The loss of the Venetians was very great, for none of the foot-soldiers escaped, and there were about sixty prisoners of importance who were taken to Verona, where the successful French, Burgundians, and “landsknechte” were received with the utmost joy by their companions, whose only regret was that they had missed the fray. Thus ended this gallant adventure which brought great honour and praise to the Good Knight. When he returned to his lodging he sent for the spy, to whom he said:
“Vizentin, according to my promise I will set you free. You can go to the Venetian camp and ask the Captain Manfroni if the Captain Bayard is as clever in war as he is. Say that if he wants to take me he will find me in the fields.”
He sent two of his archers to conduct the spy out of the town, and the man went at once to San Bonifacio, where Manfroni had him taken and hung as a traitor, without listening to any excuse.
[Illustration: POPE JULIUS THE SECOND from the portrait by Raphael Sanzio.]
When war began again in Italy at the close of the year 1510, Louis XII. found that he had no allies except the Duke of Ferrara and some Swiss mercenaries. Pope Julius II. had joined forces with the Venetians in his eager desire to drive the French out of Italy, and he was also extremely wroth with Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. He sent word to the widowed Countess of Mirandola that she should give up her city into his hands, as he required it for his attack upon Ferrara.
When at length the brave defenders had been compelled to yield their citadel, Pope Julius refused to take possession of the conquered city in the usual way by riding in through the gate; he had a bridge thrown across the frozen moat and climbed in through a breach in the walls. It must have been a gallant sight to look upon, when he politely escorted the angry Countess of Mirandola out of the home she had so bravely defended, while she held her head high and boldly spoke her mind, with pride and assurance as great as his own.
When news of the fall of Mirandola reached the Duke of Ferrara he expected that the next move would be an attack on Ferrara itself. He therefore destroyed the bridge which he had made across the Po, and retreated with all his army to his own strong city. The Castello of Ferrara, in the very heart of the city, standing four-square with its mighty crenellated towers, was one of the most famous fortresses of Italy and was believed to be impregnable; only by famine could it be taken.
The Pope’s wisest captains and his nephew, the Duke of Urbino, pointed out that Ferrara was thoroughly fortified, well provided with artillery of the newest make, and was defended by an army of well-tried soldiers, amongst whom was the French company commanded by Bayard. One noted Venetian captain thus gave his opinion: “Holy Father, we must prevent any provisions arriving at Ferrara by the river, and also from Argenta and the country round, which is very rich and fertile. But this we shall scarcely accomplish unless we take La Bastida, a place about twenty-five miles from Ferrara; but if once this fortress is in our hands we can starve out the city in two months, considering what a number of people are within its walls.”