The Crimes of Alexander Borgia/5

BOOK FIFTH.Edit

THE POISONID WINE.

YES, the Cardinal Corneto shall dio by poisone wine ! "

The speaker was Alexander Borgia. He was pacing to and fro in his apartment, in the centre of which, by a table, Caesar, his son, was seated.

" Yes, that is the way to remove him, and secure his money ; the only way," replied Caesar. " You see that I am prepared to follow it. Here 's the wine, well mixed with our most deadly poison," and he drew forth a black earthen bottle from a secret drawer in the table, and held it up to the light.

The liquid sparkled strangely, not more strangely, not more brightly, than the dark eyes of the Pope, as he muttered,

" A few drops of that will remove Corneto from my path. That he must die is certain, even if we did not desire to use his wealth. He is too dangerous to be tol- erated. Already has he sown the seeds of sedition gainst me. But let him look well to himself. This night Lucretia is to wed the Count Luanza ; this night Corneto will be at the palace ; and I mistake myself very


144 THE CRIMES 0*

much, if he leaves it until he has poured a goodly portion of the poisoned wine down his throat."

A secret door at one side of the room had opened and closed while the Pope had been speaking. A head had V<>n thrust in, and a pair of dark eyes marked the bottle of wine, while quick ears had listened to every word that was uttered. And this spy was Lucretia Borgia.

" But how do you propose to fill his glass from this bottle, and avoid doing the same by any of the others ? " asked Caesar.

" That 's easily enough managed. I shall have a ser- vant in my confidence, who will watch for and improve the opportunity when the cardinal is deeply interested in something that is being done or said."

" The plan is then decided upon. Let us make the final arrangements, for the hour appointed for the marriage ceremony and the poisoning of Corneto will soon arrive."

" Agreed ! We will see about it at once. This busi- ness settled, I must visit the Inquisition, and see how fares my captive, La Belle Floretta." And the Pope, with his son, departed from the room.

It was entered a moment later by Donna Lucretia. Her face was flushed ; her eyes glittering in their expres- sion ; and her features wore a look of deadly resolution. She proceeded at once to the drawer in which the wine had been left. She took the bottle and secreted it in the folds of her dress.

" If there is a heaven," she murmured, " let it ever be praised for the occurrences of this hour ! They have shown me a method of revenge ; they have placed a ter- rible avengement at my disposal, and it shall be mine. I will take this bottle, and leave one that does not contain


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 145

poison in its place. 0, Alexander Borgia ! you may plot against the cardinal, but I will show you how fatally your machinations will be meted out to yourself. You will meet Corneto, eat, drink, and make merry with him, and order your servant to bring this poisoned wine for him; but he shall receive another, and this shall be poured into your own glass."

And thus were the plottings of the Pope likely to be counterplotted.


H.

THE MASK IN PERIL.

WE will now enter the office of the Inquisition. Two persons were seated therein, conversing in a low tone. The entrance of Hugi, the messenger of the cardinals, interrupted them.

" I bear you a message from the council," said he, as he placed a paper in the hand of the eldest keeper, who was evidently one of the head officers of the Inquisition.

The messenger then departed without a reply. He well knew that none was needed, save in the instant fulfilment of the orders he had brought.

" What is this ? " muttered the officer, as he cast his eye over the paper. " The council here orders us to send a strong force to arrest the mask of St. Peter's."

" That 's just what I have all along thought it would come to," responded his companion, endeavoring to look philosophical. " Villains are as likely to fall out between themselves as with their pious neighbors ; and I have long felt convinced that the mask was doing that which would, 13

t


146 THE CRIMES OF

sooner or later, render him obnoxious to the council he haa served so many years."

" The order speaks very explicitly," continued the other. " We are to arrest him and commit him to a dungeon of the Inquisition ; after which we are to await further or- ders. What will those further orders be? If I am not much mistaken, he will soon^ enjoy the death he has meted out to so many others."

"Things do look rather ominous, that's certain," was the reply. " But the arrest that 's what we are ordered to consider. Now let me give you a few ideas on the sub- ject. The order tells us to arrest the mask at his house. But there is a better way, we can arrest him here. You know that he intends to visit one of the prisoners this evening La Belle Floretta, whom he was the chief in- strument of bringing before the Inquisition. He will enter her cell ; he will be alone ; one man against a hun- dred we can bring against him. In this way, as desperate a man as he is, we can secure him without much danger of difficulty. How do you like my plan ? "

" It is excellent. We will act upon it."


III.

ONLY ANOTHER VICTIM.

O, CHURCH of Rome ! Hell of religious bloodhounds ! Of thee might Byron have written, " There have been tears and breaking hearts for thee ! "

The scene ! the scene ! O, I am weary of this mon- ster of cruelty, this " Mother of Harlots," this Babel of human gore, this record of human agony ! Weary,


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 147

0, how weary ! But a new phase must be added to its horrors.

G-O with me. The scene is a dungeon, down deep in the shadows of the Inquisition. There was darkness, and chains, and iron grates, and massive stone walls. And there, too, like an angel in the lowest depths of hell, was a woman was La Belle Floretta! Gaze not upon her with indifference ; it would peril a man's eternal salvation to see her, and realize her wrongs, her agony, and not swear an oath of vengeance ! 0, is it not a sight to chill the hardest heart? You see how deathly pale she is; you behold the long, bony fingers that are clutching at the bars of the cell-door ; you mark the wildly dishevelled hair, the glittering eyes, the look of hopeless misery that shrouds her features ; and shudder as you think how much she is changed.

In the dungeon to which she had been remanded from the hall of torture sat the poor girl ; not weeping, not praying, yet perchance her thoughts were of heaven ! A pearly drop had trickled from each eye, and now stood upon her cheeks, like frozen drops of rain upon a marble image ; but those once glorious orbs were tearless now. The time for tears had been, the time for tears was past } Their fountain was dried up forever! A feverish heat was in her brain, and agony was in her heart. She saw not the bars she had grasped so frenziedly, felt not her chains !

O, come, darkest night ! blow, fiercest wind ; there is one who will heed ye not ! The " Holy Catholic Church " has nearly done its hellish work. It is only one more vic- tim ; one more added to the list of millions ; one more gentle, trusting, almost angelic soul, added to the numbers




148 THE CEIMES OF

they have sent home as witnesses against them to an cut- raged God !

A dark form appears at the entrance of the maiden's cell ; the door is opened, and the mask of St. Peter's enters. Their eyes meet, his all burning with hate and with vindictive passion; but she does not start, does not shudder, does not tremble. Once she would have done so, but that hour is past. She does not even express a con- sciousness of his presence. A moment she stares vacantly upon him ; then she looks towards heaven, clasps her thin hands, and, while her lips move in prayer, a faint smile breaks over her features, like sunshine over a waste of stormy waters.

0, what a picture ! what a scene ! and what eyes to behold it ! A fiend of hell is gazing on an angel-victim.

The mask moves forward and touches her snow-white shoulder. She looks up into his face and smiles, so sweetly, so trustingly ; yet it is the suiile of a maniac.

The eyes of the maiden are then cast down ; they rest upon a dagger in her visitor's belt ; and strangely do they sparkle at the sight.

" It is very beautiful ! " she murmurs. " Why should its power not be employed? It can clear away these clouds; it can open the way to heaven."

Emboldened by his reception, and not realizing its cause, the mask seats himself beside Floretta, and passes his arm around her waist. Again she looks up into his face and smiles. Her head is resting upon his bosom ; her features are upturned to his own, and the smile that rests upon her lips seems such is the delusion of his passion to invite his kisses. He bends forward, is about to bestow these unholy evidences of the feelings that are


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 149

reigning in his heart, when he feels the dagger drawn with a quick but steady hand from his belt.

" Woman ! Floretta ! " he cries, starting back, with terror depicted upon his countenance, and fearing some personal violence.

But he need not start, need not fear for his safety. Floretta has indeed secured the weapon ; but not to injure or even menace its owner. She smiles again, as she presses the bright blade to her lips, and looks more trust- ingly, more hopefully, towards heaven. There 's not a flush upon her cheeks, not a breath of excitement in her looks or movements ; an expression of unwavering resolution, strange, unnatural calmness, and the placing of the dag- ger's point against her breast, are all the signs that evince her deadly purpose. Again she kisses the dagger, smiles and looks prayerfully upwards, then murmurs, " Father, Ilernaldo, I come ! " and drives the weapon home to the hilt in her snow-white bosom.

The warm life-blood of his victim spirts freely forth, drenching the garments of the mask, and almost blinding him ; then he shudders, then utters a cry of terror, for he is gazing upon the ghastly features of the dead.

But it is not long that he gives way to these emotions ; his stern nature soon resumes its sway ; and, as he pro- ceeds to wipe the stains from his cloak, he spurns the body with his foot, and mutters,

" It 's only another victim ! " 13*


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IV.

THE MASK ARRESTED.

THE mask then stooped down and picked up the dagger that had consummated the fatal deed wiped off the blood that had dimmed its lustre, and placed it in its sheath. As he turned away, a number of armed soldiers, under the command of one of the Inquisitor-generals, appeared be- fore the door of the dungeon. They gazed in upon him, and he, in turn, looked to them for an explanation of their sudden appearance. It was soon given.

" Mask of St. Peter's," said the Inquisitor, in a stern and commanding voice, " I arrest you in the name of the Holy Inquisition ! "

The mask could scarcely credit his senses, but the truth soon burst upon him in all its vivid reality. He saw that he was caught in a trap from which there was but little possibility of escape. He glanced hastily around, and darted this way and that, in the hope of discovering some outlet by which he could fly ; but he soon saw that his efforts were all fruitless. As a last resort, he drew his bloody weapon, placed himself upon the defensive, and replied :

" I know not your authority, nor your means for execut- ing it ; but this I do know, the first man that approaches me, or attempts to use violence, shall die \"

The Inquisitor seemed to have expected such a reply, and to have prepared for it ; for he simply waved his hand to his followers, and they filed into the cell, holding their drawn swords guardedly before them. The mask was com- pletely surrounded hemmed in on all sides.


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 151

" You see how vain resistance will be," said the In- quisitor, with a quiet smile. " We have come prepared ! You know who I am, and from whence my orders come ; and you very well know that I have but to say the word, and these men will cut you to pieces in a moment. That word will be given, and quickly, too, unless you surrender at once ! "

The mask knew that the resolution of the officer could not be shaken or disregarded. With a curse upon his lips, he dashed his dagger to the floor, and gave himself up to the hands that were ready to pinion him, and bear him before the council of cardinals.


V.

THE DENOUEMENT.

HALF an hour later. The mask of St. Peter's was standing in the midst of the council of cardinals. Corneto was there, stern, and determined on the death of the man who bad shown how dangerous he was how deadly he might be. Each and all were unanimous ; the mask was condemned to be broken alive on the wheel.

After receiving his sentence, he was asked if he had anything to say in reference to his crimes or his fate.

" A few words ; a few words only," and the expression of his dark eyes became more malignant as he spoke. " I have listened to your deliberations ; not with fear, for I tell you plainly, my lord cardinals, that the time has not come, never will come, when either of you will have authority for harming a hair of my head ! "

A sullen gleam was in his eyes, as he folded his arms


152 THE CRIMES OF

upon his breast and gazed calmly around him, to mark the effect of his words.

" I see you are surprised," he continued, " but you need not long remain in doubt as to whether my words are true or not. I stand here condemned, and it now becomes me to speak. You shall know what I know ; that ye have been dupes, fools, slaves of an indomitable will, that none of you possess or can understand. I will show you how you have been ruled ; how you have been made mere tools in the hands of your master ! "

" We will not listen to your vain boastings," said Cor- neto, sternly. " You have been found guilty and con- demned, and shall die within the hour. If you have any last requests to make, now is your time to speak ! "

The mask uttered a hoarse laugh, that expressed the most insulting contempt.

" It is strange," observed Corneto, with a puzzled ex- pression of countenance, and speaking to a companion " very strange that a man who knows certain death is to soon be his lot can be so indifferent to it. How deeply sunken in crime must this man be, how dead to all the common feelings of humanity, when he can stand here, in the presence of our august council, and laugh at us as we pronounce his doom ! "

" But you should not wonder at his conduct," was the reply. " He has become perfectly hardened. There is scarce a particle of human feeling in his heart. Think how many assassinations he has committed how long he has gone on in his career of crime and bloodshed. Think of those he has murdered, Delano, La Belle Floretta, Montelli "

" Yes, think of Montelli ! " interrupted the mask, as he


ALBXANDKE BOKOIA. 153

darted forward and seized the speaker by the arm, and bent his flashing eyes upon his features. " Think of Mon- telli, the doom of the traitor, and tremble ! I slew him ; I have slain others who have plotted against me ; and you may each and all have an example of my power before we have parted company. Bethink ye, my lord cardinals, how long is it since you were plotting in secret conclave against the Pope ? How long since you determined to establish a system of espionage over him ? Ha, ha ! " and the mask laughed gleefully. " Ye should all be careful what you do, for you are as open books to Alexander Borgia ! "

" Away with him ! " shouted Corneto, fiercely. " Listen no longer to his ravings. Away to the wheel ! "

The officers darted towards their intended victim. Swords gleamed around him ; again he seemed about to be taken prisoner, when he stamped his foot heavily upon the floor ; many a door around him was opened, and many au armed soldier entered and rallied before and behind him !

" Back, every one of ye ! " exclaimed the mask, to the cardinals and their followers ; " back, if you value your lives ! Mark me well ; behold my men ; and know that I am master still ! "

" And who, in the name of Heaven," cried the aston- ished Corneto " who is the mask of St. Peter's ? "

The black mask was torn from the features it had so long concealed; the cloak dropped from his form; and as every eye was fixed upon the face revealed, the lips of each exclaimed :

" T is Alexander Borgia ! "


154 THE CRIMES OF


VI.

A CATHOLIC PRIEST ON CELIBACY AND AURICULAR CONFES- SION.

FATHER JANZEN again stood in the presence of Count Luanza.

" Well," said the latter, moodily, " I do not see as we are likely to gain possession of Donna Lucretia's secret. Twice have you called upon her at her residence twice have I secreted myself to listen to the expected revela- tions ; but not a word has she uttered towards the eluci- dation of the mystery. How unfortunate it is that she does not have a father-confessor ! "

" Do you, then, look upon auricular confession as a blessing? " asked Father Janzen, quietly.

" Most certainly."

The priest shrugged his shoulders, and uttered a dry, mocking laugh.

" Count Luanza," said, he, in reply, " you have made me a particular friend of yours, and I shall so far presume upon this fact as to have a little plain conversation with you on the system of auricular confession ; premising, at the start, that I believe it to be one of the greatest so- cial and moral evils there is in existence ! "

" What do I hear ? " cried the astonished count. " You you, a father-confessor, speaking ill of the confes- sional ! "

" I can do no less, after having had such opportunities of witnessing*hs efiects. My very position has given me cause for hating and detesting it. If you would know a


ALEXANDER BOKGIA. 155

few of the peculiarities of this institution, allow me the pleasure of pointing them out to you.

" 1st. The Father -confessor. He is forbidden to marry, under the pain of excommunication. As a general thing, he is a robust, passionate man, with an eye to ad- mire beauty, and is possessed of all the desires that are inherent to man's nature. He has taken a solemn vow of celibacy; but is he less a man less susceptible to the influences of beautiful women ? For my part, I can im- agine no greater hell than the life of a man doomed to perpetual celibacy, if he must still endure the temptations that arouse the desires, the longings, the feelings of admi- ration, which the sexes are forced to bear each other by the first, the fundamental principle of human nature. Such a life must be to the possessor like the existence of the sinner in the flames of hell, who lifted up his eyes and saw Lazarus afar off, in Abraham's bosom. He is daily tempted to pluck forbidden fruit. Many of those who con- fess to him are young, lovely, and fascinating. He sees them kneeling before him ; he hears them pour forth their little weaknesses, their hopes, their fears, their desires, or the foibles of which they have been guilty; and aH this is often told to a young priest, who is not more than five- and-twenty. He beholds their voluptuous forms, their swelling bosoms, their half-inviting blushes, their gentle smiles, and looks of trusting innocence. He feels the soft breath of a lovely young being of seventeen summers on his cheek ; he gazes into her eyes ; he reads her very soul ; and can he withstand all these appeals and invita- tions for nature to assume its sway? Ne^aa, never! I tell you that there is no man living who could be subjected to the temptations of the confessional, for a period of


156 THE CRIMES OF

years, and not yield. Any priest who should attempt fidelity to his vow of celibacy would be in the same posi- tion mentally that a man is bodily on the rack. The more beauteous his penitents, the greater would be his proclivity to sin. His mind would be in a continual war between a temptation to partake of the pleasures that invited him and a resolution to abstain. He would be tortured by both in concert. He would become restless and nervous ; and in time, if this inhuman war was persisted in, he would become a monomaniac or a madman. No less re- sults could be expected from such an outrage on nature as a life of celibacy. Such a life is antagonistical to the very commands of the Bible; and if you question the morality of this principle, you question alike the wisdom and morality of God !

" 2nd. The Penitent. As is very often the case, the penitent is a young and beautiful woman. Accustomed from childhood to the occasional society of the confessor, and taught to believe him the holiest and most worthy of men, her feelings cling to him as naturally as the young ivy to the oak that has sheltered it from the blasts. She does not believe it possible for him to sin, but has implicit faith in his power to pardon every sin she may commit. "When she first seeks him in the confessional, she looks up to him as something more than man. . She has no secrets that are not revealed to him. He knows her heart, her nature, better than she knows it herself. He has her com- plete confidence, and often no small share of her love. Insensibly to herself, she is moulded to his wishes. The very questions he asks her in the confessional are such as most readily poison the mind of a young lady. Under tlfe pretence of satisfying himself that she is innocent, he


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 157

makes inquiries that are of themselves enough to lead her into guilt. Her heart is filled with new and exciting emotions ; and though her womanly pride and self-com- mand may prevent her from giving way to her flwn incli- nation, she is readily won by a request from her confessor, and the assurance that compliance with his wishes is not a sin.

" 3. The Security of the Confessional. No believer in the Catholic faith would cross a threshold, knowing that a priest was confessing a lady within. Such a proceeding would be deemed sacrilege, or something worse. If a woman is sick, and the priest calls upon her to receive her confession, he has but to leave bis sandals before the door of her chamber, and even her husband dare not open it while the holy padre is engaged with the wife. In the confes- sional there is the utmost security, not for female pur- ity, but for its destruction. Everything there is made sub- servient to the wishes of the confessor ; and when you have viewed the subject in its true light, you will be convinced that confessionals might justly be designated as a species of houses of ill-fame, for the special accommodation of saintly libertines, yclept Catholic priests ! f

" Such are a few of the facts in reference to celibacy and auricular confessions ! "

" Perhaps it is better, then, that Donna Lucretia does not attend the confessional," muttered the count, musingly.

" Far better, I assure you. If you would know what influence a priest possesses over a penitent, listen to me. Not long since, a young lady, who had always been gay and sprightly, became subject to strange fits of melancholy, by which she was so much affected that all of her friends were seriously alarmed for her health and happiness " 14


158 THE CRIMES OF

" From your description, one might readily imagine that the lady was Donna Lucretia ! But go on ! "

" The lady was engaged to be married to a wealthy count, wMl was rendered very sensitive by the peculiar- ities of his betrothed. He could not believe her really guilty ; but he felt as if he would give half of his fortune to know who and what he was about to marry."

" Exactly my case in reference to Lucretia ! " muttered Count Luanza.

"Under the influences of these feelings, the count determined to gain possession of the fair one's secret, if there was any possibility of doing so. With this inten- tion, he employed a father-confessor to visit the lady, hop- ing that he would be instrumental in wringing the desired information from her "

" By heavens ! those parties were Donna Lucretia and yourself! that is, they might have been. But proceed."

" There were some secret motives, however, in the con- duct of the priest, which the jealous lover did not under- stand. It so happened that the confessor who was employed to gain possession of the lady's secret had long looked upon this same lady with feelings of the most intense and burning passion ! He had seen so much of her beauty and grace, that his admiration ripened into love. He loved her as devotedly, my lord count, as ever you could have done. Loved but how vainly, hopelessly, despairingly ! His very profession prevented him from revealing the thoughts that were consuming him. What could he do? Where could he look for relief? The' more he beheld the object of his passion, the stronger did it become. He felt that he was treading on the verge of a frightful abyss ; but he could not pause. He was driven


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 159

on by all that could drive a man to perdition, unrequited love. He knew that the lady would scorn him from her presence, if he dared to reveal his passion ; he felt assured that the count would deem him traitorous, and a "betrayer of the trust reposed in him ; but he was in a position where death itself could not have forced him to pause. All barriers were broken down, all reserve was thrown aside, and that gray-haired priest sank down upon his knees before the one he loved so hopelessly, and confessed the passion that had made his life a hell ! "

The Count Luanza sprang to his feet, and seized the confessor fiercely by the throat, while he exclaimed,

" And you you were that dog of a confessor, traitor and renegade ; and she, the object of your unholy passion, was Lucretia Borgia ! "

" You mistake my meaning," gasped Father Janzen. " I was only speaking of a circumstance that had come to my knowledge."

" Forgive me," said the count, releasing his hold. " This jealousy has set me beside myself. I hardly know where I am, or what I am about. My brain grows dizzy, I am sick at heart. I will seek the open air, until I have recovered from this sudden indisposition ! " and, as he spoke, he quickly passed from the apartment.

The priest gazed after him with a look of almost infer- nal subtlety and exultation, as he muttered,

" How easy it is for one who is master of his own mind to play upon the feelings of others ! A few words of mine have brought the count under the influence of feelings he will not be able to banish to-night. But, let me see ; the hour has arrived in which I am to meet Donna Lucretia. I must away to the confessional ! "


160 THE CRIMES OP

VII.

THE TEMPTATION AND FALL.

STILL stranger than the concluding words of the priest was the fact that in ten minutes from the moment of their utterance he stood in the confessional of the church of San Benito.

" It is strange how deeply I love that woman," he soliloquized, as he threw himself into a chair. " The feelings I bear her have been so restricted, so influenced by circumstances, that they rule me with all the power of a monomania. But, hist ! Agreeably to her promise, the lady is here ! "

As he ceased speaking, Lucretia Borgia crossed the threshold of the confessional. There was an anxious look upon her features, one that gave them an almost stern expression.

" Father Janzen," said she, as she seated herself beside him, " you doubtless know that the purpose of this visit is to speak of your love."

" Then I shall be so happy ! " murmured Father Janzen, as a flush swept over his features. The dark eyes of his visitor were instantly bent upon him.

" Father Janzen," she observed, with a strange sternness of manner, " have I not told you that these expressions of your passion are disagreeable to me ? "

" I know it, I know it," replied the wretched man, with a look of hopeless despair and misery ; " but how can I command myself when in your presence ? How can I gaze upon your beauteous features, your sparkling eyes, your lovely form, and not feel swayed by the power of the passion that has taken complete possession of my heart ? "


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 161

" Are you sure that you love me so deeply, so devot- edly ? " asked Donna Lucretia, as a singular smile passed over her face.

" Love ? Lady, priest though I am, anchorite though I should be, I love you better than I do my God ! There is nothing I would not do to prove my affection "

The hand of the lady was on his arm ; her eyes were bent sternly on his own, as she repeated, inquiringly,

" Nothing ? "

" Again I affirm it ! For thee I would forego the joys of the brightest heaven mortal ever dreamed of, for thee I would consign myself to an eternal hell ! 0, lady, you do not know how deeply every thought and faculty of my soul is swayed by the love I bear you ! "

" And you will obey my greatest request ; you will fulfil the most difficult conditions I can propose to you, as the price of the love and the pleasures you would enjoy with me ? "

" I will ! "

" Dare you swear it? "

" By the sacredness of all things pure and holy, I swear to do your bidding ! But let the pledge be mutual. Swear to me that if I obey you in all things you will be wholly mine ! "

And quickly, sternly came the reply,

" By all I have lost, and by all the revenge I hope for, I swear to be yours, yours alone, and wholly yours, body and soul, now and forever ! "

The priest clasped her in his arms as she spoke, his eyes meeting her own with a look of burning passion.

" A kiss," he cried, " a kiss to seal our agreement ! "

" Here it is, another, ay, a dozen," was the reply


162 THE CRIMES OF

of the woman, as she kissed him with a strange fervency of manner, again and again.

" There is nothing I will not do for thee, if you will only do my bidding ! "

" Speak, command me as you will. I am ready to obey ! "

" Then, attend my wedding at the palace of the Bor- gias ! " exclaimed the excited woman, as a gleam of infer- nal exultation appeared in her eyes. " Go at once ! You have said that you would obey rny commands, I have but one command to give ; and that is, attend this wed- ding, join in the revelry, drink and make merry with the other guests, and poison Alexander Borgia ! " ,

The priest started as if he had trodden on a deadly reptile.

" Poison the Pope ! " he gasped. " It is asking too much of me ! "

" But think of your love, your promise. You have sworn to obey my orders. Break not that oath, as you hope for happiness here or hereafter ! "

" It is too fearful, too dangerous a deed "

" Think of her whom you will serve ; think of the arms that are now thrown around your neck ; think of the kisses that are now rained in showers on your cheeks ; think of the joys unutterable that await you in my warm embrace, and dare and do!"

" No more, no more ! " cried the passion-tortured con- fessor, as he strained the temptress to his heart. " My word is pledged, it shall not be broken. Show me the means, point out the course I am to take ; I 'II do the deed!"


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 163

vni.

THE MARRIAGE.

FROM the arms of Father Janzen to the bridal altar, it was a fitting change for Lucretia Borgia !

The palace of the Borgias was brilliantly lighted. Thrilling strains of music, merry voices, silvery laughter, and sparkling jests, were all commingled in the richly-per- fumed halls. The gorgeous parlors were thronged with guests, among them Corneto and the cardinals, and many of the other dignitaries of the church.

The hour for the performance of the marriage ceremony had arrived. All present were eager to witness it, for they knew it was no common occurrence that had thus called them together, and as well knew that it would be succeeded by no common revel.

The Pope was there, clad in his richest robes, and sur- rounded by his friends. He had given orders for the most extensive preparations for the supper. Most of the deli- cacies of the land and the sea were to be served up in the choicest style of the culinary art, and with an accompani- ment of the richest wines and liquors the Old World could produce. As was usual on such occasions, it was Borgia's intention, and the entertainment was so understood by most of the guests, that the proceedings of the evening should be concluded by a perfect pandemonium of the most reckless licentiousness and beastly debauchery ; arid heuce they were not surprised to see that a large number of the most beautiful courtesans of Home had been invited, and were present, freely mingling with the richest and most respectable ladies in the land, for such was one of the characteristics of the age of the Borgias. They were


164 THE CRIMES OF

dressed in a manner that was calculated to heighten the fascinations of their persons, and many an admiring glance and many a whisper of commendation was bestowed upon them by the saintly fathers of the church who had honored the occasion with their presence.

We shall not speak at length of the marriage ceremony, how Donna Lucretia stood before the priest, pale and anxious, while he pronounced the words that made her the wife of Count Luanza. We shall not pause upon her appearance, or the thoughts that reigned in her heart, nor shall we dwell upon the hopes and fears of the count himself, as he uttered the vows that made him the husband of Lucretia Borgia. We leave all this to the imagination of the reader, pass over the greetings and congratula- tions that succeeded the announcement of their being man and wife, and change the scene to the supper-table of the bridal party.


IX.

THE POISON.

" FILL up, fill to the brim ! " cried Alexander Borgia, in his happiest voice, from the head of the table that stood in the centre of the magnificent dining-hall. " Let pleas- ure reign in every heart, and the sparkling wine go round."

" Ay, ay," responded Corneto, who was seated by the side of the Pope, and whose glass had already been several times filled and drained. " Behold the rich color of our wine, the beauty of our many charmers, and let the sight be as an exorcist for every ill the human mind can feel."


ALEXANDER BOROIA. 165

" Right, Cardinal Corneto," rejoined Borgia, as he filled his glass. " I '11 pledge you for that sentiment ; " and, after touching glasses, both drank.

" It is nearly time to administer the poison," added the Pope, sotto coce, as he observed the flush upon the cardi- nal's features. " But, first more wine more excite- ment! What, ho! Prato, bring more wine the wine ! "

The servant understood the significant look with which the words were accompanied. In a moment, the bottlo of wine which was supposed by Borgia to contain poison was placed in his hand.

" Here, Corneto ; here is wine of a glorious brand," said the Pope, " the quality of which we will discuss together. Fill the cardinal's glass, Prato; fill to the brim."

The order was obeyed. The servant filled Corneto's glass from the wine that was supposed to be poisoned, then N .-,.- dexterously set the bottle aside, and filled his master's glass from one that resembled it.

" Your health," cried the Pope, and the glasses were drained.

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Borgia, as he started to his feet, " I have him in my toils."

" What ! does your eminence leave us so suddenly ? " asked Father Janzen. " Will you not pledge me in a single glass before you go ? "

" Willingly ! " was the reply, as the Pope again took his seat at the table. " Name the wine you will drink ; I will join you."

The priest nodded to a servant whom he had employed and instmcted to wait upon him on this occasion. That


166 THE CRIMES OF

personage immediately produced a bottle of wine bearing an antique seal, drew the cork, and poured out two glasses.

" You are sure that it does not contain poison ? " observed Borgia, with a careless laugh. .

" So sure, that I am not afraid of it myself," replied the priest, as he glanced a short distance down the table, and exchanged a significant look with Donna Lucretia.

" Then, here goes ! " The parties touched glasses, and the Pope drained the one he held at a single draught ; but Father Janzen shuddered as the wine touched his lips. And well he might ; he knew that it contained a deadly poison.

" Why do you wait? " muttered the Pope, suspiciously. " You start as if it were a potion of poison instead of rich and rosy wine."

" Do I ? " said the priest. A glance from Donna Lu- cretia assured him. He saw her clutch a small vial be- tween her fingers, beheld her lips move, and fancied that he heard them whisper, in a voice that seemed unearthly, it was so low and ominous,

The antidote ! "

" Ay, the antidote ; that will save me," was the thought that took possession of his heart ; and he drained his glass.

At this moment sounds of confusion were heard at the door of the hall. A person was endeavoring to effect his entrance ; the servants were endeavoring to oppose him. But the intruder was not to be stayed ; his strong arms hurled all aside who ventured to stand in his path ; and, a moment later, Borgia started to his feet, uttering a cry of alarm, and unsheathing a sword he wore.

For Hernaldo Zinna stood before him !


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 167


X.

THE MADMAN'S MYSTERY.

HERNALDO ZINNA, the madman !

Well might the Pope shudder at beholding his victim, for he presented a terrible appearance. His features were pale and haggard, and rendered still more wild in their expression by the long, dark hair that was matted around them in repulsive disorder. His eyes gleamed restlessly in their sockets, like beacon-lights swinging to and fro in gloomy caverns ; and they were now fixed earnestly upon the face of Borgia, while a smile of exultation flitted over the countenance of their possessor.

" Pope of Rome," said Zinna, "I have come to tell ye that I am fearfully avenged! I have come to tell ye that ye are standing on the verge of a mighty cataract, from the brow of which the waters of life are^stretching away to eternal darkness and oblivion ! I have looked beyond this hour to the future, and seen such sights as mortal eyes have seldom seen. This fearful gift of mad- MS lifted the sable veil that is drawn across the bor- ders that separate the things of the present from those hat are to come; and I have read a tale that none of \rth shall read without a shudder. I have seen a father

ying plans to ruin his own daughter ; I have seen as

ely a being as ever was shone upon by the sunlight of en made the victim of a father's unholy passion ; and ^ve seen that woman achieve a terrible revenge, by poisoning her sire."

There were three persons in the group who were ren- dered terribly excited by the words of the madman,


168 THE CKIMES OF

Borgia, Count Luanza, and Lucretia Borgia. They all surrounded him.

The madman turned to the count.

" To you," said he, as he laid his hand upon his arm, " I can only express my regrets that you have been so fearfully deceived. The woman you have married iias been the mistress of her own father."

" Liar ! " and the count struck him to the floor as he spoke. " One word more against my wife, and you shall die ! "

"My words are true. Nor have I told thee all her crimes. Even now, this very hour, she has administered poisoned wine to Alexander Borgia."

The Pope turned deathly pale at this announcement, and his limbs trembled beneath him. It was no ordinary fear that now took possession of his mind. He felt as- sured, by the almost devilish look of triumph that rested upon the features of Zinna, that he had told the truth ; but yet he did not know how he had become cognizant of it ; it was a madman's mystery.

" Fiend devil in the guise of woman ! " he cried, " has this man spoken the truth ? "

" Ay, as truly as that you are now alive ! Alexander Borgia, Pope of Rome, you have taken the most deadly poison of the Borgias ay, the very wine you so care- fully prepared for Cardinal Corneto ! "


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 169

XI.

CONCLUSION.

THE madman had gone as suddenly as he came no one knew when or where; but it was evident that the words he had uttered were words of truth, terrible truth.

It was a singular tableau, that formed by the principal characters he left behind him, the Pope, on whose mind was just beginning to flash, like lightning over a stormy waste of waters, the terrible consciousness that he had been poisoned ; Count Luanza, upon whose jealous mind was just dawning the conviction that the woman he had wed, and the one he loved so devotedly, was entirely un- worthy of his affection ; Donna Lucretia, whose pale face was wreathed with a smile of triumph ; and Father Janzcn, who had arisen from the table, and came forward to her side, and was secretl}' endeavoring to remind her, by means of glances and pautomimical gestures, that he desired the antidote to th$ poison he had taken.

" Beautiful devil ! She has spoken the truth. I am indeed poisoned ; I can feel it in every vein. But the antidote the antidote "

" Is here ! " cried Donna Lucretia, as she drew a vial from her bosom and held it up to the light. " Here it is ; but it is not for thee. There is only enough for one ! "

" Give it to me ! " cried Father Janzen, as he darted towards her. "You said that you would save my life, that you would not let me die ! "

" Nor will I. Lucretia Borgia never will forget a wrong, or break a promise. Here drink and be saved ! "

Borgia darted hastily forward to secure the antidote for 15


170 THE CRIMES OF

himself; but he was too late. Lucretia drew her dagger, and placed herself before him, while Father Janzen drained the vial of its contents.

" I see how it is ! " cried Borgia, furiously. " Both of you have plotted against me, and it was through Father Janzen that the poison was given me. Dog ! you shall die for this ! "

The infuriated man was endowed with an almost super- human strength by the desperation of the moment. He hurled Donna Lucretia from his path as if she had been a mere child, and, an instant later, stood face to face with Father Janzen, with his dagger in his grasp.

The struggle that ensued was short, but terrible. The priest had seen his antagonist approaching, and saw that there was no resource for him but to draw and defend him- self. He drew a heavy knife, one he had carried for many years, and warded off the furious blow that was aimed at his heart ; and then the struggle of life and death was fairly begun.

And finished almost as soon as begun, and fatally !

For each had sheathed his weapon in the other's bosom :

" I die," cried Borgia, as he sank back in death, with the warm blood gushing in torrents from the wound, " I die, but not alone. The traitor is with me, and I am con- tent ! "

They were the last words of Alexander Borgia ; for even as they were finished his spirit left its earthly tene- ment forever.

"Dead?" gasped Father Janzen, inquiringly, as he turned over on his side, and gazed towards his late enemy with a look that seemed to have lost none of its philosoph-


ALEXANDER BORGIA. 171

.^feal calmness. " Dead ? Then I have no cause to com- plain of fate, even if I do not survive this wound ! "

" Your hand," cried Donna Lucretia to her husband, vrho now stood beside her. "You now know what my crimes are and have been ; and if you are ready to accept me as I am, I swear to be to you all you could ask a wife to be ! Your hand ! and even here, while I can gaze upon the features of the dead, and say that I am avenged. Your hand shall I have it here, alike for the present moment and all coming time ? "

Slowly, moodily, and with an evident effort of his mind, the count extended his hand.

" 0, thanks," cried the woman, as she seized it, and covered it with her kisses. " Now that you have received me as your wife, I shall indeed be happy, for here are ended ' THE CRIMES OF ALEXANDER BORGIA.' "