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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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other path but that which conduces best to the service of God and to
the advancement of the Holy See, so that the glorious memory of the
deeds that we shall do may efface the shameful recollection of the
deeds we have already done.  Thus shall we, let us hope, leave to
those who follow us a track where upon if they find not the footsteps
of a saint, they may at least tread in the path of a true pontiff.
God, who has furthered the means, claims at our hands the fruits, and
we desire to discharge to the full this mighty debt that we have
incurred to Him; and accordingly we refuse to arouse by any deceit
the stern rigour of His judgments.  One sole hindrance could have
power to shake our good intentions, and that might happen should we
feel too keen an interest in your fortunes.  Therefore are we armed
beforehand against our love, and therefore have we prayed to God
beforehand that we stumble not because of you; for in the path of
favouritism a pope cannot slip without a fall, and cannot fall
without injury and dishonour to the Holy See.  Even to the end of our
life we shall deplore the faults which have brought this experience
home to us; and may it please Gad that our uncle Calixtus of blessed
memory bear not this day in purgatory the burden of our sins, more
heavy, alas, than his own!  Ah, he was rich in every virtue, he was
full of good intentions; but he loved too much his own people, and
among them he loved me chief.  And so he suffered this love to lead
him blindly astray, all this love that he bore to his kindred, who to
him were too truly flesh of his flesh, so that he heaped upon the
heads of a few persons only, and those perhaps the least worthy,
benefits which would more fittingly have rewarded the deserts of
many.  In truth, he bestowed upon our house treasures that should
never have been amassed at the expense of the poor, or else should
have been turned to a better purpose.  He severed from the
ecclesiastical State, already weak and poor, the duchy of Spoleto and
other wealthy properties, that he might make them fiefs to us; he
confided to our weak hands the vice-chancellorship, the vice-
prefecture of Rome, the generalship of the Church, and all the other
most important offices, which, instead of being monopolised by us,
should have been conferred on those who were most meritorious.
Moreover, there were persons who were raised on our recommendation to
posts of great dignity, although they had no claims but such as our
undue partiality accorded them; others were left out with no reason
for their failure except the jealousy excited in us by their virtues.
To rob Ferdinand of Aragon of the kingdom of Naples, Calixtus kindled
a terrible war, which by a happy issue only served to increase our
fortune, and by an unfortunate issue must have brought shame and
disaster upon the Holy See.  Lastly, by allowing himself to be
governed by men who sacrificed public good to their private
interests, he inflicted an injury, not only upon the pontifical
throne and his own reputation, but what is far worse, far more
deadly, upon his own conscience.  And yet, O wise judgments of God!
hard and incessantly though he toiled to establish our fortunes,
scarcely had he left empty that supreme seat which we occupy to-day,
when we were cast down from the pinnacle whereon we had climbed,
abandoned to the fury of the rabble and the vindictive hatred of the
Roman barons, who chose to feel offended by our goodness to their
enemies.  Thus, not only, we tell you, Caesar, not only did we plunge
headlong from the summit of our grandeur, losing the worldly goods
and dignities which our uncle had heaped at our feet, but for very
peril of our life we were condemned to a voluntary exile, we and our
friends, and in this way only did we contrive to escape the storm
which our too good fortune had stirred up against us.  Now this is a
plain proof that God mocks at men's designs when they are bad ones.
How great an error is it for any pope to devote more care to the
welfare of a house, which cannot last more than a few years, than to
the glory of the Church, which will last for ever!  What utter folly
for any public man whose position is not inherited and cannot be
bequeathed to his posterity, to support the edifice of his grandeur
on any other basis than the noblest virtue practised for the general
good, and to suppose that he can ensure the continuance of his own
fortune otherwise than by taking all precautions against sudden
whirlwinds which are want to arise in the midst of a calm, and to
blow up the storm-clouds I mean the host of enemies.  Now any one of
these enemies who does his worst can cause injuries far more powerful
than any help that is at all likely to come from a hundred friends
and their lying promises.  If you and your brothers walk in the path
of virtue which we shall now open for you, every wish of your heart
shall be instantly accomplished; but if you take the other path, if
you have ever hoped that our affection will wink at disorderly life,
then you will very soon find out that we are truly pope, Father of
the Church, not father of the family; that, vicar of Christ as we
are, we shall act as we deem best for Christendom, and not as you
deem best for your own private good.  And now that we have come to a
thorough understanding, Caesar, receive our pontifical blessing."
And with these words, Alexander VI rose up, laid his hands upon his
son's head, for Caesar was still kneeling, and then retired into his
apartments, without inviting him to follow.

The young man remained awhile stupefied at this discourse, so utterly
unexpected, so utterly destructive at one fell blow to his most
cherished hopes.  He rose giddy and staggering like a drunken man,
and at once leaving the Vatican, hurried to his mother, whom he had
forgotten before, but sought now in his despair.  Rosa Vanozza
possessed all the vices and all the virtues of a Spanish courtesan;
her devotion to the Virgin amounted to superstition, her fondness for
her children to weakness, and her love for Roderigo to sensuality.
In the depth of her heart she relied on the influence she had been
able to exercise over him for nearly thirty years; and like a snake,
she knew haw to envelop him in her coils when the fascination of her
glance had lost its power.  Rosa knew of old the profound hypocrisy
of her lover, and thus she was in no difficulty about reassuring

Lucrezia was with her mother when Caesar arrived; the two young
people exchanged a lover-like kiss beneath her very eyes: and before
he left Caesar had made an appointment for the same evening with
Lucrezia, who was now living apart from her husband, to whom Roderigo
paid a pension in her palace of the Via del Pelegrino, opposite the
Campo dei Fiori, and there enjoying perfect liberty.

In the evening, at the hour fixed, Caesar appeared at Lucrezia's; but
he found there his brother Francesco.  The two young men had never
been friends.  Still, as their tastes were very different, hatred
with Francesco was only the fear of the deer for the hunter; but with
Caesar it was the desire for vengeance and that lust for blood which
lurks perpetually in the heart of a tiger.  The two brothers none the
less embraced, one from general kindly feeling, the other from
hypocrisy; but at first sight of one another the sentiment of a
double rivalry, first in their father's and then in their sister's
good graces, had sent the blood mantling to the cheek of Francesco,
and called a deadly pallor into Caesar's.  So the two young men sat
on, each resolved not to be the first to leave, when all at once
there was a knock at the door, and a rival was announced before whom
both of them were bound to give way: it was their father.

Rosa Vanazza was quite right in comforting Caesar.  Indeed, although
Alexander VI had repudiated the abuses of nepotism, he understood
very well the part that was to be played for his benefit by his sons
and his daughter; for he knew he could always count on Lucrezia and
Caesar, if not on Francesco and Goffredo.  In these matters the
sister was quite worthy of her brother.  Lucrezia was wanton in
imagination, godless by nature, ambitious and designing: she had a
craving for pleasure, admiration, honours, money, jewels, gorgeous
stuffs, and magnificent mansions.  A true Spaniard beneath her golden
tresses, a courtesan beneath her frank looks, she carried the head of
a Raphael Madonna, and concealed the heart of a Messalina.  She was
dear to Roderigo both as daughter and as mistress, and he saw himself
reflected in her as in a magic mirror, every passion and every vice.
Lucrezia and Caesar were accordingly the best beloved of his heart,
and the three composed that diabolical trio which for eleven years
occupied the pontifical throne, like a mocking parody of the heavenly

Nothing occurred at first to give the lie to Alexander's professions
of principle in the discourse he addressed to Caesar, and the first
year of his pontificate exceeded all the hopes of Rome at the time of
his election.  He arranged for the provision of stores in the public
granaries with such liberality, that within the memory of man there
had never been such astonishing abundance; and with a view to
extending the general prosperity to the lowest class, he organised
numerous doles to be paid out of his private fortune, which made it
possible for the very poor to participate in the general banquet from
which they had been excluded for long enough.  The safety of the city
was secured, from the very first days of his accession, by the
establishment of a strong and vigilant police force, and a tribunal
consisting of four magistrates of irreproachable character, empowered
to prosecute all nocturnal crimes, which during the last pontificate
had been so common that their very numbers made impunity certain:
these judges from the first showed a severity which neither the rank
nor the purse of the culprit could modify.  This presented such a
great contrast to the corruption of the last reign,--in the course of
which the vice-chamberlain one day remarked in public, when certain

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