To Love a Borgia

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Funeral for a Beloved Friend

Chapter 18: Funeral for a Beloved Friend


It was early in the morning when Cesare heard a woman’s scream, so loud and piercing that he could hear it through the walls of his room. At first he thought he must be dreaming, but again he heard it, and this time he knew. Constanzia. He pulled on his clothes, tore open his door and ran down the hall.

And she was there, dressed only in her shift, her arms being held by two of the guards, tears running down her face, her cries of agony pitiful to hear. “Cesare, he’s dead, he’s dead,” was all she could say.

“Let go of her,” he ordered, and lifted her up, “What were you thinking?” he demanded.

“No one was supposed to be in there, my lord. She was holding onto the body and wouldn’t let go. All she’d say was ‘he’s dead, he’s dead’, just like she’s doing now.” The guard sounded defensive, just as someone might when he knowing he was defending a wrong action.

“She’s his widow, what else would you expect her to do? You could have called for me, or her maid, or Lord Rafaello, but I suppose you didn’t think of that. Summon her maid and the lord, I am taking her to my room so the child will not disturb her. I doubt if she has had much sleep. Now go!” he said as they looked at him dumbly.

He carried her to his room, and lay her on the bed and pulled the covers up around her. She was so cold, was it from Pallavicini’s body? Had she spent the night laying on top of him in the cold air, not realizing that she was becoming chilled? There was a knock at the door and Carmilla peeked her head through the doorway. “Come in,” he said, not even bothering to look at her, “You must leave her in my room and have the wet nurse take of the baby. I suspect that Pallavicini died during the night, and she was laying on top of his body when it happened. She needs to rest without disturbance.

“Very well, my lord,” Carmilla curtsied to him, “When should she be told when she asks what has happened to her husband?”

“I will take care of that—I am the one she should hear it from. The Lord Rafaello and I will take care of the funeral arrangements. There will be a vigil and a mass, and he will be buried on Friday. We will leave for Rome the next day, so pack her things. If she has any questions, fetch me and I will answer them for her.”

He took a glass and a pitcher of water, and filled the glass part way. He poured in a little of the opium, but not too much. “If she wakes, have her drink this. It will calm her nerves and help her to rest. She will need a gown for the funeral, if she is able to attend, but I do not want her to be disturbed. See if you can find one for her, ask the ladies of the castle if they have anything. In my experience, someone should have something.”

“My Lord, what are you going to tell her about her husband?”

“Are you always this insolent, Carmilla? Maybe a little lesson in manners is in order? I will tell her only as much as will satisfy her for now. You are to say nothing of leaving Genoa, tell her only that the funeral will be Friday and she need attend only if she is up to it. Lord Rafaello must summon the priest, I will keep a watch over my cousin so that when she wakes she sees a familiar face. You may go.” She curtsied and left the room, not taking her eyes from him.

Did you have him killed, my Lord Borgia, she thought. Or was it Lord Rafaello? Either one of you could benefit from his dying! She had fallen in love with her Calvino, she was so happy, she didn’t even care that you were the father of her child, and not her husband. Lord Rafaello seems more of a gentleman than you, and certainly kinder, but this is not your business, Carmilla! My lady loves the Lord Borgia and nothing could dissuade her from that. I can only try to keep her safe from him, that’s all.

Cesare and Rafaello sat in Calvino’s old office, now the property of his brother. He laid a document before him, outlining each point they had discussed the following day.

“Are you sure?” he asked Cesare, “My brother’s empire by all rights should go to his son.”

“And that would leave you nothing.” Cesare poured wine into his glass, “And surely you deserve more, Constanzia thinks so. My cousin receives five hundred thousand ducats as her widow’s portion. Her child will receive the cash portion of his inheritance when he comes of age, but the shipping business and properties all will go to you. If you are concerned that your brother would not have approved, you can apprentice your nephew to you when he turns sixteen—if his mother will let him go—and he can profit from learning his father’s business. You can designate a portion of the fleet to be his, and still have untold wealth.”

“Constanzia is determined that he should choose his own path,” he continued, “If he wishes to spend time in Genoa, and follow in his father’s footsteps, she will not object.”

“Why are you d oing this?” asked Rafaello, “You could have me act as regent for him and then he could come to Genoa and resume his father’s position when he comes of age.”

“Signor, we have both benefitted from the death of our brothers. Would that be fair to you to run the business for years and then have to turn it over to your nephew? No, it will be better for him to earn his way working for you. If he wishes to become your apprentice, then that is his wish. He will want for nothing, but his mother and I wish to be sure that he understands the value of work. With the wealth he will inherit he could too easily live a life of idleness.”

He was talking like a father. Something occurred to Rafaello that he had not thought of before. Was it possible that the child was not his brother’s, but Cesare Borgia’s? Constanzia had become pregnant after her wedding, possibly even on the wedding night—unless, of course, she was already carrying Borgia’s child. No wonder he could afford to be so generous.

“I find your terms satisfactory.” He and Cesare signed the document, then he poured the hot wax into a little puddle and affixed the seal. “I only hope that when she is well, she will come to visit and bring Marco with her. I would like to be present in my nephew’s life.”

“His mother would wish it also. I like you Signor Pallavicini, I wish you well in your endeavors.”

He returned to his room, anxious to see how Constanzia was. Carmilla sat and fanned her with a palmetto fan, the opium mixture was untouched. He motioned Carmilla to leave the room, then removed his boots and lay next to Constanzia, holding her tightly. Her eyes were still swollen with tears, but soon they would return to their natural loveliness. He could not make her pain go away, but he could be there, hold her, and reassure her. He did not know how long it would take for her to recover, but he would be there, he would not abandon her.

He had done his best for her. The five hundred thousand ducats would leave her and their son well provided for. The Pope would allow her at least a year for her period of mourning before there would be any talk of marriage.

He winced at the thought of this. He must hurry them home, for the Pope was seeking suitors for Lucrezia again. Though his father had a kind heart, as a politician he was ruthlessly ambitious. Cesare would not make the mistake of revealing the terms he had settle on with the young Pallavicini. If he was concerned about his grand nephew’s well being, Cesare would point out that the child and the mother would be generously provided for. If young Marco wished to follow in his namesake’s footsteps, he would have ample means and the assistance of his uncle to do so.

Constanzia stirred in his arms. “Cesare,” she said softly,” and he answered, “Yes, my love?”

“Is it true then, or was it only a dream? Is Calvino truly dead?” She turned over and nestled into him, smelling the comforting scent of leather and cologne.

He tightened his arms around her, “I’m afraid it is true, dearest love, your Calvino is with God and I am sure he is watching over you from heaven.”

“Then, I want to be with him, I do not want to live without him.” He could feel her tears on his shirt.

“You must not say that. Your little Marco needs you. Lucrezia needs you, and I need you. I could not bear to lose you, it would kill me. You must rest and get strong so you can care for your baby. I will take you back to Rome so you will be surrounded by your family and your happy memories. I will find you a house, or a palace if you like. Your son will grow up with little Giovanni, and we can teach them to ride their ponies and show them all the places we used to play when we were little.

He reached up and took the glass with the opium. “Here, drink this, it will help make you feel better.” He held it to her lips and she drank it like an obedient child. “There now, you rest, and when you wake, I will be holding you. I won’t let anything harm you. I love you, no one loves you as much as me, nor they will ever.”

Rafaello Pallavicini thoughtfully took care of the funeral arrangements while Cesare made preparations for their departure. He had a coach refurbished so that it held a bed so Constanzia could rest while they traveled. There was room for Carmilla and the wet nurse in case she had need of them.

Cesare had ordered Carmilla to bind her mistresses’ breasts. Carmilla angrily complied, knowing that it would not take long for Constanzia to lose her milk, making it more convenient for the Lord Borgia to resume relations with his mistress. Since Constanzia had spent most of the week sedated, she hardly noticed, but what would happen when she grew tired of the long sleep she spent most of her time in? Would she be dismayed that she could no longer nurse her son, or would she be eager to return to her lover’s arms?

A similar dilemma was facing Lucrezia. Giovanni was not quite weaned from the breast, but he was eating solid foods now in addition to his mother’s milk. Soon he would no longer need her. The final blow came when, without her consent, the pope hired a wet nurse to take over from his mother and wean him. And, after that, the suitors started to arrive.

“If I must choose, Father, I will choose one whom I like. Surely, both my happiness and a suitable alliance with Rome need not be incompatible? There must be someone, amongst all these Don Juan’s that I will find pleasing. You took Giovanni’s care away from me, so surely I am owed that much.” Not to mention you are forcing me to marry—again, she thought resentfully..

The Pope muttered something and strode off. The last time she had married, she had been too young and naïve to stand up for herself. That had been a different Lucrezia, this Lucrezia now knew her own worth, and the value she was to her family. If she had not yet acquired her cousin’s serene poise and confidence, that would come with time.

This time she would make sure that she would derive some benefit from whatever match she made. Of course he must have wealth and power, that was non-negotiable, but she wanted something more. A man who valued her, would work with her, appreciated her intelligence, in addition to being kind and handsome. Constanzia had found it, why then could not she?

Where was Cesare? She needed his counsel and advice. Why was it taking so long to return from a trip celebrating a simple baptism? Had he resumed his dalliance wit Constanzia, surely she would not be ready to admit a man into her bed. Or had he stayed there simply to be around her? There were three women in the world that Cesare truly loved: his mother, her, and Constanzia. Suddenly a fit of jealousy came over her that she simply could not help.

Constanzia had roused herself long enough to attend her husband’s funeral, but had then returned to her bed. This is it, thought Cesare, tomorrow we leave. I must get her back to Rome and away from this place that must remind her daily of what she has lost. And to hell with whatever Father may say about the contract I made with Rafaello Pallavicini. I want to sever as many of her ties to Genoa as I can, and make sure my son has no links to her husband’s family. I may have made a bargain with the devil, but it will pay off in the long run, I think.

The party set out from Genoa the next morning. He had thought to give Constanzia some opium to calm her, but she had obediently allowed herself to be dressed in her traveling clothes when he had told her that they would be leaving.

The farewell she had given to Rafaello was far too affectionate for his comfort, but he said nothing. She seemed indifferent to leaving, as if Genoa meant nothing more to her than a place where she had dwelt for a while.

He made it Micheletto’s task to check on her, and he told his master that she had fallen asleep shortly after their departure. Good then, he thought, let her sleep, let her sleep until we reach Rome. If sleep will cure her of her grief for her husband, so much the better. I know I must be patient with her, but how long will she make me wait? And what will I do if she starts to suspect me?

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