List Of Contents | Contents of The Cenci, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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The next night she threw herself on her bed without undressing.  At
the accustomed hour the door opened, and the nocturnal spectacle
reappeared.  This time, Lucrezia Petroni was among the women who
passed before Beatrice's door; violence had compelled her to undergo
this humiliation.  Beatrice was too far off to see her blushes and
her tears.  Francesco pointed out her stepmother, whom she had lacked
for in vain the previous evening; and as she could no longer make any
opposition, he led her, covered with blushes and confusion, into the
middle of this orgy.

Beatrice there saw incredible and infamous things....

Nevertheless, she resisted a long time: an inward voice told her that
this was horrible; but Francesco had the slaw persistence of a demon.
To these sights, calculated to stimulate her passions, he added
heresies designed to warp her mind; he told her that the greatest
saints venerated by the Church were the issue of fathers and
daughters, and in the end Beatrice committed a crime without even
knowing it to be a sin.

His brutality then knew no bounds.  He forced Lucrezia and Beatrice
to share the same bed, threatening his wife to kill her if she
disclosed to his daughter by a single word that there was anything
odious in such an intercourse.  So matters went on for about three

At this time Francesco was obliged to make a journey, and leave the
women alone and free.  The first thing Lucrezia did was to enlighten
Beatrice an the infamy of the life they were leading; they then
together prepared a memorial to the pope, in which they laid before
him a statement of all the blows and outrages they had suffered.
But, before leaving, Francesco Cenci had taken precautions; every
person about the pope was in his pay, or hoped to be.  The petition
never reached His Holiness, and the two poor women, remembering that
Clement VIII had on a farmer occasion driven Giacomo, Cristaforo, and
Rocco from his presence, thought they were included in the same
proscription, and looked upon themselves as abandoned to their fate.

When matters were in this state, Giacomo, taking advantage of his
father's absence, came to pay them a visit with a friend of his, an
abbe named Guerra: he was a young man of twenty-five or twenty-six,
belonging to one of the most noble families in Rome, of a bold,
resolute, and courageous character, and idolised by all the Roman
ladies for his beauty.  To classical features he added blue eyes
swimming in poetic sentiment; his hair was long and fair, with
chestnut beard and eyebrows; add to these attractions a highly
educated mind, natural eloquence expressed by a musical and
penetrating voice, and the reader may form some idea of Monsignor the
Abbe Guerra.

No sooner had he seen Beatrice than he fell in love with her.  On her
side, she was not slow to return the sympathy of the young priest.
The Council of Trent had not been held at that time, consequently
ecclesiastics were not precluded from marriage.  It was therefore
decided that on the return of Francesco the Abbe Guerra should demand
the hand of Beatrice from her father, and the women, happy in the
absence of their master, continued to live on, hoping for better
things to come.

After three or four months, during which no one knew where he was,
Francesco returned.  The very first night, he wished to resume his
intercourse with Beatrice; but she was no longer the same person, the
timid and submissive child had become a girl of decided will; strong
in her love for the abbe, she resisted alike prayers, threats, and

The wrath of Francesco fell upon his wife, whom he accused of
betraying him; he gave her a violent thrashing.  Lucrezia Petroni was
a veritable Roman she-wolf, passionate alike in love and vengeance;
she endured all, but pardoned nothing.

Some days after this, the Abbe Guerra arrived at the Cenci palace to
carry out what had been arranged.  Rich, young, noble, and handsome,
everything would seem to promise him success; yet he was rudely
dismissed by Francesco.  The first refusal did not daunt him; he
returned to the charge a second time and yet a third, insisting upon
the suitableness of such a union.  At length Francesco, losing
patience, told this obstinate lover that a reason existed why
Beatrice could be neither his wife nor any other man's.  Guerra
demanded what this reason was.  Francesco replied:

"Because she is my mistress."

Monsignor Guerra turned pale at this answer, although at first he did
not believe a word of it; but when he saw the smile with which
Francesco Cenci accompanied his words, he was compelled to believe
that, terrible though it was, the truth had been spoken.

For three days he sought an interview with Beatrice in vain; at
length he succeeded in finding her.  His last hope was her denial of
this horrible story: Beatrice confessed all.  Henceforth there was no
human hope for the two lovers; an impassable gulf separated them.
They parted bathed in tears, promising to love one another always.

Up to that time the two women had not formed any criminal resolution,
and possibly the tragical incident might never have happened, had not
Frances one night returned into his daughter's room and violently
forced her into the commission of fresh crime.

Henceforth the doom of Francesco was irrevocably pronounced.

As we have said, the mind of Beatrice was susceptible to the best and
the worst influences: it could attain excellence, and descend to
guilt.  She went and told her mother of the fresh outrage she had
undergone; this roused in the heart of the other woman the sting of
her own wrongs; and, stimulating each other's desire for revenge,
they, decided upon the murder of Francesco.

Guerra was called in to this council of death.  His heart was a prey
to hatred and revenge.  He undertook to communicate with Giacomo
Cenci, without whose concurrence the women would not act, as he was
the head of the family, when his father was left out of account.

Giacomo entered readily into the conspiracy.  It will be remembered
what he had formerly suffered from his father; since that time he had
married, and the close-fisted old man had left him, with his wife and
children, to languish in poverty.  Guerra's house was selected to
meet in and concert matters.

Giacomo hired a sbirro named Marzio, arid Guerra a second named

Both these men had private reasons for committing the crime--one
being actuated by love, the other by hatred.  Marzio, who was in the
service of Giacomo, had often seen Beatrice, and loved her, but with
that silent and hopeless love which devours the soul.  When he
conceived that the proposed crime would draw him nearer to Beatrice,
he accepted his part in it without any demur.

As for Olympio, he hated Francesco, because the latter had caused him
to lose the post of castellan of Rocco Petrella, a fortified
stronghold in the kingdom of Naples, belonging to Prince Colonna.
Almost every year Francesco Cenci spent some months at Rocco Petrella
with his family; for Prince Colonna, a noble and magnificent but
needy prince, had much esteem for Francesco, whose purse he found
extremely useful.  It had so happened that Francesco, being
dissatisfied with Olympio, complained about him to Prince Colonna,
and he was dismissed.

After several consultations between the Cenci family, the abbe and
the sbirri, the following plan of action was decided upon.

The period when Francesco Cenci was accustomed to go to Rocco
Petrella was approaching: it was arranged that Olympio, conversant
with the district and its inhabitants, should collect a party of a
dozen Neapolitan bandits, and conceal them in a forest through which
the travellers would have to pass.  Upon a given signal, the whole
family were to be seized and carried off.  A heavy ransom was to be
demanded, and the sons were to be sent back to Rome to raise the sum;
but, under pretext of inability to do so, they were to allow the time
fixed by the bandits to lapse, when Francesco was to be put to death.
Thus all suspicions of a plot would be avoided, and the real
assassins would escape justice.

This well-devised scheme was nevertheless unsuccessful.  When
Francesco left Rome, the scout sent in advance by the conspirators
could not find the bandits; the latter, not being warned beforehand,
failed to come down before the passage of the travellers, who arrived
safe and sound at Rocco Petreila.  The bandits, after having
patrolled the road in vain, came to the conclusion that their prey
had escaped, and, unwilling to stay any longer in a place where they
had already spent a week, went off in quest of better luck elsewhere.

Francesco had in the meantime settled down in the fortress, and, to
be more free to tyrannise over Lucrezia and Beatrice, sent back to
Rome Giacomo and his two other sons.  He then recommenced his
infamous attempts upon Beatrice, and with such persistence, that she
resolved herself to accomplish the deed which at first she desired to
entrust to other hands.

Olympio and Marzio, who had nothing to fear from justice, remained
lurking about the castle; one day Beatrice saw them from a window,
and made signs that she had something to communicate to them.  The
same night Olympio, who having been castellan knew all the approaches
to the fortress, made his way there with his companion.  Beatrice
awaited them at a window which looked on to a secluded courtyard; she
gave them letters which she had written to her brother and to
Monsignor Guerra.  The former was to approve, as he had done before,
the murder of their father; for she would do nothing without his
sanction.  As for Monsignor Guerra, he was to pay Olympio a thousand
piastres, half the stipulated sum; Marzio acting out of pure love for
Beatrice, whom he worshipped as a Madonna; which observing, the girl
gave him a handsome scarlet mantle, trimmed with gold lace, telling
him to wear it for love of her.  As for the remaining moiety, it was
to be paid when the death of the old man had placed his wife and
daughter in possession of his fortune.

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