List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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of towns opened of themselves at his approach, his enemies fled
without waiting for his coming, and before he had fought a single
battle he had won for himself the surname of Conqueror.

The day after at dawn the army started once more, and after marching
the whole day, stopped in the evening at Velletri.  There the king,
who had been on horseback since the morning, with Cardinal Valentine
and D'jem, left the former at his lodging, and taking D'jem with him,
went on to his own.  Then Caesar Borgia, who among the army baggage
had twenty very heavy waggons of his own, had one of these opened,
took out a splendid cabinet with the silver necessary for his table,
and gave orders for his supper to be prepared, as he had done the
night before.  Meanwhile, night had come on, and he shut himself up
in a private chamber, where, stripping off his cardinal's costume, he
put on a groom's dress.  Thanks to this disguise, he issued from the
house that had been assigned for his accommodation without being
recognised, traversed the streets, passed through the gates, and
gained the open country.  Nearly half a league outside the town, a
servant awaited him with two swift horses.  Caesar, who was an
excellent rider, sprang to the saddle, and he and his companion at
full gallop retraced the road to Rome, where they arrived at break of
day.  Caesar got down at the house of one Flores, auditor of the
rota, where he procured a fresh horse and suitable clothes; then he
flew at once to his mother, who gave a cry of joy when she saw him;
for so silent and mysterious was the cardinal for all the world
beside, and even for her, that he had not said a word of his early
return to Rome.  The cry of joy uttered by Rosa Vanozza when she
beheld her son was far mare a cry of vengeance than of love.  One
evening, while everybody was at the rejoicings in the Vatican, when
Charles VIII and Alexander VI were swearing a friendship which
neither of them felt, and exchanging oaths that were broken
beforehand, a messenger from Rosa Vanozza had arrived with a letter
to Caesar, in which she begged him to come at once to her house in
the Via delta Longara.  Caesar questioned the messenger, but he only
replied that he could tell him nothing, that he would learn all he
cared to know from his mother's own lips.  So, as soon as he was at
liberty, Caesar, in layman's dress and wrapped in a large cloak,
quitted the Vatican and made his way towards the church of Regina
Coeli, in the neighbourhood of which, it will be remembered, was the
house where the pope's mistress lived.

As he approached his mother's house, Caesar began to observe the
signs of strange devastation.  The street was scattered with the
wreck of furniture and strips of precious stuffs.  As he arrived at
the foot of the little flight of steps that led to the entrance gate,
he saw that the windows were broken and the remains of torn curtains
were fluttering in front of them.  Not understanding what this
disorder could mean, he rushed into the house and through several
deserted and wrecked apartments.  At last, seeing light in one of the
rooms, he went in, and there found his mother sitting on the remains
of a chest made of ebony all inlaid with ivory and silver.  When she
saw Caesar, she rose, pale and dishevelled, and pointing to the
desolation around her, exclaimed:

"Look, Caesar; behold the work of your new friends."

"But what does it mean, mother?" asked the cardinal.  "Whence comes
all this disorder?"

"From the serpent," replied Rosa Vanozza, gnashing her teeth,--"from
the serpent you have warmed in your bosom.  He has bitten me, fearing
no doubt that his teeth would be broken on you."

"Who has done this?" cried Caesar.  "Tell me, and, by Heaven, mother,
he shall pay, and pay indeed!"

"Who?" replied Rosa.  "King Charles VIII has done it, by the hands of
his faithful allies, the Swiss.  It was well known that Melchior was
away, and that I was living alone with a few wretched servants; so
they came and broke in the doors, as though they were taking Rome by
storm, and while Cardinal Valentino was making holiday with their
master, they pillaged his mother's house, loading her with insults
and outrages which no Turks or Saracens could possibly have improved

"Very good, very good, mother," said Caesar; "be calm; blood shall
wash out disgrace.  Consider a moment; what we have lost is nothing
compared with what we might lose; and my father and I, you may be
quite sure, will give you back more than they have stolen from you."

"I ask for no promises," cried Rosa; "I ask for revenge."

"My mother," said the cardinal, "you shall be avenged, or I will lose
the name of son."

Having by these words reassured his mother, he took her to Lucrezia's
palace, which in consequence of her marriage with Pesaro was
unoccupied, and himself returned to the Vatican, giving orders that
his mother's house should be refurnished more magnificently than
before the disaster.  These orders were punctually executed, and it
was among her new luxurious surroundings, but with the same hatred in
her heart, that Caesar on this occasion found his mother.  This
feeling prompted her cry of joy when she saw him once more.

The mother and son exchanged a very few words; then Caesar, mounting
on horseback, went to the Vatican, whence as a hostage he had
departed two days before.  Alexander, who knew of the flight
beforehand, and not only approved, but as sovereign pontiff had
previously absolved his son of the perjury he was about to commit,
received him joyfully, but all the same advised him to lie concealed,
as Charles in all probability would not be slow to reclaim his

Indeed, the next day, when the king got up, the absence of Cardinal
Valentino was observed, and as Charles was uneasy at not seeing him,
he sent to inquire what had prevented his appearance.  When the
messenger arrived at the house that Caesar had left the evening
before, he learned that he had gone out at nine o'clock in the
evening and not returned since.  He went back with this news to the
king, who at once suspected that he had fled, and in the first flush
of his anger let the whole army know of his perjury.  The soldiers
then remembered the twenty waggons, so heavily laden, from one of
which the cardinal, in the sight of all, had produced such
magnificent gold and silver plate; and never doubting that the cargo
of the others was equally precious, they fetched them down and broke
them to pieces; but inside they found nothing but stones and sand,
which proved to the king that the flight had been planned a long time
back, and incensed him doubly against the pope.  So without loss of
time he despatched to Rome Philippe de Bresse, afterwards Duke of
Savoy, with orders to intimate to the Holy Father his displeasure at
this conduct.  But the pope replied that he knew nothing whatever
about his son's flight, and expressed the sincerest regret to His
Majesty, declaring that he knew nothing of his whereabouts, but was
certain that he was not in Rome.  As a fact, the pope was speaking
the truth this time, for Caesar had gone with Cardinal Orsino to one
of his estates, and was temporarily in hiding there.  This reply was
conveyed to Charles by two messengers from the pope, the Bishops of
Nepi and of Sutri, and the people also sent an ambassador in their
own behalf.  He was Monsignore Porcari, dean of the rota, who was
charged to communicate to the king the displeasure of the Romans when
they learned of the cardinal's breach of faith.  Little as Charles
was disposed to content himself with empty words, he had to turn his
attention to mare serious affairs; so he continued his march to
Naples without stopping, arriving there on Sunday, the 22nd of
February, 1495.

Four days later, the unlucky D'jem, who had fallen sick at Capua died
at Castel Nuovo.  When he was leaving, at the farewell banquet,
Alexander had tried on his guest the poison he intended to use so
often later on upon his cardinals, and whose effects he was destined
to feel himself,--such is poetical justice.  In this way the pope had
secured a double haul; for, in his twofold speculation in this
wretched young man, he had sold him alive to Charles for 120,000
livres and sold him dead to Bajazet for 300,00 ducats....

But there was a certain delay about the second payment; for the
Turkish emperor, as we remember, was not bound to pay the price of
fratricide till he received the corpse, and by Charles's order the
corpse had been buried at Gaeta.

When Caesar Borgia learned the news, he rightly supposed that the
king would be so busy settling himself in his new capital that he
would have too much to think of to be worrying about him; so he went
to Rome again, and, anxious to keep his promise to his mother, he
signalised his return by a terrible vengeance.

Cardinal Valentino had in his service a certain Spaniard whom he had
made the chief of his bravoes; he was a man of five-and-thirty or
forty, whose whole life had been one long rebellion against society's
laws; he recoiled from no action, provided only he could get his
price.  This Don Michele Correglia, who earned his celebrity for
bloody deeds under the name of Michelotto, was just the man Caesar
wanted; and whereas Michelotto felt an unbounded admiration for
Caesar, Caesar had unlimited confidence in Michelotto.  It was to him
the cardinal entrusted the execution of one part of his vengeance;
the other he kept for himself.

Don Michele received orders to scour the Campagna and cut every
French throat he could find.  He began his work at once; and very few
days elapsed before he had obtained most satisfactory results: more
than a hundred persons were robbed or assassinated, and among the
last the son of Cardinal de St. Malo, who was en his way back to
France, and on whom Michelotto found a sum of 3000 crowns.

For himself, Caesar reserved the Swiss; for it was the Swiss in
particular who had despoiled his mother's house.  The pope had in his
service about a hundred and fifty soldiers belonging to their nation,

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