The French ambassador certainly appears to have attached implicit faith to Cesare's statement, and he privately informed Manenti that Ramires was believed to be at Medola, and that the Republic might rest assured that, if fie were taken, exemplary justice would be done.
All this you will find recorded in Sanuto. After that his diary entertains us with rumours which were reaching Venice, now that the deed was the duke's, now that the lady was with Ramires. Later the two rumours are consolidated into one, in a report of the Podest£ of Cervia to the effect that " the lady is in the Castle of Forli with Ramires, and that he took her there by order of the duke." The Podesta says that a man whom he sent to gather news had this story from one Benfaremo. But he omits to say who and what is this Benfaremo, and what the source of his information.
Matters remaining thus, and the affair appearing in danger of being forgotten, Caracciolo goes before the Senate on March 16 and implores permission to deal with it himself. This permission is denied him, the Doge conceiving that the matter will best be dealt with by the Senate, and Caracciolo is ordered back to his post at Gradisca. Thence he writes to the Senate on March 30 that he is certain his wife is in the citadel of Forli.
After this Sanuto does not mention the matter again until December of 1503 nearly three years later when we gather that, under pressure of constant letters from the husband, the Venetian ambassador at the Vatican makes so vigorous a stir that the lady is at last delivered up, and goes for the time being into a convent. But we are not told where or how she is found, nor where the convent in which she seeks shelter. That is Sanuto's first important omission.
And now an odd light is thrown suddenly upon the whole affair, and it begins to^look as if the lady had been no unwilling victim of an abduction, but, rather, a party to an elopement. She displays a positive reluctance to return to her husband ; she is afraid to do so " in fear for her very life" and she implores the Senate to obtain from Caracciolo some security for her, or else to grant her permission to withdraw permanently to a convent.
The Senate summons the husband, and represents the case to him. He assures the Senate that he has forgiven his wife, believing her to be innocent. This, however, does not suffice to allay her uneasiness or her reluctance for on January 4, 1504, Sanuto tells us that the Senate has received a letter of thanks from her in which she relates her misfortunes, and in which again she begs that her husband be compelled to pledge security to treat her well (" darli buona vita ") or else that she should be allowed to return to her mother. Of the nature of the misfortunes which he tells us she related in her letter, Sanuto says nothing. That is his second important omission.
The last mention of the subject in Sanuto relates to her restoration to her husband. He tells us that Caracciolo received her with great joy; but he is silent on the score of the lady's emotions on that occasion.
There you have all that is known of Dorotea Carac ciolo's abduction, which later writers including Bembo in his Histories have positively assigned to Cesare Borgia, drawing upon their imagination to fill up the lacunae in the story so as to support their point of view.
Those lacunce, however, are invested with a certain eloquence which it is well not to disregard. Admitting that the construing of silence into evidence is a dangerous course, all fraught with pitfalls, yet it seems permissible to pose the following questions :
If the revelation of the circumstances under which she was found, the revelations contained in her letter to the Senate, and the revelations which one imagines must have followed her return to her husband, confirm past rumours and convict Cesare of the outrage, how does it happen that Sanuto who has never failed to record anything that could tell against Cesare should be silent on the matter ? And how does it happen that so many pens that busied themselves greedily with scandal that touched the Borgias should be similarly silent ? Is it unreasonable to infer that those revelations did not incriminate him that they gave the lie to all the rumours that had been current ? If that is not the inference, then what is ?
It is further noteworthy that on January 16 after Dorotea's letter to the Senate giving the details of her misfortunes, which details Sanuto has suppressed Diego Ramires, the real and known abductor, is still the object of a hunt set afoot by some Venetians. Would that be the case had her revelations shown Ramires to be no more than the duke's instrument ? Possibly ; but not probably. In such a case he would not have been worth the trouble of pursuing.
Reasonably may it be objected: How, if Cesare was not guilty, does it happen that he did not carry out his threat of doing- exemplary justice upon Ramires when taken since Ramires obviously lay in his power for years after the event ? The answer to that you will find in the lady's reluctance to return to Caracciolo, and the tale it tells. It is not in the least illogical to assume that, when Cesare threatened that vengeance upon Ramires for the outrage which it was alleged had been committed, he fully intended to execute it; but that, upon taking Ramires, and upon discovering that here was no such outrage as had been represented, but just the elopement of a couple of lovers, he found there was nothing for him to avenge. Was it for Cesare Borgia to set up as a protector and avenger of cuckolds ? Rather would it be in keeping with the feelings of his age and race to befriend the fugitive pair who had planted the antlers upon the brow of the Venetian captain.
Lastly, Cesare's attitude towards women may be worth considering, that we may judge whether such an act as was imputed to him is consistent with it. Women play no part whatever in his history. Not once shall you find a woman's influence swaying him ; not once shall you see him permitting dalliance to retard his advancement or jeopardize his chances. With him, as with egotists of his type, governed by cold will and cold intellect, the sentimental side of the relation of the sexes has no place. With him one woman was as another woman ; as he craved women, so he took women, but with an almost contemptuous undis crimination. For all his needs concerning them the Iupanaria sufficed.
Is this mere speculation, think you ? Is there no evidence to support it, do you say ? Consider, pray, in all its bearings the treatise on pudendagra dedicated to a man of Cesare Borgia's rank by the physician Torella, written to meet his needs, and see what inference you draw from that. Surely such an inference as will invest with the ring of truth expressing as it does his intimate nature, and confirming further what has here been said that answer of his to the Venetian envoy, " that he had not found the ladies of Romagna so difficult that he should be driven to such rude and violent measures."