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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"What does that matter, if it comes all the same?  Besides, you know
the proverb; mother: 'Large families are blessed of the Lord'; and
still more so our family, which is so patriarchal."

At the same time she cast on her brother a look so wanton that the 
young man blushed under it: but as at the moment he had to think of
other things than his illicit loves, he ordered that four servants
should be awakened; and while they were getting armed to accompany
him, he drew up and signed the six deeds of gift which were to be
carried the next day to the cardinals; for, not wishing to be seen at
their houses, he thought he would profit by the night-time to carry
them himself to certain persons in his confidence who would have them
passed in, as had been arranged, at the dinner-hour.  Then, when the
deeds were quite ready and the servants also, Francesco went out with
them, leaving the two women to dream golden dreams of their future

>From the first dawn of day the people hurried anew, as ardent and
interested as on the evening before, to the Piazza of the Vatican,
where; at the ordinary time, that is, at ten o'clock in the morning,
--the smoke rose again as usual, evoking laughter and murmuring, as
it announced that none of the cardinals had secured the majority.  A
report, however, began to be spread about that the chances were
divided between three candidates, who were Roderigo Borgia, Giuliano
delta Rovera, and Ascanio Sforza; for the people as yet knew nothing
of the four mules laden with plate and silver which had been led to
Sforza's house, by reason of which he had given up his own votes to
his rival.  In the midst of the agitation excited in the crowd by
this new report a solemn chanting was heard; it proceeded from a
procession, led by the Cardinal Camerlengo, with the object of
obtaining from Heaven the speedy election of a pope: this procession,
starting from the church of Ara Coeli at the Capitol, was to make
stations before the principal Madannas and the most frequented
churches.  As soon as the silver crucifix was perceived which went in
front, the most profound silence prevailed, and everyone fell on his
knees; thus a supreme calm followed the tumult and uproar which had
been heard a few minutes before, and which at each appearance of the
smoke had assumed a more threatening character: there was a shrewd
suspicion that the procession, as well as having a religious end in
view, had a political object also, and that its influence was
intended to be as great on earth as in heaven.  In any case, if such
had been the design of the Cardinal Camerlengo, he had not deceived
himself, and the effect was what he desired: when the procession had
gone past, the laughing and joking continued, but the cries and
threats had completely ceased.

The whole day passed thus; for in Rome nobody works.  You are either
a cardinal or a lacquey, and you live, nobody knows how.  The crowd
was still extremely numerous, when, towards two o'clock in the
afternoon, another procession, which had quite as much power of
provoking noise as the first of imposing silence, traversed in its
turn the Piazza of St. Peter's: this was the dinner procession.  The
people received it with the usual bursts of laughter, without
suspecting, for all their irreverence, that this procession, more
efficacious than the former, had just settled the election of the new

The hour of the Ave Maria came as on the evening before; but, as on
the evening before, the waiting of the whole day was lost; for, as
half-past eight struck, the daily smoke reappeared at the top of the
chimney.  But when at the same moment rumours which came from the
inside of the Vatican were spread abroad, announcing that, in all
probability, the election would take place the next day, the good
people preserved their patience.  Besides, it had been very hot that
day, and they were so broken with fatigue and roasted by the sun,
these dwellers in shade and idleness, that they had no strength left
to complain.

The morning of the next day, which was the 11th of August, 1492,
arose stormy and dark; this did not hinder the multitude from
thronging the piazzas, streets, doors, houses, churches.  Moreover,
this disposition of the weather was a real blessing from Heaven; for
if there were heat, at least there would be no sun.  Towards nine
o'clock threatening storm-clouds were heaped up over all the
Trastevere; but to this crowd what mattered rain, lightning, or
thunder?  They were preoccupied with a concern of a very different
nature; they were waiting for their pope: a promise had been made
them for to-day, and it could be seen by the manner of all, that if
the day should pass without any election taking place, the end of it
might very well be a riot; therefore, in proportion as the time
advanced, the agitation grew greater.  Nine o'clock, half-past nine,
a quarter to ten struck, without anything happening to confirm or
destroy their hopes.  At last the first stroke of ten was heard; all
eyes turned towards the chimney: ten o'clock struck slowly, each
stroke vibrating in the heart of the multitude.  At last the tenth
stroke trembled, then vanished shuddering into space, and, a great
cry breaking simultaneously frog a hundred thousand breasts followed
the silence "Non v'e fumo!  There is no smoke!" In other words, "We
have a pope."

At this moment the rain began to fall; but no one paid any attention
to it, so great were the transports of joy and impatience among all
the people.  At last a little stone was detached from the walled
window which gave on the balcony and upon which all eyes were fixed:
a general shout saluted its fall; little by little the aperture grew
larger, and in a few minutes it was large enough to allow a man to
come out on the balcony.

The Cardinal Ascanio Sforza appeared; but at the moment when he was
on the point of coming out, frightened by the rain and the lightning,
he hesitated an instant, and finally drew back: immediately the
multitude in their turn broke out like a tempest into cries, curses,
howls, threatening to tear down the Vatican and to go and seek their
pope themselves.  At this noise Cardinal Sforza, more terrified by
the popular storm than by the storm in the heavens, advanced on the
balcony, and between two thunderclaps, in a moment of silence
astonishing to anyone who had just heard the clamour that went
before, made the following proclamation:

"I announce to you a great joy: the most Eminent and most Reverend
Signor Roderigo Lenzuolo Borgia, Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal-
Deacon of San Nicolao-in-Carcere, Vice-Chancellor of the Church, has
now been elected Page, and has assumed the name of Alexander VI."

The news of this nomination was received with strange joy.  Roderigo
Borgia had the reputation of a dissolute man, it is true, but
libertinism had mounted the throne with Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII,
so that for the Romans there was nothing new in the singular
situation of a pope with a mistress and five children.  The great
thing for the moment was that the power fell into strong hands; and
it was more important for the tranquillity of Rome that the new pope
inherited the sword of St. Paul than that he inherited the keys of
St. Peter.

And so, in the feasts that were given on this occasion, the dominant
character was much more warlike than religious, and would have
appeared rather to suit with the election of some young conqueror
than the exaltation of an old pontiff: there was no limit to the
pleasantries and prophetic epigrams on the name of Alexander, which
for the second time seemed to promise the Romans the empire of the
world; and the same evening, in the midst of brilliant illuminations
and bonfires, which seemed to turn the town into a lake of flame, the
following epigram was read, amid the acclamation of the people:

    "Rome under Caesar's rule in ancient story
     At home and o'er the world victorious trod;
     But Alexander still extends his glory:
     Caesar was man, but Alexander God."

As to the new pope, scarcely had he completed the formalities of
etiquette which his exaltation imposed upon him, and paid to each man
the price of his simony, when from the height of the Vatican he cast
his eyes upon Europe, a vast political game of chess, which he
cherished the hope of directing at the will of his own genius.


The world had now arrived at one of those supreme moments of history
when every thing is transformed between the end of one period and the
beginning of another: in the East Turkey, in the South Spain, in the
West France, and in the North German, all were going to assume,
together with the title of great Powers, that influence which they
were destined to exert in the future over the secondary States.
Accordingly we too, with Alexander VI, will cast a rapid glance over
them, and see what were their respective situations in regard to
Italy, which they all coveted as a prize.

Constantine, Palaeologos Dragozes, besieged by three hundred thousand
Turks, after having appealed in vain for aid to the whole of
Christendom, had not been willing to survive the loss of his empire,
and had been found in the midst of the dead, close to the Tophana
Gate; and on the 30th of May, 1453, Mahomet II had made his entry
into Constantinople, where, after a reign which had earned for him
the surname of 'Fatile', or the Conqueror, he had died leaving two
sons, the elder of whom had ascended the throne under the name of
Bajazet II.

The accession of the new sultan, however, had not taken place with
the tranquillity which his right as elder brother and his father's
choice of him should have promised.  His younger brother, D'jem,
better known under the name of Zizimeh, had argued that whereas he
was born in the purple--that is, born during the reign of Mahomet--
Bajazet was born prior to his epoch, and was therefore the son of a
private individual.  This was rather a poor trick; but where force is
all and right is naught, it was good enough to stir up a war.  The
two brothers, each at the head of an army, met accordingly in Asia in

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