, whose name
was Soradici, frankly avowed himself a spy in the service of the
Council of Ten, a calling which he warmly defended from the contempt
universally - but unjustly, according to himself - meted out to it.
He had been imprisoned for having failed in his duty on one occasion
through succumbing to a bribe.
Conceive Casanova's frame of mind - his uncertainty as to how long
this monster, as he calls him, might be left in his company, his
curbed impatience to regain his liberty, and his consciousness of
the horrible risk of discovery which delay entailed! He wrote
to Balbi that night while the spy slept, and for the present their
operations were suspended. But not for very long. Soon Casanova's
wits resolved how to turn to account the weakness which he
discovered in Soradici.
The spy was devout to the point of bigoted, credulous superstition.
He spent long hours in prayer, and he talked freely of his special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and his ardent faith in miracles.
Casanova - the arch-humbug who had worked magic to delude the
credulous - determined there and then to work a miracle for Soradici.
Assuming an inspired air, he solemnly informed the spy one morning
that it had been revealed to him in a dream that Soradici's devotion
to the Rosary was about to be rewarded; that an angel was to be sent
from heaven to deliver him from prison, and that Casanova himself
would accompany him in his flight.
If Soradici doubted, conviction was soon to follow. For Casanova
foretold the very hour at which the angel would come to break into
the prison, and at that hour precisely - Casanova having warned
Balbi - the noise made by the angel overhead flung Soradici into
an ecstasy of terror.
But when, at the end of four hours, the angel desisted from his
labours, Soradici was beset by doubts. Casanova explained to him
that since angels invariably put on the garb of human flesh when
descending upon earth, they labour under human difficulties. He
added the prophecy that the angel would return on the last day of
the month, the eve of All Saints'- two days later - and that he
would then conduct them out of captivity.
By this means Casanova ensured that no betrayal should be feared
from the thoroughly duped Soradici, who now spent the time in
praying, weeping, and talking of his sins and of the
inexhaustibility of divine grace. To make doubly sure, Casanova
added the most terrible oath that if, by a word to the gaoler,
Soradici should presume to frustrate the divine intentions, he
would immediately strangle him with his own hands.
On October 31st Lorenzo paid his usual daily visit early in the
morning. After his departure they waited some hours, Soradici
in expectant terror, Casanova in sheer impatience to be at work.
Promptly at noon fell heavy blows overhead, and then, in a cloud
of plaster and broken laths, the heavenly messenger descended
clumsily into Casanova's arms.
Soradici found this tall, gaunt, bearded figure, clad in a dirty
shirt and a pair of leather breeches, of a singularly unangelic
appearance; indeed, he looked far more like a devil.
When he produced a pair of scissors, so that the spy might cut
Casanova's beard, which, like the angel's, had grown in captivity,
Soradici ceased to have any illusions on the score of Balbi's
celestial nature. Although still intrigued - since he could not
guess at the secret correspondence that had passed between Casanova
and Balbi - he perceived quite clearly that he had been fooled.
Leaving Soradici in the monk's care, Casanova hoisted himself
through the broken ceiling and gained Balbi's cell, where the sight
of Count Asquino dismayed him. He found a middle-aged man of a
corpulence which must render it impossible for him to face the
athletic difficulties that lay before them; of this the Count
himself seemed already persuaded.
"If you think," was his greeting, as he shook Casanova's hand, "to
break through the roof and find a way down from the leads, I don't
see how you are to succeed without wings. I have not the courage
to accompany you," he added, "I shall remain and pray for you."
Attempting no persuasions where they must have been idle, Casanova
passed out of the cell again, and approaching as nearly as possible
to the edge of the attic, he sat down where he could touch the roof
as it sloped immediately above his head. With his spontoon he
tested the timbers, and found them so decayed that they almost
crumbled at the touch. Assured thereby that the cutting of a hole
would be an easy matter, he at once returned to his cell, and there
he spent the ensuing four hours in preparing ropes. He cut up
sheets, blankets, coverlets, and the very cover of his mattress,
knotting the strips together with the utmost care. In the end he
found himself equipped with some two hundred yards of rope, which
should be ample for any purpose.
Having made a bundle of the fine taffeta suit in which he had been
arrested, his gay cloak of floss silk, some stockings, shirts, and
handkerchiefs, he and Balbi passed up to the other cell, compelling
Soradici to go with them. Leaving the monk to make a parcel of his
belongings, Casanova went to tackle the roof. By dusk he had made
a hole twice as large as was necessary, and had laid bare the lead
sheeting with which the roof was covered. Unable, single-handed,
to raise one of the sheets, he called Balbi to his aid, and between
them, assisted by the spontoon, which Casanova inserted between the
edge of the sheet and the gutter, they at last succeeded in tearing
away the rivets. Then by putting their shoulders to the lead they
bent it upwards until there was room to emerge, and a view of the
sky flooded by the vivid light of the crescent moon.
Not daring in that light to venture upon the roof, where they would
be seen, they must wait with what patience they could until midnight,
when the moon would have set. So they returned to the cell where
they had left Soradici with Count Asquino.
>From Balbi, Casanova had learnt that Asquino, though well supplied
with money, was of an avaricious nature. Nevertheless, since money