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Francisco, husband of Marianna, the Duke's only sister, was principal officer of state, loved, honoured, and trusted beyond all others; he was therefore appointed by Sforza to undertake the performance of the deed he had just meditated. It was long ere Sforza could declare his wishes, and he required Francisco to bind himself by oath, to perform whatever he should require. Francisco did not hesitate, being assured that the Duke would require no action which could be accompanied by dishonour; but Sforza, bidding him not to be deceived by any delusions of his own partial fancy, told him the deed he required him to undertake was a deed of horror, one for which his name would be execrated by all posterity, the gates of heaven be for ever closed against him, and for which even the fiends of hell would think him too monstrous to gain admission amongst them. Francisco was shaken; yet he took the oath and promised its fulfilment.
Sforza then informed him that such was his love, his idolatry of his wife, he could not bear the thought of her becoming the property of another; he could not endure that her hand should be grasped by any but his own, that an eye of admiration should be bent upon her, or that she should even live after his death if then he should miscarry in his present em bassy to the emperor, and such was the nature of it, "that it was all the world to a cipher-he never would return with honour ;" and should he not return, he then demanded the murder of Marcelia by Francisco's hand ere one single hour was passed after the news of his captivity.
Francisco, horror-struck at this proposal, hung back Sforza still urged him on, declaring there could be no heaven without Marcelia, nor any hell where she resided; and swore, if he shrunk from the performance of the deed which he had bound himself by oath to execute, that moment should be
his last. Francisco again pledged himself; but upon condition that Sforza would give him a written order for the purpose, so that he might be justified in the horrid deed, when it should come to the world's knowledge. Sforza drew up the paper, and, this awful preparation made, took a tender, but agonizing farewell of Marcelia; after which, without acquainting any of his courtiers with the cause of his so sudden journey, he accompanied the Marquis Pescara, without retinue or attendance, to the emperor's tent.
The solders of Spain, flushed with conquest, were boking forward to the plunder of Milan as the rich reward of their late toils; considering it as a certain event the city of Milan, though strong and well guarded, yet could not possibly sustain a siege against the Spanish army; and the pride and lofty character of Ludovico Sforza convinced them that no capitulation could be accepted by him. Hernando, Medina, and Alphonso were deliberating on the mode of attack, and the ext. of spoil, and planning out their several shares o booty; when they were struck with amazement to learn that the Duke of Milan was now arrived, and solicited an interview with the emperor. Charles himself was lost in astonishment: the powerful Duke of Milan, the right hand of the French, he who when sued to had rejected their offered amity; and he of all others, he to come and seek for favour, and kneel for mercyit was most incredible.
Hernando and his associates were alarmed at this intelligence; and, fearful of losing their promised harvest, urged the emperor not to compromise with the Duke, nor by a feigned submission on his part, be cheated of a just revenge; the sack of Milan alone would pay the army and defray much of the expense of the late warfare. Charles cut short his arguments, informing him proudly, that he knew what
to grant or what deny, and commanded that Sforza (strongly guarded, to prove the extent of his displeasure), should appear before him immediately.
Hernando, enraged, pictured to himself the purport of this visit of the Duke; he expected to see him in a dejected habit, with an humble countenance and suppliant manner; a rope round his neck, as the badge of servility; kneeling before the throne of the emperor, and pointing out with persuasive meekness the glorious privilege of possessing power without using it, to speak of its being more honour to make a king than kill one, and thus by abject flattery impose upon the good nature and credulity of the emperor, obtain a pardon, and rob them of their right of plunder the appearance of the Duke, however, speedily put to silence these contemptuous opinions of Hernando.
The noble Sforza advanced with a firm and commanding step, a bold and open eye, a serene yet determinate countenance, attired in his robes of state, his crown upon his head, and the sword of regal power girt on his side; so that Charles, who had seated himself on his throne, resolved to receive him with every mark of proud superiority, unconsciously arose as he advanced, and bowed with the most profound respect: Sforza returned his salutations with grace and dignity, and thus addressed him
"Do not imagine, emperor, that I am come to fawn upon thy fortune, or to implore thy mercy, or to deny that I have been thy deadly enemy, one who has sought to ruin thee and thy estates; or to acknowledge less of love than that which I have ever borne to the King of France thine enemy. Admitting then my love for him and hate of thee as the primal causes of my actions, it remains for me to tell why I have stood affected thus. The French king was my friend; I loved him, and must speak his praise as loudly now he is subdued, as when he
was thy equal; in my extremest need I ever found him faithful and liberal; my hopes, when at the lowest, were ever raised again by him; he was as my good angel, to guard and preserve me from all danger; it is therefore that I speak. His services demanded gratitude, and gratitude in me proved love, the love I glory in, even though it be the signal of my fallen fortunes. If gratitude for favours past, if not to leave a faithful friend to buffet with the storms of fate, when the sting of dire misfortune most needs our tenderness, if these be crimes amongst you Spaniards, Sforza owns that he is guilty, and brings his head to pay the forfeit. Nor come I as a slave to kneel and pray for remission; I would not shame thy conquest by the meanness of thy captive's conduct; I never feared to die more than I wished t live. If, therefore, my fidelity to France can make me worthy of thy future favour, the crown which now unbinding from my brow I place as hostage in your hands, you may restore, and furthermore instruct me in your wishes: the charges of the war I will defray, will freely bring you that-which cannot without hazard and bloodshed be obtained. I will prevent the cries of murdered infants, of shrieking matrons, and of violated maids, which in a city sacked call on the heavens for vengeance; I will reward your captains and your soldiers too, those who in the late battle have done best service. I have spoken, sir, and now await your answer: but I shall receive it without dismay; as in the prosperous hour my veins did never swell with pride, so neither shrink they now with fear. Know, sir, that Sforza stands prepared to encounter either good or evil fortune."
Sforza bowed his head, while an universal silence for some moments prevailed: the captains, whose thoughts had been bent on spoil, now wavered; even Hernando himself was charmed, and owned to his
fellows over his wine, that he could not but love the gallant Duke, and would willingly give three quarfers of his share in the promised spoil to save him.
Charles was enraptured; he descended from his throne, replaced the crown upon his head, then swearing for ever to defend him in his rights as Duke of Milan, embraced him, and pledged his future friendship. He further left it to his own disposal, either to reward the several commanders or not, as his generosity should dictate, requesting all former hate might be henceforward buried, and that they might ever remain as friends and brothers.
This important business thus peaceably ended, Sforza hastened back to Milan. Pescara was desirous of his stay, as being a measure conducive to his interest, but Sforza excused himself: "Pescara," he said,
to thyself of all men,
I will confess my weaknes; though my state
I live not here; my wife, my wife, Pescara,
And strong ones, to plead for me.
Farewell to grief, I am stored with
Two blessings most desired in human life,
A constant friend, an unsuspected wife.***
While Sforza was thus employed at Pavia, scenes of a far different nature were passing at Milan. Jealousy, the vice of courts, held its due influence in the court of Sforza. Francisco, who had been raised by his royal master's favour much above his hopes, and who bore his honours with somewhat less humility than his enemies thought good, was an object of jealousy and hatred to many of the courtiers, and especially to Tiberio and Stephano, who, having a