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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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ground, but one could only get out of the court by using an exit
reserved for the governor, of which he alone had the key; also this
key never left him; by day it hung at his waist, by night it was
under his pillow: this then was the chief difficulty.

But prisoner though he was, Caesar had always been treated with the
respect due to his name and rank: every day at the dinner-hour he was
conducted from the room that served as his prison to the governor,
who did the honours of the table in a grand and courteous fashion.
The fact was that Dan Manuel had served with honour under King
Ferdinand, and therefore, while he guarded Caesar rigorously,
according to orders, he had a great respect for so brave a general,
and took pleasure in listening to the accounts of his battles.  So he
had often insisted that Caesar should not only dine but also
breakfast with him; happily the prisoner, yielding perhaps to some
presentiment, had till now refused this favour.  This was of great
advantage to him, since, thanks to his solitude, he had been able to
receive the instruments of escape sent by Michelotto.  The same day
he received them, Caesar, on going back to his room, made a false
step and sprained his foot; at the dinner-hour he tried to go down,
but he pretended to be suffering so cruelly that he gave it up.  The
governor came to see him in his room, and found him stretched upon
the bed.

The day after, he was no better; the governor had his dinner sent in,
and came to see him, as on the night before; he found his prisoner so
dejected and gloomy in his solitude that he offered to come and sup
with him: Caesar gratefully accepted.

This time it was the prisoner who did the honours: Caesar was
charmingly courteous; the governor thought he would profit by this
lack of restraint to put to him certain questions as to the manner of
his arrest, and asked him as an Old Castilian, for whom honour is
still of some account, what the truth really was as to Gonzalvo's and
Ferdinand's breach of faith, with him.  Caesar appeared extremely
inclined to give him his entire confidence, but showed by a sign that
the attendants were in the way.  This precaution appeared quite
natural, and the governor took no offense, but hastened to send them
all away, so as to be sooner alone with his companion.  When the door
was shut, Caesar filled his glass and the governor's, proposing the
king's health: the governor honoured the toast: Caesar at once began
his tale; but he had scarcely uttered a third part of it when,
interesting as it was, the eyes of his host shut as though by magic,
and he slid under the table in a profound sleep.

After half a hour had passed, the servants, hearing no noise, entered
and found the two, one on the table, the other under it: this event
was not so extraordinary that they paid any great attention to it:
all they did was to carry Don Manuel to his room and lift Caesar on
the bed; then they put away the remnant of the meal for the next
day's supper, shut the door very carefully, and left their prisoner
alone.

Caesar stayed for a minute motionless and apparently plunged in the
deepest sleep; but when he had heard the steps retreating, he quietly
raised his head, opened his eyes, slipped off the bed, walked to the
door, slowly indeed, but not to all appearance feeling the accident
of the night before, and applied his ear for some minutes to the
keyhole; then lifting his head with an expression of indescribable
pride, he wiped his brow with his hand, and for the first time since
his guards went out, breathed freely with full-drawn breaths.

There was no time to lose: his first care was to shut the door as
securely on the inside as it was already shut on the outside, to blow
out the lamp, to open the window, and to finish sawing through the
bar.  When this was done, he undid the bandages on his leg, took down
the window and bed curtains, tore them into strips, joined the
sheets, table napkins and cloth, and with all these things tied
together end to end, formed a rope fifty or sixty feet long, with
knots every here and there.  This rope he fixed securely to the bar
next to the one he had just cut through; then he climbed up to the
window and began what was really the hardest part of his perilous
enterprise, clinging with hands and feet to this fragile support.
Luckily he was both strong and skilful, and he went down the whole
length of the rope without accident; but when he reached the end and
was hanging on the last knot, he sought in vain to touch the ground
with his feet; his rope was too short.

The situation was a terrible one: the darkness of the night prevented
the fugitive from seeing how far off he was from the ground, and his
fatigue prevented him from even attempting to climb up again.  Caesar
put up a brief prayer, whether to Gad or Satan he alone could say;
then letting go the rope, he dropped from a height of twelve or
fifteen feet.

The danger was too great for the fugitive to trouble about a few
trifling contusions: he at once rose, and guiding himself by the
direction of his window, he went straight to the little door of exit;
he then put his hand into the pocket of his doublet, and a cold sweat
damped his brow; either he had forgotten and left it in his room or
had lost it in his fall; anyhow, he had not the key.

But summoning his recollections, he quite gave up the first idea for
the second, which was the only likely one: again he crossed the
court, looking for the place where the key might have fallen, by the
aid of the wall round a tank on which he had laid his hand when he
got up; but the object of search was so small and the night so dark
that there was little chance of getting any result; still Caesar
sought for it, for in this key was his last hope: suddenly a door was
opened, and a night watch appeared, preceded by two torches.  Caesar
far the moment thought he was lost, but remembering the tank behind
him, he dropped into it, and with nothing but his head above water
anxiously watched the movements of the soldiers, as they advanced
beside him, passed only a few feet away, crossed the court, and then
disappeared by an opposite door.  But short as their luminous
apparition had been, it had lighted up the ground, and Caesar by the
glare of the torches had caught the glitter of the long-sought key,
and as soon as the door was shut behind the men, was again master of
his liberty.

Half-way between the castle and the village two cavaliers and a led
horse were waiting for him: the two men were Michelotto and the Count
of Benevento.  Caesar sprang upon the riderless horse, pressed with
fervour the hand of the count and the sbirro; then all three galloped
to the frontier of Navarre, where they arrived three days later, and
were honourably received by the king, Jean d'Albret, the brother of
Caesar's wife.

>From Navarre he thought to pass into France, and from France to make
an attempt upon Italy, with the aid of Louis XII; but during Caesar's
detention in the castle of Medina del Campo, Louis had made peace
with the King of Spain; and when he heard of Caesar's flight; instead
of helping him, as there was some reason to expect he would, since he
was a relative by marriage, he took away the duchy of Valentinois and
also his pension.  Still, Caesar had nearly 200,000 ducats in the
charge of bankers at Genoa; he wrote asking for this sum, with which
he hoped to levy troops in Spain and in Navarre, and make an attempt
upon Pisa: 500 men, 200,000 ducats, his name and his word were more
than enough to save him from despair.

The bankers denied the deposit.

Caesar was at the mercy of his brother-in-law.

One of the vassals of the King of Navarre, named Prince Alarino, had
just then revolted: Caesar then took command of the army which Jean
d'Albret was sending out against him, followed by Michelotto, who was
as faithful in adversity as ever before.  Thanks to Caesar's courage
and skilful tactics, Prince Alarino was beaten in a first encounter;
but the day after his defeat he rallied his army, and offered battle
about three o'clock in the afternoon.  Caesar accepted it.

For nearly four hours they fought obstinately on both sides; but at
length, as the day was going down, Caesar proposed to decide the
issue by making a charge himself, at the head of a hundred men-at-
arms, upon a body of cavalry which made his adversary's chief force.
To his great astonishment, this cavalry at the first shock gave way
and took flight in the direction of a little wood, where they seemed
to be seeking refuge.  Caesar followed close on their heels up to the
edge of the forest; then suddenly the pursued turned right about
face, three or four hundred archers came out of the wood to help
them, and Caesar's men, seeing that they had fallen into an ambush,
took to their heels like cowards, and abandoned their leader.

Left alone, Caesar would not budge one step; possibly he had had
enough of life, and his heroism was rather the result of satiety than
courage: however that may be, he defended himself like a lion; but,
riddled with arrows and bolts, his horse at last fell, with Caesar's
leg under him.  His adversaries rushed upon him, and one of them
thrusting a sharp and slender iron pike through a weak place in his
armour, pierced his breast; Caesar cursed God and died.

But the rest of the enemy's army was defeated, thanks to the courage
of Michelotto, who fought like a valiant condottiere, but learned, on
returning to the camp in the evening, from those who had fled; that
they had abandoned Caesar and that he had never reappeared.  Then
only too certain, from his master's well-known courage, that disaster
had occurred, he desired to give one last proof of his devotion by
not leaving his body to the wolves and birds of prey.  Torches were
lighted, for it was dark, and with ten or twelve of those who had
gone with Caesar as far as the little wood, he went to seek his
master.  On reaching the spot they pointed out, he beheld five men
stretched side by side; four of them were dressed, but the fifth had
been stripped of his clothing and lay completely naked.  Michelotto

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