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Leonardo carried a big sketchbook, and as he made plans for redoubts, he made notes to the effect that crows fly in flocks without a leader, and wild ducks have a system and fly V shape, with a leader that changes off from time to time with the privates. Also, a waterfall runs the musical gamut, and the water might be separated so as to play a tune. Also, the leaves turn to gold through oxidation, and robins pair for life.

Leonardo also wrote at this time on the movements of the clouds, the broken strata of rocks, the fertilization of flowers, the habits of bees, and a hundred other themes which fill the library of notebooks that he left.

Meanwhile, Cesare Borgia was getting a trifle impatient about the building of his forts. Two years had passed when Cesare and his father met with an accident not uncommon in those times. The precious pair had indulged in their Borgian specialty for the benefit of a certain cardinal, whom they did not warmly admire, though the plot seems to have been chiefly the work of Cesare. By mistake they drank the poisoned wine prepared for the cardinal, and the Pope was cut off amidst a life of usefulness, his son surviving for a worse fate. Pope Julius the Second coming upon the scene, speedily dispossessed the Borgias, and the idea of the new kingdom was abandoned.

Leonardo evidently did not go into mourning for the Pope. He had a bullock-cart loaded with specimens, sketches and notebooks, and he set to work to sort them out. He was very happy in this employment– being essentially a man of peace–and while he made forts and planned siege-guns he was a deal more interested in certain swallows that made nests and glued the work into a most curious and beautiful structure, and when the birds were old enough to fly, tore up the nest, pushing the wee birds out to “swim in the air” or perish.

I made some notes about Leonardo’s bird observations in the back of that “Renaissance” book that White Pigeon appropriated. I can not recall just what they were–I think I’ll hunt White Pigeon up the next time I am in Paris, and get the book back.

When that painstaking biographer, Arsene Houssaye, was endeavoring to fix the date of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth, he interviewed a certain bishop, who waived the matter thus: “Surely what difference does it make, since he had no business to be born at all?”–a very Milesian-like reply. Houssaye is too sensible a man to waste words with the spiritually obese, and so merely answered in the language of Terence, “I am a man and nothing that is human is alien to me!”

The gentle Erasmus when a boy was once taunted by a schoolfellow with having “no name.” And Erasmus replied, “Then, I’ll make one for myself.” And he did.

No record of Leonardo’s birth exists, but the year is fixed upon in a very curious way. Caterina, his mother, was married one year after his birth. The date of this marriage is proven, and the fact that the son of Piero da Vinci was then a year old is also shown. As the marriage occurred in Fourteen Hundred Fifty-three, we simply go back one year and say that Leonardo da Vinci was born in Fourteen Hundred Fifty-two.

Most accounts say that Caterina was a servant in the Da Vinci family, but a later and seemingly more authentic writer informs us that she was a governess and a teacher of needlework. That her kinsmen hastened her marriage with the peasant, Vacca Accattabriga, seems quite certain: they sought to establish her in a respectable position. And so she acquiesced, and avoided society’s displeasure, very much as Lord Bacon escaped disgrace by leaving “Hamlet” upon Shakespeare’s doorstep.

This child of Caterina’s found a warm welcome in the noble family of his father. From his babyhood he seems to have had the power of winning hearts–he came fresh from God and brought love with him. We even hear a little rustle of dissent from grandmother and aunts when his father, Piero da Vinci, married, and started housekeeping as did Benjamin Franklin “with a wife and a bouncing boy.”