Chapter 5: Fabio
I am taking some dramatic license here. Being an amateur historian, I hate to not get facts, especially dates and events, straight, but for the sake of storytelling I am going to do just that. I’m fascinated by Macchiavelli, not for his reputation, but by his intelligence and his political astuteness. What can I say, the man had a real sense of the people he dealt with and was not afraid to be critical of accepted institutions. I would love to have him as a professor in a political science class.
Cesare was especially tender and passionate that night—it was going to be their first separation since her coming to Rome. It was uncanny how his fondness for the little girl he had remembered had translated into a passion for the woman he now held in his arms. At eight years old she had cried when they were parted, but when he told her now that he must leave and would be gone for a while, she had merely closed her eyes and nodded her head.
“Tell me again, where are you going?” She was not happy, but she would not reveal it, she would not complain. She had known, vaguely, that her father had had affairs, but her mother had never confronted him. She had never known the two to quarrel, and if that was the secret of a happy relationship, she would follow her mother’s example.
“I must go to Naples and Florence, then possibly to Forli to check up on Katerina Sforza. That is a tiger my father is holding by the tail, and like you, sweet cousin, I do not trust her.” He kissed her tenderly on her forehead.
“And you will meet with the de Medici ambassador, Macchiavelli? I envy you. I wish you could take me, I would like to meet him. I wish I were a man, then I could meet with Signor Macchiavelli and get to talk to him. Do you think you could ask him to recommend some books for me?”
“I am glad, Querida, that you are not a man.” He tapped her playfully on the tip of her nose, “But I think if you were, you would do Father proud. Yes, I will ask about books for you. I forget sometimes what a scholar Uncle Carlos was, and that you were given the same education as your brothers. The Vatican Library would be more efficient if you were running it, but never mind that. I will come back as soon as I can, but I don’t know how long that will be, so be patient.” This last was said as he was putting his mouth on her belly, and they lost all interest in libraries and Macchiavelli.
The next morning he quizzed Micheletto as he inspected his saddle and his baggage. “You did as I asked, yes, a new escort—one who is armed—for her when she’s riding? And someone to watch her as she goes about the city, or for walks beyond the walls.”
“Yes, your eminence,” Micheletto was correct when he thought it best, “He’s been instructed to tell her that it is more dangerous times, but now she may ride further from the walls if she wishes. And the new escort is only for her safety, and he is at her disposal day or night. Do not worry, they are instructed to answer any questions she has and to make an effort to put her at ease. I do not know if I would have recommended this, but if they handle her gently it will be all right.”
“She must understand that it is not safe now. Rome is vulnerable to enemies from within and without. It’s bad enough that Lucrezia is being married to Giovanni Sforza, God only knows if she will be safe there. And if the Sforzas turn against Rome? I only hope I can get to her in time.”
“Fabio will look after Constanzia, and he will do a good job, Eminence. He is loyal to you first, then to me, he will not fail you.”
“The Lombard? Hmmm. Well, he should be loyal to Constanzia second, then you.” Cesare swung up into his saddle, “We need to get on the road now. I’ve said my goodbyes and I want to get some miles in before the sundown.”
They had said their goodbyes before the rest of the household had awakened. Constanzia had gone back to sleep, and when she woke, reached out for him, only to find an empty space. It was then she remembered. He’s gone, she thought, we have not been parted before, and she missed him. She rang for her maid to help her don her riding habit, then went to the stables to fetch her horse and her groom.
Ippolito, her groom, was not there, instead a tall man held the reins of two horses. He smiled and bowed, and said, “My lady.”
“Where is my groom? I wished to ride this morning.” She looked around but could not see him, “Have different arrangements been made? If so, no one told me.”
“My name is Fabio, my lady. His Eminence would feel more comfortable if you were accompanied by an armed guard. There is more danger now, especially from the French, and he felt that this would put his mind at ease. He said to tell you that you may ride further away from the city, if you wish. I am hoping that will meet your approval.” He bowed again, and smiled at her with even white teeth.
You lying Lombard, she thought, what is Cesare up to? I’ll take this up with him when he returns. “Are you good at conversation? I like to talk while I ride, when it suits me. I don’t like surprises, please remember that and we will get along just fine. And is your horse as fast as my Arabian?”
“Probably not, my lady, but he’s not bad.” He flashed her his smile again. Cesare, did you know Micheletto would find me someone so good looking? She smiled back at him. No harm, I’ll enjoy his company. God forbid that I should give Cesare a reason to be jealous.
By the second day, she found that she preferred the big, bluff Lombard’s company to the groom’s. Fabio had spent some time in Spain in his youth, and still had a command of the language. He began speaking Spanish to her, and it was comforting to hear the language of her home, for Vanozza spoke mostly Italian. The Lombard also had a pleasing singing voice and would burst into song on a moment’s notice, often asking her if she would like to join in.
They had stopped to rest and let the horses graze, when an idea came to her. “Fabio,” she asked, “Do you know anyone who is familiar with Pesaro?”
“Yes, I know a few people, why?”
“I would like to find someone to become part of my cousin’s household once she is married. If something happens and things are not going well, I would have them get word to me, in case my cousin is not able to do so for herself. I do not know what kind of man Giovanni Sforza is, so I do not know how great the risk would be. I would pay them well, I have money of my own and do not need to ask Cesare. Can you do this thing for me?”
He took her hand and kissed it. Not very proper, she thought, but you are charming enough that I will let you get away with it. “I would be happy to do this thing for you, signora, and I will only tell those whom you wish to know. I would not want anything to happen to the Signorina Lucrezia. I will find someone to travel to Pesaro with her, she will not even know what you have done. You can depend on me.”
The only payment he received from her was a smile, but she was sure that Cesare paid him a generous remuneration. She wished that she could do more, but this was all that was available. She would go to Pesaro and pay a call upon Sforza, but if Cesare found out, there would be hell to pay. Life would have been simpler, had she remained in Spain, but in Italy she was living a life she never would have imagined.
The next morning, Fabio stopped unexpectedly while they were riding. A man and a woman stepped out from behind a tree, and bowed to her.
“Here they are, signora, the ones who will accompany your Lucrezia to Pesaro and watch over her for you. If something happens, they will let me know and I will tell you and the signore. You do not need to worry, I, Fabio, will make sure all is well.” He bowed with a flourish.
She hid her smile, “Thank you, I appreciate this. Just make sure that I hear of any news you learn first. His eminence will appreciate what you are doing for his sister.” And hopefully won’t hear that I have done this, she thought.
When she returned she took a long bath. The Holy Father was to join them at the mid day meal, perhaps you would like to put on one of your nicer gowns, suggested Vanozza. She donned one of her favorite dresses, one that Cesare was fond of, a gown of copper colored silk over a green brocade petticoat. Her dresses were plainer, and she did not wear as many jewels as Vanozza and her cousins, but Cesare had told her that her style of dressing suited her.
She was always glad to see her uncle, even though he had become very grand in his manners since he became Pope. She was still his beloved niece and treated her very tenderly, even if she did have to remember to call him “Holy Father”.
The conversation had drifted around to weddings and children, and Juan, sitting next to her, noticed tears in the corners of her eyes. “Don’t worry, cousin, your time for a wedding will come sooner than you think. Your wedding and husband will be less grand than Lucrezia’s, but you are still the Pope’s niece.”
“Don’t worry my dear,” Rodrigo Borgia spoke in his voice that could fill a room, “We have not forgotten you. Your turn will come before you know it.”
Juan handed her a handkerchief. “Thank you, Holy Father, but I was remembering my wedding, and the baby I lost. I miss my husband so much, sometimes it seems as if he died just yesterday. And I was so lucky, he was such a wonderful man and so kind to me. I miss him every day.”
“Well, the cure to that, my dear, is another wonderful husband, and a child. When you marry again, you will be so full of thoughts for your new life that your old one will fade away. You are young, you must not dwell so much on the past.” Vanozza was a practical woman who had learned to adjust to the life she had chosen.
“Listen to Vanozza, my dear, every word she tells you is true.” Rodrigo patted her hand again and gave her a magnanimous smile.
She smiled back, knowing that none of them had a clue. She missed Cesare terribly, but she could hide this behind her grief. In truth, she was in no hurry to re-marry, but when her uncle found her a husband, she could not object but must smile and obey. Not even Cesare could circumvent it, even if he wished to. The Pope’s word was law.