Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

died. It was thought that the duke made sure his threat, and poisoned him for the crime of protecting the liberties of Geneva.

When this report was on the wind, there was intense excitement in the city. The gates were shut, cannon were dragged through the streets and placed on the walls, and sentries were posted everywhere. The citizens expected that the duke would seize the city, set his own bishop over them, and take the secular power into his own hands. They had good reasons for their suspicion. They gathered in groups on the streets, ready for any orator who might lift his voice.

Berthelier seized the opportunity to resist the Pope and the duke, so that the one should not get the church, nor the other the state. 'Let us resist the duke,' said he and his associates. 'Is there a people whose franchises are older than ours? We have always been free, and there is no memory of man to the contrary.' 'Come, you canons, choose a bishop! Elect a bishop who will defend our liberties.' The man for them was at hand. They were too earthly themselves to ask for a candidate of a very heavenly spirit. Liberty, not religion, was the word on their lips. Aime* de Gingins, canon of St. Peter's, was then a firm advocate of Genevan rights. He was the best boon companion in the world, keeping open house and feasting joyously the friends of pleasure; fond of hearing his associates laugh and sing, and of rather free manners, after the custom of the Church in those days. The people named him their bishop, and the canons confirmed the vote. The one thing now was to uphold their new bishop, and persuade the Pope to sanction their choice. They sent men to Rome to obtain his confirmation.

The Pope, Leo x., had another affair to manage. His brother Julian, the Magnificent, needed a wife. The Pope had an eye upon the noble lady, Philiberta of Savoy, the sister of the Duke Charles, and the aunt of Margaret, Queen of Navarre. She was 'a pure, simple' hearted young girl, of an elevated mind, a friend to the poor,' and too good to be put up as the price of a bishopric. But so it was. With her, Charles would buy Geneva, and place over it a bishop from his own relatives.

He had a cousin, John, the son of an unmarried bishop, who was the grandson of the once married Amadeus, who was the last of the rival Popes under the name of Felix v. John had no birth to boast, and was withal a puny, repulsive debauchee. 'That is the man to be Bishop of Geneva,' thought the duke; 'he is so much in my debt that he can refuse me nothing.' John was ready for any bargain that would give him an office. Charles sent for him. 'Cousin,' said he, 'I will raise you to a bishopric, if you will, in return, make over the temporal power to me.' Thus John agreed to pay his debts, which the duke had • talked about pretty loudly' of late.

John went to Rome, and the Pope received him with the greatest honour. 'This disagreeable person had the chief place at banquet, theatre, and concert.' The Pope kept him talking of the charms of Philiberta. 'Let the duke give us his sister,' said the Pope, 'and we will give you Geneva. You will then hand over the temporal power to the duke!' Was there not need of a reformation?

The messengers of Geneva came to Rome, told of their choice of a bishop; but, alas! these Alpine shepherds had no beautiful princess to offer as the price of the favour they wished. 'Begone,' said Leo, 'I know you not.' The graceless John was the only one whom he would know as their bishop. The Pope was thus paving the way for the overthrow of his power in Geneva, and for the Reformation.

'A fine election, indeed, his holiness has honoured us with!' said Berthelier and his compatriots. 'For our bishop, he gives us a dissipated clerk; for our guide in the paths of virtue, a dissipated bastard; for the preserver of our ancient liberties, a scoundrel ready to sell them!'

It was expected that Bonivard would take the part of the duke, the Pope, and also of the disgusting John. But he took sides with the patriots. He found Berthelier to be 'one of those noble natures who count glory by placing themselves at the service of the weak. No man seemed better fitted to save Geneva. . . . He affected no great airs, used no big words, was fond of pleasure and the noisy talk of his companions; but there was always observable in him a seriousness of thought, great energy, a strong will, and, above all, a supreme contempt of life.' Yet policy led him to act at first a strange part with the new bishop.

John came to his diocese and met with no violent opposition. He must be wise in his crafty schemes, and court the leading patriots. He soon learned that there was one name on all lips; one citizen, ever cheerful, frank in heart, very popular, taking part with the young people in all their merry-making, winning them by his charming and lively manners, and gaining confidence by his willingness to render them any service in his power. 'Good !' said John; 'here is a man I must have. If I gain him, I will have nothing to fear. He must have the best charge I can bestow.'

'Be cautious,' whispered certain ones; 'he conceals a rebellious, energetic, unyielding mind.'

'Fear nothing,' replied John; 'he sings gayly and drinks with the young men of the town.' Berthelier did this to kindle their souls at his fire. He was at last induced to accept of the castle of Peney. Bonivard said, 'Peney is the apple which the serpent gave to Eve.' But Berthelier had not sold himself. The people's bishop, De Gingins, was given a large pension, and he lived in the same house which afterwards became the home of John Calvin. Bonivard was now to secure die object for which he had come to Geneva.

His uncle, John Aime Bonivard, was the prior of St. Victor, near one of the city gates. It was a little state, and its prior a sovereign prince. The aged uncle was on his death-bed, and Francis, now one-and-twenty, sat by it. The old man grew seriously agitated. He thought of one great evil that he had done. In rashness he had once ordered four large culverins to be made at the expense of the church, in order to batter down the castle of an old friend and neighbour. None of his many other old sins gave him so fearful a pang as this. In anguish he turned to his nephew, saying, 'Francis, you know those pieces of cannon? . . . They ought to be employed in God's service. I desire that, immediately after my death, they may be cast into bells for the church.' The old prior felt relieved and died, leaving to his nephew the principality, the convent, and the culverins.

On this very day Berthelier called to sympathize with his friend, and he heard the story of the four guns. 'What! cast cannon into bells!' he exclaimed: 'we will give you as much metal as you require, to make a peal that shall ring loud enough to stun you; but the culverins ought to remain culverins.'

'My uncle ordered them to be put to the service of the Church.'

'The Church will be doubly served,' retorted Berthelier. 'There will be bells at St. Victor, and artillery in the city.' The point was gained. Berthelier laid the matter before the council, who voted all that was needed for the bells.

THE duke heard of this affair, and he could not be prudent toward men whose minds would not bear provocation. He claimed the convent guns. So anxious was he to succeed in the game he was playing that he moved too rashly. His one thought was to possess Geneva. By grasping for it he was doomed to lose his principalities. The guns made a noise in the city. The Council of Fifty met to discuss the matters, and Berthelier was not alone in supporting the rights of the city.

A young man of twenty-five rose up, and said, 'In the name of the people I oppose the surrender of this artillery to his highness; the city cannot spare them.' This young citizen was Besancon Hugues, who felt that liberty was worth a war with the duke. Not yet had the sports, the music, the dances, the cup, and the cards caused him to forget the freedom of his country. Others of the ' Children of Geneva' had not been made effeminate by these soft arts. They were ready to use the culverins; they would not give them up; and so the four guns remained in the city. But from that hour Charles shot his wrath at Berthelier, Hugues, and Bonivard.

Not yet was Geneva fully given over to the duke. Perhaps these patriots hoped that they could manage the weak and unpopular John, and prevent the surrender of

« AnteriorContinuar »