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THE DEMON OF FORNICATION . . . A'icosia e Famagosta per la lor bestia si lamenti e garra . . . PARADlSO* . . . even as you know that the demon of fornication assails the whole world, so he beguiled the king, and the good king fell into sin . . . CHRONICLE OF MAKHAIRAS* Juan Visconti had written the truth. How the Count of Rochas paid go-betweens, how he and the queen were in it together, how the thing started and how it ended was hawked in the streets and squares by every boy in Nicosia. That the letter he sent to the king in France was accurate, the counselors knew well enough. But now they had come together to advise the Crown of Cyprus and Jerusalem; now they had been ordered to judge Queen Eleanora, descended from a great family among the Catalans; and the Catalans are merciless men, so that if the king chose to avenge himself it would be nothing for the Catalans to take up arms 191 and come to wipe out everyone of them, life and limb. They had responsibilities, terrible responsibilities; the very kingdom depended on their judgment. That Visconti was honest and loyal of course they knew; but he hurried things, acted thoughtlessly, indecorously, extravagantly. The king was irascible—how had Visconti failed to keep that in mind?—irascible and prostrate to Eleanora's desire: her shift always with him when he traveled so that he could take it in his arms at night; and the impious Visconti went and wrote him that they'd found the ram with his ewe— how can you write a thing like that to a ruler? He was a fool. At least he should have remembered that the king too had made mistakes: pretending to be so enraptured while two mistresses hovered at the back door. What an uproar on the island when Eleanora ordered one of the two—the pregnant one—to be brought before her and had them lay a handmill on her belly to grind out flour measure by measure. And worst of all—the mind boggles— when the whole world knows that the king was born under the sign of Capricorn, that miserable Visconti takes pen in hand the very night the moon comes under Capricorn to write what: about horns and rams! The prudent man never tempts fate. No; we aren't sworn to say 192 where justice lies. Our duty is to find the lesser of evils. Better for one man to die because he was fated to, than for us to put ourselves and the kingdom in danger. So they argued through the day and then, towards sunset, they approached the king, bowed before him and said that Juan Visconti was an infamous, perverted liar. And Juan Visconti died of hunger in a dungeon. But in the king's soul the seed of his shame spread tentacles, and this made him long to serve others as he had been served. No woman escaped his ambition to fornicate; he shamed them all. Fear and hate coupled and filled the land with fear and hate. In this way, with the "lesser evil," fate marched on until the dawn of St. Anthony's day, a Wednesday, when the knights came and dragged the king from his mistress' embrace to slaughter him. "And after all the others came the Turkopolier* and found him lying in his own blood" says the Chronicler, "And drew his sword and cut his member off and his testicles, and said to him: For these you dealt out death." This was the end appointed for King Peter by the demon of fornication. 193 ...


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