We heard that a monster had been born at Venice; its mouth was split up to the nose, and one eye was by the nose and the other behind the ear; the face was cracked all over, as if it had been hacked with a knife, and on the forehead was a horn. It lived three or four days only; for they cut off the horn, and it died directly. They say that the lower parts of its body were very strange, and it had an animal's tail. And another was born at Padua, on Good Friday, that had two heads, and two hands on each arm. This one also lived two or three days; one on the heads died first, and when it was cut off, the other did not live much longer. Besides the above cases, a woman of sixty gave birth to three children at once. All these strange things happened in Venetia within a few days of each other. The letter described the facts exactly as I have set them down, and was sent to the bank of Tanai de' Nerli. I copied it, and the facts are true. Such signs signify great trouble in the city where they take place.
Certain messengers of the King of France arrived and went about Florence marking the houses which they preferred. They came indoors and entered all the rooms, marking one for such and such a lord, and another for such and such a baron.
And observe that there were not hundreds but thousands of the French, so that the whole city was occupied in every corner; for those houses that were not marked were occupied in a moment when the men-at-arms and the infantry arrived, going into every street, and saying: Apri qua! (Open there!) and not caring whether the owners were rich or poor. They gave it to be understood that they meant to pay: but there were not many who paid. And when they did pay a certain amount, they paid for the horns and ate the ox (Italian proverb): "They didn't pay anything like what they cost." Few of us had sent away our womenkind, except the young girls, who were sent to convents and to relatives where no soldiers were quartered; but the French were really very well-behaved, for there was not a single one who said an unsuitable word to a woman. In their hearts they felt a secret dread, and kept asking how many men Florence could dispose of; and they were told that at the sound of a bell the city would have 100 thousand men from within and without at her command. The truth was this: that they had come with the idea of sacking Florence, as their king had promised them but they could not see the game begun, much less won. And all this was the doing of the Almighty.
On this same day, five ambassadors were chosen to go to the King of France, who was at Pisa. They were as follows: First, Fra Girolamo, a preacher of the Order of San Domenico, dwelling at San Marco, a native of Ferrara; whom we believe to be a prophet, and he does not deny it in his sermons, but always says da parte del Signore (I have it from the Lord . . .), and he preaches on important subjects. The second, Tanai de' Nerli; the third, Pandolfo Rucellai; the fourth, Giovanni Cavalcanti; and the fifth, Piero Soderini; all Florentine citizens. And they left the next day.
On the same day a number of French arrived, who were the vanguard of the king, and lodged in the houses assigned to them, which were marked with chalk. This evening at about 2 o'clock (10 p.m.) a few strokes of the bell were heard from the Palagio; and immediately the Piazza was full of men, it being thought that a portamento was going to be summoned, for everyone was excited and distrustful, continually expecting great events.
8th February. The Signoria went to visit him, and later, after having dined, sent eight(1) of the chief citizens to hear what he desired. And he asked for the money which had been promised to the king, and the loan of 40 thousand florins besides.
(1) Ammirato and the documents published in vol. i. of the Negotiations diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane give five, and the names are as follows: Guidantonio Vespucci, Tanai de' Nerli, Guglielmo de' Pazzi, Francesco Valori, and Lorenzo de' Medici, who had changed his family name, taking that of Popolani.