List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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these offices would fall into the hands of the pope, and he would
sell them;

Secondly, each of them would buy his election, more or less dear
according to his fortune; the price, left to be settled at the pope's
fancy, would vary from 10,000 to 40,000 ducats;

Lastly, since as cardinals they would by law lose the right of making
a will, the pope, in order to inherit from them, had only to poison
them: this put him in the position of a butcher who, if he needs
money, has only to cut the throat of the fattest sheep in the flock.

The nomination came to pass: the new cardinals were Giovanni
Castellaro Valentine, archbishop of Trani; Francesco Remolini,
ambassador from the King of Aragon; Francesco Soderini, bishop of
Volterra; Melchiore Copis, bishop of Brissina; Nicolas Fiesque,
bishop of Frejus; Francesco di Sprate, bishop of Leome; Adriano
Castellense, clerk of the chamber, treasurer-general, and secretary
of the briefs; Francesco Boris, bishop of Elva, patriarch of
Constantinople, and secretary to the pope; and Giacomo Casanova,
protonotary and private chamberlain to His Holiness.

The price of their simony paid and their vacated offices sold, the
pope made his choice of those he was to poison: the number was fixed
at three, one old and two new; the old one was Cardinal Casanova, and
the new ones Melchiore Copis and Adriano Castellense, who had taken
the name of Adrian of Carneta from that town where he had been born,
and where, in the capacity of clerk of the chamber, treasurer-
general, and secretary of briefs, he had amassed an immense fortune.

So, when all was settled between Caesar and the pope, they invited
their chosen guests to supper in a vineyard situated near the
Vatican, belonging to the Cardinal of Corneto.  In the morning of
this day, the 2nd of August, they sent their servants and the steward
to make all preparations, and Caesar himself gave the pope's butler
two bottles of wine prepared with the white powder resembling sugar
whose mortal properties he had so often proved, and gave orders that
he was to serve this wine only when he was told, and only to persons
specially indicated; the butler accordingly put the wine an a
sideboard apart, bidding the waiters on no account to touch it, as it
was reserved for the pope's drinking.

[The poison of the Borgias, say contemporary writers, was of two
kinds, powder and liquid.  The poison in the form of powder was a
sort of white flour, almost impalpable, with the taste of sugar, and
called Contarella.  Its composition is unknown.

The liquid poison was prepared, we are told in so strange a fashion
that we cannot pass it by in silence.  We repeat here what we read,
and vouch for nothing ourselves, lest science should give us the lie.

A strong dose of arsenic was administered to a boar; as soon as the
poison began to take effect, he was hung up by his heels; convulsions
supervened, and a froth deadly and abundant ran out from his jaws; it
was this froth, collected into a silver vessel and transferred into a
bottle hermetically sealed, that made the liquid poison.]

Towards evening Alexander VI walked from the Vatican leaning on
Caesar's arm, and turned his steps towards the vineyard, accompanied
by Cardinal Caraffa; but as the heat was great and the climb rather
steep, the pope, when he reached the top, stopped to take breath;
then putting his hand on his breast, he found that he had left in his
bedroom a chain that he always wore round his neck, which suspended a
gold medallion that enclosed the sacred host.  He owed this habit to
a prophecy that an astrologer had made, that so long as he carried
about a consecrated wafer, neither steel nor poison could take hold
upon him.  Now, finding himself without his talisman, he ordered
Monsignors Caraffa to hurry back at once to the Vatican, and told him
in which part of his room he had left it, so that he might get it and
bring it him without delay.  Then, as the walk had made him thirsty,
he turned to a valet, giving signs with his hand as he did so that
his messenger should make haste, and asked for something to drink.
Caesar, who was also thirsty, ordered the man to bring two glasses.
By a curious coincidence, the butler had just gone back to the
Vatican to fetch some magnificent peaches that had been sent that
very day to the pope, but which had been forgotten when he came here;
so the valet went to the under butler, saying that His Holiness and
Monsignors the Duke of Romagna were thirsty and asking for a drink.
The under butler, seeing two bottles of wine set apart, and having
heard that this wine was reserved for the pope, took one, and telling
the valet to bring two glasses on a tray, poured out this wine, which
both drank, little thinking that it was what they had themselves
prepared to poison their guests.

Meanwhile Caraffa hurried to the Vatican, and, as he knew the palace
well, went up to the pope's bedroom, a light in his hand and attended
by no servant.  As he turned round a corridor a puff of wind blew out
his lamp; still, as he knew the way, he went on, thinking there was
no need of seeing to find the object he was in search of; but as he
entered the room he recoiled a step, with a cry of terror: he beheld
a ghastly apparition; it seemed that there before his eyes, in the
middle of the room, between the door and the cabinet which held the
medallion, Alexander VI, motionless and livid, was lying on a bier at
whose four corners there burned four torches.  The cardinal stood
still for a moment, his eyes fixed, and his hair standing on end,
without strength to move either backward or forward; then thinking it
was all a trick of fancy or an apparition of the devil's making, he
made the sign of the cross, invoking God's holy name; all instantly
vanished, torches, bier, and corpse, and the seeming mortuary,
chamber was once more in darkness.

Then Cardinal Caraffa, who has himself recorded this strange event,
and who was afterwards Pope Paul IV, entered baldly, and though an
icy sweat ran dawn his brow, he went straight to the cabinet, and in
the drawer indicated found the gold chain and the medallion, took
them, and hastily went out to give them to the pope.  He found supper
served, the guests arrived, and His Holiness ready to take his 3I7
place at table; as soon as the cardinal was in sight, His Holiness,
who was very pale, made one step towards him; Caraffa doubled his
pace, and handed the medallion to him; but as the pope stretched
forth his arm to take it, he fell back with a cry, instantly followed
by violent convulsions: an instant later, as he advanced to render
his father assistance, Caesar was similarly seized; the effect of the
poison had been more rapid than usual, for Caesar had doubled the
dose,,and there is little doubt that their heated condition increased
its activity.

The two stricken men were carried side by side to the Vatican, where
each was taken to his own rooms: from that moment they never met

As soon as he reached his bed, the pope was seized with a violent
fever, which did not give way to emetics or to bleeding; almost
immediately it became necessary to administer the last sacraments of
the Church; but his admirable bodily constitution, which seemed to
have defied old age, was strong enough to fight eight days with
death; at last, after a week of mortal agony, he died, without once
uttering the name of Caesar or Lucrezia, who were the two poles
around which had turned all his affections and all his crimes.  His
age was seventy-two, and he had reigned eleven years.

Caesar, perhaps because he had taken less of the fatal beverage,
perhaps because the strength of his youth overcame the strength of
the poison, or maybe, as some say, because when he reached his own
rooms he had swallowed an antidote known only to himself, was not so
prostrated as to lose sight for a moment of the terrible position he
was in: he summoned his faithful Michelotto, with those he could best
count on among his men, and disposed this band in the various rooms
that led to his own, ordering the chief never to leave the foot of
his bed, but to sleep lying on a rug, his hand upon the handle of his

The treatment had been the same for Caesar as for the pope, but in
addition to bleeding and emetics strange baths were added, which
Caesar had himself asked for, having heard that in a similar case
they had once cured Ladislaus, King of Naples.  Four posts, strongly
welded to the floor and ceiling, were set up in his room, like the
machines at which farriers shoe horses; every day a bull was brought
in, turned over on his back and tied by his four legs to the four
posts; then, when he was thus fixed, a cut was made in his belly a
foot and a half long, through which the intestines were drawn out;
then Caesar slipped into this living bath of blood: when the bull was
dead, Caesar was taken out and rolled up in burning hot blankets,
where, after copious perspirations, he almost always felt some sort
of relief.

Every two hours Caesar sent to ask news of his father: he hardly
waited to hear that he was dead before, though still at death's door
himself, he summoned up all the force of character and presence of
mind that naturally belonged to him.  He ordered Michelotto to shut
the doors of the Vatican before the report of Alexander's decease
could spread about the town, and forbade anyone whatsoever to enter
the pope's apartments until the money and papers had been removed.
Michelotto obeyed at once, went to find Cardinal Casanova, held a
dagger at his throat, and made him deliver up the keys of the pope's
rooms and cabinets; then, under his guidance, took away two chests
full of gold, which perhaps contained 100,000 Roman crowns in specie,
several boxes full of jewels, much silver and many precious vases;
all these were carried to Caesar's chamber; the guards of the room
were doubled; then the doors of the Vatican were once more thrown
open, and the death of the pope was proclaimed.

Although the news was expected, it produced none the less a terrible
effect in Rome; for although Caesar was still alive, his condition

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