List Of Contents | Contents of The Cenci, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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the converse.  We will therefore continue our pleadings on receiving
leave from your Holiness to do so."

Clement VIII then showed himself as patient as he had previously been
hasty, and heard the argument of Farinacci, who pleaded that
Francesco Cenci had lost all the rights of a father from, the day
that he violated his daughter.  In support of his contention he
wished to put in the memorial sent by Beatrice to His Holiness,
petitioning him, as her sister had done, to remove her from the
paternal roof and place her in a convent.  Unfortunately, this
petition had disappeared, and notwithstanding the minutest search
among the papal documents, no trace of it could be found.

The pope had all the pleadings collected, and dismissed the
advocates, who then retired, excepting d'Altieri, who knelt before
him, saying--

"Most Holy Father, I humbly ask pardon for appearing before you in
this case, but I had no choice in the matter, being the advocate of
the poor."

The pope kindly raised him, saying:

"Go; we are not surprised at your conduct, but at that of others, who
protect and defend criminals."

As the pope took a great interest in this case, he sat up all night
over it, studying it with Cardinal di San Marcello, a man of much
acumen and great experience in criminal cases.  Then, having summed
it up, he sent a draft of his opinion to the advocates, who read it
with great satisfaction, and entertained hopes that the lives of the
convicted persons would be spared; for the evidence all went to prove
that even if the children had taken their father's life, all the
provocation came from him, and that Beatrice in particular had been
dragged into the part she had taken in this crime by the tyranny,
wickedness, and brutality of her father.  Under the influence of
these considerations the pope mitigated the severity of their prison
life, and even allowed the prisoners to hope that their lives would
not be forfeited.

Amidst the general feeling of relief afforded to the public by these
favours, another tragical event changed the papal mind and frustrated
all his humane intentions.  This was the atrocious murder of the
Marchese di Santa Croce, a man seventy years of age, by his son
Paolo, who stabbed him with a dagger in fifteen or twenty places,
because the father would not promise to make Paolo his sole heir.
The murderer fled and escaped.

Clement VIII was horror-stricken at the increasing frequency of this
crime of parricide: for the moment, however, he was unable to take
action, having to go to Monte Cavallo to consecrate a cardinal
titular bishop in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli; but the day
following, on Friday the 10th of September 1599, at eight o'clock in
the morning, he summoned Monsignor Taverna, governor of Rome, and
said to him--

"Monsignor, we place in your hands the Cenci case, that you may carry
out the sentence as speedily as possible."

On his return to his palace, after leaving His Holiness, the governor
convened a meeting of all the criminal judges in the city, the result
of the council being that all the Cenci were condemned to death.

The final sentence was immediately known; and as this unhappy family
inspired a constantly increasing interest, many cardinals spent the
whole of the night either on horseback or in their carriages, making
interest that, at least so far as the women were concerned, they
should be put to death privately and in the prison, and that a free
pardon should be granted to Bernardo, a poor lad only fifteen years
of age, who, guiltless of any participation in the crime, yet found
himself involved in its consequences.  The one who interested himself
most in the case was Cardinal Sforza, who nevertheless failed to
elicit a single gleam of hope, so obdurate was His Holiness.  At
length Farinacci, working on the papal conscience, succeeded, after
long and urgent entreaties, and only at the last moment, that the
life of Bernardo should be spared.

From Friday evening the members of the brotherhood of the Conforteria
had gathered at the two prisons of Corte Savella and Tordinona.  The
preparations for the closing scene of the tragedy had occupied
workmen on the bridge of Sant' Angelo all night; and it was not till
five o'clock in the morning that the registrar entered the cell of
Lucrezia and Beatrice to read their sentences to them.

Both were sleeping, calm in the belief of a reprieve.  The registrar
woke them, and told them that, judged by man, they must now prepare
to appear before God.

Beatrice was at first thunderstruck: she seemed paralysed and
speechless; then she rose from bed, and staggering as if intoxicated,
recovered her speech, uttering despairing cries.  Lucrezia heard the
tidings with more firmness, and proceeded to dress herself to go to
the chapel, exhorting Beatrice to resignation; but she, raving, wrung
her, hands and struck her head against the wall, shrieking, "To die!
to die!  Am I to die unprepared, on a scaffold! on a gibbet!  My God!
my God!"  This fit led to a terrible paroxysm, after which the
exhaustion of her body enabled her mind to recover its balance, and
from that moment she became an angel of humility and an example of

Her first request was for a notary to make her will.  This was
immediately complied with, and on his arrival she dictated its
provisions with much calmness and precision.  Its last clause desired
her interment in the church of San Pietro in Montorio, for which she
always had a strong attachment, as it commanded a view of her
father's palace.  She bequeathed five hundred crowns to the nuns of
the order of the Stigmata, and ordered that her dowry; amounting to
fifteen thousand crowns, should be distributed in marriage portions
to fifty poor girls.  She selected the foot of the high altar as the
place where she wished to be buried, over which hung the beautiful
picture of the Transfiguration, so often admired by her during her

Following her example, Lucrezia in her turn, disposed of her
property: she desired to be buried in the church of San Giorgio di
Velobre, and left thirty-two thousand crowns to charities, with other
pious legacies.  Having settled their earthly affairs, they joined in
prayer, reciting psalms, litanies, and prayers far the dying.

At eight o'clock they confessed, heard mass, and received the
sacraments; after which Beatrice, observing to her stepmother that
the rich dresses they wore were out of place on a scaffold, ordered
two to be made in nun's fashion--that is to say, gathered at the
neck, with long wide sleeves.  That for Lucrezia was made of black
cotton stuff, Beatrice's of taffetas.  In addition she had a small
black turban made to place on her head.  These dresses, with cords
for girdles, were brought them; they were placed on a chair, while
the women continued to pray.

The time appointed being near at hand, they were informed that their
last moment was approaching.  Then Beatrice, who was still on her
knees, rose with a tranquil and almost joyful countenance.  "Mother,"
said she, "the moment of our suffering is impending; I think we had
better dress in these clothes, and help one another at our toilet for
the last time."  They then put on the dresses provided, girt
themselves with the cords; Beatrice placed her turban on her head,
and they awaited the last summons.

In the meantime, Giacomo and Bernardo, whose sentences had been read
to them, awaited also the moment of their death.  About ten o'clock
the members of the Confraternity of Mercy, a Florentine order,
arrived at the prison of Tordinona, and halted on the threshold with
the crucifix, awaiting the appearance of the unhappy youths.  Here a
serious accident had nearly happened.  As many persons were at the
prison windows to see the prisoners come out, someone accidentally
threw down a large flower-pot full of earth, which fell into the
street and narrowly missed one of the Confraternity who was amongst
the torch-bearers just before the crucifix.  It passed so close to
the torch as to extinguish the flame in its descent.

At this moment the gates opened, and Giacomo appeared first on the
threshold.  He fell on his knees, adoring the holy crucifix with
great devotion.  He was completely covered with a large mourning
cloak, under which his bare breast was prepared to be torn by the
red-hot pincers of the executioner, which were lying ready in a
chafing-dish fixed to the cart.  Having ascended the vehicle, in
which the executioner placed him so as more readily to perform this
office, Bernardo came out, and was thus addressed on his appearance
by the fiscal of Rome--

"Signor Bernardo Cenci, in the name of our blessed Redeemer, our Holy
Father the Pope spares your life; with the sole condition that you
accompany your relatives to the scaffold and to their death, and
never forget to pray for those with whom you were condemned to die."

At this unexpected intelligence, a loud murmur of joy spread among
the crowd, and the members of the Confraternity immediately untied
the small mask which covered the youth's eyes; for, owing to his
tender age, it had been thought proper to conceal the scaffold from
his sight.

Then the executioner; having disposed of Giacomo, came down from the
cart to take Bernardo; whose pardon being formally communicated to
him, he took off his handcuffs, and placed him alongside his brother,
covering him up with a magnificent cloak embroidered with gold, for
the neck and shoulders of the poor lad had been already bared, as a
preliminary to his decapitation.  People were surprised to see such a
rich cloak in the possession of the executioner, but were told that
it was the one given by Beatrice to Marzio to pledge him to the
murder of her father, which fell to the executioner as a perquisite
after the execution of the assassin.  The sight of the great
assemblage of people produced such an effect upon the boy that he

The procession then proceeded to the prison of Corte Savella,
marching to the sound of funeral chants.  At its gates the sacred
crucifix halted for the women to join: they soon appeared, fell on

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