1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 48:


“Your Eminence,” Quevedo said, bowing fulsomely.

Borja choked down the first retort that came to mind, which would have been an ungracious comment that the man was at once late and improperly attired, and nodded in return, proffering his ring for the formal kiss. “Senor Quevedo y Villega,” he said, “what have you to report?”

Quevedo took a seat a moment after Borja did—without being invited!—and cleared his throat. Ferrigno poised his pen. The matter had now gone beyond maintaining full and formal confidence, and Borja had taken to admitting Ferrigno into his meetings simply in order to have notes of what was going on. It was becoming fearfully complicated, between the dealing with the cardinals and other notables of Rome, receiving updates on His Majesty’s forces in the Kingdom of Naples, the reports from the spies with which Rome was now liberally infested, even more so than usual, and keeping track of Quevedo’s machinations. There was nothing for it but to bear the load, however. Above all else, he was a Borja, and that was a line that had never been found wanting where scheme and maneuver had been at issue. Still less could he flinch from the work where, as here, the work in hand was clearly God’s.

He fixed Quevedo with his best glare. “Pray continue, Senor,” he said, at some length.

“As the cardinal wishes,” Quevedo said, after a moment of bearing the cardinal’s regard without so much as a flinch. “During the course of the last week we have instigated three incidents of a serious nature, at the Lyncaean Institute, the palazzo Borghese and the Palazzo Barberini. Effort to suborn captains of militia continue and we hope to provoke another massacre soon. Also in hand is the production of broadsides and handbills linking the incidents to the Committee of Correspondence. We also seek to start rumours that the Committee is linked to the USE Embassy and further that they are also provoking the militia massacres in order to destabilize Rome and the church.”

“The militia business is new,” Borja said. He still maintained his suspicions of Quevedo, even though over the last few weeks he had done all that was asked of him. There was always the danger, however, that the man would develop an uncomfortable amount of initiative at some inopportune moment.

“Indeed, Your Eminence,” Quevedo said, “but the discontent that the fortuitous actions outside Grassi’s house provoked was most useful. We had volunteers for several incidents thereafter, and we hope to capitalise on that reaction. In the event that we can provoke full-scale disorder, popular hatred of the militia will be to Your Eminence’s advantage.”

“And the prospect of full-scale disorder?” Borja was, he would admit to himself, impatient to have the business done with, and the amount of money that Quevedo had spent thus far on hiring ruffians for his business was eye-watering.

“Thus far, Your Eminence, not much greater than when we began. We face a situation where the populace was labouring under no great burden of discontent, although the usual seasonal rise in food prices at this time of year will undoubtedly help us for a few weeks. [NOTE: This rather implies that we’re later in spring than you originally wanted, verging on early summer. In order to get this messy enough, Q.s efforts as agitator need all the help they can get.] Bringing them to a mood of insurrection by spending money on them, Your Eminence, represents an exercise in futility. What we hope to achieve is a sufficiently bad reaction from the civil authorities that popular discontent will develop naturally.”

“And the chances of that?” Borja asked, resisting the impulse to remind Quevedo that he had not asked for a lecture.

“The same as the chances of the civil government of Rome doing something remarkably stupid, Your Eminence. I fear that Your Eminence’s best chance will be to pay for sufficient public disorder, which I must remind Your Eminence is very much not the same thing as popular disconent, that Your Eminence will have a pretext for the intervention Your Eminence has in prospect.”

“I thank you for your most cogent analysis, Senor,” Borja said, fighting to keep sarcasm out of his voice. He had been resigned for some weeks to the fact that simply spending money on agitators would not produce the anarchy he was hoping for. His instructions from the Count-Duke were simply to hamstring the Barberini pope and ensure he could do nothing more to harm the interests of Spain. The promise of troops from Naples had been extracted by his own efforts, and could not be fulfilled easily beyond a few months away. Once matters proceeded against France, Spain’s strategic bases in Spain and Italy would be all but uncovered save for what was needed to suppress revolt and troops would be hard to come by for any purpose, no matter how high and holy. Not to mention that what troops were left in Naples would more than likely have their hands full; discontent there was genuine and naturally-occurring and the agitators of it were of a far more sincere character than Quevedo was ever likely to be. Even now that he had managed to quiet Osuna for a while with promises of future preferment and a few trifles in earnest of that preferment, there remained a most pestiferous infestation of malcontents.

“Your Eminence is most welcome,” Quevedo said, “And I also am most pleased to able to report that the prospects of an intervention by the United States of Europe are now much improved.”

“What?” The involvement of the heretics from Germany had been no part of his plans, other than as a target of mob violence if the providence of the Holy Spirit should be generous. Borja would take a frank and unalloyed pleasure in the sight of that den of vipers being made to scatter with a swarm of enraged ruffians on their heels.

“The people of Rome are, like common folk everywhere, suspicious and untrusting of foreigners, Your Eminence. The sight of them meddling in the politics of Rome will provoke them, I am sure of it.”

“And what have you done to bring the United States of Europe into the play?” Borja asked, almost dreading the answer.

“Nothing, Your Eminence. It appears that Sanchez has involved himself of his own accord. I saw him questioning a pimp last night.”

“A pimp?” Borja was now prepared to admit to himself that he was completely baffled by this turn of events.

“A procurer of women for the purposes of prostitution, Your Eminence. Please accept my apologies for presuming that a churchman of your standing would be aware of the existence of such men.”

Borja stared hard at Quevedo, but could detect no trace of sarcasm. “I am not so unworldly that I do not know what a pimp is, or what one does, Senor Quevedo. I requested enlightenment as to how it is we know Sanchez is involved from his conversation with a pimp. How do we know, for instance, that he was not transacting the ordinary business of such a fellow?”