List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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that of a father, the recompense would be that of a king.  In fact,
this recompense would be no less than the honour of assisting as
envoy, with the title of cardinal, at the marriage of Lucrezia and
Alfonso--a favour which would be very appropriate, since it would be
thanks to his devotion that the marriage could take place.

The Archbishop of Cosenza knew the men he was dealing with; he knew
that to save their own ends they would hesitate at nothing; he knew
they had a poison like sugar to the taste and to the smell,
impossible to discover in food--a poison that would kill slowly or
quickly as the poisoner willed and would leave no trace behind; he
knew the secret of the poisoned key that lay always on the pope's
mantelpiece, so that when His Holiness wished to destroy some one of
his intimates, he bade him open a certain cupboard: on the handle of
the key there was a little spike, and as the lock of the cupboard
turned stiffly the hand would naturally press, the lock would yield,
and nothing would have come of it but a trifling scratch: the scratch
was mortal.  He knew, too, that Caesar wore a ring made like two
lions' heads, and that he would turn the stone on the inside when he
was shaking hands with a friend.  Then the lions' teeth became the
teeth of a viper, and the friend died cursing Borgia.  So he yielded,
partly through fear, partly blinded by the thought of the reward; and
Caesar returned to the Vatican armed with a precious paper, in which
the Archbishop of Cosenza admitted that he was the only person
responsible for the dispensation granted to the royal nun.

Two days later, by means of the proofs kindly furnished by the
archbishop, the pope; in the presence of the governor of Rome, the
auditor of the apostolic chamber, the advocate, and the fiscal
attorney, pronounced sentence, condemning the archbishop to the loss
of all his benefices and ecclesiastical offices, degradation from his
orders, and confiscation of his goods; his person was to be handed
over to the civil arm.  Two days later the civil magistrate entered
the prison to fulfil his office as received from the pope, and
appeared before the archbishop, accompanied by a clerk, two servants,
and four guards.  The clerk unrolled the paper he carried and read
out the sentence; the two servants untied a packet, and, stripping
the prisoner of his ecclesiastical garments, they reclothed him in a
dress of coarse white cloth which only reached down to his knees,
breeches of the same, and a ' pair of clumsy shoes.  Lastly, the
guards took him, and led him into one of the deepest dungeons of the
castle of Sant' Angelo, where for furniture he found nothing but a
wooden crucifix, a table, a chair, and a bed; for occupation, a Bible
and a breviary, with a lamp to read by; for nourishment, two pounds
of bread and a little cask of water, which were to be renewed every
three days, together with a bottle of oil for burning in his lamp.

At the end of a year the poor archbishop died of despair, not before
he had gnawed his own arms in his agony.

The very same day that he was taken into the dungeon, Caesar Borgia,
who had managed the affair so ably, was presented by the pope with
all the belongings of the condemned prisoner.

But the hunting parties, balls, and masquerades were not the only
pleasures enjoyed by the pope and his family: from time to time
strange spectacles were exhibited.  We will only describe two--one of
them a case of punishment, the other no more nor less than a matter
of the stud farm.  But as both of these give details with which we
would not have our readers credit our imagination, we will first say
that they are literally translated from Burchard's Latin journal.

"About the same time--that is, about the beginning of 1499--a certain
courtesan named La Corsetta was in prison, and had a lover who came
to visit her in woman's clothes, a Spanish Moor, called from his
disguise 'the Spanish lady from Barbary!'  As a punishment, both of
them were led through the town, the woman without petticoat or skirt,
but wearing only the Moor's dress unbuttoned in front; the man wore
his woman's garb; his hands were tied behind his back, and the skirt
fastened up to his middle, with a view to complete exposure before
the eyes of all.  When in this attire they had made the circuit of
the town, the Corsetta was sent back to the prison with the Moor.
But on the 7th of April following, the Moor was again taken out and
escorted in the company of two thieves towards the Campo dei Fiori.
The three condemned men were preceded by a constable, who rode
backwards on an ass, and held in his hand a long pole, on the end of
which were hung, still bleeding, the amputated limbs of a poor Jew
who had suffered torture and death for some trifling crime.  When the
procession reached the place of execution, the thieves were hanged,
and the unfortunate Moor was tied to a stake piled round with wood,
where he was to have been burnt to death, had not rain fallen in such
torrents that the fire would not burn, in spite of all the efforts of
the executioner."

This unlooked for accident, taken as a miracle by the people, robbed
Lucrezia of the most exciting part of the execution; but her father
was holding in reserve another kind of spectacle to console her with
later.  We inform the reader once more that a few lines we are about
to set before him are a translation from the journal of the worthy
German Burchard, who saw nothing in the bloodiest or most wanton
performances but facts for his journal, which he duly registered with
the impassibility of a scribe, appending no remark or moral

"On the 11th of November a certain peasant was entering Rome with two
stallions laden with wood, when the servants of His Holiness, just as
he passed the Piazza of St. Peter's, cut their girths, so that their
loads fell on the ground with the pack-saddles, and led off the
horses to a court between the palace and the gate; then the stable
doors were opened, and four stallions, quite free and unbridled,
rushed out and in an instant all six animals began kicking, biting
and fighting each other until several were killed.  Roderigo and
Madame Lucrezia, who sat at the window just over the palace gate,
took the greatest delight in the struggle and called their courtiers
to witness the gallant battle that was being fought below them.

Now Caesar's trick in the matter of the Archbishop of Cosenza had had
the desired result, and Isabella and Ferdinand could no longer impute
to Alexander the signature of the brief they had complained of: so
nothing was now in the way of the marriage of Lucrezia and Alfonso;
this certainty gave the pope great joy, for he attached all the more
importance to this marriage because he was already cogitating a
second, between Caesar and Dona Carlota, Frederic's daughter.

Caesar had shown in all his actions since his brother's death his
want of vocation for the ecclesiastical life; so no one was
astonished when, a consistory having been summoned one morning by
Alexander, Caesar entered, and addressing the pope, began by saying
that from his earliest years he had been drawn towards secular
pursuits both by natural inclination and ability, and it had only
been in obedience to the absolute commands of His Holiness that he
entered the Church, accepted the cardinal's scarlet, other dignities,
and finally the sacred order of the diaconate; but feeling that in
his situation it was improper to follow his passions, and at his age
impossible to resist them, he humbly entreated His Holiness
graciously to yield to the desire he had failed to overcome, and to
permit him to lay aside the dress and dignities of the Church, and
enter once more into the world, thereto contract a lawful marriage;
also he entreated the lord cardinals to intercede for him with His
Holiness, to whom he would freely resign all his churches, abbeys,
and benefices, as well as every other ecclesiastical dignity and
preferment that had been accorded him.  The cardinals, deferring to
Caesar's wishes, gave a unanimous vote, and the pope, as we may
suppose, like a good father, not wishing to force his son's
inclinations, accepted his resignation, and yielded to the petition;
thus Caesar put off the scarlet robe, which was suited to him, says
his historian Tommaso Tommasi, in one particular only--that it was
the colour of blood.

In truth, the resignation was a pressing necessity, and there was no
time to lose.  Charles VIII one day after he had came home late and
tired from the hunting-field, had bathed his head in cold water; and
going straight to table, had been struck dawn by an apoplectic
seizure directly after his supper; and was dead, leaving the throne
to the good Louis XII, a man of two conspicuous weaknesses, one as
deplorable as the other: the first was the wish to make conquests;
the second was the desire to have children.  Alexander, who was on
the watch far all political changes, had seen in a moment what he
could get from Louis XII's accession to the throne, and was prepared
to profit by the fact that the new king of France needed his help for
the accomplishment of his twofold desire.  Louis needed, first, his
temporal aid in an expedition against the duchy of Milan, on which,
as we explained before, he had inherited claims from Valentina
Visconti, his grandmother; and, secondly, his spiritual aid to
dissolve his marriage with Jeanne, the daughter of Louis XI; a
childless and hideously deformed woman, whom he had only married by
reason of the great fear he entertained far her father.  Now
Alexander was willing to do all this far Louis XII and to give in
addition a cardinal's hat to his friend George d'Amboise, provided
only that the King of France would use his influence in persuading
the young Dona Carlota, who was at his court, to marry his son

So, as this business was already far advanced on the day when Caesar
doffed his scarlet and donned a secular garb, thus fulfilling the
ambition so long cherished, when the lord of Villeneuve, sent by
Louis and commissioned to bring Caesar to France, presented himself

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