The duke's reception of them was invested with that gracious friendliness of which none knew the art better than did he, intent upon showing them that the past was forgiven and their offences against himself forgotten. As they turned and rode with him through the gates of Sinigaglia some of the duke's gentlemen hemmed them about in the preconcerted manner, lest even now they should be taken with alarm. But it was all done unostentatiously and with every show of friendliness, that no suspicions should be aroused.
From the group Cesare had missed Oliverotto, and as they now approached the market square, where the Tyrant of Fermo sat on his horse at the head of his troops, Cesare made a sign with his eyes to Don Michele, the purport of which was plain to the captain. He rode ahead to suggest to Oliverotto that this was no time to have his men under arms and out of their lodgings, and to point out to him that, if they were not dismissed they would be in danger of having their quarters snatched from them by the duke's men, from which trouble might arise. To this he added that the duke was expecting his lordship.
Oliverotto, persuaded, gave the order for the dismissal of his troops, and the duke, coming up at that moment, called to him. In response he went to greet him, and fell in thereafter with the others who were riding with Valentinois.
In amiable conversation with them all, and riding between Vitelli and Francesco Orsini, the duke passed from the borgo into the town itself, and so to the palace, where the condottieri disposed to take their leave of him. But Cesare was not for parting with them yet; he bade them in with him, and they perforce must accept his invitation. Besides, his mood was so agreeable that surely there could be nought to fear.
But scarce were they inside when his manner changed of a sudden, and at a sign from him they were instantly overpowered and arrested by those gentlemen of his own who were of the party and who came to it well schooled in what they were to do.
Buonaccorsi compiled his diary carefully from the letters of Macchiavelli to the Ten, in so far as this and other affairs are concerned; and to Buonaccorsi we must now turn for what immediately follows, which is no doubt from Macchiavelli's second letter of December 31, in which the full details of the affair are given. His first letter no more than briefly states the happening ; the second unfortunately is missing ; so that the above particulars and some yet to follow are culled from the relations which he afterwards penned (" Del modo tenuto," etc.), edited, however, by the help of his dispatches at the time in regard to the causes which led to the affair. Between these and the actual relation there are some minor discrepancies. Unquestionably the dispatches are the more reliable, so that, where such discrepancies occur, the version in the dispatches has been preferred.
To turn for a moment to Buonaccorsi, he tells us that, as the Florentine envoy (who was, of course, Macchiavelli) following the Duke of Valentinois entered the town later, after the arrest of the condottieri, and found all uproar and confusion, he repaired straight to the palace to ascertain the truth. As he approached he met the duke, riding out in full armour to quell the rioting and restrain his men, who were by now all out of hand and pillaging the city. Cesare, perceiving the secretary, reined in and called him.
" This," he said, " is what I wanted to tell Mon signor di Volterra [Soderini] when he came to Urbino, but I could not entrust him with the secret. Now that my opportunity has come, I have known very well how to make use of it, and I have done a great service to your masters."
And with that Cesare left him, and, calling his captains about him, rode down into the town to put an end to the horrors that were being perpetrated there.
Immediately upon the arrest of the condottieri Cesare had issued orders to attack the soldiers of Vitelli and Orsini, and to dislodge them from the castles of the territory where they were quartered, and similarly to dislodge Oliverotto's men and drive them out of Sinigaglia. This had been swiftly accomplished. But the duke's men were not disposed to leave matters at that. Excited by the taste of battle that had been theirs, they returned to wreak their fury upon the town, and were proceeding to put it to sack, directing particular attention to the wealthy quarter occupied by the Venetian merchants, which is said to have been plundered by them to the extent of some 20,000 ducats. They would have made an end of Sinigaglia but for the sudden appearance amongst them of the duke himself. He rode through the streets, angrily ordering the pillage to cease ; and, to show how much he was in earnest, with his own hands he cut down some who were insolent or slow to obey him ; thus, before dusk, he had restored order and quiet.
As for the condottieri, Vitelli and Oliverotto were dealt with that very night. There is a story that Oliverotto, seeing that was all lost, drew a dagger and would have put it through his heart to save himself from dying at the hands of the hangman. If it is true, then that was his last show of spirit. He turned craven at the end, and protested tearfully to his judges for a trial was given them that the fault of all the wrong wrought against the duke lay with his brother in law, Vitellozzo. More wonderful was it that the grim Vitelli's courage also should break down at the end, and that he should beg that the Pope be implored to grant him a plenary indulgence and that his answer be awaited.
But at dawn the night having been consumed in their trial they were placed back to back, and so strangled, and their bodies were taken to the church of the Misericordia Hospital.
The Orsini were not dealt with just yet. They were kept prisoners, and Valentinois would go no further until he should have heard from Rome that Giulio Orsini and the powerful cardinal were also under arrest. To put to death at present the men in his power might be to alarm and so lose the others. They are right who say that his craft was devilish ; but what else was to be expected of the times ?