1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 72:
"What are they chanting?" Borja asked Ferrigno. The cardinal and his secretary were standing half-way along the drive of the Villa Borja, just about able to see, at a hundred yards' distance, the crowd gathered about the iron gate. Enough of them had torches and lanterns that it was possible to see them, and the lanterns at the gatehouse made them quite acceptably visible. Borja's people had roused him at this late hour—certainly past midnight—in a state of near-panic about a mob at the gates. What was present certainly fit the description well enough. Borja could see, even at this distance and with his ageing eyes, that the assorted refuse who had come to his threshhold were ill-dressed and filthy-looking. He offered a small prayer of thanks that he stood upwind.
"Insults to Your Eminence," Ferrigno said, without being specific. Roused from bed after midnight, disturbed at his rest by a mob of ruffians and jeered at and calumnied by utter scum? Not even the most forbearing master would be in a good humor, and at such times even the most obtuse servant walked with a nervous tread. How wrong Ferrigno was, this time, although Borja reflected that it was no great folly to decline to repeat the slur.
Borja smiled. It was being chanted clearly enough that he could determine exactly what the slander was. Exactly what he wanted, in general, dislike the specifics though he might. "And how many would you say there were?"
"Several hundred, Your Eminence." Ferrigno's tone remained nervous. The estimate seemed about right, although the company of mercenary musketeers Borja had kept on hand for just such an eventuality seemed, for the moment, to be sufficient threat to keep them from coming over the walls of the estate or trying to force the gate. Ferrigno seemed to find that nearly as alarming as the prospect of the cardinal's displeasure.
Of course, Ferrigno had not heard everything that had gone on. Nor was he privy to everything that Borja had compassed in his designs—much of that was kept only in the secret counsels of Borja's own heart. The orders he had received from Olivares —who was presumptious in the extreme to give such to a prince of the church—had encompassed particular ends purely to Spain's advantage. It was only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Borja had been able to see the best and most effective way to do that, and at the same time cut out the rot growing at the heart of Christ's Body on Earth. Ferrigno had been gifted with no such insight. Nor had he been present at Borja's meetings with Osuna, when the fullest possibilities of what might be achieved had been discussed between the two men.
Thus, his bearing of news of the mob at the very gate of the estate had been nervous. Fearful, even. He could not have known that Borja had prayed for just such as this for weeks. Perhaps he was nervous that the insults being chanted by the crude and ruffianly types at the gate would anger Borja? Not a bit. He welcomed it. Even the part about him having no cojones was, in its way, mortification of the spirit.
He could still feel nervousness streaming off Ferrigno like sweat from a lathered horse. The temptation to make sport of the frightened Italian was almost overwhelming. Almost. Borja heaved a deep and theatrical sigh. "So sad, that the Holy Father's misgovernment should come to this. Have you pencil and paper, Ferrigno?"
A sound of rummaging. Doubtless while Borja had been being dressed, Ferrigno had been arming himself for his professional offices. "Yes, Your Eminence."
"Then, to His Excellency The Viceroy of Naples—fill in the proper protocol and apologia when you prepare the despatch for my signature, it is to go tonight—I have the misfortune to report disorder, unrest and revolution of the most serious kind, as I have seen with my own eyes at the very gates of my villa."
"… at the very gates … of my villa," Ferrigno repeated, his pencil scratching away.
Borja paused for thought. He had, of course, made arrangements that a modest force, sufficient to every likely eventuality, had been reserved for just this occasion. They could be here in a week, ten days at the most. Any closer deployment than the closest anchorage to the border between Naples and the papal states would have been a giveaway of the most disastrous kind.
At that moment of contemplation, a messenger boy ran up. "Your Eminence," the lad gasped. Borja was some little way along the driveway that led to the front gate, and the youngster had clearly hared about looking for the cardinal for some minutes. "Senor Quevedo y Villega attends Your Eminence at the house. He says he has most urgent news."
"Does he?" Borja mused aloud. "Preserve that draft, Ferrigno, I may find myself adding to it momentarily. Let us go indoors and learn what news Quevedo brings us of riot at our very gate. The boy will inform Captain Mancini at the gate that my orders are to fire upon the crowd. Scum such as that must not be gently handled."
Borja heard the first crackle of musketry just as he reached his front door, and smiled. He would have to task Mancini with finding more myrmidons of his own stripe to deal with the consequences. A single company would hardly suffice for the next such assault, although the preparations he had had the man make to resist an assault would help for the time being. The works Mancini had erected behind the walls had not been cheap—neither carpenters nor lumber were inexpensive—but Mancini had assured his master that the saving in the soldiers required to hold the wall would more than pay for it. Borja dismissed the matter from his mind; the diminishing sound of musketry, replaced as it was with the screams of wounded scum, told the tale of how successful the preparations had been.