By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 4
Author: Zola, Émile
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 4" ***

                          THE THREE CITIES



                            EMILE ZOLA


                              PART IV


IN his anxiety to bring things to a finish, Pierre wished to begin his
campaign on the very next day. But on whom should he first call if he
were to steer clear of blunders in that intricate and conceited
ecclesiastical world? The question greatly perplexed him; however, on
opening his door that morning he luckily perceived Don Vigilio in the
passage, and with a sudden inspiration asked him to step inside. He
realised that this thin little man with the saffron face, who always
trembled with fever and displayed such exaggerated, timorous discretion,
was in reality well informed, mixed up in everything. At one period it
had seemed to Pierre that the secretary purposely avoided him, doubtless
for fear of compromising himself; but recently Don Vigilio had proved
less unsociable, as though he were not far from sharing the impatience
which must be consuming the young Frenchman amidst his long enforced
inactivity. And so, on this occasion, he did not seek to avoid the chat
on which Pierre was bent.

"I must apologise," said the latter, "for asking you in here when things
are in such disorder. But I have just received some more linen and some
winter clothing from Paris. I came, you know, with just a little valise,
meaning to stay for a fortnight, and yet I've now been here for nearly
three months, and am no more advanced than I was on the morning of my

Don Vigilio nodded. "Yes, yes, I know," said he.

Thereupon Pierre explained to him that Monsignor Nani had informed him,
through the Contessina, that he now ought to act and see everybody for
the defence of his book. But he was much embarrassed, as he did not know
in what order to make his visits so that they might benefit him. For
instance, ought he to call in the first place on Monsignor Fornaro, the
/consultore/ selected to report on his book, and whose name had been
given him?

"Ah!" exclaimed Don Vigilio, quivering; "has Monsignor Nani gone as far
as that--given you the reporter's name? That's even more than I
expected." Then, forgetting his prudence, yielding to his secret interest
in the affair, he resumed: "No, no; don't begin with Monsignor Fornaro.
Your first visit should be a very humble one to the Prefect of the
Congregation of the Index--his Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti; for he
would never forgive you for having offered your first homage to another
should he some day hear of it." And, after a pause, Don Vigilio added, in
a low voice, amidst a faint, feverish shiver: "And he /would/ hear of it;
everything becomes known."

Again he hesitated, and then, as if yielding to sudden, sympathetic
courage, he took hold of the young Frenchman's hands. "I swear to you, my
dear Monsieur Froment," he said, "that I should be very happy to help
you, for you are a man of simple soul, and I really begin to feel worried
for you. But you must not ask me for impossibilities. Ah! if you only
knew--if I could only tell you of all the perils which surround us!
However, I think I can repeat to you that you must in no wise rely on my
patron, his Eminence Cardinal Boccanera. He has expressed absolute
disapproval of your book in my presence on several occasions. Only he is
a saint, a most worthy, honourable man; and, though he won't defend you,
he won't attack you--he will remain neutral out of regard for his niece,
whom he loves so dearly, and who protects you. So, when you see him,
don't plead your cause; it would be of no avail, and might even irritate

Pierre was not particularly distressed by this news, for at his first
interview with the Cardinal, and on the few subsequent occasions when he
had respectfully visited him, he had fully understood that his Eminence
would never be other than an adversary. "Well," said he, "I will wait on
him to thank him for his neutrality."

But at this all Don Vigilio's terrors returned. "No, no, don't do that;
he would perhaps realise that I have spoken to you, and then what a
disaster--my position would be compromised. I've said nothing, nothing!
See the cardinals to begin with, see all the cardinals. Let it be
understood between us that I've said nothing more." And, on that occasion
at any rate, Don Vigilio would speak no further, but left the room
shuddering and darting fiery, suspicious glances on either side of the

Pierre at once went out to call on Cardinal Sanguinetti. It was ten
o'clock, and there was a chance that he might find him at home. This
cardinal resided on the first floor of a little palazzo in a dark, narrow
street near San Luigi dei Francesi.* There was here none of the giant
ruin full of princely and melancholy grandeur amidst which Cardinal
Boccanera so stubbornly remained. The old regulation gala suite of rooms
had been cut down just like the number of servants. There was no
throne-room, no red hat hanging under a /baldacchino/, no arm-chair
turned to the wall pending a visit from the Pope. A couple of apartments
served as ante-rooms, and then came a /salon/ where the Cardinal
received; and there was no luxury, indeed scarcely any comfort; the
furniture was of mahogany, dating from the empire period, and the
hangings and carpets were dusty and faded by long use. Moreover, Pierre
had to wait a long time for admittance, and when a servant, leisurely
putting on his jacket, at last set the door ajar, it was only to say that
his Eminence had been away at Frascati since the previous day.

  * This is the French church of Rome, and is under the protection
    of the French Government.--Trans.

Pierre then remembered that Cardinal Sanguinetti was one of the suburban
bishops. At his see of Frascati he had a villa where he occasionally
spent a few days whenever a desire for rest or some political motive
impelled him to do so.

"And will his Eminence soon return?" Pierre inquired.

"Ah! we don't know. His Eminence is poorly, and expressly desired us to
send nobody to worry him."

When Pierre reached the street again he felt quite bewildered by this
disappointment. At first he wondered whether he had not better call on
Monsignor Fornaro without more ado, but he recollected Don Vigilio's
advice to see the cardinals first of all, and, an inspiration coming to
him, he resolved that his next visit should be for Cardinal Sarno, whose
acquaintance he had eventually made at Donna Serafina's Mondays. In spite
of Cardinal Sarno's voluntary self-effacement, people looked upon him as
one of the most powerful and redoubtable members of the Sacred College,
albeit his nephew Narcisse Habert declared that he knew no man who showed
more obtuseness in matters which did not pertain to his habitual
occupations. At all events, Pierre thought that the Cardinal, although
not a member of the Congregation of the Index, might well give him some
good advice, and possibly bring his great influence to bear on his

The young man straightway betook himself to the Palace of the Propaganda,
where he knew he would find the Cardinal. This palace, which is seen from
the Piazza di Spagna, is a bare, massive corner pile between two streets.
And Pierre, hampered by his faulty Italian, quite lost himself in it,
climbing to floors whence he had to descend again, and finding himself in
a perfect labyrinth of stairs, passages, and halls. At last he luckily
came across the Cardinal's secretary, an amiable young priest, whom he
had already seen at the Boccanera mansion. "Why, yes," said the
secretary, "I think that his Eminence will receive you. You did well to
come at this hour, for he is always here of a morning. Kindly follow me,
if you please."

Then came a fresh journey. Cardinal Sarno, long a Secretary of the
Propaganda, now presided over the commission which controlled the
organisation of worship in those countries of Europe, Africa, America,
and Oceanica where Catholicism had lately gained a footing; and he thus
had a private room of his own with special officers and assistants,
reigning there with the ultra-methodical habits of a functionary who had
grown old in his arm-chair, closely surrounded by nests of drawers, and
knowing nothing of the world save the usual sights of the street below
his window.

The secretary left Pierre on a bench at the end of a dark passage, which
was lighted by gas even in full daylight. And quite a quarter of an hour
went by before he returned with his eager, affable air. "His Eminence is
conferring with some missionaries who are about to leave Rome," he said;
"but it will soon be over, and he told me to take you to his room, where
you can wait for him."

As soon as Pierre was alone in the Cardinal's sanctum he examined it with
curiosity. Fairly spacious, but in no wise luxurious, it had green paper
on its walls, and its furniture was of black wood and green damask. From
two windows overlooking a narrow side street a mournful light reached the
dark wall-paper and faded carpets. There were a couple of pier tables and
a plain black writing-table, which stood near one window, its worn
mole-skin covering littered with all sorts of papers. Pierre drew near to
it for a moment, and glanced at the arm-chair with damaged, sunken seat,
the screen which sheltered it from draughts, and the old inkstand
splotched with ink. And then, in the lifeless and oppressive atmosphere,
the disquieting silence, which only the low rumbles from the street
disturbed, he began to grow impatient.

However, whilst he was softly walking up and down he suddenly espied a
map affixed to one wall, and the sight of it filled him with such
absorbing thoughts that he soon forgot everything else. It was a coloured
map of the world, the different tints indicating whether the territories
belonged to victorious Catholicism or whether Catholicism was still
warring there against unbelief; these last countries being classified as
vicariates or prefectures, according to the general principles of
organisation. And the whole was a graphic presentment of the long efforts
of Catholicism in striving for the universal dominion which it has sought
so unremittingly since its earliest hour. God has given the world to His
Church, but it is needful that she should secure possession of it since
error so stubbornly abides. From this has sprung the eternal battle, the
fight which is carried on, even in our days, to win nations over from
other religions, as it was in the days when the Apostles quitted Judaea
to spread abroad the tidings of the Gospel. During the middle ages the
great task was to organise conquered Europe, and this was too absorbing
an enterprise to allow of any attempt at reconciliation with the
dissident churches of the East. Then the Reformation burst forth, schism
was added to schism, and the Protestant half of Europe had to be
reconquered as well as all the orthodox East.

War-like ardour, however, awoke at the discovery of the New World. Rome
was ambitious of securing that other side of the earth, and missions were
organised for the subjection of races of which nobody had known anything
the day before, but which God had, nevertheless, given to His Church,
like all the others. And by degrees the two great divisions of
Christianity were formed, on one hand the Catholic nations, those where
the faith simply had to be kept up, and which the Secretariate of State
installed at the Vatican guided with sovereign authority, and on the
other the schismatical or pagan nations which were to be brought back to
the fold or converted, and over which the Congregation of the Propaganda
sought to reign. Then this Congregation had been obliged to divide itself
into two branches in order to facilitate its work--the Oriental branch,
which dealt with the dissident sects of the East, and the Latin branch,
whose authority extended over all the other lands of mission: the two
forming a vast organisation--a huge, strong, closely meshed net cast over
the whole world in order that not a single soul might escape.

It was in presence of that map that Pierre for the first time became
clearly conscious of the mechanism which for centuries had been working
to bring about the absorption of humanity. The Propaganda, richly dowered
by the popes, and disposing of a considerable revenue, appeared to him
like a separate force, a papacy within the papacy, and he well understood
that the Prefect of the Congregation should be called the "Red Pope," for
how limitless were the powers of that man of conquest and domination,
whose hands stretched from one to the other end of the earth. Allowing
that the Cardinal Secretary held Europe, that diminutive portion of the
globe, did not he, the Prefect, hold all the rest--the infinity of space,
the distant countries as yet almost unknown? Besides, statistics showed
that Rome's uncontested dominion was limited to 200 millions of Apostolic
and Roman Catholics; whereas the schismatics of the East and the
Reformation, if added together, already exceeded that number, and how
small became the minority of the true believers when, besides the
schismatics, one brought into line the 1000 millions of infidels who yet
remained to be converted. The figures struck Pierre with a force which
made him shudder. What! there were 5 million Jews, nearly 200 million
Mahommedans, more than 700 million Brahmanists and Buddhists, without
counting another 100 million pagans of divers creeds, the whole making
1000 millions, and against these the Christians could marshal barely more
than 400 millions, who were divided among themselves, ever in conflict,
one half with Rome and the other half against her?* Was it possible that
in 1800 years Christianity had not proved victorious over even one-third
of mankind, and that Rome, the eternal and all-powerful, only counted a
sixth part of the nations among her subjects? Only one soul saved out of
every six--how fearful was the disproportion! However, the map spoke with
brutal eloquence: the red-tinted empire of Rome was but a speck when
compared with the yellow-hued empire of the other gods--the endless
countries which the Propaganda still had to conquer. And the question
arose: How many centuries must elapse before the promises of the Christ
were realised, before the whole world were gained to Christianity, before
religious society spread over secular society, and there remained but one
kingdom and one belief? And in presence of this question, in presence of
the prodigious labour yet to be accomplished, how great was one's
astonishment when one thought of Rome's tranquil serenity, her patient
stubbornness, which has never known doubt or weariness, her bishops and
ministers toiling without cessation in the conviction that she alone will
some day be the mistress of the world!

  * Some readers may question certain of the figures given by M.
    Zola, but it must be remembered that all such calculations
    (even those of the best "authorities") are largely guesswork.
    I myself think that there are more than 5 million Jews, and
    more than 200 millions of Mahommedans, but I regard the alleged
    number of Brahmanists and Buddhists as exaggerated. On the
    other hand, some statistical tables specify 80 millions of
    Confucianists, of whom M. Zola makes no separate mention.
    However, as regards the number of Christians in the world, the
    figures given above are, within a few millions, probably

Narcisse had told Pierre how carefully the embassies at Rome watched the
doings of the Propaganda, for the missions were often the instruments of
one or another nation, and exercised decisive influence in far-away
lands. And so there was a continual struggle, in which the Congregation
did all it could to favour the missionaries of Italy and her allies. It
had always been jealous of its French rival, "L'Oeuvre de la Propagation
de la Foi," installed at Lyons, which is as wealthy in money as itself,
and richer in men of energy and courage. However, not content with
levelling tribute on this French association, the Propaganda thwarted it,
sacrificed it on every occasion when it had reason to think it might
achieve a victory. Not once or twice, but over and over again had the
French missionaries, the French orders, been driven from the scenes of
their labours to make way for Italians or Germans. And Pierre, standing
in that mournful, dusty room, which the sunlight never brightened,
pictured the secret hot-bed of political intrigue masked by the
civilising ardour of faith. Again he shuddered as one shudders when
monstrous, terrifying things are brought home to one. And might not the
most sensible be overcome? Might not the bravest be dismayed by the
thought of that universal engine of conquest and domination, which worked
with the stubbornness of eternity, not merely content with the gain of
souls, but ever seeking to ensure its future sovereignty over the whole
of corporeal humanity, and--pending the time when it might rule the
nations itself--disposing of them, handing them over to the charge of
this or that temporary master, in accordance with its good pleasure. And
then, too, what a prodigious dream! Rome smiling and tranquilly awaiting
the day when she will have united Christians, Mahommedans, Brahmanists,
and Buddhists into one sole nation, of whom she will be both the
spiritual and the temporal queen!

However, a sound of coughing made Pierre turn, and he started on
perceiving Cardinal Sarno, whom he had not heard enter. Standing in front
of that map, he felt like one caught in the act of prying into a secret,
and a deep flush overspread his face. The Cardinal, however, after
looking at him fixedly with his dim eyes, went to his writing-table, and
let himself drop into the arm-chair without saying a word. With a gesture
he dispensed Pierre of the duty of kissing his ring.

"I desired to offer my homage to your Eminence," said the young man. "Is
your Eminence unwell?"

"No, no, it's nothing but a dreadful cold which I can't get rid of. And
then, too, I have so many things to attend to just now."

Pierre looked at the Cardinal as he appeared in the livid light from the
window, puny, lopsided, with the left shoulder higher than the right, and
not a sign of life on his worn and ashen countenance. The young priest
was reminded of one of his uncles, who, after thirty years spent in the
offices of a French public department, displayed the same lifeless
glance, parchment-like skin, and weary hebetation. Was it possible that
this withered old man, so lost in his black cassock with red edging, was
really one of the masters of the world, with the map of Christendom so
deeply stamped on his mind, albeit he had never left Rome, that the
Prefect of the Propaganda did not take a decision without asking his

"Sit down, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the Cardinal. "So you have come to see
me--you have something to ask of me!" And, whilst disposing himself to
listen, he stretched out his thin bony hands to finger the documents
heaped up before him, glancing at each of them like some general, some
strategist, profoundly versed in the science of his profession, who,
although his army is far away, nevertheless directs it to victory from
his private room, never for a moment allowing it to escape his mind.

Pierre was somewhat embarrassed by such a plain enunciation of the
interested object of his visit; still, he decided to go to the point.
"Yes, indeed," he answered, "it is a liberty I have taken to come and
appeal to your Eminence's wisdom for advice. Your Eminence is aware that
I am in Rome for the purpose of defending a book of mine, and I should be
grateful if your Eminence would help and guide me." Then he gave a brief
account of the present position of the affair, and began to plead his
cause; but as he continued speaking he noticed that the Cardinal gave him
very little attention, as though indeed he were thinking of something
else, and failed to understand.

"Ah! yes," the great man at last muttered, "you have written a book.
There was some question of it at Donna Serafina's one evening. But a
priest ought not to write; it is a mistake for him to do so. What is the
good of it? And the Congregation of the Index must certainly be in the
right if it is prosecuting your book. At all events, what can I do? I
don't belong to the Congregation, and I know nothing, nothing about the

Pierre, pained at finding him so listless and indifferent, went on trying
to enlighten and move him. But he realised that this man's mind, so
far-reaching and penetrating in the field in which it had worked for
forty years, closed up as soon as one sought to divert it from its
specialty. It was neither an inquisitive nor a supple mind. All trace of
life faded from the Cardinal's eyes, and his entire countenance assumed
an expression of mournful imbecility. "I know nothing, nothing," he
repeated, "and I never recommend anybody." However, at last he made an
effort: "But Nani is mixed up in this," said he. "What does Nani advise
you to do?"

"Monsignor Nani has been kind enough to reveal to me that the reporter is
Monsignor Fornaro, and advises me to see him."

At this Cardinal Sarno seemed surprised and somewhat roused. A little
light returned to his eyes. "Ah! really," he rejoined, "ah! really--
Well, if Nani has done that he must have some idea. Go and see Monsignor
Fornaro." Then, after rising and dismissing his visitor, who was
compelled to thank him, bowing deeply, he resumed his seat, and a moment
later the only sound in the lifeless room was that of his bony fingers
turning over the documents before him.

Pierre, in all docility, followed the advice given him, and immediately
betook himself to the Piazza Navona, where, however, he learnt from one
of Monsignor Fornaro's servants that the prelate had just gone out, and
that to find him at home it was necessary to call in the morning at ten
o'clock. Accordingly it was only on the following day that Pierre was
able to obtain an interview. He had previously made inquiries and knew
what was necessary concerning Monsignor Fornaro. Born at Naples, he had
there begun his studies under the Barnabites, had finished them at the
Seminario Romano, and had subsequently, for many years, been a professor
at the University Gregoriana. Nowadays Consultor to several Congregations
and a Canon of Santa Maria Maggiore, he placed his immediate ambition in
a Canonry at St. Peter's, and harboured the dream of some day becoming
Secretary of the Consistorial Congregation, a post conducting to the
cardinalate. A theologian of remarkable ability, Monsignor Fornaro
incurred no other reproach than that of occasionally sacrificing to
literature by contributing articles, which he carefully abstained from
signing, to certain religious reviews. He was also said to be very

Pierre was received as soon as he had sent in his card, and perhaps he
would have fancied that his visit was expected had not an appearance of
sincere surprise, blended with a little anxiety, marked his reception.

"Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment," repeated the prelate,
looking at the card which he still held. "Kindly step in--I was about to
forbid my door, for I have some urgent work to attend to. But no matter,
sit down."

Pierre, however, remained standing, quite charmed by the blooming
appearance of this tall, strong, handsome man who, although five and
forty years of age, was quite fresh and rosy, with moist lips, caressing
eyes, and scarcely a grey hair among his curly locks. Nobody more
fascinating and decorative could be found among the whole Roman prelacy.
Careful of his person undoubtedly, and aiming at a simple elegance, he
looked really superb in his black cassock with violet collar. And around
him the spacious room where he received his visitors, gaily lighted as it
was by two large windows facing the Piazza Navona, and furnished with a
taste nowadays seldom met with among the Roman clergy, diffused a
pleasant odour and formed a setting instinct with kindly cheerfulness.

"Pray sit down, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment," he resumed, "and tell me to
what I am indebted for the honour of your visit."

He had already recovered his self-possession and assumed a /naif/, purely
obliging air; and Pierre, though the question was only natural, and he
ought to have foreseen it, suddenly felt greatly embarrassed, more
embarrassed indeed than in Cardinal Sarno's presence. Should he go to the
point at once, confess the delicate motive of his visit? A moment's
reflection showed him that this would be the best and worthier course.
"Dear me, Monseigneur," he replied, "I know very well that the step I
have taken in calling on you is not usually taken, but it has been
advised me, and it has seemed to me that among honest folks there can
never be any harm in seeking in all good faith to elucidate the truth."

"What is it, what is it, then?" asked the prelate with an expression of
perfect candour, and still continuing to smile.

"Well, simply this. I have learnt that the Congregation of the Index has
handed you my book 'New Rome,' and appointed you to examine it; and I
have ventured to present myself before you in case you should have any
explanations to ask of me."

But Monsignor Fornaro seemed unwilling to hear any more. He had carried
both hands to his head and drawn back, albeit still courteous. "No, no,"
said he, "don't tell me that, don't continue, you would grieve me
dreadfully. Let us say, if you like, that you have been deceived, for
nothing ought to be known, in fact nothing is known, either by others or
myself. I pray you, do not let us talk of such matters."

Pierre, however, had fortunately remarked what a decisive effect was
produced when he had occasion to mention the name of the Assessor of the
Holy Office. So it occurred to him to reply: "I most certainly do not
desire to give you the slightest cause for embarrassment, Monseigneur,
and I repeat to you that I would never have ventured to importune you if
Monsignor Nani himself had not acquainted me with your name and address."

This time the effect was immediate, though Monsignor Fornaro, with that
easy grace which he introduced into all things, made some ceremony about
surrendering. He began by a demurrer, speaking archly with subtle shades
of expression. "What! is Monsignor Nani the tattler! But I shall scold
him, I shall get angry with him! And what does he know? He doesn't belong
to the Congregation; he may have been led into error. You must tell him
that he has made a mistake, and that I have nothing at all to do with
your affair. That will teach him not to reveal needful secrets which
everybody respects!" Then, in a pleasant way, with winning glance and
flowery lips, he went on: "Come, since Monsignor Nani desires it, I am
willing to chat with you for a moment, my dear Monsieur Froment, but on
condition that you shall know nothing of my report or of what may have
been said or done at the Congregation."

Pierre in his turn smiled, admiring how easy things became when forms
were respected and appearances saved. And once again he began to explain
his case, the profound astonishment into which the prosecution of his
book had thrown him, and his ignorance of the objections which were taken
to it, and for which he had vainly sought a cause.

"Really, really," repeated the prelate, quite amazed at so much
innocence. "The Congregation is a tribunal, and can only act when a case
is brought before it. Proceedings have been taken against your book
simply because it has been denounced."

"Yes, I know, denounced."

"Of course. Complaint was laid by three French bishops, whose names you
will allow me to keep secret, and it consequently became necessary for
the Congregation to examine the incriminated work."

Pierre looked at him quite scared. Denounced by three bishops? Why? With
what object? Then he thought of his protector. "But Cardinal Bergerot,"
said he, "wrote me a letter of approval, which I placed at the beginning
of my work as a preface. Ought not a guarantee like that to have been
sufficient for the French episcopacy?"

Monsignor Fornaro wagged his head in a knowing way before making up his
mind to reply: "Ah! yes, no doubt, his Eminence's letter, a very
beautiful letter. I think, however, that it would have been much better
if he had not written it, both for himself and for you especially." Then
as the priest, whose surprise was increasing, opened his mouth to urge
him to explain himself, he went on: "No, no, I know nothing, I say
nothing. His Eminence Cardinal Bergerot is a saintly man whom everybody
venerates, and if it were possible for him to sin it would only be
through pure goodness of heart."

Silence fell. Pierre could divine that an abyss was opening, and dared
not insist. However, he at last resumed with some violence: "But, after
all, why should my book be prosecuted, and the books of others be left
untouched? I have no intention of acting as a denouncer myself, but how
many books there are to which Rome closes her eyes, and which are far
more dangerous than mine can be!"

This time Monsignor Fornaro seemed glad to be able to support Pierre's
views. "You are right," said he, "we cannot deal with every bad book, and
it greatly distresses us. But you must remember what an incalculable
number of works we should be compelled to read. And so we have to content
ourselves with condemning the worst /en bloc/."

Then he complacently entered into explanations. In principle, no printer
ought to send any work to press without having previously submitted the
manuscript to the approval of the bishop of the diocese. Nowadays,
however, with the enormous output of the printing trade, one could
understand how terribly embarrassed the bishops would be if the printers
were suddenly to conform to the Church's regulation. There was neither
the time nor the money, nor were there the men necessary for such
colossal labour. And so the Congregation of the Index condemned /en
masse/, without examination, all works of certain categories: first,
books which were dangerous for morals, all erotic writings, and all
novels; next the various bibles in the vulgar tongue, for the perusal of
Holy Writ without discretion was not allowable; then the books on magic
and sorcery, and all works on science, history, or philosophy that were
in any way contrary to dogma, as well as the writings of heresiarchs or
mere ecclesiastics discussing religion, which should never be discussed.
All these were wise laws made by different popes, and were set forth in
the preface to the catalogue of forbidden books which the Congregation
published, and without them this catalogue, to have been complete, would
in itself have formed a large library. On turning it over one found that
the works singled out for interdiction were chiefly those of priests, the
task being so vast and difficult that Rome's concern extended but little
beyond the observance of good order within the Church. And Pierre and his
book came within the limit.

"You will understand," continued Monsignor Fornaro, "that we have no
desire to advertise a heap of unwholesome writings by honouring them with
special condemnation. Their name is legion in every country, and we
should have neither enough paper nor enough ink to deal with them all. So
we content ourselves with condemning one from time to time, when it bears
a famous name and makes too much noise, or contains disquieting attacks
on the faith. This suffices to remind the world that we exist and defend
ourselves without abandoning aught of our rights or duties."

"But my book, my book," exclaimed Pierre, "why these proceedings against
my book?"

"I am explaining that to you as far as it is allowable for me to do, my
dear Monsieur Froment. You are a priest, your book is a success, you have
published a cheap edition of it which sells very readily; and I don't
speak of its literary merit, which is remarkable, for it contains a
breath of real poetry which transported me, and on which I must really
compliment you. However, under the circumstances which I have enumerated,
how could we close our eyes to such a work as yours, in which the
conclusion arrived at is the annihilation of our holy religion and the
destruction of Rome?"

Pierre remained open-mouthed, suffocating with surprise. "The destruction
of Rome!" he at last exclaimed; "but I desire to see Rome rejuvenated,
eternal, again the queen of the world." And, once more mastered by his
glowing enthusiasm, he defended himself and confessed his faith:
Catholicism reverting to the principles and practices of the primitive
Church, drawing the blood of regeneration from the fraternal Christianity
of Jesus; the Pope, freed from all terrestrial royalty, governing the
whole of humanity with charity and love, and saving the world from the
frightful social cataclysm that threatens it by leading it to the real
Kingdom of God: the Christian communion of all nations united in one
nation only. "And can the Holy Father disavow me?" he continued. "Are not
these his secret ideas, which people are beginning to divine, and does
not my only offence lie in having expressed them perhaps too soon and too
freely? And if I were allowed to see him should I not at once obtain from
him an order to stop these proceedings?"

Monsignor Fornaro no longer spoke, but wagged his head without appearing
offended by the priest's juvenile ardour. On the contrary, he smiled with
increasing amiability, as though highly amused by so much innocence and
imagination. At last he gaily responded, "Oh! speak on, speak on; it
isn't I who will stop you. I'm forbidden to say anything. But the
temporal power, the temporal power."

"Well, what of the temporal power?" asked Pierre.

The prelate had again become silent, raising his amiable face to heaven
and waving his white hands with a pretty gesture. And when he once more
opened his mouth it was to say: "Then there's your new religion--for the
expression occurs twice: the new religion, the new religion--ah, /Dio/!"

Again he became restless, going off into an ecstasy of wonderment, at
sight of which Pierre impatiently exclaimed: "I do not know what your
report will be, Monseigneur, but I declare to you that I have had no
desire to attack dogma. And, candidly now, my whole book shows that I
only sought to write a work of pity and salvation. It is only justice
that some account should be taken of one's intentions."

Monsignor Fornaro had become very calm and paternal again. "Oh!
intentions! intentions!" he said as he rose to dismiss his visitor. "You
may be sure, my dear Monsieur Froment, that I feel much honoured by your
visit. Naturally I cannot tell you what my report will be; as it is, we
have talked too much about it, and, in fact, I ought to have refused to
listen to your defence. At the same time, you will always find me ready
to be of service to you in anything that does not go against my duty. But
I greatly fear that your book will be condemned." And then, as Pierre
again started, he added: "Well, yes. It is facts that are judged, you
know, not intentions. So all defence is useless; the book is there, and
we take it such as it is. However much you may try to explain it, you
cannot alter it. And this is why the Congregation never calls the accused
parties before it, and never accepts from them aught but retraction pure
and simple. And, indeed, the wisest course would be for you to withdraw
your book and make your submission. No? You won't? Ah! how young you are,
my friend!"

He laughed yet more loudly at the gesture of revolt, of indomitable pride
which had just escaped his young friend, as he called him. Then, on
reaching the door, he again threw off some of his reserve, and said in a
low voice, "Come, my dear Abbe, there is something I will do for you. I
will give you some good advice. At bottom, I myself am nothing. I deliver
my report, and it is printed, and the members of the Congregation read
it, but are quite free to pay no attention to it. However, the Secretary
of the Congregation, Father Dangelis, can accomplish everything, even
impossibilities. Go to see him; you will find him at the Dominican
convent behind the Piazza di Spagna. Don't name me. And for the present
good-bye, my dear fellow, good-bye."

Pierre once more found himself on the Piazza Navona, quite dazed, no
longer knowing what to believe or hope. A cowardly idea was coming over
him; why should he continue this struggle, in which his adversaries
remained unknown and indiscernible? Why carry obstinacy any further, why
linger any longer in that impassionating but deceptive Rome? He would
flee that very evening, return to Paris, disappear there, and forget his
bitter disillusion in the practice of humble charity. He was traversing
one of those hours of weakness when the long-dreamt-of task suddenly
seems to be an impossibility. However, amidst his great confusion he was
nevertheless walking on, going towards his destination. And when he found
himself in the Corso, then in the Via dei Condotti, and finally in the
Piazza di Spagna, he resolved that he would at any rate see Father
Dangelis. The Dominican convent is there, just below the Trinity de'

Ah! those Dominicans! Pierre had never thought of them without a feeling
of respect with which mingled a little fear. What vigorous pillars of the
principle of authority and theocracy they had for centuries proved
themselves to be! To them the Church had been indebted for its greatest
measure of authority; they were the glorious soldiers of its triumph.
Whilst St. Francis won the souls of the humble over to Rome, St. Dominic,
on Rome's behalf, subjected all the superior souls--those of the
intelligent and powerful. And this he did with passion, amidst a blaze of
faith and determination, making use of all possible means, preachings,
writings, and police and judicial pressure. Though he did not found the
Inquisition, its principles were his, and it was with fire and sword that
his fraternal, loving heart waged war on schism. Living like his monks,
in poverty, chastity, and obedience--the great virtues of those times of
pride and licentiousness--he went from city to city, exhorting the
impious, striving to bring them back to the Church and arraigning them
before the ecclesiastical courts when his preachings did not suffice. He
also laid siege to science, sought to make it his own, dreamt of
defending God with the weapons of reason and human knowledge like a true
forerunner of the angelic St. Thomas, that light of the middle ages, who
joined the Dominican order and set everything in his "Summa Theologiae,"
psychology, logic, policy, and morals. And thus it was that the
Dominicans filled the world, upholding the doctrines of Rome in the most
famous pulpits of every nation, and contending almost everywhere against
the free sprit of the Universities, like the vigilant guardians of dogma
that they were, the unwearying artisans of the fortunes of the popes, the
most powerful amongst all the artistic, scientific, and literary workers
who raised the huge edifice of Catholicism such as it exists to-day.

However, Pierre, who could feel that this edifice was even now tottering,
though it had been built, people fancied, so substantially as to last
through all eternity, asked himself what could be the present use of the
Dominicans, those toilers of another age, whose police system and whose
tribunals had perished beneath universal execration, whose voices were no
longer listened to, whose books were but seldom read, and whose /role/ as
/savants/ and civilisers had come to an end in presence of latter-day
science, the truths of which were rending dogma on all sides. Certainly
the Dominicans still form an influential and prosperous order; but how
far one is from the times when their general reigned in Rome, Master of
the Holy Palace, with convents and schools, and subjects throughout
Europe! Of all their vast inheritance, so far as the Roman curia is
concerned, only a few posts now remain to them, and among others the
Secretaryship of the Congregation of the Index, a former dependency of
the Holy Office where they once despotically ruled.

Pierre was immediately ushered into the presence of Father Dangelis. The
convent parlour was vast, bare, and white, flooded with bright sunshine.
The only furniture was a table and some stools; and a large brass
crucifix hung from the wall. Near the table stood the Father, a very thin
man of about fifty, severely draped in his ample white habit and black
mantle. From his long ascetic face, with thin lips, thin nose, and
pointed, obstinate chin, his grey eyes shone out with a fixity that
embarrassed one. And, moreover, he showed himself very plain and simple
of speech, and frigidly polite in manner.

"Monsieur l'Abbe Froment--the author of 'New Rome,' I suppose?" Then
seating himself on one stool and pointing to another, he added: "Pray
acquaint me with the object of your visit, Monsieur l'Abbe."

Thereupon Pierre had to begin his explanation, his defence, all over
again; and the task soon became the more painful as his words fell from
his lips amidst death-like silence and frigidity. Father Dangelis did not
stir; with his hands crossed upon his knees he kept his sharp,
penetrating eyes fixed upon those of the priest. And when the latter had
at last ceased speaking, he slowly said: "I did not like to interrupt
you, Monsieur l'Abbe, but it was not for me to hear all this. Process
against your book has begun, and no power in the world can stay or impede
its course. I do not therefore realise what it is that you apparently
expect of me."

In a quivering voice Pierre was bold enough to answer: "I look for some
kindness and justice."

A pale smile, instinct with proud humility, arose to the Dominican's
lips. "Be without fear," he replied, "God has ever deigned to enlighten
me in the discharge of my modest duties. Personally, be it said, I have
no justice to render; I am but an employee whose duty is to classify
matters and draw up documents concerning them. Their Eminences, the
members of the Congregation, will alone pronounce judgment on your book.
And assuredly they will do so with the help of the Holy Spirit. You will
only have to bow to their sentence when it shall have been ratified by
his Holiness."

Then he broke off the interview by rising, and Pierre was obliged to do
the same. The Dominican's words were virtually identical with those that
had fallen from Monsignor Fornaro, but they were spoken with cutting
frankness, a sort of tranquil bravery. On all sides Pierre came into
collision with the same anonymous force, the same powerful engine whose
component parts sought to ignore one another. For a long time yet, no
doubt, he would be sent from one to the other, without ever finding the
volitional element which reasoned and acted. And the only thing that he
could do was to bow to it all.

However, before going off, it occurred to him once more to mention the
name of Monsignor Nani, the powerful effect of which he had begun to
realise. "I ask your pardon," he said, "for having disturbed you to no
purpose, but I simply deferred to the kind advice of Monsignor Nani, who
has condescended to show me some interest."

The effect of these words was unexpected. Again did Father Dangelis's
thin face brighten into a smile, but with a twist of the lips, sharp with
ironical contempt. He had become yet paler, and his keen intelligent eyes
were flaming. "Ah! it was Monsignor Nani who sent you!" he said. "Well,
if you think you need a protector, it is useless for you to apply to any
other than himself. He is all-powerful. Go to see him; go to see him!"

And that was the only encouragement Pierre derived from his visit: the
advice to go back to the man who had sent him. At this he felt that he
was losing ground, and he resolved to return home in order to reflect on
things and try to understand them before taking any further steps. The
idea of questioning Don Vigilio at once occurred to him, and that same
evening after supper he luckily met the secretary in the corridor, just
as, candle in hand, he was on his way to bed.

"I have so many things that I should like to say to you," Pierre said to
him. "Can you kindly come to my rooms for a moment?"

But the other promptly silenced him with a gesture, and then whispered:
"Didn't you see Abbe Paparelli on the first floor? He was following us,
I'm sure."

Pierre often saw the train-bearer roaming about the house, and greatly
disliked his stealthy, prying ways. However, he had hitherto attached no
importance to him, and was therefore much surprised by Don Vigilio's
question. The other, without awaiting his reply, had returned to the end
of the corridor, where for a long while he remained listening. Then he
came back on tip-toe, blew out his candle, and darted into Pierre's
sitting-room. "There--that's done," he murmured directly the door was
shut. "But if it is all the same to you, we won't stop in this
sitting-room. Let us go into your bed-room. Two walls are better than

When the lamp had been placed on the table and they found themselves
seated face to face in that bare, faded bed-chamber, Pierre noticed that
the secretary was suffering from a more violent attack of fever than
usual. His thin puny figure was shivering from head to foot, and his
ardent eyes had never before blazed so blackly in his ravaged, yellow
face. "Are you poorly?" asked Pierre. "I don't want to tire you."

"Poorly, yes, I am on fire--but I want to talk. I can't bear it any
longer. One always has to relieve oneself some day or other."

Was it his complaint that he desired to relieve; or was he anxious to
break his long silence in order that it might not stifle him? This at
first remained uncertain. He immediately asked for an account of the
steps that Pierre had lately taken, and became yet more restless when he
heard how the other had been received by Cardinal Sarno, Monsignor
Fornaro, and Father Dangelis. "Yes, that's quite it," he repeated,
"nothing astonishes me nowadays, and yet I feel indignant on your
account. Yes, it doesn't concern me, but all the same it makes me ill,
for it reminds me of all my own troubles. You must not rely on Cardinal
Sarno, remember, for he is always elsewhere, with his mind far away, and
has never helped anybody. But that Fornaro, that Fornaro!"

"He seemed to me very amiable, even kindly disposed," replied Pierre;
"and I really think that after our interview, he will considerably soften
his report."

"He! Why, the gentler he was with you the more grievously he will saddle
you! He will devour you, fatten himself with such easy prey. Ah! you
don't know him, /dilizioso/ that he is, ever on the watch to rear his own
fortune on the troubles of poor devils whose defeat is bound to please
the powerful. I prefer the other one, Father Dangelis, a terrible man, no
doubt, but frank and brave and of superior mind. I must admit, however,
that he would burn you like a handful of straw if he were the master. And
ah! if I could tell you everything, if I could show you the frightful
under-side of this world of ours, the monstrous, ravenous ambition, the
abominable network of intrigues, venality, cowardice, treachery, and even

On seeing Don Vigilio so excited, in such a blaze of spite, Pierre
thought of extracting from him some of the many items of information
which he had hitherto sought in vain. "Well, tell me merely what is the
position of my affair," he responded. "When I questioned you on my
arrival here you said that nothing had yet reached Cardinal Boccanera.
But all information must now have been collected, and you must know of
it. And, by the way, Monsignor Fornaro told me that three French bishops
had asked that my book should be prosecuted. Three bishops, is it

Don Vigilio shrugged his shoulders. "Ah!" said he, "yours is an innocent
soul! I'm surprised that there were /only/ three! Yes, several documents
relating to your affair are in our hands; and, moreover, things have
turned out much as I suspected. The three bishops are first the Bishop of
Tarbes, who evidently carries out the vengeance of the Fathers of
Lourdes; and then the Bishops of Poitiers and Evreux, who are both known
as uncompromising Ultramontanists and passionate adversaries of Cardinal
Bergerot. The Cardinal, you know, is regarded with disfavour at the
Vatican, where his Gallican ideas and broad liberal mind provoke perfect
anger. And don't seek for anything else. The whole affair lies in that:
an execution which the powerful Fathers of Lourdes demand of his
Holiness, and a desire to reach and strike Cardinal Bergerot through your
book, by means of the letter of approval which he imprudently wrote to
you and which you published by way of preface. For a long time past the
condemnations of the Index have largely been secret knock-down blows
levelled at Churchmen. Denunciation reigns supreme, and the law applied
is that of good pleasure. I could tell you some almost incredible things,
how perfectly innocent books have been selected among a hundred for the
sole object of killing an idea or a man; for the blow is almost always
levelled at some one behind the author, some one higher than he is. And
there is such a hot-bed of intrigue, such a source of abuses in this
institution of the Index, that it is tottering, and even among those who
surround the Pope it is felt that it must soon be freshly regulated if it
is not to fall into complete discredit. I well understand that the Church
should endeavour to retain universal power, and govern by every fit
weapon, but the weapons must be such as one can use without their
injustice leading to revolt, or their antique childishness provoking

Pierre listened with dolorous astonishment in his heart. Since he had
been at Rome and had seen the Fathers of the Grotto saluted and feared
there, holding an authoritative position, thanks to the large alms which
they contributed to the Peter's Pence, he had felt that they were behind
the proceedings instituted against him, and realised that he would have
to pay for a certain page of his book in which he had called attention to
an iniquitous displacement of fortune at Lourdes, a frightful spectacle
which made one doubt the very existence of the Divinity, a continual
cause of battle and conflict which would disappear in the truly Christian
society of to-morrow. And he could also now understand that his delight
at the loss of the temporal power must have caused a scandal, and
especially that the unfortunate expression "a new religion" had alone
been sufficient to arm /delatores/ against him. But that which amazed and
grieved him was to learn that Cardinal Bergerot's letter was looked upon
as a crime, and that his (Pierre's) book was denounced and condemned in
order that adversaries who dared not attack the venerable pastor face to
face might, deal him a cowardly blow from behind. The thought of
afflicting that saintly man, of serving as the implement to strike him in
his ardent charity, cruelly grieved Pierre. And how bitter and
disheartening it was to find the most hideous questions of pride and
money, ambition and appetite, running riot with the most ferocious
egotism, beneath the quarrels of those leaders of the Church who ought
only to have contended together in love for the poor!

And then Pierre's mind revolted against that supremely odious and idiotic
Index. He now understood how it worked, from the arrival of the
denunciations to the public posting of the titles of the condemned works.
He had just seen the Secretary of the Congregation, Father Dangelis, to
whom the denunciations came, and who then investigated the affair,
collecting all documents and information concerning it with the passion
of a cultivated authoritarian monk, who dreamt of ruling minds and
consciences as in the heroic days of the Inquisition. Then, too, Pierre
had visited one of the consultive prelates, Monsignor Fornaro, who was so
ambitious and affable, and so subtle a theologian that he would have
discovered attacks against the faith in a treatise on algebra, had his
interests required it. Next there were the infrequent meetings of the
cardinals, who at long intervals voted for the interdiction of some
hostile book, deeply regretting that they could not suppress them all;
and finally came the Pope, approving and signing the decrees, which was a
mere formality, for were not all books guilty? But what an extraordinary
wretched Bastille of the past was that aged Index, that senile
institution now sunk into second childhood. One realised that it must
have been a formidable power when books were rare and the Church had
tribunals of blood and fire to enforce her edicts. But books had so
greatly multiplied, the written, printed thoughts of mankind had swollen
into such a deep broad river, that they had swept all opposition away,
and now the Index was swamped and reduced to powerlessness, compelled
more and more to limit its field of action, to confine itself to the
examination of the writings of ecclesiastics, and even in this respect it
was becoming corrupt, fouled by the worst passions and changed into an
instrument of intrigue, hatred, and vengeance. Ah! that confession of
decay, of paralysis which grew more and more complete amidst the scornful
indifference of the nations. To think that Catholicism, the once glorious
agent of civilisation, had come to such a pass that it cast books into
hell-fire by the heap; and what books they were, almost the entire
literature, history, philosophy, and science of the past and the present!
Few works, indeed, are published nowadays that would not fall under the
ban of the Church. If she seems to close her eyes, it is in order to
avoid the impossible task of hunting out and destroying everything. Yet
she stubbornly insists on retaining a semblance of sovereign authority
over human intelligence, just as some very aged queen, dispossessed of
her states and henceforth without judges or executioners, might continue
to deliver vain sentences to which only an infinitesimal minority would
pay heed. But imagine the Church momentarily victorious, miraculously
mastering the modern world, and ask yourself what she, with her tribunals
to condemn and her gendarmes to enforce, would do with human thought.
Imagine a strict application of the Index regulations: no printer able to
put anything whatever to press without the approval of his bishop, and
even then every book laid before the Congregation, the past expunged, the
present throttled, subjected to an intellectual Reign of Terror! Would
not the closing of every library perforce ensue, would not the long
heritage of written thought be cast into prison, would not the future be
barred, would not all progress, all conquest of knowledge, be totally
arrested? Rome herself is nowadays a terrible example of such a
disastrous experiment--Rome with her congealed soil, her dead sap, killed
by centuries of papal government, Rome which has become so barren that
not a man, not a work has sprung from her midst even after five and
twenty years of awakening and liberty! And who would accept such a state
of things, not among people of revolutionary mind, but among those of
religious mind that might possess any culture and breadth of view?
Plainly enough it was all mere childishness and absurdity.

Deep silence reigned, and Pierre, quite upset by his reflections, made a
gesture of despair whilst glancing at Don Vigilio, who sat speechless in
front of him. For a moment longer, amidst the death-like quiescence of
that old sleeping mansion, both continued silent, seated face to face in
the closed chamber which the lamp illumined with a peaceful glow. But at
last Don Vigilio leant forward, his eyes sparkling, and with a feverish
shiver murmured: "It is they, you know, always they, at the bottom of

Pierre, who did not understand, felt astonished, indeed somewhat anxious
at such a strange remark coming without any apparent transition. "Who are
/they/?" he asked.

"The Jesuits!"

In this reply the little, withered, yellow priest had set all the
concentrated rage of his exploding passion. Ah! so much the worse if he
had perpetrated a fresh act of folly. The cat was out of the bag at last!
Nevertheless, he cast a final suspicious glance around the walls. And
then he relieved his mind at length, with a flow of words which gushed
forth the more irresistibly since he had so long held them in check. "Ah!
the Jesuits, the Jesuits! You fancy that you know them, but you haven't
even an idea of their abominable actions and incalculable power. They it
is whom one always comes upon, everywhere, in every circumstance.
Remember /that/ whenever you fail to understand anything, if you wish to
understand it. Whenever grief or trouble comes upon you, whenever you
suffer, whenever you weep, say to yourself at once: 'It is they; they are
there!' Why, for all I know, there may be one of them under that bed,
inside that cupboard. Ah! the Jesuits, the Jesuits! They have devoured
me, they are devouring me still, they will leave nothing of me at last,
neither flesh nor bone."

Then, in a halting voice, he related the story of his life, beginning
with his youth, which had opened so hopefully. He belonged to the petty
provincial nobility, and had been dowered with a fairly large income,
besides a keen, supple intelligence, which looked smilingly towards the
future. Nowadays, he would assuredly have been a prelate, on the road to
high dignities, but he had been foolish enough to speak ill of the
Jesuits and to thwart them in two or three circumstances. And from that
moment, if he were to be believed, they had caused every imaginable
misfortune to rain upon him: his father and mother had died, his banker
had robbed him and fled, good positions had escaped him at the very
moment when he was about to occupy them, the most awful misadventures had
pursued him amidst the duties of his ministry to such a point indeed,
that he had narrowly escaped interdiction. It was only since Cardinal
Boccanera, compassionating his bad luck, had taken him into his house and
attached him to his person, that he had enjoyed a little repose. "Here I
have a refuge, an asylum," he continued. "They execrate his Eminence, who
has never been on their side, but they haven't yet dared to attack him or
his servants. Oh! I have no illusions, they will end by catching me
again, all the same. Perhaps they will even hear of our conversation this
evening, and make me pay dearly for it; for I do wrong to speak, I speak
in spite of myself. They have stolen all my happiness, and brought all
possible misfortune on me, everything that was possible, everything--you
hear me!"

Increasing discomfort was taking possession of Pierre, who, seeking to
relieve himself by a jest, exclaimed: "Come, come, at any rate it wasn't
the Jesuits who gave you the fever."

"Yes, yes, it was!" Don Vigilio violently declared. "I caught it on the
bank of the Tiber one evening, when I went to weep there in my grief at
having been driven from the little church where I officiated."

Pierre, hitherto, had never believed in the terrible legend of the
Jesuits. He belonged to a generation which laughed at the idea of
wehr-wolves, and considered the /bourgeois/ fear of the famous black men,
who hid themselves in walls and terrorised families, to be a trifle
ridiculous. To him all such things seemed to be nursery tales,
exaggerated by religious and political passion. And so it was with
amazement that he examined Don Vigilio, suddenly fearing that he might
have to deal with a maniac.

Nevertheless he could not help recalling the extraordinary story of the
Jesuits. If St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic are the very soul and
spirit of the middle ages, its masters and teachers, the former a living
expression of all the ardent, charitable faith of the humble, and the
other defending dogma and fixing doctrines for the intelligent and the
powerful, on the other hand Ignatius de Loyola appeared on the threshold
of modern times to save the tottering heritage by accommodating religion
to the new developments of society, thereby ensuring it the empire of the
world which was about to appear.

At the advent of the modern era it seemed as if the Deity were to be
vanquished in the uncompromising struggle with sin, for it was certain
that the old determination to suppress Nature, to kill the man within
man, with his appetites, passions, heart, and blood, could only result in
a disastrous defeat, in which, indeed, the Church found herself on the
very eve of sinking; and it was the Jesuits who came to extricate her
from this peril and reinvigorate her by deciding that it was she who now
ought to go to the world, since the world seemed unwilling to go any
longer to her. All lay in that; you find the Jesuits declaring that one
can enter into arrangements with heaven; they bend and adjust themselves
to the customs, prejudices, and even vices of the times; they smile, all
condescension, cast rigourism aside, and practice the diplomacy of
amiability, ever ready to turn the most awful abominations "to the
greater glory of God." That is their motto, their battle-cry, and thence
springs the moral principle which many regard as their crime: that all
means are good to attain one's end, especially when that end is the
furtherance of the Deity's interests as represented by those of the
Church. And what overwhelming success attends the efforts of the Jesuits!
they swarm and before long cover the earth, on all sides becoming
uncontested masters. They shrive kings, they acquire immense wealth, they
display such victorious power of invasion that, however humbly they may
set foot in any country, they soon wholly possess it: souls, bodies,
power, and fortune alike falling to them. And they are particularly
zealous in founding schools, they show themselves to be incomparable
moulders of the human brain, well understanding that power always belongs
to the morrow, to the generations which are growing up and whose master
one must be if one desire to reign eternally. So great is their power,
based on the necessity of compromise with sin, that, on the morrow of the
Council of Trent, they transform the very spirit of Catholicism,
penetrate it, identify it with themselves and become the indispensable
soldiers of the papacy which lives by them and for them. And from that
moment Rome is theirs, Rome where their general so long commands, whence
so long go forth the directions for the obscure tactics which are blindly
followed by their innumerable army, whose skilful organisation covers the
globe as with an iron network hidden by the velvet of hands expert in
dealing gently with poor suffering humanity. But, after all, the most
prodigious feature is the stupefying vitality of the Jesuits who are
incessantly tracked, condemned, executed, and yet still and ever erect.
As soon as their power asserts itself, their unpopularity begins and
gradually becomes universal. Hoots of execration arise around them,
abominable accusations, scandalous law cases in which they appear as
corruptors and felons. Pascal devotes them to public contempt,
parliaments condemn their books to be burnt, universities denounce their
system of morals and their teaching as poisonous. They foment such
disturbances, such struggles in every kingdom, that organised persecution
sets in, and they are soon driven from everywhere. During more than a
century they become wanderers, expelled, then recalled, passing and
repassing frontiers, leaving a country amidst cries of hatred to return
to it as soon as quiet has been restored. Finally, for supreme disaster,
they are suppressed by one pope, but another re-establishes them, and
since then they have been virtually tolerated everywhere. And in the
diplomatic self-effacement, the shade in which they have the prudence to
sequester themselves, they are none the less triumphant, quietly
confident of their victory like soldiers who have once and for ever
subdued the earth.

Pierre was aware that, judging by mere appearances, the Jesuits were
nowadays dispossessed of all influence in Rome. They no longer officiated
at the Gesu, they no longer directed the Collegio Romano, where they
formerly fashioned so many souls; and with no abode of their own, reduced
to accept foreign hospitality, they had modestly sought a refuge at the
Collegio Germanico, where there is a little chapel. There they taught and
there they still confessed, but without the slightest bustle or display.
Was one to believe, however, that this effacement was but masterly
cunning, a feigned disappearance in order that they might really remain
secret, all-powerful masters, the hidden hand which directs and guides
everything? People certainly said that the proclamation of papal
Infallibility had been their work, a weapon with which they had armed
themselves whilst feigning to bestow it on the papacy, in readiness for
the coming decisive task which their genius foresaw in the approaching
social upheavals. And thus there might perhaps be some truth in what Don
Vigilio, with a shiver of mystery, related about their occult
sovereignty, a seizin, as it were, of the government of the Church, a
royalty ignored but nevertheless complete.

As this idea occurred to Pierre, a dim connection between certain of his
experiences arose in his mind and he all at once inquired: "Is Monsignor
Nani a Jesuit, then?"

These words seemed to revive all Don Vigilio's anxious passion. He waved
his trembling hand, and replied: "He? Oh, he's too clever, too skilful by
far to have taken the robe. But he comes from that Collegio Romano where
his generation grew up, and he there imbibed that Jesuit genius which
adapted itself so well to his own. Whilst fully realising the danger of
wearing an unpopular and embarrassing livery, and wishing to be free, he
is none the less a Jesuit in his flesh, in his bones, in his very soul.
He is evidently convinced that the Church can only triumph by utilising
the passions of mankind, and withal he is very fond of the Church, very
pious at bottom, a very good priest, serving God without weakness in
gratitude for the absolute power which God gives to His ministers. And
besides, he is so charming, incapable of any brutal action, full of the
good breeding of his noble Venetian ancestors, and deeply versed in
knowledge of the world, thanks to his experiences at the nunciatures of
Paris, Vienna, and other places, without mentioning that he knows
everything that goes on by reason of the delicate functions which he has
discharged for ten years past as Assessor of the Holy Office. Yes, he is
powerful, all-powerful, and in him you do not have the furtive Jesuit
whose robe glides past amidst suspicion, but the head, the brain, the
leader whom no uniform designates."

This reply made Pierre grave, for he was quite willing to admit that an
opportunist code of morals, like that of the Jesuits, was inoculable and
now predominated throughout the Church. Indeed, the Jesuits might
disappear, but their doctrine would survive them, since it was the one
weapon of combat, the one system of strategy which might again place the
nations under the dominion of Rome. And in reality the struggle which
continued lay precisely in the attempts to accommodate religion to the
century, and the century to religion. Such being the case, Pierre
realised that such men as Monsignor Nani might acquire vast and even
decisive importance.

"Ah! if you knew, if you knew," continued Don Vigilio, "he's everywhere,
he has his hand in everything. For instance, nothing has ever happened
here, among the Boccaneras, but I've found him at the bottom of it,
tangling or untangling the threads according to necessities with which he
alone is acquainted."

Then, in the unquenchable fever for confiding things which was now
consuming him, the secretary related how Monsignor Nani had most
certainly brought on Benedetta's divorce case. The Jesuits, in spite of
their conciliatory spirit, have always taken up a hostile position with
regard to Italy, either because they do not despair of reconquering Rome,
or because they wait to treat in due season with the ultimate and real
victor, whether King or Pope. And so Nani, who had long been one of Donna
Serafina's intimates, had helped to precipitate the rupture with Prada as
soon as Benedetta's mother was dead. Again, it was he who, to prevent any
interference on the part of the patriotic Abbe Pisoni, the young woman's
confessor and the artisan of her marriage, had urged her to take the same
spiritual director as her aunt, Father Lorenza, a handsome Jesuit with
clear and kindly eyes, whose confessional in the chapel of the Collegio
Germanico was incessantly besieged by penitents. And it seemed certain
that this manoeuvre had brought about everything; what one cleric working
for Italy had done, was to be undone by another working against Italy.
Why was it, however, that Nani, after bringing about the rupture, had
momentarily ceased to show all interest in the affair to the point even
of jeopardising the suit for the dissolution of the marriage? And why was
he now again busying himself with it, setting Donna Serafina in action,
prompting her to buy Monsignor Palma's support, and bringing his own
influence to bear on the cardinals of the Congregation? There was mystery
in all this, as there was in everything he did, for his schemes were
always complicated and distant in their effects. However, one might
suppose that he now wished to hasten the marriage of Benedetta and Dario,
in order to stop all the abominable rumours which were circulating in the
white world; unless, indeed, this divorce secured by pecuniary payments
and the pressure of notorious influences were an intentional scandal at
first spun out and now hastened, in order to harm Cardinal Boccanera,
whom the Jesuits might desire to brush aside in certain eventualities
which were possibly near at hand.

"To tell the truth, I rather incline to the latter view," said Don
Vigilio, "the more so indeed as I learnt this evening that the Pope is
not well. With an old man of eighty-four the end may come at any moment,
and so the Pope can never catch cold but what the Sacred College and the
prelacies are all agog, stirred by sudden ambitious rivalries. Now, the
Jesuits have always opposed Cardinal Boccanera's candidature. They ought
to be on his side, on account of his rank, and his uncompromising
attitude towards Italy, but the idea of giving themselves such a master
disquiets them, for they consider him unseasonably rough and stern, too
violent in his faith, which unbending as it is would prove dangerous in
these diplomatic times through which the Church is passing. And so I
should in no wise be astonished if there were an attempt to discredit him
and render his candidature impossible, by employing the most underhand
and shameful means."

A little quiver of fear was coming over Pierre. The contagion of the
unknown, of the black intrigues plotted in the dark, was spreading amidst
the silence of the night in the depths of that palace, near that Tiber,
in that Rome so full of legendary tragedies. But all at once the young
man's mind reverted to himself, to his own affair. "But what is my part
in all this?" he asked: "why does Monsignor Nani seem to take an interest
in me? Why is he mixed up in the proceedings against my book?"

"Oh! one never knows, one never knows exactly!" replied Don Vigilio,
waving his arms. "One thing I can say, that he only knew of the affair
when the denunciations of the three bishops were already in the hands of
Father Dangelis; and I have also learnt that he then tried to stop the
proceedings, which he no doubt thought both useless and impolitic. But
when a matter is once before the Congregation it is almost impossible for
it to be withdrawn, and Monsignor Nani must also have come into collision
with Father Dangelis who, like a faithful Dominican, is the passionate
adversary of the Jesuits. It was then that he caused the Contessina to
write to Monsieur de la Choue, requesting him to tell you to hasten here
in order to defend yourself, and to arrange for your acceptance of
hospitality in this mansion, during your stay."

This revelation brought Pierre's emotion to a climax. "You are sure of
that?" he asked.

"Oh! quite sure. I heard Nani speak of you one Monday, and some time ago
I told you that he seemed to know all about you, as if he had made most
minute inquiries. My belief is that he had already read your book, and
was extremely preoccupied about it."

"Do you think that he shares my ideas, then? Is he sincere, is he
defending himself while striving to defend me?"

"Oh! no, no, not at all. Your ideas, why he certainly hates them, and
your book and yourself as well. You have no idea what contempt for the
weak, what hatred of the poor, and love of authority and domination he
conceals under his caressing amiability. Lourdes he might abandon to you,
though it embodies a marvellous weapon of government; but he will never
forgive you for being on the side of the little ones of the world, and
for pronouncing against the temporal power. If you only heard with what
gentle ferocity he derides Monsieur de la Choue, whom he calls the
weeping willow of Neo-Catholicism!"

Pierre carried his hands to his temples and pressed his head
despairingly. "Then why, why, tell me I beg of you, why has he brought me
here and kept me here in this house at his disposal? Why has he
promenaded me up and down Rome for three long months, throwing me against
obstacles and wearying me, when it was so easy for him to let the Index
condemn my book if it embarrassed him? It's true, of course, that things
would not have gone quietly, for I was disposed to refuse submission and
openly confess my new faith, even against the decisions of Rome."

Don Vigilio's black eyes flared in his yellow face: "Perhaps it was that
which he wished to prevent. He knows you to be very intelligent and
enthusiastic, and I have often heard him say that intelligence and
enthusiasm should not be fought openly."

Pierre, however, had risen to his feet, and instead of listening, was
striding up and down the room as though carried away by the whirlwind of
his thoughts. "Come, come," he said at last, "it is necessary that I
should know and understand things if I am to continue the struggle. You
must be kind enough to give me some detailed particulars about each of
the persons mixed up in my affair. Jesuits, Jesuits everywhere? /Mon
Dieu/, it may be so, you are perhaps right! But all the same you must
point out the different shades to me. Now, for instance, what of that

"Monsignor Fornaro, oh! he's whatever you like. Still he also was brought
up at the Collegio Romano, so you may be certain that he is a Jesuit, a
Jesuit by education, position, and ambition. He is longing to become a
cardinal, and if he some day becomes one, he'll long to be the next pope.
Besides, you know, every one here is a candidate to the papacy as soon as
he enters the seminary."

"And Cardinal Sanguinetti?"

"A Jesuit, a Jesuit! To speak plainly, he was one, then ceased to be one,
and is now undoubtedly one again. Sanguinetti has flirted with every
influence. It was long thought that he was in favour of conciliation
between the Holy See and Italy; but things drifted into a bad way, and he
violently took part against the usurpers. In the same style he has
frequently fallen out with Leo XIII and then made his peace. To-day at
the Vatican, he keeps on a footing of diplomatic reserve. Briefly he only
has one object, the tiara, and even shows it too plainly, which is a
mistake, for it uses up a candidate. Still, just at present the struggle
seems to be between him and Cardinal Boccanera. And that's why he has
gone over to the Jesuits again, utilising their hatred of his rival, and
anticipating that they will be forced to support /him/ in order to defeat
the other. But I doubt it, they are too shrewd, they will hesitate to
patronise a candidate who is already so compromised. He, blunder-head,
passionate and proud as he is, doubts nothing, and since you say that he
is now at Frascati, I'm certain that he made all haste to shut himself up
there with some grand strategical object in view, as soon as he heard of
the Pope's illness."

"Well, and the Pope himself, Leo XIII?" asked Pierre.

This time Don Vigilio slightly hesitated, his eyes blinking. Then he
said: "Leo XIII? He is a Jesuit, a Jesuit! Oh! I know it is said that he
sides with the Dominicans, and this is in a measure true, for he fancies
that he is animated with their spirit and he has brought St. Thomas into
favour again, and has restored all the ecclesiastical teaching of
doctrine. But there is also the Jesuit, remember, who is one
involuntarily and without knowing it, and of this category the present
Pope will prove the most famous example. Study his acts, investigate his
policy, and you will find that everything in it emanates from the Jesuit
spirit. The fact is that he has unwittingly become impregnated with that
spirit, and that all the influence, directly or indirectly brought to
bear on him comes from a Jesuit centre. Ah! why don't you believe me? I
repeat that the Jesuits have conquered and absorbed everything, that all
Rome belongs to them from the most insignificant cleric to his Holiness
in person."

Then he continued, replying to each fresh name that Pierre gave with the
same obstinate, maniacal cry: "Jesuit, Jesuit!" It seemed as if a
Churchman could be nothing else, as if each answer were a confirmation of
the proposition that the clergy must compound with the modern world if it
desired to preserve its Deity. The heroic age of Catholicism was
accomplished, henceforth it could only live by dint of diplomacy and
ruses, concessions and arrangements. "And that Paparelli, he's a Jesuit
too, a Jesuit!" Don Vigilio went on, instinctively lowering his voice.
"Yes, the humble but terrible Jesuit, the Jesuit in his most abominable
/role/ as a spy and a perverter! I could swear that he has merely been
placed here in order to keep watch on his Eminence! And you should see
with what supple talent and craft he has performed his task, to such a
point indeed that it is now he alone who wills and orders things. He
opens the door to whomsoever he pleases, uses his master like something
belonging to him, weighs on each of his resolutions, and holds him in his
power by dint of his stealthy unremitting efforts. Yes! it's the lion
conquered by the insect; the infinitesimally small disposing of the
infinitely great; the train-bearer--whose proper part is to sit at his
cardinal's feet like a faithful hound--in reality reigning over him, and
impelling him in whatsoever direction he chooses. Ah! the Jesuit! the
Jesuit! Mistrust him when you see him gliding by in his shabby old
cassock, with the flabby wrinkled face of a devout old maid. And make
sure that he isn't behind the doors, or in the cupboards, or under the
beds. Ah! I tell you that they'll devour you as they've devoured me; and
they'll give you the fever too, perhaps even the plague if you are not

Pierre suddenly halted in front of his companion. He was losing all
assurance, both fear and rage were penetrating him. And, after all, why
not? These extraordinary stories must be true. "But in that case give me
some advice," he exclaimed, "I asked you to come in here this evening
precisely because I no longer know what to do, and need to be set in the
right path--" Then he broke off and again paced to and fro, as if urged
into motion by his exploding passion. "Or rather no, tell me nothing!" he
abruptly resumed. "It's all over; I prefer to go away. The thought
occurred to me before, but it was in a moment of cowardice and with the
idea of disappearing and of returning to live in peace in my little nook:
whereas now, if I go off, it will be as an avenger, a judge, to cry aloud
to all the world from Paris, to proclaim what I have seen in Rome, what
men have done there with the Christianity of Jesus, the Vatican falling
into dust, the corpse-like odour which comes from it, the idiotic
illusions of those who hope that they will one day see a renascence of
the modern soul arise from a sepulchre where the remnants of dead
centuries rot and slumber. Oh! I will not yield, I will not make my
submission, I will defend my book by a fresh one. And that book, I
promise you, will make some noise in the world, for it will sound the
last agony of a dying religion, which one must make all haste to bury
lest its remains should poison the nations!"

All this was beyond Don Vigilio's mind. The Italian priest, with narrow
belief and ignorant terror of the new ideas, awoke within him. He clasped
his hands, affrighted. "Be quiet, be quiet! You are blaspheming! And,
besides, you cannot go off like that without again trying to see his
Holiness. He alone is sovereign. And I know that I shall surprise you;
but Father Dangelis has given you in jest the only good advice that can
be given: Go back to see Monsignor Nani, for he alone will open the door
of the Vatican for you."

Again did Pierre give a start of anger: "What! It was with Monsignor Nani
that I began, from him that I set out; and I am to go back to him? What
game is that? Can I consent to be a shuttlecock sent flying hither and
thither by every battledore? People are having a game with me!"

Then, harassed and distracted, the young man fell on his chair in front
of Don Vigilio, who with his face drawn by his prolonged vigil, and his
hands still and ever faintly trembling, remained for some time silent. At
last he explained that he had another idea. He was slightly acquainted
with the Pope's confessor, a Franciscan father, a man of great
simplicity, to whom he might recommend Pierre. This Franciscan, despite
his self-effacement, would perhaps prove of service to him. At all events
he might be tried. Then, once more, silence fell, and Pierre, whose
dreamy eyes were turned towards the wall, ended by distinguishing the old
picture which had touched him so deeply on the day of his arrival. In the
pale glow of the lamp it gradually showed forth and lived, like an
incarnation of his own case, his own futile despair before the sternly
closed portal of truth and justice. Ah! that outcast woman, that stubborn
victim of love, weeping amidst her streaming hair, her visage hidden
whilst with pain and grief she sank upon the steps of that palace whose
door was so pitilessly shut--how she resembled him! Draped with a mere
strip of linen, she was shivering, and amidst the overpowering distress
of her abandonment she did not reveal her secret, misfortune, or
transgression, whichever it might be. But he, behind her close-pressed
hands, endowed her with a face akin to his own: she became his sister, as
were all the poor creatures without roof or certainty who weep because
they are naked and alone, and wear out their strength in seeking to force
the wicked thresholds of men. He could never gaze at her without pitying
her, and it stirred him so much that evening to find her ever so unknown,
nameless and visageless, yet steeped in the most bitter tears, that he
suddenly began to question his companion.

"Tell me," said he, "do you know who painted that old picture? It stirs
me to the soul like a masterpiece."

Stupefied by this unexpected question, the secretary raised his head and
looked, feeling yet more astonished when he had examined the blackened,
forsaken panel in its sorry frame.

"Where did it come from?" resumed Pierre; "why has it been stowed away in
this room?"

"Oh!" replied Don Vigilio, with a gesture of indifference, "it's nothing.
There are heaps of valueless old paintings everywhere. That one, no
doubt, has always been here. But I don't know; I never noticed it

Whilst speaking he had at last risen to his feet, and this simple action
had brought on such a fit of shivering that he could scarcely take leave,
so violently did his teeth chatter with fever. "No, no, don't show me
out," he stammered, "keep the lamp here. And to conclude: the best course
is for you to leave yourself in the hands of Monsignor Nani, for he, at
all events, is a superior man. I told you on your arrival that, whether
you would or not, you would end by doing as he desired. And so what's the
use of struggling? And mind, not a word of our conversation to-night; it
would mean my death."

Then he noiselessly opened the doors, glanced distrustfully into the
darkness of the passage, and at last ventured out and disappeared,
regaining his own room with such soft steps that not the faintest
footfall was heard amidst the tomb-like slumber of the old mansion.

On the morrow, Pierre, again mastered by a desire to fight on to the very
end, got Don Vigilio to recommend him to the Pope's confessor, the
Franciscan friar with whom the secretary was slightly acquainted.
However, this friar proved to be an extremely timid if worthy man,
selected precisely on account of his great modesty, simplicity, and
absolute lack of influence in order that he might not abuse his position
with respect to the Holy Father. And doubtless there was an affectation
of humility on the latter's part in taking for confessor a member of the
humblest of the regular orders, a friend of the poor, a holy beggar of
the roads. At the same time the friar certainly enjoyed a reputation for
oratory; and hidden by a veil the Pope at times listened to his sermons;
for although as infallible Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII could not receive
lessons from any priest, it was admitted that as a man he might reap
profit by listening to good discourse. Nevertheless apart from his
natural eloquence, the worthy friar was really a mere washer of souls, a
confessor who listens and absolves without even remembering the
impurities which he removes in the waters of penitence. And Pierre,
finding him really so poor and such a cipher, did not insist on an
intervention which he realised would be futile.

All that day the young priest was haunted by the figure of that ingenuous
lover of poverty, that delicious St. Francis, as Narcisse Habert was wont
to say. Pierre had often wondered how such an apostle, so gentle towards
both animate and inanimate creation, and so full of ardent charity for
the wretched, could have arisen in a country of egotism and enjoyment
like Italy, where the love of beauty alone has remained queen. Doubtless
the times have changed; yet what a strong sap of love must have been
needed in the old days, during the great sufferings of the middle ages,
for such a consoler of the humble to spring from the popular soil and
preach the gift of self to others, the renunciation of wealth, the horror
of brutal force, the equality and obedience which would ensure the peace
of the world. St. Francis trod the roads clad as one of the poorest, a
rope girdling his grey gown and his bare feet shod with sandals, and he
carried with him neither purse nor staff. And he and his brethren spoke
aloud and freely, with sovereign florescence of poetry and boldness of
truth, attacking the rich and the powerful, and daring even to denounce
the priests of evil life, the debauched, simoniacal, and perjured
bishops. A long cry of relief greeted the Franciscans, the people
followed them in crowds--they were the friends, the liberators of all the
humble ones who suffered. And thus, like revolutionaries, they at first
so alarmed Rome, that the popes hesitated to authorise their Order. When
they at last gave way it was assuredly with the hope of using this new
force for their own profit, by conquering the whole vague mass of the
lowly whose covert threats have ever growled through the ages, even in
the most despotic times. And thenceforward in the sons of St. Francis the
Church possessed an ever victorious army--a wandering army which spread
over the roads, in the villages and through the towns, penetrating to the
firesides of artisan and peasant, and gaining possession of all simple
hearts. How great the democratic power of such an Order which had sprung
from the very entrails of the people! And thence its rapid prosperity,
its teeming growth in a few years, friaries arising upon all sides, and
the third Order* so invading the secular population as to impregnate and
absorb it. And that there was here a genuine growth of the soil, a
vigorous vegetation of the plebeian stock was shown by an entire national
art arising from it--the precursors of the Renascence in painting and
even Dante himself, the soul of Italia's genius.

  * The Franciscans, like the Dominicans and others, admit, in
    addition to the two Orders of friars and nuns, a third Order
    comprising devout persons of either sex who have neither the
    vocation nor the opportunity for cloistered life, but live in
    the world, privately observing the chief principles of the
    fraternity with which they are connected. In central and
    southern Europe members of these third Orders are still

For some days now, in the Rome of the present time, Pierre had been
coming into contact with those great Orders of the past. The Franciscans
and the Dominicans were there face to face in their vast convents of
prosperous aspect. But it seemed as if the humility of the Franciscans
had in the long run deprived them of influence. Perhaps, too, their
/role/ as friends and liberators of the people was ended since the people
now undertook to liberate itself. And so the only real remaining battle
was between the Dominicans and the Jesuits, both of whom still claimed to
mould the world according to their particular views. Warfare between them
was incessant, and Rome--the supreme power at the Vatican--was ever the
prize for which they contended. But, although the Dominicans had St.
Thomas on their side, they must have felt that their old dogmatic science
was crumbling, compelled as they were each day to surrender a little
ground to the Jesuits whose principles accorded better with the spirit of
the century. And, in addition to these, there were the white-robed
Carthusians, those very holy, pure, and silent meditators who fled from
the world into quiet cells and cloisters, those despairing and consoled
ones whose numbers may decrease but whose Order will live for ever, even
as grief and desire for solitude will live. And then there were the
Benedictines whose admirable rules have sanctified labour, passionate
toilers in literature and science, once powerful instruments of
civilisation, enlarging universal knowledge by their immense historical
and critical works. These Pierre loved, and with them would have sought a
refuge two centuries earlier, yet he was astonished to find them building
on the Aventine a huge dwelling, for which Leo XIII has already given
millions, as if the science of to-day and to-morrow were yet a field
where they might garner harvests. But /cui bono/, when the workmen have
changed, and dogmas are there to bar the road--dogmas which totter, no
doubt, but which believers may not fling aside in order to pass onward?
And finally came the swarm of less important Orders, hundreds in number;
there were the Carmelites, the Trappists, the Minims, the Barnabites, the
Lazzarists, the Eudists, the Mission Fathers, the Servites, the Brothers
of the Christian Doctrine; there were the Bernadines, the Augustinians,
the Theatines, the Observants, the Passionists, the Celestines, and the
Capuchins, without counting the corresponding Orders of women or the Poor
Clares, or the innumerable nuns like those of the Visitation and the
Calvary. Each community had its modest or sumptuous dwelling, certain
districts of Rome were entirely composed of convents, and behind the
silent lifeless facades all those people buzzed, intrigued, and waged the
everlasting warfare of rival interests and passions. The social evolution
which produced them had long since ceased, still they obstinately sought
to prolong their life, growing weaker and more useless day by day,
destined to a slow agony until the time shall come when the new
development of society will leave them neither foothold nor breathing

And it was not only with the regulars that Pierre came in contact during
his peregrinations through Rome; indeed, he more particularly had to deal
with the secular clergy, and learnt to know them well. A hierarchical
system which was still vigorously enforced maintained them in various
ranks and classes. Up above, around the Pope, reigned the pontifical
family, the high and noble cardinals and prelates whose conceit was great
in spite of their apparent familiarity. Below them the parish clergy
formed a very worthy middle class of wise and moderate minds; and here
patriot priests were not rare. Moreover, the Italian occupation of a
quarter of a century, by installing in the city a world of functionaries
who saw everything that went on, had, curiously enough, greatly purified
the private life of the Roman priesthood, in which under the popes women,
beyond all question, played a supreme part. And finally one came to the
plebeian clergy whom Pierre studied with curiosity, a collection of
wretched, grimy, half-naked priests who like famished animals prowled
around in search of masses, and drifted into disreputable taverns in the
company of beggars and thieves. However, he was more interested by the
floating population of foreign priests from all parts of Christendom--the
adventurers, the ambitious ones, the believers, the madmen whom Rome
attracted just as a lamp at night time attracts the insects of the gloom.
Among these were men of every nationality, position, and age, all lashed
on by their appetites and scrambling from morn till eve around the
Vatican, in order to snap at the prey which they hoped to secure. He
found them everywhere, and told himself with some shame that he was one
of them, that the unit of his own personality served to increase the
incredible number of cassocks that one encountered in the streets. Ah!
that ebb and flow, that ceaseless tide of black gowns and frocks of every
hue! With their processions of students ever walking abroad, the
seminaries of the different nations would alone have sufficed to drape
and decorate the streets, for there were the French and the English all
in black, the South Americans in black with blue sashes, the North
Americans in black with red sashes, the Poles in black with green sashes,
the Greeks in blue, the Germans in red, the Scots in violet, the Romans
in black or violet or purple, the Bohemians with chocolate sashes, the
Irish with red lappets, the Spaniards with blue cords, to say nothing of
all the others with broidery and bindings and buttons in a hundred
different styles. And in addition there were the confraternities, the
penitents, white, black, blue, and grey, with sleeveless frocks and capes
of different hue, grey, blue, black, or white. And thus even nowadays
Papal Rome at times seemed to resuscitate, and one could realise how
tenaciously and vivaciously she struggled on in order that she might not
disappear in the cosmopolitan Rome of the new era. However, Pierre,
whilst running about from one prelate to another, frequenting priests and
crossing churches, could not accustom himself to the worship, the Roman
piety which astonished him when it did not wound him. One rainy Sunday
morning, on entering Santa Maria Maggiore, he fancied himself in some
waiting-room, a very splendid one, no doubt, but where God seemed to have
no habitation. There was not a bench, not a chair in the nave, across
which people passed, as they might pass through a railway station,
wetting and soiling the precious mosaic pavement with their muddy shoes;
and tired women and children sat round the bases of the columns, even as
in railway stations one sees people sitting and waiting for their trains
during the great crushes of the holiday season. And for this tramping
throng of folks of small degree, who had looked in /en passant/, a priest
was saying a low mass in a side chapel, before which a narrow file of
standing people had gathered, extending across the nave, and recalling
the crowds which wait in front of theatres for the opening of the doors.
At the elevation of the host one and all inclined themselves devoutly,
but almost immediately afterwards the gathering dispersed. And indeed why
linger? The mass was said. Pierre everywhere found the same form of
attendance, peculiar to the countries of the sun; the worshippers were in
a hurry and only favoured the Deity with short familiar visits, unless it
were a question of some gala scene at San Paolo or San Giovanni in
Laterano or some other of the old basilicas. It was only at the Gesu, on
another Sunday morning, that the young priest came upon a high-mass
congregation, which reminded him of the devout throngs of the North. Here
there were benches and women seated, a worldly warmth and cosiness under
the luxurious, gilded, carved, and painted roof, whose tawny splendour is
very fine now that time has toned down the eccentricities of the
decoration. But how many of the churches were empty, among them some of
the most ancient and venerable, San Clemente, Sant' Agnese, Santa Croce
in Gerusalemme, where during the offices one saw but a few believers of
the neighbourhood. Four hundred churches were a good many for even Rome
to people; and, indeed, some were merely attended on fixed ceremonial
occasions, and a good many merely opened their doors once every year--on
the feast day, that is, of their patron saint. Some also subsisted on the
lucky possession of a fetish, an idol compassionate to human sufferings.
Santa Maria in Ara Coeli possessed the miraculous little Jesus, the
"Bambino," who healed sick children, and Sant' Agostino had the "Madonna
del Parto," who grants a happy delivery to mothers. Then others were
renowned for the holy water of their fonts, the oil of their lamps, the
power of some wooden saint or marble virgin. Others again seemed
forsaken, given up to tourists and the perquisites of beadles, like mere
museums peopled with dead gods: Finally others disturbed one's faith by
the suggestiveness of their aspects, as, for instance, that Santa Maria
Rotonda, which is located in the Pantheon, a circular hall recalling a
circus, where the Virgin remains the evident tenant of the Olympian

Pierre took no little interest in the churches of the poor districts, but
did not find there the keen faith and the throngs he had hoped for. One
afternoon, at Santa Maria in Trastevere, he heard the choir in full song,
but the church was quite empty, and the chant had a most lugubrious sound
in such a desert. Then, another day, on entering San Crisogono, he found
it draped, probably in readiness for some festival on the morrow. The
columns were cased with red damask, and between them were hangings and
curtains alternately yellow and blue, white and red; and the young man
fled from such a fearful decoration as gaudy as that of a fair booth. Ah!
how far he was from the cathedrals where in childhood he had believed and
prayed! On all sides he found the same type of church, the antique
basilica accommodated to the taste of eighteenth-century Rome. Though the
style of San Luigi dei Francesi is better, more soberly elegant, the only
thing that touched him even there was the thought of the heroic or
saintly Frenchmen, who sleep in foreign soil beneath the flags. And as he
sought for something Gothic, he ended by going to see Santa Maria sopra
Minerva,* which, he was told, was the only example of the Gothic style in
Rome. Here his stupefaction attained a climax at sight of the clustering
columns cased in stucco imitating marble, the ogives which dared not
soar, the rounded vaults condemned to the heavy majesty of the dome
style. No, no, thought he, the faith whose cooling cinders lingered there
was no longer that whose brazier had invaded and set all Christendom
aglow! However, Monsignor Fornaro whom he chanced to meet as he was
leaving the church, inveighed against the Gothic style as rank heresy.
The first Christian church, said the prelate, had been the basilica,
which had sprung from the temple, and it was blasphemy to assert that the
Gothic cathedral was the real Christian house of prayer, for Gothic
embodied the hateful Anglo-Saxon spirit, the rebellious genius of Luther.
At this a passionate reply rose to Pierre's lips, but he said nothing for
fear that he might say too much. However, he asked himself whether in all
this there was not a decisive proof that Catholicism was the very
vegetation of Rome, Paganism modified by Christianity. Elsewhere
Christianity has grown up in quite a different spirit, to such a point
that it has risen in rebellion and schismatically turned against the
mother-city. And the breach has ever gone on widening, the dissemblance
has become more and more marked; and amidst the evolution of new
societies, yet a fresh schism appears inevitable and proximate in spite
of all the despairing efforts to maintain union.

  * So called because it occupies the site of a temple to

While Pierre thus visited the Roman churches, he also continued his
efforts to gain support in the matter of his book, his irritation tending
to such stubbornness, that if in the first instance he failed to obtain
an interview, he went back again and again to secure one, steadfastly
keeping his promise to call in turn upon each cardinal of the
Congregation of the Index. And as a cardinal may belong to several
Congregations, it resulted that he gradually found himself roaming
through those former ministries of the old pontifical government which,
if less numerous than formerly, are still very intricate institutions,
each with its cardinal-prefect, its cardinal-members, its consultative
prelates, and its numerous employees. Pierre repeatedly had to return to
the Cancelleria, where the Congregation of the Index meets, and lost
himself in its world of staircases, corridors, and halls. From the moment
he passed under the porticus he was overcome by the icy shiver which fell
from the old walls, and was quite unable to appreciate the bare, frigid
beauty of the palace, Bramante's masterpiece though it be, so purely
typical of the Roman Renascence. He also knew the Propaganda where he had
seen Cardinal Sarno; and, sent as he was hither and thither, in his
efforts to gain over influential prelates, chance made him acquainted
with the other Congregations, that of the Bishops and Regulars, that of
the Rites and that of the Council. He even obtained a glimpse of the
Consistorial, the Dataria,* and the sacred Penitentiary. All these formed
part of the administrative mechanism of the Church under its several
aspects--the government of the Catholic world, the enlargement of the
Church's conquests, the administration of its affairs in conquered
countries, the decision of all questions touching faith, morals, and
individuals, the investigation and punishment of offences, the grant of
dispensations and the sale of favours. One can scarcely imagine what a
fearful number of affairs are each morning submitted to the Vatican,
questions of the greatest gravity, delicacy, and intricacy, the solution
of which gives rise to endless study and research. It is necessary to
reply to the innumerable visitors who flock to Rome from all parts, and
to the letters, the petitions, and the batches of documents which are
submitted and require to be distributed among the various offices. And
Pierre was struck by the deep and discreet silence in which all this
colossal labour was accomplished; not a sound reaching the streets from
the tribunals, parliaments, and factories for the manufacture of saints
and nobles, whose mechanism was so well greased, that in spite of the
rust of centuries and the deep and irremediable wear and tear, the whole
continued working without clank or creak to denote its presence behind
the walls. And did not that silence embody the whole policy of the
Church, which is to remain mute and await developments? Nevertheless what
a prodigious mechanism it was, antiquated no doubt, but still so
powerful! And amidst those Congregations how keenly Pierre felt himself
to be in the grip of the most absolute power ever devised for the
domination of mankind. However much he might notice signs of decay and
coming ruin he was none the less seized, crushed, and carried off by that
huge engine made up of vanity and venality, corruption and ambition,
meanness and greatness. And how far, too, he now was from the Rome that
he had dreamt of, and what anger at times filled him amidst his
weariness, as he persevered in his resolve to defend himself!

  * It is from the Dataria that bulls, rescripts, letters of
    appointment to benefices, and dispensations of marriage,
    are issued, after the affixture of the date and formula
    /Datum Romae/, "Given at Rome."--Trans.

All at once certain things which he had never understood were explained
to him. One day, when he returned to the Propaganda, Cardinal Sarno spoke
to him of Freemasonry with such icy rage that he was abruptly
enlightened. Freemasonry had hitherto made him smile; he had believed in
it no more than he had believed in the Jesuits. Indeed, he had looked
upon the ridiculous stories which were current--the stories of
mysterious, shadowy men who governed the world with secret incalculable
power--as mere childish legends. In particular he had been amazed by the
blind hatred which maddened certain people as soon as Freemasonry was
mentioned. However, a very distinguished and intelligent prelate had
declared to him, with an air of profound conviction, that at least on one
occasion every year each masonic Lodge was presided over by the Devil in
person, incarnate in a visible shape! And now, by Cardinal Sarno's
remarks, he understood the rivalry, the furious struggle of the Roman
Catholic Church against that other Church, the Church of over the way.*
Although the former counted on her own triumph, she none the less felt
that the other, the Church of Freemasonry, was a competitor, a very
ancient enemy, who indeed claimed to be more ancient than herself, and
whose victory always remained a possibility. And the friction between
them was largely due to the circumstance that they both aimed at
universal sovereignty, and had a similar international organisation, a
similar net thrown over the nations, and in a like way mysteries, dogmas,
and rites. It was deity against deity, faith against faith, conquest
against conquest: and so, like competing tradesmen in the same street,
they were a source of mutual embarrassment, and one of them was bound to
kill the other. But if Roman Catholicism seemed to Pierre to be worn out
and threatened with ruin, he remained quite as sceptical with regard to
the power of Freemasonry. He had made inquiries as to the reality of that
power in Rome, where both Grand Master and Pope were enthroned, one in
front of the other. He was certainly told that the last Roman princes had
thought themselves compelled to become Freemasons in order to render
their own difficult position somewhat easier and facilitate the future of
their sons. But was this true? had they not simply yielded to the force
of the present social evolution? And would not Freemasonry eventually be
submerged by its own triumph--that of the ideas of justice, reason, and
truth, which it had defended through the dark and violent ages of
history? It is a thing which constantly happens; the victory of an idea
kills the sect which has propagated it, and renders the apparatus with
which the members of the sect surrounded themselves, in order to fire
imaginations, both useless and somewhat ridiculous. Carbonarism did not
survive the conquest of the political liberties which it demanded; and on
the day when the Catholic Church crumbles, having accomplished its work
of civilisation, the other Church, the Freemasons' Church of across the
road, will in a like way disappear, its task of liberation ended.
Nowadays the famous power of the Lodges, hampered by traditions, weakened
by a ceremonial which provokes laughter, and reduced to a simple bond of
brotherly agreement and mutual assistance, would be but a sorry weapon of
conquest for humanity, were it not that the vigorous breath of science
impels the nations onwards and helps to destroy the old religions.

  * Some readers may think the above passages an exaggeration, but
    such is not the case. The hatred with which the Catholic
    priesthood, especially in Italy, Spain, and France, regards
    Freemasonry is remarkable. At the moment of writing these lines
    I have before me several French clerical newspapers, which
    contain the most abusive articles levelled against President
    Faure solely because he is a Freemason. One of these prints, a
    leading journal of Lyons, tells the French President that he
    cannot serve both God and the Devil; and that if he cannot give
    up Freemasonry he would do well to cease desecrating the abode
    of the Deity by his attendance at divine service.--Trans.

However, all Pierre's journeyings and applications brought him no
certainty; and, while stubbornly clinging to Rome, intent on fighting to
the very end, like a soldier who will not believe in the possibility of
defeat, he remained as anxious as ever. He had seen all the cardinals
whose influence could be of use to him. He had seen the Cardinal Vicar,
entrusted with the diocese of Rome, who, like the man of letters he was,
had spoken to him of Horace, and, like a somewhat blundering politician,
had questioned him about France, the Republic, the Army, and the Navy
Estimates, without dealing in the slightest degree with the incriminated
book. He had also seen the Grand Penitentiary, that tall old man, with
fleshless, ascetic face, of whom he had previously caught a glimpse at
the Boccanera mansion, and from whom he now only drew a long and severe
sermon on the wickedness of young priests, whom the century had perverted
and who wrote most abominable books. Finally, at the Vatican, he had seen
the Cardinal Secretary, in some wise his Holiness's Minister of Foreign
Affairs, the great power of the Holy See, whom he had hitherto been
prevented from approaching by terrifying warnings as to the possible
result of an unfavourable reception. However, whilst apologising for
calling at such a late stage, he had found himself in presence of a most
amiable man, whose somewhat rough appearance was softened by diplomatic
affability, and who, after making him sit down, questioned him with an
air of interest, listened to him, and even spoke some words of comfort.
Nevertheless, on again reaching the Piazza of St. Peter's, Pierre well
understood that his affair had not made the slightest progress, and that
if he ever managed to force the Pope's door, it would not be by way of
the Secretariate of State. And that evening he returned home quite
exhausted by so many visits, in such distraction at feeling that little
by little he had been wholly caught in that huge mechanism with its
hundred wheels, that he asked himself in terror what he should do on the
morrow now that there remained nothing for him to do--unless, indeed, it
were to go mad.

However, meeting Don Vigilio in a passage of the house, he again wished
to ask him for some good advice. But the secretary, who had a gleam of
terror in his eyes, silenced him, he knew not why, with an anxious
gesture. And then in a whisper, in Pierre's ear, he said: "Have you seen
Monsignor Nani? No! Well, go to see him, go to see him. I repeat that you
have nothing else to do!"

Pierre yielded. And indeed why should he have resisted? Apart from the
motives of ardent charity which had brought him to Rome to defend his
book, was he not there for a self-educating, experimental purpose? It was
necessary that he should carry his attempts to the very end.

On the morrow, when he reached the colonnade of St. Peter's, the hour was
so early that he had to wait there awhile. He had never better realised
the enormity of those four curving rows of columns, forming a forest of
gigantic stone trunks among which nobody ever promenades. In fact, the
spot is a grandiose and dreary desert, and one asks oneself the why and
wherefore of such a majestic porticus. Doubtless, however, it was for its
sole majesty, for the mere pomp of decoration, that this colonnade was
reared; and therein, again, one finds the whole Roman spirit. However,
Pierre at last turned into the Via di Sant' Offizio, and passing the
sacristy of St. Peter's, found himself before the Palace of the Holy
Office in a solitary silent district, which the footfall of pedestrians
or the rumble of wheels but seldom disturbs. The sun alone lives there,
in sheets of light which spread slowly over the small, white paving. You
divine the vicinity of the Basilica, for there is a smell as of incense,
a cloisteral quiescence as of the slumber of centuries. And at one corner
the Palace of the Holy Office rises up with heavy, disquieting bareness,
only a single row of windows piercing its lofty, yellow front. The wall
which skirts a side street looks yet more suspicious with its row of even
smaller casements, mere peep-holes with glaucous panes. In the bright
sunlight this huge cube of mud-coloured masonry ever seems asleep,
mysterious, and closed like a prison, with scarcely an aperture for
communication with the outer world.

Pierre shivered, but then smiled as at an act of childishness, for he
reflected that the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, nowadays the
Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, was no longer the institution it
had been, the purveyor of heretics for the stake, the occult tribunal
beyond appeal which had right of life and death over all mankind. True,
it still laboured in secrecy, meeting every Wednesday, and judging and
condemning without a sound issuing from within its walls. But on the
other hand if it still continued to strike at the crime of heresy, if it
smote men as well as their works, it no longer possessed either weapons
or dungeons, steel or fire to do its bidding, but was reduced to a mere
/role/ of protest, unable to inflict aught but disciplinary penalties
even upon the ecclesiastics of its own Church.

When Pierre on entering was ushered into the reception-room of Monsignor
Nani who, as assessor, lived in the palace, he experienced an agreeable
surprise. The apartment faced the south, and was spacious and flooded
with sunshine. And stiff as was the furniture, dark as were the hangings,
an exquisite sweetness pervaded the room, as though a woman had lived in
it and accomplished the prodigy of imparting some of her own grace to all
those stern-looking things. There were no flowers, yet there was a
pleasant smell. A charm expanded and conquered every heart from the very

Monsignor Nani at once came forward, with a smile on his rosy face, his
blue eyes keenly glittering, and his fine light hair powdered by age.
With hands outstretched, he exclaimed: "Ah! how kind of you to have come
to see me, my dear son! Come, sit down, let us have a friendly chat."
Then with an extraordinary display of affection, he began to question
Pierre: "How are you getting on? Tell me all about it, exactly what you
have done."

Touched in spite of Don Vigilio's revelations, won over by the sympathy
which he fancied he could detect, Pierre thereupon confessed himself,
relating his visits to Cardinal Sarno, Monsignor Fornaro and Father
Dangelis, his applications to all the influential cardinals, those of the
Index, the Grand Penitentiary, the Cardinal Vicar, and the Cardinal
Secretary; and dwelling on his endless journeys from door to door through
all the Congregations and all the clergy, that huge, active, silent
bee-hive amidst which he had wearied his feet, exhausted his limbs, and
bewildered his poor brain. And at each successive Station of this Calvary
of entreaty, Monsignor Nani, who seemed to listen with an air of rapture,
exclaimed: "But that's very good, that's capital! Oh! your affair is
progressing. Yes, yes, it's progressing marvellously well."

He was exultant, though he allowed no unseemly irony to appear, while his
pleasant, penetrating eyes fathomed the young priest, to ascertain if he
had been brought to the requisite degree of obedience. Had he been
sufficiently wearied, disillusioned and instructed in the reality of
things, for one to finish with him? Had three months' sojourn in Rome
sufficed to turn the somewhat mad enthusiast of the first days into an
unimpassioned or at least resigned being?

However, all at once Monsignor Nani remarked: "But, my dear son, you tell
me nothing of his Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti."

"The fact is, Monseigneur, that his Eminence is at Frascati, so I have
been unable to see him."

Thereupon the prelate, as if once more postponing the /denouement/ with
the secret enjoyment of an artistic /diplomate/, began to protest,
raising his little plump hands with the anxious air of a man who
considers everything lost: "Oh! but you must see his Eminence; it is
absolutely necessary! Think of it! The Prefect of the Index! We can only
act after your visit to him, for as you have not seen /him/ it is as if
you had seen nobody. Go, go to Frascati, my dear son."

And thereupon Pierre could only bow and reply: "I will go, Monseigneur."


ALTHOUGH Pierre knew that he would be unable to see Cardinal Sanguinetti
before eleven o'clock, he nevertheless availed himself of an early train,
so that it was barely nine when he alighted at the little station of
Frascati. He had already visited the place during his enforced idleness,
when he had made the classical excursion to the Roman castles which
extend from Frascati to Rocco di Papa, and from Rocco di Papa to Monte
Cavo, and he was now delighted with the prospect of strolling for a
couple of hours along those first slopes of the Alban hills, where,
amidst rushes, olives, and vines, Frascati, like a promontory, overlooks
the immense ruddy sea of the Campagna even as far as Rome, which, six
full leagues away, wears the whitish aspect of a marble isle.

Ah! that charming Frascati, on its greeny knoll at the foot of the wooded
Tusculan heights, with its famous terrace whence one enjoys the finest
view in the world, its old patrician villas with proud and elegant
Renascence facades and magnificent parks, which, planted with cypress,
pine, and ilex, are for ever green! There was a sweetness, a delight, a
fascination about the spot, of which Pierre would have never wearied. And
for more than an hour he had wandered blissfully along roads edged with
ancient, knotty olive-trees, along dingle ways shaded by the spreading
foliage of neighbouring estates, and along perfumed paths, at each turn
of which the Campagna was seen stretching far away, when all at once he
was accosted by a person whom he was both surprised and annoyed to meet.
He had strolled down to some low ground near the railway station, some
old vineyards where a number of new houses had been built of recent
years, and suddenly saw a stylish pair-horse victoria, coming from the
direction of Rome, draw up close by, whilst its occupant called to him:
"What! Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, are you taking a walk here, at this early

Thereupon Pierre recognised Count Luigi Prada, who alighted, shook hands
with him and began to walk beside him, whilst the empty carriage went on
in advance. And forthwith the Count explained his tastes: "I seldom take
the train," he said, "I drive over. It gives my horses an outing. I have
interests over here as you may know, a big building enterprise which is
unfortunately not progressing very well. And so, although the season is
advanced, I'm obliged to come rather more frequently than I care to do."

As Prada suggested, Pierre was acquainted with the story. The Boccaneras
had been obliged to sell a sumptuous villa which a cardinal of their
family had built at Frascati in accordance with the plans of Giacomo
della Porta, during the latter part of the sixteenth century: a regal
summer-residence it had been, finely wooded, with groves and basins and
cascades, and in particular a famous terrace projecting like a cape above
the Roman Campagna whose expanse stretches from the Sabine mountains to
the Mediterranean sands. Through the division of the property, Benedetta
had inherited from her mother some very extensive vineyards below
Frascati, and these she had brought as dowry to Prada at the very moment
when the building mania was extending from Rome into the provinces. And
thereupon Prada had conceived the idea of erecting on the spot a number
of middle-class villas like those which litter the suburbs of Paris. Few
purchasers, however, had come forward, the financial crash had
supervened, and he was now with difficulty liquidating this unlucky
business, having indemnified his wife at the time of their separation.

"And then," he continued, addressing Pierre, "one can come and go as one
likes with a carriage, whereas, on taking the train, one is at the mercy
of the time table. This morning, for instance, I have appointments with
contractors, experts, and lawyers, and I have no notion how long they
will keep me. It's a wonderful country, isn't it? And we are quite right
to be proud of it in Rome. Although I may have some worries just now, I
can never set foot here without my heart beating with delight."

A circumstance which he did not mention, was that his /amica/, Lisbeth
Kauffmann, had spent the summer in one of the newly erected villas, where
she had installed her studio and had been visited by all the foreign
colony, which tolerated her irregular position on account of her gay
spirits and artistic talent. Indeed, people had even ended by accepting
the outcome of her connection with Prada, and a fortnight previously she
had returned to Rome, and there given birth to a son--an event which had
again revived all the scandalous tittle-tattle respecting Benedetta's
divorce suit. And Prada's attachment to Frascati doubtless sprang from
the recollection of the happy hours he had spent there, and the joyful
pride with which the birth of the boy inspired him.

Pierre, for his part, felt ill at ease in the young Count's presence, for
he had an instinctive hatred of money-mongers and men of prey.
Nevertheless, he desired to respond to his amiability, and so inquired
after his father, old Orlando, the hero of the Liberation.

"Oh!" replied Prada, "excepting for his legs he's in wonderfully good
health. He'll live a hundred years. Poor father! I should so much have
liked to install him in one of these little houses, last summer. But I
could not get him to consent; he's determined not to leave Rome; he's
afraid, perhaps, that it might be taken away from him during his
absence." Then the young Count burst into a laugh, quite merry at the
thought of jeering at the heroic but no longer fashionable age of
independence. And afterwards he said, "My father was speaking of you
again only yesterday, Monsieur l'Abbe. He is astonished that he has not
seen you lately."

This distressed Pierre, for he had begun to regard Orlando with
respectful affection. Since his first visit, he had twice called on the
old hero, but the latter had refused to broach the subject of Rome so
long as his young friend should not have seen, felt, and understood
everything. There would be time for a talk later on, said he, when they
were both in a position to formulate their conclusions.

"Pray tell Count Orlando," responded Pierre, "that I have not forgotten
him, and that, if I have deferred a fresh visit, it is because I desire
to satisfy him. However, I certainly will not leave Rome without going to
tell him how deeply his kind greeting has touched me."

Whilst talking, the two men slowly followed the ascending road past the
newly erected villas, several of which were not yet finished. And when
Prada learned that the priest had come to call on Cardinal Sanguinetti,
he again laughed, with the laugh of a good-natured wolf, showing his
white fangs. "True," he exclaimed, "the Cardinal has been here since the
Pope has been laid up. Ah! you'll find him in a pretty fever."


"Why, because there's bad news about the Holy Father this morning. When I
left Rome it was rumoured that he had spent a fearful night."

So speaking, Prada halted at a bend of the road, not far from an antique
chapel, a little church of solitary, mournful grace of aspect, on the
verge of an olive grove. Beside it stood a ruinous building, the old
parsonage, no doubt, whence there suddenly emerged a tall, knotty priest
with coarse and earthy face, who, after roughly locking the door, went
off in the direction of the town.

"Ah!" resumed the Count in a tone of raillery, "that fellow's heart also
must be beating violently; he's surely gone to your Cardinal in search of

Pierre had looked at the priest. "I know him," he replied; "I saw him, I
remember, on the day after my arrival at Cardinal Boccanera's. He brought
the Cardinal a basket of figs and asked him for a certificate in favour
of his young brother, who had been sent to prison for some deed of
violence--a knife thrust if I recollect rightly. However, the Cardinal
absolutely refused him the certificate."

"It's the same man," said Prada, "you may depend on it. He was often at
the Villa Boccanera formerly; for his young brother was gardener there.
But he's now the client, the creature of Cardinal Sanguinetti. Santobono
his name is, and he's a curious character, such as you wouldn't find in
France, I fancy. He lives all alone in that falling hovel, and officiates
at that old chapel of St. Mary in the Fields, where people don't go to
hear mass three times in a year. Yes, it's a perfect sinecure, which with
its stipend of a thousand francs enables him to live there like a peasant
philosopher, cultivating the somewhat extensive garden whose big walls
you see yonder."

The close to which he called attention stretched down the slope behind
the parsonage, without an aperture, like some savage place of refuge into
which not even the eye could penetrate. And all that could be seen above
the left-hand wall was a superb, gigantic fig-tree, whose big leaves
showed blackly against the clear sky. Prada had moved on again, and
continued to speak of Santobono, who evidently interested him. Fancy, a
patriot priest, a Garibaldian! Born at Nemi, in that yet savage nook
among the Alban hills, he belonged to the people and was still near to
the soil. However, he had studied, and knew sufficient history to realise
the past greatness of Rome, and dream of the re-establishment of Roman
dominion as represented by young Italy. And he had come to believe, with
passionate fervour, that only a great pope could realise his dream by
seizing upon power, and then conquering all the other nations. And what
could be easier, since the Pope commanded millions of Catholics? Did not
half Europe belong to him? France, Spain, and Austria would give way as
soon as they should see him powerful, dictating laws to the world.
Germany and Great Britain, indeed all the Protestant countries, would
also inevitably be conquered, for the papacy was the only dike that could
be opposed to error, which must some day fatally succumb in its efforts
against such a barrier. Politically, however, Santobono had declared
himself for Germany, for he considered that France needed to be crushed
before she would throw herself into the arms of the Holy Father. And thus
contradictions and fancies clashed in his foggy brain, whose burning
ideas swiftly turned to violence under the influence of primitive, racial
fierceness. Briefly, the priest was a barbarian upholder of the Gospel, a
friend of the humble and woeful, a sectarian of that school which is
capable alike of great virtues and great crimes.

"Yes," concluded Prada, "he is now devoted to Cardinal Sanguinetti
because he believes that the latter will prove the great pope of
to-morrow, who is to make Rome the one capital of the nations. At the
same time he doubtless harbours a lower personal ambition, that of
attaining to a canonry or of gaining assistance in the little worries of
life, as when he wished to extricate his brother from trouble. Here, you
know, people stake their luck on a cardinal just as they nurse a 'trey'
in the lottery, and if their cardinal proves the winning number and
becomes pope they gain a fortune. And that's why you now see Santobono
striding along yonder, all anxiety to know if Leo XIII will die and
Sanguinetti don the tiara."

"Do you think the Pope so very ill, then?" asked Pierre, both anxious and

The Count smiled and raised both arms: "Ah!" said he, "can one ever tell?
They all get ill when their interest lies that way. However, I believe
that the Pope is this time really indisposed; a complaint of the bowels,
it is said; and at his age, you know, the slightest indisposition may
prove fatal."

The two men took a few steps in silence, then the priest again asked a
question: "Would Cardinal Sanguinetti have a great chance if the Holy See
were vacant?"

"A great chance! Ah! that's another of those things which one never
knows. The truth is people class Sanguinetti among the acceptable
candidates, and if personal desire sufficed he would certainly be the
next pope, for ambition consumes him to the marrow, and he displays
extraordinary passion and determination in his efforts to succeed. But
therein lies his very weakness; he is using himself up, and he knows it.
And so he must be resolved to every step during the last days of battle.
You may be quite sure that if he has shut himself up here at this
critical time, it is in order that he may the better direct his
operations from a distance, whilst at the same time feigning a retreat, a
disinterestedness which is bound to have a good effect."

Then Prada began to expatiate on Sanguinetti with no little complacency,
for he liked the man's spirit of intrigue, his keen, conquering appetite,
his excessive, and even somewhat blundering activity. He had become
acquainted with him on his return from the nunciature at Vienna, when he
had already resolved to win the tiara. That ambition explained
everything, his quarrels and reconciliations with the reigning pope, his
affection for Germany, followed by a sudden evolution in the direction of
France, his varying attitude with regard to Italy, at first a desire for
agreement, and then absolute rejection of all compromises, a refusal to
grant any concession, so long as Rome should not be evacuated. This,
indeed, seemed to be Sanguinetti's definite position; he made a show of
disliking the wavering sway of Leo XIII, and of retaining a fervent
admiration for Pius IX, the great, heroic pope of the days of resistance,
whose goodness of heart had proved no impediment to unshakable firmness.
And all this was equivalent to a promise that he, Sanguinetti, would
again make kindliness exempt from weakness, the rule of the Church, and
would steer clear of the dangerous compounding of politics. At bottom,
however, politics were his only dream, and he had even formulated a
complete programme of intentional vagueness, which his clients and
creatures spread abroad with an air of rapturous mystery. However, since
a previous indisposition of the Pope's, during the spring, he had been
living in mortal disquietude, for it had then been rumoured that the
Jesuits would resign themselves to support Cardinal Pio Boccanera,
although the latter scarcely favoured them. He was rough and stern, no
doubt, and his extreme bigotry might be a source of danger in this
tolerant age; but, on the other hand, was he not a patrician, and would
not his election imply that the papacy would never cease to claim the
temporal power? From that moment Boccanera had been the one man whom
Sanguinetti feared, for he beheld himself despoiled of his prize, and
spent his time in devising plans to rid himself of such a powerful rival,
repeating abominable stories of Cardinal Pio's alleged complaisance with
regard to Benedetta and Dario, and incessantly representing him as
Antichrist, the man of sin, whose reign would consummate the ruin of the
papacy. Finally, to regain the support of the Jesuits, Sanguinetti's last
idea was to repeat through his familiars that for his part he would not
merely maintain the principle of the temporal power intact, but would
even undertake to regain that power. And he had a full plan on the
subject, which folks confided to one another in whispers, a plan which,
in spite of its apparent concessions, would lead to the overwhelming
victory of the Church. It was to raise the prohibition which prevented
Catholics from voting or becoming candidates at the Italian elections; to
send a hundred, then two hundred, and then three hundred deputies to the
Chamber, and in that wise to overthrow the House of Savoy, and establish
a Federation of the Italian provinces, whereof the Holy Father, once more
placed in possession of Rome, would become the august and sovereign

As Prada finished he again laughed, showing his white teeth--teeth which
would never readily relinquish the prey they held. "So you see," he
added, "we need to defend ourselves, since it's a question of turning us
out. Fortunately, there are some little obstacles in the way of that.
Nevertheless, such dreams naturally have great influence on excited
minds, such as that of Santobono, for instance. He's a man whom one word
from Sanguinetti would lead far indeed. Ah! he has good legs. Look at him
up yonder, he has already reached the Cardinal's little palace--that
white villa with the sculptured balconies."

Pierre raised his eyes and perceived the episcopal residence, which was
one of the first houses of Frascati. Of modern construction and
Renascence style, it overlooked the immensity of the Roman Campagna.

It was now eleven o'clock, and as the young priest, before going up to
pay his own visit, bade the Count good-bye, the latter for a moment kept
hold of his hand. "Do you know," said he, "it would be very kind of you
to lunch with me--will you? Come and join me at that restaurant yonder
with the pink front as soon as you are at liberty. I shall have settled
my own business in an hour's time, and I shall be delighted to have your
company at table."

Pierre began by declining, but he could offer no possible excuse, and at
last surrendered, won over, despite himself, by Prada's real charm of
manner. When they had parted, the young priest only had to climb a street
in order to reach the Cardinal's door. With his natural expansiveness and
craving for popularity, Sanguinetti was easy of access, and at Frascati
in particular his doors were flung open even to the most humble cassocks.
So Pierre was at once ushered in, a circumstance which somewhat surprised
him, for he remembered the bad humour of the servant whom he had seen on
calling at the Cardinal's residence in Rome, when he had been advised to
forego the journey, as his Eminence did not like to be disturbed when he
was ill. However, nothing spoke of illness in that pleasant villa,
flooded with sunshine. True, the waiting-room, where he was momentarily
left alone, displayed neither luxury nor comfort; but it was brightened
by the finest light in the world, and overlooked that extraordinary
Campagna, so flat, so bare, and so unique in its beauty, for in front of
it one ever dreams and sees the past arise. And so, whilst waiting,
Pierre stationed himself at an open window, conducting on to a balcony,
and his eyes roamed over the endless sea of herbage to the far-away
whiteness of Rome, above which rose the dome of St. Peter's, at that
distance a mere sparkling speck, barely as large as the nail of one's
little finger.

However, the young man had scarcely taken up this position when he was
surprised to hear some people talking, their words reaching him with
great distinctness. And on leaning forward he realised that his Eminence
in person was standing on another balcony close by, and conversing with a
priest, only a portion of whose cassock could be seen. Still, this
sufficed for Pierre to recognise Santobono. His first impulse, dictated
by natural discretion, was to withdraw from the window, but the words he
next heard riveted him to the spot.

"We shall know in a moment," his Eminence was saying in his full voice.
"I sent Eufemio to Rome, for he is the only person in whom I've any
confidence. And see, there is the train bringing him back."

A train, still as small as a plaything, could in fact be seen approaching
over the vast plain, and doubtless it was to watch for its arrival that
Sanguinetti had stationed himself on the balcony. And there he lingered,
with his eyes fixed on distant Rome. Then Santobono, in a passionate
voice, spoke some words which Pierre imperfectly understood, but the
Cardinal with clear articulation rejoined, "Yes, yes, my dear fellow, a
catastrophe would be a great misfortune. Ah! may his Holiness long be
preserved to us." Then he paused, and as he was no hypocrite, gave full
expression to the thoughts which were in his mind: "At least, I hope that
he will be preserved just now, for the times are bad, and I am in
frightful anguish. The partisans of Antichrist have lately gained much

A cry escaped Santobono: "Oh! your Eminence will act and triumph."

"I, my dear fellow? What would you have me do? I am simply at the
disposal of my friends, those who are willing to believe in me, with the
sole object of ensuring the victory of the Holy See. It is they who ought
to act, it is they--each according to the measure of his means--who ought
to bar the road to the wicked in order that the righteous may succeed.
Ah! if Antichrist should reign--"

The recurrence of this word Antichrist greatly disturbed Pierre; but he
suddenly remembered what the Count had told him: Antichrist was Cardinal

"Think of that, my dear fellow," continued Sanguinetti. "Picture
Antichrist at the Vatican, consummating the ruin of religion by his
implacable pride, his iron will, his gloomy passion for nihility; for
there can be no doubt of it, he is the Beast of Death announced by the
prophecies, the Beast who will expose one and all to the danger of being
swallowed up with him in his furious rush into abysmal darkness. I know
him; he only dreams of obstinacy and destruction, he will seize the
pillars of the temple and shake them in order that he may sink beneath
the ruins, he and the whole Catholic world! In less than six months he
will be driven from Rome, at strife with all the nations, execrated by
Italy, and roaming the world like the phantom of the last pope!"

It was with a low growl, suggestive of a stifled oath, that Santobono
responded to this frightful prediction. But the train had now reached the
station, and among the few passengers who had alighted, Pierre could
distinguish a little Abbe, who was walking so fast that his cassock
flapped against his hips. It was Abbe Eufemio, the Cardinal's secretary,
and when he had perceived his Eminence on the balcony he lost all
self-respect, and broke into a run, in order that he might the sooner
ascend the sloping street. "Ah! here's Eufemio," exclaimed the Cardinal,
quivering with anxiety. "We shall know now, we shall know now."

The secretary had plunged into the doorway below, and he climbed the
stairs with such rapidity that almost immediately afterwards Pierre saw
him rush breathlessly across the waiting-room, and vanish into the
Cardinal's sanctum. Sanguinetti had quitted the balcony to meet his
messenger, but soon afterwards he returned to it asking questions,
venting exclamations, raising, in fact, quite a tumult over the news
which he had received. "And so it's really true, the night was a bad one.
His Holiness scarcely slept! Colic, you were told? But nothing could be
worse at his age; it might carry him off in a couple of hours. And the
doctors, what do they say?"

The answer did not reach Pierre, but he understood its purport as the
Cardinal in his naturally loud voice resumed: "Oh! the doctors never
know. Besides, when they refuse to speak death is never far off. /Dio/!
what a misfortune if the catastrophe cannot be deferred for a few days!"

Then he became silent, and Pierre realised that his eyes were once more
travelling towards Rome, gazing with ambitious anguish at the dome of St.
Peter's, that little, sparkling speck above the vast, ruddy plain. What a
commotion, what agitation if the Pope were dead! And he wished that it
had merely been necessary for him to stretch forth his arm in order to
take and hold the Eternal City, the Holy City, which, yonder on the
horizon, occupied no more space than a heap of gravel cast there by a
child's spade. And he was already dreaming of the coming Conclave, when
the canopy of each other cardinal would fall, and his own, motionless and
sovereign, would crown him with purple.

"But you are right, my friend!" he suddenly exclaimed, addressing
Santobono, "one must act, the salvation of the Church is at stake. And,
besides, it is impossible that Heaven should not be with us, since our
sole desire is its triumph. If necessary, at the supreme moment, Heaven
will know how to crush Antichrist."

Then, for the first time, Pierre distinctly heard the voice of Santobono,
who, gruffly, with a sort of savage decision, responded: "Oh! if Heaven
is tardy it shall be helped."

That was all; the young man heard nothing further save a confused murmur
of voices. The speakers quitted the balcony, and his spell of waiting
began afresh in the sunlit /salon/ so peaceful and delightful in its
brightness. But all at once the door of his Eminence's private room was
thrown wide open and a servant ushered him in; and he was surprised to
find the Cardinal alone, for he had not witnessed the departure of the
two priests, who had gone off by another door. The Cardinal, with his
highly coloured face, big nose, thick lips, square-set, vigorous figure,
which still looked young despite his sixty years, was standing near a
window in the bright golden light. He had put on the paternal smile with
which he greeted even the humblest from motives of good policy, and as
soon as Pierre had knelt and kissed his ring, he motioned him to a chair.
"Sit down, dear son, sit down. You have come of course about that
unfortunate affair of your book. I am very pleased indeed to be able to
speak with you about it."

He himself then took a chair in front of that window overlooking Rome
whence he seemed unable to drag himself. And the young priest, whilst
apologising for coming to disturb his rest, perceived that he scarcely
listened, for his eyes again sought the prey which he so ardently
coveted. Yet the semblance of good-natured attention was perfect, and
Pierre marvelled at the force of will which this man must possess to
appear so calm, so interested in the affairs of others, when such a
tempest was raging in him.

"Your Eminence will, I hope, kindly forgive me," continued the young

"But you have done right to come, since I am kept here by my failing
health," said the Cardinal. "Besides, I am somewhat better, and it is
only natural that you should wish to give me some explanations and defend
your work and enlighten my judgment. In fact, I was astonished at not yet
having seen you, for I know that your faith in your cause is great and
that you spare no steps to convert your judges. So speak, my dear son, I
am listening and shall be pleased indeed if I can absolve you."

Pierre was caught by these kind words, and a hope returned to him, that
of winning the support of the all-powerful Prefect of the Index. He
already regarded this ex-nuncio--who at Brussels and Vienna had acquired
the worldly art of sending people away satisfied with indefinite promises
though he meant to grant them nothing--as a man of rare intelligence and
exquisite cordiality. And so once more he regained the fervour of his
apostolate to express his views respecting the future Rome, the Rome he
dreamt of, which was destined yet again to become the mistress of the
world if she would return to the Christianity of Jesus, to an ardent love
for the weak and the humble.

Sanguinetti smiled, wagged his head, and raised exclamations of rapture:
"Very good, very good indeed, perfect! Oh! I agree with you, dear son.
One cannot put things better. It is quite evident; all good minds must
agree with you." And then, said he, the poetic side deeply touched him.
Like Leo XIII--and doubtless in a spirit of rivalry--he courted the
reputation of being a very distinguished Latinist, and professed a
special and boundless affection for Virgil. "I know, I know," he
exclaimed, "I remember your page on the return of spring, which consoles
the poor whom winter has frozen. Oh! I read it three times over! And are
you aware that your writing is full of Latin turns of style. I noticed
more than fifty expressions which could be found in the 'Bucolics.' Your
book is a charm, a perfect charm!"

As he was no fool, and realised that the little priest before him was a
man of high intelligence, he ended by interesting himself, not in Pierre
personally, but in the profit which he might possibly derive from him.
Amidst his feverish intrigues, he unceasingly sought to utilise all the
qualities possessed by those whom God sent to him that might in any way
be conducive to his own triumph. So, for a moment, he turned away from
Rome and looked his companion in the face, listening to him and asking
himself in what way he might employ him--either at once in the crisis
through which he was passing, or later on when he should be pope. But the
young priest again made the mistake of attacking the temporal power, and
of employing that unfortunate expression, "a new religion." Thereupon the
Cardinal stopped him with a gesture, still smiling, still retaining all
his amiability, although the resolution which he had long since formed
became from that moment definitive. "You are certainly in the right on
many points, my dear son," he said, "and I often share your views--share
them completely. But come, you are doubtless not aware that I am the
protector of Lourdes here at Rome. And so, after the page which you have
written about the Grotto, how can I possibly pronounce in your favour and
against the Fathers?"

Pierre was utterly overcome by this announcement, for he was indeed
unaware of the Cardinal's position with respect to Lourdes, nobody having
taken the precaution to warn him. However, each of the Catholic
enterprises distributed throughout the world has a protector at Rome, a
cardinal who is designated by the Pope to represent it and, if need be,
to defend it.

"Those good Fathers!" Sanguinetti continued in a gentle voice, "you have
caused them great grief, and really our hands are tied, we cannot add to
their sorrow. If you only knew what a number of masses they send us! I
know more than one of our poor priests who would die of hunger if it were
not for them."

Pierre could only bow beneath the blow. Once more he found himself in
presence of the pecuniary question, the necessity in which the Holy See
is placed to secure the revenue it requires one year with another. And
thus the Pope was ever in servitude, for if the loss of Rome had freed
him of the cares of state, his enforced gratitude for the alms he
received still riveted him to earth. So great, indeed, were the
requirements, that money was the ruler, the sovereign power, before which
all bowed at the Court of Rome.

And now Sanguinetti rose to dismiss his visitor. "You must not despair,
dear son," he said effusively. "I have only my own vote, you know, and I
promise you that I will take into account the excellent explanations
which you have just given me. And who can tell? If God be with you, He
will save you even in spite of all!" This speech formed part of the
Cardinal's usual tactics; for one of his principles was never to drive
people to extremes by sending them away hopeless. What good, indeed,
would it do to tell this one that the condemnation of his book was a
foregone conclusion, and that his only prudent course would be to disavow
it? Only a savage like Boccanera breathed anger upon fiery souls and
plunged them into rebellion. "You must hope, hope!" repeated Sanguinetti
with a smile, as if implying a multitude of fortunate things which he
could not plainly express.

Thereupon Pierre, who was deeply touched, felt born anew. He even forgot
the conversation he had surprised, the Cardinal's keen ambition and
covert rage with his redoubtable rival. Besides, might not intelligence
take the place of heart among the powerful? If this man should some day
become pope, and had understood him, might he not prove the pope who was
awaited, the pope who would accept the task of reorganising the Church of
the United States of Europe, and making it the spiritual sovereign of the
world? So he thanked him with emotion, bowed, and left him to his dream,
standing before that widely open window whence Rome appeared to him,
glittering like a jewel, even indeed as the tiara of gold and gems, in
the splendour of the autumn sun.

It was nearly one o'clock when Pierre and Count Prada were at last able
to sit down to /dejeuner/ in the little restaurant where they had agreed
to meet. They had both been delayed by their affairs. However, the Count,
having settled some worrying matters to his own advantage, was very
lively, whilst the priest on his side was again hopeful, and yielded to
the delightful charm of that last fine day. And so the meal proved a very
pleasant one in the large, bright room, which, as usual at that season of
the year, was quite deserted. Pink and blue predominated in the
decoration, but Cupids fluttered on the ceiling, and landscapes, vaguely
recalling the Roman castles, adorned the walls. The things they ate were
fresh, and they drank the wine of Frascati, to which the soil imparts a
kind of burnt flavour as if the old volcanoes of the region had left some
little of their fire behind.

For a long while the conversation ranged over those wild and graceful
Alban hills, which, fortunately for the pleasure of the eye, overlook the
flat Roman Campagna. Pierre, who had made the customary carriage
excursion from Frascati to Nemi, still felt its charm and spoke of it in
glowing language. First came the lovely road from Frascati to Albano,
ascending and descending hillsides planted with reeds, vines, and
olive-trees, amongst which one obtained frequent glimpses of the
Campagna's wavy immensity. On the right-hand the village of Rocca di Papa
arose in amphitheatrical fashion, showing whitely on a knoll below Monte
Cavo, which was crowned by lofty and ancient trees. And from this point
of the road, on looking back towards Frascati, one saw high up, on the
verge of a pine wood the ruins of Tusculum, large ruddy ruins, baked by
centuries of sunshine, and whence the boundless panorama must have been
superb. Next one passed through Marino, with its sloping streets, its
large cathedral, and its black decaying palace belonging to the Colonnas.
Then, beyond a wood of ilex-trees, the lake of Albano was skirted with
scenery which has no parallel in the world. In front, beyond the clear
mirror of motionless water, were the ruins of Alba Longa; on the left
rose Monte Cavo with Rocca di Papa and Palazzuolo; whilst on the right
Castel Gandolfo overlooked the lake as from the summit of a cliff. Down
below in the extinct crater, as in the depths of a gigantic cup of
verdure, the lake slept heavy and lifeless: a sheet of molten metal,
which the sun on one side streaked with gold, whilst the other was black
with shade. And the road then ascended all the way to Castel Gandolfo,
which was perched on its rock, like a white bird betwixt the lake and the
sea. Ever refreshed by breezes, even in the most burning hours of summer,
the little place was once famous for its papal villa, where Pius IX loved
to spend hours of indolence, and whither Leo XIII has never come. And
next the road dipped down, and the ilex-trees appeared again, ilex-trees
famous for their size, a double row of monsters with twisted limbs, two
and three hundred years old. Then one at last reached Albano, a small
town less modernised and less cleansed than Frascati, a patch of the old
land which has retained some of its ancient wildness; and afterwards
there was Ariccia with the Palazzo Chigi, and hills covered with forests
and viaducts spanning ravines which overflowed with foliage; and there
was yet Genzano, and yet Nemi, growing still wilder and more remote, lost
in the midst of rocks and trees.

Ah! how ineffaceable was the recollection which Pierre had retained of
Nemi, Nemi on the shore of its lake, Nemi so delicious and fascinating
from afar, conjuring up all the ancient legends of fairy towns springing
from amidst the greenery of mysterious waters, but so repulsively filthy
when one at last reaches it, crumbling on all sides but yet dominated by
the Orsini tower, as by the evil genius of the middle ages, which there
seems to perpetuate the ferocious habits, the violent passions, the knife
thrusts of the past! Thence came that Santobono whose brother had killed,
and who himself, with his eyes of crime glittering like live embers,
seemed to be consumed by a murderous flame. And the lake, that lake round
like an extinguished moon fallen into the depths of a former crater, a
deeper and less open cup than that of the lake of Albano, a cup rimmed
with trees of wondrous vigour and density! Pines, elms, and willows
descend to the very margin, with a green mass of tangled branches which
weigh each other down. This formidable fecundity springs from the vapour
which constantly arises from the water under the parching action of the
sun, whose rays accumulate in this hollow till it becomes like a furnace.
There is a warm, heavy dampness, the paths of the adjacent gardens grow
green with moss, and in the morning dense mists often fill the large cup
with white vapour, as with the steaming milk of some sorceress of
malevolent craft. And Pierre well remembered how uncomfortable he had
felt before that lake where ancient atrocities, a mysterious religion
with abominable rites, seemed to slumber amidst the superb scenery. He
had seen it at the approach of evening, looking, in the shade of its
forest girdle, like a plate of dull metal, black and silver, motionless
by reason of its weight. And that water, clear and yet so deep, that
water deserted, without a bark upon its surface, that water august,
lifeless, and sepulchral, had left him a feeling of inexpressible
sadness, of mortal melancholy, the hopelessness of great solitary
passion, earth and water alike swollen by the mute spasms of germs,
troublous in their fecundity. Ah! those black and plunging banks, and
that black mournful lake prone at the bottom!*

  * Some literary interest attaches to M. Zola's account of Nemi,
    whose praises have been sung by a hundred poets. It will be
    observed that he makes no mention of Egeria. The religion
    distinguished by abominable practices to which he alludes,
    may perhaps be the worship of the Egyptian Diana, who had a
    famous temple near Nemi, which was excavated by Lord Savile
    some ten years ago, when all the smaller objects discovered
    were presented to the town of Nottingham. At this temple,
    according to some classical writers, the chief priest was
    required to murder his predecessor, and there were other
    abominable usages.--Trans.

Count Prada began to laugh when Pierre told him of these impressions.
"Yes, yes," said he, "it's true, Nemi isn't always gay. In dull weather I
have seen the lake looking like lead, and even the full sunshine scarcely
animates it. For my part, I know I should die of /ennui/ if I had to live
face to face with that bare water. But it is admired by poets and
romantic women, those who adore great tragedies of passion."

Then, as he and Pierre rose from the table to go and take coffee on the
terrace of the restaurant, the conversation changed: "Do you mean to
attend Prince Buongiovanni's reception this evening?" the Count inquired.
"It will be a curious sight, especially for a foreigner, and I advise you
not to miss it."

"Yes, I have an invitation," Pierre replied. "A friend of mine, Monsieur
Narcisse Habert, an /attache/ at our embassy, procured it for me, and I
am going with him."

That evening, indeed, there was to be a /fete/ at the Palazzo
Buongiovanni on the Corso, one of the few galas that take place in Rome
each winter. People said that this one would surpass all others in
magnificence, for it was to be given in honour of the betrothal of little
Princess Celia. The Prince, her father, after boxing her ears, it was
rumoured, and narrowly escaping an attack of apoplexy as the result of a
frightful fit of anger, had, all at once, yielded to her quiet, gentle
stubbornness, and consented to her marriage with Lieutenant Attilio, the
son of Minister Sacco. And all the drawing-rooms of Rome, those of the
white world quite as much as those of the black, were thoroughly upset by
the tidings.

Count Prada made merry over the affair. "Ah! you'll see a fine sight!" he
exclaimed. "Personally, I'm delighted with it all for the sake of my good
cousin Attilio, who is really a very nice and worthy fellow. And nothing
in the world would keep me from going to see my dear uncle Sacco make his
entry into the ancient /salons/ of the Buongiovanni. It will be something
extraordinary and superb. He has at last become Minister of Agriculture,
you know. My father, who always takes things so seriously, told me this
morning that the affair so worried him he hadn't closed his eyes all

The Count paused, but almost immediately added: "I say, it is half-past
two and you won't have a train before five o'clock. Do you know what you
ought to do? Why, drive back to Rome with me in my carriage."

"No, no," rejoined Pierre, "I'm deeply obliged to you but I'm to dine
with my friend Narcisse this evening, and I mustn't be late."

"But you won't be late--on the contrary! We shall start at three and
reach Rome before five o'clock. There can't be a more pleasant promenade
when the light falls; and, come, I promise you a splendid sunset."

He was so pressing that the young priest had to accept, quite subjugated
by so much amiability and good humour. They spent another half-hour very
pleasantly in chatting about Rome, Italy, and France. Then, for a moment,
they went up into Frascati where the Count wished to say a few words to a
contractor, and just as three o'clock was striking they started off,
seated side by side on the soft cushions and gently rocked by the motion
of the victoria as the two horses broke into a light trot. As Prada had
predicted, that return to Rome across the bare Campagna under the vast
limpid heavens at the close of such a mild autumn day proved most
delightful. First of all, however, the victoria had to descend the slopes
of Frascati between vineyards and olive-trees. The paved road snaked, and
was but little frequented; they merely saw a few peasants in old felt
hats, a white mule, and a cart drawn by a donkey, for it is only upon
Sundays that the /osterie/ or wine-shops are filled and that artisans in
easy circumstances come to eat a dish of kid at the surrounding
/bastides/. However, at one turn of the road they passed a monumental
fountain. Then a flock of sheep momentarily barred the way before
defiling past. And beyond the gentle undulations of the ruddy Campagna
Rome appeared amidst the violet vapours of evening, sinking by degrees as
the carriage itself descended to a lower and lower level. There came a
moment when the city was a mere thin grey streak, speckled whitely here
and there by a few sunlit house-fronts. And then it seemed to plunge
below the ground--to be submerged by the swell of the far-spreading

The victoria was now rolling over the plain, leaving the Alban hills
behind, whilst before it and on either hand came the expanse of meadows
and stubbles. And then it was that the Count, after leaning forward,
exclaimed: "Just look ahead, yonder, there's our man of this morning,
Santobono in person--what a strapping fellow he is, and how fast he
walks! My horses can scarcely overtake him."

Pierre in his turn leant forward and likewise perceived the priest of St.
Mary in the Fields, looking tall and knotty, fashioned as it were with a
bill-hook. Robed in a long black cassock, he showed like a vigorous
splotch of ink amidst the bright sunshine streaming around him; and he
was walking on at such a fast, stern, regular pace that he suggested
Destiny on the march. Something, which could not be well distinguished,
was hanging from his right arm.

When the carriage had at last overtaken him Prada told the coachman to
slacken speed, and then entered into conversation.

"Good-day, Abbe; you are well, I hope?" he asked.

"Very well, Signor Conte, I thank you."

"And where are you going so bravely?"

"Signor Conte, I am going to Rome."

"What! to Rome, at this late hour?"

"Oh! I shall be there nearly as soon as yourself. The distance doesn't
frighten me, and money's quickly earned by walking."

Scarcely turning his head to reply, stepping out beside the wheels,
Santobono did not miss a stride. And Prada, diverted by the meeting,
whispered to Pierre: "Wait a bit, he'll amuse us." Then he added aloud:
"Since you are going to Rome, Abbe, you had better get in here; there's
room for you."

Santobono required no pressing, but at once accepted the offer.
"Willingly; a thousand thanks," he said. "It's still better to save one's
shoe leather."

Then he got in and installed himself on the bracket-seat, declining with
abrupt humility the place which Pierre politely offered him beside the
Count. The young priest and the latter now saw that the object he was
carrying was a little basket of fresh figs, nicely arranged and covered
with leaves.

The horses set off again at a faster trot, and the carriage rolled on and
on over the superb, flat plain. "So you are going to Rome?" the Count
resumed in order to make Santobono talk.

"Yes," the other replied, "I am taking his Eminence Cardinal Boccanera
these few figs, the last of the season: a little present which I had
promised him." He had placed the basket on his knees and was holding it
between his big knotty hands as if it were something rare and fragile.

"Ah! some of the famous figs of your garden," said Prada. "It's quite
true, they are like honey. But why don't you rid yourself of them. You
surely don't mean to keep them on your knees all the way to Rome. Give
them to me, I'll put them in the hood."

However, Santobono became quite agitated, and vigorously declined the
offer. "No, no, a thousand thanks! They don't embarrass me in the least;
they are very well here; and in this way I shall be sure that no accident
will befall them."

His passion for the fruit he grew quite amused Prada, who nudged Pierre,
and then inquired: "Is the Cardinal fond of your figs?"

"Oh! his Eminence condescends to adore them. In former years, when he
spent the summer at the villa, he would never touch the figs from other
trees. And so, you see, knowing his tastes, it costs me very little to
gratify him."

Whilst making this reply Santobono had shot such a keen glance in the
direction of Pierre that the Count felt it necessary to introduce them to
one another. This he did saying: "As it happens, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment
is stopping at the Palazzo Boccanera; he has been there for three months
or so."

"Yes, I'm aware of it," Santobono quietly replied; "I found Monsieur
l'Abbe with his Eminence one day when I took some figs to the Palazzo.
Those were less ripe, but these are perfect." So speaking he gave the
little basket a complacent glance, and seemed to press it yet more
closely between his huge and hairy fingers.

Then came a spell of silence, whilst on either hand the Campagna spread
out as far as the eye could reach. All houses had long since disappeared;
there was not a wall, not a tree, nothing but the undulating expanse
whose sparse, short herbage was, with the approach of winter, beginning
to turn green once more. A tower, a half-fallen ruin which came into
sight on the left, rising in solitude into the limpid sky above the flat,
boundless line of the horizon, suddenly assumed extraordinary importance.
Then, on the right, the distant silhouettes of cattle and horses were
seen in a large enclosure with wooden rails. Urged on by the goad, oxen,
still yoked, were slowly coming back from ploughing; whilst a farmer,
cantering beside the ploughed land on a little sorrel nag, gave a final
look round for the night. Now and again the road became peopled. A
/biroccino/, an extremely light vehicle with two huge wheels and a small
seat perched upon the springs, whisked by like a gust of wind. From time
to time also the victoria passed a /carrotino/, one of the low carts in
which peasants, sheltered by a kind of bright-hued tent, bring the wine,
vegetables, and fruit of the castle-lands to Rome. The shrill tinkling of
horses' bells was heard afar off as the animals followed the well-known
road of their own accord, their peasant drivers usually being sound
asleep. Women with bare, black hair, scarlet neckerchiefs, and skirts
caught up, were seen going home in groups of three and four. And then the
road again emptied, and the solitude became more and more complete,
without a wayfarer or an animal appearing for miles and miles, whilst
yonder, at the far end of the lifeless sea, so grandiose and mournful in
its monotony, the sun continued to descend from the infinite vault of

"And the Pope, Abbe, is he dead?" Prada suddenly inquired.

Santobono did not even start. "I trust," he replied in all simplicity,
"that his Holiness still has many long years to live for the triumph of
the Church."

"So you had good news this morning when you called on your bishop,
Cardinal Sanguinetti?"

This time the priest was unable to restrain a slight start. Had he been
seen, then? In his haste he had failed to notice the two men following
the road behind him. However, he at once regained self-possession, and
replied: "Oh! one can never tell exactly whether news is good or bad. It
seems that his Holiness passed a somewhat painful night, but I devoutly
hope that the next will be a better one." Then he seemed to meditate for
a moment, and added: "Moreover, if God should have deemed it time to call
his Holiness to Himself, He would not leave His flock without a shepherd.
He would have already chosen and designated the Sovereign Pontiff of

This superb answer increased Prada's gaiety. "You are really
extraordinary, Abbe," he said. "So you think that popes are solely
created by the grace of the Divinity! The pope of to-morrow is chosen up
in heaven, eh, and simply waits? Well, I fancied that men had something
to do with the matter. But perhaps you already know which cardinal it is
that the divine favour has thus elected in advance?"

Then, like the unbeliever he was, he went on with his facile jests, which
left the priest unruffled. In fact, the latter also ended by laughing
when the Count, after alluding to the gambling passion which at each
fresh Conclave sets wellnigh the whole population of Rome betting for or
against this or that candidate, told him that he might easily make his
fortune if he were in the divine secret. Next the talk turned on the
three white cassocks of different sizes which are always kept in
readiness in a cupboard at the Vatican. Which of them would be required
on this occasion?--the short one, the long one, or the one of medium
size? Each time that the reigning pope falls somewhat seriously ill there
is in this wise an extraordinary outburst of emotion, a keen awakening of
all ambitions and intrigues, to such a point that not merely in the black
world, but throughout the city, people have no other subject of
curiosity, conversation, and occupation than that of discussing the
relative claims of the cardinals and predicting which of them will be

"Come, come," Prada resumed, "since you know the truth, I'm determined
that you shall tell me. Will it be Cardinal Moretta?"

Santobono, in spite of his evident desire to remain dignified and
disinterested, like a good, pious priest, was gradually growing
impassioned, yielding to the hidden fire which consumed him. And this
interrogatory finished him off; he could no longer restrain himself, but
replied: "Moretta! What an idea! Why, he is sold to all Europe!"

"Well, will it be Cardinal Bartolini?"

"Oh! you can't think that. Bartolini has used himself up in striving for
everything and getting nothing."

"Will it be Cardinal Dozio, then?"

"Dozio, Dozio! Why, if Dozio were to win one might altogether despair of
our Holy Church, for no man can have a baser mind than he!"

Prada raised his hands, as if he had exhausted the serious candidates. In
order to increase the priest's exasperation he maliciously refrained from
naming Cardinal Sanguinetti, who was certainly Santobono's nominee. All
at once, however, he pretended to make a good guess, and gaily exclaimed:
"Ah! I have it; I know your man--Cardinal Boccanera!"

The blow struck Santobono full in the heart, wounding him both in his
rancour and his patriotic faith. His terrible mouth was already opening,
and he was about to shout "No! no!" with all his strength, but he managed
to restrain the cry, compelled as he was to silence by the present on his
knees--that little basket of figs which he pressed so convulsively with
both hands; and the effort which he was obliged to make left him
quivering to such a point that he had to wait some time before he could
reply in a calm voice: "His most reverend Eminence Cardinal Boccanera is
a saintly man, well worthy of the throne, and my only fear is that, with
his hatred of new Italy, he might bring us warfare."

Prada, however, desired to enlarge the wound. "At all events," said he,
"you accept him and love him too much not to rejoice over his chances of
success. And I really think that we have arrived at the truth, for
everybody is convinced that the Conclave's choice cannot fall elsewhere.
Come, come; Boccanera is a very tall man, so it's the long white cassock
which will be required."

"The long cassock, the long cassock," growled Santobono, despite himself;
"that's all very well, but--"

Then he stopped short, and, again overcoming his passion, left his
sentence unfinished. Pierre, listening in silence, marvelled at the man's
self-restraint, for he remembered the conversation which he had overheard
at Cardinal Sanguinetti's. Those figs were evidently a mere pretext for
gaining admission to the Boccanera mansion, where some friend--Abbe
Paparelli, no doubt--could alone supply certain positive information
which was needed. But how great was the command which the hot-blooded
priest exercised over himself amidst the riotous impulses of his soul!

On either side of the road the Campagna still and ever spread its expanse
of verdure, and Prada, who had become grave and dreamy, gazed before him
without seeing anything. At last, however, he gave expression to his
thoughts. "You know, Abbe, what will be said if the Pope should die this
time. That sudden illness, those colics, those refusals to make any
information public, mean nothing good--Yes, yes, poison, just as for the

Pierre gave a start of stupefaction. The Pope poisoned! "What! Poison?
Again?" he exclaimed as he gazed at his companions with dilated eyes.
Poison at the end of the nineteenth century, as in the days of the
Borgias, as on the stage in a romanticist melodrama! To him the idea
appeared both monstrous and ridiculous.

Santobono, whose features had become motionless and impenetrable, made no
reply. But Prada nodded, and the conversation was henceforth confined to
him and the young priest. "Why, yes, poison," he replied. "The fear of it
has remained very great in Rome. Whenever a death seems inexplicable,
either by reason of its suddenness or the tragic circumstances which
attend it, the unanimous thought is poison. And remark this: in no city,
I believe, are sudden deaths so frequent. The causes I don't exactly
know, but some doctors put everything down to the fevers. Among the
people, however, the one thought is poison, poison with all its legends,
poison which kills like lightning and leaves no trace, the famous recipe
bequeathed from age to age, through the emperors and the popes, down to
these present times of middle-class democracy."

As he spoke he ended by smiling, for he was inclined to be somewhat
sceptical on the point, despite the covert terror with which he was
inspired by racial and educational causes. However, he quoted instances.
The Roman matrons had rid themselves of their husbands and lovers by
employing the venom of red toads. Locusta, in a more practical spirit,
sought poison in plants, one of which, probably aconite, she was wont to
boil. Then, long afterwards, came the age of the Borgias, and
subsequently, at Naples, La Toffana sold a famous water, doubtless some
preparation of arsenic, in phials decorated with a representation of St.
Nicholas of Bari. There were also extraordinary stories of pins, a prick
from which killed one like lightning, of cups of wine poisoned by the
infusion of rose petals, of woodcocks cut in half with prepared knives,
which poisoned but one-half of the bird, so that he who partook of that
half was killed. "I myself, in my younger days," continued Prada, "had a
friend whose bride fell dead in church during the marriage service
through simply inhaling a bouquet of flowers. And so isn't it possible
that the famous recipe may really have been handed down, and have
remained known to a few adepts?"

"But chemistry has made too much progress," Pierre replied. "If
mysterious poisons were believed in by the ancients and remained
undetected in their time it was because there were no means of analysis.
But the drug of the Borgias would now lead the simpleton who might employ
it straight to the Assizes. Such stories are mere nonsense, and at the
present day people scarcely tolerate them in newspaper serials and

"Perhaps so," resumed the Count with his uneasy smile. "You are right, no
doubt--only go and tell that to your host, for instance, Cardinal
Boccanera, who last summer held in his arms an old and deeply-loved
friend, Monsignor Gallo, who died after a seizure of a couple of hours."

"But apoplexy may kill one in two hours, and aneurism only takes two

"True, but ask the Cardinal what he thought of his friend's prolonged
shudders, the leaden hue which overcame his face, the sinking of his
eyes, and the expression of terror which made him quite unrecognisable.
The Cardinal is convinced that Monsignor Gallo was poisoned, because he
was his dearest confidant, the counsellor to whom he always listened, and
whose wise advice was a guarantee of success."

Pierre's bewilderment was increasing, and, irritated by the impassibility
of Santobono, he addressed him direct. "It's idiotic, it's awful! Does
your reverence also believe in these frightful stories?"

But the priest of Frascati gave no sign. His thick, passionate lips
remained closed while his black glowing eyes never ceased to gaze at
Prada. The latter, moreover, was quoting other instances. There was the
case of Monsignor Nazzarelli, who had been found in bed, shrunken and
calcined like carbon. And there was that of Monsignor Brando, struck down
in his sacerdotal vestments at St. Peter's itself, in the very sacristy,
during vespers!

"Ah! /Mon Dieu/!" sighed Pierre, "you will tell me so much that I myself
shall end by trembling, and sha'n't dare to eat anything but boiled eggs
as long as I stay in this terrible Rome of yours."

For a moment this whimsical reply enlivened both the Count and Pierre.
But it was quite true that their conversation showed Rome under a
terrible aspect, for it conjured up the Eternal City of Crime, the city
of poison and the knife, where for more than two thousand years, ever
since the raising of the first bit of wall, the lust of power, the
frantic hunger for possession and enjoyment, had armed men's hands,
ensanguined the pavements, and cast victims into the river and the
ground. Assassinations and poisonings under the emperors, poisonings and
assassinations under the popes, ever did the same torrent of abominations
strew that tragic soil with death amidst the sovereign glory of the sun.

"All the same," said the Count, "those who take precautions are perhaps
not ill advised. It is said that more than one cardinal shudders and
mistrusts people. One whom I know will never eat anything that has not
been bought and prepared by his own cook. And as for the Pope, if he is

Pierre again raised a cry of stupefaction. "What, the Pope himself! The
Pope afraid of being poisoned!"

"Well, my dear Abbe, people commonly assert it. There are certainly days
when he considers himself more menaced than anybody else. And are you not
aware of the old Roman view that a pope ought never to live till too
great an age, and that when he is so obstinate as not to die at the right
time he ought to be assisted? As soon as a pope begins to fall into
second childhood, and by reason of his senility becomes a source of
embarrassment, and possibly even danger, to the Church, his right place
is heaven. Moreover, matters are managed in a discreet manner; a slight
cold becomes a decent pretext to prevent him from tarrying any longer on
the throne of St. Peter."

Prada then gave some curious details. One prelate, it was said, wishing
to dispel his Holiness's fears, had devised an elaborate precautionary
system which, among other things, was to comprise a little padlocked
vehicle, in which the food destined for the frugal pontifical table was
to be securely placed before leaving the kitchen, so that it might not be
tampered with on its way to the Pope's apartments. However, this project
had not yet been carried into effect.

"After all," the Count concluded with a laugh, "every pope has to die
some day, especially when his death is needful for the welfare of the
Church. Isn't that so, Abbe?"

Santobono, whom he addressed, had a moment previously lowered his eyes as
if to contemplate the little basket of figs which he held on his lap with
as much care as if it had been the Blessed Sacrament. On being questioned
in such a direct, sharp fashion he could not do otherwise than look up.
However, he did not depart from his prolonged silence, but limited his
answer to a slow nod.

"And it is God alone, and not poison, who causes one to die. Is that not
so, Abbe?" repeated Prada. "It is said that those were the last words of
poor Monsignor Gallo before he expired in the arms of his friend Cardinal

For the second time Santobono nodded without speaking. And then silence
fell, all three sinking into a dreamy mood.

Meantime, without a pause, the carriage rolled on across the immensity of
the Campagna. The road, straight as an arrow, seemed to extend into the
infinite. As the sun descended towards the horizon the play of light and
shade became more marked on the broad undulations of the ground which
stretched away, alternately of a pinky green and a violet grey, till they
reached the distant fringe of the sky. At the roadside on either hand
there were still and ever tall withered thistles and giant fennel with
yellow umbels. Then, after a time, came a team of four oxen, that had
been kept ploughing until late, and stood forth black and huge in the
pale atmosphere and mournful solitude. Farther on some flocks of sheep,
whence the breeze wafted a tallowy odour, set patches of brown amidst the
herbage, which once more was becoming verdant; whilst at intervals a dog
was heard to bark, his voice the only distinct sound amidst the low
quivering of that silent desert where the sovereign peacefulness of death
seemed to reign. But all at once a light melody arose and some larks flew
up, one of them soaring into the limpid golden heavens. And ahead, at the
far extremity of the pure sky, Rome, with her towers and domes, grew
larger and larger, like a city of white marble springing from a mirage
amidst the greenery of some enchanted garden.

"Matteo!" Prada called to his coachman, "pull up at the Osteria Romana."
And to his companions he added: "Pray excuse me, but I want to see if I
can get some new-laid eggs for my father. He is so fond of them."

A few minutes afterwards the carriage stopped. At the very edge of the
road stood a primitive sort of inn, bearing the proud and sonorous name
of "Antica Osteria Romana." It had now become a mere house of call for
carters and chance sportsmen, who ventured to drink a flagon of white
wine whilst eating an omelet and a slice of ham. Occasionally, on
Sundays, some of the humble classes would walk over from Rome and make
merry there; but the week days often went by without a soul entering the
place, such was its isolation amidst the bare Campagna.

The Count was already springing from the carriage. "I shall only be a
minute," said he as he turned away.

The /osteria/ was a long, low pile with a ground floor and one upper
storey, the last being reached by an outdoor stairway built of large
blocks of stone which had been scorched by the hot suns. The entire
place, indeed, was corroded, tinged with the hue of old gold. On the
ground floor one found a common room, a cart-house, and a stable with
adjoining sheds. At one side, near a cluster of parasol pines--the only
trees that could grow in that ungrateful soil--there was an arbour of
reeds where five or six rough wooden tables were set out. And, as a
background to this sorry, mournful nook of life, there arose a fragment
of an ancient aqueduct whose arches, half fallen and opening on to space,
alone interrupted the flat line of the horizon.

All at once, however, the Count retraced his steps, and, addressing
Santobono, exclaimed: "I say, Abbe, you'll surely accept a glass of white
wine. I know that you are a bit of a vine grower, and they have a little
white wine here which you ought to make acquaintance with."

Santobono again required no pressing, but quietly alighted. "Oh! I know
it," said he; "it's a wine from Marino; it's grown in a lighter soil than
ours at Frascati."

Then, as he would not relax his hold on his basket of figs, but even now
carried it along with him, the Count lost patience. "Come, you don't want
that basket," said he; "leave it in the carriage."

The priest gave no reply, but walked ahead, whilst Pierre also made up
his mind to descend from the carriage in order to see what a suburban
/osteria/ was like. Prada was known at this place, and an old woman,
tall, withered, but looking quite queenly in her wretched garments, had
at once presented herself. On the last occasion when the Count had called
she had managed to find half a dozen eggs. This time she said she would
go to see, but could promise nothing, for the hens laid here and there
all over the place, and she could never tell what eggs there might be.

"All right!" Prada answered, "go and look; and meantime we will have a
/caraffa/ of white wine."

The three men entered the common room, which was already quite dark.
Although the hot weather was now over, one heard the buzzing of
innumerable flies immediately one reached the threshold, and a pungent
odour of acidulous wine and rancid oil caught one at the throat. As soon
as their eyes became accustomed to the dimness they were able to
distinguish the spacious, blackened, malodorous chamber, whose only
furniture consisted of some roughly made tables and benches. It seemed to
be quite empty, so complete was the silence, apart from the buzz of the
flies. However, two men were seated there, two wayfarers who remained
mute and motionless before their untouched, brimming glasses. Moreover,
on a low chair near the door, in the little light which penetrated from
without, a thin, sallow girl, the daughter of the house, sat idle,
trembling with fever, her hands close pressed between her knees.

Realising that Pierre felt uncomfortable there, the Count proposed that
they should drink their wine outside. "We shall be better out of doors,"
said he, "it's so very in mild this evening."

Accordingly, whilst the mother looked for the eggs, and the father mended
a wheel in an adjacent shed, the daughter was obliged to get up shivering
to carry the flagon of wine and the three glasses to the arbour, where
she placed them on one of the tables. And, having pocketed the price of
the wine--threepence--in silence, she went back to her seat with a sullen
look, as if annoyed at having been compelled to make such a long journey.
Meanwhile the three men had sat down, and Prada gaily filled each of the
glasses, although Pierre declared that he was quite unable to drink wine
between his meals. "Pooh, pooh," said the Count, "you can always clink
glasses with us. And now, Abbe, isn't this little wine droll? Come,
here's to the Pope's better health, since he's unwell!"

Santobono at one gulp emptied his glass and clacked his tongue. With
gentle, paternal care he had deposited his basket on the ground beside
him: and, taking off his hat, he drew a long breath. The evening was
really delightful. A superb sky of a soft golden hue stretched over that
endless sea of the Campagna which was soon to fall asleep with sovereign
quiescence. And the light breeze which went by amidst the deep silence
brought with it an exquisite odour of wild herbs and flowers.

"How pleasant it is!" muttered Pierre, affected by the surrounding charm.
"And what a desert for eternal rest, forgetfulness of all the world!"

Prada, who had emptied the flagon by filling Santobono's glass a second
time, made no reply; he was silently amusing himself with an occurrence
which at first he was the only one to observe. However, with a merry
expression of complicity, he gave the young priest a wink, and then they
both watched the dramatic incidents of the affair. Some scraggy fowls
were wandering round them searching the yellow turf for grasshoppers; and
one of these birds, a little shiny black hen with an impudent manner, had
caught sight of the basket of figs and was boldly approaching it. When
she got near, however, she took fright, and retreated somewhat, with neck
stiffened and head turned, so as to cast suspicious glances at the basket
with her round sparkling eye. But at last covetousness gained the
victory, for she could see one of the figs between the leaves, and so she
slowly advanced, lifting her feet very high at each step; and, all at
once, stretching out her neck, she gave the fig a formidable peck, which
ripped it open and made the juice exude.

Prada, who felt as happy as a child, was then able to give vent to the
laughter which he had scarcely been able to restrain: "Look out, Abbe,"
he called, "mind your figs!"

At that very moment Santobono was finishing his second glass of wine with
his head thrown back and his eyes blissfully raised to heaven. He gave a
start, looked round, and on seeing the hen at once understood the
position. And then came a terrible outburst of anger, with sweeping
gestures and terrible invectives. But the hen, who was again pecking,
would not be denied; she dug her beak into the fig and carried it off,
flapping her wings, so quick and so comical that Prada, and Pierre as
well, laughed till tears came into their eyes, their merriment increasing
at sight of the impotent fury of Santobono, who, for a moment, pursued
the thief, threatening her with his fist.

"Ah!" said the Count, "that's what comes of not leaving the basket in the
carriage. If I hadn't warned you the hen would have eaten all the figs."

The priest did not reply, but, growling out vague imprecations, placed
the basket on the table, where he raised the leaves and artistically
rearranged the fruit so as to fill up the void. Then, the harm having
been repaired as far as was possible, he at last calmed down.

It was now time for them to resume their journey, for the sun was sinking
towards the horizon, and night would soon fall. Thus the Count ended by
getting impatient. "Well, and those eggs?" he called.

Then, as the woman did not return, he went to seek her. He entered the
stable, and afterwards the cart-house, but she was neither here nor
there. Next he went towards the rear of the /osteria/ in order to look in
the sheds. But all at once an unexpected spectacle made him stop short.
The little black hen was lying on the ground, dead, killed as by
lightning. She showed no sign of hurt; there was nothing but a little
streamlet of violet blood still trickling from her beak. Prada was at
first merely astonished. He stooped and touched the hen. She was still
warm and soft like a rag. Doubtless some apoplectic stroke had killed
her. But immediately afterwards he became fearfully pale; the truth
appeared to him, and turned him as cold as ice. In a moment he conjured
up everything: Leo XIII attacked by illness, Santobono hurrying to
Cardinal Sanguinetti for tidings, and then starting for Rome to present a
basket of figs to Cardinal Boccanera. And Prada also remembered the
conversation in the carriage: the possibility of the Pope's demise, the
candidates for the tiara, the legendary stories of poison which still
fostered terror in and around the Vatican; and he once more saw the
priest, with his little basket on his knees, lavishing paternal attention
on it, and he saw the little black hen pecking at the fruit and fleeing
with a fig on her beak. And now that little black hen lay there, suddenly
struck down, dead!

His conviction was immediate and absolute. But he did not have time to
decide what course he should take, for a voice behind him exclaimed:
"Why, it's the little hen; what's the matter with her?"

The voice was that of Pierre, who, letting Santobono climb into the
carriage alone, had in his turn come round to the rear of the house in
order to obtain a better view of the ruined aqueduct among the parasol

Prada, who shuddered as if he himself were the culprit, answered him with
a lie, a lie which he did not premeditate, but to which he was impelled
by a sort of instinct. "But she's dead," he said. . . . "Just fancy,
there was a fight. At the moment when I got here that other hen, which
you see yonder, sprang upon this one to get the fig, which she was still
holding, and with a thrust of the beak split her head open. . . . The
blood's flowing, as you can see yourself."

Why did he say these things? He himself was astonished at them whilst he
went on inventing them. Was it then that he wished to remain master of
the situation, keep the abominable secret entirely to himself, in order
that he might afterwards act in accordance with his own desires?
Certainly his feelings partook of shame and embarrassment in presence of
that foreigner, whilst his personal inclination for violence set some
admiration amidst the revolt of his conscience, and a covert desire arose
within him to examine the matter from the standpoint of his interests
before he came to a decision. But, on the other hand, he claimed to be a
man of integrity, and would assuredly not allow people to be poisoned.

Pierre, who was compassionately inclined towards all creation, looked at
the hen with the emotion which he always felt at the sudden severance of
life. However, he at once accepted Prada's story. "Ah! those fowls!" said
he. "They treat one another with an idiotic ferocity which even men can
scarcely equal. I kept fowls at home at one time, and one of the hens no
sooner hurt her leg than all the others, on seeing the blood oozing,
would flock round and peck at the limb till they stripped it to the

Prada, however, did not listen, but at once went off; and it so happened
that the woman was, on her side, looking for him in order to hand him
four eggs which, after a deal of searching, she had discovered in odd
corners about the house. The Count made haste to pay for them, and called
to Pierre, who was lingering behind: "We must look sharp! We sha'n't
reach Rome now until it is quite dark."

They found Santobono quietly waiting in the carriage, where he had again
installed himself on the bracket with his spine resting against the
box-seat and his long legs drawn back under him, and he again had the
little basket of figs on his knees, and clasped it with his big knotty
hands as though it were something fragile and rare which the slightest
jolting might damage. His cassock showed like a huge blot, and in his
coarse ashen face, that of a peasant yet near to the wild soil and but
slightly polished by a few years of theological studies, his eyes alone
seemed to live, glowing with the dark flame of a devouring passion. On
seeing him seated there in such composure Prada could not restrain a
slight shudder. Then, as soon as the victoria was again rolling along the
road, he exclaimed: "Well, Abbe, that glass of wine will guarantee us
against the malaria. The Pope would soon be cured if he could imitate our

Santobono's only reply was a growl. He was in no mood for conversation,
but wrapped himself in perfect silence, as in the night which was slowly
falling. And Prada in his turn ceased to speak, and, with his eyes still
fixed upon the other, reflected on the course that he should follow.

The road turned, and then the carriage rolled on and on over another
interminable straight highway with white paving, whose brilliancy made
the road look like a ribbon of snow stretching across the Campagna, where
delicate shadows were slowly falling. Gloom gathered in the hollows of
the broad undulations whence a tide of violet hue seemed to spread over
the short herbage until all mingled and the expanse became an indistinct
swell of neutral hue from one to the other horizon. And the solitude was
now yet more complete; a last indolent cart had gone by and a last
tinkling of horses' bells had subsided in the distance. There was no
longer a passer-by, no longer a beast of the fields to be seen, colour
and sound died away, all forms of life sank into slumber, into the serene
stillness of nihility. Some fragments of an aqueduct were still to be
seen at intervals on the right hand, where they looked like portions of
gigantic millepeds severed by the scythe of time; next, on the left, came
another tower, whose dark and ruined pile barred the sky as with a huge
black stake; and then the remains of another aqueduct spanned the road,
assuming yet greater dimensions against the sunset glow. Ah! that unique
hour, the hour of twilight in the Campagna, when all is blotted out and
simplified, the hour of bare immensity, of the infinite in its simplest
expression! There is nothing, nothing all around you, but the flat line
of the horizon with the one splotch of an isolated tower, and yet that
nothing is instinct with sovereign majesty.

However, on the left, towards the sea, the sun was setting, descending in
the limpid sky like a globe of fire of blinding redness. It slowly
plunged beneath the horizon, and the only sign of cloud was some fiery
vapour, as if indeed the distant sea had seethed at contact with that
royal and flaming visit. And directly the sun had disappeared the heavens
above it purpled and became a lake of blood, whilst the Campagna turned
to grey. At the far end of the fading plain there remained only that
purple lake whose brasier slowly died out behind the black arches of the
aqueduct, while in the opposite direction the scattered arches remained
bright and rosy against a pewter-like sky. Then the fiery vapour was
dissipated, and the sunset ended by fading away. One by one the stars
came out in the pacified vault, now of an ashen blue, while the lights of
Rome, still far away on the verge of the horizon, scintillated like the
lamps of light-houses.

And Prada, amidst the dreamy silence of his companions and the infinite
melancholy of the evening and the inexpressible distress which even he
experienced, continued to ask himself what course he should adopt. Again
and again he mentally repeated that he could not allow people to be
poisoned. The figs were certainly intended for Cardinal Boccanera, and on
the whole it mattered little to him whether there were a cardinal the
more or the fewer in the world. Moreover, it had always seemed to him
best to let Destiny follow its course; and, infidel that he was, he saw
no harm in one priest devouring another. Again, it might be dangerous for
him to intervene in that abominable affair, to mix himself up in the
base, fathomless intrigues of the black world. But on the other hand the
Cardinal was not the only person who lived in the Boccanera mansion, and
might not the figs go to others, might they not be eaten by people to
whom no harm was intended? This idea of a treacherous chance haunted him,
and in spite of every effort the figures of Benedetta and Dario rose up
before him, returned and imposed themselves on him though he again and
again sought to banish them from his mind. What if Benedetta, what if
Dario should partake of that fruit? For Benedetta he felt no fear, for he
knew that she and her aunt ate their meals by themselves, and that their
cuisine and the Cardinal's had nothing in common. But Dario sat at his
uncle's table every day, and for a moment Prada, pictured the young
Prince suddenly seized with a spasm, then falling, like poor Monsignor
Gallo, into the Cardinal's arms with livid face and receding eyes, and
dying within two hours.

But no, no! That would be frightful, he could not suffer such an
abomination. And thereupon he made up his mind. He would wait till the
night had completely gathered round and would then simply take the basket
from Santobono's lap and fling it into some dark hollow without saying a
word. The priest would understand him. The other one, the young
Frenchman, would perhaps not even notice the incident. Besides, that
mattered little, for he would not even attempt to explain his action. And
he felt quite calm again when the idea occurred to him to throw the
basket away while the carriage passed through the Porta Furba, a couple
of miles or so before reaching Rome. That would suit him exactly; in the
darkness of the gateway nothing whatever would be seen.

"We stopped too long at that /osteria/," he suddenly exclaimed aloud,
turning towards Pierre. "We sha'n't reach Rome much before six o'clock.
Still you will have time to dress and join your friend." And then without
awaiting the young man's reply he said to Santobono: "Your figs will
arrive very late, Abbe."

"Oh!" answered the priest, "his Eminence receives until eight o'clock.
And, besides, the figs are not for this evening. People don't eat figs in
the evening. They will be for to-morrow morning." And thereupon he again
relapsed into silence.

"For to-morrow morning--yes, yes, no doubt," repeated Prada. "And the
Cardinal will be able to thoroughly regale himself if nobody helps him to
eat the fruit."

Thereupon Pierre, without pausing to reflect, exclaimed: "He will no
doubt eat it by himself, for his nephew, Prince Dario, must have started
to-day for Naples on a little convalescence trip to rid himself of the
effects of the accident which laid him up during the last month." Then,
having got so far, the young priest remembered to whom he was speaking,
and abruptly stopped short.

The Count noticed his embarrassment. "Oh! speak on, my dear Monsieur
Froment," said he, "you don't offend me. It's an old affair now. So that
young man has left, you say?"

"Yes, unless he has postponed his departure. However, I don't expect to
find him at the palazzo when I get there."

For a moment the only sound was that of the continuous rumble of the
wheels. Prada again felt worried, a prey to the discomfort of
uncertainty. Why should he mix himself up in the affair if Dario were
really absent? All the ideas which came to him tired his brain, and he
ended by thinking aloud: "If he has gone away it must be for propriety's
sake, so as to avoid attending the Buongiovanni reception, for the
Congregation of the Council met this morning to give its decision in the
suit which the Countess has brought against me. Yes, I shall know by and
by whether our marriage is to be dissolved."

It was in a somewhat hoarse voice that he spoke these words, and one
could realise that the old wound was again bleeding within him. Although
Lisbeth had borne him a son, the charge levelled against him in his
wife's petition for divorce still filled him with blind fury each time
that he thought of it. And all at once he shuddered violently, as if an
icy blast had darted through his frame. Then, turning the conversation,
he added: "It's not at all warm this evening. This is the dangerous hour
of the Roman climate, the twilight hour when it's easy to catch a
terrible fever if one isn't prudent. Here, pull the rug over your legs,
wrap it round you as carefully as you can."

Then, as they drew near the Porta Furba, silence again fell, more
profound, like the slumber which was invincibly spreading over the
Campagna, now steeped in night. And at last, in the bright starlight,
appeared the gate, an arch of the Acqua Felice, under which the road
passed. From a distance, this fragment seemed to bar the way with its
mass of ancient half-fallen walls. But afterwards the gigantic arch where
all was black opened like a gaping porch. And the carriage passed under
it in darkness whilst the wheels rumbled with increased sonority.

When the victoria emerged on the other side, Santobono still had the
little basket of figs upon his knees and Prada looked at it, quite
overcome, asking himself what sudden paralysis of the hands had prevented
him from seizing it and throwing it into the darkness. Such had still
been his intention but a few seconds before they passed under the arch.
He had even given the basket a final glance in order that he might the
better realise what movements he should make. What had taken place within
him then? At present he was yielding to increasing irresolution,
henceforth incapable of decisive action, feeling a need of delay in order
that he might, before everything else, fully satisfy himself as to what
was likely to happen. And as Dario had doubtless gone away and the figs
would certainly not be eaten until the following morning, what reason was
there for him to hurry? He would know that evening if the Congregation of
the Council had annulled his marriage, he would know how far the
so-called "Justice of God" was venal and mendacious! Certainly he would
suffer nobody to be poisoned, not even Cardinal Boccanera, though the
latter's life was of little account to him personally. But had not that
little basket, ever since leaving Frascati, been like Destiny on the
march? And was it not enjoyment, the enjoyment of omnipotence, to be able
to say to himself that he was the master who could stay that basket's
course, or allow it to go onward and accomplish its deadly purpose?
Moreover, he yielded to the dimmest of mental struggles, ceasing to
reason, unable to raise his hand, and yet convinced that he would drop a
warning note into the letter-box at the palazzo before he went to bed,
though at the same time he felt happy in the thought that if his interest
directed otherwise he would not do so.

And the remainder of the journey was accomplished in silent weariness,
amidst the shiver of evening which seemed to have chilled all three men.
In vain did the Count endeavour to escape from the battle of his
thoughts, by reverting to the Buongiovanni reception, and giving
particulars of the splendours which would be witnessed at it: his words
fell sparsely in an embarrassed and absent-minded way. Then he sought to
inspirit Pierre by speaking to him of Cardinal Sanguinetti's amiable
manner and fair words, but although the young priest was returning home
well pleased with his journey, in the idea that with a little help he
might yet triumph, he scarcely answered the Count, so wrapt he was in his
reverie. And Santobono, on his side, neither spoke nor moved. Black like
the night itself, he seemed to have vanished. However, the lights of Rome
were increasing in number, and houses again appeared on either hand, at
first at long intervals, and then in close succession. They were suburban
houses, and there were yet more fields of reeds, quickset hedges,
olive-trees overtopping long walls, and big gateways with vase-surmounted
pillars; but at last came the city with its rows of small grey houses,
its petty shops and its dingy taverns, whence at times came shouts and
rumours of battle.

Prada insisted on setting his companions down in the Via Giulia, at fifty
paces from the palazzo. "It doesn't inconvenience me at all," said he to
Pierre. "Besides, with the little time you have before you, it would
never do for you to go on foot."

The Via Giulia was already steeped in slumber, and wore a melancholy
aspect of abandonment in the dreary light of the gas lamps standing on
either hand. And as soon as Santobono had alighted from the carriage, he
took himself off without waiting for Pierre, who, moreover, always went
in by the little door in the side lane.

"Good-bye, Abbe," exclaimed Prada.

"Good-bye, Count, a thousand thanks," was Santobono's response.

Then the two others stood watching him as he went towards the Boccanera
mansion, whose old, monumental entrance, full of gloom, was still wide
open. For a moment they saw his tall, rugged figure erect against that
gloom. Then in he plunged, he and his little basket, bearing Destiny.


IT was ten o'clock when Pierre and Narcisse, after dining at the Caffe di
Roma, where they had long lingered chatting, at last walked down the
Corso towards the Palazzo Buongiovanni. They had the greatest difficulty
to reach its entrance, for carriages were coming up in serried files, and
the inquisitive crowd of on-lookers, who pressed even into the roadway,
in spite of the injunctions of the police, was growing so compact that
even the horses could no longer approach. The ten lofty windows on the
first floor of the long monumental facade shone with an intense white
radiance, the radiance of electric lamps, which illumined the street like
sunshine, spreading over the equipages aground in that human sea, whose
billows of eager, excited faces rolled to and fro amidst an extraordinary

And in all this there was not merely the usual curiosity to see uniforms
go by and ladies in rich attire alight from their carriages, for Pierre
soon gathered from what he heard that the crowd had come to witness the
arrival of the King and Queen, who had promised to appear at the ball
given by Prince Buongiovanni, in celebration of the betrothal of his
daughter Celia to Lieutenant Attilio Sacco, the son of one of his
Majesty's ministers. Moreover, people were enraptured with this marriage,
the happy ending of a love story which had impassioned the whole city: to
begin with, love at first sight, with the suddenness of a
lightning-flash, and then stubborn fidelity triumphing over all
obstacles, amidst romantic circumstances whose story sped from lip to
lip, moistening every eye and stirring every heart.

It was this story that Narcisse had related at dessert to Pierre, who
already knew some portion of it. People asserted that if the Prince had
ended by yielding after a final terrible scene, it was only from fear of
seeing Celia elope from the palace with her lover. She did not threaten
to do so, but, amidst her virginal calmness, there was so much contempt
for everything foreign to her love, that her father felt her to be
capable of acting with the greatest folly in all ingenuousness. Only
indifference was manifested by the Prince's wife, a phlegmatic and still
beautiful Englishwoman, who considered that she had done quite enough for
the household by bringing her husband a dowry of five millions, and
bearing him five children. The Prince, anxious and weak despite his
violence, in which one found a trace of the old Roman blood, already
spoilt by mixture with that of a foreign race, was nowadays ever
influenced in his actions by the fear that his house and fortune--which
hitherto had remained intact amidst the accumulated ruins of the
/patriziato/--might suddenly collapse. And in finally yielding to Celia,
he must have been guided by the idea of rallying to the new /regime/
through his daughter, so as to have one foot firmly set at the Quirinal,
without withdrawing the other from the Vatican. It was galling, no doubt;
his pride must have bled at the idea of allying his name with that of
such low folks as the Saccos. But then Sacco was a minister, and had sped
so quickly from success to success that it seemed likely he would rise
yet higher, and, after the portfolio of Agriculture, secure that of
Finances, which he had long coveted. And an alliance with Sacco meant the
certain favour of the King, an assured retreat in that direction should
the papacy some day collapse. Then, too, the Prince had made inquiries
respecting the son, and was somewhat disarmed by the good looks, bravery,
and rectitude of young Attilio, who represented the future, and possibly
the glorious Italy of to-morrow. He was a soldier, and could be helped
forward to the highest rank. And people spitefully added that the last
reason which had influenced the Prince, who was very avaricious, and
greatly worried by the thought that his fortune must be divided among his
five children,* was that an opportunity presented itself for him to
bestow a ridiculously small dowry on Celia. However, having consented to
the marriage, he resolved to give a splendid /fete/, such as was now
seldom witnessed in Rome, throwing his doors open to all the rival
sections of society, inviting the sovereigns, and setting the palazzo
ablaze as in the grand days of old. In doing this he would necessarily
have to expend some of the money to which he clung, but a boastful spirit
incited him to show the world that he at any rate had not been vanquished
by the financial crisis, and that the Buongiovannis had nothing to hide
and nothing to blush for. To tell the truth, some people asserted that
this bravado had not originated with himself, but had been instilled into
him without his knowledge by the quiet and innocent Celia, who wished to
exhibit her happiness to all applauding Rome.

  * The Italian succession law is similar to the French. Children
    cannot be disinherited. All property is divided among them,
    and thus the piling up of large hereditary fortunes is

"Dear me!" said Narcisse, whom the throng prevented from advancing. "We
shall never get in. Why, they seem to have invited the whole city." And
then, as Pierre seemed surprised to see a prelate drive up in his
carriage, the /attache/ added: "Oh! you will elbow more than one of them
upstairs. The cardinals won't like to come on account of the presence of
the King and Queen, but the prelates are sure to be here. This, you know,
is a neutral drawing-room where the black and the white worlds can
fraternise. And then too, there are so few /fetes/ that people rush on

He went on to explain that there were two grand balls at Court every
winter, but that it was only under exceptional circumstances that the
/patriziato/ gave similar /galas/. Two or three of the black /salons/
were opened once in a way towards the close of the Carnival, but little
dances among intimates replaced the pompous entertainments of former
times. Some princesses moreover merely had their day. And as for the few
white /salons/ that existed, these likewise retained the same character
of intimacy, more or less mixed, for no lady had yet become the
undisputed queen of the new society.

"Well, here we are at last," resumed Narcisse as they eventually climbed
the stairs.

"Let us keep together," Pierre somewhat anxiously replied. "My only
acquaintance is with the /fiancee/, and I want you to introduce me."

However, a considerable effort was needed even to climb the monumental
staircase, so great was the crush of arriving guests. Never, in the old
days of wax candles and oil lamps, had this staircase offered such a
blaze of light. Electric lamps, burning in clusters in superb bronze
candelabra on the landings, steeped everything in a white radiance. The
cold stucco of the walls was hidden by a series of lofty tapestries
depicting the story of Cupid and Psyche, marvels which had remained in
the family since the days of the Renascence. And a thick carpet covered
the worn marble steps, whilst clumps of evergreens and tall spreading
palms decorated every corner. An affluence of new blood warmed the
antique mansion that evening; there was a resurrection of life, so to
say, as the women surged up the staircase, smiling and perfumed,
bare-shouldered, and sparkling with diamonds.

At the entrance of the first reception-room Pierre at once perceived
Prince and Princess Buongiovanni, standing side by side and receiving
their guests. The Prince, a tall, slim man with fair complexion and hair
turning grey, had the pale northern eyes of his American mother in an
energetic face such as became a former captain of the popes. The
Princess, with small, delicate, and rounded features, looked barely
thirty, though she had really passed her fortieth year. And still pretty,
displaying a smiling serenity which nothing could disconcert, she purely
and simply basked in self-adoration. Her gown was of pink satin, and a
marvellous parure of large rubies set flamelets about her dainty neck and
in her fine, fair hair. Of her five children, her son, the eldest, was
travelling, and three of the girls, mere children, were still at school,
so that only Celia was present, Celia in a modest gown of white muslin,
fair like her mother, quite bewitching with her large innocent eyes and
her candid lips, and retaining to the very end of her love story the
semblance of a closed lily of impenetrable, virginal mysteriousness. The
Saccos had but just arrived, and Attilio, in his simple lieutenant's
uniform, had remained near his betrothed, so naively and openly delighted
with his great happiness that his handsome face, with its caressing mouth
and brave eyes, was quite resplendent with youth and strength. Standing
there, near one another, in the triumph of their passion they appeared
like life's very joy and health, like the personification of hope in the
morrow's promises; and the entering guests who saw them could not refrain
from smiling and feeling moved, momentarily forgetting their loquacious
and malicious curiosity to give their hearts to those chosen ones of love
who looked so handsome and so enraptured.

Narcisse stepped forward in order to present Pierre, but Celia
anticipated him. Going to meet the young priest she led him to her father
and mother, saying: "Monsieur l'Abbe Pierre Froment, a friend of my dear
Benedetta." Ceremonious salutations followed. Then the young girl, whose
graciousness greatly touched Pierre, said to him: "Benedetta is coming
with her aunt and Dario. She must be very happy this evening! And you
will also see how beautiful she will be."

Pierre and Narcisse next began to congratulate her, but they could not
remain there, the throng was ever jostling them; and the Prince and
Princess, quite lost in the crush, had barely time to answer the many
salutations with amiable, continuous nods. And Celia, after conducting
the two friends to Attilio, was obliged to return to her parents so as to
take her place beside them as the little queen of the /fete/.

Narcisse was already slightly acquainted with Attilio, and so fresh
congratulations ensued. Then the two friends manoeuvred to find a spot
where they might momentarily tarry and contemplate the spectacle which
this first /salon/ presented. It was a vast hall, hung with green velvet
broidered with golden flowers, and contained a very remarkable collection
of weapons and armour, breast-plates, battle-axes, and swords, almost all
of which had belonged to the Buongiovannis of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. And amidst those stern implements of war there was a lovely
sedan-chair of the last century, gilded and decorated with delicate
paintings. It was in this chair that the Prince's great-grandmother, the
celebrated Bettina, whose beauty was historical, had usually been carried
to mass. On the walls, moreover, there were numerous historical
paintings: battles, peace congresses, and royal receptions in which the
Buongiovannis had taken part, without counting the many family portraits,
tall and proud figures of sea-captains, commanders in the field, great
dignitaries of the Church, prelates and cardinals, amongst whom, in the
place of honour, appeared the family pope, the white-robed Buongiovanni
whose accession to the pontifical throne had enriched a long line of
descendants. And it was among those armours, near that coquettish sedan,
and below those antique portraits, that the Saccos, husband and wife, had
in their turn just halted, at a few steps from the master and mistress of
the house, in order to secure their share of congratulations and bows.

"Look over there!" Narcisse whispered to Pierre, "those are the Saccos in
front of us, that dark little fellow and the lady in mauve silk."

Pierre promptly recognised the bright face and pleasant smile of Stefana,
whom he had already met at old Orlando's. But he was more interested in
her husband, a dark dry man, with big eyes, sallow complexion, prominent
chin, and vulturine nose. Like some gay Neapolitan "Pulcinello," he was
dancing, shouting, and displaying such infectious good humour that it
spread to all around him. He possessed a wonderful gift of speech, with a
voice that was unrivalled as an instrument of fascination and conquest;
and on seeing how easily he ingratiated himself with the people in that
drawing-room, one could understand his lightning-like successes in the
political world. He had manoeuvered with rare skill in the matter of his
son's marriage, affecting such exaggerated delicacy of feeling as to set
himself against the lovers, and declare that he would never consent to
their union, as he had no desire to be accused of stealing a dowry and a
title. As a matter of fact, he had only yielded after the Buongiovannis
had given their consent, and even then he had desired to take the opinion
of old Orlando, whose lofty integrity was proverbial. However, he knew
right well that he would secure the old hero's approval in this
particular affair, for Orlando made no secret of his opinion that the
Buongiovannis ought to be glad to admit his grand-nephew into their
family, as that handsome young fellow, with brave and healthy heart,
would help to regenerate their impoverished blood. And throughout the
whole affair, Sacco had shrewdly availed himself of Orlando's famous
name, for ever talking of the relationship between them, and displaying
filial veneration for this glorious founder of the country, as if indeed
he had no suspicion that the latter despised and execrated him and
mourned his accession to power in the conviction that he would lead Italy
to shame and ruin.

"Ah!" resumed Narcisse addressing Pierre, "he's one of those supple,
practical men who care nothing for a smack in the face. It seems that
unscrupulous individuals like himself become necessary when states get
into trouble and have to pass through political, financial, and moral
crises. It is said that Sacco with his imperturbable assurance and
ingenious and resourceful mind has quite won the King's favour. Just look
at him! Why, with that crowd of courtiers round him, one might think him
the master of this palace!"

And indeed the guests, after passing the Prince and Princess with a bow,
at once congregated around Sacco, for he represented power, emoluments,
pensions, and crosses; and if folks still smiled at seeing his dark,
turbulent, and scraggy figure amidst that framework of family portraits
which proclaimed the mighty ancestry of the Buongiovannis, they none the
less worshipped him as the personification of the new power, the
democratic force which was confusedly rising even from the old Roman soil
where the /patriziato/ lay in ruins.

"What a crowd!" muttered Pierre. "Who are all these people?"

"Oh!" replied Narcisse, "it is a regular mixture. These people belong
neither to the black nor the white world; they form a grey world as it
were. The evolution was certain; a man like Cardinal Boccanera may retain
an uncompromising attitude, but a whole city, a nation can't. The Pope
alone will always say no and remain immutable. But everything around him
progresses and undergoes transformation, so that in spite of all
resistance, Rome will become Italian in a few years' time. Even now,
whenever a prince has two sons only one of them remains on the side of
the Vatican, the other goes over to the Quirinal. People must live, you
see; and the great families threatened with annihilation have not
sufficient heroism to carry obstinacy to the point of suicide. And I have
already told you that we are here on neutral ground, for Prince
Buongiovanni was one of the first to realise the necessity of
conciliation. He feels that his fortune is perishing, he does not care to
risk it either in industry or in speculation, and already sees it
portioned out among his five children, by whose descendants it will be
yet further divided; and this is why he prudently makes advances to the
King without, however, breaking with the Pope. In this /salon/,
therefore, you see a perfect picture of the /debacle/, the confusion
which reigns in the Prince's ideas and opinions." Narcisse paused, and
then began to name some of the persons who were coming in. "There's a
general," said he, "who has become very popular since his last campaign
in Africa. There will be a great many military men here this evening, for
all Attilio's superiors have been invited, so as to give the young man an
/entourage/ of glory. Ah! and there's the German ambassador. I fancy that
nearly all the Corps Diplomatique will come on account of their
Majesties' presence. But, by way of contrast, just look at that stout
fellow yonder. He's a very influential deputy, a /parvenu/ of the new
middle class. Thirty years ago he was merely one of Prince Albertini's
farmers, one of those /mercanti di campagna/ who go about the environs of
Rome in stout boots and a soft felt hat. And now look at that prelate
coming in--"

"Oh! I know him," Pierre interrupted. "He's Monsignor Fornaro."

"Exactly, Monsignor Fornaro, a personage of some importance. You told me,
I remember, that he is the reporter of the Congregation in that affair of
your book. A most delightful man! Did you see how he bowed to the
Princess? And what a noble and graceful bearing he has in his little
mantle of violet silk!"

Then Narcisse went on enumerating the princes and princesses, the dukes
and duchesses, the politicians and functionaries, the diplomatists and
ministers, and the officers and well-to-do middle-class people, who of
themselves made up a most wonderful medley of guests, to say nothing of
the representatives of the various foreign colonies, English people,
Americans, Germans, Spaniards, and Russians, in a word, all ancient
Europe, and both Americas. And afterwards the young man reverted to the
Saccos, to the little Signora Sacco in particular, in order to tell
Pierre of the heroic efforts which she had made to open a /salon/ for the
purpose of assisting her husband's ambition. Gentle and modest as she
seemed, she was also very shrewd, endowed with genuine qualities,
Piedmontese patience and strength of resistance, orderly habits and
thriftiness. And thus it was she who re-established the equilibrium in
household affairs which her husband by his exuberance so often disturbed.
He was indeed greatly indebted to her, though nobody suspected it. At the
same time, however, she had so far failed in her attempts to establish a
white /salon/ which should take the lead in influencing opinion. Only the
people of her own set visited her, not a single prince ever came, and her
Monday dances were the same as in a score of other middle-class homes,
having no brilliancy and no importance. In fact, the real white /salon/,
which should guide men and things and sway all Rome was still in

"Just notice her keen smile as she examines everything here," resumed
Narcisse. "She's teaching herself and forming plans, I'm sure of it. Now
that she is about to be connected with a princely family she probably
hopes to receive some of the best society."

Large as was the room, the crowd in it had by this time grown so dense
that the two friends were pressed back to a wall, and felt almost
stifled. The /attache/ therefore decided to lead the priest elsewhere,
and as they walked along he gave him some particulars concerning the
palace, which was one of the most sumptuous in Rome, and renowned for the
magnificence of its reception-rooms. Dancing took place in the picture
gallery, a superb apartment more than sixty feet long, with eight windows
overlooking the Corso; while the buffet was installed in the Hall of the
Antiques, a marble hall, which among other precious things contained a
statue of Venus, rivalling the one at the Capitol. Then there was a suite
of marvellous /salons/, still resplendent with ancient luxury, hung with
the rarest stuffs, and retaining some unique specimens of old-time
furniture, on which covetous antiquaries kept their eyes fixed, whilst
waiting and hoping for the inevitable future ruin. And one of these
apartments, the little Saloon of the Mirrors, was particularly famous. Of
circular shape and Louis XV style, it was surrounded by mirrors in
/rococo/ frames, extremely rich, and most exquisitely carved.

"You will see all that by and by," continued Narcisse. "At present we had
better go in here if we want to breathe a little. It is here that the
arm-chairs from the adjacent gallery have been brought for the
accommodation of the ladies who desire to sit down and be seen and

The apartment they entered was a spacious one, draped with the most
superb Genoese velvet, that antique /jardiniere/ velvet with pale satin
ground, and flowers once of dazzling brightness, whose greens and blues
and reds had now become exquisitely soft, with the subdued, faded tones
of old floral love-tokens. On the pier tables and in the cabinets all
around were some of the most precious curios in the palace, ivory
caskets, gilt and painted wood carvings, pieces of antique
plate--briefly, a collection of marvels. And several ladies, fleeing the
crush, had already taken refuge on the numerous seats, clustering in
little groups, and laughing and chatting with the few gentlemen who had
discovered this retreat of grace and /galanterie/. In the bright glow of
the lamps nothing could be more delightful than the sight of all those
bare, sheeny shoulders, and those supple necks, above whose napes were
coiled tresses of fair or raven hair. Bare arms emerged like living
flowers of flesh from amidst the mingling lace and silk of soft-hued
bodices. The fans played slowly, as if to heighten the fires of the
precious stones, and at each beat wafted around an /odore di femina/
blended with a predominating perfume of violets.

"Hallo!" exclaimed Narcisse, "there's our good friend Monsignor Nani
bowing to the Austrian ambassadress."

As soon as Nani perceived the young priest and his companion he came
towards them, and the trio then withdrew into the embrasure of a window
in order that they might chat for a moment at their ease. The prelate was
smiling like one enchanted with the beauty of the /fete/, but at the same
time he retained all the serenity of innocence, as if he had not even
noticed the exhibition of bare shoulders by which he was surrounded. "Ah,
my dear son!" he said to Pierre, "I am very pleased to see you! Well, and
what do you think of our Rome when she makes up her mind to give

"Why, it is superb, Monseigneur."

Then, in an emotional manner, Nani spoke of Celia's lofty piety; and, in
order to give the Vatican the credit of this sumptuous /gala/, affected
to regard the Prince and Princess as staunch adherents of the Church, as
if he were altogether unaware that the King and Queen were presently
coming. And afterwards he abruptly exclaimed: "I have been thinking of
you all day, my dear son. Yes, I heard that you had gone to see his
Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti. Well, and how did he receive you?"

"Oh! in a most paternal manner," Pierre replied. "At first he made me
understand the embarrassment in which he was placed by his position as
protector of Lourdes; but just as I was going off he showed himself
charming, and promised me his help with a delicacy which deeply touched

"Did he indeed, my dear son? But it doesn't surprise me, his Eminence is
so good-hearted!"

"And I must add, Monseigneur, that I came back with a light and hopeful
heart. It now seems to me as if my suit were half gained."

"Naturally, I understand it," replied Nani, who was still smiling with
that keen, intelligent smile of his, sharpened by a touch of almost
imperceptible irony. And after a short pause he added in a very simple
way: "The misfortune is that on the day before yesterday your book was
condemned by the Congregation of the Index, which was convoked by its
Secretary expressly for that purpose. And the judgment will be laid
before his Holiness, for him to sign it, on the day after to-morrow."

Pierre looked at the prelate in bewilderment. Had the old mansion fallen
on his head he would not have felt more overcome. What! was it all over?
His journey to Rome, the experiment he had come to attempt there, had
resulted in that defeat, of which he was thus suddenly apprised amidst
that betrothal /fete/. And he had not even been able to defend himself,
he had sacrificed his time without finding any one to whom he might
speak, before whom he might plead his cause! Anger was rising within him,
and he could not prevent himself from muttering bitterly: "Ah! how I have
been duped! And that Cardinal who said to me only this morning: 'If God
be with you he will save you in spite of everything.' Yes, yes, I now
understand him; he was juggling with words, he only desired a disaster in
order that submission might lead me to Heaven! Submit, indeed, ah! I
cannot, I cannot yet! My heart is too full of indignation and grief."

Nani examined and studied him with curiosity. "But my dear son," he said,
"nothing is final so long as the Holy Father has not signed the judgment.
You have all to-morrow and even the morning of the day after before you.
A miracle is always possible." Then, lowering his voice and drawing
Pierre on one side whilst Narcisse in an aesthetical spirit examined the
ladies, he added: "Listen, I have a communication to make to you in great
secrecy. Come and join me in the little Saloon of the Mirrors by and by,
during the Cotillon. We shall be able to talk there at our ease."

Pierre nodded, and thereupon the prelate discreetly withdrew and
disappeared in the crowd. However, the young man's ears were buzzing; he
could no longer hope; what indeed could he accomplish in one day since he
had lost three months without even being able to secure an audience with
the Pope? And his bewilderment increased as he suddenly heard Narcisse
speaking to him of art. "It's astonishing how the feminine figure has
deteriorated in these dreadful democratic days. It's all fat and horribly
common. Not one of those women yonder shows the Florentine contour, with
small bosom and slender, elegant neck. Ah! that one yonder isn't so bad
perhaps, the fair one with her hair coiled up, whom Monsignor Fornaro has
just approached."

For a few minutes indeed Monsignor Fornaro had been fluttering from
beauty to beauty, with an amiable air of conquest. He looked superb that
evening with his lofty decorative figure, blooming cheeks, and victorious
affability. No unpleasant scandal was associated with his name; he was
simply regarded as a prelate of gallant ways who took pleasure in the
society of ladies. And he paused and chatted, and leant over their bare
shoulders with laughing eyes and humid lips as if experiencing a sort of
devout rapture. However, on perceiving Narcisse whom he occasionally met,
he at once came forward and the /attache/ had to bow to him. "You have
been in good health I hope, Monseigneur, since I had the honour of seeing
you at the embassy."

"Oh! yes, I am very well, very well indeed. What a delightful /fete/, is
it not?"

Pierre also had bowed. This was the man whose report had brought about
the condemnation of his book; and it was with resentment that he recalled
his caressing air and charming greeting, instinct with such lying
promise. However, the prelate, who was very shrewd, must have guessed
that the young priest was already acquainted with the decision of the
Congregation, and have thought it more dignified to abstain from open
recognition; for on his side he merely nodded and smiled at him. "What a
number of people!" he went on, "and how many charming persons there are!
It will soon be impossible for one to move in this room."

All the seats in fact were now occupied by ladies, and what with the
strong perfume of violets and the exhalations of warm necks and shoulders
the atmosphere was becoming most oppressive. The fans flapped more
briskly, and clear laughter rang out amidst a growing hubbub of
conversation in which the same words constantly recurred. Some news,
doubtless, had just arrived, some rumour was being whispered from group
to group, throwing them all into feverish excitement. As it happened,
Monsignor Fornaro, who was always well informed, desired to be the
proclaimer of this news, which nobody as yet had ventured to announce

"Do you know what is exciting them all?" he inquired.

"Is it the Holy Father's illness?" asked Pierre in his anxiety. "Is he
worse this evening?"

The prelate looked at him in astonishment, and then somewhat impatiently
replied: "Oh, no, no. His Holiness is much better, thank Heaven. A person
belonging to the Vatican was telling me just now that he was able to get
up this afternoon and receive his intimates as usual."

"All the same, people have been alarmed," interrupted Narcisse. "I must
confess that we did not feel easy at the embassy, for a Conclave at the
present time would be a great worry for France. She would exercise no
influence at it. It is a great mistake on the part of our Republican
Government to treat the Holy See as of no importance! However, can one
ever tell whether the Pope is ill or not? I know for a certainty that he
was nearly carried off last winter when nobody breathed a word about any
illness, whereas on the last occasion when the newspapers killed him and
talked about a dreadful attack of bronchitis, I myself saw him quite
strong and in the best of spirits! His reported illnesses are mere
matters of policy, I fancy."*

  * There is much truth in this; but the reader must not imagine
    that the Pope is never ill. At his great age, indispositions
    are only natural.--Trans.

With a hasty gesture, however, Monsignor Fornaro brushed this importunate
subject aside. "No, no," said he, "people are tranquillised and no longer
talk of it. What excites all those ladies is that the Congregation of the
Council to-day voted the dissolution of the Prada marriage by a great

Again did Pierre feel moved. However, not having had time to see any
members of the Boccanera family on his return from Frascati he feared
that the news might be false and said so. Thereupon the prelate gave his
word of honour that things were as he stated. "The news is certain," he
declared. "I had it from a member of the Congregation." And then, all at
once, he apologised and hurried off: "Excuse me but I see a lady whom I
had not yet caught sight of, and desire to pay my respects to her."

He at once hastened to the lady in question, and, being unable to sit
down, inclined his lofty figure as if to envelop her with his gallant
courtesy; whilst she, young, fresh, and bare-shouldered, laughed with a
pearly laugh as his cape of violet silk lightly brushed her sheeny skin.

"You know that person, don't you?" Narcisse inquired of Pierre. "No!
Really? Why, that is Count Prada's /inamorata/, the charming Lisbeth
Kauffmann, by whom he has just had a son. It's her first appearance in
society since that event. She's a German, you know, and lost her husband
here. She paints a little; in fact, rather nicely. A great deal is
forgiven to the ladies of the foreign colony, and this one is
particularly popular on account of the very affable manner in which she
receives people at her little palazzo in the Via Principe Amedeo. As you
may imagine, the news of the dissolution of that marriage must amuse

She looked really exquisite, that Lisbeth, very fair, rosy, and gay, with
satiny skin, soft blue eyes, and lips wreathed in an amiable smile, which
was renowned for its grace. And that evening, in her gown of white silk
spangled with gold, she showed herself so delighted with life, so
securely happy in the thought that she was free, that she loved and was
loved in return, that the whispered tidings, the malicious remarks
exchanged behind the fans of those around her, seemed to turn to her
personal triumph. For a moment all eyes had sought her, and people talked
of the outcome of her connection with Prada, the man whose manhood the
Church solemnly denied by its decision of that very day! And there came
stifled laughter and whispered jests, whilst she, radiant in her insolent
serenity, accepted with a rapturous air the gallantry of Monsignor
Fornaro, who congratulated her on a painting of the Virgin with the lily,
which she had lately sent to a fine-art show.

Ah! that matrimonial nullity suit, which for a year had supplied Rome
with scandal, what a final hubbub it occasioned as the tidings of its
termination burst forth amidst that ball! The black and white worlds had
long chosen it as a battlefield for the exchange of incredible slander,
endless gossip, the most nonsensical tittle-tattle. And now it was over;
the Vatican with imperturbable impudence had pronounced the marriage null
and void on the ground that the husband was no man, and all Rome would
laugh over the affair, with that free scepticism which it displayed as
soon as the pecuniary affairs of the Church came into question. The
incidents of the struggle were already common property: Prada's feelings
revolting to such a point that he had withdrawn from the contest, the
Boccaneras moving heaven and earth in their feverish anxiety, the money
which they had distributed among the creatures of the various cardinals
in order to gain their influence, and the large sum which they had
indirectly paid for the second and favourable report of Monsignor Palma.
People said that, altogether, more than a hundred thousand francs had
been expended, but this was not thought over-much, as a well-known French
countess had been obliged to disburse nearly ten times that amount to
secure the dissolution of her marriage. But then the Holy Father's need
was so great! And, moreover, nobody was angered by this venality; it
merely gave rise to malicious witticisms; and the fans continued waving
in the increasing heat, and the ladies quivered with contentment as the
whispered pleasantries took wing and fluttered over their bare shoulders.

"Oh! how pleased the Contessina must be!" Pierre resumed. "I did not
understand what her little friend, Princess Celia, meant by saying when
we came in that she would be so happy and beautiful this evening. It is
doubtless on that account that she is coming here, after cloistering
herself all the time the affair lasted, as if she were in mourning."

However, Lisbeth's eyes had chanced to meet those of Narcisse, and as she
smiled at him he was, in his turn, obliged to pay his respects to her,
for, like everybody else of the foreign colony, he knew her through
having visited her studio. He was again returning to Pierre when a fresh
outburst of emotion stirred the diamond aigrettes and the flowers
adorning the ladies' hair. People turned to see what was the matter, and
again did the hubbub increase. "Ah! it's Count Prada in person!" murmured
Narcisse, with an admiring glance. "He has a fine bearing, whatever folks
may say. Dress him up in velvet and gold, and what a splendid,
unscrupulous, fifteenth-century adventurer he would make!"

Prada entered the room, looking quite gay, in fact, almost triumphant.
And above his large, white shirtfront, edged by the black of his coat, he
really had a commanding, predacious expression, with his frank, stern
eyes, and his energetic features barred by a large black moustache. Never
had a more rapturous smile of sensuality revealed the wolfish teeth of
his voracious mouth. With rapid glances he took stock of the women, dived
into their very souls. Then, on seeing Lisbeth, who looked so pink, and
fair, and girlish, his expression softened, and he frankly went up to
her, without troubling in the slightest degree about the ardent,
inquisitive eyes which were turned upon him. As soon as Monsignor Fornaro
had made room, he stooped and conversed with the young woman in a low
tone. And she no doubt confirmed the news which was circulating, for as
he again drew himself erect, he laughed a somewhat forced laugh, and made
an involuntary gesture.

However, he then caught sight of Pierre, and joined him in the embrasure
of the window; and when he had also shaken hands with Narcisse, he said
to the young priest with all his wonted /bravura/: "You recollect what I
told you as we were coming back from Frascati? Well, it's done, it seems,
they've annulled my marriage. It's such an impudent, such an imbecile
decision, that I still doubted it a moment ago!"

"Oh! the news is certain," Pierre made bold to reply. "It has just been
confirmed to us by Monsignor Fornaro, who had it from a member of the
Congregation. And it is said that the majority was very large."

Prada again shook with laughter. "No, no," said he, "such a farce is
beyond belief! It's the finest smack given to justice and common-sense
that I know of. Ah! if the marriage can also be annulled by the civil
courts, and if my friend whom you see yonder be only willing, we shall
amuse ourselves in Rome! Yes, indeed, I'd marry her at Santa Maria
Maggiore with all possible pomp. And there's a dear little being in the
world who would take part in the /fete/ in his nurse's arms!"

He laughed too loud as he spoke, alluded in too brutal a fashion to his
child, that living proof of his manhood. Was it suffering that made his
lips curve upwards and reveal his white teeth? It could be divined that
he was quivering, fighting against an awakening of covert, tumultuous
passion, which he would not acknowledge even to himself.

"And you, my dear Abbe?" he hastily resumed. "Do you know the other
report? Do you know that the Countess is coming here?" It was thus, by
force of habit, that he designated Benedetta, forgetting that she was no
longer his wife.

"Yes, I have just been told so," Pierre replied; and then he hesitated
for a moment before adding, with a desire to prevent any disagreeable
surprise: "And we shall no doubt see Prince Dario also, for he has not
started for Naples as I told you. Something prevented his departure at
the last moment, I believe. At least so I gathered from a servant."

Prada no longer laughed. His face suddenly became grave, and he contented
himself with murmuring: "Ah! so the cousin is to be of the party. Well,
we shall see them, we shall see them both!"

Then, whilst the two friends went on chatting, he became silent, as if
serious considerations impelled him to reflect. And suddenly making a
gesture of apology he withdrew yet farther into the embrasure in which he
stood, pulled a note-book out of his pocket, and tore from it a leaf on
which, without modifying his handwriting otherwise than by slightly
enlarging it, he pencilled these four lines: "A legend avers that the fig
tree of Judas now grows at Frascati, and that its fruit is deadly for him
who may desire to become Pope. Eat not the poisoned figs, nor give them
either to your servants or your fowls." Then he folded the paper,
fastened it with a postage stamp, and wrote on it the address: "To his
most Reverend and most Illustrious Eminence, Cardinal Boccanera." And
when he had placed everything in his pocket again, he drew a long breath
and once more called back his laugh.

A kind of invincible discomfort, a far-away terror had momentarily frozen
him. Without being guided by any clear train of reasoning, he had felt
the need of protecting himself against any cowardly temptation, any
possible abomination. He could not have told what course of ideas had
induced him to write those four lines without a moment's delay, on the
very spot where he stood, under penalty of contributing to a great
catastrophe. But one thought was firmly fixed in his brain, that on
leaving the ball he would go to the Via Giulia and throw that note into
the letter-box at the Palazzo Boccanera. And that decided, he was once
more easy in mind.

"Why, what is the matter with you, my dear Abbe?" he inquired on again
joining in the conversation of the two friends. "You are quite gloomy."
And on Pierre telling him of the bad news which he had received, the
condemnation of his book, and the single day which remained to him for
action if he did not wish his journey to Rome to result in defeat, he
began to protest as if he himself needed agitation and diversion in order
to continue hopeful and bear the ills of life. "Never mind, never mind,
don't worry yourself," said he, "one loses all one's strength by
worrying. A day is a great deal, one can do ever so many things in a day.
An hour, a minute suffices for Destiny to intervene and turn defeat into
victory!" He grew feverish as he spoke, and all at once added, "Come,
let's go to the ball-room. It seems that the scene there is something

Then he exchanged a last loving glance with Lisbeth whilst Pierre and
Narcisse followed him, the three of them extricating themselves from
their corner with the greatest difficulty, and then wending their way
towards the adjoining gallery through a sea of serried skirts, a billowy
expanse of necks and shoulders whence ascended the passion which makes
life, the odour alike of love and of death.

With its eight windows overlooking the Corso, their panes uncurtained and
throwing a blaze of light upon the houses across the road, the picture
gallery, sixty-five feet in length and more than thirty in breadth,
spread out with incomparable splendour. The illumination was dazzling.
Clusters of electric lamps had changed seven pairs of huge marble
candelabra into gigantic /torcheres/, akin to constellations; and all
along the cornice up above, other lamps set in bright-hued floral glasses
formed a marvellous garland of flaming flowers: tulips, paeonies, and
roses. The antique red velvet worked with gold, which draped the walls,
glowed like a furnace fire. About the doors and windows there were
hangings of old lace broidered with flowers in coloured silk whose hues
had the very intensity of life. But the sight of sights beneath the
sumptuous panelled ceiling adorned with golden roses, the unique
spectacle of a richness not to be equalled, was the collection of
masterpieces such as no museum could excel. There were works of Raffaelle
and Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens, Velasquez and Ribera, famous works
which in this unexpected illumination suddenly showed forth, triumphant
with youth regained, as if awakened to the immortal life of genius. And,
as their Majesties would not arrive before midnight, the ball had just
been opened, and flights of soft-hued gowns were whirling in a waltz past
all the pompous throng, the glittering jewels and decorations, the
gold-broidered uniforms and the pearl-broidered robes, whilst silk and
satin and velvet spread and overflowed upon every side.

"It is prodigious, really!" declared Prada with his excited air; "let us
go this way and place ourselves in a window recess again. There is no
better spot for getting a good view without being too much jostled."

They lost Narcisse somehow or other, and on reaching the desired recess
found themselves but two, Pierre and the Count. The orchestra, installed
on a little platform at the far end of the gallery, had just finished the
waltz, and the dancers, with an air of giddy rapture, were slowly walking
through the crowd when a fresh arrival caused every head to turn. Donna
Serafina, arrayed in a robe of purple silk as if she had worn the colours
of her brother the Cardinal, was making a royal entry on the arm of
Consistorial-Advocate Morano. And never before had she laced herself so
tightly, never had her waist looked so slim and girlish; and never had
her stern, wrinkled face, which her white hair scarcely softened,
expressed such stubborn and victorious domination. A discreet murmur of
approval ran round, a murmur of public relief as it were, for all Roman
society had condemned the unworthy conduct of Morano in severing a
connection of thirty years to which the drawing-rooms had grown as
accustomed as if it had been a legal marriage. The rupture had lasted for
two months, to the great scandal of Rome where the cult of long and
faithful affections still abides. And so the reconciliation touched every
heart and was regarded as one of the happiest consequences of the victory
which the Boccaneras had that day gained in the affair of Benedetta's
marriage. Morano repentant and Donna Serafina reappearing on his arm,
nothing could have been more satisfactory; love had conquered, decorum
was preserved and good order re-established.

But there was a deeper sensation as soon as Benedetta and Dario were seen
to enter, side by side, behind the others. This tranquil indifference for
the ordinary forms of propriety, on the very day when the marriage with
Prada had been annulled, this victory of love, confessed and celebrated
before one and all, seemed so charming in its audacity, so full of the
bravery of youth and hope, that the pair were at once forgiven amidst a
murmur of universal admiration. And as in the case of Celia and Attilio,
all hearts flew to them, to their radiant beauty, to the wondrous
happiness that made their faces so resplendent. Dario, still pale after
his long convalescence, somewhat slight and delicate of build, with the
fine clear eyes of a big child, and the dark curly beard of a young god,
bore himself with a light pride, in which all the old princely blood of
the Boccaneras could be traced. And Benedetta, she so white under her
casque of jetty hair, she so calm and so sensible, wore her lovely smile,
that smile so seldom seen on her face but which was irresistibly
fascinating, transfiguring her, imparting the charm of a flower to her
somewhat full mouth, and filling the infinite of her dark and fathomless
eyes with a radiance as of heaven. And in this gay return of youth and
happiness, an exquisite instinct had prompted her to put on a white gown,
a plain girlish gown which symbolised her maidenhood, which told that she
had remained through all a pure untarnished lily for the husband of her
choice. And nothing of her form was to be seen, not a glimpse of bosom or
shoulder. It was as if the impenetrable, redoubtable mystery of love, the
sovereign beauty of woman slumbered there, all powerful, but veiled with
white. Again, not a jewel appeared on her fingers or in her ears. There
was simply a necklace falling about her /corsage/, but a necklace fit for
royalty, the famous pearl necklace of the Boccaneras, which she had
inherited from her mother, and which was known to all Rome--pearls of
fabulous size cast negligently about her neck, and sufficing, simply as
she was gowned, to make her queen of all.

"Oh!" murmured Pierre in ecstasy, "how happy and how beautiful she is!"

But he at once regretted that he had expressed his thoughts aloud, for
beside him he heard a low plaint, an involuntary growl which reminded him
of the Count's presence. However, Prada promptly stifled this cry of
returning anguish, and found strength enough to affect a brutish gaiety:
"The devil!" said he, "they have plenty of impudence. I hope we shall see
them married and bedded at once!" Then regretting this coarse jest which
had been prompted by the revolt of passion, he sought to appear
indifferent: "She looks very nice this evening," he said; "she has the
finest shoulders in the world, you know, and its a real success for her
to hide them and yet appear more beautiful than ever."

He went on speaking, contriving to assume an easy tone, and giving
various little particulars about the Countess as he still obstinately
called the young woman. However, he had drawn rather further into the
recess, for fear, no doubt, that people might remark his pallor, and the
painful twitch which contracted his mouth. He was in no state to fight,
to show himself gay and insolent in presence of the joy which the lovers
so openly and naively expressed. And he was glad of the respite which the
arrival of the King and Queen at this moment offered him. "Ah! here are
their Majesties!" he exclaimed, turning towards the window. "Look at the
scramble in the street!"

Although the windows were closed, a tumult could be heard rising from the
footways. And Pierre on looking down saw, by the light of the electric
lamps, a sea of human heads pour over the road and encompass the
carriages. He had several times already seen the King during the latter's
daily drives to the grounds of the Villa Borghese, whither he came like
any private gentleman--unguarded, unescorted, with merely an aide-de-camp
accompanying him in his victoria. At other times he drove a light phaeton
with only a footman in black livery to attend him. And on one occasion
Pierre had seen him with the Queen, the pair of them seated side by side
like worthy middle-class folks driving abroad for pleasure. And, as the
royal couple went by, the busy people in the streets and the promenaders
in the public gardens contented themselves with wafting them an
affectionate wave of the hand, the most expansive simply approaching to
smile at them, and no one importuning them with acclamations. Pierre, who
harboured the traditional idea of kings closely guarded and passing
processionally with all the accompaniment of military pomp, was therefore
greatly surprised and touched by the amiable /bonhomie/ of this royal
pair, who went wherever they listed in full security amidst the smiling
affection of their people. Everybody, moreover, had told him of the
King's kindliness and simplicity, his desire for peace, and his passion
for sport, solitude, and the open air, which, amidst the worries of
power, must often have made him dream of a life of freedom far from the
imperious duties of royalty for which he seemed unfitted.* But the Queen
was yet more tenderly loved. So naturally and serenely virtuous that she
alone remained ignorant of the scandals of Rome, she was also a woman of
great culture and great refinement, conversant with every field of
literature, and very happy in being so intelligent, so superior to those
around her--a pre-eminence which she realised and which she was fond of
showing, but in the most natural and most graceful of ways.

  * King Humbert inherited these tastes from his father Victor
    Emanuel, who was likewise a great sportsman and had a perfect
    horror of court life, pageantry, and the exigencies of

Like Pierre, Prada had remained with his face to the window, and suddenly
pointing to the crowd he said: "Now that they have seen the Queen they
will go to bed well pleased. And there isn't a single police agent there,
I'm sure. Ah! to be loved, to be loved!" Plainly enough his distress of
spirit was coming back, and so, turning towards the gallery again, he
tried to play the jester. "Attention, my dear Abbe, we mustn't miss their
Majesties' entry. That will be the finest part of the /fete/!"

A few minutes went by, and then, in the very midst of a polka, the
orchestra suddenly ceased playing. But a moment afterwards, with all the
blare of its brass instruments, it struck up the Royal March. The dancers
fled in confusion, the centre of the gallery was cleared, and the King
and Queen entered, escorted by the Prince and Princess Buongiovanni, who
had received them at the foot of the staircase. The King was in ordinary
evening dress, while the Queen wore a robe of straw-coloured satin,
covered with superb white lace; and under the diadem of brilliants which
encircled her beautiful fair hair, she looked still young, with a fresh
and rounded face, whose expression was all amiability, gentleness, and
wit. The music was still sounding with the enthusiastic violence of
welcome. Behind her father and mother, Celia appeared amidst the press of
people who were following to see the sight; and then came Attilio, the
Saccos, and various relatives and official personages. And, pending the
termination of the Royal March, only salutations, glances, and smiles
were exchanged amidst the sonorous music and dazzling light; whilst all
the guests crowded around on tip-toe, with outstretched necks and
glittering eyes--a rising tide of heads and shoulders, flashing with the
fires of precious stones.

At last the march ended and the presentations began. Their Majesties were
already acquainted with Celia, and congratulated her with quite
affectionate kindliness. However, Sacco, both as minister and father, was
particularly desirous of presenting his son Attilio. He bent his supple
spine, and summoned to his lips the fine words which were appropriate, in
such wise that he contrived to make the young man bow to the King in the
capacity of a lieutenant in his Majesty's army, whilst his homage as a
handsome young man, so passionately loved by his betrothed was reserved
for Queen Margherita. Again did their Majesties show themselves very
gracious, even towards the Signora Sacco who, ever modest and prudent,
had remained in the background. And then occurred an incident that was
destined to give rise to endless gossip. Catching sight of Benedetta,
whom Count Prada had presented to her after his marriage, the Queen, who
greatly admired her beauty and charm of manner, addressed her a smile in
such wise that the young woman was compelled to approach. A conversation
of some minutes' duration ensued, and the Contessina was favoured with
some extremely amiable expressions which were perfectly audible to all
around. Most certainly the Queen was ignorant of the event of the day,
the dissolution of Benedetta's marriage with Prada, and her coming union
with Dario so publicly announced at this /gala/, which now seemed to have
been given to celebrate a double betrothal. Nevertheless that
conversation caused a deep impression; the guests talked of nothing but
the compliments which Benedetta had received from the most virtuous and
intelligent of queens, and her triumph was increased by it all, she
became yet more beautiful and more victorious amidst the happiness she
felt at being at last able to bestow herself on the spouse of her choice,
that happiness which made her look so radiant.

But, on the other hand, the torture which Prada experienced now became
intense. Whilst the sovereigns continued conversing, the Queen with the
ladies who came to pay her their respects, the King with the officers,
diplomatists, and other important personages who approached him, Prada
saw none but Benedetta--Benedetta congratulated, caressed, exalted by
affection and glory. Dario was near her, flushing with pleasure, radiant
like herself. It was for them that this ball had been given, for them
that the lamps shone out, for them that the music played, for them that
the most beautiful women of Rome had bared their bosoms and adorned them
with precious stones. It was for them that their Majesties had entered to
the strains of the Royal March, for them that the /fete/ was becoming
like an apotheosis, for them that a fondly loved queen was smiling,
appearing at that betrothal /gala/ like the good fairy of the nursery
tales, whose coming betokens life-long happiness. And for Prada, this
wondrously brilliant hour when good fortune and joyfulness attained their
apogee, was one of defeat. It was fraught with the victory of that woman
who had refused to be his wife in aught but name, and of that man who now
was about to take her from him: such a public, ostentatious, insulting
victory that it struck him like a buffet in the face. And not merely did
his pride and passion bleed for that: he felt that the triumph of the
Saccos dealt a blow to his fortune. Was it true, then, that the rough
conquerors of the North were bound to deteriorate in the delightful
climate of Rome, was that the reason why he already experienced such a
sensation of weariness and exhaustion? That very morning at Frascati in
connection with that disastrous building enterprise he had realised that
his millions were menaced, albeit he refused to admit that things were
going badly with him, as some people rumoured. And now, that evening,
amidst that /fete/ he beheld the South victorious, Sacco winning the day
like one who feeds at his ease on the warm prey so gluttonously pounced
upon under the flaming sun.

And the thought of Sacco being a minister, an intimate of the King,
allying himself by marriage to one of the noblest families of the Roman
aristocracy, and already laying hands on the people and the national
funds with the prospect of some day becoming the master of Rome and
Italy--that thought again was a blow for the vanity of this man of prey,
for the ever voracious appetite of this enjoyer, who felt as if he were
being pushed away from table before the feast was over! All crumbled and
escaped him, Sacco stole his millions, and Benedetta tortured his flesh,
stirring up that awful wound of unsatisfied passion which never would be

Again did Pierre hear that dull plaint, that involuntary despairing
growl, which had upset him once before. And he looked at the Count, and
asked him: "Are you suffering?" But on seeing how livid was the face of
Prada, who only retained his calmness by a superhuman effort, he
regretted his indiscreet question, which, moreover, remained unanswered.
And then to put the other more at ease, the young priest went on
speaking, venting the thoughts which the sight before him inspired: "Your
father was right," said he, "we Frenchmen whose education is so full of
the Catholic spirit, even in these days of universal doubt, we never
think of Rome otherwise than as the old Rome of the popes. We scarcely
know, we can scarcely understand the great changes which, year by year,
have brought about the Italian Rome of the present day. Why, when I
arrived here, the King and his government and the young nation working to
make a great capital for itself, seemed to me of no account whatever!
Yes, I dismissed all that, thought nothing of it, in my dream of
resuscitating a Christian and evangelical Rome, which should assure the
happiness of the world."

He laughed as he spoke, pitying his own artlessness, and then pointed
towards the gallery where Prince Buongiovanni was bowing to the King
whilst the Princess listened to the gallant remarks of Sacco: a scene
full of symbolism, the old papal aristocracy struck down, the /parvenus/
accepted, the black and white worlds so mixed together that one and all
were little else than subjects, on the eve of forming but one united
nation. That conciliation between the Quirinal and the Vatican which in
principle was regarded as impossible, was it not in practice fatal, in
face of the evolution which went on day by day? People must go on living,
loving, and creating life throughout the ages. And the marriage of
Attilio and Celia would be the symbol of the needful union: youth and
love triumphing over ancient hatred, all quarrels forgotten as a handsome
lad goes by, wins a lovely girl, and carries her off in his arms in order
that the world may last.

"Look at them!" resumed Pierre, "how handsome and young and gay both the
/fiances/ are, all confidence in the future. Ah! I well understand that
your King should have come here to please his minister and win one of the
old Roman families over to his throne; it is good, brave, and fatherly
policy. But I like to think that he has also realised the touching
significance of that marriage--old Rome, in the person of that candid,
loving child giving herself to young Italy, that upright, enthusiastic
young man who wears his uniform so jauntily. And may their nuptials be
definitive and fruitful; from them and from all the others may there
arise the great nation which, now that I begin to know you, I trust you
will soon become!"

Amidst the tottering of his former dream of an evangelical and universal
Rome, Pierre expressed these good wishes for the Eternal City's future
fortune with such keen and deep emotion that Prada could not help
replying: "I thank you; that wish of yours is in the heart of every good

But his voice quavered, for even whilst he was looking at Celia and
Attilio, who stood smiling and talking together, he saw Benedetta and
Dario approach them, wearing the same joyful expression of perfect
happiness. And when the two couples were united, so radiant and so
triumphant, so full of superb and happy life, he no longer had strength
to stay there, see them, and suffer.

"I am frightfully thirsty," he hoarsely exclaimed. "Let's go to the
buffet to drink something." And, thereupon, in order to avoid notice, he
so manoeuvred as to glide behind the throng, skirting the windows in the
direction of the entrance to the Hall of the Antiques, which was beyond
the gallery.

Whilst Pierre was following him they were parted by an eddy of the crowd,
and the young priest found himself carried towards the two loving couples
who still stood chatting together. And Celia, on recognising him,
beckoned to him in a friendly way. With her passionate cult for beauty,
she was enraptured with the appearance of Benedetta, before whom she
joined her little lily hands as before the image of the Madonna. "Oh!
Monsieur l'Abbe," said she, "to please me now, do tell her how beautiful
she is, more beautiful than anything on earth, more beautiful than even
the sun, and the moon and stars. If you only knew, my dear, it makes me
quiver to see you so beautiful as that, as beautiful as happiness, as
beautiful as love itself!"

Benedetta began to laugh, while the two young men made merry. "But you
are as beautiful as I am, darling," said the Contessina. "And if we are
beautiful it is because we are happy."

"Yes, yes, happy," Celia gently responded. "Do you remember the evening
when you told me that one didn't succeed in marrying the Pope and the
King? But Attilio and I are marrying them, and yet we are very happy."

"But we don't marry them, Dario and I! On the contrary!" said Benedetta
gaily. "No matter; as you answered me that same evening, it is sufficient
that we should love one another, love saves the world."

When Pierre at last succeeded in reaching the door of the Hall of the
Antiques, where the buffet was installed, he found Prada there,
motionless, gazing despite himself on the galling spectacle which he
desired to flee. A power stronger than his will had kept him there,
forcing him to turn round and look, and look again. And thus, with a
bleeding heart, he still lingered and witnessed the resumption of the
dancing, the first figure of a quadrille which the orchestra began to
play with a lively flourish of its brass instruments. Benedetta and
Dario, Celia and Attilio were /vis-à-vis/. And so charming and
delightful was the sight which the two couples presented dancing in the
white blaze, all youth and joy, that the King and Queen drew near to them
and became interested. And soon bravos of admiration rang out, while from
every heart spread a feeling of infinite tenderness.

"I'm dying of thirst, let's go!" repeated Prada, at last managing to
wrench himself away from the torturing sight.

He called for some iced lemonade and drank the glassful at one draught,
gulping it down with the greedy eagerness of a man stricken with fever,
who will never more be able to quench the burning fire within him.

The Hall of the Antiques was a spacious room with mosaic pavement, and
decorations of stucco; and a famous collection of vases, bas-reliefs, and
statues, was disposed along its walls. The marbles predominated, but
there were a few bronzes, and among them a dying gladiator of extreme
beauty. The marvel however was the famous statue of Venus, a companion to
that of the Capitol, but with a more elegant and supple figure and with
the left arm falling loosely in a gesture of voluptuous surrender. That
evening a powerful electric reflector threw a dazzling light upon the
statue, which, in its divine and pure nudity, seemed to be endowed with
superhuman, immortal life. Against the end-wall was the buffet, a long
table covered with an embroidered cloth and laden with fruit, pastry, and
cold meats. Sheaves of flowers rose up amidst bottles of champagne, hot
punch, and iced /sorbetto/, and here and there were marshalled armies of
glasses, tea-cups, and broth-bowls, a perfect wealth of sparkling
crystal, porcelain, and silver. And a happy innovation had been to fill
half of the hall with rows of little tables, at which the guests, in lieu
of being obliged to refresh themselves standing, were able to sit down
and order what they desired as in a cafe.

At one of these little tables, Pierre perceived Narcisse seated near a
young woman, whom Prada, on approaching, recognised to be Lisbeth. "You
find me, you see, in delightful company," gallantly exclaimed the
/attache/. "As we lost one another, I could think of nothing better than
of offering madame my arm to bring her here."

"It was, in fact, a good idea," said Lisbeth with her pretty laugh, "for
I was feeling very thirsty."

They had ordered some iced coffee, which they were slowly sipping out of
little silver-gilt spoons.

"I have a terrible thirst, too," declared the Count, "and I can't quench
it. You will allow us to join you, will you not, my dear sir? Some of
that coffee will perhaps calm me." And then to Lisbeth he added, "Ah! my
dear, allow me to introduce to you Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, a young
French priest of great distinction."

Then for a long time they all four remained seated at that table,
chatting and making merry over certain of the guests who went by. Prada,
however, in spite of his usual gallantry towards Lisbeth, frequently
became absent-minded; at times he quite forgot her, being again mastered
by his anguish, and, in spite of all his efforts, his eyes ever turned
towards the neighbouring gallery whence the sound of music and dancing
reached him.

"Why, what are you thinking of, /caro mio/?" Lisbeth asked in her pretty
way, on seeing him at one moment so pale and lost. "Are you indisposed?"

He did not reply, however, but suddenly exclaimed, "Ah! look there,
that's the real pair, there's real love and happiness for you!"

With a jerk of the hand he designated Dario's mother, the Marchioness
Montefiori and her second husband, Jules Laporte--that ex-sergeant of the
papal Swiss Guard, her junior by fifteen years, whom she had one day
hooked at the Corso with her eyes of fire, which yet had remained superb,
and whom she had afterwards triumphantly transformed into a Marquis
Montefiori in order to have him entirely to herself. Such was her passion
that she never relaxed her hold on him whether at ball or reception, but,
despite all usages, kept him beside her, and even made him escort her to
the buffet, so much did she delight in being able to exhibit him and say
that this handsome man was her own exclusive property. And standing there
side by side, the pair of them began to drink champagne and eat
sandwiches, she yet a marvel of massive beauty although she was over
fifty, and he with long wavy moustaches, and proud bearing, like a
fortunate adventurer whose jovial impudence pleased the ladies.

"You know that she had to extricate him from a nasty affair," resumed the
Count in a lower tone. "Yes, he travelled in relics; he picked up a
living by supplying relics on commission to convents in France and
Switzerland; and he had launched quite a business in false relics with
the help of some Jews here who concocted little ancient reliquaries out
of mutton bones, with everything sealed and signed by the most genuine
authorities. The affair was hushed up, as three prelates were also
compromised in it! Ah! the happy man! Do you see how she devours him with
her eyes? And he, doesn't he look quite a /grand seigneur/ by the mere
way in which he holds that plate for her whilst she eats the breast of a
fowl out of it!"

Then, in a rough way and with biting irony, he went on to speak of the
/amours/ of Rome. The Roman women, said he, were ignorant, obstinate, and
jealous. When a woman had managed to win a man, she kept him for ever, he
became her property, and she disposed of him as she pleased. By way of
proof, he cited many interminable /liaisons/, such as that of Donna
Serafina and Morano which, in time became virtual marriages; and he
sneered at such a lack of fancy, such an excess of fidelity whose only
ending, when it did end, was some very disagreeable unpleasantness.

At this, Lisbeth interrupted him. "But what is the matter with you this
evening, my dear?" she asked with a laugh. "What you speak of is on the
contrary very nice and pretty! When a man and a woman love one another
they ought to do so for ever!"

She looked delightful as she spoke, with her fine wavy blonde hair and
delicate fair complexion; and Narcisse with a languorous expression in
his half-closed eyes compared her to a Botticelli which he had seen at
Florence. However, the night was now far advanced, and Pierre had once
more sunk into gloomy thoughtfulness when he heard a passing lady remark
that they had already begun to dance the Cotillon in the gallery; and
thereupon he suddenly remembered that Monsignor Nani had given him an
appointment in the little Saloon of the Mirrors.

"Are you leaving?" hastily inquired Prada on seeing him rise and bow to

"No, no, not yet," Pierre answered.

"Oh! all right. Don't go away without me. I want to walk a little, and
I'll see you home. It's agreed, eh? You will find me here."

The young priest had to cross two rooms, one hung with yellow and the
other with blue, before he at last reached the mirrored /salon/. This was
really an exquisite example of the /rococo/ style, a rotunda as it were
of pale mirrors framed with superb gilded carvings. Even the ceiling was
covered with mirrors disposed slantwise so that on every side things
multiplied, mingled, and appeared under all possible aspects. Discreetly
enough no electric lights had been placed in the room, the only
illumination being that of some pink tapers burning in a pair of
candelabra. The hangings and upholstery were of soft blue silk, and the
impression on entering was very sweet and charming, as if one had found
oneself in the abode of some fairy queen of the rills, a palace of limpid
water, illumined to its farthest depths by clusters of stars.

Pierre at once perceived Monsignor Nani, who was sitting on a low couch,
and, as the prelate had hoped, he was quite alone, for the Cotillon had
attracted almost everybody to the picture gallery. And the silence in the
little /salon/ was nearly perfect, for at that distance the blare of the
orchestra subsided into a faint, flute-like murmur. The young priest at
once apologised to the prelate for having kept him waiting.

"No, no, my dear son," said Nani, with his inexhaustible amiability. "I
was very comfortable in this retreat--when the press of the crowd became
over-threatening I took refuge here." He did not speak of the King and
Queen, but he allowed it to be understood that he had politely avoided
their company. If he had come to the /fete/ it was on account of his
sincere affection for Celia and also with a very delicate diplomatic
object, for the Church wished to avoid any appearance of having entirely
broken with the Buongiovanni family, that ancient house which was so
famous in the annals of the papacy. Doubtless the Vatican was unable to
subscribe to this marriage which seemed to unite old Rome with the young
Kingdom of Italy, but on the other hand it did not desire people to think
that it abandoned old and faithful supporters and took no interest in
what befell them.

"But come, my dear son," the prelate resumed, "it is you who are now in
question. I told you that although the Congregation of the Index had
pronounced itself for the condemnation of your book, the sentence would
only be submitted to the Holy Father and signed by him on the day after
to-morrow. So you still have a whole day before you."

At this Pierre could not refrain from a dolorous and vivacious

"Alas! Monseigneur, what can I do?" said he; "I have thought it all over,
and I see no means, no opportunity of defending myself. How could I even
see his Holiness now that he is so ill?"

"Oh! ill, ill!" muttered Nani with his shrewd expression. "His Holiness
is ever so much better, for this very day, like every other Wednesday, I
had the honour to be received by him. When his Holiness is a little tired
and people say that he is very ill, he often lets them do so, for it
gives him a rest and enables him to judge certain ambitions and
manifestations of impatience around him."

Pierre, however, was too upset to listen attentively. "No, it's all
over," he continued, "I'm in despair. You spoke to me of the possibility
of a miracle, but I am no great believer in miracles. Since I am defeated
here at Rome, I shall go away, I shall return to Paris, and continue the
struggle there. Oh! I cannot resign myself, my hope in salvation by the
practice of love cannot die, and I shall answer my denouncers in a new
book, in which I shall tell in what new soil the new religion will grow

Silence fell. Nani looked at him with his clear eyes in which
intelligence shone distinct and sharp like steel. And amidst the deep
calm, the warm heavy atmosphere of the little /salon/, whose mirrors were
starred with countless reflections of candles, a more sonorous burst of
music was suddenly wafted from the gallery, a rhythmical waltz melody,
which slowly expanded, then died away.

"My dear son," said Nani, "anger is always harmful. You remember that on
your arrival here I promised that if your own efforts to obtain an
interview with the Holy Father should prove unavailing, I would myself
endeavour to secure an audience for you." Then, seeing how agitated the
young priest was getting, he went on: "Listen to me and don't excite
yourself. His Holiness, unfortunately, is not always prudently advised.
Around him are persons whose devotion, however great, is at times
deficient in intelligence. I told you that, and warned you against
inconsiderate applications. And this is why, already three weeks ago, I
myself handed your book to his Holiness in the hope that he would deign
to glance at it. I rightly suspected that it had not been allowed to
reach him. And this is what I am instructed to tell you: his Holiness,
who has had the great kindness to read your book, expressly desires to
see you."

A cry of joy and gratitude died away in Pierre's throat: "Ah!
Monseigneur. Ah! Monseigneur!"

But Nani quickly silenced him and glanced around with an expression of
keen anxiety as if he feared that some one might hear them. "Hush! Hush!"
said he, "it is a secret. His Holiness wishes to see you privately,
without taking anybody else into his confidence. Listen attentively. It
is now two o'clock in the morning. Well, this very day, at nine in the
evening precisely, you must present yourself at the Vatican and at every
door ask for Signor Squadra. You will invariably be allowed to pass.
Signor Squadra will be waiting for you upstairs, and will introduce you.
And not a word, mind; not a soul must have the faintest suspicion of
these things."

Pierre's happiness and gratitude at last flowed forth. He had caught hold
of the prelate's soft, plump hands, and stammered, "Ah! Monseigneur, how
can I express my gratitude to you? If you only knew how full my soul was
of night and rebellion since I realised that I had been a mere plaything
in the hands of those powerful cardinals. But you have saved me, and
again I feel sure that I shall win the victory, for I shall at last be
able to fling myself at the feet of his Holiness the father of all truth
and all justice. He can but absolve me, I who love him, I who admire him,
I who have never battled for aught but his own policy and most cherished
ideas. No, no, it is impossible; he will not sign that judgment; he will
not condemn my book!"

Releasing his hands, Nani sought to calm him with a fatherly gesture,
whilst retaining a faint smile of contempt for such a useless expenditure
of enthusiasm. At last he succeeded, and begged him to retire. The
orchestra was again playing more loudly in the distance. And when the
young priest at last withdrew, thanking him once more, he said very
simply, "Remember, my dear son, that only obedience is great."

Pierre, whose one desire now was to take himself off, found Prada almost
immediately afterwards in the first reception-room. Their Majesties had
just left the ball in grand ceremony, escorted to the threshold by the
Buongiovannis and the Saccos. And before departing the Queen had
maternally kissed Celia, whilst the King shook hands with
Attilio--honours instinct with a charming good nature which made the
members of both families quite radiant. However, a good many of the
guests were following the example of the sovereigns and disappearing in
small batches. And the Count, who seemed strangely nervous, and showed
more sternness and bitterness than ever, was, on his side, also eager to
be gone. "Ah! it's you at last. I was waiting for you," he said to
Pierre. "Well, let's get off at once, eh? Your compatriot Monsieur
Narcisse Habert asked me to tell you not to look for him. The fact is, he
has gone to see my friend Lisbeth to her carriage. I myself want a breath
of fresh air, a stroll, and so I'll go with you as far as the Via

Then, as they took their things from the cloak-room, he could not help
sneering and saying in his brutal way: "I saw your good friends go off,
all four together. It's lucky that you prefer to go home on foot, for
there was no room for you in the carriage. What superb impudence it was
on the part of that Donna Serafina to drag herself here, at her age, with
that Morano of hers, so as to triumph over the return of the fickle one!
And the two others, the two young ones--ah! I confess that I can hardly
speak calmly of /them/, for in parading here together as they did this
evening, they have shown an impudence and a cruelty such as is rarely
seen!" Prada's hands trembled, and he murmured: "A good journey, a good
journey to the young man, since he is going to Naples. Yes, I heard Celia
say that he was starting for Naples this evening at six o'clock. Well, my
wishes go with him; a good journey!"

The two men found the change delightful when they at last emerged from
the stifling heat of the reception-rooms into the lovely, cool, and
limpid night. It was a night illumined by a superb full moon, one of
those matchless Roman nights when the city slumbers in Elysian radiance,
steeped in a dream of the Infinite, under the vast vault of heaven. And
they took the most agreeable route, going down the Corso proper and then
turning into the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Prada had grown somewhat calmer, but remained full of irony. To divert
his mind, no doubt, he talked on in the most voluble manner, reverting to
the women of Rome and to that /fete/ which he had at first found
splendid, but at which he now began to rail.

"Oh! of course they have very fine gowns," said he, speaking of the
women; "but gowns which don't fit them, gowns which are sent them from
Paris, and which, of course, they can't try on. It's just the same with
their jewels; they still have diamonds and pearls, in particular, which
are very fine, but they are so wretchedly, so heavily mounted that they
look frightful. And if you only knew how ignorant and frivolous these
women are, despite all their conceit! Everything is on the surface with
them, even religion: there's nothing beneath. I looked at them eating at
the buffet. Oh! they at least have fine appetites. This evening some
decorum was observed, there wasn't too much gorging. But at one of the
Court balls you would see a general pillage, the buffets besieged, and
everything swallowed up amidst a scramble of amazing voracity!"

To all this talk Pierre only returned monosyllabic responses. He was
wrapped in overflowing delight at the thought of that audience with the
Pope, which, unable as he was to confide in any one, he strove to arrange
and picture in his own mind, even in its pettiest details. And meantime
the footsteps of the two men rang out on the dry pavement of the clear,
broad, deserted thoroughfare, whose black shadows were sharply outlined
by the moonlight.

All at once Prada himself became silent. His loquacious /bravura/ was
exhausted, the frightful struggle going on in his mind wholly possessed
and paralysed him. Twice already he had dipped his hand into his coat
pocket and felt the pencilled note whose four lines he mentally repeated:
"A legend avers that the fig-tree of Judas now grows at Frascati, and
that its fruit is deadly for him who may desire to become pope. Eat not
the poisoned figs, nor give them either to your servants or your fowls."
The note was there; he could feel it; and if he had desired to accompany
Pierre, it was in order that he might drop it into the letter-box at the
Palazzo Boccanera. And he continued to step out briskly, so that within
another ten minutes that note would surely be in the box, for no power in
the world could prevent it, since such was his express determination.
Never would he commit such a crime as to allow people to be poisoned.

But he was suffering such abominable torture. That Benedetta and that
Dario had raised such a tempest of jealous hatred within him! For them he
forgot Lisbeth whom he loved, and even that flesh of his flesh, the child
of whom he was so proud. All sex as he was, eager to conquer and subdue,
he had never cared for facile loves. His passion was to overcome. And now
there was a woman in the world who defied him, a woman forsooth whom he
had bought, whom he had married, who had been handed over to him, but who
would never, never be his. Ah! in the old days, to subdue her, he would
if needful have fired Rome like a Nero; but now he asked himself what he
could possibly do to prevent her from belonging to another. That galling
thought made the blood gush from his gaping wound. How that woman and her
lover must deride him! And to think that they had sought to turn him to
ridicule by a baseless charge, an arrant lie which still and ever made
him smart, all proof of its falsity to the contrary. He, on his side, had
accused them in the past without much belief in what he said, but now the
charges he had imputed to them must come true, for they were free, freed
at all events of the religious bond, and that no doubt was their only
care. And then visions of their happiness passed before his eyes,
infuriating him. Ah! no, ah! no, it was impossible, he would rather
destroy the world!

Then, as he and Pierre turned out of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele to
thread the old narrow tortuous streets leading to the Via Giulia, he
pictured himself dropping the note into the letter-box at the palazzo.
And next he conjured up what would follow. The note would lie in the
letter-box till morning. At an early hour Don Vigilio, the secretary, who
by the Cardinal's express orders kept the key of the box, would come
down, find the note, and hand it to his Eminence, who never allowed
another to open any communication addressed to him. And then the figs
would be thrown away, there would be no further possibility of crime, the
black world would in all prudence keep silent. But if the note should not
be in the letter-box, what would happen then? And admitting that
supposition he pictured the figs placed on the table at the one o'clock
meal, in their pretty little leaf-covered basket. Dario would be there as
usual, alone with his uncle, since he was not to leave for Naples till
the evening. And would both the uncle and the nephew eat the figs, or
would only one of them partake of the fruit, and which of them would that
be? At this point Prada's clearness of vision failed him; again he
conjured up Destiny on the march, that Destiny which he had met on the
road from Frascati, going on towards its unknown goal, athwart all
obstacles without possibility of stoppage. Aye, the little basket of figs
went ever on and on to accomplish its fateful purpose, which no hand in
the world had power enough to prevent.

And at last, on either hand of Pierre and Prada, the Via Giulia stretched
away in a long line white with moonlight, and the priest emerged as if
from a dream at sight of the Palazzo Boccanera rising blackly under the
silver sky. Three o'clock struck at a neighbouring church. And he felt
himself quivering slightly as once again he heard near him the dolorous
moan of a lion wounded unto death, that low involuntary growl which the
Count, amidst the frightful struggle of his feelings, had for the third
time allowed to escape him. But immediately afterwards he burst into a
sneering laugh, and pressing the priest's hands, exclaimed: "No, no, I am
not going farther. If I were seen here at this hour, people would think
that I had fallen in love with my wife again."

And thereupon he lighted a cigar, and retraced his steps in the clear
night, without once looking round.


WHEN Pierre awoke he was much surprised to hear eleven o'clock striking.
Fatigued as he was by that ball where he had lingered so long, he had
slept like a child in delightful peacefulness, and as soon as he opened
his eyes the radiant sunshine filled him with hope. His first thought was
that he would see the Pope that evening at nine o'clock. Ten more hours
to wait! What would he be able to do with himself during that lovely day,
whose radiant sky seemed to him of such happy augury? He rose and opened
the windows to admit the warm air which, as he had noticed on the day of
his arrival, had a savour of fruit and flowers, a blending, as it were,
of the perfume of rose and orange. Could this possibly be December? What
a delightful land, that the spring should seem to flower on the very
threshold of winter! Then, having dressed, he was leaning out of the
window to glance across the golden Tiber at the evergreen slopes of the
Janiculum, when he espied Benedetta seated in the abandoned garden of the
mansion. And thereupon, unable to keep still, full of a desire for life,
gaiety, and beauty, he went down to join her.

With radiant visage and outstretched hands, she at once vented the cry he
had expected: "Ah! my dear Abbe, how happy I am!"

They had often spent their mornings in that quiet, forsaken nook; but
what sad mornings those had been, hopeless as they both were! To-day,
however, the weed-grown paths, the box-plants growing in the old basin,
the orange-trees which alone marked the outline of the beds--all seemed
full of charm, instinct with a sweet and dreamy cosiness in which it was
very pleasant to lull one's joy. And it was so warm, too, beside the big
laurel-bush, in the corner where the streamlet of water ever fell with
flute-like music from the gaping, tragic mask.

"Ah!" repeated Benedetta, "how happy I am! I was stifling upstairs, and
my heart felt such a need of space, and air, and sunlight, that I came
down here!"

She was seated on the fallen column beside the old marble sarcophagus,
and desired the priest to place himself beside her. Never had he seen her
looking so beautiful, with her black hair encompassing her pure face,
which in the sunshine appeared pinky and delicate as a flower. Her large,
fathomless eyes showed in the light like braziers rolling gold, and her
childish mouth, all candour and good sense, laughed the laugh of one who
was at last free to love as her heart listed, without offending either
God or man. And, dreaming aloud, she built up plans for the future. "It's
all simple enough," said she; "I have already obtained a separation, and
shall easily get that changed into civil divorce now that the Church has
annulled my marriage. And I shall marry Dario next spring, perhaps
sooner, if the formalities can be hastened. He is going to Naples this
evening about the sale of some property which we still possess there, but
which must now be sold, for all this business has cost us a lot of money.
Still, that doesn't matter since we now belong to one another. And when
he comes back in a few days, what a happy time we shall have! I could not
sleep when I got back from that splendid ball last night, for my head was
so full of plans--oh! splendid plans, as you shall see, for I mean to
keep you in Rome until our marriage."

Like herself, Pierre began to laugh, so gained upon by this explosion of
youth and happiness that he had to make a great effort to refrain from
speaking of his own delight, his hopefulness at the thought of his coming
interview with the Pope. Of that, however, he had sworn to speak to

Every now and again, amidst the quivering silence of the sunlit garden,
the cry of a bird persistently rang out; and Benedetta, raising her head
and looking at a cage hanging beside one of the first-floor windows,
jestingly exclaimed: "Yes, yes, Tata, make a good noise, show that you
are pleased, my dear. Everybody in the house must be pleased now." Then,
turning towards Pierre, she added gaily: "You know Tata, don't you? What!
No? Why, Tata is my uncle's parrot. I gave her to him last spring; he's
very fond of her, and lets her help herself out of his plate. And he
himself attends to her, puts her out and takes her in, and keeps her in
his dining-room, for fear lest she should take cold, as that is the only
room of his which is at all warm."

Pierre in his turn looked up and saw the bird, one of those pretty little
parrots with soft, silky, dull-green plumage. It was hanging by the beak
from a bar of its cage, swinging itself and flapping its wings, all mirth
in the bright sunshine.

"Does the bird talk?" he asked.

"No, she only screams," replied Benedetta, laughing. "Still my uncle
pretends that he understands her." And then the young woman abruptly
darted to another subject, as if this mention of her uncle the Cardinal
had made her think of the uncle by marriage whom she had in Paris. "I
suppose you have heard from Viscount de la Choue," said she. "I had a
letter from him yesterday, in which he said how grieved he was that you
were unable to see the Holy Father, as he had counted on you for the
triumph of his ideas."

Pierre indeed frequently heard from the Viscount, who was greatly
distressed by the importance which his adversary, Baron de Fouras, had
acquired since his success with the International Pilgrimage of the
Peter's Pence. The old, uncompromising Catholic party would awaken, said
the Viscount, and all the conquests of Neo-Catholicism would be
threatened, if one could not obtain the Holy Father's formal adhesion to
the proposed system of free guilds, in order to overcome the demand for
closed guilds which was brought forward by the Conservatives. And the
Viscount overwhelmed Pierre with injunctions, and sent him all sorts of
complicated plans in his eagerness to see him received at the Vatican.
"Yes, yes," muttered the young priest in reply to Benedetta. "I had a
letter on Sunday, and found another waiting for me on my return from
Frascati yesterday. Ah! it would make me very happy to be able to send
the Viscount some good news." Then again Pierre's joy overflowed at the
thought that he would that evening see the Pope, and, on opening his
loving heart to the Pontiff, receive the supreme encouragement which
would strengthen him in his mission to work social salvation in the name
of the lowly and the poor. And he could not restrain himself any longer,
but let his secret escape him: "It's settled, you know," said he. "My
audience is for this evening."

Benedetta did not understand at first. "What audience?" she asked.

"Oh! Monsignor Nani was good enough to tell me at the ball this morning,
that the Holy Father has read my book and desires to see me. I shall be
received this evening at nine o'clock."

At this the Contessina flushed with pleasure, participating in the
delight of the young priest to whom she had grown much attached. And this
success of his, coming in the midst of her own felicity, acquired
extraordinary importance in her eyes as if it were an augury of complete
success for one and all. Superstitious as she was, she raised a cry of
rapture and excitement: "Ah! /Dio/, that will bring us good luck. How
happy I am, my friend, to see happiness coming to you at the same time as
to me! You cannot think how pleased I am! And all will go well now, it's
certain, for a house where there is any one whom the Pope welcomes is
blessed, the thunder of Heaven falls on it no more!"

She laughed yet more loudly as she spoke, and clapped her hands with such
exuberant gaiety that Pierre became anxious. "Hush! hush!" said he, "it's
a secret. Pray don't mention it to any one, either your aunt or even his
Eminence. Monsignor Nani would be much annoyed."

She thereupon promised to say nothing, and in a kindly voice spoke of
Nani as a benefactor, for was she not indebted to him for the dissolution
of her marriage? Then, with a fresh explosion of gaiety, she went on:
"But come, my friend, is not happiness the only good thing? You don't ask
me to weep over the suffering poor to-day! Ah! the happiness of life,
that's everything. People don't suffer or feel cold or hungry when they
are happy."

He looked at her in stupefaction at the idea of that strange solution of
the terrible question of human misery. And suddenly he realised that,
with that daughter of the sun who had inherited so many centuries of
sovereign aristocracy, all his endeavours at conversion were vain. He had
wished to bring her to a Christian love for the lowly and the wretched,
win her over to the new, enlightened, and compassionate Italy that he had
dreamt of; but if she had been moved by the sufferings of the multitude
at the time when she herself had suffered, when grievous wounds had made
her own heart bleed, she was no sooner healed than she proclaimed the
doctrine of universal felicity like a true daughter of a clime of burning
summers, and winters as mild as spring. "But everybody is not happy!"
said he.

"Yes, yes, they are!" she exclaimed. "You don't know the poor! Give a
girl of the Trastevere the lad she loves, and she becomes as radiant as a
queen, and finds her dry bread quite sweet. The mothers who save a child
from sickness, the men who conquer in a battle, or who win at the
lottery, one and all in fact are like that, people only ask for good
fortune and pleasure. And despite all your striving to be just and to
arrive at a more even distribution of fortune, the only satisfied ones
will be those whose hearts sing--often without their knowing the
cause--on a fine sunny day like this."

Pierre made a gesture of surrender, not wishing to sadden her by again
pleading the cause of all the poor ones who at that very moment were
somewhere agonising with physical or mental pain. But, all at once,
through the luminous mild atmosphere a shadow seemed to fall, tingeing
joy with sadness, the sunshine with despair. And the sight of the old
sarcophagus, with its bacchanal of satyrs and nymphs, brought back the
memory that death lurks even amidst the bliss of passion, the unsatiated
kisses of love. For a moment the clear song of the water sounded in
Pierre's ears like a long-drawn sob, and all seemed to crumble in the
terrible shadow which had fallen from the invisible.

Benedetta, however, caught hold of his hands and roused him once more to
the delight of being there beside her. "Your pupil is rebellious, is she
not, my friend?" said she. "But what would you have? There are ideas
which can't enter into our heads. No, you will never get those things
into the head of a Roman girl. So be content with loving us as we are,
beautiful with all our strength, as beautiful as we can be."

She herself, in her resplendent happiness, looked at that moment so
beautiful that he trembled as in presence of a divinity whose
all-powerfulness swayed the world. "Yes, yes," he stammered, "beauty,
beauty, still and ever sovereign. Ah! why can it not suffice to satisfy
the eternal longings of poor suffering men?"

"Never mind!" she gaily responded. "Do not distress yourself; it is
pleasant to live. And now let us go upstairs, my aunt must be waiting."

The midday meal was served at one o'clock, and on the few occasions when
Pierre did not eat at one or another restaurant a cover was laid for him
at the ladies' table in the little dining-room of the second floor,
overlooking the courtyard. At the same hour, in the sunlit dining-room of
the first floor, whose windows faced the Tiber, the Cardinal likewise sat
down to table, happy in the society of his nephew Dario, for his
secretary, Don Vigilio, who also was usually present, never opened his
mouth unless to reply to some question. And the two services were quite
distinct, each having its own kitchen and servants, the only thing at all
common to them both being a large room downstairs which served as a
pantry and store-place.

Although the second-floor dining-room was so gloomy, saddened by the
greeny half-light of the courtyard, the meal shared that day by the two
ladies and the young priest proved a very gay one. Even Donna Serafina,
usually so rigid, seemed to relax under the influence of great internal
felicity. She was no doubt still enjoying her triumph of the previous
evening, and it was she who first spoke of the ball and sung its praises,
though the presence of the King and Queen had much embarrassed her, said
she. According to her account, she had only avoided presentation by
skilful strategy; however she hoped that her well-known affection for
Celia, whose god-mother she was, would explain her presence in that
neutral mansion where Vatican and Quirinal had met. At the same time she
must have retained certain scruples, for she declared that directly after
dinner she was going to the Vatican to see the Cardinal Secretary, to
whom she desired to speak about an enterprise of which she was
lady-patroness. This visit would compensate for her attendance at the
Buongiovanni entertainment. And on the other hand never had Donna
Serafina seemed so zealous and hopeful of her brother's speedy accession
to the throne of St. Peter: therein lay a supreme triumph, an elevation
of her race, which her pride deemed both needful and inevitable; and
indeed during Leo XIII's last indisposition she had actually concerned
herself about the trousseau which would be needed and which would require
to be marked with the new Pontiff's arms.

On her side, Benedetta was all gaiety during the repast, laughing at
everything, and speaking of Celia and Attilio with the passionate
affection of a woman whose own happiness delights in that of her friends.
Then, just as the dessert had been served, she turned to the servant with
an air of surprise: "Well, and the figs, Giacomo?" she asked.

Giacomo, slow and sleepy of notion, looked at her without understanding.
However, Victorine was crossing the room, and Benedetta's next question
was for her: "Why are the figs not served, Victorine?" she inquired.

"What figs, Contessina?"

"Why the figs I saw in the pantry as I passed through it this morning on
my way to the garden. They were in a little basket and looked superb. I
was even astonished to see that there were still some fresh figs left at
this season. I'm very fond of them, and felt quite pleased at the thought
that I should eat some at dinner."

Victorine began to laugh: "Ah! yes, Contessina, I understand," she
replied. "They were some figs which that priest of Frascati, whom you
know very well, brought yesterday evening as a present for his Eminence.
I was there, and I heard him repeat three or four times that they were a
present, and were to be put on his Eminence's table without a leaf being
touched. And so one did as he said."

"Well, that's nice," retorted Benedetta with comical indignation. "What
/gourmands/ my uncle and Dario are to regale themselves without us! They
might have given us a share!"

Donna Serafina thereupon intervened, and asked Victorine: "You are
speaking, are you not, of that priest who used to come to the villa at

"Yes, yes, Abbe Santobono his name is, he officiates at the little church
of St. Mary in the Fields. He always asks for Abbe Paparelli when he
calls; I think they were at the seminary together. And it was Abbe
Paparelli who brought him to the pantry with his basket last night. To
tell the truth, the basket was forgotten there in spite of all the
injunctions, so that nobody would have eaten the figs to-day if Abbe
Paparelli hadn't run down just now and carried them upstairs as piously
as if they were the Blessed Sacrament. It's true though that his Eminence
is so fond of them."

"My brother won't do them much honour to-day," remarked the Princess. "He
is slightly indisposed. He passed a bad night." The repeated mention of
Abbe Paparelli had made the old lady somewhat thoughtful. She had
regarded the train-bearer with displeasure ever since she had noticed the
extraordinary influence he was gaining over the Cardinal, despite all his
apparent humility and self-effacement. He was but a servant and
apparently a very insignificant one, yet he governed, and she could feel
that he combated her own influence, often undoing things which she had
done to further her brother's interests. Twice already, moreover, she had
suspected him of having urged the Cardinal to courses which she looked
upon as absolute blunders. But perhaps she was wrong; she did the
train-bearer the justice to admit that he had great merits and displayed
exemplary piety.

However, Benedetta went on laughing and jesting, and as Victorine had now
withdrawn, she called the man-servant: "Listen, Giacomo, I have a
commission for you." Then she broke off to say to her aunt and Pierre:
"Pray let us assert our rights. I can see them at table almost underneath
us. Uncle is taking the leaves off the basket and serving himself with a
smile; then he passes the basket to Dario, who passes it on to Don
Vigilio. And all three of them eat and enjoy the figs. You can see them,
can't you?" She herself could see them well. And it was her desire to be
near Dario, the constant flight of her thoughts to him that now made her
picture him at table with the others. Her heart was down below, and there
was nothing there that she could not see, and hear, and smell, with such
keenness of the senses did her love endow her. "Giacomo," she resumed,
"you are to go down and tell his Eminence that we are longing to taste
his figs, and that it will be very kind of him if he will send us such as
he can spare."

Again, however, did Donna Serafina intervene, recalling her wonted
severity of voice: "Giacomo, you will please stay here." And to her niece
she added: "That's enough childishness! I dislike such silly freaks."

"Oh! aunt," Benedetta murmured. "But I'm so happy, it's so long since I
laughed so good-heartedly."

Pierre had hitherto remained listening, enlivened by the sight of her
gaiety. But now, as a little chill fell, he raised his voice to say that
on the previous day he himself had been astonished to see the famous
fig-tree of Frascati still bearing fruit so late in the year. This was
doubtless due, however, to the tree's position and the protection of a
high wall.

"Ah! so you saw the tree?" said Benedetta.

"Yes, and I even travelled with those figs which you would so much like
to taste."

"Why, how was that?"

The young man already regretted the reply which had escaped him. However,
having gone so far, he preferred to say everything. "I met somebody at
Frascati who had come there in a carriage and who insisted on driving me
back to Rome," said he. "On the way we picked up Abbe Santobono, who was
bravely making the journey on foot with his basket in his hand. And
afterwards we stopped at an /osteria/--" Then he went on to describe the
drive and relate his impressions whilst crossing the Campagna amidst the
falling twilight. But Benedetta gazed at him fixedly, aware as she was of
Prada's frequent visits to the land and houses which he owned at
Frascati; and suddenly she murmured: "Somebody, somebody, it was the
Count, was it not?"

"Yes, madame, the Count," Pierre answered. "I saw him again last night;
he was overcome, and really deserves to be pitied."

The two women took no offence at this charitable remark which fell from
the young priest with such deep and natural emotion, full as he was of
overflowing love and compassion for one and all. Donna Serafina remained
motionless as if she had not even heard him, and Benedetta made a gesture
which seemed to imply that she had neither pity nor hatred to express for
a man who had become a perfect stranger to her. However, she no longer
laughed, but, thinking of the little basket which had travelled in
Prada's carriage, she said: "Ah! I don't care for those figs at all now,
I am even glad that I haven't eaten any of them."

Immediately after the coffee Donna Serafina withdrew, saying that she was
at once going to the Vatican; and the others, being left to themselves,
lingered at table, again full of gaiety, and chatting like friends. The
priest, with his feverish impatience, once more referred to the audience
which he was to have that evening. It was now barely two o'clock, and he
had seven more hours to wait. How should he employ that endless
afternoon? Thereupon Benedetta good-naturedly made him a proposal. "I'll
tell you what," said she, "as we are all in such good spirits we mustn't
leave one another. Dario has his victoria, you know. He must have
finished lunch by now, and I'll ask him to take us for a long drive along
the Tiber."

This fine project so delighted her that she began to clap her hands; but
just then Don Vigilio appeared with a scared look on his face. "Isn't the
Princess here?" he inquired.

"No, my aunt has gone out. What is the matter?"

"His Eminence sent me. The Prince has just felt unwell on rising from
table. Oh! it's nothing--nothing serious, no doubt."

Benedetta raised a cry of surprise rather than anxiety: "What, Dario!
Well, we'll all go down. Come with me, Monsieur l'Abbe. He mustn't get
ill if he is to take us for a drive!" Then, meeting Victorine on the
stairs, she bade her follow. "Dario isn't well," she said. "You may be

They all four entered the spacious, antiquated, and simply furnished
bed-room where the young Prince had lately been laid up for a whole
month. It was reached by way of a small /salon/, and from an adjoining
dressing-room a passage conducted to the Cardinal's apartments, the
relatively small dining-room, bed-room, and study, which had been devised
by subdividing one of the huge galleries of former days. In addition, the
passage gave access to his Eminence's private chapel, a bare, uncarpeted,
chairless room, where there was nothing beyond the painted, wooden altar,
and the hard, cold tiles on which to kneel and pray.

On entering, Benedetta hastened to the bed where Dario was lying, still
fully dressed. Near him, in fatherly fashion, stood Cardinal Boccanera,
who, amidst his dawning anxiety, retained his proud and lofty
bearing--the calmness of a soul beyond reproach. "Why, what is the
matter, Dario /mio/?" asked the young woman.

He smiled, eager to reassure her. One only noticed that he was very pale,
with a look as of intoxication on his face.

"Oh! it's nothing, mere giddiness," he replied. "It's just as if I had
drunk too much. All at once things swam before my eyes, and I thought I
was going to fall. And then I only had time to come and fling myself on
the bed."

Then he drew a long breath, as though talking exhausted him, and the
Cardinal in his turn gave some details. "We had just finished our meal,"
said he, "I was giving Don Vigilio some orders for this afternoon, and
was about to rise when I saw Dario get up and reel. He wouldn't sit down
again, but came in here, staggering like a somnambulist, and fumbling at
the doors to open them. We followed him without understanding. And I
confess that I don't yet comprehend it."

So saying, the Cardinal punctuated his surprise by waving his arm towards
the rooms, through which a gust of misfortune seemed to have suddenly
swept. All the doors had remained wide open: the dressing-room could be
seen, and then the passage, at the end of which appeared the dining-room,
in a disorderly state, like an apartment suddenly vacated; the table
still laid, the napkins flung here and there, and the chairs pushed back.
As yet, however, there was no alarm.

Benedetta made the remark which is usually made in such cases: "I hope
you haven't eaten anything which has disagreed with you."

The Cardinal, smiling, again waved his hand as if to attest the frugality
of his table. "Oh!" said he, "there were only some eggs, some lamb
cutlets, and a dish of sorrel--they couldn't have overloaded his stomach.
I myself only drink water; he takes just a sip of white wine. No, no, the
food has nothing to do with it."

"Besides, in that case his Eminence and I would also have felt
indisposed," Don Vigilio made bold to remark.

Dario, after momentarily closing his eyes, opened them again, and once
more drew a long breath, whilst endeavouring to laugh. "Oh, it will be
nothing;" he said. "I feel more at ease already. I must get up and stir

"In that case," said Benedetta, "this is what I had thought of. You will
take Monsieur l'Abbe Froment and me for a long drive in the Campagna."

"Willingly. It's a nice idea. Victorine, help me."

Whilst speaking he had raised himself by means of one arm; but, before
the servant could approach, a slight convulsion seized him, and he fell
back again as if overcome by a fainting fit. It was the Cardinal, still
standing by the bedside, who caught him in his arms, whilst the
Contessina this time lost her head: "/Dio, Dio/! It has come on him
again. Quick, quick, a doctor!"

"Shall I run for one?" asked Pierre, whom the scene was also beginning to

"No, no, not you; stay with me. Victorine will go at once. She knows the
address. Doctor Giordano, Victorine."

The servant hurried away, and a heavy silence fell on the room where the
anxiety became more pronounced every moment. Benedetta, now quite pale,
had again approached the bed, whilst the Cardinal looked down at Dario,
whom he still held in his arms. And a terrible suspicion, vague,
indeterminate as yet, had just awoke in the old man's mind: Dario's face
seemed to him to be ashen, to wear that mask of terrified anguish which
he had already remarked on the countenance of his dearest friend,
Monsignor Gallo, when he had held him in his arms, in like manner, two
hours before his death. There was also the same swoon and the same
sensation of clasping a cold form whose heart ceases to beat. And above
everything else there was in Boccanera's mind the same growing thought of
poison, poison coming one knew not whence or how, but mysteriously
striking down those around him with the suddenness of lightning. And for
a long time he remained with his head bent over the face of his nephew,
that last scion of his race, seeking, studying, and recognising the signs
of the mysterious, implacable disorder which once already had rent his
heart atwain.

But Benedetta addressed him in a low, entreating voice: "You will tire
yourself, uncle. Let me take him a little, I beg you. Have no fear, I'll
hold him very gently, he will feel that it is I, and perhaps that will
rouse him."

At last the Cardinal raised his head and looked at her, and allowed her
to take his place after kissing her with distracted passion, his eyes the
while full of tears--a sudden burst of emotion in which his great love
for the young woman melted the stern frigidity which he usually affected.
"Ah! my poor child, my poor child!" he stammered, trembling from head to
foot like an oak-tree about to fall. Immediately afterwards, however, he
mastered himself, and whilst Pierre and Don Vigilio, mute and motionless,
regretted that they could be of no help, he walked slowly to and fro.
Soon, moreover, that bed-chamber became too small for all the thoughts
revolving in his mind, and he strayed first into the dressing-room and
then down the passage as far as the dining-room. And again and again he
went to and fro, grave and impassible, his head low, ever lost in the
same gloomy reverie. What were the multitudinous thoughts stirring in the
brain of that believer, that haughty Prince who had given himself to God
and could do naught to stay inevitable Destiny? From time to time he
returned to the bedside, observed the progress of the disorder, and then
started off again at the same slow regular pace, disappearing and
reappearing, carried along as it were by the monotonous alternations of
forces which man cannot control. Possibly he was mistaken, possibly this
was some mere indisposition at which the doctor would smile. One must
hope and wait. And again he went off and again he came back; and amidst
the heavy silence nothing more clearly bespoke the torture of anxious
fear than the rhythmical footsteps of that tall old man who was thus
awaiting Destiny.

The door opened, and Victorine came in breathless. "I found the doctor,
here he is," she gasped.

With his little pink face and white curls, his discreet paternal bearing
which gave him the air of an amiable prelate, Doctor Giordano came in
smiling; but on seeing that room and all the anxious people waiting in
it, he turned very grave, at once assuming the expression of profound
respect for all ecclesiastical secrets which he had acquired by long
practice among the clergy. And when he had glanced at the sufferer he let
but a low murmur escape him: "What, again! Is it beginning again!"

He was probably alluding to the knife thrust for which he had recently
tended Dario. Who could be thus relentlessly pursuing that poor and
inoffensive young prince? However no one heard the doctor unless it were
Benedetta, and she was so full of feverish impatience, so eager to be
tranquillised, that she did not listen but burst into fresh entreaties:
"Oh! doctor, pray look at him, examine him, tell us that it is nothing.
It can't be anything serious, since he was so well and gay but a little
while ago. It's nothing serious, is it?"

"You are right no doubt, Contessina, it can be nothing dangerous. We will

However, on turning round, Doctor Giordano perceived the Cardinal, who
with regular, thoughtful footsteps had come back from the dining-room to
place himself at the foot of the bed. And while bowing, the doctor
doubtless detected a gleam of mortal anxiety in the dark eyes fixed upon
his own, for he added nothing but began to examine Dario like a man who
realises that time is precious. And as his examination progressed the
affable optimism which usually appeared upon his countenance gave place
to ashen gravity, a covert terror which made his lips slightly tremble.
It was he who had attended Monsignor Gallo when the latter had been
carried off so mysteriously; it was he who for imperative reasons had
then delivered a certificate stating the cause of death to be infectious
fever; and doubtless he now found the same terrible symptoms as in that
case, a leaden hue overspreading the sufferer's features, a stupor as of
excessive intoxication; and, old Roman practitioner that he was,
accustomed to sudden deaths, he realised that the /malaria/ which kills
was passing, that /malaria/ which science does not yet fully understand,
which may come from the putrescent exhalations of the Tiber unless it be
but a name for the ancient poison of the legends.

As the doctor raised his head his glance again encountered the black eyes
of the Cardinal, which never left him. "Signor Giordano," said his
Eminence, "you are not over-anxious, I hope? It is only some case of
indigestion, is it not?"

The doctor again bowed. By the slight quiver of the Cardinal's voice he
understood how acute was the anxiety of that powerful man, who once more
was stricken in his dearest affections.

"Your Eminence must be right," he said, "there's a bad digestion
certainly. Such accidents sometimes become dangerous when fever
supervenes. I need not tell your Eminence how thoroughly you may rely on
my prudence and zeal." Then he broke off and added in a clear
professional voice: "We must lose no time; the Prince must be undressed.
I should prefer to remain alone with him for a moment."

Whilst speaking in this way, however, Doctor Giordano detained Victorine,
who would be able to help him, said he; should he need any further
assistance he would take Giacomo. His evident desire was to get rid of
the members of the family in order that he might have more freedom of
action. And the Cardinal, who understood him, gently led Benedetta into
the dining-room, whither Pierre and Don Vigilio followed.

When the doors had been closed, the most mournful and oppressive silence
reigned in that dining-room, which the bright sun of winter filled with
such delightful warmth and radiance. The table was still laid, its cloth
strewn here and there with bread-crumbs; and a coffee cup had remained
half full. In the centre stood the basket of figs, whose covering of
leaves had been removed. However, only two or three of the figs were
missing. And in front of the window was Tata, the female parrot, who had
flown out of her cage and perched herself on her stand, where she
remained, dazzled and enraptured, amidst the dancing dust of a broad
yellow sunray. In her astonishment however, at seeing so many people
enter, she had ceased to scream and smooth her feathers, and had turned
her head the better to examine the newcomers with her round and
scrutinising eye.

The minutes went by slowly amidst all the feverish anxiety as to what
might be occurring in the neighbouring room. Don Vigilio had taken a
corner seat in silence, whilst Benedetta and Pierre, who had remained
standing, preserved similar muteness, and immobility. But the Cardinal
had reverted to that instinctive, lulling tramp by which he apparently
hoped to quiet his impatience and arrive the sooner at the explanation
for which he was groping through a tumultuous maze of ideas. And whilst
his rhythmical footsteps resounded with mechanical regularity, dark fury
was taking possession of his mind, exasperation at being unable to
understand the why and wherefore of that sickness. As he passed the table
he had twice glanced at the things lying on it in confusion, as if
seeking some explanation from them. Perhaps the harm had been done by
that unfinished coffee, or by that bread whose crumbs lay here and there,
or by those cutlets, a bone of which remained? Then as for the third time
he passed by, again glancing, his eyes fell upon the basket of figs, and
at once he stopped, as if beneath the shock of a revelation. An idea
seized upon him and mastered him, without any plan, however, occurring to
him by which he might change his sudden suspicion into certainty. For a
moment he remained puzzled with his eyes fixed upon the basket. Then he
took a fig and examined it, but, noticing nothing strange, was about to
put it back when Tata, the parrot, who was very fond of figs, raised a
strident cry. And this was like a ray of light; the means of changing
suspicion into certainty was found.

Slowly, with grave air and gloomy visage, the Cardinal carried the fig to
the parrot and gave it to her without hesitation or regret. She was a
very pretty bird, the only being of the lower order of creation to which
he had ever really been attached. Stretching out her supple, delicate
form, whose silken feathers of dull green here and there assumed a pinky
tinge in the sunlight, she took hold of the fig with her claws, then
ripped it open with her beak. But when she had raked it she ate but
little, and let all the rest fall upon the floor. Still grave and
impassible, the Cardinal looked at her and waited. Quite three minutes
went by, and then feeling reassured, he began to scratch the bird's poll,
whilst she, taking pleasure in the caress, turned her neck and fixed her
bright ruby eye upon her master. But all at once she sank back without
even a flap of the wings, and fell like a bullet. She was dead, killed as
by a thunderbolt.

Boccanera made but a gesture, raising both hands to heaven as if in
horror at what he now knew. Great God! such a terrible crime, and such a
fearful mistake, such an abominable trick of Destiny! No cry of grief
came from him, but the gloom upon his face grew black and fierce. Yet
there was a cry, a piercing cry from Benedetta, who like Pierre and Don
Vigilio had watched the Cardinal with an astonishment which had changed
into terror: "Poison! poison! Ah! Dario, my heart, my soul!"

But the Cardinal violently caught his niece by the wrist, whilst darting
a suspicious glance at the two petty priests, the secretary and the
foreigner, who were present: "Be quiet, be quiet!" said he.

She shook herself free, rebelling, frantic with rage and hatred: "Why
should I be quiet!" she cried. "It is Prada's work, I shall denounce him,
he shall die as well! I tell you it is Prada, I know it, for yesterday
Abbe Froment came back with him from Frascati in his carriage with that
priest Santobono and that basket of figs! Yes, yes, I have witnesses, it
is Prada, Prada!"

"No, no, you are mad, be quiet!" said the Cardinal, who had again taken
hold of the young woman's hands and sought to master her with all his
sovereign authority. He, who knew the influence which Cardinal
Sanguinetti exercised over Santobono's excitable mind, had just
understood the whole affair; no direct complicity but covert propulsion,
the animal excited and then let loose upon the troublesome rival at the
moment when the pontifical throne seemed likely to be vacant. The
probability, the certainty of all this flashed upon Boccanera who, though
some points remained obscure, did not seek to penetrate them. It was not
necessary indeed that he should know every particular: the thing was as
he said, since it was bound to be so. "No, no, it was not Prada," he
exclaimed, addressing Benedetta. "That man can bear me no personal
grudge, and I alone was aimed at, it was to me that those figs were
given. Come, think it out! Only an unforeseen indisposition prevented me
from eating the greater part of the fruit, for it is known that I am very
fond of figs, and while my poor Dario was tasting them, I jested and told
him to leave the finer ones for me to-morrow. Yes, the abominable blow
was meant for me, and it is on him that it has fallen by the most
atrocious of chances, the most monstrous of the follies of fate. Ah! Lord
God, Lord God, have you then forsaken us!"

Tears came into the old man's eyes, whilst she still quivered and seemed
unconvinced: "But you have no enemies, uncle," she said. "Why should that
Santobono try to take your life?"

For a moment he found no fitting reply. With supreme grandeur he had
already resolved to keep the truth secret. Then a recollection came to
him, and he resigned himself to the telling of a lie: "Santobono's mind
has always been somewhat unhinged," said he, "and I know that he has
hated me ever since I refused to help him to get a brother of his, one of
our former gardeners, out of prison. Deadly spite often has no more
serious cause. He must have thought that he had reason to be revenged on

Thereupon Benedetta, exhausted, unable to argue any further, sank upon a
chair with a despairing gesture: "Ah! God, God! I no longer know--and
what matters it now that my Dario is in such danger? There's only one
thing to be done, he must be saved. How long they are over what they are
doing in that room--why does not Victorine come for us!"

The silence again fell, full of terror. Without speaking the Cardinal
took the basket of figs from the table and carried it to a cupboard in
which he locked it. Then he put the key in his pocket. No doubt, when
night had fallen, he himself would throw the proofs of the crime into the
Tiber. However, on coming back from the cupboard he noticed the two
priests, who naturally had watched him; and with mingled grandeur and
simplicity he said to them: "Gentlemen, I need not ask you to be
discreet. There are scandals which we must spare the Church, which is
not, cannot be guilty. To deliver one of ourselves, even when he is a
criminal, to the civil tribunals, often means a blow for the whole
Church, for men of evil mind may lay hold of the affair and seek to
impute the responsibility of the crime even to the Church itself. We
therefore have but to commit the murderer to the hands of God, who will
know more surely how to punish him. Ah! for my part, whether I be struck
in my own person or whether the blow be directed against my family, my
dearest affections, I declare in the name of the Christ who died upon the
cross, that I feel neither anger, nor desire for vengeance, that I efface
the murderer's name from my memory and bury his abominable act in the
eternal silence of the grave."

Tall as he was, he seemed of yet loftier stature whilst with hand
upraised he took that oath to leave his enemies to the justice of God
alone; for he did not refer merely to Santobono, but to Cardinal
Sanguinetti, whose evil influence he had divined. And amidst all the
heroism of his pride, he was rent by tragic dolour at thought of the dark
battle which was waged around the tiara, all the evil hatred and
voracious appetite which stirred in the depths of the gloom. Then, as
Pierre and Don Vigilio bowed to him as a sign that they would preserve
silence, he almost choked with invincible emotion, a sob of loving grief
which he strove to keep down rising to his throat, whilst he stammered:
"Ah! my poor child, my poor child, the only scion of our race, the only
love and hope of my heart! Ah! to die, to die like this!"

But Benedetta, again all violence, sprang up: "Die! Who, Dario? I won't
have it! We'll nurse him, we'll go back to him. We will take him in our
arms and save him. Come, uncle, come at once! I won't, I won't, I won't
have him die!"

She was going towards the door, and nothing would have prevented her from
re-entering the bed-room, when, as it happened, Victorine appeared with a
wild look on her face, for, despite her wonted serenity, all her courage
was now exhausted. "The doctor begs madame and his Eminence to come at
once, at once," said she.

Stupefied by all these things, Pierre did not follow the others, but
lingered for a moment in the sunlit dining-room with Don Vigilio. What!
poison? Poison as in the time of the Borgias, elegantly hidden away,
served up with luscious fruit by a crafty traitor, whom one dared not
even denounce! And he recalled the conversation on his way back from
Frascati, and his Parisian scepticism with respect to those legendary
drugs, which to his mind had no place save in the fifth acts of
melodramas. Yet those abominable stories were true, those tales of
poisoned knives and flowers, of prelates and even dilatory popes being
suppressed by a drop or a grain of something administered to them in
their morning chocolate. That passionate tragical Santobono was really a
poisoner, Pierre could no longer doubt it, for a lurid light now
illumined the whole of the previous day: there were the words of ambition
and menace which had been spoken by Cardinal Sanguinetti, the eagerness
to act in presence of the probable death of the reigning pope, the
suggestion of a crime for the sake of the Church's salvation, then that
priest with his little basket of figs encountered on the road, then that
basket carried for hours so carefully, so devoutly, on the priest's
knees, that basket which now haunted Pierre like a nightmare, and whose
colour, and odour, and shape he would ever recall with a shudder. Aye,
poison, poison, there was truth in it; it existed and still circulated in
the depths of the black world, amidst all the ravenous, rival longings
for conquest and sovereignty.

And all at once the figure of Prada likewise arose in Pierre's mind. A
little while previously, when Benedetta had so violently accused the
Count, he, Pierre, had stepped forward to defend him and cry aloud what
he knew, whence the poison had come, and what hand had offered it. But a
sudden thought had made him shiver: though Prada had not devised the
crime, he had allowed it to be perpetrated. Another memory darted keen
like steel through the young priest's mind--that of the little black hen
lying lifeless beside the shed, amidst the dismal surroundings of the
/osteria/, with a tiny streamlet of violet blood trickling from her beak.
And here again, Tata, the parrot, lay still soft and warm at the foot of
her stand, with her beak stained by oozing blood. Why had Prada told that
lie about a battle between two fowls? All the dim intricacy of passion
and contention bewildered Pierre, he could not thread his way through it;
nor was he better able to follow the frightful combat which must have
been waged in that man's mind during the night of the ball. At the same
time he could not again picture him by his side during their nocturnal
walk towards the Boccanera mansion without shuddering, dimly divining
what a frightful decision had been taken before that mansion's door.
Moreover, whatever the obscurities, whether Prada had expected that the
Cardinal alone would be killed, or had hoped that some chance stroke of
fate might avenge him on others, the terrible fact remained--he had
known, he had been able to stay Destiny on the march, but had allowed it
to go onward and blindly accomplish its work of death.

Turning his head Pierre perceived Don Vigilio still seated on the corner
chair whence he had not stirred, and looking so pale and haggard that
perhaps he also had swallowed some of the poison. "Do you feel unwell?"
the young priest asked.

At first the secretary could not reply, for terror had gripped him at the
throat. Then in a low voice he said: "No, no, I didn't eat any. Ah,
Heaven, when I think that I so much wanted to taste them, and that merely
deference kept me back on seeing that his Eminence did not take any!" Don
Vigilio's whole body shivered at the thought that his humility alone had
saved him; and on his face and his hands there remained the icy chill of
death which had fallen so near and grazed him as it passed.

Then twice he heaved a sigh, and with a gesture of affright sought to
brush the horrid thing away while murmuring: "Ah! Paparelli, Paparelli!"

Pierre, deeply stirred, and knowing what he thought of the train-bearer,
tried to extract some information from him: "What do you mean?" he asked.
"Do you accuse him too? Do you think they urged him on, and that it was
they at bottom?"

The word Jesuits was not even spoken, but a big black shadow passed
athwart the gay sunlight of the dining-room, and for a moment seemed to
fill it with darkness. "They! ah yes!" exclaimed Don Vigilio, "they are
everywhere; it is always they! As soon as one weeps, as soon as one dies,
they are mixed up in it. And this is intended for me too; I am quite
surprised that I haven't been carried off." Then again he raised a dull
moan of fear, hatred, and anger: "Ah! Paparelli, Paparelli!" And he
refused to reply any further, but darted scared glances at the walls as
if from one or another of them he expected to see the train-bearer
emerge, with his wrinkled flabby face like that of an old maid, his
furtive mouse-like trot, and his mysterious, invading hands which had
gone expressly to bring the forgotten figs from the pantry and deposit
them on the table.

At last the two priests decided to return to the bedroom, where perhaps
they might be required; and Pierre on entering was overcome by the
heart-rending scene which the chamber now presented. Doctor Giordano,
suspecting poison, had for half an hour been trying the usual remedies,
an emetic and then magnesia. Just then, too, he had made Victorine whip
some whites of eggs in water. But the disorder was progressing with such
lightning-like rapidity that all succour was becoming futile. Undressed
and lying on his back, his bust propped up by pillows and his arms lying
outstretched over the sheets, Dario looked quite frightful in the sort of
painful intoxication which characterised that redoubtable and mysterious
disorder to which already Monsignor Gallo and others had succumbed. The
young man seemed to be stricken with a sort of dizzy stupor, his eyes
receded farther and farther into the depth of their dark sockets, whilst
his whole face became withered, aged as it were, and covered with an
earthy pallor. A moment previously he had closed his eyes, and the only
sign that he still lived was the heaving of his chest induced by painful
respiration. And leaning over his poor dying face stood Benedetta,
sharing his sufferings, and mastered by such impotent grief that she also
was unrecognisable, so white, so distracted by anguish, that it seemed as
if death were gradually taking her at the same time as it was taking him.

In the recess by the window whither Cardinal Boccanera had led Doctor
Giordano, a few words were exchanged in low tones. "He is lost, is he

The doctor made the despairing gesture of one who is vanquished: "Alas!
yes. I must warn your Eminence that in an hour all will be over."

A short interval of silence followed. "And the same malady as Gallo, is
it not?" asked the Cardinal; and as the doctor trembling and averting his
eyes did not answer he added: "At all events of an infectious fever!"

Giordano well understood what the Cardinal thus asked of him: silence,
the crime for ever hidden away for the sake of the good renown of his
mother, the Church. And there could be no loftier, no more tragical
grandeur than that of this old man of seventy, still so erect and
sovereign, who would neither suffer a slur to be cast upon his spiritual
family, nor consent to his human family being dragged into the inevitable
mire of a sensational murder trial. No, no, there must be none of that,
there must be silence, the eternal silence in which all becomes

At last the doctor bowed with his gentle air of discretion. "Evidently,
of an infectious fever as your Eminence so well says," he replied.

Two big tears then again appeared in Boccanera's eyes. Now that he had
screened the Deity from attack in the person of the Church, his heart as
a man again bled. He begged the doctor to make a supreme effort, to
attempt the impossible; but, pointing to the dying man with trembling
hands, Giordano shook his head. For his own father, his own mother he
could have done nothing. Death was there. So why weary, why torture a
dying man, whose sufferings he would only have increased? And then, as
the Cardinal, finding the end so near at hand, thought of his sister
Serafina, and lamented that she would not be able to kiss her nephew for
the last time if she lingered at the Vatican, the doctor offered to fetch
her in his carriage which was waiting below. It would not take him more
than twenty minutes, said he, and he would be back in time for the end,
should he then be needed.

Left to himself in the window recess the Cardinal remained there
motionless for another moment. With eyes blurred by tears, he gazed
towards heaven. And his quivering arms were suddenly raised in a gesture
of ardent entreaty. O God, since the science of man was so limited and
vain, since that doctor had gone off happy to escape the embarrassment of
his impotence, O God, why not a miracle which should proclaim the
splendour of Thy Almighty Power! A miracle, a miracle! that was what the
Cardinal asked from the depths of his believing soul, with the
insistence, the imperious entreaty of a Prince of the Earth, who deemed
that he had rendered considerable services to Heaven by dedicating his
whole life to the Church. And he asked for that miracle in order that his
race might be perpetuated, in order that its last male scion might not
thus miserably perish, but be able to marry that fondly loved cousin, who
now stood there all woe and tears. A miracle, a miracle for the sake of
those two dear children! A miracle which would endow the family with
fresh life: a miracle which would eternise the glorious name of Boccanera
by enabling an innumerable posterity of valiant ones and faithful ones to
spring from that young couple!

When the Cardinal returned to the centre of the room he seemed
transfigured. Faith had dried his eyes, his soul had become strong and
submissive, exempt from all human weakness. He had placed himself in the
hands of God, and had resolved that he himself would administer extreme
unction to Dario. With a gesture he summoned Don Vigilio and led him into
the little room which served as a chapel, and the key of which he always
carried. A cupboard had been contrived behind the altar of painted wood,
and the Cardinal went to it to take both stole and surplice. The coffer
containing the Holy Oils was likewise there, a very ancient silver coffer
bearing the Boccanera arms. And on Don Vigilio following the Cardinal
back into the bed-room they in turn pronounced the Latin words:

"/Pax huic domui/."

"/Et omnibus habitantibus in ea/."*

  * "Peace unto this house and unto all who dwell in it."--Trans.

Death was coming so fast and threatening, that all the usual preparations
were perforce dispensed with. Neither the two lighted tapers, nor the
little table covered with white cloth had been provided. And, in the same
way, Don Vigilio the assistant, having failed to bring the Holy Water
basin and sprinkler, the Cardinal, as officiating priest, could merely
make the gesture of blessing the room and the dying man, whilst
pronouncing the words of the ritual: "/Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et
mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor."*

  * "Sprinkle me, Lord, with hyssop, and purify me; wash me, and
    make me whiter than snow."--Trans.

Benedetta on seeing the Cardinal appear carrying the Holy Oils, had with
a long quiver fallen on her knees at the foot of the bed, whilst,
somewhat farther away, Pierre and Victorine likewise knelt, overcome by
the dolorous grandeur of the scene. And the dilated eyes of the
Contessina, whose face was pale as snow, never quitted her Dario, whom
she no longer recognised, so earthy was his face, its skin tanned and
wrinkled like that of an old man. And it was not for their marriage which
he so much desired that their uncle, the all-powerful Prince of the
Church, was bringing the Sacrament, but for the supreme rupture, the end
of all pride, Death which finishes off the haughtiest races, and sweeps
them away, even as the wind sweeps the dust of the roads.

It was needful that there should be no delay, so the Cardinal promptly
repeated the Credo in an undertone, "/Credo in unum Deum--/"

"/Amen/," responded Don Vigilio, who, after the prayers of the ritual,
stammered the Litanies in order that Heaven might take pity on the
wretched man who was about to appear before God, if God by a prodigy did
not spare him.

Then, without taking time to wash his fingers, the Cardinal opened the
case containing the Holy Oils, and limiting himself to one anointment, as
is permissible in pressing cases, he deposited a single drop of the oil
on Dario's parched mouth which was already withered by death. And in
doing so he repeated the words of the formula, his heart all aglow with
faith as he asked that the divine mercy might efface each and every sin
that the young man had committed by either of his five senses, those five
portals by which everlasting temptation assails the soul. And the
Cardinal's fervour was also instinct with the hope that if God had
smitten the poor sufferer for his offences, perhaps He would make His
indulgence entire and even restore him to life as soon as He should have
forgiven his sins. Life, O Lord, life in order that the ancient line of
the Boccaneras might yet multiply and continue to serve Thee in battle
and at the altar until the end of time!

For a moment the Cardinal remained with quivering hands, gazing at the
mute face, the closed eyes of the dying man, and waiting for the miracle.
But no sign appeared, not the faintest glimmer brightened that haggard
countenance, nor did a sigh of relief come from the withered lips as Don
Vigilio wiped them with a little cotton wool. And the last prayer was
said, and whilst the frightful silence fell once more the Cardinal,
followed by his assistant, returned to the chapel. There they both knelt,
the Cardinal plunging into ardent prayer upon the bare tiles. With his
eyes raised to the brass crucifix upon the altar he saw nothing, heard
nothing, but gave himself wholly to his entreaties, supplicating God to
take him in place of his nephew, if a sacrifice were necessary, and yet
clinging to the hope that so long as Dario retained a breath of life and
he himself thus remained on his knees addressing the Deity, he might
succeed in pacifying the wrath of Heaven. He was both so humble and so
great. Would not accord surely be established between God and a
Boccanera? The old palace might have fallen to the ground, he himself
would not even have felt the toppling of its beams.

In the bed-room, however, nothing had yet stirred beneath the weight of
tragic majesty which the ceremony had left there. It was only now that
Dario raised his eyelids, and when on looking at his hands he saw them so
aged and wasted the depths of his eyes kindled with an expression of
immense regretfulness that life should be departing. Doubtless it was at
this moment of lucidity amidst the kind of intoxication with which the
poison overwhelmed him, that he for the first time realised his perilous
condition. Ah! to die, amidst such pain, such physical degradation, what
a revolting horror for that frivolous and egotistical man, that lover of
beauty, joy, and light, who knew not how to suffer! In him ferocious fate
chastised racial degeneracy with too heavy a hand. He became horrified
with himself, seized with childish despair and terror, which lent him
strength enough to sit up and gaze wildly about the room, in order to see
if every one had not abandoned him. And when his eyes lighted on
Benedetta still kneeling at the foot of the bed, a supreme impulse
carried him towards her, he stretched forth both arms as passionately as
his strength allowed and stammered her name: "O Benedetta, Benedetta!"

She, motionless in the stupor of her anxiety, had not taken her eyes from
his face. The horrible disorder which was carrying off her lover, seemed
also to possess and annihilate her more and more, even as he himself grew
weaker and weaker. Her features were assuming an immaterial whiteness;
and through the void of her clear eyeballs one began to espy her soul.
However, when she perceived him thus resuscitating and calling her with
arms outstretched, she in her turn arose and standing beside the bed made
answer: "I am coming, my Dario, here I am."

And then Pierre and Victorine, still on their knees, beheld a sublime
deed of such extraordinary grandeur that they remained rooted to the
floor, spell-bound as in the presence of some supra-terrestrial spectacle
in which human beings may not intervene. Benedetta herself spoke and
acted like one freed from all social and conventional ties, already
beyond life, only seeing and addressing beings and things from a great
distance, from the depths of the unknown in which she was about to

"Ah! my Dario, so an attempt has been made to part us! It was in order
that I might never belong to you--that we might never be happy, that your
death was resolved upon, and it was known that with your life my own must
cease! And it is that man who is killing you! Yes, he is your murderer,
even if the actual blow has been dealt by another. He is the first
cause--he who stole me from you when I was about to become yours, he who
ravaged our lives, and who breathed around us the hateful poison which is
killing us. Ah! how I hate him, how I hate him; how I should like to
crush him with my hate before I die with you!"

She did not raise her voice, but spoke those terrible words in a deep
murmur, simply and passionately. Prada was not even named, and she
scarcely turned towards Pierre--who knelt, paralysed, behind her--to add
with a commanding air: "You will see his father, I charge you to tell him
that I cursed his son! That kind-hearted hero loved me well--I love him
even now, and the words you will carry to him from me will rend his
heart. But I desire that he should know--he must know, for the sake of
truth and justice."

Distracted by terror, sobbing amidst a last convulsion, Dario again
stretched forth his arms, feeling that she was no longer looking at him,
that her clear eyes were no longer fixed upon his own: "Benedetta,

"I am coming, I am coming, my Dario--I am here!" she responded, drawing
yet nearer to the bedside and almost touching him. "Ah!" she went on,
"that vow which I made to the Madonna to belong to none, not even you,
until God should allow it by the blessing of one of his priests! Ah! I
set a noble, a divine pride in remaining immaculate for him who should be
the one master of my soul and body. And that chastity which I was so
proud of, I defended it against the other as one defends oneself against
a wolf, and I defended it against you with tears for fear of sacrilege.
And if you only knew what terrible struggles I was forced to wage with
myself, for I loved you and longed to be yours, like a woman who accepts
the whole of love, the love that makes wife and mother! Ah! my vow to the
Madonna--with what difficulty did I keep it when the old blood of our
race arose in me like a tempest; and now what a disaster!" She drew yet
nearer, and her low voice became more ardent: "You remember that evening
when you came back with a knife-thrust in your shoulder. I thought you
dead, and cried aloud with rage at the idea of losing you like that. I
insulted the Madonna and regretted that I had not damned myself with you
that we might die together, so tightly clasped that we must needs be
buried together also. And to think that such a terrible warning was of no
avail! I was blind and foolish; and now you are again stricken, again
being taken from my love. Ah! my wretched pride, my idiotic dream!"

That which now rang out in her stifled voice was the anger of the
practical woman that she had ever been, all superstition notwithstanding.
Could the Madonna, who was so maternal, desire the woe of lovers? No,
assuredly not. Nor did the angels make the mere absence of a priest a
cause for weeping over the transports of true and mutual love. Was not
such love holy in itself, and did not the angels rather smile upon it and
burst into gladsome song! And ah! how one cheated oneself by not loving
to heart's content under the sun, when the blood of life coursed through
one's veins!

"Benedetta! Benedetta!" repeated the dying man, full of child-like terror
at thus going off all alone into the depths of the black and everlasting

"Here I am, my Dario, I am coming!"

Then, as she fancied that the servant, albeit motionless, had stirred, as
if to rise and interfere, she added: "Leave me, leave me, Victorine,
nothing in the world can henceforth prevent it. A moment ago, when I was
on my knees, something roused me and urged me on. I know whither I am
going. And besides, did I not swear on the night of the knife thrust? Did
I not promise to belong to him alone, even in the earth if it were
necessary? I must embrace him, and he will carry me away! We shall be
dead, and we shall be wedded in spite of all, and for ever and for ever!"

She stepped back to the dying man, and touched him: "Here I am, my Dario,
here I am!"

Then came the apogee. Amidst growing exaltation, buoyed up by a blaze of
love, careless of glances, candid like a lily, she divested herself of
her garments and stood forth so white, that neither marble statue, nor
dove, nor snow itself was ever whiter. "Here I am, my Dario, here I am!"

Recoiling almost to the ground as at sight of an apparition, the glorious
flash of a holy vision, Pierre and Victorine gazed at her with dazzled
eyes. The servant had not stirred to prevent this extraordinary action,
seized as she was with that shrinking reverential terror which comes upon
one in presence of the wild, mad deeds of faith and passion. And the
priest, whose limbs were paralysed, felt that something so sublime was
passing that he could only quiver in distraction. And no thought of
impurity came to him on beholding that lily, snowy whiteness. All candour
and all nobility as she was, that virgin shocked him no more than some
sculptured masterpiece of genius.

"Here I am, my Dario, here I am."

She had lain herself down beside the spouse whom she had chosen, she had
clasped the dying man whose arms only had enough strength left to fold
themselves around her. Death was stealing him from her, but she would go
with him; and again she murmured: "My Dario, here I am."

And at that moment, against the wall at the head of the bed, Pierre
perceived the escutcheon of the Boccaneras, embroidered in gold and
coloured silks on a groundwork of violet velvet. There was the winged
dragon belching flames, there was the fierce and glowing motto "/Bocca
nera, Alma rossa/" (black mouth, red soul), the mouth darkened by a roar,
the soul flaming like a brazier of faith and love. And behold! all that
old race of passion and violence with its tragic legends had reappeared,
its blood bubbling up afresh to urge that last and adorable daughter of
the line to those terrifying and prodigious nuptials in death. And to
Pierre that escutcheon recalled another memory, that of the portrait of
Cassia Boccanera the /amorosa/ and avengeress who had flung herself into
the Tiber with her brother Ercole and the corpse of her lover Flavio. Was
there not here even with Benedetta the same despairing clasp seeking to
vanquish death, the same savagery in hurling oneself into the abyss with
the corpse of the one's only love? Benedetta and Cassia were as sisters,
Cassia, who lived anew in the old painting in the /salon/ overhead,
Benedetta who was here dying of her lover's death, as though she were but
the other's spirit. Both had the same delicate childish features, the
same mouth of passion, the same large dreamy eyes set in the same round,
practical, and stubborn head.

"My Dario, here I am!"

For a second, which seemed an eternity, they clasped one another, she
neither repelled nor terrified by the disorder which made him so
unrecognisable, but displaying a delirious passion, a holy frenzy as if
to pass beyond life, to penetrate with him into the black Unknown. And
beneath the shock of the felicity at last offered to him he expired, with
his arms yet convulsively wound around her as though indeed to carry her
off. Then, whether from grief or from bliss amidst that embrace of death,
there came such a rush of blood to her heart that the organ burst: she
died on her lover's neck, both tightly and for ever clasped in one
another's arms.

There was a faint sigh. Victorine understood and drew near, while Pierre,
also erect, remained quivering with the tearful admiration of one who has
beheld the sublime.

"Look, look!" whispered the servant, "she no longer moves, she no longer
breathes. Ah! my poor child, my poor child, she is dead!"

Then the priest murmured: "Oh! God, how beautiful they are."

It was true, never had loftier and more resplendent beauty appeared on
the faces of the dead. Dario's countenance, so lately aged and earthen,
had assumed the pallor and nobility of marble, its features lengthened
and simplified as by a transport of ineffable joy. Benedetta remained
very grave, her lips curved by ardent determination, whilst her whole
face was expressive of dolorous yet infinite beatitude in a setting of
infinite whiteness. Their hair mingled, and their eyes, which had
remained open, continued gazing as into one another's souls with eternal,
caressing sweetness. They were for ever linked, soaring into immortality
amidst the enchantment of their union, vanquishers of death, radiant with
the rapturous beauty of love, the conqueror, the immortal.

But Victorine's sobs at last burst forth, mingled with such lamentations
that great confusion followed. Pierre, now quite beside himself, in some
measure failed to understand how it was that the room suddenly became
invaded by terrified people. The Cardinal and Don Vigilio, however, must
have hastened in from the chapel; and at the same moment, no doubt,
Doctor Giordano must have returned with Donna Serafina, for both were now
there, she stupefied by the blows which had thus fallen on the house in
her absence, whilst he, the doctor, displayed the perturbation and
astonishment which comes upon the oldest practitioners when facts seem to
give the lie to their experience. However, he sought an explanation of
Benedetta's death, and hesitatingly ascribed it to aneurism, or possibly

Thereupon Victorine, like a servant whose grief makes her the equal of
her employers, boldly interrupted him: "Ah! Sir," said she, "they loved
each other too fondly; did not that suffice for them to die together?"

Meantime Donna Serafina, after kissing the poor children on the brow,
desired to close their eyes; but she could not succeed in doing so, for
the lids lifted directly she removed her finger and once more the eyes
began to smile at one another, to exchange in all fixity their loving and
eternal glance. And then as she spoke of parting the bodies, Victorine
again protested: "Oh! madame, oh! madame," she said, "you would have to
break their arms. Cannot you see that their fingers are almost dug into
one another's shoulders? No, they can never be parted!"

Thereupon Cardinal Boccanera intervened. God had not granted the miracle;
and he, His minister, was livid, tearless, and full of icy despair. But
he waved his arm with a sovereign gesture of absolution and
sanctification, as if, Prince of the Church that he was, disposing of the
will of Heaven, he consented that the lovers should appear in that
embrace before the supreme tribunal. In presence of such wondrous love,
indeed, profoundly stirred by the sufferings of their lives and the
beauty of their death, he showed a broad and lofty contempt for mundane
proprieties. "Leave them, leave me, my sister," said he, "do not disturb
their slumber. Let their eyes remain open since they desire to gaze on
one another till the end of time without ever wearying. And let them
sleep in one another's arms since in their lives they did not sin, and
only locked themselves in that embrace in order that they might be laid
together in the ground."

And then, again becoming a Roman Prince whose proud blood was yet hot
with old-time deeds of battle and passion, he added: "Two Boccaneras may
well sleep like that; all Rome will admire them and weep for them. Leave
them, leave them together, my sister. God knows them and awaits them!"

All knelt, and the Cardinal himself repeated the prayers for the dead.
Night was coming, increasing gloom stole into the chamber, where two
burning tapers soon shone out like stars.

And then, without knowing how, Pierre again found himself in the little
deserted garden on the bank of the Tiber. Suffocating with fatigue and
grief, he must have come thither for fresh air. Darkness shrouded the
charming nook where the streamlet of water falling from the tragic mask
into the ancient sarcophagus ever sang its shrill and flute-like song;
and the laurel-bush which shaded it, and the bitter box-plants and the
orange-trees skirting the paths now formed but vague masses under the
blue-black sky. Ah! how gay and sweet had that melancholy garden been in
the morning, and what a desolate echo it retained of Benedetta's winsome
laughter, all that fine delight in coming happiness which now lay prone
upstairs, steeped in the nothingness of things and beings! So dolorous
was the pang which came to Pierre's heart that he burst into sobs, seated
on the same broken column where she had sat, and encompassed by the same
atmosphere that she had breathed, in which still lingered the perfume of
her presence.

But all at once a distant clock struck six, and the young priest started
on remembering that he was to be received by the Pope that very evening
at nine. Yet three more hours! He had not thought of that interview
during the terrifying catastrophe, and it seemed to him now as if months
and months had gone by, as if the appointment were some very old one
which a man is only able to keep after years of absence, when he has
grown aged and had his heart and brain modified by innumerable
experiences. However, he made an effort and rose to his feet. In three
hours' time he would go to the Vatican and at last he would see the Pope.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 4" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.