List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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Ludovico should cross the Tesino and attack Novarra.

There besiegers and besieged were sons of the same nation; for Yves
d'Alegre had scarcely as many as 300 French with him, and Ludovico
500 Italians.  In fact, for the last sixteen years the Swiss had been
practically the only infantry in Europe, and all the Powers came,
purse in hand, to draw from the mighty reservoir of their mountains.
The consequence was that these rude children of William Tell, put up
to auction by the nations, and carried away from the humble, hardy
life of a mountain people into cities of wealth and pleasure, had
lost, not their ancient courage, but that rigidity of principle for
which they had been distinguished before their intercourse with other
nations.  From being models of honour and good faith they had become
a kind of marketable ware, always ready for sale to the highest
bidder.  The French were the first to experience this venality, which
later-on proved so fatal to Ludovico Sforza.

Now the Swiss in the garrison at Novarra had been in communication
with their compatriots in the vanguard of the ducal army, and when
they found that they, who as a fact were unaware that Ludavico's
treasure was nearly exhausted, were better fed as well as better paid
than themselves, they offered to give up the town and go over to the
Milanese, if they could be certain of the same pay.  Ludovico, as we
may well suppose, closed with this bargain.  The whole of Novarra was
given up to him except the citadel, which was defended by Frenchmen:
thus the enemy's army was recruited by 3000 men.  Then Ludovico made
the mistake of stopping to besiege the castle instead of marching on
to Mortara with the new reinforcement.  The result of this was that
Louis XII, to whom runners had been sent by Trivulce, understanding
his perilous position, hastened the departure of the French
gendarmerie who were already collected to cross into Italy, sent off
the bailiff of Dijon to levy new Swiss forces, and ordered Cardinal
Amboise, his prime minister, to cross the Alps and take up a position
at Asti, to hurry on the work of collecting the troops.  There the
cardinal found a nest-egg of 3000 men.  La Trimouille added 1500
lances and 6000 French infantry; finally, the bailiff of Dijon
arrived with 10,000 Swiss; so that, counting the troops which
Trivulce had at Mortara, Louis XII found himself master on the other
side of the Alps of the first army any French king had ever led out
to battle.  Soon, by good marching, and before Ludovico knew the
strength or even the existence of this army, it took up a position
between Novarra and Milan, cutting off all communication between the
duke and his capital.  He was therefore compelled, in spite of his
inferior numbers, to prepare for a pitched battle.

But it so happened that just when the preparations for a decisive
engagement were being made on both sides, the Swiss Diet, learning
that the sons of Helvetia were on the paint of cutting one another's
throats, sent orders to all the Swiss serving in either army to break
their engagements and return to the fatherland.  But during the two
months that had passed between the surrender of Novarra and the
arrival of the French army before the town, there had been a very
great change in the face of things, because Ludovico Sforza's
treasure was now exhausted.  New confabulations had gone on between
the outposts, and this time, thanks to the money sent by Louis XII,
it was the Swiss in the service of France who were found to be the
better fed and better paid.  The worthy Helvetians, since they no
longer fought far their own liberty, knew the value of their blood
too well to allow a single drop of it to be spilled for less than its
weight in gold: the result was that, as they had, betrayed Yves
d'Alegre, they resolved to betray Ludovico Sforza too; and while the
recruits brought in by the bailiff of Dijon were standing firmly by
the French flag, careless of the order of the Diet, Ludovico's auxili
aries declared that in fighting against their Swiss brethren they
would be acting in disobedience to the Diet, and would risk capital
punishment in the end--a danger that nothing would induce them to
incur unless they immediately received the arrears of their pay.  The
duke, who a spent the last ducat he had with him, and was entirely
cut off from his capital, knew that he could not get money till he
had fought his way through to it, and therefore invited the Swiss to
make one last effort, promising them not only the pay that was in
arrears but a double hire.  But unluckily the fulfilment of this
promise was dependent on the doubtful issue of a battle, and the
Swiss replied that they had far too much respect for their country to
disobey its decree, and that they loved their brothers far too well
to consent to shed their blood without reward; and therefore Sforza
would do well not to count upon them, since indeed the very next day
they proposed to return to their homes.  The duke then saw that all
was lost, but he made a last appeal to their honour, adjuring them at
least to ensure his personal safety by making it a condition of
capitulation.  But they replied that even if a condition of such a
kind, would not make capitulation impossible, it would certainly
deprive them of advantages which they had aright to expect, and on
which they counted as indemnification for the arrears of their pay.
They pretended, however, at last that they were touched by the
prayers of the man whose orders they had obeyed so long, and offered
to conceal him dressed in their clothes among their ranks.  This
proposition was barely plausible; far Sforza was short and, by this
time an old man, and he could not possibly escape recognition in the
midst of an army where the oldest was not past thirty and the
shortest not less than five foot six.  Still, this was his last
chance, and he did not reject it at once, but tried to modify it so
that it might help him in his straits.  His plan was to disguise
himself as a Franciscan monk, so that mounted an a shabby horse he
might pass for their chaplain; the others, Galeazzo di San Severing,
who commanded under him, and his two brothers, were all tall men, so,
adopting the dress of common soldiers, they hoped they might escape
detection in the Swiss ranks.

Scarcely were these plans settled when the duke heard that the
capitulation was signed between Trivulce and the Swiss, who had made
no stipulation in favour of him and his generals.  They were to go
over the next day with arms and baggage right into the French army;
so the last hope of the wretched Ludovico and his generals must needs
be in their disguise.  And so it was.  San Severino and his brothers
took their place in the ranks of the infantry, and Sforza took his
among the baggage, clad in a monk's frock, with the hood pulled over
his eyes.

The army marched off; but the Swiss, who had first trafficked in
their blood, now trafficked in their honour.  The French were warned
of the disguise of Sforza and his generals, and thus they were all
four recognised, and Sforza was arrested by Trimouille himself.  It
is said that the price paid for this treason was the town of
Bellinzona; far it then belonged to the French, and when the Swiss
returned to their mountains and took possession of it, Louis XII took
no steps to get it back again.

When Ascanio Sforza, who, as we know, had stayed at Milan, learned
the news of this cowardly desertion, he supposed that his cause was
lost and that it would be the best plan for him to fly, before he
found himself a prisoner in the hand's of his brother's old subjects:
such a change of face on the people's part would be very natural, and
they might propose perhaps to purchase their own pardon at the price
of his liberty; so he fled by night with the chief nobles of the
Ghibelline party, taking the road to Piacenza, an his way to the
kingdom of Naples.  But when he arrived at Rivolta, he remembered
that there was living in that town an old friend of his childhood, by
name Conrad Lando, whom he had helped to much wealth in his days of
power; and as Ascanio and his companions were extremely; tired, he
resolved to beg his hospitality for a single night.  Conrad received
them with every sign of joy, putting all his house and servants at
their disposal.  But scarcely had they retired to bed when he sent a
runner to Piacenza, to inform Carlo Orsini, at that time commanding
the Venetian garrison, that he was prepared to deliver up Cardinal
Ascanio and the chief men of the Milanese army.  Carlo Orsini did not
care to resign to another so important an expedition, and mounting
hurriedly with twenty-five men, he first surrounded Conrads house,
and then entered sword in hand the chamber wherein Ascanio and his
companions lay, and being surprised in the middle of their sleep,
they yielded without resistance.  The prisoners were taken to Venice,
but Louis XII claimed them, and they were given up.  Thus the King of
France found himself master of Ludovico Sforza and of Ascania, of a
legitimate nephew of the great Francesco Sforza named Hermes, of two
bastards named Alessandro and Cortino, and of Francesco, son of the
unhappy Gian Galeazza who had been poisoned by his uncle.

Louis XII, wishing to make an end of the whole family at a blow,
forced Francesco to enter a cloister, shut up Cardinal Ascanio in the
tower of Baurges, threw into prison Alessandro, Cartino, and Hermes,
and finally, after transferring the wretched Ludovico from the
fortress of Pierre-Eucise to Lys-Saint-George he relegated him for
good and all to the castle of Loches, where he lived for ten years in
solitude and utter destitution, and there died, cursing the day when
the idea first came into his head of enticing the French into Italy.

The news of the catastrophe of Ludovica and his family caused the
greatest joy at Rome, for, while the French were consolidating their
power in Milanese territory, the Holy See was gaining ground in the
Romagna, where no further opposition was offered to Caesar's
conquest.  So the runners who brought the news were rewarded with

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