The Crimes of Alexander Borgia/3

BOOK THIRD.Edit

I.

A POPE'S OPINION OF HIMSELF AND ROMANISM.

ANOTHER week had passed. It was early in the even- ing. The sky was radiant with the orbs of night, which made it a jewelled veil of heaven.

Pope Alexander VI. sat alone in his richly-furnished apartment, but in no pleasant mood. An evil gleam was in his eyes, a look of anger on his brow.

" This affair with my daughter Lucretia has added the finishing-stroke to ' Satan's masterpiece,' as I have been termed," he muttered. " Henceforth, no particle of man- hood, no quality of mercy, shall have a place in my nature ; but all that is infernal, treacherous, and infamous, shall be enacted in both my public and private life. I '11 make my name and character themes for universal scorn and execration ; so that those who come after me will look upon the record of my deeds with more loathing and ab- horrence than ever was felt for Satan himself ! I '11 be a monster in every species of depravity; I'll plunge into every order of dissipation and licentiousness ; I '11 be the chief of assassins, the vilest of criminals, and the most in- famous of priestly libertines ! "

He arose to his feet, and began to walk to and fro.


ALEXANDER BOKGIA. 77

" And yet," he added, with a look of scorn and mockery that would have done honor to a fiend, " and yet, though I make the name of Alexander Borgia the synonyme of all that ia infamous and abhorred, will I not still be ' His Holiness ! THE MOST HOLY POPE ALEXANDER VI.'? How the fools of the present day, the mass, the ignorant rab- ble, will prostrate themselves in the dust before me ; kiss my toe ; adore me as a God on the altar of St. Peter's ; and regard me as the possessor of the keys of heaven ! And how the modern Catholic church, which pretends to be so holy and infallible, will claim and acknowledge me as one of the legitima^|^cessors of St. Peter, and as a ne- cessary link in th^nroasted chain of apostolic succession, while there shall not be one of the priests of Romanism, at any period of the future, but that will know my character, and thoroughly loathe and execrate me in his heart, though he will hold me up as a head of the Catholic church to the poor ignorant fools he wishes to dupe ! ! There is not one of the ' HOLY FATIIEUS' but that knows and believes that the religious mummery in which he is employed is the most infamous and pernicious of humbugs and impositions. They do not believe in the infallibility of the Pope, nor in any of the doctrines and ceremonies they preach and enact under the name of religion. They know that full one-half of the Popes have been the most notorious of villains, lib- ertines and assassins ; and would declare, if they spoke the real sentiments of their hearts, that a large portion of them as richly deserved hanging as did Judas Iscariot ! Ay, the very men, who include me ?ne, Alexander Bor- gia as a link in their elaborate chain of apostolic suc- cession, know very well that I am as base, corrupt, polluted, and as infamous a monster in the semblance of 7*



78 THE CRIMES OF

man as the world ever produced : but yet they address me as ' His Holiness ! ' ' The Most Holy ! ! ' and rank me as a successor of St. Peter ! ! What inconsistency, what cant and hypocrisy, what living infamy, is the whole system of Catholicism J "

Borgia was alone ; so it need not seem strange that he spoke his real opinions, and spoke the truth. -N " Romanism," continued the Pope, " is founded on the / ignorance of the many, and the impudent and blasphemous J assumption of the few. Its gorgeous and magnificent cer- J emonies are not instituted to render religion solemn and I impressive, for it is not religion ; nordoes the religion of \ Jesjis Christ and his followers recjurre any such impres- \ siveness as is gained from the pageants and mummeries I that characterize Catholicism. The ceremonies of Roman- I ism are intended, not to edify and solemnize religion, but to blind and mystify the masses, and glorify the Pope, his cardinals, bishops, and priests ! And yet these fools, the people, these blind, servile masses, do not see the im- positions that are put upon them, though they are as glaring as the light of day; and, if they will be such despicable fools, let them reap the reward of a fool's folly. If the people, whether in Rome, or France, or any other country, will be priest-ridden, will be subjugated, morally and mentally, physically and politically, by an impudent priesthood, a prison and chains are too good for such mis- used bodies and such ignoble souls ! "

Such were the thoughts of Alexander Borgia, Pope of Rome ; such are the thoughts of the Catholic priesthood of the nineteenth century, from Archbishop Hughes down to the lowest and most fallen specimen of manhood that exists as a priest of Romanism.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 79

There was a knock .upon the door, as Borgia concluded his soliloquy. He opened it, and beheld a servant, who passed him several letters, and retired. The Pope was soon busy in opening and reading them.


II.

NEW MYSTERIES AND DEEP PLOTTING.

""So, Cardinal Guillani is dead," soliloquized the Pope, after he had read the first letter. " How much richer is our treasury by his sudden departure ? Let me see ; the secretary must have made some allusion to it. Ah ! here it is."

And, as he glanced at some figuring on the corner of the page, he added in a low tone, " Fifteen thousand maravedi ; that 's not so small a sum as it might have been. 'T will prove very acceptable to the funds of the church at this moment."

Pie now opened the second letter. A frown appeared upon his face as he read the commencement, and it deep- ened to a look of fierce passion as he read on.

" By Heavens ! " he exclaimed, " what is this ? The cardinals complaining of the mask of St. Peter's. And this charge that the mask does not execute their decrees. Who has dared to breathe a word to that effect ? Ha ! what is the meaning of this statement? 'Rumor has reached us that Michael Delano is yet alive, and that the mask has abducted the daughter of the old man to further his own particular ends ! ' Some one has gained a little knowledge, and made a great noise about it. I must see to this at once. Delano is not dead that is true ; but I


OU THE CRIMES OF

have kept him so closely and securely confined, that none could have gained any actual information in reference to him. Yet his name is before the cardinals ! There is a mystery here, which I must unravel."

The Pope remained in thought a moment ; then opened the third letter. It bore the private seal of the cardinals, and was from the pen of their private secretary. Borgia read the commencement of it aloud :

" It has been brought to our notice that a certain young citizen, whose name is Hernaldo Zinna "

The Pope sprang to his feet suddenly, and gazed long and attentively upon the name.

" Hernaldo Zinna !" he exclaimecl, at length; "Her- naldo is the name of La Belle Floretta's. lover ! Is he the person alluded to in this note ? But let me read on, and see what the Council says in reference to him."

" has been secretly establishing an anti-Papal so- ciety, and taking other measures that tend to the injury of our most holy Catholic religion. The society is said to already number a large portion of the laboring classes, and holds its regular meetings, but where is a source of mys- tery. These things having been duly considered, we have deemed it our duty to lay them before your Holiness, with the hope of having your advice on the matter."

" Hernaldo ! " repeated Alexander VI. again, as a sig- nificant gleam appeared in his dark eyes. " If this youth should prove to be the lover of La Belle Floretta, what a weapon I shall have placed in my hands against her, and how mercilessly I will use it to win her over to my wishes ! Ah, I must see to this. Her father is already in my power, and if I can but get her lover in my clutches,


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 81

I shall bo doubly armed against her silly resistance to my wishes, and will soon force her to compliance ! "

There was something in the current his thoughts had now taken that added to the fierce and vindictive look upon his features.

44 Ay, she shall be mine," he continued. " I have used gentle means during the past week, but she has scorned and despised to be won by them. I '11 now try something more serious. If the poor fool but knew how I have been duped, how my own daughter became the victim of the revenge that was meant for her, ay, if she but knew that she is the daughter of Lady Caselli, she would not care to oppose a purpose I have cherished with such deadly reso- lution. I ? 11 see her once more, and learn her final decis- ion. Once more ; only once more ! "

Borgia threw the letters he had received into the grate, and prepared to leave the room. A new thought seemed to rise up in his heart.

44 Now that Guillani is dead," he muttered, 44 why should my son Caesar not be chosen to fill his place ? 'T is a good idea ; he shall be. Cardinal Caesar Borgia ! Tho name has a pleasing sound. He is a sadly-dissipated dog, but I will see what can be done to effect a change : firstly, in his condition ; secondly, in his principles. But enough of Caesar," he* added, as he passed from the room. " Now for a final essay at fair means in conquering La Belle Floretta ! "


III.

THE FINAL RESOLVE.

LA BELLE FLORETTA was seated alone in her apart- ment. A look of the deepest anxiety was on her features.


82 THE CRIMES 01*

" O, that death would decide for me ! " she murmured. " The Pope has given me but one choice, to become his mistress, or see my father slain by the tortures of the In- quisition. He told me to decide by nine o'clock, when he will return to hear my decision "

She glanced at the horologue upon the table ; she saw that the hour of nine had just arrived.

And even as she uttered an exclamation of fear and anxiety, and started to her feet, a door behind her opened, and Borgia entered.

" I have come, dear Floretta, as per-agreement, to know your decision," he quietly observed, with a mocking smile. " Will you be my mistress, or not ? "

The captive's face was deathly pale ; but there was no fear expressed thereon, nor did her voice tremble, as she replied :

" You have already heard my answer. I have told thee that I would rather die than consent to your base purpose, though you are the Pope of Rome, and a Borgia ! "

The form ^>f the listener fairly quivered with passion, but he endeavored to appear calm.

" You are very brave," he muttered, with a forced smilo that made him appear more fiendish and brutal than when in his stormiest mood " as brave as you are beautiful ! "

La Belle Floretta made no reply, but turned away and seated herself in a chair, while a look of scorn and contempt appeared on her features.

" I see you are in no mood for conversation," observed Borgia, and the expression of his face became still more devilish and menacing. " I will leave you, and send your father to comfort you."

" My father ! " cried Floretta, starting to her feet.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 83

" Will you indeed allow my father to come and see me?"

" I will, indeed ! "

" 0, thanks thanks ! Do this, and I will bless you."

" Save your thanks, dear Floretta," he added, with bit- ter sarcasm, " until you know my object in sending your father to* your presence ! "

The look that mantled Borgia's face, as he said this, would have wrung an exclamation of horror from the girl had she observed it, it was so diabolical and menacing.

" And if you are not satisfied with your father's society, I will send another, a friend of yours I should say, your lover, whose name is Hernaldo Zinna ! "

Floretta recoiled from him, uttering a shriek of terror, and sank back upon a sofa, almost in a state of insensi- bility.

" I thought there was a cause for your refusal to accept of my proposition," observed Borgia, as his dark eyes emitted a vengeful gleam. " You love this Hernaldo Zinna very much, I suppose ! "

" Monster ! is he, too, in your power ? " exclaimed Floretta.

" Not exactly," was the reply, " but I presume he soon will be, if the visit I shall now allow your father to make you does not prove satisfactory to all concerned, and espe- cially so to myself. But farewell for the present. Ex- pect your father in the course of half an hour ; and so I have the pleasure of bidding you adieu ! "

It was no common look that flitted over the features of the Pope as he passed from the apartment. It spoke of long-cherished hate, and a fearfully-planned revenge !


84 THE CRIMES OF


THE SECRET CONCLAVE.

A VAST hall, under ground, and near the Tiber. It was dimly lighted. In the centre a number of men were seated around a table. Their dusky features, half re- vealed by the rays that fell upon them, wore a calm look of determination, such as bespeak noble qualities and dar- ing souls.

" We are all here," muttered a member of the party, who sat at the head of the table ; " ten of us in all ! "

" Ay," was the response of a person at one end of the hall, as he closed and barred the door by which all had gained admittance. He then came forward, and, throwing off a cloak and mask he had worn for the purpose of dis- guise, seated himself in the midst of the group.

There was that in his actions and appearance that would have proclaimed him the leader of the men in whose presence he was seated. We may add that he was no other than Hernaldo Zinna, the lover of La Belle Floretta. He was young evidently not more than two-and-twcnty years of age, of prepossessing appearance, and with a countenance that evinced courage and manliness.

" Brothers," he observed, in a clear, ringing tone, " I need not speak of what we are, nor dwell upon the aims of this organization. You all know that we are Italian artisans, met together for the attainment of mental and political supremacy, and for the protection of our rights. Our numbers are few, but are every day increasing. Our chief object is the redemption of our own class from the grasp of Popery, and the establishment of the true religion.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 85

Down with Popery ! down with the Inquisition ! and down with oppressors of the poor ! Such are the thoughts that shall be sacredly and secretly guarded in our hearts, until we have become strong enough to wrest the chains that bind us. Is it not so ? "

A murmur of approbation went round the table.

" Perhaps I have had greater cause to take the position I have," continued Zinna, " than most of you. One who was very dear to me a young lady has, as near as I can learn, been abducted by Alexander Borgia, and is now confined in his palace. God only knows what her fate has been, or what it may be ; I should go mad were I to think upon the subject. I have made every possible exertion to learn something in reference to her, but have failed."

" If she is alive, she shall be saved, if we have to tear down the Pontifical palace ! " said the secretary of the " Leaguers," in a low, resolute tone.

" In addition to this, my dearest friend, Mercado, was arrested by the officers of the Inquisition. Two long, dreary weeks have passed by since that time, and yet I have not gained any tidings relative to his fate. It is my belief that he has been slain by the accursed emissaries of the church, or been incarcerated in a loathsome dun- geon."

" Your wrongs are indeed great," said the secretary ; " but I do not believe that a heart now beats in this room that is not pledged to avenge you."

" Thanks, my friends, my brothers ! But while the cases I have mentioned show how insecure are the meagre rights possessed by the artisans, the laboring people, both male and female, there may be others brought personally


86 THE CRIMES OF

home to more than one of you, to urge you more surely and determinedly to vengeance ! Brothers ! let the good work to which we have pledged our lives go on. Years may pass away before we can attain a force sufficient to warrant us in taking a stand of open hostility to the church; thousands and thousands of the poor may be slain and tortured to death in the mean time ; but let their sacred memory be cherished j let their tears and groans be registered on earth as well as in heaven, and we will eventually have a great and glorious revenge ! "

Hernaldo Zinna arose to his feet as he spoke, and re- sumed his cloak and mask.

" Brothers," he proceeded, " let all whom you have prepared to join the league be proposed to the secret con- clave to-morrow evening. Beware of traitors ; and speak not of our order to any one, until you have learned that they will gladly join it, and forever remain true ! "

The men all arose, and uttered their assent. Hernaldo moved forward and opened the massive door by which they had entered, and they passed out into a dark passage, one by one. When all were gone, Hernaldo followed them, closing the door securely behind him. The passage-way branched off in several directions, all of which led to the bank of the river. The commander of the Leaguers took the centre passage, and was soon by the water's edge, where a small boat was lying. Springing into it, he cast off, and was soon floating silently down the river.


ALEXANDER BOKGIA. 87

V.

THE FEARFUL DISCOVERY.

ON the Tiber! The night was serenely beautiful. Above, the stars were shining with their greatest splendor ; below, many a light gleamed o'er the rippling waters, and many a fairy-like boat was floating down the tide, freighted with brave men and lovely women, who were rapt in the enjoyment of the scene.

Zinna did not labor at the oars, but gave himself up to the thoughts that arose in his heart, and allowed the boat to float wherever the current chose to carry it. More than once did he come into collision with the boats of oth- ers, and many a curse did he receive for his negligence ; but all were unheeded.

" There is a great and glorious project within my soul," he murmured ; " one to enchain my waking thoughts and rule my dreams. God only knows whether I shall live to execute it ; but there is a secret consciousness in my heart of my having been born for greatness. Men might call me wild or boyish, if they knew what great enter- prises have sprung up in my heart ; if they but knew how sternly I have determined to leave a name upon the scroll of fame that time nor change can ever efface ! "

He paused, and relapsed'into a sullen revery.

The boat floated silently on for the space of half an hour, when Zinna roused himself up, and saw that he was near the lower part of the city, and nearly opposite his own residence. He therefore seized the oars and rowed the boat towards its usual landing-place, which he soon reached.


88 THE CRIMES OP

Springing ashore, the young man proceeded to secure his boat to the rude wharf, and then turned to walk tow- ards the cottage where he resided ; but ere he had taken two steps in that direction, he recoiled with an exclama- tion of horror.

For there, upon the edge of the wharf, where it had been cast by the waters of the Tiber, lay a ghastly corpse !

It was the body of Mercado !

The ghastly features of the dead were rendered still more white and unearthly in appearance by the pale rays of the moon and stars that shone upon them !

" O, God, it is Mercado!" cried Zinna, as he knelt beside the body. "Dead! stabbed to the heart ; and many days ago, if I may judge from appearances. Who has done this work ? "

" The mask of St. Peter's ! " was the reply, in a sharp, clear voice, that seemed to come from close beside him.

Zinna started, and looked carefully around.

" It might have been my over-excited fancy," he solilo- quized. " Ha, what is here ? A paper, written upon and tucked beneath his belt. What can it be ? "

Hernaldo drew forth the paper he had discovered, hand- ling it very carefully, for it was still wet, and the writing was almost blotted out. Enough was left, however, to convince him of the nature of the document, and a groan escaped him as he realized the truth.

For he held the death-warrant of Mercado, signed by the secretary of the cardinals, and addressed to the mask of St. Peter's !

The youth spoke not uttered no sound. His tongue seemed to have lost its power of speech ; his heart seemed


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 89

like a weight of iron within his bosom. But he knelt beside the body of his murdered friend, and, raising his pale and rigid face towards heaven, he clasped his hands and breathed a silent oath of vengeance! Then he arose; cast a single look upon the form of Mercado, and rushed wildly from the spot.

A wild laugh followed him, and ere he had vanished from view a dusky form came forth from the little cabin in the bow of the boat the very boat that belonged to Hernaldo !

" Ha, ha ! " laughed this personage, in a voice of devil- ish exultation, as he drew up his form and gazed towards Zinna's house.

The laugh was echoed in hell ; for the one who uttered it was a familiar of the Inquisition !


VI.

BORGIA'S CRUELTY.

A ROOM in the palace occupied by the mask of St. Pe- ter's. Enter the mask, and an Inquisitor.

The face of the latter, though thin and emaciated, wore an expression that characterizes a wily, cunning Jesuit of modern times. His small gray eyes seemed formed to read all things that were transpiring around him. He wore the black cloak and cowl that is always worn by those of his profession.

" Father Janzen," said the mask, " I have sent for you that I might make arrangements for the admission of an old man and his daughter into the Inquisition, within the hour."

8*


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"'Tis weft," replied the Inquisitor, in a sepulchral tone.

" Who they are, and what they are, is immaterial to you. I hold the seal of {he Pope for what I do, and pledge my life to the honor and justness of my actions."

" Your word is law," was all the reply the Inquisitor made.

The mask seized his companion by the arm.

" Dare you receive a secret," he said, " that it would cost you your life to betray ? "

The Inquisitor nodded assent.

" Then know you that this young lady is one whom the Pope wishes to become his mistress. He will put her to the torture to obtain her consent to his wishes. That beauteous form will be stretched upon the rack ; those ex- quisitely-moulded limbs will be bound with heavy cords ; that fair skin will be marred with many an instrument of torture. Ha, ha ! I '11 feast upon her sufferings ; I '11 gloat over her agony ! But, list you ; not one word to others from your lips on this subject, if you value your life ! " and he laid his hand significantly upon his dagger.

" I understand," muttered the Inquisitor, with profes- sional calmness.

" This lady," continued the mask, " is now in the pal- ace of the Borgias. She will be freed, as will her father ; and both will be at liberty to depart for their homes, as soon as they can meet and get ready say an hour hence."

" Then what have I to do with torturing either of them ? " asked the Inquisitor.

"Do you not see the refinement of my cruelty ? They will hasten home; they will congratulate themselves that


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 91

they have been mercifully released from the surveillance of the church ; then, the very moment when they seem at the height of their freedom and happiness, you you, Father Janzen, and a party of your officers, shall wake them from their momentary dream, and drag them to the Inquisition, where I will meet you, and then shall they know what it is to defy a Borgia ! "

" I understand your plan. Have you any further orders ? "

" None at present. I will send a messenger when you are required."

The Inquisitor bowed assent, and retired from the apart- ment, while the mask rang a bell, and threw himself into a chair.


VII.


THE ring was answered by the appearance of a ser- vant.

" Go to Delano," commanded the mask, ' and inform him that I wish to see him here immediately. Tell him that I have pleasant news, and show him the way."

The man bowed and retired.

" I will send him to La Belle Floretta," soliloquized the mask, "and may she reap much joy from the visit! "

There was a sinister look upon his face, and a sullen gleam of anticipated triumph in his eyes, as ne uttered the words.

The door opened, and Delano entered. The face of the


U2 THE CRIMES OF

old man was somewhat paler than when we last saw him ; but he endeavored to appear calm and assume a smile.

" The servant said that you had pleasant news for me," he observed, as he seated himself in the chair placed for him. " If you have, you will speak in reference to my daughter, and tell me "

" That she is well, and that it is decided that you pay her a visit at once."

" 0, thanks ! thanks for this most unexpected kind- ness ! "

" You have doubtless suspected what the intentions were that I entertained in reference to your daughter at the time you first beheld her in my palace. I had been smitten by her beauty, and had formed a resolve to make her mine, by fair means or foul ; but it is a source of pleas- ure for me to give you the gratifying assurance that I have concluded to forego that evil design "

" 0, noble man ! how shall I ever repay you for this generous act ? "

" The cause of this somewhat strange proceeding was a desire to add to your daughter's happiness. Listen to me, Delano. Your daughter has been seen by the Pope. He has offered to make her his mistress "

The old man groaned aloud, and covered his face with his hands.

" Nuy, he has resolved that she shall be his mistress," continued the mask. " Think of this, Delano. Smile and be happy at the honor that is conferred on you and her. Your daughter the mistress of a Pope ! Think of that, and let us hear no more of those silly harpings on virtue and womanly purity, and kindred shallow subjects. Drink, fill up your glass ; be as merry as the merriest. There are


ALEXANDER BOKQIA. 9o

glorious times in store for you. Floretta has touched the right chord in the Pope's heart. He will make her noble, wealthy. She will live in the midst of every luxury and splendor, and time shall pass on in a continual round of gayety and enjoyment. A palace will open its portals to her ; troops of servants will be in readiness to obey her slightest wish ; and' you, Delano, shall live like a lord and feast like a king; ay, even with the Pope himself! "

" I ? " muttered Delano, confused and bewildered by the words of his companion.

" Ay, you ! As the father of the beauteous Floretta, you will be treated with every respect and attention by the Pope, if you but use your influence towards gaining her consent to his wishes."

" I would ! I would !" responded Delano, dazzled by the picture that had been presented ; " but she is engaged to be married to a poor but worthy young man, Hernaldo Zinna."

" Never mind him," and the mask frowned at this allu- sion. " Would you see your daughter wedded to a beg- gar ? Fie, fie, Delano ! Have you no more regard for her happiness than to think of such a thing ? She is a queen. in beauty, in heart, in everything that makes a queen, save rank and wealth ; and neither of these quali- fications will be long wanting, if she will but consent to Borgia's wishes. He will make you and her respected and happy ; he will be the sincere friend of both. Then why will you hesitate ? Go to her at once ; tell her to accept the offer that is made her "

" I will do so ! " cried Delano, starting to his feet.

The mask took hold of his arm, and bent his dark eye Eteriily upon his face.


94 THE CRIMES OF

" Let there be no treachery in this business," he re- marked, in a significant tone. " The Pope has set his heart upon this design ; and if you refuse to second him by interceding with Floretta, or if she will not consent, death and torture are before you both ! Do you under- stand ? "

" I do, but "

" No hesitation," said the mask, sternly. " Away at once. In the next saloon you will find those who are to attend you to the palace. They will first blindfold you, as a precautionary measure ; but do not be alarmed ; they will conduct you in safety."

But

" You have your final orders. See that they are exe- cuted ! " and he conducted him almost fainting from the apartment.


VIII.

BELEASE OF THE CAPTIVES.

THE meeting between La Belle Floretta and her father was most affecting. The old man clasped her to his heart, and she wept like a child upon his bosom.

But Delano was sad and gloomy. The first delight of reunion having passed away, a look of terrible anxiety appeared on his features.

" We have met, my child, but for a terrible purpose has this meeting been designed ; " and then he went on to tell her all that had passed between the mask and himself, even to the pledging of his influence for her consent to the wishes of the Pope. At this point, Floretta's excitement,


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 95

which had been gradually increasing as he proceeded in his revelations, became so great that she could remain silent no longer.

" What ! " she exclaimed, as she recoiled from her father with an exclamation of horror, " have you been won over to the infamous designs of the Po^e ? Has he indeed influenced you to counsel me to this most inhuman deed ? "

" Forgive me, my child," cried the old man, sinking into a chair. " I was weak, and he painted a picture of luxury and happiness that dazzled me for the moment."

" Happiness ! " repeated Floretta, with a vehemence that startled her listener. " Would you sell your child to such a monster as Alexander Borgia for gold ? If so, know you that I will never consent to his wishes. He may kill, but he cannot enslave me. Do you not know that I am betrothed to Hernaldo Zinna ? "

"I do I do!"

" Then you should have more respect for him than to counsel me to such a course, a course I would not adopt were the penalty of my refusal ten thousand deaths ! "

" Nor need you, fair Floretta ! " said the voice of Bor- gia. He hud entered unperceived, and now stood beside them.

" I see that you are surprised," he continued, " as you may well be, at this sudden change in my demeanor. But you have yet to learn that there is no man, however bad, but that has his moments of calm and rational reflection, when he sees the deformity of his nature in its true light. I have thought of the relative position in which we .stand to each other, and sincerely regret that I have been urged to such an evil course by my impulsive nature. Floretta


Ub THE CRIMES 01

Delano I have wronged you both ; but as far as I can make reparation, I am determined to do so. You are both free this moment free, to return to your home ! "

The listeners could scarcely credit their senses, but stared vacantly from one to the other.

" I repeat," continued Borgia, " the doors of the palace are open before you ; you are as free as air to depart ; all I ask is that, when you hear curses and execrations showered upon my name, you will remember me as one whose heart was not entirely dead to the qualities and attributes of manhood ! "

Delano reeled and staggered back into a chair, while Floretta sank down before the Pope. Both were entirely overcome by this unexpected conduct.

"Nay, not a word," said Borgia, with a smile. " Your thanks are not needed ; I have only done that which it V* was my duty as a man to do. Hasten home, and be happy ! "

He turned suddenly as he spoke, and retired from the apartment, while Floretta clasped her father in a fond embrace, and exclaimed,

" Saved saved, my father ! "

" Yes, thank Heaven ! But let us hasten from this gild- ed abode of crime and infamy ! " responded Delano, as they arose and passed from the room.

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Borgia, entering the apartment as they departed, and there was Satanic joy in every look, and word, and action, as he gazed after them. " Thus have I planned my revenge, and now for the Inquisition ! "


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 97

IX.

FEARS AND HOPES.

AN hour had elapsed. The scene a room in Delano's cottage. It stood iu an obscure portion of the city, but was neat in appearance, and comfortable.

Delano, his daughter, and Hernaldo Zinna, were seated therein. The old man had just been revealing the partic- ulars of the release of himself and daughter from the pontifical palace. Hernaldo pondered over the informa- tion several moments before he made any reply.

" There 's a deep mystery in this affair," he observed, at last. " After Borgia had taken so much trouble to obtain possession of Floretta, and given her proof of his dishon- orable intentions in such base proposals as he has made, it is really strange that he should have released you both in this unexpected manner."

" It is, indeed."

" So strange, and so much at variance with his known character," continued Zinna, " that I cannot help but think that he is influenced by some questionable motive. I fear that the danger now escaped will overtake you in a more deadly form at some future time. Did you not say that the mask of St. Peter's holds a warrant from the cardinals for your death? "

" I did."

" Are you sure that he has such a document in his pos- session ? "

" Quite sure, for I have seen it."

" The mystery deepens," muttered Zinna, with a still more serious look. " If the mask has indeed a warrant 9


98 THE CRIMES OF

for your death, he should be aware that it will cost him his life, must the cardinals be informed that he has thus spared and freed one whom they have condemned. Ha ! A terrible thought takes possession of me : it is possible that the cardinals have doomed us all to death, and that the mask of St. Peter's intends to perform his dread task this very night. Good or evil is most certainly intended to grow out of this strange affair ; but I cannot cannot believe that Borgia intends any good."

" There is cause for fear, that is undeniable ; but let us all hope for the best," said Delano, as he arose, took a light from the table, and retired, adding, as he reached the door, " Good-night, my children ; I am fatigued somewhat more than usual, and must to bed."

" Good-night," responded each of the lovers, and the old man left them alone.

"Thank Heaven, that you are both restored to me," said Zinna. " You do not know what terrible anxiety I have endured during the last two weeks. I had almost given you up for dead ! "

" Do not speak of it ; the remembrance of what I have undergone makes me shudder, even now ! "

The youth gazed still more earnestly upon her. A slight blush heightened the color of her cheeks.

" I understand your thought, dear Hernaldo," she mur- mured ; " but I assure you that Borgia did not execute his most foul and unholy intention."

Zinna clasped her to his heart, and pressed his lips to her own with all the fondness of ardent love and admira- tion. And she returned his caresses, not with the bashful- ness of untold love, not with the freedom of guilty passion, but with the gentle and modest trust and devotion that


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 99

ever characterizes the affection of a true woman. She did not blush as she reclined in his arms, and rested upon his manly breast, looking up into his eyes with a look of unutterable love, did not start as he drew her close to his warmly-beating heart, kissed her again and again, and whispered, in the low tones of love, " Mine all mine own ! " Why should she blush or tremble ? Were they not united in heart, and by the bonds of an affection so sacred that no sin could have passed between them ?

And they were happy, the loving and the beloved, happy in the treasures of a pure, fervent first affection, whose holy blessings were scattered over their hearts like pearls over seas of gold ! In that glad hour, life seemed like a heaven, in which no storms could arise, above which no clouds could arise, and beneath which no hell could exist : yet fatality was at work !

They thought not of the dangers yet to come, nor of those that were passed. Their senses seemed absorbed in a heavenly delight ; they were under the influence of the blissful spell that accompanies the first waking hours of " young love's dream." What to them was hate, envy, or even death, as they thus held each other in that fond embrace ?

O, love, love ! Why does the soul of the stern and cold misanthrope fly back to the joys that have been, to those heavenly delights ? The gentle touch the fond embrace protracted kiss the sweetly sensuous smile of consummated bliss the glowing form the swelling bosom the love-lit eyes, now timidly cast down, then more timidly raised ! 0, what a picture could that same misanthrope paint from memory ! But how such pleasures fade how quickly do they pass; and then, in after


100 THE CRIMES OF

years, how like a hollow mockery of present woe does the remembrance of them come up to mental view, and make us curse the changes that have robbed us of such happi- ness !

0, as I sit here in the loneliness and silence of this midnight hour, and remember how the fairest flower that ever sprung from heaven grew up beside me and blessed me with its riches, then was gathered by the icy hand of Death, a sense of sickening desolation sweeps over my every thought and feeling, and I realize that on the portals of my cold and reckless heart the demon hands of change and disappointment have written, " Accursed accursed forevermore ! " * *


THE ARREST.


" IT is getting late, dearest," observed Zinna, at last. " I must bid you adieu for the present, but with the as- surance that we shall soon meet again."

" And may the day hasten when we are to wed, for I would be with thee always. These partings are the bane of our happiness, the time that intervenes, its death ! "

And then they parted, as lovers always part with lingering regrets, fond kisses, and assurances of fidelity. Zinna was finally gone. Floretta threw herself into a chair, and gave herself up to the emotions of sadness that swept over her soul.

" 0, noble, good Hernaldo," she murmured. " No blessing earth can afford can be compared with thy love, it- is so pure and holy ! "


ALEXANDER BOKGIA. 101

Then she knelt and prayed, not as one who feels despair, not as one who feels the need of heavenly consolation, but as one whose gentle spirit feels the sweet assurance of its own innocence and purity, and the consciousness of having a treasure laid up in heaven. When such an one can thus pray, prayer is sublimely beautiful.

A few moments were thus passed ; then the maiden arose, with a look of radiant happiness on her features, and slowly moved towards her room. As she did so, a noise was heard without that caused her to pause and listen.

" It is nothing but the sound of footsteps," she mur- mured ; " yet why should it have such a strange efiect upon me, even as if they conveyed a warning of some menacing danger ? "

Delano came out of the adjoining room at this moment. His face was paler than usual, and a look of deep anxiety rested thereon.

"Ah, it's you, father," said Floretta, starting. "I thought you were asleep."

" I have been abed, but found it impossible to compose myself to slumber. Do you not hear the sound of foot- steps ? "

" It was that that startled me. Who can it be ? "

The steps had been gradually approaching nearer and nearer, and as Floretta asked the question there was a knock upon the door. The listeners both started, became a shade paler, and looked inquiringly at each other.

" Who can it be that seeks admittance here at this late hour? " said Delano, in a low voice.

The- knock was repeated.

" And there are a number of them," continued the old 9*


102 THE CRIMES Off

man, as their footsteps plainly intimate. A foreboding of evil takes possession of me ; I fear that this visit bodes us uo good ; I have hardly courage enough to open the door ! "

Again the knock was repeated.

And then the old man became deathly pale, and his limbs trembled beneath him, for the truth flashed upon his mind with almost stunning power and quickness, banishing every joy from his heart, and filling it with the most chill- ing fear. " 0, my daughter," he gasped, as he sank into a chair, " we are lost ! Our visitors are officers of the Inquisition ! " .

" Open open, Delano ! " said a gruff voice without.

" O, God ! why are we thus pursued ? " cried Ploretta, as she tottered towards the door with the intention of opening it, then recoiled, and sank into a chair.

" Who is there? " asked Delano, rousing himself up.

" The Holy Inquisition ! " was the reply, and the door was noiselessly opened.

Delano and Floretta both uttered a cry of horror.

And well they might ; for it was a chilling sight to see those dark-featured, scowling men, four in number, includ- ing Father Janzen, habited in black cloaks, and wearing cowls, enter the room, one after the other, as noiselessly as so many phantoms.

" Michael Delano," said Father Janzen, in a sepulchral voice, " you are summoned before the Inquisition, as is your daughter Floretta. We have come to conduct you thither."

" I ? " gasped Delano. " Myself and daughter ? "

There was no reply, nor any movement in the- party,


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 103

save on the part of two of the officers, who moved silently forward, and assisted Delano to, rise.

" What is our crime ? " he demanded. " Of what do we stand accused ? "

No reply was given. Father Janzen only waved his hand towards the door, and the two officers assisted Del- ano towards it.

" Speak, if you are men, and tell me the cause of this arrest."

Still there was no reply. The spectre-like figures did not seem to be conscious of a word that had been spoken. Father Janzen and the third official now approached Flo- retta, one on each side, and took hold of her arms, as if to lead her away.

" Hold ! " exclaimed Delano, who had now neared the door; and he checked his progress as if determined to make a desperate resistance. " I will not obey these sum- mons until I have seen your authority, written and sealed ! "

" Here it is," cried a stern voice at the door, as some papers wore thrust before the face of the unhappy man. " Come along, Delano ; you are wanted by the Inquisition, and also by the mask of St. Peter's. Come come ! "

And father and daughter both started back with a cry of terror, for it was the mask of St. Peter's that stood before them !


XI.

HORRORS OF THE INQUISITION.

THE infamous scheme of Pope Alexander VI. against La Belle Floretta and her father having been thus far


104 THE CRIMES OF

executed, his minions proceeded to the final stroke of their damning work. The victims were before them, and pow- erless ; and the executors of Papal infamy had the author- ity and power, no less than the determination, to fulfil their orders.

Delano and his daughter were dragged from their cot- tage, despite their protestations of innocence. They were hurried through the streets to the Inquisition, by the officers of that tribunal of blood and agony. They were not allowed to call for help, supplicate pity, or lament their fate. The repetition of a question on the part of Delano caused one of the Inquisitors to produce a gag, as an intimation that he would soon be silenced in a manner far from agreeable, if he did not hold his peace. Those grim and silent men appeared to know no mercy. Man- hood seemed to have left them forever. They stalked sternly forward, in darkness and silence, like demons con- ducting damned humanity to the shades of hell.

And thus they passed to the Inquisition. The walls that contained and concealed so much misery were at length before them. They passed up the steps to the massive door. It was opened by unseen hands at a signal from Father Janzen, and the party passed in. The door swung back to its place with a dull and heavy sound, and it seemed to the wretched captives as if they had bidden adieu to the world forever. Dim lights were hanging here and there, but they were not sufficient to banish the dark- ness, though strong enough to show how ghastly was the color and expression of the faces of the victims, and how cold and pitiless was the expression that rested upon the coun- tenance of each of the officers. They passed along the hall, their footsteps echoing through the lofty vaults with


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 105

a hollow sound. Down broad stone steps, through damp passage-ways, along damp corridors, were the victims con- ducted, until they were far beneath the surface of the earth, down where the glorious light of heaven had never cast a single ray! A massive iron door was then before them ; upon it was inscribed, in letters of blood, " Confess, or die ! " Above it was inscribed, in the same ominous colors, " The gate to Death ! " and on the thresh- old stone was engraven, " Death for heretics, but salva- tion for those who repent and confess ! " The captives shuddered as they beheld these inscriptions, and started back, but strong hands urged them forward. Father Jan- zen turned the key in the door ; it flew open with a sullen clank, that reverberated far and near in those vaults of misery and death. Delano was forced through, followed by his daughter. He gazed around quickly and fearfully, then a wild cry of despair welled up to his lips, though he was no coward. He could have braved sudden death in any form, could have met the fell destroyer on the ocean, on a field of battle, where shot were glancing, and swords gleaming in the air ; could have met death in all these forms without betraying a fear ; but the sight that was now before him was more terrible ; it froze his very soul with horror ; it seemed to clog up the channels of his blood, blind his eyes, sear his brain, and freeze his every thought and feeling. And this terrible sight, this living evil, this waking incubus, was revealed in the ocular as- surance that he stood in

THE HALL OF TORTURE !

It was far down in the shadows of earth, where gnomes alone should have dwelt, vampires feasted and fattened, and ghouls held their horrid revels! Down amidst chains


106 THE CRIMES OF

and dungeons, groans and shrieks, despairing prayers and frenzied curses ! Down amidst the grave-like dampness, the death-like coldness, and vaporish air, where tortured men were cursing, women dying, and glassy eyes were glar- ing on the massive walls !

Delano gazed fearfully around, upon being introduced into this frightful place. His face was deathly paie ; his limbs tottered beneath him. His daughter was no less pale and agitated ; but she endeavored to appear calm.

The mask of St. Peter's touched her arm. She started as if a poisonous viper had bitten her.

" Coine," said he, with a cold and mocking smile, " let me call your attention to the various modes of torture, and to the instruments employed ! "

Floretta appeared to be fainting ; but the mask passed his arm around her waist and sustained her, and assisted her to move towards the other side of the hall.

" The Pope loves you," he whispered. " Will you con- sent to be his mistress ? ' '

" Never, never ! " gasped Floretta, firmly ; but she leaned more heavily upon her companion's arm as she spoke. He suddenly checked her progress.

" Here we are," he observed, " before one of our instru- ments of torture, the rack. It was formerly much used, but we are now becoming more refined in our proceedings, and know how to inflict greater anguish without as much seeming brutality. You probably know how it is used. The victim is bound between those pulleys, a rope is fastened to each of his limbs, and each rope is drawn tighter and tighter, until he confesses, faints, or is drawn asunder ! "

" 0, horror ! " murmured Floretta.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 107

" But the Pope loves you, and would spare you these cruelties, if you would consent to his wishes ! " said the mask, as they moved on a few steps. Then they paused again. A wooden horse or bench was before them.

" This," continued the mask, " is called the torture of tightened ropes and suffocation by water, and is generally used for the benefit of females. The victim is placed in this groove, which is made in the proper shape to receive her form, and then she is bound firmly in that position, from head to foot, by ropes that are drawn over pulleys, and tightened to such an extent that she cannot even writhe. Then a tunnel above her head is filled with water, which drips slowly on a cloth that is drawn through the funnel, and falls into the victim's mouth, which is kept forced open ; and thus it keeps dropping and dropping, sometimes many hours in succession, until she is nearly or quite drowned ! "

" 0, agony ! " groaned the maiden.

" But the Pope loves you," said the mask, with a hell- ish leer, " and would fain spare you these recitals ! "

They had now moved forward until they stood before a set of stocks.

" Here is where we execute what is called the torture of the stocks. The feet of one who is condemned to this punishment are placed in these stocks, and covered with grease and combustible liquids; after which a fire is kindled under them, which, being fed by such materials, burns and sears the flesh and muscles, and causes the most agonizing torments! "

" Just Heaven," cried Floretta, " I shall go mad at these revelations ! "

" Remember that the Pope bears you great affection,


108 TUB CRIMES OF

and would not have you suffer such agonies as these in- struments cause."

They now stood in front of some ropes and pulleys that were suspended from a huge staple fastened in the solid masonry of the arch above them.

" Here is executed," proceeded the mask, "what is called the torture of ropes and, weights. The victim is stripped, then ropes are fastened to her wrists, by which she is drawn up to the ceiling, and left suspended for some time. Then she is lowered, and heavy weights fastened to her feet, when she is again drawn up. After remaining thus an hour, if she still refuses to repent and confess, she is quickly lowered several feet, and suddenly checked in her descent, by which means her wrists, elbows, shoulders, thighs, knees and ankles, are often dislocated in an instant, causing the most excruciating pain ! "

" 0, God of mercy," gasped Floretta, " am I indeed deserted ? "

" Whether you are or not, you are beloved by the Pope, who would be very much pained to see you endure these tortures ! " and the eyes of the mask grew more devilish and malignant in their expression of anticipated revenge and triumph.

He had now conducted his almost fainting companion to the most distant corner of the hall, where the tapers were faint and flickering, and the darkness scarcely half dissi- pated. Floretta started at an object that met her view.

" What ! " she shrieked, " a woman ! Do I indeed behold one of my own sex here ? "

" Only a semblance of one," replied the mask. " You are now gazing on ' the Skeleton Venus, As you per- ceive, it looks like a beautiful woman, with a fascinating


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 109

countenance, voluptuous form, and elegant apparel ; but it is but a mockery, a hollow semblance. The instant a victim is pressed into her arms, secret springs are touched, the painted semblance of a Venus is hurled aside, and he is clasped in the arras of a ghastly skeleton ! He may shriek in terror ; but his cries and frantic struggles can avail him nothing. Those bony arms will press closer and closer around him, closer and closer, until the life is completely crushed out of his body, and he is finally re- leased, but to fall a corpse at the feet of the Skeleton Venus ! "

" Horror ! horror ! "

- " But the Pope loves you, and hopes you will not ever lay yourself liable to such a doom ! " remarked the mask of St. Peter's, in sneering tones, and with a mocking smile.

Both had now reached a figure that was similar iu appearance to the one they had last gazed upon.

" Here," said the mask, " is the 'Virgin which the con- demned criminals of the Inquisition are sometimes forced to embrace. You see that it looks like a woman, with arms extended as if for an embrace ; but to venture within reach of those arms is sure death. Once within the radius of th% circle they cover, and the victim is firmly clasped, while an almost countless myriad of knives are revealed, which immediately cut him to pieces ! "

" I shall go mad if I observe more ! " came from the pale lips of Floretta.

" There is no occasion for alarm, if you take proper cog- nizance of the fact that the Pope loves you ! " was the reply. " But, behold, you have not yet seen all. Ob- serve the well *= before you ! "

  • " The well or pit beneath had been built in the ordinary cylin-

10


110 THE CRIMES OF

Floretta started back, for a black pit was before her. It was about five feet in diameter, and built in the usual form of a well. Prompted by a horrible curiosity, the maiden moved forward until she stood close beside it, still leaning on the arm of the mask, when she peered down into its black and silent depths. It appeared to descend full a hundred feet. Far, far below, there was a number of arches, on which the foundations of this singular well appeared to be laid ; and through these arches a few faint rays of light stole in. The maiden recoiled from the fearful sight, and covered her face with her hands.

" Look again," whispered the mask ; " you have not yet seen all the horrors of this well. Do you not see that sharp knives, gleaming swords, and huge sabres, are fastened, here and there, in the masonry, upon which any person who is condemned to be hurled into this well must fall, and be thus cut in pieces ? Many and many a victim of the Inquisition has been plunged into this pit, and, before reaching the bottom, been mangled so horribly that not a single feature, or even the outlines of his form, could have been recognized by his most intimate friend ! "

A wild wail of agony escaped the lips of Floretta, and she sunk down at the feet of the mask. Her s?nses seemed to be leaving her.

" Show me no more," she gasped, faintly, " or I shall die!"

An infernal gleam of triumph appeared in the eyes of the mask, as he raised her to her feet.

drical form, and was at least eighty feet deep, and so ingeniously provided with projecting knives and cutlasses, that the bodies of the victims must have been dreadfully mangled in the descent." Dowling' > i History of Romanism, p. 693.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. Ill

" I am glad you are satisfied," he muttered. " Now, Floretta, listen to me. I have shown you these sights, that you might feel well assured of the punishment that will be yours if you persist in your non-compliance with the wishes of the Pope. He has doomed you to the tor- ture unless you promise me, at once, to be his mistress, now and forever ! What is your answer ? "

But the question was not heeded. Floretta had again sunk down at his feet, and was insensible. Strong as was her nature, the accumulation of horrors* she had wit- nessed had overpowered her. The mask gazed triumph- antly upon her pale and haggard features, they seemed like the features of the dead !

" Father Janzen," said the mask, after a momentary pause, " you may retire, with your men, all save two."

The order was obeyed, only two of the Inquisitors remained.

" Bring Delano here," was the next order of the mask.

The trembling wretch was brought forward, and, as the officers released their hold of him, he sunk down almost insensible beside the well.

Floretta now began to give tokens of recovery. A groan of anguish escaped her, a shudder swept over her form ; and then she opened her eyes.

" Remember, Floretta, what I have told you," said the mask, in a tone that expressed the most terrible vindic- tiveness and determination. " The Pope loves you, he

  • The different modes of torture alluded to in this chapter are,

with many more, described at length in Bowling's celebrated "History of Romanism," to which I would especially refer the reader, as authority for the truthfulness and FIDELITY TO REALITY with which I have drawn the horrors of " The Hall of Torture ! "


112 THB CRIMES O9

will make you rich and happy, if you will consent io his wishes. Consider his proposal well, and spurn it not, for the tortures of the Inquisition are before you ! "

" I cannot consent, I am bound to another. I will not be his mistress, never, never ! " was all Floretta had strength to utter.

" Then, take the reward of your obstinacy ! " exclaimed the mask. " Men, seize this woman ; put her to the tor- ture ! The torture of the ropes and weights ! "


XII.

PUT TO THE TOETCBE.

THE fearful order was obeyed. Like fiends incarnate, those grim and silent men commenced their hellish work. Vain were the struggles of Delano ; unheeded were his cries for mercy. The strong arm of the mask thrust him aside, and Floretta was seized by the officers. She struggled, but what could she do? She implored mercy,

but of whom ? Not men, but of devils ! She shrieked for help, but who could hear her ? All availed nothing. The officers overpowered her ; she W*B helpless in their grasp. They tore the garments from her trembling body,*

her snow-white neck, whiter bosom and beauteous form, were all exposed to the polluting gaze of the unfeeling minions of the Inquisition. "What to them was her

  • Sec DOTVLIXG'S " History of Romanism," page 671, or the

"Inquisition Unmasked," translated from the Spanish of D. An- tonio Puigblanch, London edition, published in 1816. It was a general practice of the Inquisitors to disrobe their victims before putting them to the torture, revolting as it may seem.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 113

anguish, her outraged modesty, her delicacy of mind and body ? They heeded it not. Their only office was to exe- cute their orders. The maiden was soon stripped entirely naked ; and her shrieks now became so piercing that the Inquisitors deemed it expedient to gag her. The rope that descended from the pulley was then fastened tightly to her wrists. Two iron weights, each weighing a hundred pounds, were tied to her ankles. The mask then waved his hand, and the men drew her up to the arched ceiling. She was suspended by the wrists, thus sustaining her own weight, and that of those masses of iron ! The muscles of her arms and limbs seemed drawn to their utmost tension ; her joints cracked as if parting asunder ; her flesh quivered as if she were in convulsions ; and yet those hardened men gazed coolly on.

" Will you consent to the Pope's wishes ? " asked the mask, who had quietly seated himself in a chair, as if in- differently awaiting an indifferent event.

Floretta shook her head. A gleam of infernal ferocity appeared in the eyes of the mask, as he realized that she was still obstinate. He sprang to his feet, uttering a curse, and made a significant motion to his two instru- ments, the officers. It was understood. They drew their victim up as near to the wall as possible, then let her drop suddenly to within a few inches of the floor, checking her descent by means of a stout staple around which the rope was coiled. The shock was such that the shoulders and thighs and wrists of the sufferer were dislocated ! Her agony was so great, and her struggles so fearful, that .she removed the gag from her mouth. She essayed to speak, but could only utter a low moan of suffering. A look of more than mortal anguish flitted over her deathly-pale 10*


114 THE CRIMES OP

features ; then her brain reeled, her head sunk forward on her breast : she had fainted !

Again the mask moved his hand. The Inquisitors in- stantly lowered their victim, and untied the ropes then bore her to a bed of straw in the corner of the hall, and applied themselves to her restoration.

" Will she bear the torture again? " asked the mask, as he glanced towards them, and struck down Delano, who had darted towards his daughter.

" She might, but I would not advise it at present. Her limbs are much dislocated ! "

" 0, let me go to her ! " cried Delano. " She will die without my attendance ! "

"Peace, fool! We do not let our patients die we save their lives, that we may mould their minds to our will ! Your daughter will yet repent of her refusal ; in- deed, she will ! "

Then he turned towards the officers, and inquired,

" Gives she any token of recovery yet ? " t

" Ay, her usual consciousness will soon return," was the reply.

" You hear," said the mask to Delano, " there is no danger of her dying ! "

The maiden opened her eyes, and stared wildly around. For a moment she seemed incapable of realizing where she was, or what she had undergone ; then a flush appeared upon her pale cheeks, and she drew a cloak which one of the Inquisitors had thrown off over her form, in every por- tion of which the sharpest pains were now rankling.

" Raise me up," she whispered ; " let me behold my father."

The men complied with her request. She gazed tear-


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 115

fully upon him. The eyes of the doting old man could not gaze upon the fearful picture his daughter presented ; he turned his face away and groaned aloud, while scalding tears coursed down his wrinkled cheeks.

" Do not weep for your child, dear father ; you have nothing to reproach yourself for," murmured Floretta, " nor have I. Firm in the consciousness of duty, I can endure all the tortures these men can wreak upon my frail body, while the spirit defies them still ! "

" Not yet conquered," muttered the mask, in a voice fairly husky with rage ; " then I will make Delano an example ! "

He seized him by the arm as he spoke, and dragged him close to the side of the Well, or as it was called the pit of death, when he turned towards Floretta, who had started up at this ominous movement with a cry of horror.

" Now, proud Floretta, hear my last proposal," said the mask, in the low, calm tone of determination that betrays a deadly purpose. " You see this weak old man he is your father. As such, he should be worthy of any sacri- fice from you. You may make the required sacrifice or not, consulting your own views on the subject ; but I swear by everything holy and sacred, that if you do not instantly give your consent to the proposal I have made, you will see your father hurled down upon the deadly blades within this well ! "

"Hold hold! Do not doom him to such a terrible death he is my father ! "

" Your promise, then your promise ! " cried the mask, fiercely. " Give it to me at once, or I swear "

" What do you swear ? " exclaimed a stern voice, as a


116 THE CRIMES OF

door swung back on its creaking hinges, and Cardinal Corneto appeared upon the threshold.

The mask started, and pressed his hand to his brow, as if appalled by the appearance of his visitor. It flashed like lightning upon his brain that the cardinal would recog- nize Delano, whom he and the other cardinals in council had condemned to death, and that his non-compliance with their orders would be thus discovered ; but the danger was not great enough to appal ^and unman him ; only sufficient to call forth his greatest powers of decision and action. As quick as thought, he seized Delano in his vice- like grasp, and dragged him towards the pit, from which he had retired a few steps at the interruption.

" Mercy mercy ! " he gasped.

" Stop, villain ! " shouted the cardinal, with great ex- citement ; " 't is Cardinal Corneto commands you ! "

Nearer and nearer drew the mask to the fatal pit, and more evident became his determination.

" Hold ! " cried La Belle Floretta, making a superhu- man effort to seize upon the mask. " Save save him ! Spare my father, and I will become the mistress of the Pope ! "

The mask did not seem to heed the words. He saw only the danger of discovery, and that Corneto was near. He neared the pit, his victim still pleading for mercy ; the cardinal ordering him to desist ; and Floretta repeating her . promise, her consent. All were alike unheeded. Closer to the pit closer, closer ! so that he could look down into its black and yawning depths, in which, here and there, sharp blades were glistening in the rays from lamps below ; and then, with one single effort, while a


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 117

terrible cry of horror rang through the hall, he hurled the shrieking Delano into the frightful abyss !

" Monster ! " cried Corneto, vehemently, as he drew his sword, " you shall die for this. That man was Delano, whom I came to seek ! "

" Seek him in hell, then ! " replied the mask, now terri- bly excited, and he stamped his foot angrily upon the floor, while his form quivered with passion. " Know you, Cardinal Corneto, that my word is law here, and any in- terference will cost you your life ! Men ! bear that woman to a dungeon, and give her the attendance of a surgeon ! "

" Stir not, on your lives ; he has 110 authority to com- mand you ! " exclaimed Corneto.

" Liar ! " hissed the mask, as he struck him to the floor, and exhibited a massive seal-ring upon his finger ; " I have authority! Behold the signet-ring of Alexander Borgia ! "

' The cardinal bowed his head in token of submission ; the men proceeded to remove the insensible Floretta ; the mask uttered a scornful laugh of triumph ; and here ends the horrors of half an hour in the " Hall of Torture ! "