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The Borgias

Chapter 3
RODERIGO LENZUOLO was barn at Valencia, in Spain, in 1430 or 1431, and on
his mother's side was descended, as some writers declare, of a family of royal
blood, which had cast its eyes on the tiara only after cherishing hopes of the
crowns of Aragon and Valencia. Roderigo from his infancy had shown signs of a
marvellous quickness of mind, and as he grew older he exhibited an intelligence
extremely apt far the study of sciences, especially law and jurisprudence: the
result was that his first distinctions were gained in the law, a profession wherein
he soon made a great reputation by his ability in the discussion of the most
thorny cases. All the same, he was not slow to leave this career, and abandoned
it quite suddenly for the military profession, which his father had followed; but
after various actions which served to display his presence of mind and courage,
he was as much disgusted with this profession as with the other; and since it
happened that at the very time he began to feel this disgust his father died,
leaving a considerable fortune, he resolved to do no more work, but to live
according to his own fancies and caprices. About this time he became the lover
of a widow who had two daughters. The widow dying, Roderigo took the girls
under his protection, put one into a convent, and as the other was one of the
loveliest women imaginable, made her his mistress. This was the notorious Rosa
Vanozza, by whom he had five children--Francesco, Caesar, Lucrezia, and
Goffredo; the name of the fifth is unknown.
Roderigo, retired from public affairs, was given up entirely to the affections of a
lover and a father, when he heard that his uncle, who loved him like a son, had
been elected pope under the name of Calixtus III. But the young man was at this
time so much a lover that love imposed silence on ambition; and indeed he was
almost terrified at the exaltation of his uncle, which was no doubt destined to
force him once more into public life. Consequently, instead of hurrying to Rome,
as anyone else in his place would have done, he was content to indite to His
Holiness a letter in which he begged for the continuation of his favours, and
wished him a long and happy reign.
This reserve on the part of one of his relatives, contrasted with the ambitious
schemes which beset the new pope at every step, struck Calixtus III in a singular
way: he knew the stuff that was in young Roderigo, and at a time when he was
besieged on all sides by mediocrities, this powerful nature holding modestly
aside gained new grandeur in his eyes so he replied instantly to Roderigo that on
the receipt of his letter he must quit Spain for Italy, Valencia for Rome.
This letter uprooted Roderigo from the centre of happiness he had created for
himself, and where he might perhaps have slumbered on like an ordinary man, if
fortune had not thus interposed to drag him forcibly away. Roderigo was happy,
Roderigo was rich; the evil passions which were natural to him had been, if not
extinguished,--at least lulled; he was frightened himself at the idea of changing
the quiet life he was leading for the ambitious, agitated career that was promised
him; and instead of obeying his uncle, he delayed the preparations for departure,
hoping that Calixtus would forget him. It was not so: two months after he received
 
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