The Crimes of Alexander Borgia/1

BOOK FIRST.Edit

LUCRETIA BORGIA.

ROME ! A pleasant moonlight evening. The hour nine. The scene a splendidly-furnished apartment, in the palace of the Borgias. The only occupant of the room was an almost gloriously beautiful maiden, of seventeen summers, with hair as dark as night, and eyes as bright as the peerless diadems of her own native clime ! And she she was Lucretia Borgia !

There were no shades of evil on her face no signs of the seal always impressed by guilt upon its followers nor had her heart become the abode of aught that was foul and polluting. Her eyes were bright and sparkling, yet full of the gentleness of love ; her face was wreathed with a quiet expression of happiness ; and, as she reclined upon a luxurious lounge, and gave way to the pleasing fancies that had come in showers over her soul, there could not have been a more perfect picture of female beauty and innocence than she presented.

" ! what a pleasure it -is to live," she murmured, at

length, in a voice of the most exquisite sweetness, " while

life is bright and beautiful, and love is young ! It is a

glorious era in life to realize that the heart, perhaps all

2


14 THE CRIMES OF

lonely and desolate before, is gradually entwining around a cherished object, and drawing its purest happiness from a kindred soul a glorious era, to have a consciousness, in waking thoughts and in the fantasies of dreams, that there is one mind, one heart, to share our joys and sorrows, and roll back the clouds from the horizon of life ! And this delightful era is now mine ! 0, Mercado, what bliss is mine when my thoughts are on thee ! What raptures fill my soul, as my fervent hopes paint the future as an end- less heaven, reaching far away, through paths made lovely and fragrant by the most gorgeous flowers all of which shall be shared with me by thee, while our days glide smoothly on, and naught but love and happiness shall pre- side over the weaving of a single page in our book of life ! "

As the lovely woman paused in her rhapsody, a liveried servant entered.

" Donna Lucretia," he said, " there is an old woman, a fortune-teller, in the reception-room, who desires to be ad- mitted to your presence."

"Show her in," was the reply. "A fortune-teller! She will read in my face that I am in love ; she will per- ceive that my passion is reciprocated; and then she will promise me long years of happiness with Mercado, and crown the hopes of this hour "

She paused, for the fortune-teller had entered. She was an old, very old woman, with wrinkled visage, and attenu- ated form. She was clad in a flowing mantle, that added to the wild ness of her appearance. Her eyes were deeply sunken in their sockets, and gleamed out from beneath her o'er-hanging brows, like funeral lights from some dark cavern in the bowels of earth. Her dark features were


ALEXANDEB BORGIA. 15

wreathed with a stern yet mournful expression, as she paused before the young beauty, leaning upon a cane.

Lucretia Borgia started, and uttered an exclamation of surprise, as she turned and beheld the countenance of her visitor.

" Mud Seta here ! " she exclaimed, as a shudder crept over her form.

" Ay, mad Seta ! " and the weird woman laughed, " yet is not this very madness, that is so reviled, a glori- ous gift, that does away with the narrow limits in which the sane mind is confined ? The mad see strange sights, and hear strange things, that are not known to the common mind. The veil is removed, and they penetrate mysteries at which the common herd cannot even grasp. Mad ! Yes, yes, girl ; but I have seen sights worthy of a deeper madness than mine. I 've seen a living hell, disgorging fiends in showers upon a stricken world, and on a throne that 's red with blood have seen the choicest of Satan's master spirits ay, Alexander Borgia ! "

" Peace, woman ! This Alexander Borgia, whom thou speakest so lightly of, is my father ! "

" And such a father ! Can a serpent father doves a devil be a kin to angels ? I tell thee, girl, thou knowest not what thou art saying. Thy father ! Thou hadst better claim relationship to Satan himself! "

" Hold ! or he shall hear and resent thy words ! "

"Dost thou, too, threaten me? But go and call him. Already has he warned me never to cross the threshold of this palace but I am*here, and one word from you will call those who do not hold his orders lightly. Will you call ? "


16 THE CRIMES OF

" Not if thou wilt hold thy peace in reference to my father."

" Enough. Now, thy fortune ! " and the old woman raised the maiden's hand. Earnestly she looked at it, for several minutes, without uttering a word ; yet a strange flush appeared upon her face as she regarded it. The ob- servation ended, she arose and turned upon her heel, and was passing from the apartment without uttering a word, when Donna Lucretia called her back.

" Stay, good Seta you have not told me the fate you have read ! "

" Nor will I ! " and again the weird woman moved on. Donna Lucretia detained her.

" I see by thy looks thou hast read something of import- ance. Give me thy knowledge before you go."

" Thou hast told me not to speak it ! "

"How?"

" I speak of Alexander Borgia, or not at all ! " and again the fortune-teller essayed to move on.

" Ah, this is some idle whim but I will humor it. Be seated, good Seta, and tell me what thou readest from my hand ; " and, despite her habitual self-possession, a look of anxiety appeared on her face.

" I read a tale it were not well to speak in detail yet, beware of Alexander Borgia !

"Woman," exclaimed Donna Lucretia, sternly, "you trifle with me. You presume upon my forbearance, or my womanly weakness. If gold is thy object in visiting me, take this, and trouble me with no more of this mum- mery ! "

" No, no, I do not want thy gold. I came not here for gain, but to warn thee of evils. A cloud is hanging


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 17

over thy head a storm will burst from it, and scatter your hopes like chaff before the wind. Again, I say, beware of Alexander Borgia ! "

Donna Lucretia subdued the resentment aroused by the repetition of the disagreeable words, and listened atten- tively as the old woman continued :

" You love a noble young man, and are beloved by him. But there is one ay, your father, girl, as you are pleased to call him who looks upon you both with feel- ings that bode neither of you any good. When next thou seest Mercado, warn him that danger is hovering in his steps ; tell him to be on his guard, sleeping and waking, if he would escape the machinations under foot against him."

" What mean you ? "

"Hist! I hear the sound of voices in the street I hear swords clashing in the air. Ah, ha ! go to yon case- ment and gaze forth, if thou wouldst have thy answer."

Donna Lucretia instantly obeyed.

" I see a gathering of people I see two persons fight- ing withdrawn swords! Strangers? No! One of them is it is Mercado ! "

The weird woman laughed.

"My lover engaged in a street brawl a duel, per- haps ! Ah, what is the meaning of this ? "

" It means that he has been attacked by a ruffian, in the pay of your father. But do not fear; Mercado has a brave heart, and a stout arm, and will come safely off! "

"Thou art right he does; but see, he has stricken his enemy to the earth, and is now coming this way. I shall see him ; Heaven grant that he may not have re- ceived injury in the encounter ! "


18 THE CRIMES OF

" He must not come here. I will cross his path, and warn him to shun the presence of the Borgias, as he would a den of vipers ! But, if thou wouldst see him, he will be in my humble home, half an hour hence. Wilt come?"

" I will."

" T is well ; " and, without another word, the old woman hastened from the apartment.

" I must know the truth of these suspicions," soliloquized Donna Lucretia, as soon as she was alone. "Heaven grant that Mercado may not be harmed for all my hopes are centred in him ; and, should they ever be crushed, eternal night will be the inheritance of Lucretia Borgia ! "


II.

THE MASK OF ST. PETER'S.

THE steps of St. Peter's. Standing in the shadow of one of the massive pillars was a broad-shouldered, power- ful-looking man, wearing a large cloak around his form, and a black mask over his countenance. There was nothing particularly repulsive in the appearance of the mask; but and it seemed singular all who gazed thereon shuddered, and crept noiselessly away, looking fearfully behind them, as if they had seen some horrid vision. There must have been something horrible in the character the possessor of that mask had acquired, to make him so carefully shunned by all who chanced to pass in that vicinity and, indeed, there was.

An elderly man, clad in a humble garb, passed up the steps, at last, and paused before the mask. There was no fear expressed in his face, as his eyes met those of that


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 19

dreaded being ; to the contrary, a look of gratification appeared upon his flushed features, and he exclaimed,

" Thank God ! I have found you ! "

" Indeed ! And what may you want with the mask ? " asked that personage, in a deep voice, while his eyes roved like lightning flashes over the form before him.

" Your aid. Thou art a man whose power, for good or evil, is greater than that possessed by all Rome."

" You forget the Pope ! " suggested the mask, with a slight bow.

" No, I do not forget ; nor will I retract my words in favor of the Pope God's curse be upon him ! "

" Ah ! " and the mask started. " Why speak so sternly of him ? "

" Because he is a villain ! "

Again the mask started.

" It is not well for you to speak thus boldly. Walls have ears, it is said, and Rome has spies more useful than walls. You had better curb this bold spirit, or it may lead you into difficulty."

"I care not. What is life to me? A curse, signor a curse ! I have been most foully wronged, and have come to secure thy aid for redress. Shall I have it? "

" Always, in a good cause. But tell me thy wrongs?"

" My daughter, signor, the idol of my heart, has

been seized by the minions of Pope Alexander VI.; and is

confined a prisoner in his private residence, as I h*ve

. learned from a note from her, written in her blood, which

she bribed a troubadour to bring to me ! "

The mask started more violently than before, and turned towards the old man.

"And your daughter's name is "



20 THE CRIMES OP

" She is called La Belle Floretta ! "

" And you "

" I am Michael Delano her father ! "

The mask uttered an involuntary exclamation of sur- prise.

" By Heavens ! " he muttered, sotto voce, " it is singular that he should"* come to me for redress he ! the very father of my victim ! "

" What say you ? "

" That I would know how I can be of service to you."

" O, siguor, any movement of thine in my favor will be of invaluable service to me. In all Rome, there is not a man as dreaded as thou not one who has the liberty and authority that is given to thee. Thou canst go every- where, and do anything that it is your pleasure to do. Thou hast the power to restore my child to me ; 0, have mercy on a poor old father, and bring her back to, my arms."

" And dost thou think that I can baulk the Pope him- self, in his designs OH your daughter ? "

" I never thought of the danger of the greatness of the attempt ^to regain my child. But, canst thou not do something fq[r me ? canst thou not make one effort for her escape fi|>m the monster who has torn her from me ? "

" Perhapsl the mask can do more for thee than thou thinkest. Bat, hist ! There comes one who has business of importance with me. Stand thou aside for a moment, while I learn the object of this visit."

The old man obeyed, retiring to the shade cast by an- other pillar. As he did so, a man, disguised with a huge beard, and wearing a blood-red cloak, ascended the steps, bowed three times, and Banded a packet of papers to the

Si


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 21

mask then hastened away in the direction from whence he came, without speaking a word.

" This visit bodes no good work," soliloquized old De- lano, coming forward, " for that personage in the red cloak is the messenger of the cardinals ! "


III.

THE DEATH-WARRANT.

THE mask did not reply. He had broken the seal of the packet, and moved out of the shadow of the pillar, so that the rays of the moon fell upon the paper he held in his hand, and enabled him to read it. For a moment he was occupied in perusing the missive ; then he crushed 'it in his hand, and muttered, as he turned toward Delano,

" Fool, fool ! "

" Why lookest thou so strange at me ? and why these epithets ? "

" Art thou not a fool ? " asked the mask, with a fierce- ness of emphasis that startled his listener.

" To the best of my belief, I am not."

" Then, why hast thou been here and there, like a bab- bling school-boy, making known the loss of thy daughter, and publicly charging the Pope with having been con- cerned in her abduction? "

" Have I done so ? Then is the truth made known. Alexander VI. has robbed me of my daughter I have reported nothing but the truth."

" But has thy shallow brain never cautioned thee that it is not always a course of safety, or policy, to tell the truth ? It seems that it has not, or else you would not




22 THE CRIMES OF

have made such a foolish outcry, but held your peace, and submitted as is always best to an evil that cannot be remedied.!'

" But this wrong must be remedied, my child must be rescued. Thou hast promised thy aid thou wilt not withdraw it ? "

" 0, fool, fool ! You have b'een the deviser of your own ruin. Know you not that your reports have been carried to the Pope ; that your case has be_en examined by the cardinals, by him convened; that it has been decided that you are a dangerous man, a spreader of evil rumors and seditions ; that sentence of death has been passed upon you ; that the messenger of the cardinals has brought me your death-warrant ; and that the mask of St. Peter's is doomed to be your executioner ! "

Delano staggered beneath this accumulation of horrors, and his face became deathly pale.

" I see," he gasped. " I was a fool to brave so terri- ble a power as that of Alexander Borgia J But I will not complain death will be a mercy. Do thy work when and where thou wilt."

" And yet," muttered the mask, " I can hardly realize that I hold the warrant for his death. The cardinals have moved in this matter with greater haste than I expected. I am sorry for it ; I do not desire Delano's death. Can the warrant be set aside ? Not without making myself known ; and that will not do never, never ! "

" I am ready for the sacrifice," continued the old man, " yet before I die let me call down a curse upon the one who "has wronged me so deeply, who has destroyed my daughter. Thou, God, that seest all things, be thou the avenger of one whose power for revenge is lost ! May




ALEXANDER BORGIA. 23

thy most terrible curse rest, now and forever, upon that fiend in human guise, Alexander Borgia " ,

" Hold ! " exclaimed the mask, with much agitation, as he seized the arm of the old man. " Thou knowest not what thou art saying. Though here I hold a warrant for thy death, thy life shall not be taken. Go with me ; I will find thee a place of concealment, where thou wilt be safe. Come I would know something of thy history. I have some' choice wine ; and over a bottle of it we will pass an hour together in conversation. Wilt go ? I will show thee the beauties and wonders of my palace, and thou shalt sleep on down, and eat from plates of silver ! Wilt go?"

" Ay, though death were lurking in the midst of such enjoyments as thou hast alluded to, I would accompany thee ! "

" Come on, then, and thou shalt know more of the mask of St. Peter's."


IV.

THE REVEL AND DISCOVERY.

HALF an hour later. The mask of St. Peter's and Michael Delano were seated in an apartment of luxurious magnificence, with a bottle of wine before them, from which the old man, from time to time, poured out deep potations. The mask drank but little ; he was evidently in no humor for the pleasures that were so new and fasci- nating to his companion.

" You are a jolly 'un," muttered the old man. "Must be a happy fellow to have such a nice place to live in, and


24 THE CRIMES OF

such capital wine as this. I was never so happy in my life. You were really very kind to invite me here I shall always be very grateful. But do you live alone here? I should think you would be lonesome sometimes have a desire to see the ladies, eh ? "

" 0, I am never without means to make time pass agreeably," said the mask, carelessly, " as you shall see."

As he spoke, he pressed his foot against a knob elevated above the floor beneath the table.

The room was instantly filled with strains of delicious music, which seemed to come from an adjoining apartment. It rose higher and higher, filling every portion of the room with a thrilling melody, that seemed to enchant the old man, for he remained' aiotionless, scarcely seeming to breathe. Anon, it rose to . ; a low plaintive strain, that seemed like a dirge,., wintering of earthly sorrows, but bearing consolation as 'sweet and soothing as the breath of heaven ! Finally, ii .deased silence reigned as be- fore. With a smile, ,thj& ^a$k turned towards his guest.

"It is heavenly," he' ibitfrmured. "With such music, you cannot be Jonesome."

" Listen ! yoU ! liave not seen all," was the response, and again the mask/p'ressed upon the sacred knob.

The foldingkloors that formed one side of the room were drawn apart, disclosing a brilliantly-lighted and magnificently-furnished apartment, in which were twelve or fifteen young and exceedingly beautiful girls, dressed in fairy-like garments, that revealed the peerless contour of their exquisitely voluptuous forms in such.; a fascinating manner that it would have maddened the gaze of even an anchorite. For an instant, all was hushed ; then the en- chanting strains of music were renewed, and those sylph-


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 25

like forms glided almost imperceptibly over the gorgeous carpet, with waving, undulating motion, with each look and gesture attuned to the emotions of love and languish- ing voluptuousness. Round and round in the giddy waltz sped those fairy forms, while the excited Delano watched their every movement, and passed his eyes with longing and admiration over the glowing beauties that were so be- witchingly revealed to his bewildered gaze. The wine he had imbibed, together with the music and the enchanting sight before him, rendered him half delirious with deli- cious intoxication. He could not move or speak ; his senses seemed to be completely under the influence of the strange and startling scene ; and he gazed upon it like one in a dream.

The spell was broken by the gruff voice of the mask.

" You seem to be pleased with my means of killing time," he observed, with a singular smile.

" It is glorious. It were easy to imagine, when gazing on such a scene as this, that the portals of death were passed, and heaven revealed ! "

" Like you the appearance of the ladies ? "

" Very much."

" Chttase. One of them shall be subject "to your wishes any one of the number you may choose I "

The old man looked upon them with an expression of bewilderment.

"There's the tall beauty, to the left she is very pretty," muttered the old man, with flushed face, and sparkling eyes. " There 's the blonde immediately in front of her she 's also very lovely. Then there 's her com- panion, the graceful and pretty Ha ! my God ! what do I behold?"


26 THE CRIMES OF

As the old man uttered the startling exclamation, he sprang to his feet, and stood before his companion per- fectly sobered, but with features as pale as death, while his limbs trembled beneath him.

" God of mercy ! what do I behold ? La Belle Floretta ! My child, O, my daughter ! "

He would have rushed towards her, but the strong arm of the mask detained him, and that personage quietly re- marked,

" Be seated, signer ! It were not well for you to enter there, among them all ; but you can have your choice ! "

" Devil ! The girl I would have clasped was my own child my lost Floretta ! I will see her."

"Nay that is impossible," replied the mask, as he again pressed the knob ; and as quick as thought the fold- ing-doors were closed upon the bewildering scene.

" Lost, lost ! " gasped the old man, as he threw himself frantically against the doors. " Demon ' bid them be parted again. My daughter is kept here against her will bid the doors open, or I will break them down ! "

At this moment, the reaction of the excitement over- came the old man, and he sank down in a fainting-fit. The mask rang a bell. It was instantly answereefby the appearance of a servant.

" Bear the old man to the inner chambers, and see that he is well attended. Call Pireto to help you remove him."

The apartment was soon cleared the mask was left alone.

" The old man shall die," he muttered, " but not yet. A thought has struck me he shall be the means of my vengeance on Floretta, if she still refuses compliance to


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 21.

my wishes. I have gained some knowledge of his charac- ter. He can be influenced by wine and women ; and by this means shall he be moulded to my will ! Ha, ha ! a noble thought a glorious thought ! Now, proud La Belle Floretta ! beware how you trifle with me ! "

The ringing of a bell suspended in the corner of the apartment announced a visitor, as the mask paused. Ho moved to a side-door, and opened it. A paper was handed him, which he speedily read.

" The cardinals," he muttered, " to the meeting of the cardinals ! There 's more blood to be shed ; I am he whose province it is to do their bidding ; and yet how those proud potentates of the church would start did they but know who the man is that thus seems subject to their wishes ! O, did they but know me as I know myself "

The mask resumed his cloak and dagger, and passed from the apartment, leaving the sentence unfinished.


V.

THE WARNING.

THE 'home of mad Seta a humble, but cleanly and well-ordered abode. The old woman was not alone. Lucrctia Borgia and her lover, the gallant Mercado, were present.

" I must leave you, my children, for a while," said mad Seta, arising ; " but I will soon return."

" But why need you leave us? "

"Because I have business," was the reply, "be- cause," she added, in a lower voice, " lovers do not desire


28 THE CHIMES OF

the presence of a third party at their interviews, espe- cially if that party be children or old women ! "

With this, the old woman hobbled from the room.

" O, Mercado, what can mad Seta's warning mean? Surely, she would not distress me with these fears, if there were no occasion for them. I cannot give her credence cannot believe that my father meditates ill against you. Why should he ? "

" I hardly know. But he is the head of the church, which my death would so much benefit. The immense property, which is mine by inheritance, was so willed that if I die before attaining my twenty-first year the whole of it will go to the revenues of the church of Rome. Now, were the Holy Fathers, and His Eminence, your father, to be unscrupulous in their designs, and meditate the posses- sion of this wealth, I am well aware that it would be . an easy matter to prevent me from reaching my twenty-first birthday. You understand ? "

" But I cannot believe that my father would conspire against your life. He surely cannot desire to plunge his child into the misery such a deed would give her."

" Does he know of our love ? "

" I think not. I have never talked but once with him on the subject of a connection of this nature between us, and then I did not let him know how much I think of you."

" Not by words, perhaps ; but such love as thine is readable in every look and every motion ! 0, dearest Lucretia, if there should be a conspiracy against us, and by the all-powerful pillars of the church, we shall fall ! "

The form of the lovely woman heaved with emotion at the thought.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 29

" But not unavenged," she murmured, and her usual silvery voice was husky. " If wrong is nieted out to thee, if this love, so like that of the angels, is made the har- binger of a curse, if these hopes are blasted, this brain seared, and the aspirations of this heart blotted out for- ever, let each and all who are concerned look well to their souls ; for, by the soul of a sainted mother in heaven, terrible shall be the atonement of him who thus wrongs Lucretia Borgia ! "

" Hush, hush, girl ! " said a voice close to her side. Mad Seta had returned, and entered noiselessly, and now stood beside her. " It is not well for thee to talk of vengeance on such men ; they are too powerful ! "

"Were they gods, and do this wrong, heaven itself could not shield them ! " As long as there are brains to plot and hands to execute, let no one cross my path and blight my hopes ! "

" But they will do it. I know it ; I read it in the stars, long years ago ; and still I nightly read it, when the sky is not palled with clouds. They will scatter death and desolation around them, and make thy life a curse, as they have done to others."

" You speak wildly to-night, good Seta."

"Wildly? Ha, ha! Have I not had a cause for speaking so ? I 've seen such sights as few have seen, and live to weave their horrors in forms of speech. I saw thy mother, child, the night before she died. I knew her veins were full of poison that she was doomed ; and .well I knew but thou shalt not know it. The tale is not for ears like thine. I '11 go and breathe it to the air, or howl it to the fiends ! Ha, ha ! 't is not for such as thee not for such as thee ! " 3*


80 THE CRIMES OF

Donna Lucrctia would have questioned her, but she was gone.

And there was a shade of sadness upon the minds of the lovers, that could not be banished. They knew that terrible deeds had been done, when there was less incentive than now ; and could not help but feel that there was a dark and dangerous future before them.

Yet, even in such an hour, there was one star that shone upon them from the stormy heavens

The star of Hope !

Who has not seen it who has not looked to it with eagerness and fervent expectation ; and who has not seen it blotted out, and mental night and desolation reigning in its stead ?

" Well, if the worst is to come,*Ve will meet it calmly," said Mercado, with a kind of forced calmness, as they pre- pared to leave the room. " But if I am indeed to become the victim of these bloodhounds if I am lost to thee, dear Lucretia, forever "

" My soul will be changed to that of a fiend, and ter- rible will be the hell that fiend will prepare for those who wrong Lucretia Borgia ! "


VI.

THE MEETING OF THE CARDINALS.

A VAULTED room in the basement of the Inquisition. A marble table in the centre, several lighted candles thereon, and half a dozen men seated around it. They were the cardinals.

In one corner of the apartment stood the messenger


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 31

who had given the mask the death-warrant of Delano when he stood upon the steps of St. Peter. His red cloak had been thrown aside ; but still all of his garments were of a blood-red hue.

" Hugi, has he the mask arrived ? " asked Cardi- nal Corneto,* of the messenger.

" He has."

" Then retire, and bid him to our presence."

The order was obeyed. An instant later, the mask of St. Peter's stood before the cardinals.

" Mask," said Corneto, " there 's work for thee."

" I await your orders."

" There they are," handing a paper. " The document refers to Mercado. See that you execute its every precept. His death is desired by His EMINENCE ; he must be num- bered among those who HAVE lived, before two days have passed."

The mask ran his eye eagerly over the paper. " Ha, ha ! thus do I succeed," he muttered, in a low tone. "The lover of Lucretia Borgia is doomed ! "

And then he turned to depart.

" Stay," commanded Corneto. " There 's another war- rant for thee to serve. Its tenor, death ! "

" To whose concern ? "

" Signora Fortello's ! "

  • Cardinal Corneto is not a fictitious character. He was an

inunensely wealthy man, and from all accounts extremely avaricious. For the circumstances attending his death, the reader is referred to " Bowling's History of Romanism," a work of the most sterling charactc^. My account of it, near the close of this work, will be found historically correct.


32 THE CRIMES OF

The mask started violently, and recoiled from the war- rant extended towards him.

" Why do you start ? Take the paper, and hasten to execute it."

Still the mask hesitated.

A frown overspread Corneto's brow.

" You seem surprised," he remarked. " It is possible that you may have some objections to the death of this good lady ? "

" I have but well know that I may spare myself the useless trouble of stating them, if you have decided. Yet it seems a very strange affair, the Pope has not been informed of your intentions."

" How know you that ? But no matter I acknowl- edge that you speak the truth. The Pope has not been consulted on the subject. But think you that we cannot move in matters concerning the welfare of the church without consulting his opinions ? "

The mask remained silent, but his manner of doing so plainly expressed dislike.

" Signer mask," said Corneto, sternly, " you trifle with us ! Must I remind you of the terms on which you serve this council of the fearful contract, conceived and ma- tured in blood, that makes your life security for the fulfil- ment of our every order ? "

Still the mask did not move or reply.

" Then I will refresh your memory," continued Cor- neto, with increased sternness. " At the dead of night, many years ago, you were found by two officers of this very council, in a dark and retired street, rifling the pock- ets of a man you had just slain. The fatal dagger was in your grasp, the blood of the murdered man was on your


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 66

clothes ; and therefore you could not have escaped, had those two officers chosen to denounce you. But they did not do it . and why ? Because they had that very night, in council with their fellows, been considering where they could find an executioner. The thought occurred to them that, as your life was forfeited, you would purchase it by becoming the required officer, and assuming the dagger and black mask of your predecessor. They made the pro- posal you accepted and now I ask you to remember its conditions."

" I do, your Eminence. The conditions were that my life should be spared as long as I served you faithfully, and executed your orders. I have done so, and still intend to ; and therefore you can spare yourself the trouble of recalling the disagreeable nature of our bond to mind. I am not treacherous or unwilling ; I was only surprised."

" Very well. You have your orders ; see that they are executed; and remember that you are serving us, the church and the Pope, and you will never hesitate."

With this, the cardinals retired from the vault, one by one.

" The church and the Pope ! " muttered the mask, gaz- ing after them. " 0, fools ! fools ! "


VII.

ALEXANDER BORGIA.


ALEXANDER BORGIA, Pope Alexander VI. ; one link in the chain of apostolic succession one head of the hydra called the Church of Home.


34 THE CRIMES OF

He sat alone in an apartment of regal splendor and magnificence, in the palace of the Borgias. He was an elderly man, upon whose visage there was no look of man- hood, upon whose heart there was nothing written but a damning record of crime.

" Well, let it be so," he muttered, arousing from his musings. " The cardinals have decided that Signora For- tello's life belongs to them, and let the deed be done. It is all for the good of the church ; her wealth will swell our coffers greatly ; ay, let her die. And yet she was the only friend I had when first I came to Rome, a poor Spanish adventurer. It was her influence that made me a cardinal, and that placed me in a position to make my- self a Pope. Never mind ; her death will add much to my riches ; therefore she must die ! "

For a moment he was silent ; then he raised his hand, and rang a bell that stood upon the table.

A servant entered.

" If Donna Lucretia is in the palace, inform her that I desire to have her visit me at once," said the Pope. " I will discover whether she loves this Mercado or not," he soliloquized, after the man had gone. " If she does, as I Buspect, both shall feel my vengeance ! Poor fool ! she knows not that I consider myself her lover, rather than her father. But we shall see we shall see ! "

As the Pope paused, Donna Lucretia entered. There was a slight shade of anxiety upon her face, but yet she seemed firm and composed.

" Ruflo said you had sent for me. It is very kind of you, dear father ! " And she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

" Be seated here beside me," said the Pope, with all


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 35

the kindness he could assume. " I desire a few moments? conversation with you."

" Proceed I listen dutifully."

"Allow me, as a first question, to ask if you love a young nobleman, who has sometimes visited the palace, and is known as Mefcado ? "

" I cannot inform you that I do/" was the hesitatingly uttered reply.

" I am glad of that very glad ; for he is doomed to die. I have his death-warrant."

Donna Lucretia started up and stood before her father, pale as death, and quivering in every limb.

" What do I hear ? " she shrieked. " Mercado doomed to death ! The death-warrant of my lover ! O, what means this horrid revelation ? "

" Ah, he is your lover, then ? " asked Alexander Borgia, with an involuntary expression of irony in his voice.

" Since it has come to this, I swear it ! Mercado is my lover ; / am his betrothed ! "

" Your frankness wins my approbation ; it does, in- deed ! "

" No jeering, sir, unless you forget that I, too, am a Borgia ! " and her dark eyes flashed fearfully upon him as she spoke. " If my lover is under sentence of death, show me, a way" to save him, or I will kneel and curse you! O, do it! do it, if you love earth, or fear the pangs of hell ! "

" Peace, peace, my daughter ! It is true that I have a warrant for Morcado's death ; but the difficulty may not be so great as you imagine. I think I can point out a way by which you can save him. Now that he is in


36 THE CRIMES OF

such deadly peril, it will be noble, gracious, if you can prove his salvation, his guardian angel ! "

Donna Lucretia smiled, and her features were flushed with enthusiasm.

" It will, it will," she murmured. " Show me the way ! " and, again kissing her companion, she seated herself lov- ingly by his side.

" You will understand that this is not my work," and he drew forth the warrant. " You will not think that I have been plotting against so noble and worthy a man as Mer- cado ? It is the work of the cardinals."

" I understand; but the way to save him show me the way."

" Which I will do, if you will but listen to my story. Many years ago, a young Spanish nobleman, or rather a priest, who had then been several years in Home, fell violently in love with a noble Italian lady, who was a widow, and the mother of one child, a daughter. He loved her with a fondness and devotion that amounted to adoration ; but, strange to say, the lady did not return his passion. To the contrary, she repulsed his advances, and bade him bestow his love where it would meet with a return. Still he pressed his suit ; and there is no know- ing how it would have ended, had not the lady suddenly died "

" I have heard something like this before," interrupted Donna Lucretia, much agitated ; " but go on. The lady died "

" And the child was adopted by the priest, who reared her as tenderly as father ever reared a daughter. He saw her budding into girlhood, and felt that her love and artless words of endearment repaid him for all his trouble,


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 37

and made him much the debtor. He saw her lovely form ripening into womanhood, and bearing an almost exact resemblance to the form of her he had loved so well, but fatally, years before ! He listened to her words, so sweet and winning, and every tone seemed but the echo of the voice of the mother, she who had so completely won his heart. Days sped on, years rolled away ; and at last he found that his adopted daughter was so much like the first object of his passion, that the love which had once raged so violently in his heart was transferred to her. He loved her adored her; and, see! that lover is kneeling at the feet of the one he loves ! "

And Pope Alexander VI. sank down upon his knees before Lucretia Borgia !


VIII.

FEARFUL REVELATION'S.

DOXNA LUCRETIA started to her feet, and for full thirty seconds she stood before the libertine Pope, trembling, and deathly pale, without moving or uttering a word.

" Then you are the priest, and not my father," she ex- claimed, at last. " My mother was the object of your

love ; and now I 0, God ! what is the meaning of

this frightful revelation?"

" It means, dear Lucretia, that I love you ! For years I have cherished a hope that you would one day be mine ; for years I have looked upon your expanding beauties with the longing eyes of love and admiration ! Though we may not wed, yet thou canst be to me all, wife, daughter,

EVERYTHING ! "

4


38 THE CRIMES OF

And the passionate man, still kneeling, pressed the fair, lily hand he held to his lips ; but it was quickly with- drawn.

" Monster ! " cried Lucretia Borgia, and her features eeemed as sternly rigid as marble. " Arise, or I will call on God to curse you where you kneel ! Think not to make me an easy prey, or I will teach thee that the blood in my veins is no less passionate because it is not drawn from thy veins. I know thee well! Thy story is not new to me ; I had its outlines from mad Seta, long ago, but did not know that I was that child. Up, devil in human shape, or from this hour I shall be thy deadly enemy ! "

" Beware, Lucretia ! It were not well for thee to force me from my wonted calmness and good feeling towards thee. The love of Pope Alexander VI. is not to be light- ly scorned ! "

" Your love ! If there were aught in hell more pollut- ing, the fiends themselves would be incapable of enduring it, and it would drive them hence ! "

" Fool ! poor, beautiful fool ! " muttered Borgia, with a mocking laugh. "Thou lookest on me, by my soul, just as thy mother did some seventeen years ago, as vainly, too ! She crossed my wishes and died ! Not the first or last who might have claimed a similar epitaph ! "

"Ay, jeer on ! mock me with a rehearsal of your deeds, even to the murder of my mother ! O that I were a man, and thou not a coward ! I 'd soon rid the world of a mon- ster, a fiend in human shape, that 's already more than doubly damned ! "

" Peace, girl, peace ! or I shall forget myself, and fore- go all mercy ! " and he seized her violently by the arm.


ALEXANDER BORGLA. 3U

" You should remember Mercado ; 't was of his salvation we were about to speak ! "

" You cannot harm him ; already has he been warned of your machinations against him, and will ever be on his guard ! "

" Silly girl ! how little do you realize the power of Alexander Borgia! Know you that you met Mercado half an hour since at mad Seta's "

" I know this already."

"And also know that in less than five minutes after you left him he was arrested by my orders, and is now a close prisoner in the Inquisition ! "

Donna Lucretia reeled, and sunk, nearly fainting, into a chair.

" Perhaps you doubt my words," continued the Pope. " You shall go with me and see him, and then you shall know the terms of his release."

" Mevcado here ! let us fly to him at once ! " murmured the fair Italian, at last.

" As you will, dear, DEAR Lucretia ! " responded Borgia, with the glance of a basilisk, as he extended his arm.

The lady took it, fearfully, shudderingly, and both passed from the room.


IX.

TUB OFFER AND REFUSAL.


AN underground hall in the Inquisition. It was of oblong shape, and dimly lighted by a single lamp suspend- ed in the centre of it. Each end of it was enshrouded in darkness ; both were as silent as the grave.


40 THE CRIMES OF

Silent ? No. There was a dark form in one corner, and when it moved the clanking of chains was heard. 'T was there that Mercado was confined.

" My doom is sealed," he soliloquized, in a low voice. " Death is my portion ; eternal misery the inheritance of her I love, the noble and gentle Lucretia ! 0, that we could have died together, or that I could have told thou that I was going on a far journey, so that thou wouldst have hoped and waited for my return, until I had partially faded from thy remembrance, and thou had thus been pn - pared for the final blow ! If this is thy father's work, fearfully will he repent the wrong he is doing his child ! "

A door behind the young noble was noiselessly opened ; a familiar * entered.

" Signor Mercado," he said, " I come from Alexander Borgia. One of the chief elements of my business is briefness ; so I shall not trouble you long. My master has learned that you are in love with his daughter which he dislikes. You are condemned to death, and only one course can save you. If you will leave Home forever, and within the hour, and swear never to have any further acquaintance with Donna Lucretia, either by word or deed, you will be set at liberty. What is your reply ? "

" This : Go to your master, and tell him that I scorn him and his infamous proposal ! "

  • Familiars were the most detestable of all the officers of Cathol-

icism. They were employed hy the leading officers of the church to visit prisoners, worm themselves into their confidence, and, under the guise of friendship, gain all their secrets, and then betray them to the Inquisition ! They have even been known to show prisoners a pretended way of escape, that they might have the pleasure of arresting them at the moment when they thought themselves free, and thus feast the Holy Fathers on their agony !


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 41

" You had better take time for reflection not rush on certain death, which your words "

" Leave me ! you have your answer, as briefly as even you could have desired. I am a free man, and, being free, have a right to love Donna Lucretia, which no man shall destroy, save but with my death. You are answered; go at once."

The familiar was already gone, but the mask of St. Peter's was standing in his place.

" You had better reconsider your decision," he mut- tered, in a sepulchral voice. " It is altogether too hasty. Perhaps you think you are not doomed. If so, read your death-warrant ! " and he thrust the paper before his face, and opened a dark lantern he had brought, that the pris- oner might read it.

" I see," said Mercado. " It is signed by the cardinals, and bears their seal. Death is indeed my lot ! " and he threw himself moodily into one corner of the apartment.

" Is your resolution fixed ? "

" As the decrees of destiny ! "

The mask uttered a curse of vindictiveness. and turned to depart. The familiar was standing at the door.

" Pireto," said the mask to him, " see that my orders are executed to the letter. If the bell rings three times, behead your prisoner, in conformity to the orders already given. But should it ring but twice, you must not harm a hair of his head ! "

The familiar bowed assent, and the mask departed. And here we change the scene. 4*


42


THE CRIMES OF


THE TERRIBLE PROMISE.


THE inner office of the Inquisition. Pope Alexander VI. and Donna Lucretia entered, wearing black cloaks.

" Now show me Mercado," said the lovely woman, in a voice that trembled with commingled tenderness and anxi- ety for the loved one. " Then show me a way to avert the impending doom."

" Your wishes shall be gratified. Do you observe that glass socket in the wall yonder ? "

" I do. It seems to be firmly set in the solid masonry. What is its object ? "

" The keepers look through it, and are thus enabled to see what is going on in the cells within. Imitate their use of it, and tell me what thou seest."

The maiden obeyed, but instantly darted back with a shudder and exclamation of surprise.

" I gazed up and down the whole length of the corridor, and saw the cells upon either hand," she exclaimeJ.

" Look again. The foot of the corridor opens into a large room. Look at the lower end of that room, and tell me what thou seest."

Donna Lucretia obeyed.

" A figure chained to the wall, a prisoner. Who can it bo? Ha! a door opens; a man enters with a dark lantern ; he turns it toward the captive's face. Can it be ? Yes ; great Heavens ! the prisoner is Mercado ! "

The fair Italian would have fallen to the floor, had Bor- gia's strong arm not been thrown around her waist.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 43

" It is Mercado," he quietly remarked. " Observe him well ! "

" The bearer of the lantern is followed by two more men ; they are followed by the fourth ; and he my God ! the fourth bears a block and an axe ! "

" The fourth does bear a block and an axe," chimed in Borgia. " Again observe ! "

" He sets the block down ; he speaks to Mercado, who has arisen ; Mercado kneels, and seems resigning himself to his fate; now he rises, and now 0, heavens! he lays his neck upon the block ! "

" He does, he does, dear Lucretia ! " hissed Borgia, in the ears of the fair girl. " And now listen to what I have to say. You behold this bell-cord, at my right hand. It connects with a bell in the vicinity of your lover's dungeon. If I ring it three times, the executioner will immediately behead him ; for such is the signal agreed upon, and thus is a third of it' given ! "

As he spoke, he jerked the bell-cord.

" Father Pope Alexander Borgia ! What do you intend to do ? Would you murder my lover in cold blood ? " and again she looked through the glass socket. "Ha ! the executioner has seized his bloody axe, at the sound of the bell, and approaches Mercado ! O, fiend, devil ! prevent this hellish work from going on, or I will strike you dead at my feet ! "

Borgia laughed.

" Think you that I should not have time to ring the bell twice more before I die ? " he asked, with an undis- guised sneer. " You do not seem to realize the power of the man you are trifling with."

"I do I do!"


44 THE CRIMES OF

" Do you not know that my word is law, my anger, death ! Have you never reflected that the terrible Black Mask, whose career of blood cannot be spoken of without a shudder, seconds my designs, and seems as intimately connected with me as if he were my shadow ? Have you never paused to think that there are hosts and hosts all around us who have no desire or duty but to execute my wishes? As you have doubtless discovered, I execute many of my plans in a mystical manner, for the gratifica- tion of astonishing the every-day fools around us ; but you know that I am not the less deadly when I have a deadly purpose to fulfil "

" But, Mercado ! Speak of him. Even now the exe- cutioner may be suspending the fatal axe over his head ! "

" Do not be alarmed ; your lover will not be beheaded until I have rung the bell twice more, twice more, my dear Lucre tia ! "

" Demon ! what would you do ? "

" Spare your epithets, and listen. Time flies ; this business must be settled. Now mark me, and mark well. There is only one way to save the life of Mercado : your promise to be mine is the only medium of his salvation ! I love you, have loved you for years, and have sworn to make you mine. You have scorned me ; you have dared to cross my wishes ; but let that pass. You now under- stand that I have a way to gain my wishes. Decide, and at once ! Swear, by your mother's soul, to be mine, or in less than sixty seconds your lover will have ceased to exist ! "

" 0, God ! what an alternative ! " cried Donna Lucre- tia, as pale as death, and trembling in every limb. She


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 45

leaned against the wall, and glared wildly through the socket.

" What ! do you hesitate ? Then I will ring again ; your lover dies ! " And again he jerked the bell-cord !

" Stay stay ! I will promise I will ! "

" Swear it," said Borgia, fiercely, with his hand upon the cord. " Swear to be wholly mine at an early day, or I ring for the third and last time."

" By my mother's soul, I swear it!" came, in a low whisper, from the ashy-pale lips of Donna Lucretia, and she sank backwards into his arms, in a fainting-fit.

And as the dark eyes of Alexander Borgia roved over that insensible, but strangely, wildly beautiful form, a laugh of exultation escaped him, and he cried, with the joy of a fiend rejoicing over a damned soul,

"Ha, ha ! she 's mine, mine forever, body and soul ! "