List Of Contents | Contents of The Cenci, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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to another judge, whose severity and insensibility to emotion were

This latter reopened the whole interrogatory, and as Beatrice up to
that time had only been subjected to the ordinary torture, he gave
instructions to apply both the ordinary and extraordinary.  This was
the rope and pulley, one of the most terrible inventions ever devised
by the most ingenious of tormentors.

To make the nature of this horrid torture plain to our readers, we
give a detailed description of it, adding an extract of the presiding
judge's report of the case, taken from the Vatican manuscripts.

Of the various forms of torture then used in Rome the most common
were the whistle, the fire, the sleepless, and the rope.

The mildest, the torture of the whistle, was used only in the case of
children and old persons; it consisted in thrusting between the nails
and the flesh reeds cut in the shape of whistles.

The fire, frequently employed before the invention of the sleepless
torture, was simply roasting the soles of the feet before a hot fire.

The sleepless torture, invented by Marsilius, was worked by forcing
the accused into an angular frame of wood about five feet high, the
sufferer being stripped and his arms tied behind his back to the
frame; two men, relieved every five hours, sat beside him, and roused
him the moment he closed his eyes.  Marsilius says he has never found
a man proof against this torture; but here he claims more than he is
justly entitled to.  Farinacci states that, out of one hundred
accused persons subjected to it, five only refused to confess--a very
satisfactory result for the inventor.

Lastly comes the torture of the rope and pulley, the most in vogue of
all, and known in other Latin countries as the strappado.

It was divided into three degrees of intensity--the slight, the
severe, and the very severe.

The first, or slight torture, which consisted mainly in the
apprehensions it caused, comprised the threat of severe torture,
introduction into the torture chamber, stripping, and the tying of
the rope in readiness for its appliance.  To increase the terror
these preliminaries excited, a pang of physical pain was added by
tightening a cord round the wrists.  This often sufficed to extract a
confession from women or men of highly strung nerves.

The second degree, or severe torture, consisted in fastening the
sufferer, stripped naked, and his hands tied behind his back, by the
wrists to one end of a rope passed round a pulley bolted into the
vaulted ceiling, the other end being attached to a windlass, by
turning which he could be hoisted, into the air, and dropped again,
either slowly or with a jerk, as ordered by the judge.  The
suspension generally lasted during the recital of a Pater Noster, an
Ave Maria, or a Miserere; if the accused persisted in his denial, it
was doubled.  This second degree, the last of the ordinary torture,
was put in practice when the crime appeared reasonably probable but
was not absolutely proved.

The third, or very severe, the first of the extraordinary forms of
torture, was so called when the sufferer, having hung suspended by
the wrists, for sometimes a whole hour, was swung about by the
executioner, either like the pendulum of a clock, or by elevating him
with the windlass and dropping him to within a foot or two of the
ground.  If he stood this torture, a thing almost unheard of, seeing
that it cut the flesh of the wrist to the bone and dislocated the
limbs, weights were attached to the feet, thus doubling the torture.
This last form of torture was only applied when an atrocious crime
had been proved to have been committed upon a sacred person, such as
a priest, a cardinal, a prince, or an eminent and learned man.

Having seen that Beatrice was sentenced to the torture ordinary and
extraordinary, and having explained the nature of these tortures, we
proceed to quote the official report:--

"And as in reply to every question she would confess nothing, we
caused her to be taken by two officers and led from the prison to the
torture chamber, where the torturer was in attendance; there, after
cutting off her hair, he made her sit on a small stool, undressed
her, pulled off her shoes, tied her hands behind her back, fastened
them to a rope passed over a pulley bolted into the ceiling of the
aforesaid chamber, and wound up at the other end by a four lever
windlass, worked by two men."

"Before hoisting her from the ground we again interrogated her
touching the aforesaid parricide; but notwithstanding the confessions
of her brother and her stepmother, which were again produced, bearing
their signatures, she persisted in denying everything, saying, 'Haul
me about and do what you like with me; I have spoken the truth, and
will tell you nothing else, even if I were torn to pieces.'

"Upon this we had her hoisted in the air by the wrists to the height
of about two feet from the ground, while we recited a Pater Noster;
and then again questioned her as to the facts and circumstances of
the aforesaid parricide; but she would make no further answer, only
saying, 'You are killing me!  You are killing me!'

"We then raised her to the elevation of four feet, and began an Ave
Maria.  But before our prayer was half finished she fainted away; or
pretended to do so.

"We caused a bucketful of water to be thrown over her head; feeling
its coolness, she recovered consciousness, and cried, 'My God!  I am
dead!  You are killing me!  My God!'  But this was all she would say.

"We then raised her higher still, and recited a Miserere, during
which, instead of joining in the prayer, she shook convulsively and
cried several times, 'My God!  My God!'

"Again questioned as to the aforesaid parricide, she would confess
nothing, saying only that she was innocent, and then again fainted

"We caused more water to be thrown over her; then she recovered her
senses, opened her eyes, and cried, 'O cursed executioners!  You are
killing me!  You are killing me!'  But nothing more would she say.

"Seeing which, and that she persisted in her denial, we ordered the
torturer to proceed to the torture by jerks.

"He accordingly hoisted her ten feet from the ground, and when there
we enjoined her to tell the truth; but whether she would not or could
not speak, she answered only by a motion of the head indicating that
she could say nothing.

"Seeing which, we made a sign to the executioner, to let go the rope,
and she fell with all her weight from the height of ten feet to that
of two feet; her arms, from the shock, were dislocated from their
sockets; she uttered a loud cry, and swooned away.

"We again caused water to be dashed in her face; she returned to
herself, and again cried out, 'Infamous assassins!  You are killing
me; but were you to tear out my arms, I would tell you nothing else.'

"Upon this, we ordered a weight of fifty pounds to be fastened to her
feet.  But at this moment the door opened, and many voices cried,
'Enough!  Enough!  Do not torture her any more!'"

These voices were those of Giacomo, Bernardo, and Lucrezia Petroni.
The judges, perceiving the obstinacy of Beatrice, had ordered that
the accused, who had been separated for five months, should be

They advanced into the torture chamber, and seeing Beatrice hanging
by the wrists, her arms disjointed, and covered with blood, Giacomo
cried out:--

"The sin is committed; nothing further remains but to save our souls
by repentance, undergo death courageously, and not suffer you to be
thus tortured."

Then said Beatrice, shaking her head as if to cast off grief--

"Do you then wish to die?  Since you wish it, be it so."

Then turning to the officers:--

"Untie me," said she, "read the examination to me; and what I have to
confess, I will confess; what I have to deny, I will deny."

Beatrice was then lowered and untied; a barber reduced the
dislocation of her arms in the usual manner; the examination was read
over to her, and, as she had promised, she made a full confession.

After this confession, at the request of the two brothers, they were
all confined in the same prison; but the next day Giacomo and
Bernardo were taken to the cells of Tordinona; as for the women, they
remained where they were.

The pope was so horrified on reading the particulars of the crime
contained in the confessions, that he ordered the culprits to be
dragged by wild horses through the streets of Rome.  But so barbarous
a sentence shocked the public mind, so much so that many persons of
princely rank petitioned the Holy Father on their knees, imploring
him to reconsider his decree, or at least allow the accused to be
heard in their defence.

"Tell me," replied Clement VIII, "did they give their unhappy father
time to be heard in his own defence, when they slew him in so
merciless and degrading a fashion?"

At length, overcome by so many entreaties, he respited them for three

The most eloquent and skilful advocates in Rome immediately busied
themselves in preparing pleadings for so emotional a case, and on the
day fixed for hearing appeared before His Holiness.

The first pleader was Nicolo degli Angeli, who spoke with such force
and eloquence that the pope, alarmed at the effect he was producing
among the audience, passionately interrupted him.

"Are there then to be found," he indignantly cried, "among the Roman
nobility children capable of killing their parents, and among Roman
lawyers men capable of speaking in their defence?  This is a thing we
should never have believed, nor even for a moment supposed it

All were silent upon this terrible rebuke, except Farinacci, who,
nerving himself with a strong sense of duty, replied respectfully but

"Most Holy Father, we are not here to defend criminals, but to save
the innocent; for if we succeeded in proving that any of the accused
acted in self-defence, I hope that they will be exonerated in the
eyes of your Holiness; for just as the law provides for cases in
which the father may legally kill the child, so this holds good in

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