List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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valuable presents, and it was published throughout the whole town of
Rome to the sound of the trumpet and drum.  The war-cry of Louis,
France, France, and that of the Orsini, Orso, Orso, rang through all
the streets, which in the evening were illuminated, as though
Constantinople or Jerusalem had been taken. And the pope gave the
people fetes and fireworks, without troubling his head the least in
the world either about its being Holy Week, or because the Jubilee
had attracted more than 200,000 people to Rome; the temporal
interests of his family seeming to him far more important than the
spiritual interests of his subjects.


One thing alone was wanting to assure the success of the vast
projects that the pope and his son were founding upon the friendship
of Louis and an alliance with him--that is,--money.  But Alexander
was not the man to be troubled about a paltry worry of that kind;
true, the sale of benefices was by now exhausted, the ordinary and
extraordinary taxes had already been collected for the whole year,
and the prospect of inheritance from cardinals and priests was a poor
thing now that the richest of them had been poisoned; but Alexander
had other means at his disposal, which were none the less efficacious
because they were less often used.

The first he employed was to spread a, report that the Turks were
threatening an invasion of Christendom, and that he knew for a
positive fact that before the end of the summer Bajazet would land
two considerable armies, one in Romagna, the other in Calabria; he
therefore published two bulls, one to levy tithes of all
ecclesiastical revenues in Europe of whatever nature they might be,
the other to force the Jews into paying an equivalent sum: both bulls
contained the severest sentences of excommunication against those who
refused to submit, or attempted opposition.

The second plan was the selling of indulgences, a thing which had
never been done before: these indulgences affected the people who had
been prevented by reasons of health or business from coming to Rome
for the Jubilee; the journey by this expedient was rendered
unnecessary, and sins were pardoned for a third of what it would have
cost, and just as completely as if the faithful had fulfilled every
condition of the pilgrimage.  For gathering in this tax a veritable
army of collectors was instituted, a certain Ludovico delta Torre at
their head.  The sum that Alexander brought into the pontifical
treasury is incalculable, and same idea of it may be gathered from
the fact that 799,000 livres in gold was paid in from the territory
of Venice alone.

But as the Turks did as a fact make some sort of demonstration from
the Hungarian side, and the Venetians began to fear that they might
be coming in their direction, they asked for help from the pope, who
gave orders that at twelve o'clock in the day in all his States an
Ave Maria should be said, to pray God to avert the danger which was
threatening the most serene republic.  This was the only help the
Venetians got from His Holiness in exchange for the 799,000 livres in
gold that he had got from them.

But it seemed as though God wished to show His strange vicar on earth
that He was angered by the mockery of sacred things, and on the Eve
of St. Peter's Day, just as the pope was passing the Capanile on his
way to the tribune of benedictions, a enormous piece of iron broke
off and fell at his feet; and then, as though one warning had not
been enough, on the next day, St. Peter's, when the pope happened to
be in one of the rooms of his ordinary dwelling with Cardinal Capuano
and Monsignare Poto, his private chamberlain, he saw through the open
windows that a very black cloud was coming up.  Foreseeing a
thunderstorm, he ordered the cardinal and the chamberlain to shut the
windows.  He had not been mistaken; for even as they were obeying his
command, there came up such a furious gust of wind that the highest
chimney of the Vatican was overturned, just as a tree is rooted up,
and was dashed upon the roof, breaking it in; smashing the upper
flooring, it fell into the very room where they were.  Terrified by
the noise of this catastrophe, which made the whole palace tremble,
the cardinal and Monsignore Poto turned round, and seeing the room
full of dust and debris, sprang out upon the parapet and shouted to
the guards at the gate, "The pope is dead, the pope is dead!"  At
this cry, the guards ran up and discovered three persons lying in the
rubbish on the floor, one dead and the other two dying.  The dead man
was a gentleman of Siena ailed Lorenzo Chigi, and the dying were two
resident officials of the Vatican.  They had been walking across the
floor above, and had been flung down with the debris.  But Alexander
was not to be found; and as he gave no answer, though they kept on
calling to him, the belief that he had perished was confirmed, and
very soon spread about the town.  But he had only fainted, and at the
end of a certain time he began to come to himself, and moaned,
whereupon he was discovered, dazed with the blow, and injured, though
not seriously, in several parts of his body.  He had been saved by
little short of a miracle: a beam had broken in half and had left
each of its two ends in the side walls; and one of these had formed a
sort of roof aver the pontifical throne; the pope, who was sitting
there at the time, was protected by this overarching beam, and had
received only a few contusions.

The two contradictory reports of the sudden death and the miraculous
preservation of the pope spread rapidly through Rome; and the Duke of
Valentinois, terrified at the thought of what a change might be
wrought in his own fortunes by any slight accident to the Holy
Father, hurried to the Vatican, unable to assure himself by anything
less than the evidence of his own eyes.  Alexander desired to render
public thanks to Heaven for the protection that had been granted him;
and on the very same day was carried to the church of Santa Maria del
Popalo, escorted by a numerous procession of prelates and men-at
arms, his pontifical seat borne by two valets, two equerries, and two
grooms.  In this church were buried the Duke of Gandia and Gian
Borgia, and perhaps Alexander was drawn thither by same relics of
devotion, or may be by the recollection of his love for his former
mistress, Rosa Vanazza, whose image, in the guise of the Madonna, was
exposed for the veneration of the faithful in a chapel on the left of
the high altar.  Stopping before this altar, the pope offered to the
church the gift of a magnificent chalice in which were three hundred
gold crowns, which the Cardinal of Siena poured out into a silver
paten before the eyes of all, much to the gratification of the
pontifical vanity.

But before he left Rome to complete the conquest of the Romagna, the
Duke of Valentinois had been reflecting that the marriage, once so
ardently desired, between Lucrezia and Alfonso had been quite useless
to himself and his father.  There was more than this to be
considered: Louis XII's rest in Lombardy was only a halt, and Milan
was evidently but the stage before Naples.  It was very possible that
Louis was annoyed about the marriage which converted his enemy's
nephew into the son-in-law of his ally.  Whereas, if Alfonso were
dead, Lucrezia would be the position to marry some powerful lord of
Ferrara or Brescia, who would be able to help his brother-in-law
in the conquest of Romagna.  Alfonso was now not only useless but
dangerous, which to anyone with the character of the Borgias perhaps
seemed worse, the death of Alfonso was resolved upon.  But Lucrezia's
husband, who had understand for a long time past what danger he
incurred by living near his terrible father-in-law, had retired to
Naples.  Since, however, neither Alexander nor Caesar had changed in
their perpetual dissimulation towards him, he was beginning to lose
his fear, when he received an invitation from the pope and his son to
take part in a bull-fight which was to be held in the Spanish fashion
in honour of the duke before his departure: In the present precarious
position of Naples it would not have been good policy far Alfonso to
afford Alexander any sort of pretext for a rupture, so he could not
refuse without a motive, and betook himself to Rome.  It was thought
of no use to consult Lucrezia in this affair, for she had two or
three times displayed an absurd attachment for her husband, and they
left her undisturbed in her government of Spoleto.

Alfonso was received by the pope and the duke with every
demonstration of sincere friendship, and rooms in the Vatican were
assigned to him that he had inhabited before with Lucrezia, in that
part of the building which is known as the Torre Nuova.

Great lists were prepared on the Piazza of St. Peter's; the streets
about it were barricaded, and the windows of the surrounding houses
served as boxes for the spectators.  The pope and his court took
their places on the balconies of the Vatican.

The fete was started by professional toreadors: after they had
exhibited their strength and skill, Alfonso and Caesar in their turn
descended to the arena, and to offer a proof of their mutual
kindness, settled that the bull which pursued Caesar should be killed
by Alfonso, and the bull that pursued Alfonso by Caesar.

Then Caesar remained alone an horseback within the lists, Alfonso
going out by an improvised door which was kept ajar, in order that he
might go back on the instant if he judged that his presence was
necessary.  At the same time, from the opposite side of the lists the
bull was introduced, and was at the same moment pierced all over with
darts and arrows, some of them containing explosives, which took
fire, and irritated the bull to such a paint that he rolled about
with pain, and then got up in a fury, and perceiving a man on
horseback, rushed instantly upon him.  It was now, in this narrow
arena, pursued by his swift enemy, that Caesar displayed all that
skill which made him one of the finest horsemen of the period.
Still, clever as he was, he could not have remained safe long in that

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